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The siege and fall of Petersburg

Union picket near Fort Mahone, the Confederate stronghold


The finished product: Union veterans of trench and field before Petersburg--1864. It is winter-time before Petersburg. Grant's army, after the assault of October 27th, has settled down to the waiting game that can have but one result. Look at the veterans in this picture of 1864--not a haggard or hungry face in all this group of a hundred or more. Warmly clad, well-fed, in the prime of manly vigor, smiling in confidence that the end is almost now in sight, these are the men who hold the thirty-odd miles of Federal trenches that hem in Lee's ragged army. Outdoor life and constant “roughing it” affects men variously. There was many a young clerk from the city, slender of limb, lacking in muscle, a man only in the embryo, who finished his three or five years term of service with a constitution of iron and sinews like whip-cords. Strange to say, it was the regiments from up-country and the backwoods, lumbermen and farmers, who after a short time in Camp began to show most the effect of hardship and sickness. They had been used to regular hours, meals at certain times, and always the same kind of food — their habits had been formed, their sleep had not been interfered with; their stomachs, by which they could tell the time of day, rebelled at being obliged to go empty, their systems had to learn new tricks. But the city recruit, if possessed of no physical ailment or chronic trouble, seemed to thrive and expand in the open air — he was a healthy exotic that, when transplanted, adapted itself to the new soil with surprising vigor — being cheated of his sleep, and forced to put up with the irregularities of Camp life was not such a shock for him as for the “to bed with the chickens and up with the lark” countryman. This is no assuming of facts — it is the result of experience and record. But here are men of city, farm, and backwoods who have become case-hardened to the rugged life.

[273] [274]

Siege of Petersburg.

Thus we see Petersburg as, with a powerful glass, it might have been seen from the north bank of the Appomattox, looking south over the ruined town in April, 1865. As the railroad center south of Richmond, it was, at the outbreak of the war, one of the largest cities of Virginia. It was Grant who first utilized its importance in leading up to the capture of the capital. Although all missiles apparently evince a selective intelligence, at times in any bombardment there are naturally objects which give range to the gunners and become targets for their aim. Chimneys and smokestacks, and, alas! in some cases, steeples, were picked out between the sights before the lanyard was pulled. In Petersburg the churches suffered least, but buildings such as the mill and the gas-house, with its 80-foot stack, were crumbled into ruins.

Petersburg the besieged city

The ruined mill

Where the light failed--gas works at Petersburg


Bolingbroke street — historic houses bombarded In the houses down this quiet street, liable at any moment to be pierced by shot, as some of these have been, the women of Petersburg, with all the courage the daughters of the South invariably have shown, went bravely about their self-imposed tasks, denying themselves all luxuries and frequently almost the necessities of life, to help feed and take care of the men in the trenches that faced the Federal lines. During the siege, from June, 1864, to April, 1865, led by the wives of some of the officers high in command, the Petersburg citizens, and the women especially, exhibited high heroism in nursing the wounded and aiding the army. This street was named after a distinguished Revolutionary family, whose mansion during the Revolution had been seized and made the headquarters of Benedict Arnold. Arnold, after his defection from the Continental cause, had been sent into Virginia to destroy the property of prominent Revolutionists.



This beautiful old mansion on Bolingbroke Street could look back to the days of buckles and small clothes; it wears an aggrieved and surprised look, as if wondering why it should have received such buffetings as its pierced walls, its shattered windows and doorway show. Yet it was more fortunate than some of its near-by neighbors, which were never again after the visitation of the falling shells fit habitations for mankind. Many of these handsome residences were utterly destroyed, their fixtures shattered beyond repair; their wainscoting, built when the Commonwealth of Virginia was ruled over by the representative of King George, was torn from the walls and, bursting into flames, made a funeral pyre of past comforts and magnificence. The havoc wrought upon the dwellings of the town was heavy; certain localities suffered more than others, and those residents who seemed to dwell in the safest zones had been ever ready to open their houses to the sick and wounded of Lee's army. As Grant's troops marched in, many pale faces gazed out at them from the windows, and at the doorsteps stood men whose wounds exempted them from ever bearing arms again.

