Siege of Petersburg
Overview
 
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's population was 32,420 as of 2010, predominantly of African-American ethnicity...

, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

, in which a city is usually surrounded and all supply lines are cut off, nor was it strictly limited to actions against Petersburg. The campaign was nine months of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 in which Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 forces commanded by Lt. Gen.
Lieutenant General (United States)
In the United States Army, the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, lieutenant general is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general...

 Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles (48.3 km) from the eastern outskirts of Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg.
Encyclopedia
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg, Virginia
Petersburg is an independent city in Virginia, United States located on the Appomattox River and south of the state capital city of Richmond. The city's population was 32,420 as of 2010, predominantly of African-American ethnicity...

, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege
Siege
A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition or assault. The term derives from sedere, Latin for "to sit". Generally speaking, siege warfare is a form of constant, low intensity conflict characterized by one party holding a strong, static...

, in which a city is usually surrounded and all supply lines are cut off, nor was it strictly limited to actions against Petersburg. The campaign was nine months of trench warfare
Trench warfare
Trench warfare is a form of occupied fighting lines, consisting largely of trenches, in which troops are largely immune to the enemy's small arms fire and are substantially sheltered from artillery...

 in which Union
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 forces commanded by Lt. Gen.
Lieutenant General (United States)
In the United States Army, the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, lieutenant general is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general...

 Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles (48.3 km) from the eastern outskirts of Richmond, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Richmond is the capital of the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States. It is an independent city and not part of any county. Richmond is the center of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Greater Richmond area...

, to around the eastern and southern outskirts of Petersburg. Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 Gen. Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's army and the Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 capital of Richmond. Numerous raids were conducted and battles fought in attempts to cut off the railroad supply lines through Petersburg to Richmond, and many of these caused the lengthening of the trench lines, overloading dwindling Confederate resources.

Lee finally yielded to the overwhelming pressure—the point at which supply lines were finally cut and a true siege would have begun—and abandoned both cities in April 1865, leading to his retreat
Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...

 and surrender at Appomattox Court House. The Siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench warfare that was common in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, earning it a prominent position in military history. It also featured the war's largest concentration of African American troops
African Americans at Siege of Petersburg
African Americans at the Siege of Petersburg.-In Petersburg:At the beginning of the American Civil War, Virginia had a black population of about 549,000. This meant that of the Confederacy's total black population one in six blacks lived in Virginia. Of those African Americans in Virginia 89% were...

, who suffered heavy casualties at such engagements as the Battle of the Crater
Battle of the Crater
The Battle of the Crater was a battle of the American Civil War, part of the Siege of Petersburg. It took place on July 30, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade The...

 and Chaffin's Farm
Battle of Chaffin's Farm
The Battle of Chaffin's Farm and New Market Heights, also known as Laurel Hill and combats at Forts Harrison, Johnson, and Gilmer, was fought September 29–30, 1864, as part of the Siege of Petersburg in the American Civil War.-Background:...

.

Background

In March 1864, Ulysses S. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general and was given command of the Union Army. He devised a coordinated strategy to apply pressure on the Confederacy from many points, something President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

 had urged his generals to do from the beginning of the war. Grant put Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman in immediate command of all forces in the West
Western Theater of the American Civil War
This article presents an overview of major military and naval operations in the Western Theater of the American Civil War.-Theater of operations:...

 and moved his own headquarters to be with the Army of the Potomac
Army of the Potomac
The Army of the Potomac was the major Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-History:The Army of the Potomac was created in 1861, but was then only the size of a corps . Its nucleus was called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, under Brig. Gen...

 (still commanded by Maj. Gen. George G. Meade) in Virginia, where he intended to maneuver Lee's army to a decisive battle; his secondary objective was to capture Richmond (the capital of the Confederacy), but Grant knew that the latter would happen automatically once the former was accomplished. His coordinated strategy called for Grant and Meade to attack Lee from the north, while Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

 drove toward Richmond from the southeast; Maj. Gen. Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel
Franz Sigel was a German military officer, revolutionist and immigrant to the United States who was a teacher, newspaperman, politician, and served as a Union major general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 to control the Shenandoah Valley; Sherman to invade Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, defeat Gen. Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

, and capture Atlanta; Brig. Gens.
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 George Crook
George Crook
George R. Crook was a career United States Army officer, most noted for his distinguished service during the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

 and William W. Averell
William W. Averell
William Woods Averell was a career United States Army officer and a cavalry general in the American Civil War. After the war he was a diplomat and became wealthy by inventing American asphalt pavement.-Early years:...

 to operate against railroad supply lines in West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

; and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks to capture Mobile, Alabama
Mobile, Alabama
Mobile is the third most populous city in the Southern US state of Alabama and is the county seat of Mobile County. It is located on the Mobile River and the central Gulf Coast of the United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 during the 2010 census. It is the largest...

.

Most of these initiatives failed, often because of the assignment of generals to Grant for political rather than military reasons. Butler's Army of the James
Army of the James
The Army of the James was a Union Army that was composed of units from the Department of Virginia and North Carolina and served along the James River during the final operations of the American Civil War in Virginia.-History:...

 bogged down against inferior forces under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard before Richmond in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign
Bermuda Hundred Campaign
The Bermuda Hundred Campaign was a series of battles fought at the town of Bermuda Hundred, outside Richmond, Virginia, during May 1864 in the American Civil War. Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler, commanding the Army of the James, threatened Richmond from the east but was stopped by forces under ...

. Sigel was soundly defeated at the Battle of New Market
Battle of New Market
The Battle of New Market was a battle fought on May 15, 1864, in Virginia during Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War. Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute fought alongside the Confederate Army and forced Union General Franz Sigel and his army out of the Shenandoah...

 in May and soon afterward he was replaced by Maj. Gen. David Hunter
David Hunter
David Hunter was a Union general in the American Civil War. He achieved fame by his unauthorized 1862 order emancipating slaves in three Southern states and as the president of the military commission trying the conspirators involved with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.-Early...

. Banks was distracted by the Red River Campaign
Red River Campaign
The Red River Campaign or Red River Expedition consisted of a series of battles fought along the Red River in Louisiana during the American Civil War from March 10 to May 22, 1864. The campaign was a Union initiative, fought between approximately 30,000 Union troops under the command of Maj. Gen....

 and failed to move on Mobile. However, Crook and Averell were able to cut the last railway linking Virginia and Tennessee, and Sherman's Atlanta Campaign
Atlanta Campaign
The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought in the Western Theater of the American Civil War throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman invaded Georgia from the vicinity of Chattanooga, Tennessee, beginning in May...

 was a success, although it dragged on through the fall.

On May 4, Grant and Meade's Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan River
Rapidan River
The Rapidan River, flowing through north-central Virginia in the United States, is the largest tributary of the Rappahannock River. The two rivers converge just west of the city of Fredericksburg...

 and entered the area known as the Wilderness of Spotsylvania, beginning the six-week Overland Campaign
Overland Campaign
The Overland Campaign, also known as Grant's Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the...

. At the bloody but tactically inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness
Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by...

 (May 5–7) and Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
Battle of Spotsylvania Court House
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, sometimes simply referred to as the Battle of Spotsylvania , was the second major battle in Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Following the bloody but inconclusive Battle of the Wilderness, Grant's army disengaged...

 (May 8–21), Grant failed to destroy Lee's army but, unlike his predecessors, did not retreat after the battles; he repeatedly moved his army leftward to the southeast in a campaign that kept Lee on the defensive and moved ever closer to Richmond. Grant spent the remainder of May maneuvering and fighting minor battles with the Confederate army as he attempted to turn Lee's flank and lure him into the open. Grant knew that his larger army and base of manpower in the North could sustain a war of attrition better than Lee and the Confederacy could. This theory was tested at the Battle of Cold Harbor
Battle of Cold Harbor
The Battle of Cold Harbor was fought from May 31 to June 12, 1864 . It was one of the final battles of Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign during the American Civil War, and is remembered as one of American history's bloodiest, most lopsided battles...

 (May 31 – June 12) when Grant's army once again came into contact with Lee's near Mechanicsville
Mechanicsville, Virginia
Mechanicsville is the name of four places in the Commonwealth of Virginia in the United States of America:*Mechanicsville, Hanover County, Virginia*Mechanicsville, Loudoun County, Virginia*Mechanicsville, Rockbridge County, Virginia...

. He chose to engage Lee's army directly, by ordering a frontal assault on the Confederate fortified positions on June 3. This attack was repulsed with heavy losses. Cold Harbor was a battle that Grant regretted more than any other and Northern newspapers thereafter frequently referred to him as a "butcher". Although Grant suffered high losses during the campaign—approximately 50,000 casualties, or 41%—Lee lost even higher percentages of his men—approximately 32,000, or 46%—losses that could not be replaced.

On the night of June 12, Grant again advanced by his left flank, marching to the James River
James River (Virginia)
The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia. It is long, extending to if one includes the Jackson River, the longer of its two source tributaries. The James River drains a catchment comprising . The watershed includes about 4% open water and an area with a population of 2.5 million...

. He planned to cross to the south bank of the river, bypassing Richmond, and isolate Richmond by seizing the railroad junction of Petersburg to the south. While Lee remained unaware of Grant's intentions, the Union army constructed a pontoon bridge
Pontoon bridge
A pontoon bridge or floating bridge is a bridge that floats on water and in which barge- or boat-like pontoons support the bridge deck and its dynamic loads. While pontoon bridges are usually temporary structures, some are used for long periods of time...

 2,100 feet (640 m) long and crossed the James River on June 14–18. What Lee had feared most of all—that Grant would force him into a siege of Richmond—was poised to occur. Petersburg, a prosperous city of 18,000, was a supply center for Richmond, given its strategic location just south of Richmond, its site on the Appomattox River
Appomattox River
The Appomattox River is a tributary of the James River, approximately long, in central and eastern Virginia in the United States, named for the Appomattocs Indian tribe who lived along its lower banks in the 17th century...

 that provided navigable access to the James River, and its role as a major crossroads and junction for five railroads. Since Petersburg was the main supply base and rail depot for the entire region, including Richmond, the taking of Petersburg by Union forces would make it impossible for Lee to continue defending Richmond (the Confederate capital). This represented a change of strategy from that of the preceding Overland Campaign, in which confronting and defeating Lee's army in the open was the primary goal. Now, Grant selected a geographic and political target and knew that his superior resources could besiege Lee there, pin him down, and either starve him into submission or lure him out for a decisive battle. Lee at first believed that Grant's main target was Richmond and devoted only minimal troops under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to the defense of Petersburg.

