This city, on the south side of the Appomattox River
, about 20 miles from Richmond
, and 15 from City Point
, was occupied, in the summer of 1864, by a large Confederate force, who cast up strong intrenchments upon its exposed sides.
When the Army of the Potomac was led to the south side of the James River
(June 14-16), it began immediate operations against Petersburg
, which was then the strong defence of Richmond
, at Bermuda Hundred
, was very securely intrenched.
sent General Smith
's troops quickly back to him after the battle at cold Harbor
(q. v.), and directed him to co-operate with the Army of the Potomac in an attempt to capture Petersburg
On June 10 Butler
sent 10,500 men, under Gillmore
, and 1,500 cavalry, under Kautz
, to attack the Confederates
; at the same time two gunboats went up the Appomattox
to bombard an earthwork a little below the city.
The troops crossed the Appomattox
4 miles above City Point
, and marched on Petersburg
, while Kautz
swept round to attack on the south.
The enterprise was a failure, and the Nationals retired.
Five days later there was another attempt to capture Petersburg
arrived at Bermuda Hundred
with his troops on June 14, and pushed on to the front of the defences of Petersburg
, northeastward of the city.
These were found to be very formidable and, ignorant of what forces lay behind these works, he proceeded so cautiously that it was near sunset (June 15), before he was prepared for an assault.
The Confederates were driven from their strong line of rifle-pits.
Pushing on, Smith
captured a powerful salient, four redoubts, and a connecting line of intrenchments about 2 1/2 miles in extent, with 15 guns and 300 prisoners. Two divisions of Hancock
's corps had come up, and rested upon their arms within the works just captured.
While these troops were reposing, nearly the whole of Lee
Attacking the Confederate intrenchments.|
army were crossing the James River
, and troops were streaming down towards Petersburg
to assist in its defence, and during the night (June 15-16) very strong works were thrown up. The coveted prize was lost.
Twenty-four hours before, Petersburg
might have been easily taken; now it defied the Nationals, and endured a most distressing siege for ten months longer.
At the middle of June, a large portion of the Army of Northern Virginia was holding the city and the surrounding intrenchments, and a great part of the Army of the Potomac, with the command of Smith
upon its right, confronted the Confederates
On the evening of the 16th a heavy bombardment was opened upon the Confederate
works, and was kept up until 6 A. M. the next day. Birney
, of Hancock
's corps, stormed and carried a redoubt on his front, but Burnside
's corps could make no impression for a long time, in the face of a murderous fire.
There was a general advance of the Nationals, but at a fearful cost of life.
At dawn General Potter
's division of Burnside
's corps charged upon the works in their front, carried them, and captured four guns and 400 men. He was relieved by General Ledlie
's column, which advanced to within half a mile of the city, and held
Tearing up the Railroad.|
a position from which shells might be cast into the town.
They were driven back with great loss.
On the same day (June 16) General Butler
sent out General Terry
to force Beauregard
's lines, and destroy and hold, if possible, the railway in that vicinity.
He had gained possession of the track, and was proceeding to destroy it, when he was attacked by a division of Longstreet
's corps, on its way from Richmond
was driven back to the intrenchments at Bermuda Hundred
before aid could reach him. On the morning of the 17th the 7th and 9th Corps renewed the attack upon the works at Petersburg
, when the hill upon which Fort Steadman was afterwards built was carried and held by the former.
Another attack was made by the 9th Corps in the afternoon, and a severe battle began, and continued until night, with great slaughter.
Desperate attempts had been made to recapture what the Confederates
had lost, and that night a heavy Confederate force drove back the 9th (Burnside
A general assault was made on the 18th, with disaster to the Nationals, who were repulsed at every point.
Then, after a loss of nearly 10,000 men, further attempts to take Petersburg
by storm were abandoned for a while, and Grant
prepared for a regular siege.
He at once began intrenching, and to extend his left in the direction of the Petersburg and Weldon Railway, which he desired to seize, and thus envelop Petersburg
with his army.
He moved the corps of Hancock
stealthily to the left, to attempt to turn the Confederate
The former was pushed back.
