PCS Blog

Setting the Stage for The Whipping Man

Posted by KellyC | 17 February 2013


The set of The Whipping Man takes us back to the fire-destructed city of Richmond, Virginia, just days after the Civil War has ended. Ironically enough, Richmond, the very symbol of the Confederacy, was set ablaze by the Confederates themselves. What started as an attempt to keep the Union away from bridges, valuable supplies and arms turned into flames that ran wildly and uncontrollably throughout the city. So what was it about Richmond that made some consider it the ultimate prize in a bloody war? What led up to the "Evacuation Fire of 1865"? Let’s take a look back!


History of Richmond During the Civil War
In 1861, the government of the Confederate States of America was moved from Montgomery, Alabama to Richmond, Virginia. From 1861-1865, this once quiet and prosperous state capital became a noisy city and the center of rail and industry, a transportation hub, and home to the military headquarters, prison, prisoner-of-war camps, and hospital center of the Confederacy. Richmond’s success in serving the Confederate armies foreshadowed the destruction that would happen in 1865. 
Richmond’s Tredegar Iron Works supplied munitions to the South, manufactured railroad steam locomotives, and was credited with the production of roughly 10,000 artillery pieces during the war. This accounted for about half of the South’s domestic production of artillery for the years that Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy. Many of the city’s warehouses became the supply and logistical center for much of the South’s forces.
Not only was Richmond the seat of political power for the Confederacy, it was also located near the U.S. capital. That being said, it became the focus of many military campaigns in the Eastern Theater and the target of multiple attempts by the Union Army to seize it. “On to Richmond” became the rallying cry for the first three years of the war. The city was attacked from the north, the east and the south by the Army of the Potomac. For both sides, much of the effort during the Civil War was focused on capturing the other’s capital city. The two were located only 100 miles apart.
The Fire and Its Damages
By June of 1864, the Overland Campaign of 1864 had settled into a siege of Petersburg, Richmond’s "backdoor." During this nine-and-a-half month siege, the Confederate lines grew thinner and thinner by the day, and Richmond’s people faced the threat of starvation. After a failed attempt to break through the Union’s lines, an all out assault on Robert E. Lee’s army by the North and the fall of Petersburg, Lee notified President Davis that Richmond needed to be evacuated. On April 2, 1865, after Grant captured Richmond, President Davis, his cabinet, and the Confederate defenders abandoned Richmond on "Evacuation Sunday."
During the retreat, soldiers were ordered to set fire to the bridges, the armory, and the warehouses of supplies in order to keep the Union from attaining them. Stockpiles of supplies were torched along with tobacco warehouses, and a fierce wind caused the flames to spread out of control, destroying large parts of Richmond. The mayor and other civilians surrendered the city the next day. Union troops put out the fire, and the event became known as the Evacuation Fire of 1865.
The set of The Whipping Man displays the DeLeon family's house that was almost completely destroyed in this famous fire of 1865. We invite you inside this house and back in time to the Civil War South in The Whipping Man.
Comments (2)

Whoops! Thanks for catching those typos, Anne! We’re so glad you enjoyed the show.

  • Kinsley Suer
  • 11 Mar 13 06:27

I believe there is an error in your blog about when Richmond was made the capital of the Confederacy.
Under “History of Richmond during the Civil War” the first sentence says “In 1865 the government of the Confederate States of America”...It should read 1861 I believe, not 1865.

Also the third paragraph has a typo…the word “was” is used twice - “Not only was Richmond was…”

I saw The Whipping Man recently and thought it was excellent -  a new perspective from which to view the Civil War.

  • Anne
  • 11 Mar 13 04:55

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