The story

Battle of Petersburg begins


During the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia collide for the last time as the first wave of Union troops attacks Petersburg, a vital Southern rail center 23 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia. The two massive armies would not become disentangled until April 9, 1865, when Lee surrendered and his men went home.

In June 1864, in a brilliant tactical maneuver, Grant marched his army around the Army of Northern Virginia, crossed the James River unopposed, and advanced his forces to Petersburg. Knowing that the fall of Petersburg would mean the fall of Richmond, Lee raced to reinforce the city’s defenses. The mass of Grant’s army arrived first. On June 15, the first day of the Battle of Petersburg, some 10,000 Union troops under General William F. Smith moved against the Confederate defenders of Petersburg, made up of only a few thousand armed old men and boys commanded by General P.G.T. Beauregard. However, the Confederates had the advantage of formidable physical defenses, and they held off the overly cautious Union assault. The next day, more Federal troops arrived, but Beauregard was reinforced by Lee, and the Confederate line remained unbroken during several Union attacks occurring over the next two days.

By June 18, Grant had nearly 100,000 at his disposal at Petersburg, but the 20,000 Confederate defenders held on as Lee hurried the rest of his Army of Northern Virginia into the entrenchments. Knowing that further attacks would be futile, but satisfied to have bottled up the Army of Northern Virginia, Grant’s army dug trenches and began a prolonged siege of Petersburg.

Finally, on April 2, 1865, with his defense line overextended and his troops starving, Lee’s right flank suffered a major defeat against Union cavalry under General Phillip Sheridan, and Grant ordered a general attack on all fronts. The Army of Northern Virginia retreated under heavy fire; the Confederate government fled Richmond on Lee’s recommendation; and Petersburg, and then Richmond, fell to the Union. Less than a week later, Grant’s massive army headed off the remnants of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Station, and Lee was forced to surrender, effectively ending the Civil War.

READ MORE: 7 Reasons Ulysses S. Grant Was One of America’s Most Brilliant Military Leaders


Battle of Petersburg

Here was fought the opening engagement of the decisive campaign of the revolution. 1000 American militia under Steuben, Muhlenberg, Dick and House opposed 2500 British under Phillips, Arnold and Abercrombie.

Erected by Frances Bland Randolph Chapter D.A.R. July 1927.

Erected 1927 by Frances Bland Randolph Chapter D.A.R.

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Revolutionary. In addition, it is included in the Daughters of the American Revolution series list. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1734.

Location. 37° 13.562′ N, 77° 23.305′ W. Marker is in Petersburg, Virginia. Marker is on Crater Road (U.S. 460), on the right when traveling north. Marker is located in front of the Blandford Cemetery. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Blandford Church and Cemetery (here, next to this marker) a different marker also named Battle of Petersburg (here, next to this marker) Blandford Church (within shouting distance of this marker) People's Memorial Cemetery (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line) Battle of the Crater - Covered Way

(approx. 0.4 miles away) a different marker also named Battle of Petersburg (approx. 0.4 miles away) a different marker also named Battle of Petersburg (approx. 0.6 miles away) Massachusetts (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Petersburg.

Also see . . . Battle of Petersburg. City of Petersburg. (Submitted on March 24, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.)


Book Review

In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications & Confederate Defeat

By Earl J. Hess
University of North Carolina
Press, 2009

New biographies that focus on Civil War–era figures inevitably face the dilemma of how to interpret race, politics and equality in light of our own changing attitudes. No Civil War figure can possibly live up to modern ideals for ethical correctness about race, for example, and yet divorcing biographical subjects from present-day values relating to equality and race is almost impossible. It also is probably undesirable within most historiographical paradigms.

Author Rod Andrew Jr. wrestles with this vexing challenge throughout each page of his new book about Confederate General Wade Hampton III, a man who typifies what so many are both fascinated with and perplexed by when it comes to the Civil War.

Hampton’s complete story is still a relatively unknown tale in Civil War circles, particularly his postwar political career in his native South Carolina, where he served as governor and U.S. senator and dominated Democratic politics. Hampton personally eschewed violence and promoted racial harmony after the war, and many South Carolinians listened to him. Andrew makes it clear, however, that Hampton had many prejudices about race that seem wrong by our standards despite the fact that he was clearly a moderate and reconciler by any measure of those times.

