PETERSBURG, VA
JUNE 15TH, 1864 - APRIL 2ND, 1865

     Petersburg, Va., June 15, 1864, to April 2, 1865.  Army 
of the Potomac and Army of the James.  When the Army of the 
Potomac began the campaign from the Rapidan to the James on 
May 4, 1864, Gen. Butler, with the Army of the James, was 
directed to move against Richmond by the south bank of the 
James river, and Gen. Hunter was to move up the Shenandoah 
Valley, "destroying, as far as practicable, railroads that 
could be used as lines of supplies to the enemy, and also the 
James river and the Kanawha canal."  After the battle of Cold 
Harbor on June 3, Grant resolved to transfer the field of 
operations to the south side of the James, and on the 5th he 
sent a despatch to Gen. Halleck, chief of staff, in which he 
stated: "My idea from the start has been to beat Lee's army if 
possible north of Richmond; then after destroying his lines of 
communication on the north side of the James river to transfer 
the army to the south side and besiege Lee in Richmond, or 
follow him south if he should retreat. * * * Once on the south 
side of the James river, I can cut off all sources of supply 
to the enemy except what is furnished by the canal.  If Hunter 
succeeds in reaching Lynchburg, that will be lost to him also. 
Should Hunter not succeed, I will still make the effort to 
destroy the canal by sending cavalry up the south side of the 
river with a pontoon train to cross wherever they can."  Grant 
had now adopted practically the same plan that had been 
proposed by McClellan two years before.  In June, 1862, 
McClellan said: "The superiority of the James river route as a 
line of attack and supply is too obvious to need exposition," 
and again in August, when the authorities in Washington were 
needlessly alarmed for the safety of the national capital, he 
telegraphed Gen. Halleck: "Here is the true defense of 
Washington.  It is here on the banks of the James, that the 
fate of the Union should be decided."  In view of the final 
success of the army under Grant these words are prophetic.

     The siege of Petersburg was also the siege of Richmond, 
for with the fall of the former the latter was doomed.  From 
Richmond the James river flows south in almost a straight line 
for 10 miles, when it turns toward the southeast and after a 
sinuous course receives the Appomattox at City Point. 
Petersburg is located on the Appomattox, 10 miles above its 
mouth and 22 miles south of Richmond.  The two cities were 
connected by the Richmond & Petersburg railway.  From 
Petersburg the South Side railroad ran west along the bank of 
the Appomattox to Lynchburg; the Weldon railroad ran south and 
the Norfolk southeast.  A short line also connected Petersburg 
with City Point.  Directly across the James from Richmond was 
the village of Manchester, from which the Richmond & Danville 
railroad ran west along the south bank of the James river, 
while along the north bank of that stream was the Kanawha 
canal, mentioned by Grant in his despatch to Halleck.  To cut 
these lines of communication was the first object of the 
Federal commander.  About half way between Petersburg and City 
Point are the Point of Rocks and Broadway landing on the 
Appomattox.  From this point to the Dutch Gap bend on the 
James the distance in a straight line is about 3 miles.  The 
peninsula enclosed by the two rivers below this line is known 
as Bermuda Hundred, which had been occupied by Butler early in 
May and a line of works constructed across the neck of the 
peninsula.  This position was a strong one for defense, but 
Gen. Beauregard, commanding the defenses of Petersburg, threw 
up a line of works immediately in Butler's front, thus 
preventing his further advance and bottling him up on the 
peninsula, where he remained until the Army of the Potomac 
moved to the south side of the James.  On June 9, Kautz 
charged and carried a portion of the Petersburg works, but not 
being supported by the infantry was unable to hold them, 
though he brought out 40 prisoners and 1 piece of artillery 
when he withdrew.