Opposing forces


Key Union commanders

At the beginning of the campaign, Grant's Union forces consisted of the Army of the Potomac
Army of the Potomac
The Army of the Potomac was the major Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-History:The Army of the Potomac was created in 1861, but was then only the size of a corps . Its nucleus was called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, under Brig. Gen...

, under Maj. Gen.
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George G. Meade, and the Army of the James
Army of the James
The Army of the James was a Union Army that was composed of units from the Department of Virginia and North Carolina and served along the James River during the final operations of the American Civil War in Virginia.-History:...

, under Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler
Benjamin Franklin Butler (politician)
Benjamin Franklin Butler was an American lawyer and politician who represented Massachusetts in the United States House of Representatives and later served as the 33rd Governor of Massachusetts....

. The Army of the Potomac included:
  • II Corps, under Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, including the divisions of Maj. Gens. David B. Birney
    David B. Birney
    David Bell Birney was a businessman, lawyer, and a Union General in the American Civil War.-Early life:Birney was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of an abolitionist from Kentucky, James G. Birney. The Birney family returned to Kentucky in 1833, and James Birney freed his slaves...

     and John Gibbon
    John Gibbon
    John Gibbon was a career United States Army officer who fought in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

     and Brig. Gen.
    Brigadier general (United States)
    A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

     Francis C. Barlow
    Francis C. Barlow
    Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

    .
  • V Corps, under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren
    Gouverneur K. Warren
    Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

    , including the divisions of Brig. Gens. Charles Griffin, Romeyn B. Ayres
    Romeyn B. Ayres
    Romeyn Beck Ayres was a Union Army general in the American Civil War.-Early life:Ayres was born at East Creek, New York, along the Mohawk River in Montgomery County. He was the son of a small-town doctor who urged all of his sons into professional careers...

    , Samuel W. Crawford
    Samuel W. Crawford
    Samuel Wylie Crawford was a United States Army surgeon and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    , and Lysander Cutler
    Lysander Cutler
    Lysander Cutler was an American businessman, educator, politician, and a Union Army General during the American Civil War.-Early years:Cutler was born in Royalston, Massachusetts, the son of a farmer...

    .
  • VI Corps, under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright, including the divisions of Brig. Gens. David A. Russell
    David Allen Russell
    David Allen Russell was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War. He was killed in action as a brigadier general in the Union Army.-Early life:...

    , Thomas H. Neill
    Thomas H. Neill
    Thomas Hewson Neill, a native of Pennsylvania, became a general in the American Civil War, serving in the Army of the Potomac in some of its most important campaigns.-Birth and early years:Neill was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 9, 1826...

    , and James B. Ricketts
    James B. Ricketts
    James Brewerton Ricketts was a career officer in the United States Army, serving as a Union Army general in the Eastern Theater during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

    . (The VI Corps was on detached service in the Shenandoah Valley
    Shenandoah Valley
    The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

     from mid-July to early December 1864.)
  • IX Corps, under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside
    Ambrose Burnside
    Ambrose Everett Burnside was an American soldier, railroad executive, inventor, industrialist, and politician from Rhode Island, serving as governor and a U.S. Senator...

    , including the divisions of Brig. Gens. James H. Ledlie
    James H. Ledlie
    James Hewett Ledlie was a civil engineer for American railroads and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is best known for his dereliction of duty at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg.-Early life:Ledlie was born in Utica, New York...

    , Robert B. Potter, Orlando B. Willcox
    Orlando B. Willcox
    Orlando Bolivar Willcox was an American soldier who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    , and Edward Ferrero
    Edward Ferrero
    Edward Ferrero was one of the leading dance instructors, choreographers, and ballroom operators in the United States. He also served as a Union Army general in the American Civil War, best remembered for his role in the Battle of the Crater in 1864.-Early life and career:Ferrero was born in...

     (the latter division being manned by United States Colored Troops
    United States Colored Troops
    The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were composed of African American soldiers. First recruited in 1863, by the end of the Civil War, the men of the 175 regiments of the USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union...

    ). Maj. Gen. John G. Parke replaced Burnside after the Battle of the Crater
    Battle of the Crater
    The Battle of the Crater was a battle of the American Civil War, part of the Siege of Petersburg. It took place on July 30, 1864, between the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by General Robert E. Lee and the Union Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George G. Meade The...

    .
  • Cavalry Corps, under Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, including the divisions of Brig. Gens. Alfred T.A. Torbert
    Alfred Thomas Torbert
    Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert was a career United States Army officer, a Union Army General commanding both infantry and cavalry forces in the American Civil War, and a U.S. diplomat.-Early life:...

    , David McM. Gregg, and James H. Wilson
    James H. Wilson
    James Harrison Wilson was a United States Army topographic engineer, a Union Army Major General in the American Civil War and later wars, a railroad executive, and author.-Early life and engineering:...

    . Sheridan and much of his command were on detached service in the Shenandoah Valley from mid-July 1864 to late March 1865. Upon their return, Sheridan often referred to his Cavalry Corps as the Army of the Shenandoah, reflecting their role in the Valley Campaigns of 1864
    Valley Campaigns of 1864
    The Valley Campaigns of 1864 were American Civil War operations and battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864. Military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns, but it is useful to consider the three together and how they...

    .


The Army of the James included:
  • X Corps, under Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry
    Alfred Terry
    Alfred Howe Terry was a Union general in the American Civil War and the military commander of the Dakota Territory from 1866 to 1869 and again from 1872 to 1886.-Early life and career:...

    , including the divisions of Brig. Gens. Robert S. Foster and Adelbert Ames
    Adelbert Ames
    Adelbert Ames was an American sailor, soldier, and politician. He served with distinction as a Union Army general during the American Civil War. As a Radical Republican and a Carpetbagger, he was military governor, Senator and civilian governor in Reconstruction-era Mississippi...

    .
  • XVIII Corps, under Maj. Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith
    William Farrar Smith
    William Farrar Smith , was a civil engineer, a member of the New York City police commission, and Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    , including the divisions of Brig. Gens. William T. H. Brooks
    William T. H. Brooks
    William Thomas Harbaugh Brooks was a career military officer in the United States Army, serving as a major general during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    , John H. Martindale
    John H. Martindale
    John Henry Martindale was an American lawyer, Union Army general, and politician.-Early life:Martindale was born in Sandy Hill, Washington County, New York, the son of Congressman Henry C. Martindale and Minerva Hitchcock Martindale. He entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in...

    , and Edward W. Hinks (the latter also a USCT division).
  • XXIV Corps, under Maj. Gen. Edward O.C. Ord, including the divisions of Brig. Gen. Robert S. Foster, Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Harris, and Brig. Gen. Charles Devens
    Charles Devens
    Charles Devens was an American lawyer, jurist and statesman. He also served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

    .
  • XXV Corps, under Maj. Gen. Godfrey Weitzel
    Godfrey Weitzel
    Godfrey Weitzel was a major general in the Union army during the American Civil War, as well as the acting Mayor of New Orleans during the Federal occupancy of the city.-Early life and career:...

    , including the divisions of Brig. Gens. Charles J. Paine, William Birney
    William Birney
    William Birney was a professor, Union Army general during the American Civil War, attorney and author. An ardent abolitionist, he was noted for encouraging thousands of free black men to join the Union army....

    , and Edward A. Wild
    Edward A. Wild
    Edward Augustus Wild was an American homeopathic doctor and a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

    .
  • Cavalry Division, under Brig. Gen. August Kautz
    August Kautz
    August Valentine Kautz was a German-American soldier and Union Army cavalry officer during the American Civil War. He was the author of several army manuals on duties and customs eventually adopted by the U.S. military.-Early life and career:Born in Ispringen, Baden, Germany, Kautz immigrated with...

    .


On December 3, 1864, the racially integrated X Corps and XVIII Corps were reorganized to become the all-white XXIV Corps and the all-black (officers excepted) XXV Corps.

Grant made his headquarters in a cabin on the lawn of Appomattox Manor
Appomattox Manor
Appomattox Manor is a former plantation in Hopewell, Virginia, USA. It is best-known as the Union headquarters during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65....

, the home of Dr. Richard Eppes
Richard Eppes
Richard Eppes was a prominent surgeon in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.Eppes was born in City Point, Virginia. He had earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania and inherited his ancestral home, Appomattox Manor at City Point, by the age of twenty...

 and the oldest home (built in 1763) in what was then City Point
City Point, Virginia
City Point was a town in Prince George County, Virginia that was annexed by the independent city of Hopewell in 1923. It served as headquarters of the Union Army during the Siege of Petersburg during the American Civil War.- History :...

, but is now Hopewell, Virginia
Hopewell, Virginia
Hopewell is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The population was 22,591 at the 2010 Census . It is in Tri-Cities area of the Richmond-Petersburg region and is a portion of the Richmond Metropolitan Statistical Area...

.
Key Confederate commanders

Lee's Confederate force consisted of his own Army of Northern Virginia
Army of Northern Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was the primary military force of the Confederate States of America in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War, as well as the primary command structure of the Department of Northern Virginia. It was most often arrayed against the Union Army of the Potomac...

, as well as a scattered, disorganized group of 10,000 men defending Richmond under Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard. Many of the men under Beauregard's command consisted of soldiers who were either too young or too old to fight in the Army of Northern Virginia, or men who had been discharged from Lee's army due to wounds that rendered them unfit for service. The Army of Northern Virginia was initially organized into four corps:
  • First Corps
    First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The First Corps, Army of Northern Virginia was a military unit fighting for the Confederate States of America in the American Civil War. It was formed in early 1861 and served until the spring of 1865, mostly in the Eastern Theater. The corps was commanded by James Longstreet for much of its...

    , under Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson
    Richard H. Anderson
    Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

    , including the divisions of Maj. Gens. George E. Pickett, Charles W. Field
    Charles W. Field
    Charles William Field was a career military officer, serving in the United States Army and then, during the American Civil War, in the Confederate States Army. His division was considered as one of the finest in the Army of Northern Virginia...

    , and Joseph B. Kershaw
    Joseph B. Kershaw
    Joseph Brevard Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

    . Lt. Gen. James Longstreet
    James Longstreet
    James Longstreet was one of the foremost Confederate generals of the American Civil War and the principal subordinate to General Robert E. Lee, who called him his "Old War Horse." He served under Lee as a corps commander for many of the famous battles fought by the Army of Northern Virginia in the...

     returned from medical leave and resumed command of the corps on October 19. Anderson was given command of the new Fourth Corps
    Fourth Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Fourth Corps was a military unit formed in October 1864 within the Army of Northern Virginia of the Confederate Army. It fought for the Confederate States of America during the late stages of the American Civil War. The corps was commanded by Richard H...

