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EVACUATION OF RICHMOND AND SURRENDER

The Dictionary of American Biography says:

"When the Confederate Government left Richmond in 1865, General Cooper accompanied the President and Cabinet until the party broke up. He then surrendered himself and turned over to his captors all the records he had been able to move. The preservation of great quantities of valuable historical material was thus saved by his foresight and care.

" General Cooper was paroled at Charlotte, North Carolina, May 3, 1865. General Joseph E. Johnston had been paroled the day before, and General Beauregard on May 1st, both at Greensborough. (General Officers of the Confederacy, Gen. Marcus T. Wright)

Burton Harrison, Secretary to President Davis, conducted the flight from Richmond and wrote the most-quoted account of it. The Burton Harrison article was published in the November 1883 issue of the Century Magazine, and says in part:

Mrs. Davis, her sister Miss Howell, the four Davis children, a maid Ellen, the coachman James, and several Trenholm girls left Richmond on a special train the charge of Burton Harrison on a Friday night. While in Charlotte the following Wednesday, Mrs. Davis received a telegram saying simply that the President was in Danville… The Presidential party moved on from Greenville, after a stay of several days. Mr.Davis, his staff, and some members of the Cabinet were mounted: others rode in ambulances and army wagons commandeered from Joseph E. Johnston's base.

"Almost at the last moment, I was told to provide an ambulance for Judah P. Benjamin. He could ride, but his figure was not adopted for protracted riding, and he had announced that he would not mount a horse until he had to. By good fortune, I secured an ambulance but the horses were old, broken-down, and fly-bitten. The harness was not good. Into the ambulance got Mr. Benjamin, General Samuel Cooper (the ranking officer of the whole army), Mr. George Davis of North Carolina (Attorney General), and Mr. Jules St.Martin (brother-in-law of Mr. Benjamin).

"Heavy rains had fallen. The mud was awful and the road was impracticable in places. Only by turning into the fields at times, and by having Mr. St. Martin and General Cooper get out and help with a fence rail under the wheels, did the party get along at all. Darkness came and nearly, or quite, everybody in the column passed that ambulance.

"Passing up from the rear, I observed as I rode forward and tilted hind part of the ambulance that was stuck in the mud in the middle of the road. I recognized the voices inside and drew up to chuckle at their misfortune. The horses were blowing life fog-horns. Benjamin was scolding the driver for not going on. General Cooper, faithful old gentleman, who had been in Richmond throughout the war and had not known what it was to rough it since the Seminole War, was grumbling about the impudence of 'Only a brigadier-general, Sir.' It seems the offender had thrust himself into the seat of another ambulance, which was drawn by good horses, intended for the Adjutant General.

"The wheels were over their hubs in a hole…mud and water were deep all around…their plight was pitiful. Riding forward, I found an artillery camp and volunteers to go back with horses and haul the ambulance up the hill. Returning, I could see from afar the occasional bright glow of Benjamin's cheerful cigar. Benjamin's silvery voice was presently heard as he rhythmically intoned verse after verse of Tennyson's 'Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington.' Tennyson would have enjoyed the situation if he could have heard this rendering of his poem, under the circumstances of that moment.

"Reaching the house at the top of the hill…we found we were expected to join the Presidential party as guests of the owner. We had the first good meal since leaving Virginia… At bedtime there was a great bustle to enable all of us to sleep within doors. The house was too small to have many beds.

"A big negro came into the room where we were gathered about a fire. looking us over, he solemnly selected General Cooper and, with much deference, escorted him to the guest chamber. Through the door we could see the great soft bed and snowy white linen the old gentleman was to enjoy. We all rejoiced in the comfort promised to the aged bones that for a week had been racked in the cars. The negro gravely closed the door, walked through us, and disappeared.

"He came back after a while with wood for the fire.

"Aren't you going to give the President a room?" one of us asked.

" 'Yes, Sir, I done put him in thar," he replied, pointing to the guest chamber where General Cooper was luxurating in delights procured for him by the darkey's mistaken notion that he was President Davis.

"The President and one or two others were presently provided for elsewhere. The rest of us bestowed ourselves on the floor before the fire."