     The withdrawal of troops from Cold Harbor began on the 
1Oth.  Shortly after dark on the 12th the 18th corps, the last 
to leave the trenches, took up the march to White House 
landing on the Pamunkey river, where the men were embarked on 
transports, and by sunset on the 14th the corps joined Butler 
at Bermuda Hundred, near the junction of the James and 
Appomattox rivers.  The other corps crossed the Chickahominy 
and marched across the country, striking the James river in 
the vicinity of Malvern hill.  By the 20th of June Grant had 
about 110,000 men in front of the Petersburg and Richmond 
intrenchments.  His forces were organized as follows: The Army 
of the Potomac, Maj.-Gen. George G. Meade, commanding, 
consisted of the 2nd 5th, 6th and 9th corps of infantry and 
the cavalry corps.  The 2nd corps was commanded by Maj.-Gen. 
Winfield S. Hancock and was composed of three divisions, the 
first under command of Brig.-Gen. Francis C. Barlow, the 2nd 
under Maj.-Gen. John Gibbon, and the 3rd under Maj.-Gen. David 
B. Birney.  The 5th corps, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Gouverneur 
K. Warren, embraced four divisions, respectively commanded by 
Brig.-Gens. Charles Griffin, Romeyn B. Ayres, Samuel W. 
Crawford and Lysander Cutler.  The 6th corps, Maj.-Gen. 
Horatio G. Wright commanding, included three divisions, the 
1st commanded by Brig.-Gen. David A. Russell, the 2nd by 
Brig.-Gen. George W. Getty, and the 3rd by Brig.-Gen. James B. 
Ricketts. Maj.-Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside was in command of the 
9th corps. which was composed of four divisions respectively 
commanded by Brig.-Gens. James H. Ledlie, Robert H. Potter, 
Orlando B. Willcox and Edward Ferrero, the last named being 
composed of colored troops.  The cavalry corps was under 
command of Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, and was made up of 
three divisions, the 1st commanded by Brig.-Gen. Alfred T. A. 
Torbert, the 2nd by Brig.-Gen. David McM. Gregg, and the 3rd 
by Brig.-Gen. James H. Wilson.  With the 2nd corps was the 
artillery brigade of Col. John C. Tidball, Col. Charles S. 
Wainwright commanded the artillery brigade of the 5th corps, 
and Col. Charles H. Tompkins of the 6th, while the artillery 
of the 9th was distributed among the several divisions.  Capt. 
James M. Robertson's brigade of horse artillery was attached 
to Sheridan's command.  The Army of the James, Maj.-Gen. 
Benjamin F. Butler commanding, was made up of the 1Oth. and 
18th infantry corps, the cavalry division under Brig. Gen. 
August V. Kautz, the siege artillery under Col. Henry L Abbot, 
and the naval brigade under Brig.-Gen. Charles K. Graham.  The 
1Oth. corps, commanded by Brig.-Gen. William H. T. Brooks, 
included the three divisions commanded by Brig.-Gens. Alfred 
H. Terry, John W. Turner and Orris K. Ferry.  The 18th corps, 
commanded by Maj.-Gen. William F. Smith, embraced the three 
divisions under Brig.-Gens. George J. Stannard, John H. 
Martindale and Edward W. Hinks.  In addition to the regular 
organizations named there were some unattached troops.

     Early on the morning of June 13, Lee discovered that the 
Federal troops in his front had been withdrawn, and 
immediately put his own army in motion for the Richmond and 
Petersburg intrenchmeets.  The Confederate works about the two 
cities are thus described by Hotchkiss in the Virginia volume 
of the Confederate Military History: "At this time, 
Beauregard's left rested on the navigable Appomattox, about 
one mile north of east from Petersburg. * * * On his right, 
Anderson, with the First corps, extended the Confederate line 
for some 3 miles to the southward, in front of Petersburg, 
crossing the Norfolk & Petersburg railroad in the vicinity of 
the Jerusalem plank road, thence westward for some 2 miles; 
the Third corps, under A. P. Hill, extended the Confederate 
right, on the south of Petersburg, to the Weldon & Petersburg 
railroad.  Pickett's division took up the line on the west 
side of the Appomattox and extended it north to the James, at 
the big bend opposite Dutch gap.  The fortifications on the 
north of the James from Chaffin's bluff northward, along the 
front of Richmond, were held by batteries and by local troops 
in command of Lieut.-Gen. R. S. Ewell.  Subsequently the 
Confederate works were extended to the southwest of Petersburg 
for more than 10 miles to beyond Hatcher's run, until Lee's 
line of defensive works, consisting of forts and redoubts 
connected by breastworks and strengthened by all means known 
to the art of war, extended for nearly 40 miles."  According 
to the same authority, "Lee had, in his 40-mile line, for the 
defense of Richmond and Petersburg, some 54,000 men, the 
remaining veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia, and of 
the department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia, 
Beauregard's army."  From official sources it is learned that 
on June 30, Lee's forces numbered 54,751 men, which was 
gradually increased until on December 20, he had 66,533. 
During the same period the Union army had lost in killed, 
wounded and missing 47,554 men, but recruits had been brought 
in until on Dec. 20, Grant had 110,364 men of all arms in 
front of the Confederate works.