    , which included the division of Maj. Gen. Bushrod R. Johnson.
  • Second Corps
    Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was a military organization within the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during much of the American Civil War. It was officially created and named following the Battle of Sharpsburg in 1862, but comprised units in a corps organization for quite...

    , under Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early, was detached on June 12 for operations in the Shenandoah Valley
    Valley Campaigns of 1864
    The Valley Campaigns of 1864 were American Civil War operations and battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864. Military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns, but it is useful to consider the three together and how they...

     and played no direct role in the defense of Petersburg.
  • Third Corps
    Third Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was a military organization within the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia during much of the American Civil War. The corps was formed in mid-1863 and served until Lee's surrender April 9, 1865, near the end of the war.-Formation:After the death of...

    , under Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill, including the divisions of Maj. Gens. Henry Heth
    Henry Heth
    Henry "Harry" Heth was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He is best remembered for inadvertently precipitating the Battle of Gettysburg, when he sent some of his troops of the Army of Northern Virginia to the small Pennsylvania village,...

     and Cadmus M. Wilcox
    Cadmus M. Wilcox
    Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War and also was a Confederate general during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

     and Brig. Gen. William Mahone
    William Mahone
    William Mahone was a civil engineer, teacher, soldier, railroad executive, and a member of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Small of stature, he was nicknamed "Little Billy"....

    .
  • Cavalry Corps
    Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
    The Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was the only organized cavalry corps in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Prior to the establishment of a formal corps, cavalry organization in the Confederacy consisted mostly of partisan ranger units and some battalions, a few...

    , under Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton
    Wade Hampton III
    Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

    , including the divisions of Maj. Gens. Fitzhugh Lee
    Fitzhugh Lee
    Fitzhugh Lee , nephew of Robert E. Lee, was a Confederate cavalry general in the American Civil War, the 40th Governor of Virginia, diplomat, and United States Army general in the Spanish-American War.-Early life:...

     and W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee
    William Henry Fitzhugh Lee
    William Henry Fitzhugh Lee , known as Rooney Lee or W.H.F. Lee, was the second son of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis. He was a planter, a Confederate cavalry General in the American Civil War, and later a member of the U.S. Congress.-Early life:Lee was born at Arlington House in...

    .


Beauregard's Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia had four depleted divisions commanded by Maj. Gens. Robert Ransom, Jr.
Robert Ransom, Jr.
Robert Ransom, Jr. was a major general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. His brother Matt W. Ransom was also a Confederate general officer and U.S. Senator.-Early life:...

, Robert F. Hoke
Robert Hoke
Robert Frederick Hoke was an American businessman, railroad executive, and a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Hoke and his division played a decisive role during the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864....

, and William H. C. Whiting
William H. C. Whiting
William Henry Chase Whiting was an United States Army officer who resigned after 16 years of service in the Army Corps of Engineers to serve in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

, and Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Colquitt
Alfred H. Colquitt
Alfred Holt Colquitt was a lawyer, preacher, soldier, 49th Governor of Georgia and two term U.S. Senator from Georgia where he died in office. He served as an officer in the Confederate army, reaching the rank of major general....

. (Later in the campaign, Beauregard's department was expanded and reorganized to consist of the divisions of Maj. Gens. Hoke and Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Rust Johnson was a teacher, university chancellor, and Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was one of a handful of Confederate generals who were born and raised in the North.-Early life:...

.)

Grant's armies were significantly larger than Lee's during the campaign, although the strengths varied. During the initial assaults on the city, 15,000 Federal troops faced about 5,400 men under Beauregard. By June 18, the Federal strength exceeded 67,000 against the Confederate 20,000. More typical of the full campaign was in mid-July, when 70,000 Union troops faced 36,000 Confederates around Petersburg, and 40,000 men under Butler faced 21,000 around Richmond. The Union Army, despite suffering horrific losses during the Overland Campaign, was able to replenish its soldiers and equipment, taking advantage of garrison troops from Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, and the increasing availability of African-American soldiers. By the end of the siege, Grant had 125,000 men to begin the Appomattox Campaign
Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...

. The Confederate army, in contrast, had difficulty replacing men lost through battle, disease, and desertion. As a result of this severe lack of manpower facing the Confederates, when Beauregard's men occupied the trenches around the city, there were gaps in the line of up to 5 feet (1.5 m) between men.

Initial attempts to capture Petersburg

Butler's assault (June 9)

While Lee and Grant faced each other after Cold Harbor, Benjamin Butler became aware that Confederate troops had been moving north to reinforce Lee, leaving the defenses of Petersburg in a vulnerable state. Sensitive to his failure in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, Butler sought to achieve a success to vindicate his generalship. He wrote, "the capture of Petersburg lay near my heart."

Petersburg was protected by multiple lines of fortifications, the outermost of which was known as the Dimmock Line, a line of earthworks and trenches 10 miles (16.1 km) long, with 55 redoubts, east of the city. The 2,500 Confederates stretched thin along this defensive line were commanded by a former Virginia governor, Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise
Henry A. Wise
Henry Alexander Wise was an American politician and governor of Virginia, as well as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

. Despite the number of fortifications, because of a series of hills and valleys around the outskirts of Petersburg there were several places along the outer defenses where cavalry could easily ride through undetected until they reached the inner defenses of the city.

Butler's plan was formulated on the afternoon of June 8, 1864, calling for three columns to cross the Appomattox and advance with 4,500 men. The first and second consisted of infantry from Maj. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore's X Corps and U.S. Colored Troops from Brig. Gen. Edward W. Hinks's 3rd Division of XVIII Corps, which was to attack the Dimmock Line east of the city. The third was 1,300 cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. August Kautz
August Kautz
August Valentine Kautz was a German-American soldier and Union Army cavalry officer during the American Civil War. He was the author of several army manuals on duties and customs eventually adopted by the U.S. military.-Early life and career:Born in Ispringen, Baden, Germany, Kautz immigrated with...

, who were to sweep around Petersburg and strike it from the southeast. The troops moved out on the night of June 8, but made poor progress. Eventually the infantry crossed by 3:40 a.m. on June 9 and by 7 a.m., both Gillmore and Hinks had encountered the enemy, but stopped at their fronts. Gillmore told Hinks that he would attack but that both of the infantry columns should await the cavalry assault from the south.

Kautz's men did not arrive until noon, however, having been delayed en route by numerous enemy pickets. They assaulted the Dimmock Line where it crossed the Jerusalem Plank Road (present-day U.S. Route 301
U.S. Route 301
U.S. Route 301 is a spur of U.S. Route 1 running through the South Atlantic States. It currently runs 1,099 miles from Glasgow, Delaware at U.S. Route 40 to Sarasota, Florida. It passes through the states of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida...

, Crater Road). The Confederates' Battery 27, also known as Rives's Salient, was manned by 150 militiamen commanded by Maj. Fletcher H. Archer. Kautz first launched a probing attack, then paused. His main attack was by the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry against the Home Guard, a group consisting primarily of teenagers, elderly men, and some wounded soldiers from city hospitals. The Home Guards retreated to the city with heavy losses, but by this time Beauregard had been able to bring reinforcements from Richmond to bear, which were able to repulse the Union assault. Kautz, hearing no activity on Gillmore's front, presumed that he was left on his own and withdrew. Confederate casualties were about 80, Union 40. Butler was furious with Gillmore's timidity and incompetence and arrested him. Gillmore requested a court of inquiry, which was never convened, but Grant later reassigned him and the incident was dropped.

Meade's assaults (June 15–18)


Inexplicably, Grant selected Butler's Army of the James, which had performed poorly in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, to lead the expedition toward Petersburg. On June 14 he directed Butler to augment the XVIII Corps, commanded by Brig. Gen.
Brigadier general (United States)
A brigadier general in the United States Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is a one-star general officer, with the pay grade of O-7. Brigadier general ranks above a colonel and below major general. Brigadier general is equivalent to the rank of rear admiral in the other uniformed...

 William F. "Baldy" Smith
William Farrar Smith
William Farrar Smith , was a civil engineer, a member of the New York City police commission, and Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

, to a strength of 16,000 men, including Kautz's cavalry division, and use the same route employed in the unsuccessful attacks of June 9. Since Beauregard had insufficient men available to defend the entire Dimmock Line, he concentrated 2,200 troops under Brig. Gen. Henry A. Wise
Henry A. Wise
Henry Alexander Wise was an American politician and governor of Virginia, as well as a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 in the northeastern sector. Even with his concentration, infantrymen were spaced an unacceptable 10 feet (3 m) apart. His remaining 3,200 men were facing Butler's army at Bermuda Hundred.

Baldy Smith and his men crossed the Appomattox shortly after dawn on June 15. Kautz's cavalry, leading the advance, encountered an unexpected stronghold at Baylor's farm northeast of Petersburg. Brig. Gen. Edward W. Hinks's men launched two attacks on the Confederates and captured a cannon, but the overall advance was delayed until early afternoon. Smith started his attack after delaying until about 7 p.m., deploying a strong skirmish line that swept over the earthworks on a 3.5 miles (5.6 km) front, causing the Confederates to retreat to a weaker defensive line on Harrison's Creek. Despite this initial success and the prospect of a virtually undefended city immediately to his front, Smith decided to wait until dawn to resume his attack. By this time Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, the II Corps commander, had arrived at Smith's headquarters. The normally decisive and pugnacious Hancock, who outranked Smith, was uncertain of his orders and the disposition of forces, and uncharacteristically deferred to Smith's judgment to wait.

Beauregard wrote later that Petersburg "at that hour was clearly at the mercy of the Federal commander, who had all but captured it." But he used the time he had been granted to good advantage. Receiving no guidance from Richmond in response to his urgent requests, he unilaterally decided to strip his defenses from the Howlett Line, which was bottling up Butler's army in Bermuda Hundred, making the divisions of Maj. Gens. Robert Hoke
Robert Hoke
Robert Frederick Hoke was an American businessman, railroad executive, and a Confederate Army general during the American Civil War. Hoke and his division played a decisive role during the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864....

 and Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Rust Johnson was a teacher, university chancellor, and Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was one of a handful of Confederate generals who were born and raised in the North.-Early life:...

 available for the new Petersburg defensive line. Butler might have used this opportunity to move his army between Petersburg and Richmond, which would have doomed the Confederate capital, but he once again failed to act.