A battered relic of colonial days in Petersburg

The shattered doorway


The demolished dining-room of a handsome mansion: havoc of bombardment in a Petersburg home In this room, nearly a hundred years before, the red-coated officers of His Britannic Majesty's troops had gathered at the long mahogany table, which, with the glittering sideboards and the old portraits, had furnished the apartment. They were unbidden guests and were invaders. It was with enforced courtesy that the lady of the house, whose husband and two sons were wearing the blue and buff of the Continental Army, received them. And now, in 1865, this lady's descendents, the heirs to the old mansion, have been forced to move by another invasion that brought home to them the stern decrees of war. The two maiden ladies of proud lineage had been forced in the early stages of the siege to move their belongings to a safer place. The house had been stripped of furnishings; against the noble old walls the Federal guns had knocked for admittance, presenting no billet of lodgment with a sweeping bow, but rudely bursting in. After the war was over, its occupants came back; but still, if you should visit them, they could point out to you the traces of the siege.

It is not improbable that Grant might have made more headway by leaving a sufficient part of his army in the trenches in front of Petersburg and by moving with a heavy force far to the west upon Lee's communications; or, if it were determined to capture the place à main forte, by making a massed attack upon some point in the center after suitable mining operations had weakened Lee's defenses and prepared for such an operation. But the end was to come with opening spring. To the farsighted, this was no longer doubtful. The South must succumb to the greater material resources of the North, despite its courage and its sacrifices. --Colonel T. A. Dodge, U. S.A., in A Bird's-eye view of Our Civil war.

During the winter of 1864-65, General Lee, fighting Grant without, was fighting famine within. The shivering, half-clad soldiers of the South crouched over feeble fires in their entrenchments. The men were exposed to the rain, snow, and sleet; sickness and disease soon added their horrors to the desolation. The finances of the Government were almost gone. The life of the Confederacy was ebbing fast.

Behind Union breastworks, early in 1865, General Grant was making preparations for the opening of a determined campaign with the coming of spring. Mile after mile had been added to his entrenchments, and they now extended to Hatcher's Run on the left. The Confederate lines had been stretched until they were so thin that there was constant danger of breaking. A. P. Hill was posted on the right; Gordon and Anderson held the center, and Longstreet was on the left. Union troops were mobilizing in front of Petersburg. By February 1st, Sherman was fairly off from Savannah on his northward march to join Grant. He was weak in cavalry and [279]

Siege of Petersburg.

For nine months of 1864-1865 the musket-balls sang past these Federal picket posts, in advance of Federal Fort Sedgwick, called by the Confederates “Fort Hell.” Directly opposite was the Confederate Fort Mahone, which the Federals, returning the compliment, had dubbed “Fort Damnation.” Between the two lines, separated by only fifty yards, sallies and counter-sallies were continual occurrences after dark. In stealthy sorties one side or the other frequently captured the opposing pickets before alarm could be given. No night was without its special hazard. During the day the pastime here was sharp-shooting with muskets and rifled cannon.

Approaching the post of danger — Petersburg, 1865

A few steps nearer the picket line

In behind the shelter


Grant determined to bring Sheridan from the Shenandoah, whence the bulk of Early's forces had been withdrawn, and send him to assist Sherman. Sheridan left Winchester February 27th, wreaking much destruction as he advanced, but circumstances compelled him to seek a new base at White House. On March 27th he formed a junction with the armies of the Potomac and the James. Such were the happenings that prompted Lee to prepare for the evacuation of Petersburg. And he might be able, in his rapid marches, to outdistance Grant, join his forces with those of Johnston, fall on Sherman, destroy one wing of the Union army and arouse the hopes of his soldiers, and prolong the life of his Government.

General Grant knew the condition of Lee's army and, with the unerring instinct of a military leader, surmised what the plan of the Southern general must be. He decided to move on the left, destroy both the Danville and South Side railroads, and put his army in better condition to pursue. The move was ordered for March 29th.

General Lee, in order to get Grant to look another way for a while, decided to attack Grant's line on the right, and gain some of the works. This would compel Grant to draw some of his force from his left and secure a way of escape to the west. This bold plan was left for execution to the gallant Georgian, General John B. Gordon, who had successfully led the reverse attack at Cedar Creek, in the Shenandoah, in October, 1864. Near the crater stood Fort Stedman. Between it and the Confederate front, a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards, was a strip of firm earth, in full view of both picket lines. Across this space some deserters had passed to the Union entrenchments. General Gordon took advantage of this fact and accordingly selected his men, who, at the sound of the signal gun, should disarm the Federal pickets, while fifty more men were to cross the open space quickly with axes and cut away the abatis, and three hundred others were to rush through the opening, and capture the Fort and guns. [281]

Siege of Petersburg.