     About 4 a.m. on June 15, Smith's corps and Kautz's 
cavalry left Broadway landing for an assault on Beauregard's 
works.  Kautz soon met the Confederate skirmishers and at 
Baylor's farm about 4 miles from Petersburg, a force of 
infantry and artillery was found occupying a line of rifle-
pits.  Hinks' division of colored troops made a vigorous 
attack, dislodged the enemy and captured 1 piece of artillery. 
Smith then advanced about a mile and a half to the Jordan 
farm, where his entire front was subjected to an artillery 
fire that drove the Union batteries from their position.  Some 
delay was incurred in reconnoitering, but at 7 p. m. the 
divisions of Brooks and Hinks pushed forward and carried the 
works, capturing over 200 prisoners, 4 guns, with horses, 
caissons and ammunition, several stands of colors and the 
intrenching tools.  About the same time Martindale's division 
carried the works between Jordan's house and the Appomattox, 
capturing 2 pieces of artillery and equipments complete. 
Hancock was directed on the evening of the 18th to hold his 
corps in readiness to move, but he was delayed in waiting or 
rations from City Point until 10:30 a.m. on the 15th when the 
command moved without the rations.  Owing to an incorrect map 
he was unable to join Smith until after the action at Jordan's 
was over.  At 8 o'clock that evening Burnside started the 9th 
corps to reinforce Smith and Hancock, and at 10 o'clock the 
next morning his command went into position on Hancock's left. 
Hancock was placed in command of all the troops and ordered to 
make a general assault at 6 p.m.  Before that hour Egan's 
brigade of Birney's division assaulted and carried a redoubt, 
known as redan No. 12, on Birney's left.  In the attack at 6 
o'clock redans Nos. 4, 13 and 14, with their connecting lines 
of breastworks, were carried, but with considerable loss to 
the assailants.  At dawn on the 17th Potter's division 
surprised the enemy in the works on the ridge near the Shand 
house, captured 4 guns, 5 stands of colors, 600 prisoners and 
1,50O stands of small arms.  This was accomplished without a 
shot being fired, the bayonet alone being used.  The 
Confederates were asleep with their arms in their hands, but 
Potter's men moved so quietly, and at the same time so 
swiftly, that they were over the works before the alarm could 
be given.  Those captured surrendered without resistance and 
the others fled precipitately to an intrenched position along 
the west side of Harrison's creek.  Later in the day this line 
was attacked by Willcox, but owing to a heavy enfilading fire 
of artillery from the left, and the lack of proper support, 
the assault was repulsed.  Hartranft's brigade went into this 
action with 1,890 men, of whom but 1,050 came back.

     In the meantime Warren's corps had come up and taken 
position on the left of Burnside.  From prisoners Meade 
learned the character of Beauregard's intrenchments and the 
strength of his force, and ordered an assault by the whole 
line to be made at daylight on the morning of the 18th, hoping 
to carry the works before Lee could send reinforcements.  When 
the line advanced on the morning of the 18th it was found that 
the enemy had evacuated the trenches held the day before and 
now occupied a new line some distance farther back toward the 
city of Petersburg.  It was also discovered that Field's and 
Kershaw's divisions had arrived during the night and were 
already in position to meet the assault.  On account of the 
change in the enemy's position and the nature of the ground 
over which the Federal troops had to advance, the attack was 
postponed until 12 o'clock.  The 2nd corps then made two 
attacks on the right of the Prince George Court House road, 
but both were repulsed.  Burnside encountered some difficulty 
in driving the Confederates from the railroad cut, but finally 
succeeded and established his corps within a hundred yards of 
the enemy's main line.  Warren's assault was also 
unsuccessful, though some of Griffin's men fell within 20 feet 
of the enemy's works.  Martindale's division carried a line of 
rifle-pits, but made no attack on the main line.  The 
positions gained by the several commands were then intrenched 
"and the siege of Petersburg was begun in earnest.  From that 
time until the fall of the city on April 2, 1865, there was 
almost daily skirmishing at some point along the lines in 
front of Petersburg, with more serious engagements on the 
Jerusalem plank road, at Deep Bottom, long the Weldon, South 
Side and Danville railroads, Reams' Station, Yellow Tavern, 
Globe Tavern, Dinwiddie Court.  House, Fort Harrison, 
Chaffin's farm, Fair Oaks, Hatcher's run, Five Forks, Sailor's 
creek, and a number of minor skirmishes, each of which is 
herein treated under the proper head.