By the morning of June 16, Beauregard had concentrated about 14,000 men in his defensive line, but this paled in comparison to the 50,000 federals that now faced him. Grant had arrived with Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside's IX Corps, addressed the confusion of Hancock's orders, and ordered a reconnaissance for weak points in the defensive line. Hancock, in temporary command of the Army of the Potomac until Maj. Gen. George G. Meade arrived, prepared Smith's XVIII corps on the right, his own II Corps in the center, and Burnside's IX Corps on the left. Hancock's assault began around 5:30 p.m. as all three corps moved slowly forward. Beauregard's men fought fiercely, erecting new breastworks to the rear as breakthroughs occurred. Upon the arrival of General Meade, a second attack was ordered and Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow
Francis C. Barlow
Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 led his division forward. Although Barlow's men managed to capture their objectives, a counterattack drove them back, taking numerous Union prisoners. The survivors dug in close to the enemy works.

June 17 was a day of uncoordinated Union attacks, starting on the left flank where two brigades of Burnside's IX Corps under Brig. Gen. Robert B. Potter stealthily approached the Confederate line and launched a surprise attack at dawn. Initially successful, it captured nearly a mile of the Confederate fortifications and about 600 prisoners, but the effort eventually failed when Potter's men moved forward to find another line of entrenchments. IX Corps assaults at 2 p.m., led by the brigade of Brig. Gen. John F. Hartranft
John F. Hartranft
John Frederick Hartranft was the 17th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1873 to 1879 and a Union Major General who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

, and in the evening, by Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie
James H. Ledlie
James Hewett Ledlie was a civil engineer for American railroads and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is best known for his dereliction of duty at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg.-Early life:Ledlie was born in Utica, New York...

's division, both failed.

During the day, Beauregard's engineers had laid out new defensive positions a mile to the west of the Dimmock Line, which the Confederates occupied late that night. Robert E. Lee had systematically ignored all of Beauregard's pleas for reinforcements until now, but dispatched two divisions of his men, exhausted from the Overland Campaign, to Petersburg, beginning at 3 a.m. on June 18. With the arrival of Lee's two divisions, under Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph Brevard Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 and Charles W. Field
Charles W. Field
Charles William Field was a career military officer, serving in the United States Army and then, during the American Civil War, in the Confederate States Army. His division was considered as one of the finest in the Army of Northern Virginia...

, Beauregard had over 20,000 men to defend the city, but Grant's force had been augmented by the arrival of Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur K. Warren
Gouverneur Kemble Warren was a civil engineer and prominent general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

's V Corps and 67,000 Federals were present.

On the morning of June 18, Meade, went into a rage directed at his corps commanders because of this army's failure to take the initiative and break through the thinly defended Confederate positions and seize the city. He ordered the entire Army of the Potomac to attack the Confederate defenses. The first Union attack began at dawn, started by the II and XVIII Corps on the Union right. The II Corps was surprised to make rapid progress against the Confederate line, not realizing that Beauregard had moved it back the night before. When they encountered the second line, the attack immediately ground to a halt and the corps suffered under heavy Confederate fire for hours.

By noon, another attack plan had been devised to break through the Confederate defenses. However, by this time, elements of Lee's army had reinforced Beauregard's troops. By the time the Union attack was renewed, Lee himself had taken command of the defenses. Maj. Gen. Orlando B. Willcox
Orlando B. Willcox
Orlando Bolivar Willcox was an American soldier who served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's division of the IX Corps led the renewed attack but it suffered significant losses in the marsh and open fields crossed by Taylor's Branch. Warren's V Corps was halted by murderous fire from Rives's Salient, an attack in which Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the 20th Maine
20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment
The 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment was a combat unit of the United States Army during the American Civil War, most famous for its defense of Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863.-Organization:...

 was severely wounded. At 6:30 p.m., Meade ordered a final assault, which also failed with more horrendous losses. One of the leading regiments was the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment
1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment
The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment was a regiment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. It suffered more casualties in an ill-fated charge during the Siege of Petersburg than any Union regiment lost in a single day of combat throughout the war...

, which lost 632 of 900 men in the assault, the heaviest single-battle loss of any regiment during the entire war.

Having achieved almost no gains from four days of assaults, and with Lincoln facing re-election in the upcoming months in the face of a loud public outcry against the casualty figures, Meade ordered his army to dig in, starting the ten-month siege. During the four days of fighting, Union casualties were 11,386 (1,688 killed, 8,513 wounded, 1,185 missing or captured), Confederate 4,000 (200 killed, 2,900 wounded, 900 missing or captured).

Initial attempts to cut the railroads (June 21–30)

After failing to capture Petersburg by assault, Grant's first objective was secure the three remaining open rail lines that served Petersburg and Richmond: the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad
Richmond and Petersburg Railroad
Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was a regional railroad serving east-central Virginia. It was strategically important to the Confederacy during the American Civil War, when it provided a vital supply and transportation route in late 1864 and early 1865 for Robert E...

; the South Side Railroad, which reached to Lynchburg
Lynchburg, Virginia
Lynchburg is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The population was 75,568 as of 2010. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains along the banks of the James River, Lynchburg is known as the "City of Seven Hills" or "The Hill City." Lynchburg was the only major city in...

 in the west; and the Weldon Railroad
Wilmington and Weldon Railroad
Originally chartered in 1835 as the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad name began use in 1855. At the time of its 1840 completion, the line was the longest railroad in the world with 161.5 miles of track...

, also called the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, which led to Weldon, North Carolina
Weldon, North Carolina
Weldon is a town in Halifax County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 1,374 at the 2000 census. It is part of the Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina Micropolitan Statistical Area.-Geography:Weldon is located at ....

, and the Confederacy's only remaining major port, Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington, North Carolina
Wilmington is a port city in and is the county seat of New Hanover County, North Carolina, United States. The population is 106,476 according to the 2010 Census, making it the eighth most populous city in the state of North Carolina...

. Grant decided on a wide-ranging cavalry raid (the Wilson-Kautz Raid) against the South Side and Weldon railroads, but he also directed that a significant infantry force be sent against the Weldon closer to his current position. Meade selected the II Corps, still temporarily commanded by Birney, and Wright's VI Corps.

Jerusalem Plank Road (June 21–23)


On June 21, elements of the II Corps probed toward the railroad and skirmished with Confederate cavalry. By the morning of June 22, a gap opened up between the two corps. While the II Corps moved forward, the VI Corps encountered Confederate troops from Maj. Gen. Cadmus Wilcox's division of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill's corps and they began to entrench rather than advance. Brig. Gen. William Mahone
William Mahone
William Mahone was a civil engineer, teacher, soldier, railroad executive, and a member of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Small of stature, he was nicknamed "Little Billy"....

 observed that the gap between the two Union corps was widening, creating a prime target. Mahone had been a railroad engineer before the war and had personally surveyed this area south of Petersburg, so he was familiar with a ravine that could be used to hide the approach of a Confederate attack column. At 3 p.m., Mahone's men emerged in the rear of the II Corps division of Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow
Francis C. Barlow
Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

, catching them by surprise, and Barlow's division quickly collapsed. The division of Brig. Gen. John Gibbon
John Gibbon
John Gibbon was a career United States Army officer who fought in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

, which had erected earthworks, was also surprised by an attack from the rear and many of the regiments ran for safety. The II Corps troops rallied around earthworks that they had constructed on the night of June 21 and stabilized their lines. Darkness ended the fighting.

On June 23, the II Corps advanced to retake its lost ground, but the Confederates had pulled back, abandoning the earthworks they had captured. Under orders from General Meade, the VI Corps sent out a heavy skirmish line after 10 a.m. in a second attempt to reach the Weldon Railroad. Men from Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Grant
Lewis A. Grant
Lewis Addison Grant was a teacher, lawyer, soldier in the Union Army during the American Civil War, and later Assistant U.S. Secretary of War...

's 1st Vermont Brigade
1st Vermont Brigade
The First Vermont Brigade, or "Old Brigade" was an infantry brigade in the Union Army of the Potomac during the American Civil War. It suffered the highest casualty count of any brigade in the history of the United States Army, with some 1,172 killed in action...

 had begun tearing up track when they were attacked by a larger force of Confederate infantry. Numerous Vermonters were taken prisoner and only about half a mile of track had been destroyed when they were chased away. Meade was unable to urge Wright forward and called off the operation. Union casualties were 2,962, Confederate 572. The battle was inconclusive, with advantages gained on both sides. The Confederates were able to retain control of the Weldon Railroad. The Federals were able to destroy a short segment of the Weldon before being driven off, but more importantly, the siege lines were stretched further to the west.

Wilson-Kautz Raid (June 22 – July 1)

In parallel to Birney's and Wright's infantry action at the Jerusalem Plank Road, Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson
James H. Wilson
James Harrison Wilson was a United States Army topographic engineer, a Union Army Major General in the American Civil War and later wars, a railroad executive, and author.-Early life and engineering:...

 was ordered by Meade to conduct a raid destroying as much track as possible south and southwest of Petersburg. Grant considered Wilson's 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps too small to conduct the operation alone—particularly since Meade required Wilson to leave 1,400 men behind for picket duty—so he directed Butler to contribute Brig. Gen. August Kautz
August Kautz
August Valentine Kautz was a German-American soldier and Union Army cavalry officer during the American Civil War. He was the author of several army manuals on duties and customs eventually adopted by the U.S. military.-Early life and career:Born in Ispringen, Baden, Germany, Kautz immigrated with...

's small division (2,000 troopers) to the effort. Early on the morning of June 22, 3,300 men, and 12 guns organized into two batteries, departed Mount Sinai Church and began to destroy railroad track and cars of the Weldon Railroad at Reams Station, 7 miles (11.3 km) south of Petersburg. Kautz's men moved to the west to Ford's Station and began destroying track, locomotives, and cars on the South Side Railroad.

On June 23, Wilson proceeded to the junction of the Richmond and Danville Railroad
Richmond and Danville Railroad
The Richmond and Danville Railroad was chartered in Virginia in the United States in 1847. The portion between Richmond and Danville, Virginia was completed in 1856...

 at Burkeville
Burkeville, Virginia
Burkeville is a town in Nottoway County, Virginia, United States. The population was 489 at the 2000 census. The source of the town name is disputed. The town is located on the crossroads of U.S. Routes 360 and 460....

, where he encountered elements of Rooney Lee's cavalry between Nottoway Court House
Nottoway, Virginia
Nottoway, or Nottoway Court House, is a census-designated place in and the county seat of Nottoway County, Virginia, United States. The population as of the 2010 Census was 84. Since desegregation, the village's public high school now serves the entire county's population. Nottoway was...

 and Black's and White's (modern-day Blackstone
Blackstone, Virginia
Blackstone is a town in Nottoway County, Virginia, United States. The population was 3,675 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Blackstone is located at ....