On the following morning (June 22) the Nationals were attacked by divisions of the corps of A. P. Hill
, driving back a portion of them with heavy loss.
At sunset Meade
came up and ordered both corps to advance and retake what had been lost.
It was done, when Hill
retired with 2,500 prisoners. The next morning Hancock
advanced, and reached the Weldon
road without much opposition, until they began to destroy it, when a part of Hill
's corps drove off the destroyers.
line had now been extended to the Weldon
Meanwhile a cavalry expedition, 8,000 strong, under Kautz
, had been raiding upon the railways leading southward from Petersburg
, the latter being in chief command.
They destroyed the buildings at Reams's Station, 10 miles south of Petersburg
, and the track for a long distance.
They then struck the Southside Railway, and destroyed it over a space of 20 miles, fighting and defeating a cavalry force under Fitzhugh Lee
pushed on, and tore up the track of the Southside and Danville
railways, at and near their junction.
The united forces destroyed the Danville
road to the Staunton River
, where they were confronted by a large force of Confederates.
They were compelled to fight their way back to Reams's Station, on the Weldon
road, which they had left in the possession of the Nationals; but they found the cavalry of Wade Hampton
there, and a considerable body of Confederate infantry.
In attempting to force their way through them, the Nationals were defeated, with heavy loss, and they made their way sadly back to camp with their terribly shattered army of troopers.
Their estimated loss during the raid was nearly 1,000 men.
Now, after a struggle for two months, both armies were willing to seek repose, and for some time there was a lull in
the storm of strife.
The Union army lay in front of a formidable line of redans and redoubts, with lines of intrenchments and abatis, altogether 40 miles in length, extending from the left bank of the Appomattox
around to the western side of Petersburg
, and to and across the James
to the northeastern side of Richmond
Within eight or nine weeks, the Union
army, investing Petersburg
, had lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, about 70,000 men. Reinforcements had kept up its numbers, but not the quality of its materials.
Many veterans remained, but a vast number were raw troops.
continued building fortifications and preparing for an effective siege.
, by a quick movement, had thrown Foster
's brigade across the James River
at Deep Bottom
, and formed an intrenched camp there, within 10 miles of Richmond
, and connected with the army at Bermuda Hundred
by a pontoon bridge.
By this movement a way was provided to move heavy masses of troops to the north side of the James
at a moment's warning, if desired.
met this by laying a similar bridge at Drury's Bluff.
By the close of July, 1864, Grant
was in a position to choose his method of warfare—whether by a direct assault, by the slower process of a regular siege, or by heavy operations on the flanks of the Confederates
The regular siege of Petersburg
began in July.
On June 25 operations were started for mining under the Confederate
forts so as to blow them up. One of these was in charge of Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants
, who completed it on July 22.
When the mine was ready Grant
to assist Foster
to flank the Confederates
at Deep Bottom
, and, pushing on to Chapin's Bluff, below Drury's Bluff, to menace Lee
's line of communications across the river.
It was done; and, to meet the seeming impending danger to Richmond
withdrew five of his eight remaining divisions on the south side of the James
, between the 27th and the 29th.
's opportunity for a grand assault now offered.
The mine under one of the principal forts was exploded early on the morning of July 30, with terrible effect.
In the place of the fort was left a crater of loose earth, 200 feet in length, fully 50 feet in width, and from 20 to 30 feet in depth.
The fort, its guns, and other munitions of war, with 300 men, were thrown high in air and annihilated.
Then the great guns of the Nationals opened a heavy cannonade upon the remainder of the Confederate
works, with precision and fatal effect, all along the line; but, owing partly to the slowness of motion of a portion of the assaulting force, the result was a most disastrous failure on the part of the assailants.
A fortnight later General Grant
sent another expedition to the north side of the James
, at Deep Bottom
, composed of the divisions of Birney
, with cavalry under Gregg
They had sharp engagements with the Confederates
on Aug. 13, 16, and 18, in which the Nationals lost about 5,000 men without gaining any special advantage excepting the incidental one of giving assistance to troops sent to seize the Weldon Railway south of Petersburg
This General Warren
effected on Aug. 18. Three days afterwards he repulsed a Confederate force which attempted to recapture the portion of the road held by the Unionists; and on the same day (Aug. 21) General Hancock
, who had returned from the north side of the James
, struck the Weldon
road at Reams's Station and destroyed the track for some distance.
were finally driven from the road with considerable loss.