     In Potter's division of the 9th corps was the 48th Pa., a 
Regiment made up chiefly of miners from Schuylkill county and 
commanded by Lieut.-Col. Henry Pleasants, who was a practical 
mining engineer.  After the assault of the 18th the men of 
this regiment began discussing the feasibility of running a 
mine under the enemy's works, and the plan was finally 
proposed by Pleasants to Burnside, who gave the project his 
unqualified approval and gained Meade's consent to it.  The 
portion of the works to be mined was known as Elliott's 
salient, being occupied by Elliott's brigade of Bushrod 
Johnson's division and was near the center of the line on the 
east side of the city.  With no tools but the pick and shovel 
the Pennsylvanians excavated a main gallery 522 feet in length 
with lateral galleries 37 and 38 feet long running under and 
nearly parallel to the enemy's works, the earth taken from the 
tunnel being carried out in cracker boxes.  The work was 
commenced on June 25, and on July 27 the mine was charged with 
8,000 pounds of powder which was placed in eight magazines of 
1,000 pounds each.  On the 26th Burnside reported his plan for 
an assault to follow immediately upon the explosion of the 
mine.  This plan contemplated the placing of Ferrero's 
division in the advance, because his other divisions had been 
under a heavy fire, day and night, for more than a month, 
while the colored troops had been held as a reserve.  This 
selection was not approved by Meade and Grant, partly for the 
reason that it might be charged they were willing to sacrifice 
the negro soldiers by pushing them forward and partly because 
Ferrero's division had never been in close contact with the 
enemy and it was not known how they would conduct themselves 
in such an emergency, though the men had been drilling for 
several weeks for the work, and were not only willing but 
anxious for the undertaking.  A division was then selected by 
lot, and it fell to Gen. Ledlie to lead the assault.  This was 
Burnside's weakest division and was commanded by a man whom 
Gen. Humphreys, Meade's chief of staff, characterizes as "an 
officer whose total unfitness for such a duty ought to have 
been known to Gen. Burnside, though it is not possible that it 
could have been.  It was not known to Gen. Meade."

     On the 29th an order was issued from headquarters 
providing that "At half past three in the morning of the 30th, 
Maj.-Gen. Burnside will spring his mine, and his assaulting 
columns will immediately move rapidly upon the breach, seize 
the crest in the rear and effect a lodgment there.  He will be 
followed by Maj.-Gen. Ord (now in command of the 18th corps), 
who will support him on the right, directing his movement to 
the crest indicated, and by Maj.-Gen. Warren who will support 
him on the left.  Upon the explosion of the mine the artillery 
of all kinds in battery will open upon those points of the 
enemy's works whose fire covers the ground over which our 
columns must move, care being taken to avoid impeding the 
progress of our troops.  Special instructions respecting the 
direction of the fire will be issued through the Chief of 
Artillery."

     At the appointed time Ledlie's division was in position 
in two lines, Marshall's brigade in front and Bartlett's in 
the rear, ready to charge into the breach the moment the mine 
was sprung.  Four o'clock came and still no explosion. 
Officers and men who had been in a state of feverish 
expectancy since shortly after midnight, began to grow 
restless.  An officer was sent to Burnside to inquire the 
cause of the delay, and it was learned that the fuse had died 
out Lieut. Jacob Douty and Sergt.  Henry Rees volunteered to 
enter the gallery and reignite the fuse.  Their efforts were 
crowned with success though they had barely emerged from the 
mouth of the mine at 4:45 when the explosion took place.  A 
solid mass of earth, mingled with timbers, dismantled cannon 
and human beings, rose 200 feet in the air, and where 
Elliott's salient had stood was a ragged crater 170 feet long, 
60 wide and 30 feet deep, filled with dust and debris. 
Immediately the Federal artillery-about 160 guns and mortars-
opened fire and as soon as the dust had cleared away 
Marshall's line advanced closely followed by Bartlett's, but 
the men could not resist the temptation to crowd forward to 
look into the hole, and the two brigades became hopelessly 
mixed.  When the explosion occurred the Confederates hurried 
away from the intrenchments for 200 or 300 yards on either 
side of the mine, but the confusion of Ledlie's men and the 
delay in restoring something like order gave the enemy time to 
recover from his bewilderment, so that when the Union troops 
attempted to cross the crater they were met by a fire of 
musketry, straggling at first but increasing in effectiveness 
until at the end of half an hour the two brigades were huddled 
in a confused mass in the hole, unable to advance or withdraw. 
Gen. Humphreys says: "Gen. Ledlie did not accompany, much less 
lead, his division.  He remained, according to the testimony 
before the Court of Inquiry that followed, in a bomb-proof 
about 50 yards inside our intrenchments, from which he could 
see nothing that was going on.  He could not have given the 
instructions he received to his brigade commanders.  Had the 
division advanced in column of attack, led by a resolute, 
intelligent commander, it would have gained the crest in 
fifteen minutes after the explosion, and before any serious 
opposition could have been made to it."

