This Day (So Much Drama! Edition)

Published:April 2, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

On this day in 1861, Walter Ashby Plecker was born in Augusta County. Happy birthday, Herr Plecker!

A year later, militiamen from Rockingham County made themselves a burr in the side of the already irritable Stonewall Jackson, refusing to be incorporated into the regular Confederate army.

A year after that, a group of women began looting shops in downtown Richmond to protest a lack of food. They had just been denied a meeting with Governor John Letcher and decided, in the tradition of their Rockingham brethren, not to go easy.

And a year after that, Union general-in-chief Ulysses S. Grant ordered the creation of the Army of the James, putting Benjamin F. Butler in charge. Butler has become famous for his decision earlier in the war, at Fort Monroe, to take in refugee slaves as so-called contraband of war. As it turned out, the Army of the James included black troops who—

A year after that, were among the first to enter Richmond. Okay, actually, they entered the city on the third, but the city fell on this day in 1865, with Confederate general A. P. Hill being killed in the fighting by a bullet through the heart. (Both Jackson and Robert E. Lee are said to have called for Hill on their deathbeds.) On the same day, one of Lee’s top aides, Walter H. Taylor—in what can only be described as an odd bit of timing—received permission to leave the breastworks at Petersburg and travel to the capital city to marry his fiancée, which he did, probably passing the bluecoats on his way back out of town.

April 2, 1865, was a Sunday morning, by the way, which means that the Reverend Charles Minnigerode, a German immigrant, was holding services at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. That’s where Confederate president Jefferson Davis was when he learned that the city was about to fall.

So much drama! And yet it didn’t stop with the war. On this day in 1917, Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany, and in 1960, sixteen African American high school students attempted to use the all-white Danville Memorial Library, only to have the city close the facility in response. Herr Plecker, methinks, would have been proud.

IMAGE: The Fall of Richmond, an 1865 lithograph by Currier and Ives (Virginia Historical Society)