). The Confederates struck the rear of his column, forcing Col. George A. Chapman's brigade to fend them off. Wilson followed Kautz along the South Side Railroad, destroying about 30 miles (50 km) of track as they went. On June 24, while Kautz remained skirmishing around Burkeville, Wilson crossed over to Meherrin Station on the Richmond and Danville and began destroying track.
Commanders of the Wilson-Kautz Raid

On June 25, Wilson and Kautz continued tearing up track south to the Staunton River Bridge at Roanoke Station (modern-day Randolph
Randolph, Virginia
Randolph, formerly called Roanoke and Talcott, is a small unincorporated community in Charlotte County, Virginia, United States, near the Staunton River. Its elevation is 354 feet . The community is the home of Staunton River Battlefield State Park.-References:...

), where they encountered approximately 1,000 "Old Men and Boys" (the Home Guard), commanded by Capt. Benjamin L. Farinholt, dug in with earthworks and prepared artillery positions at the bridge. The Battle of Staunton River Bridge
Battle of Staunton River Bridge
The Battle of Staunton River Bridge was an engagement on June 25, 1864, between Union and Confederate forces during Wilson-Kautz Raid of the American Civil War. The battle took place around the Staunton River Bridge, over the Staunton River, in Halifax and Charlotte counties,...

 was a minor affair in which Kautz attempted multiple frontal assaults against the Home Guard, but his men never came closer than 80 yards (73.2 m). Lee's cavalry division closed on the Federals from the northeast and skirmish with Wilson's rear guard. Casualties on the Union side amounted to 42 killed, 44 wounded, and 30 missing or captured; Confederate losses were 10 killed and 24 wounded. Kautz's men gave up and retreated to the railroad depot at 9 p.m. Despite these relatively minor losses, the two Union cavalry generals decided to abandon their mission, leaving the Staunton River bridge intact and having inflicted only minor damage on the railroads.

As Wilson and Kautz turned back to the east after their defeat at Staunton River Bridge, Rooney Lee's cavalry pursued and threatened their rear. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee ordered Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton
Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

's cavalry, which had been engaged with Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's cavalry at the Battle of Trevilian Station
Battle of Trevilian Station
The Battle of Trevilian Station was fought on June 11–12, 1864, in Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan fought against Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gens...

 on June 11–12, to join the pursuit and attack Wilson and Kautz. Before leaving on his raid, Wilson had received assurances from Meade's chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew Atkinson Humphreys , was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S...

, that the Army of the Potomac would be immediately taking control of the Weldon Railroad at least as far south as Reams Station, so Wilson decided that would be an appropriate place to return to Union lines. The Union defeat at Jerusalem Plank Road
Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road
The Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, also known as the First Battle of the Weldon Railroad, was fought June 21–23, 1864, near Petersburg, Virginia. It was the first of a series of battles during the Siege of Petersburg aimed at extending the Union siege lines to the west and cutting the rail...

 made those assurances inoperable. Wilson and Kautz were surprised on the afternoon of June 28 when they reached Stony Creek Station, 10 miles (16.1 km) south of Reams, as hundreds of Hampton's cavalrymen (under Brig. Gen. John R. Chambliss
John R. Chambliss
John Randolph Chambliss, Jr. was a career military officer, serving in the United States Army and then, during the American Civil War, in the Confederate States Army. A brigadier general of cavalry, Chambliss was killed in action during the Second Battle of Deep Bottom.-Early life:Chambliss was...

) and infantry blocked their path. In the Battle of Sappony Church
Battle of Sappony Church
The Battle of Sappony Church was an engagement of the American Civil War, between the Confederate States of America and the Union, which took place on June 28, 1864, during the Wilson-Kautz Raid of the Richmond–Petersburg Campaign.-Background:...

, Wilson's men tried to break through, but had to fall back when Confederate Brig. Gen. Matthew C. Butler and Thomas L. Rosser
Thomas L. Rosser
Thomas Lafayette Rosser was a Confederate general during the American Civil War, and later an officer in the Spanish American War and railroad construction engineer. A favorite of J.E.B...

 threatened to envelop Wilson's left flank. Kautz's division, following Wilson's, took a back road in the direction of Reams Station and was attacked by Rooney Lee's division late in the day. The Union cavalrymen were able to slip out of the trap under the cover of darkness and rode north on the Halifax Road for the supposed security of Reams Station.

In the First Battle of Reams Station on June 29, Kautz approached Reams Station from the west expecting to find the friendly infantry promised by Humphreys, but found Confederate infantry instead—Mahone's division blocking the approaches to the Halifax Road and the railroad behind well constructed earthworks. Kautz's attack by the 11th Pennsylvania and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry along the Depot Road was unsuccessful and Mahone counterattacked against the flank of the Pennsylvanians. On the Stage Road to the north of the station, the brigades of Brig. Gen. Lunsford L. Lomax
Lunsford L. Lomax
Lunsford Lindsay Lomax was an American educator, farmer, and officer in the United States Army who resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army at the outbreak of the American Civil War.-Biography:...

 and William C. Whitcomb maneuvered around the 2nd Ohio Cavalry
2nd Ohio Cavalry
The 2nd Ohio Cavalry was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Service:The 2nd Ohio Cavalry was organized in Cleveland, Ohio and at Camp Dennison near Cincinnati, Ohio from August to October 1861, and mustered in for a three years under the command of...

 and 5th New York Cavalry, turning the Federal left flank. Wilson sent a messenger north who was able to slip through the Confederate lines and urgently requested help from Meade at City Point. Meade alerted Wright to prepare to move his entire VI Corps to Reams Station, but he realized that it would take too long on foot and requested help from Phil Sheridan's cavalry as well. Sheridan demurred, complaining of the effect on his "worn-out horses and exhausted men." After the war, arguments persisted between Sheridan and Wilson about whether the former had adequately protected the raiders from the Confederate cavalry of Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. Sheridan did reach Reams Station by 7 p.m., only to find that the VI Corps infantry had in fact arrived but that Wilson and Kautz had departed.

Caught in a trap without promise of immediate aid, the Wilson-Kautz raiders burned their wagons and destroyed their artillery pieces and fled to the north before the reinforcements arrived. They lost hundreds of men as prisoners in what was called "a wild skedaddle." At least 300 escaped slaves who had joined the Union cavalrymen during the raid were abandoned during the retreat. The raiders reentered Federal lines around 2 p.m. on July 1. They had destroyed 60 miles (96.6 km) of track, which took the Confederate several weeks to repair, but it came at the cost of 1,445 Union casualties, or about a quarter of their force (Wilson lost 33 killed, 108 wounded, and 674 captured or missing; Kautz lost 48 killed, 153 wounded, and 429 captured or missing). Although Wilson counted the raid as a strategic success, Ulysses S. Grant reluctantly described the expedition as a "disaster."

First Deep Bottom (July 27–29)


In preparation for the forthcoming Battle of the Crater, Grant wanted Lee to dilute his forces in the Petersburg trenches by attracting them elsewhere. He ordered Hancock's II Corps and two divisions of Sheridan's Cavalry Corps to cross the river to Deep Bottom by pontoon bridge and advance against the Confederate capital. His plan called for Hancock to pin down the Confederates at Chaffin's Bluff and prevent reinforcements from opposing Sheridan's cavalry, which would attack Richmond if practicable. If not—a circumstance Grant considered more likely—Sheridan was ordered to ride around the city to the north and west and cut the Virginia Central Railroad
Virginia Central Railroad
Virginia Central Railroad was chartered as the Louisa Railroad in 1836 by the Virginia Board of Public Works and had its name changed to Virginia Central Railroad in 1850. It connected Richmond with the Orange and Alexandria Railroad at Gordonsville in 1854, and had expanded westward past the Blue...

, which was supplying Richmond from the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

.

When Lee found out about Hancock's pending movement, he ordered that the Richmond lines be reinforced to 16,500 men. Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph Brevard Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's division and brigades from Maj. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War and also was a Confederate general during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

's division moved east on New Market Road and took up positions on the eastern face of New Market Heights. Hancock and Sheridan crossed the pontoon bridge starting at 3 a.m., July 27. The II Corps took up positions on the east bank of Bailey's Creek, from New Market Road to near Fussell's Mill. Sheridan's cavalry captured the high ground on the right, overlooking the millpond, but they were counterattacked and driven back. The Confederate works on the west bank of Bailey's Creek were formidable and Hancock chose not to attack them, spending the rest of the day performing reconnaissance.

While Hancock was stymied at Bailey's Creek, Robert E. Lee began bringing up more reinforcements from Petersburg, reacting as Grant had hoped. He assigned Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson
Richard H. Anderson
Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

 to take command of the Deep Bottom sector and sent in Maj. Gen. Henry Heth
Henry Heth
Henry "Harry" Heth was a career United States Army officer and a Confederate general in the American Civil War. He is best remembered for inadvertently precipitating the Battle of Gettysburg, when he sent some of his troops of the Army of Northern Virginia to the small Pennsylvania village,...

's infantry division and Maj. Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee's
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee , known as Rooney Lee or W.H.F. Lee, was the second son of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis. He was a planter, a Confederate cavalry General in the American Civil War, and later a member of the U.S. Congress.-Early life:Lee was born at Arlington House in...

 cavalry division. Troops were also hurriedly detailed from the Department of Richmond to help man the trenches.

On the morning of July 28, Grant reinforced Hancock with a brigade of the XIX Corps. Sheridan's men attempted to turn the Confederate left, but their movement was disrupted by a Confederate attack. Three brigades attacked Sheridan's right flank, but they were unexpectedly hit by heavy fire from the Union repeating carbines. Mounted Federals in Sheridan's reserve pursued and captured nearly 200 prisoners.

No further combat occurred and the expedition against Richmond and its railroads was terminated on the afternoon of July 28. Satisfied that the operation had distracted sufficient Confederate forces from his front, General Grant determined to proceed with the assault against the Crater on July 30.

Union casualties at the First Battle of Deep Bottom were 488 (62 killed, 340 wounded, and 86 missing or captured); Confederate casualties were 679 (80 killed, 391 wounded, 208 missing or captured).

The Crater (July 30)


Grant wanted to defeat Lee's army without resorting to a lengthy siege—his experience in the Siege of Vicksburg told him that such affairs were expensive and difficult on the morale of his men. Lt. Col.
Lieutenant Colonel (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Air Force, and United States Marine Corps, a lieutenant colonel is a field grade military officer rank just above the rank of major and just below the rank of colonel. It is equivalent to the naval rank of commander in the other uniformed services.The pay...