Andrew gently chides those who would ignore Hampton’s entire life and focus narrowly on his war service, and readers interested in Hampton’s military career may find this biography less detailed than they would wish. Hamp-ton’s icy relationship with fellow Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart is discussed, for example, but not in a meaningful way that reveals any new insights. Throughout the book, the author spends much energy painting general context rather than sharing a blow-by-blow saddle ride with Hampton. A no-table exception is the chapter on Trevilian Station, where Hampton was almost defeated as Lee’s new commander of cavalry but eventually demonstrated impressive decision-making in the heat of battle and turned the tables on his opponents.

From a military history reader’s perspective, the maps of various campaigns leave something to be desired. They usually present only the barest information and often neglect to add key terrain features or other landmarks that were central to unit movements and local tactics. Despite Andrew’s limited treatment of Hampton’s military career, the famous “Beefsteak Raid” and the general’s other martial successes make it clear that Hampton was one of the South’s most gifted military leaders.

Andrew shines when presenting Hampton’s postwar political career. Notably, he draws on considerable modern scholarship in this section of the book to paint a crisp picture of the volatile Reconstruction era between 1865 and 1878, when Hampton was such a giant figure that he was respected even by many former slaves and some of his most virulent Republican opponents. He became the symbol of nearly every important postwar theme in South Carolina: the Lost Cause, opposition to corrupt Republican rule, honorable service to one’s country and a paternalistic reconciliation between the races (which Andrew correctly points out did not mean true equality of the races).

Although this is the product of a great deal of work and research, and is in many places entertaining reading, there are narrative gaps in the text and places where too much time is spent on context and not enough on Hampton. Given the amount of surviving correspondence, Hampton’s own words were perhaps underused in this text.

But overall, this biography is an important contribution about a relatively lesser-known figure who probably deserves more investigation and research. It is difficult for a reader to come away from this book without feeling a new sense of respect and surprise at the breadth of Hampton’s experiences. He was larger than life to many of his contemporaries, and Andrew makes him just as large to his readers.


Book Review

In the Trenches at Petersburg: Field Fortifications & Confederate Defeat

By Earl J. Hess
University of North Carolina
Press, 2009

New biographies that focus on Civil War–era figures inevitably face the dilemma of how to interpret race, politics and equality in light of our own changing attitudes. No Civil War figure can possibly live up to modern ideals for ethical correctness about race, for example, and yet divorcing biographical subjects from present-day values relating to equality and race is almost impossible. It also is probably undesirable within most historiographical paradigms.

Author Rod Andrew Jr. wrestles with this vexing challenge throughout each page of his new book about Confederate General Wade Hampton III, a man who typifies what so many are both fascinated with and perplexed by when it comes to the Civil War.

Hampton’s complete story is still a relatively unknown tale in Civil War circles, particularly his postwar political career in his native South Carolina, where he served as governor and U.S. senator and dominated Democratic politics. Hampton personally eschewed violence and promoted racial harmony after the war, and many South Carolinians listened to him. Andrew makes it clear, however, that Hampton had many prejudices about race that seem wrong by our standards despite the fact that he was clearly a moderate and reconciler by any measure of those times.

Andrew gently chides those who would ignore Hampton’s entire life and focus narrowly on his war service, and readers interested in Hampton’s military career may find this biography less detailed than they would wish. Hamp-ton’s icy relationship with fellow Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart is discussed, for example, but not in a meaningful way that reveals any new insights. Throughout the book, the author spends much energy painting general context rather than sharing a blow-by-blow saddle ride with Hampton. A no-table exception is the chapter on Trevilian Station, where Hampton was almost defeated as Lee’s new commander of cavalry but eventually demonstrated impressive decision-making in the heat of battle and turned the tables on his opponents.

From a military history reader’s perspective, the maps of various campaigns leave something to be desired. They usually present only the barest information and often neglect to add key terrain features or other landmarks that were central to unit movements and local tactics. Despite Andrew’s limited treatment of Hampton’s military career, the famous “Beefsteak Raid” and the general’s other martial successes make it clear that Hampton was one of the South’s most gifted military leaders.

