Lincoln and Grant Meeting

Lincoln and Grant Meeting

The climactic events leading to the collapse of the Confederacy began on April 1, 1865 when Union
forces defeated the two divisions of General George Pickett at the Battle of Five Forks. Lee could no longer hold
Petersburg or stop the Yankees from cutting the Southside railroad. It was time for a breakthrough and General Grant
seized the moment in a series of coordinated attacks that broke the siege and put Union troops into Petersburg proper.
Grant spent the night of April 2 in or around the Banks House, now a part of the Pamplin Historical Park. He
then invited President Lincoln, currently touring the front at City Point (now Hopewell), for a meeting in Petersburg.
Grant chose the Thomas Wallace house, now 204 South Market Street, the home of a former member of the Virginia
House of Delegates and the U.S. House of Representatives, then president of the Petersburg branch of the Exchange Bank.
Lincoln left City Point at 9:00 AM accompanied by his bodyguard William Crook and Admiral Porter, and were met at
Hancock Station by Lincoln’s son, Robert then a Captain on Grant’s staff. The General sent his horse “Cincinnati” for
the President to ride and his route took him through the rebel earthworks where the piles of Confederate dead left him
visibly sober and sad.

From left, Gen. William T. Sherman, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln and Rear Adm. David Porter are seen in this famous portrait of the meeting at City Point. | Library of Congress/Photo credit

When Lincoln arrived at about 11:00 AM he was welcomed by Grant. When Thomas Wallace’s son said to his
father, “You are not going to let that man come into the house!” the older Wallace replied, “I think it would not do to try
to stop a man from coming in who has 50 thousand men at his back!” Lincoln cordially greeted his host and they
discussed their time in the House as Whig representatives in the 1840s. They remained outside because Grant was
smoking a cigar.
During the conversation Grant informed Lincoln that he was going to let the Eastern Union armies run Lee to
ground since they had faced the Confederate general for years and deserved the honor of the final strike. Lincoln spoke of
reconstruction and his desire for a lenient policy toward the South. The meeting lasted about 90 minutes. Grant was off
for the surrender at Appomattox, Lincoln to walk the streets of Richmond the following day, and then his return to
Washington and the fatal encounter at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865.
This has been a special edition of A Moment in Time, PETERSBURG.

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