Assignment #2: Five Years of Change

At the eve of the Civil War, Grace Street was filled with housing, churches and small stores. These buildings shaped the street into a place intended for the people and their daily lives. Over the course of the war, Grace Street made frequent changes and each change adapted to the new environment of the war. Grace Street at the beginning, middle and end of the Civil War presents a different dynamic each time. By the end of the war Grace Street was worse off then it was at the start and Richmond as a whole became a different world to the people that lived there.

The change from pre-war to wartime Richmond happened quickly on Grace Street. The Confederacy made sure that they acquired all available hands for the war. On April 23rd 1861, just 11 days after the start of the war, an article published in the Dispatch called for “All persons liable to militia duty” to report to Grace Street and any “absentees will be dealt with according to law”.[i] Recruitment would not reach full swing until 1862, and the Southern mentality did not leave room for any Union supporters,[ii] who would be “dealt with”.[iii] On April 24th 1861, Jacob Bechtel wrote to his brother about “how hateful the word Union has become” for he was a Union supporter and had lived in Richmond for sixteen years. After only 12 days after the war began he felt as if “we are strangers here” and that he was “afraid to say a word”.[iv] Within a matter of days much of Richmond became vehemently attached to the Confederate cause.  Grace Street became a hub for regiments to gather and count their numbers.

The Confederacy tried any means necessary in order to fully use Grace Street to its advantage. The numbers of court cases, from 1860 to 1862, were minimal in comparison to the following years of the war.[v] Instead articles wrote about how the people should or are helping the war cause. On April 23rd 1861 the women of the Grace Street Baptist Church told “the Governor of the Sate of their readiness” to help outfit the soldiers.[vi] Before the war it was a residential area that had a lot of areas to rent or to board. Not only did the women of the Baptist Church offer their assistance in the war effort, but also the Confederacy used other means than just the church. An article in 1862 stated that the Confederacy had “all sick and wounded soldiers”  “taken into the Receiving Hospital on 17th and Grace streets”.[vii]  The hospital was not enough either and so houses, that were supposedly vacant, were used for more sick and wounded soldiers.[viii] But in a following article the next day it turns out that each of the houses that wanted to be used were, in fact, all occupied.[ix] The Confederacy tried any means necessary in order to fully use Grace Street to its advantage. Grace Street’s residential type became a key element to this change. It provided a space to house and take care of soldiers.

In the following months and years the severe punishments by the law worsened. On March 30th 1865, two officers, “Chief-of-Police Reuben T. Seal and officer William S. Jenkins”, were walking “between Grace and Broad“ around 2 am when they saw an African American holding a sack of flour.[x] Seeing the officers, he dropped the sack and ran. The officers then proceeded to draw their firearms and shoot the man dead. The officers made no attempt to tell the man to stop. It was proven later that in fact that he had indeed broken into the storeroom of Mr. John O. Steger.[xi] The article justifies their actions by stating that “their energetic efforts” have cut down the “number of robberies in the upper end of the city”[xii].

With the rise of crime also came the rise of over-zealous court cases and police officers. 1864 and 1865 were heated times in the South. Before the war this area received articles about rent and board along with religious and educational announcements. As the war goes on those articles disappear and are replaced by articles about the crime rate’s increase. There is a key graph that shows the decline of Richmond and subsequently Grace Street. The Court Proceedings graph[xiii] from “Mining the Dispatch”. [xiv] The Court Proceedings shows exactly how many court cases there were during the course of the war. They spike towards the end of the war, and then level out at a higher average than before.[xv] Even though they may not have been as frequent the crimes increased in severity.

In just five years, Grace Street underwent a severe change. It went from residential, family oriented area with churches and schools to an area filled with soldiers and then lastly and area of crime. The Civil War changed the South, and most importantly Richmond. Richmond before the war was a severely different place after the war. In 1865, Richmond experienced a Richmond that was devoid of slavery and “a new political order”.[xvi] After so many changes in just five years Grace Street is no exception to the rest of Richmond.


[i] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Attention. Militia.” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
accessed February 20, 2011, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=datea;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr0148.0019.093;node=ddr0148.0019.093:6.6.4.

[ii] Gregg D. Kimball, American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of 
Antebellum Richmond (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002), 217.

[iii] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Attention. Militia.” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
accessed February 20, 2011, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=datea;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr0148.0019.093;node=ddr0148.0019.093:6.6.4.

[iv] Gregg D. Kimball, American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of 
Antebellum Richmond (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002), 127.

[v] Digital Scholarship Lab and Robert K. Nelson, “Court Proceedings,”
Mining the Dispatch, http://americanpast.richmond.edu/dispatch/Topics/view/
37.

[vi] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “The Right Spirit,” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=occur;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr0148.0019.093;node=ddr0148.0019.093:4.2.9.

[vii] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Did not arrive.” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=occur;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple; rgn=div2;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr0603.0023.087;node=ddr0603.0023.087:5.2.

[viii] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Sundries,” Richmond Daily Dispatch, May 30, 1862,
http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=occur;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr0488.0021.129;node=ddr0488.0021.129:6.2.1.

[ix] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “Unoccupied houses.” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
May 31, 1862, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20St*;view=text;subview=detai
l;sort=occur;idno=ddr0489.0021.130;node=ddr0489.0021.130:5.2.3.

[x] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “A Burglar Shot,” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
accessed February 13, 2011, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=dated;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20st*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr1364.0029.074;node=ddr1364.0029.074:15.1.3.

[xi] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “A Burglar Shot,” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
accessed February 13, 2011, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=dated;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20st*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr1364.0029.074;node=ddr1364.0029.074:15.1.3.

[xii] Richmond Daily Dispatch, “A Burglar Shot,” Richmond Daily Dispatch,
accessed February 13, 2011, http://imls.richmond.edu/cgi/t/text/
text-idx?sort=dated;c=ddr;cc=ddr;type=simple;rgn=div3;q1=Grace%20st*;view=text;su
bview=detail;idno=ddr1364.0029.074;node=ddr1364.0029.074:15.1.3.

[xiii] Digital Scholarship Lab and Robert K. Nelson, “Court Proceedings,”
Mining the Dispatch, http://americanpast.richmond.edu/dispatch/Topics/view/
37.

[xiv] Digital Scholarship Lab and Robert K. Nelson, “Deserters,”
Mining the Dispatch, http://americanpast.richmond.edu/dispatch/Topics/view/
37.

[xv] Digital Scholarship Lab and Robert K. Nelson, “Court Proceedings,”
Mining the Dispatch, http://americanpast.richmond.edu/dispatch/Topics/view/
37.

[xvi] Gregg D. Kimball, American City, Southern Place: A Cultural History of 
Antebellum Richmond (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2002), 252.

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