Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/272

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Soutlii rn Historical Society Papers.

dest scene in its history. On being awakened from a sound sleep, the first I had enjoyed for twenty-four hours (for in those days a railroad-man slept when he could, and that was not often), by the telegraph operator with the information that " Richmond says come to the key at once." Reporting there as soon as possible, I soon received the following: " Hold all trains in Danville; send nothing out."

Having heard nothing of impending danger to Lee's army, or of the probability of the evacuation, I asked the reason for the order. None was given, and our construction of it then was that Richmond had news of a raid out from the Federal army, and that it was feared that our lines would be cut between Burkeville and the Staunton river. We took our local wire and interrogated the operators on the line for news of the raiders, but they knew nothing.

It was time for the regular passenger train to leave for Richmond. Many passengers were gathering, and the question was frequently asked, " Where is the train ? Why is it not at the platform ? What is the matter ?" Leaving time had come and passed. Then those of the passengers who lived in Richmond grew anxious and suspi- cious. I was questioned on all sides, but could tell nothing. Soon, however, another message came as follows: " Come to Richmond with all engines and empty passenger and box-cars you can pick up. Bring no freight or passengers. ' '

We got the four engines we had in the yard ready to run with what cars we had, and reported for running orders, and were told to await further instructions. They came. I have them yet. The message was short, and read as follows :

" Too late. Richmond is being evacuated. We will all leave this P. M. Arrange for all track room possible in Danville."

Now we must tell the waiting, expecting passengers. It was a scene never to be forgotten. One man shed tears as he came and offered any amount I would name for an engine to take him to Rich- mond, where his wife and children were. Others seemed to be com- pletely crushed and unable to express themselves. Some walked off looking as though they had lost their all.

Soon Danville knew the story, and the noble people of that Vir- ginia city began their preparation to receive and take care of as many of the refugees as possible. Daylight brought the first train the President of the Confederacy, his Cabinet, their families and many members of Congress. Other trains soon followed. There were women and children in box-cars, many without baggage, few