Andrew shines when presenting Hampton’s postwar political career. Notably, he draws on considerable modern scholarship in this section of the book to paint a crisp picture of the volatile Reconstruction era between 1865 and 1878, when Hampton was such a giant figure that he was respected even by many former slaves and some of his most virulent Republican opponents. He became the symbol of nearly every important postwar theme in South Carolina: the Lost Cause, opposition to corrupt Republican rule, honorable service to one’s country and a paternalistic reconciliation between the races (which Andrew correctly points out did not mean true equality of the races).

Although this is the product of a great deal of work and research, and is in many places entertaining reading, there are narrative gaps in the text and places where too much time is spent on context and not enough on Hampton. Given the amount of surviving correspondence, Hampton’s own words were perhaps underused in this text.

But overall, this biography is an important contribution about a relatively lesser-known figure who probably deserves more investigation and research. It is difficult for a reader to come away from this book without feeling a new sense of respect and surprise at the breadth of Hampton’s experiences. He was larger than life to many of his contemporaries, and Andrew makes him just as large to his readers.


Live Reading and Author Q&A Isabelle and the Magic Bird

Join us LIVE on the Trust's Facebook Page on July 14th at 7 PM for the launch of Isabelle and the Magic Bird, a new book dedicated to teaching children the importance of preserving our historic places and what … Ещё they can do to help.

Isabelle and the Magic Bird was written and illustrated by Charlotte Yeung, a member of the Trust’s 2020-2021 Youth Leadership Team as part of her capstone project.

For the first time, Isabelle is left alone in the park. She isn't sure what to do when a magical bird suddenly appears. The bird takes her to a curious location that invites more questions than answers. This story uses simple words and stunning pictures to explain the importance of battlefield preservation, youth activism, and environmentalism to children. Detailed illustrations help children visualize these concepts.

American Battlefield Trust


Aftermath

The withdrawal of the Virginia Militia was expeditious and quite orderly through the village of Blandford, across the valley and creek of Lieutenant Run, and onto the higher ground of the eastern edge of Petersburg. Muhlenberg's main line consisted of two more regiments of Infantry under Colonels Faulkner and Slaughter. As Phillips troops advanced through Blandford in pursuit, they came in range of Steuben's artillery, safely placed north of the Appomattox on the heights overlooking Petersburg.

Steuben had earlier decided that when retreat became necessary, the narrow Pocahontas Bridge would be more of a trap than an exit if he had to retreat with Infantry, cavalry and artillery. He therefore placed his two six-pound guns on the heights to cover his operations south of the river. He also used his three companies of horse and Goode's Regiment of Infantry to cover his rear, north of the river. As an additional piece of insurance, he also placed one battalion of infantry on the south end of the bridge to secure that avenue.

When the Light Infantry, the 76th and 80th Regiments arrived on the western edge of Blandford they found themselves confronted by a wide and somewhat deep valley surmounted on it's opposite summit by the four regiments of Virginia Militia. Though Phillips had the superior force, he was under the guns of the American artillery, at about three-quarters of a mile distant. He also faced the prospect of having to traverse a wide piece of marshy low ground to close with his enemy. Both lines of battle were out of musket range, however, very heavy firing was maintained for over another hour. The British launched at least two assaults across Lieutenant Run, however were driven back by the militia line of musketry.

During this time Simcoe and the Queen's Rangers had made their wide sweep around the American lines and were proceeding north toward the American rear. Simultaneously, the British artillery opened fire from a new position. Phillips had found an excellent piece of high ground on the American right front from which he could exact enfilading fire all along Muhlenberg's front. Concurrently, the American militia was running very low on their "allocated" ammunition.

It was here that Steuben determined his show-of-force had reached its limits. He therefore called for a general withdrawal of his army to the north of the Appomattox. Again the militia executed a very orderly retreat, this time through Petersburg, towards the Pocahontas Bridge.

Simcoe and his Rangers were not close enough to cut off the retreat, so the Colonel decided to proceed farther to the north and west.- His intent was to locate a known ford over the river, cross over onto the heights and possibly get on the American rear in that sector. Baring this, if nothing else, he could possibly draw off part of the American artillery fire being directed at Phillips' main advancing line. In the latter he succeeded.