 Henry Pleasants
Henry Pleasants
For the English music critic Henry Pleasants, see Henry Pleasants .Henry Clay Pleasants was a coal mining engineer and a brigadier general in the Union Army during the American Civil War...

, commanding the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry of Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside's IX Corps, offered a novel proposal to solve Grant's problem. Pleasants, a mining engineer from Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 in civilian life, proposed digging a long mine shaft underneath the Confederate lines and planting explosive charges directly underneath a fort (Elliott's Salient) in the middle of the Confederate First Corps line. If successful, Union troops could drive through the resulting gap in the line into the Confederate rear area. Digging began in late June, creating a mine in a "T" shape with an approach shaft 511 feet (155.8 m) long. At its end, a perpendicular gallery of 75 feet (22.9 m) extended in both directions. The gallery was filled with 8,000 pounds of gunpowder, buried 20 feet (6.1 m) underneath the Confederate works.

Burnside had trained a division of United States Colored Troops
United States Colored Troops
The United States Colored Troops were regiments of the United States Army during the American Civil War that were composed of African American soldiers. First recruited in 1863, by the end of the Civil War, the men of the 175 regiments of the USCT constituted approximately one-tenth of the Union...

 (USCT) under Brig. Gen. Edward Ferrero
Edward Ferrero
Edward Ferrero was one of the leading dance instructors, choreographers, and ballroom operators in the United States. He also served as a Union Army general in the American Civil War, best remembered for his role in the Battle of the Crater in 1864.-Early life and career:Ferrero was born in...

 to lead the assault. Two regiments were to leave the attack column and extend the breach by rushing perpendicular to the crater, while the remaining regiments were to rush through, seizing the Jerusalem Plank Road. Burnside's two other divisions, made up of white troops, would then move in, supporting Ferrero's flanks and race for Petersburg itself. However, the day before the attack, Meade, who lacked confidence in the operation, ordered Burnside not to use the black troops in the lead assault, claiming that if the attack failed black soldiers would be killed needlessly, creating political repercussions in the North. Burnside protested to General Grant, who sided with Meade. When volunteers were not forthcoming Burnside selected a replacement white division by having the three commanders draw lots. Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie
James H. Ledlie
James Hewett Ledlie was a civil engineer for American railroads and a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War. He is best known for his dereliction of duty at the Battle of the Crater during the Siege of Petersburg.-Early life:Ledlie was born in Utica, New York...

's 1st Division was selected, but he failed to brief the men on what was expected of them and was reported during the battle to be drunk, well behind the lines, and providing no leadership. (Ledlie was later dismissed for his actions during the battle.)

At 4:44 a.m. on July 30, the charges exploded in a massive shower of earth, men, and guns. A crater (still visible today) was created, 170 feet (51.8 m) long, 60 to 80 feet (24.4 m) wide, and 30 feet (9.1 m) deep. The blast destroyed the Confederate fortifications in the immediate vicinity, and instantly killed between 250 and 350 Confederate soldiers. Ledlie's untrained white division was not prepared for the explosion, and reports indicate they waited ten minutes before leaving their own entrenchments. Once they had wandered to the crater, instead of moving around it as the black troops had been trained to do, they moved down into the crater itself. Since this was not the planned movement, there were no ladders provided for the men to use in exiting the crater. The Confederates, under Maj. Gen. William Mahone
William Mahone
William Mahone was a civil engineer, teacher, soldier, railroad executive, and a member of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Small of stature, he was nicknamed "Little Billy"....

, gathered as many troops together as they could for a counterattack. In about an hour's time, they had formed up around the crater and began firing rifles and artillery down into it, in what Mahone later described as a "turkey shoot". The plan had failed, but Burnside, instead of cutting his losses, sent in Ferrero's men. Now faced with considerable flanking fire, they also went down into the crater, and for the next few hours, Mahone's soldiers, along with those of Maj. Gen. Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Johnson
Bushrod Rust Johnson was a teacher, university chancellor, and Confederate general in the American Civil War. He was one of a handful of Confederate generals who were born and raised in the North.-Early life:...

 and artillery, slaughtered the men of the IX Corps as they attempted to escape from the crater. Some Union troops eventually advanced and flanked to the right beyond the Crater to the earthworks and assaulted the Confederate lines, driving the Confederates back for several hours in hand-to-hand combat. Mahone's Confederates conducted a sweep out of a sunken gully area about 200 yards (182.9 m) from the right side of the Union advance. This charge reclaimed the earthworks and drove the Union force back towards the east.

Grant wrote that, "It was the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war." Union casualties were 3,798 (504 killed, 1,881 wounded, 1,413 missing or captured), Confederate casualties were approximately 1,500 (200 killed, 900 wounded, 400 missing or captured). Many of these losses were suffered by Ferrero's division of the USCT. Burnside was relieved of command.

Second Deep Bottom (August 14–20)


On the same day the Union failed at the Crater, Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early was burning the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
Chambersburg is a borough in the South Central region of Pennsylvania, United States. It is miles north of Maryland and the Mason-Dixon line and southwest of Harrisburg in the Cumberland Valley, which is part of the Great Appalachian Valley. Chambersburg is the county seat of Franklin County...

, as he operated out of the Shenandoah Valley, threatening towns in Maryland and Pennsylvania, as well as the District of Columbia. Robert E. Lee was concerned about actions that Grant might take against Early and sent the infantry division of Maj. Gen. Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph B. Kershaw
Joseph Brevard Kershaw was a lawyer, judge, and a Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 from Lt. Gen. Richard H. Anderson
Richard H. Anderson
Richard Heron Anderson was a career U.S. Army officer, fighting with distinction in the Mexican-American War. He also served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War, fighting in the Eastern Theater of the conflict and most notably during the 1864 Battle of Spotsylvania Court House...

's corps and the cavalry division commanded by Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee
Fitzhugh Lee
Fitzhugh Lee , nephew of Robert E. Lee, was a Confederate cavalry general in the American Civil War, the 40th Governor of Virginia, diplomat, and United States Army general in the Spanish-American War.-Early life:...

 to Culpeper, Virginia
Culpeper, Virginia
Culpeper is an incorporated town in Culpeper County, Virginia, United States. The population was 9,664 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Culpeper County. Culpeper is part of the Culpeper Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Culpeper County. Both the Town of Culpeper and...

, where they could either provide aid to Early or be recalled to the Richmond-Petersburg front as needed. Grant misinterpreted this movement and assumed that Anderson's entire corps had been removed from the vicinity of Richmond, leaving only about 8,500 men north of the James River. He determined to try again with an advance toward the Confederate capital led by Hancock. This would either prevent reinforcements from aiding Early or once again dilute the Confederate strength in the defensive lines around Petersburg.

On August 13, the X Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. David B. Birney
David B. Birney
David Bell Birney was a businessman, lawyer, and a Union General in the American Civil War.-Early life:Birney was born in Huntsville, Alabama, the son of an abolitionist from Kentucky, James G. Birney. The Birney family returned to Kentucky in 1833, and James Birney freed his slaves...

, and Brig. Gen. David McM. Gregg's cavalry division crossed pontoon bridges from Bermuda Hundred to Deep Bottom. The II Corps crossed by steamships the night of August 13–14. Birney's X Corps troops successfully pushed aside pickets on the Kingsland Road, but were stopped by the fortifications on New Market Heights. The II Corps units moved slowly into position, suffering numerous deaths from heat stroke.

It was not until midday on August 14 that the Union made contact with the Confederates, manning rifle pits on the Darbytown Road just north of the Long Bridge Road. The Union generals were surprised at the Confederate strength. On the right, a full Confederate division commanded by Maj. Gen. Charles W. Field
Charles W. Field
Charles William Field was a career military officer, serving in the United States Army and then, during the American Civil War, in the Confederate States Army. His division was considered as one of the finest in the Army of Northern Virginia...

 was dug in. Chaffin's Bluff was defended by a division under Maj. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War and also was a Confederate general during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 and reinforcements were arriving. Brig. Gen. Francis C. Barlow
Francis C. Barlow
Francis Channing Barlow was a lawyer, politician, and Union General during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

's 10,000 men in two divisions of II Corps attacked Fussell's Mill. They were able to drive away two Confederate cavalry regiments at the mill, but they were repulsed by Brig. Gen. George T. Anderson
George T. Anderson
George Thomas Anderson was a general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. Nicknamed "Tige," Anderson was noted as one of Robert E...

's brigade. When Field took Anderson's brigade from his right flank, it weakened the line in front of Birney's corps, which moved forward and occupied some of the Confederate entrenchments and captured four guns.

Although the Union attacks had been generally unsuccessful, they had some of the effect Grant desired. Lee became convinced that the threat against Richmond was a serious one and he dispatched two infantry brigades of Maj. Gen. William Mahone
William Mahone
William Mahone was a civil engineer, teacher, soldier, railroad executive, and a member of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Small of stature, he was nicknamed "Little Billy"....

's division and the cavalry divisions of Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton
Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

 and W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee
William Henry Fitzhugh Lee , known as Rooney Lee or W.H.F. Lee, was the second son of Robert E. Lee and Mary Anna Randolph Custis. He was a planter, a Confederate cavalry General in the American Civil War, and later a member of the U.S. Congress.-Early life:Lee was born at Arlington House in...

. Hancock ordered Birney's corps to make a night march to join Barlow's end of the line. Birney's movement was delayed by difficult terrain for most of August 15 and Hancock's plan for an attack was abandoned for the day.

On August 16, Gregg's cavalry swept to the right and rode northwest on the Charles City Road toward Richmond. They found Rooney Lee's cavalry division blocking the road and a full day of fighting resulted. Confederate Brig. Gen. John R. Chambliss
John R. Chambliss
John Randolph Chambliss, Jr. was a career military officer, serving in the United States Army and then, during the American Civil War, in the Confederate States Army. A brigadier general of cavalry, Chambliss was killed in action during the Second Battle of Deep Bottom.-Early life:Chambliss was...

 was killed during the fighting. The infantrymen of the X Corps had a better start to the day, as Brig. Gen. Alfred H. Terry's
Alfred Terry
Alfred Howe Terry was a Union general in the American Civil War and the military commander of the Dakota Territory from 1866 to 1869 and again from 1872 to 1886.-Early life and career:...

 division broke through the Confederate line. Wright's
Ambrose R. Wright
Ambrose Ransom Wright was a lawyer, Georgia politician, and Confederate general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 Brigade was hit hard and retreated, opening a significant gap. The heavily wooded terrain prevented Birney and Hancock from understanding that they had reached a position of advantage and they were unable to exploit it before Field rearranged his lines to fill the gap and drive back the Federals.