For a little more than a month after this there was comparative quiet in the vicinity of Petersburg
The National troops were moved simultaneously towards each city.
, with the corps of Birney
, moved upon and captured Fort Harrison
on Sept. 29.
These troops charged upon another fort near by, but were repulsed with heavy loss.
Among the slain was General Burnham
, and Ord
was severely wounded.
In honor of the slain general the captured works were named Fort Burnham
In these assaults the gallantry of the colored troops was conspicuous.
had sent Generals Warren
, with two divisions of troops each, to attempt the extension of the National
left to the Weldon
road and beyond.
It was a feint in favor of Butler
's movement on the
north side of the James
, but it resulted in severe fighting on Oct. 1 and 2, with varying fortunes for both parties.
Then there was another pause, but not a
The return Op the cavalry.|
settled rest, for about two months, when the greater portion of the Army of the Potomac was massed on the Confederate
right, south of the James
On Oct. 27 they assailed Lee
's works on Hatcher's Run
, westward of the Weldon
road, where a severe struggle ensued.
were repulsed, and, on the 29th, they withdrew to their intrenchments in front of Petersburg
Very little was done by the Army of the Potomac until the opening of the spring campaign of 1865.
The losses of that army had been fearful during six months, from the beginning of May until November, 1864.
The aggregate number in killed, wounded, missing, and prisoners was over 80,000 men, of whom nearly 10,000 were killed in battle.
Add to these the losses of the Army of the James during the same period, and the sum would be fully 100,000 men. The Army of the Potomac had captured 15,378 prisoners, sixty-seven colors, and thirty-two guns.
They had lost twenty-five guns.
The Confederates had lost, including 15,000 prisoners, about 40,000 men.
The Army of the Potomac had its winter quarters in front of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1864-65.
The left of the former held a tight grasp upon the Weldon
road, while the Army of the James, on the north side of that river, and forming the right of the besiegers of Petersburg
, had its pickets within a few miles of the latter city.
, at the same time, was at Kernstown
, near Winchester
, full master of the Shenandoah Valley from Harper's Ferry
's chief business during the winter was to hold Lee
tightly while Sherman
, and Canby
were making their important conquests, in accordance with the comprehensive plan of
The leaders in the Confederate government at Richmond
contemplated the abandonment of Virginia
and the concentration of the troops of Lee
south of the Roanoke
The politicians of Virginia
would not allow such a movement, nor would Lee
have led the Army of Northern Virginia out of that State; so President Davis
and his advisers had to abandon their project.
so firmly that he had no free choice in the matter.
It was near the close of March, 1865, before Grant
was ready for a general movement against Lee
in December Warren
had seized the Weldon
road farther south than had yet been done.
He destroyed it (Dec. 7) all the way to the Meherin River, meeting with little opposition.
A few weeks later there was some sharp skirmishing between Confederate gunboats and National batteries near Dutch Gap Canal
A little later a movement was made on the extreme left of the Nationals to seize the Southside Railway and to develop the strength of Lee
The entire army in front of Petersburg
received marching orders, and, on Feb. 6, the flanking movement began.
After a sharp fight near Hatcher's Run
, the Nationals permanently extended their left to that stream.
now determined to cut off all communication with Richmond
north of that city.
The opportunity offered towards the middle of February.
had drawn the greater portion of his forces from the Shenandoah Valley, and Sheridan
, under instructions, made a grand cavalry raid against the northern communications with the Confederate
capital, and especially for the seizure of Lynchburg
It was a most destructive march, and very bewildering to the Confederates
This raid, the junction of the National
armies in North Carolina
, and the operations at Mobile
and in Central Alabama
that he could no longer maintain his position, unless, by some means, his army might be vastly increased and new and ample resources for its supply obtained.
He had recommended the emancipation of the slaves and making soldiers of them, but the slave interest was too powerful in the civil councils of the Confederacy
to obtain a law to that effect.