Up to this point Muhlenberg had very expertly utilized time and terrain to keep the British at a sufficient distance where they could not close with their bayonets on the "bayonetless" American lines. Between Lieutenant Run and the Pocahontas Bridge there was little obstacle to delay Phillips' pursuit, other than the village streets and buildings.

The narrowness of the bridge slowed the retiring American units as anticipated. Here the militia again showed surprising mettle. As British lines pressed on the American retreat, units of both cavalry and infantry stationed north of the bridge laid down covering fire. Retreat-ing units also stood their ground, providing covering fire for those units crossing the bridge.

Inside several city blocks near Pocahontas Bridge, the heaviest fighting and losses of the battle occurred. Fighting became close and hand-to-hand. The America-ns casualties of wounded and captured were highest near the bridge fighting and from British artillery firing as the troops ascended the heights after crossing the river. However, the final American act of determination was, under fire, to take up the planks of Pocahontas Bridge to prevent further British pursuit.

Once they got onto the heights, Steuben's army spread into Chesterfield County, primarily towards the Court House where the military training barracks were located and where General Phillips would undoubtedly next head toward.

Total battle losses, in killed, wounded and captured, can only estimated at about 100 for the Americans and about 60 for the British.

As a major port, central logistics storage area, and primary link in the American line of communication, Petersburg was a key element to the success of Phillips' campaign. Unfortunately for the Americans, there was no regular army force in the state to defend against the British invasion. Under Major General von Steuben, there was only a small army of slightly more than one thousand militia, to confront Phillips' two thousand five hundred veteran troops. Notwithstanding the overwhelming odds, the determination and discipline of the Virginia militia withstood Phillips' attack on Petersburg, holding the invading British at bay for upwards of three hours before yielding the town.

Though the town was thoroughly searched for military and public stores, there was no wanton damage inflicted on public or private property. Phillips found no military supplies left in the town, however a large quantity of tobacco, important to international trade, was found. The tobacco was moved into the streets and burned rather than being destroyed in private warehouses where it had been stored. There was one warehouse accidentally set fire by a British soldier, who was subsequently punished for his inattention to Phillips' orders.

On April 27, Phillips marched his army north on the final leg of his campaign, burning the log, military training barracks at Chesterfield Court House, destroying several war and cargo ships at Osborne's Landing, and burning the foundry and numerous warehouses at West-ham. In the meantime, the American regulars of Lafayette's army arrived at Richmond in time to prevent Phillips from taking the Capitol City. It was then that Phillips decided that his expedition had been completely successful and ordered his army back down the James River to Ports-mouth.

Arnold to Clinton, May 12: “The next morning [the 23rd]we were joined by Lieutenant-colonel Abercrombie with the light infantry, who had been ten or twelve miles up the Chickahomany, and destroyed several armed ships, the state ship yards, warehouses, &c. &c. At ten o'clock the fleet weighed, and proceeded up the James river within four miles of Westover. The 24th, weighed anchor at eleven o'clock, and run up to City points, where the troops, &c. were all landed at six o'clock in the evening. The 25th, marched at ten o'clock for Petersburg, where we arrived about five o'clock P. M. We were opposed about one mile from town by a body of militia, under the orders of Brigadier-general Muhlenburg, supposed to be about one thousand men, who were soon obliged to retire over the bridge with the loss of near one hundred men killed and wounded, as we have since been informed our loss only one man killed, and ten wounded. The enemy took up the bridge, which prevented our pursuing them. 26th, destroyed at Petersburg four thousand hogsheads of tobacco, one ship, and a number of small vessels on the stocks and in the river.”


The Fight for the Weldon Railroad

General Warren made his headquarters at Globe Tavern, located just south of here (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War)

The Weldon Railroad connected Richmond to the South's last Atlantic port in Wilmington, North Carolina. On August 18, 1864, the Union captured the Weldon railroad.

