He Took the Surrender of Richmond from the Mayor
As host of the MOLLUS 2014 National Congress, the Massachusetts Commandery will publish a program book entitled Our Forebears and Massachusetts in the Civil War. The book will consist in part of profiles celebrating the ancestors of current MA MOLLUS Companions who served as officers in the Union forces. Many of them had very colorful experiences. Here is one.
Maj. Atherton H. Stevens, Jr.
A Cambridge native and member of the National Lancers before the War, Atherton Stevens was in 1861 elected Lieutenant in the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Cavalry. Elements of the 1st joined the blockade and siege of Charleston following the disastrous mid-1863 assaults on Fort Wagner by Union forces. In 1864, Maj. Stevens and his Independent Battalion of cavalry raided the countryside in support of the expedition into Florida that culminated in the Battle of Olustee, the bloodiest of the War for the Union Army so far as percentage of casualties to participants was concerned. The campaign, nonetheless, captured a number of islands to which slaves had escaped from the mainland to freedom (Some of these men soon formed a ‘colored’ Union Army infantry unit.) Stevens, now attached to the 4th MA Cavalry, was in the field at the siege of Petersburg, and in August 1864, still heading his independent Battalion (10th Army Corps) he participated in the Battle of Deep Run. In September, recently designated Provost Marshal of the Corps, he was moved “before Richmond,” where he led raids to capture prisoners and supplies. Late in 1864, Stevens was assigned to a colored infantry corps, and on April 3, 1864, under orders, he and elements of the 4th led two companies to the very gates of Richmond. On the way in, he met the mayor of Richmond, fleeing the burning city with a number of his officials, who formally surrendered the Confederate capital. Then, according to Century Magazine (1880), major Stevens galloped to the state house at the head of a small detachment, climbed to the roof, pulled down the Confederate and Virginia flags and replaced them with two 4th Cavalry guidons (soon replacing them with a U.S flag. The Confederate flag was torn into pieces as souvenirs for his men, and he took the Virginia flag home, where it remained in his family until it was ceremonially returned, in 1927, to Virginia Governor Harry Byrd.
MA MOLLUS Companion (and Commander) Frederick A. Stevens, Jr., LTC USA (Ret), is a great-grandson of Maj. Atherton H. Stevens, Jr.