Transcript- Electronic Field Trip to City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield

What follows is the transcript from a live Internet chat that occurred on Weds. Oct. 25, 2000 with a historian and a park ranger from the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield.

  • Jimmy Blankenship, Park Historian, City Point Unit, Petersburg National Battlefield in Hopewell, VA
  • Grant Gates, Park Ranger, City Point Unit, Petersburg National Battlefield in Hopewell, VA

General Ulysses S. Grant's Civil War headquarters cabin was originally built in City Point, Virginia (the city now known as Hopewell). It served as a focal point for the planning of the North's battle with the South. The National Park Service restored the cabin during the spring of 2000, preserving the rich American history associated with this historic site.

Welcome to the Discover Presidential Log Cabins Electronic Field Trip to the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield!

<Sheridan middle> Why did Grant choose City Point as his headquarters? How long was he there?

<City Point> He was there for nine months. He chose City Point because of a deep water port, rail communication to Petersburg and he could easily protect his supply line coming up the James River.

<Sussex Middle School> Were the log cabins used for anything other than soldiers' sleeping quarters?

<City Point> Grant's cabin was used as an office from where he commanded and coordinated the movements of all Union armies nationwide.

<Discovery Academy> How far was his cabin from the first battlefield of the civil war and how did he communicate with his soldiers in the field?

<City Point> His cabin was eight miles from the front lines at Petersburg and he communicated with his soldiers in the field with the telegraph and mounted couriers.

<Sussex Middle School> How long was Grant stationed there?

<City Point> Grant was at City Point for 9 months from June, 1864 to March, 1865.

<ThompsonHigh> Did anyone come to visit Grant while he lived in the cabin?

<City Point> The most important visitor was Abraham Lincoln. Others included Union generals, congressmen, Senators, European military observers and even the Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens.

<Discovery Academy> What kind of furnishings did he have in the cabin?

<City Point> Plain, simple camp furniture with lots of maps, southern newspapers, and a soldier even made andirons out of old musket barrels for Grant.

<ThompsonHigh> Do you know what might have been a "typical day" for Grant while he stayed in the cabin?

<City Point> Receiving reports from the front, dealing with visiting dignitaries, visiting the front, overseeing operations, occasionally going to Washington D.C. and, during the winter months, planning for the spring campaign.

<MartinWay> Does City Point look the same today as it did when Grant was there?

<City Point> City Point looks much different than it did in 1864 & 1865. Back then it was one of the busiest sea ports in the world. There were hundreds of soldiers working toward getting supplies to the front line. Wharf buildings have all disappeared, along with all the docks. City Point is now known as the City of Hopewell. The historic village is also much more peaceful and quiet than it was during the Siege of Petersburg.

<MartinWay> Can you tell us why they changed the name of City Point?

<City Point> The Eppes Family owned a farm called "Hopewell" and in 1916 this land was purchased to build a factory and the name changed to Hopewell.

<Navarro Elementary> How are log cabins built?

<City Point> The lumber was from trees cut locally, by hand, and the chinking, or insulation, was cement. This cement chinking was used only on Grant's cabin. The others did without it.

<Harding Mdl school> On the video and the Web site, we learned about the restoration of the cabin. Why did you restore Grant's cabin?

<City Point> From the cabin, Grant coordinated the movements of all Union Armies with the ultimate goal of destroying the Confederacy. So what occurred within the cabin walls is of national significance regarding the restoration of the United States. Termite damage had severely eroded much of the woodwork and this had to be replaced.

<Harding Mdl school> How long did it take to restore it?

<City Point> About three weeks.

<Russell Middle School> How long was City Point a strategic center of the Civil War? How long did Grant reside there?

<City Point> It was strategic center of the war for 9 1/2 months from June, 1864 to April, 1865. Grant resided there for approximately the same time period.

<Navarro Elementary> How was furniture built?

<City Point> In Grant's cabin he used basic camp furniture that was made mostly pine. This included a field desk, chairs, army cot, and even andirons in the fireplace made by a soldier from old musket barrels.

<Harding Mdl school> Can you tell us more about why President Lincoln was there and did he really dream about his death while there?

<City Point> Yes he did dream about his death. Lincoln was here to oversee military operations and to escape the political pressure of Wash., D.C. He also discussed the future surrenders of the Confederate armies and the post-war political reconstruction of the United States.

<Russell Middle School> On your website, you mentioned the River Queen. Did President Lincoln reside on this steamship whenever he was abroad during the Civil War?

<City Point> Lincoln used the River Queen only during his visit to City Point.

<Navarro Elementary> What was the inspiration for this great website?

<City Point> The National Park Service and the restoration of three log cabins related to four U.S. Presidents.

<Russell Middle School> On your website, you mentioned that Richmond was evacuated. Did the government flee knowing that they would soon be defeated, or did they hope to institute a government-in-exile?

<City Point> Their objective was to continue the Confederacy elsewhere since if Petersburg fell, Richmond would fall automatically. Jefferson Davis left Richmond for Danville, Virginia which served as the last capital of the Confederacy for the last week of the war.

<Russell Middle School> Thank you guys so much for providing this great service! It is informative, interesting, and innovative!

<City Point> Thank you Russell and Navarro. Please come by the Park some time when you get the chance.

<Discovery Academy> Thanks for letting us participate!

<ThompsonHigh> This was great, thank you City Point!

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