Gouverner K. Warren and Staff circa 1864 (Library of Congress)

The stupendous failure on July 30, 1864, of General Grant’s Third Offensive at the Battle of the Crater convinced Ulysses S. Grant that isolating Petersburg remained the only way to win the campaign. His first target remained the Weldon Railroad, which he had failed to capture in June. At 4:00 a.m. on August 18, Grant sent his Fifth Corps under General Gouverneur K. Warren westward with orders to destroy a section of the railroad and hold it if he could.

The first troops to reach the tracks arrived around 9:00 a.m. The Yankees slowly moved northward, leaving heated rails twisted in the shape of the Maltese Cross (the Fifth Corps’ insignia) in their wake. When they reached the point near the intersection of the Halifax and Vaughan roads, they met fire from a small Confederate battery.

Maj. Gen. Henry Heth Library of Congress

In a pouring rain the Federals scattered the Rebel gunners and deployed across the tracks near a small house belonging to the Davis family. Between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., gunfire erupted in the thick woods all around you as three Confederate brigades led by General Henry Heth pounded southward against Warren’s men. The Southerners drove their enemy south about three-quarters of a mile, while Warren frantically called up reinforcements and artillery support. The engagement then degenerated into a static fire fight, and Heth eventually withdrew to a line parallel to our location.

The first day of the Battle of Weldon Railroad ended with nearly 1,000 Union casualties and about 350 for Heth. The Federals still held the tracks, but the stage was now set for a more powerful Confederate attack the next day.

Warren’s Fifth Corps reached the Weldon Railroad on August 18, 1864, and withstood a counterattack about three-quarters of a mile north of here that afternoon. The next day, however, Confederate General William Mahone sliced between Warren’s right flank and the Ninth Corps’ left, inflicting an embarrassing tactical defeat on the Yankees, including the loss of more than 2,500 prisoners. The timely arrival of reinforcements, however, kept the Northerners across the critical rails.Two days later, Mahone struck again, this time aiming for Warren’s left flank, beyond the alignment of the modern railroad to the west. Mahone acted, however, on inaccurate information. Instead of striking the flank and rear of the Union position, his assault hit the Federals head-on, with predictable results. A South Carolina brigade under General Johnson Hagood suffered the most. Some 60 percent of his men fell under a withering fire.

General Warren made his headquarters at Globe Tavern, located just south of here (Battles and Leaders of the Civil War)

The three days of fighting along the Weldon Railroad (there was no serious combat on rainy August 20) cost the Union army 4,279 casualties. The Confederates lost between 1,600 and 2,300 men. The Union victory denied General Robert E. Lee direct access to supplies coming from the south and compelled him to patch together a makeshift line of communication running across country from Stony Creek Depot, a dozen miles south of us, through Dinwiddie Court House, and up the Boydton Plank Road. The Federals consolidated their gains by extending their fortifications westward, anchoring their new works with this powerful fort, named after General James S. Wadsworth, a Fifth Corps division commander mortally wounded at the Battle of the Wilderness.


Battle of Petersburg begins - HISTORY

Lee was forced to withdraw to Petersburg. It was realistically his last stand, and his only chance to block Grants advance on Richmond. It was however, doomed to failure from the start. Grant enjoyed unlimited supplies, unlimited manpower. His engineers built rail lines almost to the front line trenches to keep his troops supplies, while the Confederates had little and no chance of resupply. The inevitiable occurred on April 2nd 1865 when the Union breached confederate lines and the confederates were forced to withdraw from Petersburg and Richmond, thus effectively ending the war


Once Lee's troops had arrived at Petersburg, both armies dug in for a long-term siege. This was a battle that Lee knew he could not win. Nonetheless, this was a battle he had no choice, but in which to participate. If Petersburg fell, Richmond was doomed. The Union forces had all the advantages in the siege. Its forces were well supplied both in armaments, food and clothing. The Union Engineers ran a railroad right behind the Union trenches. Regular passenger and freight trains supplied the Union troops regularly. At the same time Confederate troops were going hungry and were suffering a shortage in ammunition. Lee wrote, at one point: “If some change is not made and the commissary department reorganized I apprehend dire results. The physical strength of the men, if their courage survives must fail under this treatment.”

Union and Confederate forces shelled each other daily. Each side suffered casualties. However, the Union casualties were replaceable, while the Confederates had reached the absolute bottom of the manpower pool.