These well-made protections of sharpened spikes, as formidable as the pointed spears of a Roman legion, are chevaux-de-frise of the Confederates before their main works at Petersburg. They were built after European models, the same as employed in the Napoleonic wars, and were used by both besiegers and besieged along the lines south of the Appomattox. Those shown in this picture were in front of the entrenchments near Elliott's salient and show how effectually it was protected from any attempt to storm the works by rushing tactics on the part of the Federal infantry. Not far from here lies the excavation of the Crater.

Security from surprise

The mole-hill ramparts, near the crater


At four o'clock on the morning of March 25, 1865, Gordon had everything in readiness. His chosen band wore white strips of cloth across the breast, that they might distinguish each other in the hand-to-hand fight that would doubtless ensue. Behind these men half of Lee's army was massed to support the attack. In the silence of the early morning, a gunshot rang out from the Confederate works. Not a Federal picket-shot was heard. The axemen rushed across the open and soon the thuds of their axes told of the cutting away of the abatis. The three hundred surged through the entrance, overpowered the gunners, captured batteries to the right and to the left, and were in control of the situation. Gordon's corps of about five thousand was on hand to sustain the attack but the remaining reserves, through failure of the guides, did not come, and the general found himself cut off with a rapidly increasing army surrounding him.

Fort Haskell, on the left, began to throw its shells. Under its cover, heavy columns of Federals sent by General Parke, now commanding the Ninth Corps, pressed forward. The Confederates resisted the charge, and from the captured Fort Stedman and the adjoining batteries poured volley after volley on Willcox's advancing lines of blue. The Northerners fell back, only to re-form and renew the attack. This time they secured a footing, and for twenty minutes the fighting was terrific. Again they were repulsed. Then across the brow of the hill swept the command of Hartranft. The blue masses literally poured onto the field. The furious musketry, and artillery directed by General Tidball, shrivelled up the ranks of Gordon until they fled from the Fort and its neighboring batteries in the midst of withering fire, and those who did not were captured. This was the last aggressive effort of the expiring Confederacy in front of Petersburg, and it cost three thousand men. The Federal loss was not half that number.

The affair at Fort Stedman did not turn Grant from his plans against the Confederate right. With the railroads here [283]

Siege of Petersburg.

This church at Petersburg stood near the tobacco warehouses shown in the lower picture, and here the Federal prisoners confined in the old brick building were praying for victory as they listened to the boom of cannon and the rattle of musketry through the terrible winter of 1864 and 1865. But every Sunday, in this church, prayers to the God of Battles for relief from the invader were raised in fervent zeal of spirit. In all the camps, and in all the cities of the North and South, throughout the war, each side, believing firmly in the justice of its cause, had regularly and earnestly thus appealed to the Almighty for the triumph of its arms.

In the Southern army in particular, religious fervor was high. During the previous winter, while Lee's troops were encamped on the Rapidan, revivals had swept nearly every soldier into the church. General Gordon says that “not only on the Sabbath day, but during the week, night after night, for long periods these services continued, increasing in attendance and interest until they brought under religious influence these great body of the army. Along the mountainsides and in the forest, where the Southern camps were pitched, the rocks and woods rang with appeals for holiness and consecration, with praises for past mercies and earnest prayers for future protection and deliverance. Thousands of these brave followers of Southern banners became consistent and devoted soldiers of the Cross.” And the same officer recalls that during the siege of Petersburg, especially after the attack on Fort Stedman, religious devotion was uncooled. “From the commander-in-chief to the privates in the ranks, there was a deep and sincere religious feeling in Lee's army. Whenever it was convenient or practicable, these hungry but unyielding men were holding prayer-meetings. Their supplications were fervent and often inspiring.”

On the memorable 2d of April, in the Richmond church in which he had been baptized and confirmed scarcely three years before, President Jefferson Davis received the ominous tidings sent by Lee to the capital of the Confederacy that both Petersburg and Richmond would have to be evacuated before the morning of April 4th. There followed a night of terror.

Where prayer rose for the waning cause: prayers for relief and prayers for victory

Where prisoners prayed for liberty

[284] destroyed, Richmond would be completely cut off. On the morning of the 29th, as previously arranged, the movement began. Sheridan swept to the south with his cavalry, as if he were to fall upon the railroads. General Warren, with fifteen thousand men, was working his way through the tangled woods and low swamps in the direction of Lee's right. At the same time, Lee stripped his entrenchments at Petersburg as much as he dared and hurried General Anderson, with infantry, and Fitzhugh Lee, with cavalry, forward to hold the roads over which he hoped to escape. On Friday morning, March 31st, the opposing forces, the Confederates much reenforced, found themselves at Dinwiddie Court House. The woods and swamps prevented the formation of a regular line of battle. Lee made his accustomed flank movement, with heavy loss to the Federals as they tried to move in the swampy forests. The Northerners finally were ready to advance when it was found that Lee had fallen back. During the day and night, reenforcements were coming in from all sides. The Confederates had taken their position at Five Forks.