Viewing the situation calmly, he saw no hope for the preservation of his army from starvation or capture, nor for the existence of the Confederacy
, except in breaking through Grant
's lines and forming a junction with Johnston
in North Carolina
He knew such a movement would be perilous, but he resolved to attempt it; and he prepared for a retreat from the Appomattox
to the Roanoke
saw symptoms of such a movement, and, on March 24, 1865, issued an order for a general forward movement on the 29th.
On the 25th Lee
's army attempted to break the National
line at the strong point of Fort Steadman, in front of the 9th Corps.
They also assailed Fort Haskell
, on the left of Fort Steadman, but were repulsed.
These were sharp but fruitless struggles by the Confederates
to break the line.
The grand movement of the whole National army on the 29th was begun by the left, for the purpose of turning Lee
's right, with an overwhelming force.
At the same time Sheridan
was approaching the Southside Railway to destroy it. Lee
's right intrenched lines extended beyond Hatcher's Run
, and against these and the men who held them the turning column marched.
, with three divisions of the Army of the James, had been drawn from the north side of that river and transferred to the left of the National lines
The remainder of Ord
's command was left in charge of General Weitzel
, to hold the extended lines of the Nationals, fully 35 miles in length.
reached Dinwiddie Court-house towards the evening of March 29.
Early that morning the corps of Warren
(5th) and Humphreys
(2d) moved on parallel roads against the flank of the Confederates
, and, when within 2 miles of their works, encountered a line of battle.
A sharp fight occurred, and the Confederates
were repulsed, with a loss of many killed and wounded and 100 made prisoners.
lost 370 men. Lee
now fully comprehended the perils that menaced him. The only line of communication with the rest of the Confederacy
might be cut at any hour.
He also perceived the necessity of strengthening his right to avert the impending shock of battle;
likewise of maintaining his extended line of works covering Petersburg
Not aware of the withdrawal of troops from the north side of the James
, he left Longstreet
's corps, 8,000 strong, to defend Richmond
had massed a great body of his troops—some 15,000—at a point in front of the corps of Warren
, the former on the extreme right of the Confederates
attempted (March 30) to break through the National lines
, and for a moment his success seemed assured.
A part of the line was pushed back, but Griffin
's division stood firm and stemmed the fierce torrent, while Ayres
reformed the broken column.
soon assumed the offensive,
made a countercharge, and, by the aid of a part of Hancock
's corps, drove back the Confederates
then struck another blow at a supposed weak point on the extreme left of the Nationals, held by Sheridan
A severe battle ensued (see five Forks, battle of
). Both parties lost heavily.
On the evening of the same day all the National
guns in front of Petersburg
opened on the Confederate
lines from Appomattox
to Hatcher's Run
, and Ord
, holding the intrenchments at Petersburg
, were ordered to follow up the bombardment with an assault.
The bombardment was kept up until 4 A. M. (April 2), and the assault began at daybreak.
carried the outer line of the Confederate
works in his front, but was checked at an inner line.
drove everything before him to the Boydton
plank-road, where he turned to the left towards Hatcher's Run
, and, pressing along the rear of the Confederate
intrenchments, captured several thousand men and many guns.
's division broke the Confederate
division on Hatcher's Run
, when the combined forces swung round to the right and pushed towards Petersburg
from the southwest.
On the same day the Southside Railway was first struck at three points by the Nationals, who had driven the Confederates
from their intrenchments and captured many.
This achievement effectually cut off one of Lee
's most important communications.
's division of Ord
's command captured two strong redoubts south of Petersburg
In this assault Gibbon
lost about 500 men. The Confederates were now confined to an inner line of works close around Petersburg
went to the help of Lee
, and the latter ordered a charge to be made to recover some of the lost intrenchments.
It failed; and so ended the really last blow struck for the defence of Richmond
Gen. A. P. Hill
, one of Lee
's best officers, was shot dead while reconnoitring.
now perceived that he could no longer hold Petersburg
or the capital with safety
to his army.
At 10.30 on Sunday morning (April 2) he telegraphed to the government at Richmond
: “My lines are broken in three places; Richmond
must be evacuated this evening.”
's troops withdrew from Petersburg
, and the struggle there ended.