There were a number of attempts to break the stalemate between the two sides. The most well known was an attempt to break through the lines by building a tunnel under the Confederate fortifications, and setting off a very large explosive charge. A division of Black troops had been trained to exploit the explosion. Though at the last moment, they were replaced by a White division, who were not prepared for the task. The explosion created a great hole in the Confederate lines. The uncoordinated attack that followed achieved nothing but 4,000 Union casualties. As Grant to wrote Halleck: “It was the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war. Such opportunity for carrying fortifications I have never seen and do not expect again to have.”

While the siege was taking place the Confederates suffered a severe reversal of fortune in the Shenandoah Valley. At the end of July, Jubal Early led Confederate troops out, down the Valley. Early had crossed the Potomac. On July 11th, he reached the outskirts of Washington. This area was defended initially by clerks and other non-combatants. Elements of the Sixth Army Corps arrived in Washington, just in a nick of time. Early decided to retreat. That was the high point. Then Grant appointed Phil Sheridan to command Union forces in the Valley. Sheridan went ahead and recaptured the valley. He decisively defeated Early's forces in three battles, including the third Battle of Winchester. Early's forces ceased being an effective unit. As Sheridan pulled out of the valley, he stripped it clean of all food, farm animals and anything else that might be helpful to the Confederacy.

Lee's army was steadily dwindling. Every day more and more Confederate soldiers deserted. By the end of March, the end of this battle was in sight. Sherman was advancing through South Carolina and would soon reach Virginia. Sherman’s troops were coming up on Lee's south. Thus, Lee knew he would have to give up Petersburg, or get annihilated. To accomplish this, Lee attempted an attack on Fort Stedman. Lees' troops seized the fort. However, in the ensuing counterattack, Union forces recaptured it, as well as some of the Confederate fortifications. Lee lost 5,000 men and his lines were now so thin they could not hold for long.

Grant ordered Sheridan to turn the Confederate flank south of Petersburg. In the ensuing battle, called: “Five Folks”, Union troops won a decisive victory, when half the Confederate forces surrendered. Grant then ordered an assault all along the lines for the next morning, the 2nd of April. The assault succeeded and the Confederates were forced to pull out of Petersburg, as well as Richmond


Digging Begins

Eager to restore his reputation after his defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Burnside agreed to present it to Grant and Major General George G. Meade. Though both men were skeptical about its chances for success, they approved it with the thought that it would keep the men busy during the siege. On June 25, Pleasants' men, working with improvised tools, began digging the mine shaft. Digging continuously, the shaft reached 511 feet by July 17. During this time, the Confederates became suspicious when they heard the faint sound of digging. Sinking countermines, they came close to locating the 48th's shaft.


Battle of Petersburg begins - HISTORY

Other Names: Richmond-Petersburg Campaign (June 1864-March 1865) Assault(s) on Petersburg Battle of Petersburg

Location: Vicinity of City of Petersburg, Virginia

Date(s): June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865*

Principal Commanders: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George G. Meade [US] Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard [CS]

Forces Engaged: 177,000 total (US 125,000 CS 52,000)

Estimated Casualties: 70,000 total (US 42,000 CS 28,000)

Petersburg Siege

Section of Union siege line around Petersburg.

Siege of Petersburg

Civil War Siege of Petersburg, Virginia

Grant and Lee

(L) General Ulysses S. Grant and (R) General Robert E. Lee

Richmond-Petersburg Siege Map

Civil War Petersburg Siege Map

Siege of Petersburg Civil War Map

Siege of Petersburg Battlefield Map

Richmond-Petersburg Campaign

Confederate Civil War Hand Grenade

Battle of Petersburg and Union Hand Grenades

Civil War Siege of Petersburg

The Siege: Grant pulls his army out of Cold Harbor and crosses the James River heading towards Petersburg. For several days Lee does not believe Grant's main target is Petersburg and so keeps most of his army around Richmond. Between June 15-18, 1864 Grant throws his forces against Petersburg and it may have fallen if it were not for the Federal commanders failing to press their advantage and the defense put up by the few Confederates holding the lines. Lee finally arrives on June 18 and after four days of combat with no success Grant begins siege operations.