Early the next afternoon, the 1st of April, Sheridan, reenforced by Warren, was arranging his troops for battle. The day was nearly spent when all was in readiness. The sun was not more than two hours high when the Northern army moved toward that of the South, defended by a breastwork behind a dense undergrowth of pines. Through this mass of timber the Federals crept with bayonets fixed. They charged upon the Confederates, but, at the same time, a galling fire poured into them from the left, spreading dismay and destruction in their midst. The intrepid Sheridan urged his black battle-charger, the famous Rienzi, now known as Winchester, up and down the lines, cheering his men on in the fight. He seemed to be everywhere at once. The Confederate left was streaming down the White Oak Road. But General Crawford had reached a cross-road, by taking a circuitous route, and the Southern army was thus shut off from retreat. The Federal [285]

Siege of Petersburg.

To this gallant young Georgia officer, just turned thirty-three at the time, Lee entrusted the last desperate effort to break through the tightening Federal lines, March 25, 1865. Lee was confronted by the dilemma of either being starved out of Petersburg and Richmond, or of getting out himself and uniting his army to that of Johnston in North Carolina, to crush Sherman before Grant could reach him. Gordon was to begin this latter, almost impossible, task by an attack on Fort Stedman, which the Confederates believed to be the weakest point in the Federal fortifications. The position had been captured from them in the beginning, and they knew that the nature of the ground and its nearness to their own lines had made it difficult to strengthen it very much. It was planned to surprise the Fort before daylight. Below are seen the rabbit-like burrows of Gracie's Salient, past which Gordon led his famished men. When the order came to go forward, they did not flinch, but hurled themselves bravely against fortifications far stronger than their own. Three columns of a hundred picked men each moved down the slope shown on the left and advanced in the darkness against Stedman. They were to be followed by a division. Through the gap which the storming parties were expected to open in the Federal lines, Gordon's columns would rush in both directions and a cavalry force was to sweep on and destroy the pontoon bridges across the Appomattox and to raid City Point, breaking up the Federal base. It was no light task, for although Fort Stedman itself was weak, it was flanked by Battery No. 10 on the right and by Battery No. 11 on the left. An attacking party on the right would be exposed to an enfilading fire in crossing the plain; while on the left the approach was difficult because of ravines, one of which the Confederate engineers had turned into a pond by damming a creek. All night long General Gordon's wife, with the brave women of Petersburg, sat up tearing strips of white cloth, to be tied on the arms of the men in the storming parties so that they could tell friend from foe in the darkness and confusion of the assault. Before the sleep-dazed Federals could offer effective resistance, Gordon's men had possession of the Fort and the batteries. Only after one of the severest engagements of the siege were the Confederates driven back.

General John B. Gordon, C. S. A.

Gracie's salient — after Gordon's forlorn hope had charged


Prisoners to Phil Sheridan: full rations at last. This group of the five thousand Confederate prisoners captured March 31st is eloquent of the tragedy in progress. Dire was the extremity of the Confederate cause in March, 1865. The words of the gallant leader in the last desperate and forlorn hope that charged Fort Stedman, General Gordon, give a pen-picture of the condition of the Southern fighting men: “Starvation, literal starvation, was doing its deadly work. So depleted and poisoned was the blood of many of Lee's men from insufficient and unsound food that a slight wound, which would probably not have been reported at the beginning of the war, would often cause blood-poison, gangrene and death, yet the spirits of these brave men seemed to rise as their condition grew more desperate.” But not only was it physical ailments and consequent inability to fight their best which brought about the downfall, it was numbers, the overwhelming numbers that were opposed against them. In an interview with General Gordon, Lee laid before him his reports, which showed how completely he understood the situation. Of his own fifty thousand men but thirty-five thousand were fit for duty. Lee's estimate of the forces of Grant was between one hundred and forty thousand and one hundred and fifty thousand. Coming up from Knoxville was Schofield with an estimated force of thirty thousand superb troops. From the valley Grant was bringing up nearly twenty thousand more, against whom, as Lee expressed it, he “could oppose scarcely a vidette.” Sherman was approaching from North Carolina, and his force when united with Scofield's would reach eighty thousand. It was impossible, and yet it was after this, that Gordon made his charge. South of Hatcher's Run, at the very westernmost part of the Confederate entrenchments, Sheridan fell upon the Confederate flank. It was a complete victory. With General Merritt and General Griffin sweeping in, the cavalry charged the works and five thousand Confederates were taken prisoners, besides those killed and wounded. The Federal loss was less than seven hundred. This was the last day of March. Lined up here we see some of these captured thousands about to receive their first square meal in many months.

