Pollard's criticism of Southern leaders finally became so strong that he lost the support of Daniel, the owner of the Examiner. As a result, Pollard resigned from the newspaper and boarded a ship for England, where he hoped to resume his writing career. The ship upon which he was traveling, however, was stopped by a Union ship that was part of a Northern blockade (a military operation designed to cut an enemy area off from outside supplies or communications) of the entire East Coast. When the Union sailors discovered Pollard's identity, they immediately arrested him as a spy.
Pollard was sent to prison in Boston, Massachusetts. His jailers let him go when they determined that he was not really a spy. But when he was released, he attempted to resume his anti-Northern writings in New York. His activities angered the Union authorities, who arrested him again and threw him in jail.
In early April 1865, the Confederate defense of the capital city of Richmond finally crumbled. As General Robert E. Lee evacuated his army from the city, the atmosphere on Richmond's streets became scary and chaotic. Writing for the Richmond Examiner, Edward Pollard described the scene with a heavy heart:
As the day wore on, clatter and bustle in the streets denoted the progress of the evacuation and convinced those who had been incredulous [doubtful] of its reality. The disorder increased each hour. The streets were thronged [crowded] with fugitives making their way to the railroad depots [stations]; pale women and little shoeless children struggled in the crowd; oaths and blasphemous shouts [swearing] smote [struck] the air. . . .
When it was finally announced by the Army that . . . the evacuation of Richmond was a foregone [unavoidable] conclusion, it was proposed to maintain order in the city by two regiments of militia [army composed of citizens]; to destroy every drop of liquor in the warehouses and stores; and to establish a patrol through the night. But the militia ran through the fingers of their officers . . . and in a short while the whole city was plunged into mad confusion and indescribable horrors.
It was an extraordinary night; disorder, pillage [looting], shouts, mad revelry. . . . In the now dimly lighted city could be seen black masses of people crowded around some object of excitement . . . swaying to and fro in whatever momen tary passion possessed them. The gutters ran with a liquor freshet [overflow], and the fumes filled the air. Some of the straggling soldiers . . . easily managed to get hold of quantities of the liquor. Confusion became worse confounded; the sidewalks were encumbered [littered] with broken glass; stores were entered at pleasure and stripped from top to bottom; yells of drunken men, shouts of roving pillagers [robbers], wild cries of distress filled the air and made night hideous.
But a new horror was to appear upon the scene and take possession of the community. To the rear-guard of the Confederate force . . . had been left the duty of blowing up the iron-clad vessels in the James [River] and destroying the bridges across the river. . . . The work of destruction might well have ended here. But the four principal tobacco warehouses of the city were fired; the flames seized on the neighboring buildings and soon involved a wide and widening area; the conflagration [fire] passed rapidly beyond control. And in this mad fire, this wild, unnecessary destruction of their property, the citizens of Richmond had a fitting souvenir of the imprudence [lacking in judgment] and recklessness of the departing Administration.
Morning broke on a scene never to be forgotten. . . . The smoke and glare of fire mingled with the golden beams of the rising sun. . . . The fire was reaching to whole blocks of buildings. . . . Its roar sounded in the ears; it leaped from street to street. Pillagers were busy at their vocation, and in the hot breath of the fire were figures as of demons contending [fighting] for prey.
Pollard finally won his release from jail in January 1865. He promptly returned to Richmond and returned to the staff of the Examiner. But by this time, Union armies were marching to victory throughout the South. As the war drew to a close, many of Pollard's editorials reflected shock and sadness at the Confederacy's collapse.
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