This, the longest siege in American warfare, unfolded in a methodical manner. For nearly every attack the Union made around Petersburg another was made at Richmond and this strained the Confederate's manpower and resources. Through this strategy Grant's army gradually and relentlessly encircled Petersburg and cut Lee's supply lines from the south. For the Confederates it was ten months of hanging on, hoping the people of the North would tire of the war. For soldiers of both armies it was ten months of rifle bullets, artillery, and mortar shells, relieved only by rear-area tedium, drill and more drill, salt pork and corn meal, burned beans and bad coffee.

By October 1864 Grant had cut off the Weldon Railroad and was west of it tightening the noose around Petersburg. The approach of winter brought a general halt to activities. Still there was the every day skirmishing, sniper fire, and mortar shelling.

In early February 1865 Lee had only 60,000 soldiers to oppose Grant's force of 110,000 men. Grant extended his lines westward to Hatcher's Run and forced Lee to lengthen his own thinly stretched defenses.

By mid-March it was apparent to Lee that Grant's superior force would either get around the Confederate right flank or pierce the line somewhere along it's 37-mile length. The Southern commanders hoped to break the Union stranglehold on Petersburg by a surprise attack on Grant. This resulted in the Confederate loss at Fort Stedman and would be Lee's last grand offensive of the war.

Siege of Petersburg Map

Civil War Siege of Petersburg Battlefield Maps

Petersburg Siege Map

Civil War Battle of Petersburg Map

1 st Offensive, June 15-18, 1864: Grant’s attacks on the eastern Petersburg defenses force Beauregard back toward the city.

2 nd Offensive, June 22-24, 1864: Grant targets the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad, but Confederate counterattacks limit his gain to the capture of the Jerusalem Plank Road.

3 rd Offensive, July 26-30, 1864: Results in the operations at First Deep Bottom north of the James River and the Battle of the Crater on July 30 southeast of Petersburg.

4 th Offensive, August 12-21, 1864: Second Deep Bottom north of the James River and the Battle of Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg.

5 th Offensive, September 29-October 2, 1864: Union gains north of the James River at New Market Heights and Fort Harrison. Southwest of Petersburg, the Union attackers extend their lines three miles westward but fail to capture Lee’s two remaining supply lines.

6 th Offensive, October 27, 1864: Sharp but inconsequential fighting north of the James River. Southwest of Petersburg, Northern troops briefly occupy the Boydton Plank Road near Burgess’s Mill, but Confederate counterattacks drive them back, ending active campaigning for the year.

7 th Offensive, February 5-7, 1865: Grant exploits mild weather to target the Boydton Plank Road. The Battle of Hatcher's Run ensues, and although the Confederates preserve their supply routes, both armies extend their fortifications several miles further west.

8 th Offensive, March 27-April 1: Grant captures the Boydton Plank Road and opens a clear path to the South Side Railroad. Battles at Lewis Farm, White Oak Road, Dinwiddie Court House, and Five Forks leave the Confederates on the brink of disaster.

9 th Offensive, April 2: Results in his Sixth Corps breaking the Confederate line southwest of Petersburg at dawn. Lee plans to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg that night, and desperate fighting at Fort Mahone, Fort Gregg, Edge Hill, and Sutherland Station buy him time to do so.

Richmond-Petersburg Campaign Map

Siege of Petersburg in 1865

Siege of Petersburg Map

Battle of Fort Stedman, Union Counterattack Map

Siege of Petersburg Breakthrough Map

Richmond-Petersburg Campaign Map

Four days after the attack on Fort Stedman, General Phil Sheridan's cavalry and Warren's V Corps were sent southwest to Dinwiddie Court House to cut the South Side Railroad and reach the Appomattox River west of Petersburg. Confederate troops under Generals George E. Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee scored a minor victory on March 31 near Dinwiddie Court House, when they turned back the advance elements of Sheridan's command. But as they were outnumbered, Pickett sent word that the V Corps was coming in behind them, and the Confederates withdrew and entrenched at Five Forks, three miles south of the South Side Railroad.

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Watch the video: The Battle of Petersburg Begins at Battery #5: Petersburg Video Tour! (January 2022).