[287] [288]

April second--where Lee watched From this mound General Lee watched the final Federal attack begin near Hatcher's Run on the morning of April 2, 1865. It was a serious party of officers that gathered in this battery on the inner line of Confederate fortifications before Petersburg. On the preceding days at Hatcher's Run, and again at Five Forks, Lee had attempted to break through the besiegers, but the efforts were futile, and no sooner had they ceased than the Federal army began to gather itself for the last grapple. All night of April 1st, till four in the morning, the Federal artillery had kept up a terrific bombardment along the whole line, and at daybreak Lee saw the Sixth Corps advancing to the assault. As they broke through the Confederate lines and wheeled to attack Fort Gregg, Lee called his staff about him, telling them to witness a most gallant defense. A moment later they saw the Stars and Stripes unfurled over the parapet. The depleted and worn-out Confederates had spent themselves to the last gasp. Not even Lee's veterans could fight starvation and overwhelming numbers at once. “This is a sad business!” were Lee's words as he turned to his staff. Couriers were bringing in reports of disasters all along his lines, and he gave the orders necessary for the holding of such of the interior defenses as would enable the Army of Northern Virginia to abandon Petersburg and Richmond.


April second--“this is a sad business” As his general watched, this boy fought to stem the Federal rush — but fell, his breast pierced by a bayonet, in the trenches of Fort Mahone. It is heart-rending to look at a picture such as this; it is sad to think of it and to write about it. Here is a boy of only fourteen years, his face innocent of a razor, his feet unshod and stockingless in the bitter April weather. It is to be hoped that the man who slew him has forgotten it, for this face would haunt him surely. Many who fought in the blue ranks were young, but in the South there were whole companies made up of such boys as this. At the battle of Newmarket the scholars of the Virgina Military Institute, the eldest seventeen and the youngest twelve, marched from the classrooms under arms, joined the forces of General Breckinridge, and aided by their historic charge to gain a brilliant victory over the Federal General Sigel. The never-give — in spirit was implanted in the youth of the Confederacy, as well as in the hearts of the grizzled veterans. Lee had inspired them, but in addition to this inspiration, as General Gordon writes, “every man of them was supported by their extraordinary consecration, resulting from the conviction that he was fighting in the defense of home and the rights of his State. Hence their unfaltering faith in the justice of the cause, their fortitude in the extremest privations, their readiness to stand shoeless and shivering in the trenches at night and to face any danger at their leader's call.”


At Fort Mahone--the first to meet the onslaught The tall young Southerner stretched here was outside the walls of Fort Mahone, and with scores of comrades met the first shock when the onsweep of the massed lines in blue came roaring down like a torrent upon the outer works. His musket, with the ramrod out, lies beside him, showing that he has even stayed to load; the ground is strewn with cartridges frantically torn open; his hands are grasped tightly over the gaping wound through his body; he will be laid away to rest on the very spot he has so splendidly defended.


“You will see a brave defense” : three soldiers who bore out Lee's prophecy When Lee, looking toward Fort Gregg as the Federals attacked on April 2d, said, “You will see a brave defense,” he spoke from intimate knowledge of his men. But even if they had been twice the number, they could not have done more than they did. If they had had three lives apiece they might have laid them down no more bravely nor uselessly. God was on the side of the bigger army. But in the outflanking trenches filled with mud, in the covers of the abatis, in the angles of the walls, and in the very last ditch, groups of men in gray fought with the desperation almost of wild animals with retreat cut off. The bayonet and clubbed musket did bloody work here; men rolled and grappled with each other in the half darkness of the early dawn, rising to their knees to fight again. It was relentless, terrible, and from the romantic point of view magnificent. Yet as we look at these poor heaps of day, the magnificence has vanished; horror and sorrow are the sensations that are aroused. Dead “Reb” or fallen “Yank,” these men who fell, though their voices are stilled, cry from their gory beds that such things may come to pass no more — their faces and forms, twisted as they fell, speak more eloquently than any words could, for peace.