Lee planned a counterattack against the Union right for 11 a.m. on August 18, but it was poorly coordinated and made no significant gains. On the night of August 20, Hancock withdrew his force back over the James. Union casualties were approximately 2,900 men, some due to heat stroke. Confederate casualties were 1,500.

Operations against the Weldon Railroad

Globe Tavern (August 18–21)

While the II Corps fought at Deep Bottom, Grant planned another attack against the Weldon. He chose Gouverneur K. Warren's V Corps to lead the operation. Grant was encouraged by a message he received August 17 from President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through a great constitutional, military and moral crisis – the American Civil War – preserving the Union, while ending slavery, and...

:
Grant remarked to his staff, "The President has more nerve than any of his advisors."

At dawn on August 18, Warren advanced to the south and reached the railroad at Globe Tavern around 9 a.m. Parts of the division under Brig. Gen. Charles Griffin began to destroy the track while a brigade from Brig. Gen. Romeyn B. Ayres
Romeyn B. Ayres
Romeyn Beck Ayres was a Union Army general in the American Civil War.-Early life:Ayres was born at East Creek, New York, along the Mohawk River in Montgomery County. He was the son of a small-town doctor who urged all of his sons into professional careers...

's division formed in line of battle and moved north to block any Confederate advance from that direction. Ayers encountered Confederate troops at about 1 p.m. and Warren ordered the division under Brig. Gen. Samuel W. Crawford
Samuel W. Crawford
Samuel Wylie Crawford was a United States Army surgeon and a Union general in the American Civil War.-Early life:...

 to move forward on Ayres's right in an attempt to outflank the Confederate left. A.P. Hill sent three brigades to meet the advancing Union divisions. At about 2 p.m. they launched a strong attack and pushed the Union troops back to within less than a mile of Globe Tavern. Warren counterattacked and regained his lost ground. His men entrenched for the night.

Reinforcements arrived during the night—the Union IX Corps under Maj. Gen. John G. Parke, Rooney Lee's Confederate cavalry division and three infantry brigades from Mahone's division. In the late afternoon of August 19, Mahone launched a flanking attack that found a weak spot in Crawford's line, causing hundreds of Crawford's men to flee in panic. Heth launched a frontal assault against the center and left, which was easily repulsed by Ayres's division. The XI Corps counterattacked and fighting ended at dusk. On the night of August 20–21, Warren pulled his troops back two miles (3 km) to a new line of fortifications, which were connected with the main Union lines on the Jerusalem Plank Road. The Confederates attacked at 9 a.m. on August 21, with Mahone striking the Federal left and Heth the center. Both attacks were unsuccessful against the strong entrenchments and resulted in heavy losses. By 10:30 a.m., the Confederates withdrew.

Union casualties at Globe Tavern were 4,296 (251 killed, 1,148 wounded, 2,897 missing/captured), Confederate 1,620 (211 killed, 990 wounded, 419 missing/captured). The Confederates had lost a key section of the Weldon Railroad and were forced to carry supplies by wagon 30 miles (48.3 km) from the railroad at Stony Creek up the Boydton Plank Road into Petersburg. This was not yet a critical problem for the Confederates. A member of Lee's staff wrote, "Whilst we are inconvenienced, no material harm is done us." Grant was not entirely satisfied with Warren's victory, which he rightly characterized as wholly defensive in nature.

Second Reams Station (August 25)

General Grant wanted the Weldon closed permanently, destroying 14 miles (22.5 km) of track from Warren's position near Globe Tavern as far south as Rowanty Creek (about 3 miles (4.8 km) north of the town of Stony Creek
Stony Creek, Virginia
Stony Creek is a town in Sussex County, Virginia, United States. The population was 202 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Stony Creek is located at ....

). He assigned the operation to Hancock's II Corps, which was in the process of moving south from their operation at Deep Bottom. He chose Hancock's corps because Warren was busy extending the fortifications at Globe Tavern, although his selection was of troops exhausted from their efforts north of the James and their forced march south without rest. Grant augmented Hancock's corps with Gregg's cavalry division. Gregg's division departed on August 22 and, after driving off Confederate pickets, they and the II Corps infantry division commanded by Brig. Gen. Nelson A. Miles
Nelson A. Miles
Nelson Appleton Miles was a United States soldier who served in the American Civil War, Indian Wars, and the Spanish-American War.-Early life:Miles was born in Westminster, Massachusetts, on his family's farm...

 destroyed the railroad tracks to within 2 miles (3.2 km) of Reams Station. Early on August 23, Hancock's other division, commanded by Brig. Gen. John Gibbon
John Gibbon
John Gibbon was a career United States Army officer who fought in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars.-Early life:...

, occupied Reams Station, taking up positions in earthworks that had been constructed by the Union cavalry during the Wilson-Kautz Raid in June.

Robert E. Lee considered that the Union troops at Reams Station represented not only a threat to his supply line, but also to the county seat of Dinwiddie County
Dinwiddie County, Virginia
Dinwiddie County is a county located in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As of 2010, the population was 28,001. Its county seat is Dinwiddie.- History :...

; if Dinwiddie Court House
Dinwiddie, Virginia
Dinwiddie is a small unincorporated community in and the county seat of Dinwiddie County, Virginia, United States. The town was the site of the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House, the Battle of Five Forks as well as the Battle of Sutherland's Station during the Appomattox Campaign.The town is near the...

 were to fall, the Confederates would be forced to evacuate both Petersburg and Richmond because it represented a key point on the army's potential retreat route. He also saw an opportunity—that he could impose a stinging defeat on the Union Army not long before the presidential election in November. Lee ordered Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill to take the overall command of an expedition that included 8–10,000 men—both cavalry and infantry.

Maj. Gen. Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus M. Wilcox
Cadmus Marcellus Wilcox was a career United States Army officer who served in the Mexican–American War and also was a Confederate general during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

's division assaulted the Union position at about 2 p.m. on August 25. Despite launching two attacks, Wilcox was driven back by Miles's division, which was manning the northern part of the earthworks. To the south, Gibbon's division was blocking the advance of Hampton's cavalry, which had swept around the Union line. Confederate reinforcements from Heth's and Mahone's divisions arrived while the Confederate artillery softened up the Union position. The final attack began around 5:30 p.m. against Miles's position and it broke through the northwest corner of the Union fortifications. Hancock desperately galloped from one threatened point to the next, attempting to rally his men. As he witnessed the men of his once proud corps reluctant to retake their positions from the enemy, he remarked to a colonel, "I do not care to die, but I pray God I may never leave this field." By this time, Hampton's cavalry was making progress against Gibbon's infantry to the south, launching a surprise dismounted attack that caused many of Gibbon's men to flee or surrender. This allowed Hampton to flank Miles. Hancock ordered a counterattack, which provided time to allow for an orderly Union withdrawal to Petersburg after dark.

Union casualties at Reams Station were 2,747 (the II Corps lost 117 killed, 439 wounded, 2,046 missing/captured; the cavalry lost 145), Confederate 814 (Hampton's cavalry lost 16 killed, 75 wounded, 3 missing; Hill's infantry 720 total). Although the Confederates had won a clear victory, they had lost a vital piece of the Weldon Railroad and from this point on they were able to transport supplies by rail only as far north as Stony Creek Depot, 16 miles (25.7 km) south of Petersburg. From that point, supplies had to be unloaded and wagon trains had to travel through Dinwiddie Court House and then on the Boydton Plank Road to get the supplies into Petersburg. The South Side Railroad was the only railroad left to supply Petersburg and Lee's army.

Beefsteak Raid (September 14–17)

On September 5, a scout attached to the Jeff Davis Legion, Sgt. George D. Shadburne, gave a report to Wade Hampton on his reconnaissance behind the Union lines. At about 5 miles east of Grant's headquarters at City Point, a supply depot at Coggins Point on the James River, he found "3,000 beeves [beef cattle], attended by 120 men and 30 citizens, without arms." Just two days earlier, Robert E. Lee had suggested to Hampton that Grant's rear area was "open to attack." On September 14, while Grant was in the Shenandoah Valley conferring with Sheridan, Hampton led about 4,000 men in four brigades southwest from Petersburg along the Boydton Plank Road and followed a looping course through Dinwiddie Court House, Stony Creek Station, and by early morning on September 15 had crossed Blackwater Swamp at Cook's Bridge. At 12 a.m. on September 16, Hampton launched an attack in three columns: Rooney Lee's division on the left against the Union troops camped at Prince George Court House, the brigade of Brig. Gen. James Dearing
James Dearing
James Dearing was a Confederate States Army officer during the American Civil War. He was mortally wounded at the Battle of High Bridge during the Appomattox Campaign, making him one of the last officers to die in the war; there are claims that he was the last general officer to die in the...

 on the right against Cocke's Mill, and the brigade of Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Rosser and a detachment under Lt. Col. Lovick P. Miller in the center to seize the cattle herd. The surprise attacks met only minimal resistance and by 8 a.m., Hampton's men were driving 2,486 cattle south toward Cook's Bridge. A Union attempt by 2,100 cavalrymen under Brig. Gen. Henry Davies, Jr.
Henry Eugene Davies
Henry Eugene Davies was an American soldier, writer, public official and lawyer. He served in the Union Army as a brigadier general of volunteers in cavalry service during the American Civil War and was promoted to the grade of major general of volunteers at the end of the war...

, to intercept the Confederates and their prize was unsuccessful and Hampton retraced his steps back to Petersburg, turning the cattle over to the Confederate commissary department. For days, the Confederate troops feasted on beef and taunted their Union counterparts across the lines. A visitor to Grant's headquarters asked the general, "When do you expect to starve out Lee and capture Richmond?" Grant replied, "Never, if our armies continue to supply him with beef cattle."

New Market Heights (September 29–30)

During the night of September 28–29, Butler's Army of the James crossed the James River to assault the Richmond defenses north of the river. The columns attacked at dawn. After initial Union successes at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison, the Confederates rallied and contained the breakthrough. Lee reinforced his lines north of the James and, on September 30, he counterattacked unsuccessfully. The Federals entrenched, and the Confederates erected a new line of works cutting off the captured forts. As Grant anticipated, Lee shifted troops to meet the threat against Richmond, weakening his lines at Petersburg.