Fresh ammunition in the path of the charge A veritable battle-photograph, in the fresh path of the charge within the Confederate works that had so long held the Federals back. This picture was taken very shortly after the rattle of their muskets had rung the knell of Petersburg. Beyond the parapet are the Federal lines and the intervening plain over which the men came at the double-quick that morning. Some regiment has halted here to replenish its ammunition. Boxes of cartridges have been hurried up and impatiently broken open. There was no time for the eager men to fill pouches and belts. Grabbing handfuls of the cartridges, they have thrust them into their pockets or the breasts of their jackets. Then, leaving many of the boxes but half emptied, they pressed on, loading as they ran. The picture is an eloquent bit of still life; even the belts and cartridge-pouches cast away in impatience tell of the hurry and heat of battle.


Siege of Petersburg.

It was the grand old Sixth Corps that crowned its splendid record on April 2d in the last great charge of the war upon an entrenched position. Silently the troops had been brought out on the night of the 1st and placed in position just in the rear of their own picket line. The darkness hid the intended movement even from the watchful eyes of the Confederate pickets. Orders for the strictest silence had been imposed upon each man. But suddenly the pickets broke out firing, and it was only with great exertions that the officers quieted the Federal outposts. The men in the columns had maintained their positions without a sound — not a shot fired, not a word uttered. At half-past 4 in the early morning a signal gun from Fort Fisher boomed and flashed through the early light. Rushing forward, breaking the Confederate line of outposts, down streamed the blue masses upon the main line of the defenses. Into their faces the men in gray poured deadly volleys from behind the earthworks and lines of spiked abatis. The latter were rolled aside, carried by main force and tossed into the ditches. General Wright, in command of this body of men, knew from the shouts even before he saw the flag upon the breastworks that the wedge had been driven home. Leaving behind their own dead and wounded lying mingled with the bodies of the brave defenders, without waiting for orders, men from each division of the Sixth Corps pressed ahead, broke up the South Side Railroad and cut the telegraph wires. When the officers had at length calmed the ardor of their troops and re-formed the lines, a large part of the corps wheeled to the left and dashed along the Confederate entrenchments, soon overcame all resistance and swept victoriously forward as far as Hatcher's Run, capturing artillery and a large number of prisoners. There they were again re-formed, marched back to the original point of attack, and thence pushed forward in conjunction with the Twenty-fourth Corps to complete the investment of Petersburg. In this advance some Confederate batteries, very dashingly handled, inflicted considerable loss until they were driven behind the inner lines of entrenchment, when the Union troops were halted with their left resting on the Appomattox. Petersburg had fallen. The end was only a week away.

Abatis and defender in the ditch

After the last great charge

[294] cavalry had dismounted and was doing its full share of work. The Confederates soon found themselves trapped, and the part of their army in action that day was nearly annihilated. About five thousand prisoners were taken.

With night came the news of the crushing blow to Lee. General Grant was seated by his camp-fire surrounded by his staff, when a courier dashed into his presence with the message of victory. Soon from every great gun along the Union line belched forth the sheets of flame. The earth shook with the awful cannonade. Mortar shells made huge parabolas through the air. The Union batteries crept closer and closer to the Confederate lines and the balls crashed into the streets of the doomed city. The bombardment of Petersburg was on.

At dawn of the 2nd of April the grand assault began. The Federal troops sprang forward with a rush. Despite the storms of grape and canister, the Sixth Corps plunged through the battery smoke, and across the walls, pushing the brave defenders to the inner works. The whole corps penetrated the lines and swept everything before it toward Hatcher's Run. Some of the troops even reached the South Side Railroad, where the brave General A. P. Hill fell mortally wounded.

Everywhere, the blue masses poured into the works. General Ord, on the right of the Sixth Corps, helped to shut the Confederate right into the city. General Parke, with the Ninth Corps, carried the main line. The thin gray line could no longer stem the tide that was engulfing it. The Confederate troops south of Hatcher's Run fled to the west, and fought General Miles until General Sheridan and a division from Meade appeared on the scene. By noon the Federals held the line of the outer works from Fort Gregg to the Appomattox. The last stronghold carried was Fort Gregg, at which the men of Gibbon's corps had one of the most desperate struggles of the war. The Confederates now fell back to the inner fortifications and the siege of Petersburg came to an end.

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