Peebles Farm (September 30 – October 2)

In combination with Butler's offensive north of the James River, Grant extended his left flank to cut Confederate lines of communication southwest of Petersburg. Two divisions of the IX corps under Maj. Gen. John G. Parke, two divisions of the V Corps under Warren, and Gregg's cavalry division were assigned to the operation. On September 30, the Federals marched via Poplar Spring Church to reach Squirrel Level and Vaughan Roads. The initial Federal attack overran Fort Archer, flanking the Confederates out of their Squirrel Level Road line. Late afternoon, Confederate reinforcements arrived, slowing the Federal advance. On October 1, the Federals repulsed a Confederate counterattack directed by A.P. Hill. Reinforced by Maj. Gen. Gershom Mott
Gershom Mott
Gershom Mott was a United States Army officer and a General in the Union Army, a commander in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-Early life:...

's division, the Federals resumed their advance on October 2, captured Fort MacRae (which was lightly defended) and extended their left flank to the vicinity of Peebles' and Pegram's Farms. With these limited successes, Meade suspended the offensive. A new line was entrenched from the Federal works on Weldon Railroad to Pegram's Farm.

Darbytown and New Market Roads (October 7)

Responding to the loss of Fort Harrison and the increasing Federal threat against Richmond, Gen. Robert E. Lee directed an offensive against the Union far right flank on October 7. After routing the Federal cavalry from their position covering Darbytown Road, Field's and Hoke's divisions assaulted the main Union defensive line along New Market Road and were repulsed. The Federals were not dislodged, and Lee withdrew into the Richmond defenses.

Darbytown Road (October 13)

On October 13, Union forces advanced to find and feel the new Confederate defensive line in front of Richmond. While mostly a battle of skirmishers, a Federal brigade assaulted fortifications north of Darbytown Road and was repulsed with heavy casualties. The Federals retired to their entrenched lines along New Market Road.

Fair Oaks and Darbytown Road (October 27–28)

In combination with movements against the Boydton Plank Road at Petersburg, Benjamin Butler attacked the Richmond defenses along Darbytown Road with the X Corps. The XVIII Corps marched north to Fair Oaks where it was soundly repulsed by Field's Confederate division. Confederate forces counterattacked, taking some 600 prisoners. The Richmond defenses remained intact. Of Grant's offensives north of the James River, this was repulsed most easily.

Boydton Plank Road (October 27–28)


Directed by Hancock, divisions from three Union corps (II, V, and IX) and Gregg's cavalry division, numbering more than 30,000 men, withdrew from the Petersburg lines and marched west to operate against the Boydton Plank Road and South Side Railroad. The initial Union advance on October 27 gained the Boydton Plank Road, a major campaign objective. But that afternoon, a counterattack near Burgess' Mill spearheaded by Henry Heth's division, and Wade Hampton's cavalry isolated the II Corps and forced a retreat. The Confederates retained control of the Boydton Plank Road for the rest of the winter. It marked the last battle for Hancock, who resigned from field command because of wounds sustained at Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

.

Hatcher's Run (February 5–7, 1865)

On February 5, 1865, Gregg's cavalry division rode out to the Boydton Plank Road via Ream's Station and Dinwiddie Court House in an attempt to intercept Confederate supply trains. Warren's V Corps crossed Hatcher's Run and took up a blocking position on the Vaughan Road to prevent interference with Gregg's operations. Two divisions of the II Corps under Maj. Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew A. Humphreys
Andrew Atkinson Humphreys , was a career United States Army officer, civil engineer, and a Union General in the American Civil War. He served in senior positions in the Army of the Potomac, including division command, chief of staff, and corps command, and was Chief Engineer of the U.S...

 shifted west to near Armstrong's Mill to cover Warren's right flank. Late in the day, John B. Gordon attempted to turn Humphrey's right flank near the mill but was repulsed. During the night, the Federals were reinforced by two divisions. On February 6, Gregg returned to Gravelly Run on Vaughan Road from his unsuccessful raid and was attacked by elements of Brig. Gen. John Pegram
John Pegram (general)
John Pegram was a career soldier from Virginia who served as an officer in the United States Army and then as a brigadier general in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. He became the first former U.S...

's Confederate division. Warren pushed forward a reconnaissance in the vicinity of Dabney's Mill and was attacked by Pegram's and Mahone's divisions. Pegram was killed in the action. Although the Union advance was stopped, the Federals extended their siegeworks to the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher's Run.

Confederate breakout attempt at Fort Stedman (March 25)


By March 1865, Lee's army was weakened by desertion, disease, and shortage of supplies and he was outnumbered by Grant by about 125,000 to 50,000. Lee knew that an additional 50,000 men under Sheridan would be returning soon from the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman was marching north through the Carolinas
The Carolinas
The Carolinas is a term used in the United States to refer collectively to the states of North and South Carolina. Together, the two states + have a population of 13,942,126. "Carolina" would be the fifth most populous state behind California, Texas, New York, and Florida...

 to join Grant as well. Lee had Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon plan a surprise attack on the Union lines that would force Grant to contract his lines and disrupt his plans to assault the Confederate works (which, unbeknownst to Lee and Gordon, Grant had already ordered for March 29). The attack would be launched with almost half of Lee's infantry from Colquitt's Salient against Fort Stedman, and Gordon had hopes that he could drive into the Union rear area as far as City Point.

Gordon's attack started at 4:15 a.m. Lead parties of sharpshooters and engineers masquerading as deserting soldiers headed out to overwhelm Union pickets and to remove obstructions that would delay the infantry advance. They were followed by three groups of 100 men assigned to storm the Union works and stream back into the Union rear area. Brig. Gen. Napoleon B. McLaughlen rode to Fort Haskell, just to the south of Battery XII, which he found to be ready to defend itself. As he moved north, he ordered Battery XII to open fire on Battery XI and a reserve infantry regiment briefly re-captured Battery XI. Assuming that he had sealed the only breach in the line, McLaughlen rode into Fort Stedman and began giving orders to the men. He suddenly realized that they were Confederates and they realized he was a Union general, capturing him.

Gordon soon arrived at Fort Stedman and found his attack had so far exceeded his "most sanguine expectations." Within minutes, Batteries X, XI, and XII and Fort Stedman had been seized, opening a gap nearly 1000 feet (304.8 m) long in the Union line. Gordon turned his attention to the southern flank of his attack and Fort Haskell. The Confederate artillery from Colquitt's Salient began bombarding Fort Haskell and the Federal field artillery returned fire, along with the massive siege guns in the rear.

Gordon's attack began to founder. His three 100-man detachments were wandering around the rear area in confusion and many had stopped to satisfy their hunger with captured Federal rations. And the main Union defense force was beginning to mobilize. Maj. Gen. John G. Parke of the IX Corps acted decisively, ordering the reserve division under Brig. Gen. John F. Hartranft
John F. Hartranft
John Frederick Hartranft was the 17th Governor of Pennsylvania from 1873 to 1879 and a Union Major General who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 to close the gap. Hartranft organized defensive forces that completely ringed the Confederate penetration by 7:30 a.m., stopping it just short of the military railroad depot. The Union artillery, aware that Confederates occupied the batteries and Fort Stedman, launched punishing fire against them. By 7:45 a.m., 4,000 Union troops under Hartranft were positioned in a semicircle of a mile and a half, and counterattacked, causing heavy casualties to the now-retreating Confederates.

The attack on Fort Stedman had no impact on the Union lines. The Confederate Army was forced to set back its own lines, as the Union attacked further down the front line. To give Gordon's attack enough strength to be successful, Lee had weakened his own right flank. The II and VI Corps seized much of the entrenched Confederate picket line southwest of Petersburg, but found the main line still well manned. This Union advance prepared the ground for Grant's breakthrough attack in the Third Battle of Petersburg on April 2, 1865.

Union casualties in the Battle of Fort Stedman were 1,044 (72 killed, 450 wounded, 522 missing or captured), Confederate casualties a considerably heavier 4,000 (600 killed, 2,400 wounded, 1,000 missing or captured). But more seriously, the Confederate positions were weakened. After the battle, Lee's defeat was only a matter of time. His final opportunity to break the Union lines and regain the momentum was gone.

Aftermath

After nearly ten months of siege, the loss at Fort Stedman was a devastating blow for Lee's army, setting up the Confederate defeat at Five Forks
Battle of Five Forks
The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County, during the Appomattox Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle, sometimes referred to as the "Waterloo of the Confederacy," pitted Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan against...

 on April 1, the Union breakthrough at Petersburg on April 2, the surrender of the city of Petersburg at dawn on April 3, and Richmond that same evening.

After his victory at Five Forks, Grant ordered an assault along the entire Confederate line beginning at dawn on April 2. Parke's IX Corps overran the eastern trenches but were met with stiff resistance. At 5:30 a.m. on April 2, Wright's VI Corps made a decisive breakthrough along the Boydton Plank Road line. Wright's initial breakthrough was halted mid-day at Fort Gregg. Gibbon's XXIV Corps overran Fort Gregg
Fort Gregg
Fort Gregg was a Confederate fort located near Petersburg, Virginia.The battle for Fort Gregg occurred on April 2, 1865, in Dinwiddie County near the outskirts of Petersburg.-External links:* at the Historical Markers Database...

 after a heroic Confederate defense. This halt in the advance into the city of Petersburg allowed Lee to pull his forces out of Petersburg and Richmond on the night of April 2, and head for the west in an attempt to meet up with forces under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 in North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

. The resulting Appomattox Campaign
Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...

 led to Lee's surrender on April 9 at Appomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House
The Appomattox Courthouse is the current courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia built in 1892. It is located in the middle of the state about three miles northwest of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, once known as Clover Hill - home of the original Old Appomattox Court House...

.

Richmond–Petersburg was a costly campaign for both sides. The initial assaults on Petersburg in June 1864 cost the Union 11,386 casualties, to approximately 4,000 for the Confederate defenders. The casualties for the siege warfare that concluded with the assault on Fort Stedman are estimated to be 42,000 for the Union, and 28,000 for the Confederates.

Classifying the campaigns

Military historians do not agree on precise boundaries between the campaigns of this era. This article uses the classification maintained by the U.S. National Park Service
National Park Service
The National Park Service is the U.S. federal agency that manages all national parks, many national monuments, and other conservation and historical properties with various title designations...

's American Battlefield Protection Program.

An alternative classification is maintained by West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

; in their Atlas of American Wars (Esposito, 1959), the Siege of Petersburg ends with the Union assault and breakthrough of April 2. The remainder of the war in Virginia is classified as "Grant's Pursuit of Lee to Appomattox Court House (3–9 April 1865)". Trudeau's Last Citadel conforms to this classification.

External links

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