     Willcox sent in part of a brigade on the left of the 
mine, halting the remainder of his command until Ledlie's men 
should advance.  He was criticized by the court of inquiry for 
not making efforts "commensurate with the occasion to carry 
out Gen. Burnside's order to advance to Cemetery Hill."  
Ferrero moved in the rear of Willcox and upon reaching the 
most advanced line of the Federal works was compelled to halt 
on account of other troops occupying the position assigned to 
him.  After some delay he was ordered to advance and carry the 
crest beyond the crater and was moving forward for that 
purpose when he was directed to halt.  All seemed to be 
confusion, for in a little while the order to advance was 
renewed.  By this time the enemy had strengthened his position 
on the hill and when Ferrero tried to carry it he failed.  His 
colored troops established their valor, however, as in his 
report Ferrero says : "They were repulsed, but veterans could 
hardly have stood the fire to which they were exposed."  At 
6:30 orders were again sent to the division commanders not to 
halt at the works, but to advance at once to the crest without 
waiting for mutual support.  Potter had moved his division 
forward by the flank soon after Ledlie began his advance.  
Upon reaching the vicinity of the mine Griffin's brigade 
turned to the right, took possession of the intrenchments 
which the Confederates had abandoned and began an attack upon 
Elliott's troops which were forced back after a long and 
severe contest.  The other brigade attacked on the right of 
Griffin but was repulsed.  The support of Ord and Warren did 
not come up to the expectations and at 9:15, after four hours 
of desultory fighting, Burnside received a peremptory order to 
withdraw his troops from the enemy's lines and cease offensive 
operations.  This order was sent into the crater with 
instructions to the brigade commanders to consult and 
determine as to the time and manner of retiring.  They sent 
back a request that a heavy fire of artillery and infantry 
should be opened to cover the withdrawal, but before the 
messenger reached Burnside the enemy made another attack and 
the men fell back in some disorder,.leaving the wounded to 
fall into the hands of the Confederates.  The Union loss on 
the 30th was 419 killed, 1,679 wounded and 1,910 missing. 
Marshall and Bartlett were both captured and 23 regimental 
commanders were reported either killed, wounded or missing.  
On the Confederate side the loss in Elliott's brigade was 677, 
and as Weisinger's brigade lost about as heavily the total 
casualties among the enemy numbered probably not far from 
1,000, most of whom were killed or wounded, as but few 
prisoners were taken by the Federals.

     On July 5, Gen. Early, commanding the Confederate forces 
in the Shenandoah valley, crossed the Potomac near 
Shepherdstown and moved toward Washington, hoping thereby to 
compel Grant to withdraw troops from in front of Richmond and 
Petersburg for the defense of the national capital and thus 
giving Lee an opportunity to once more assume the offensive. 
Grant did send Wright with the 6th corps to Washington and 
this corps was not with the Army of the Potomac again until 
the early part of December.  Soon after the mine explosion Lee 
felt that he could reduce his force at Petersburg and sent 
Kershaw's division to reinforce Early in the valley.  Grant 
met this movement by sending Sheridan with two divisions of 
cavalry early in August to operate against Early.  After the 
failure of Burnside's mine no more assaults were made on the 
Confederate fortifications, the Union army conducting the 
siege by regular approaches, raids against the railroads and 
various movements by detachments.  A few days after the battle 
of Hatcher's run (Oct. 27,) the army went into winter quarters 
and from that time until the next spring the operations were 
confined to occasional picket firing and artillery duels.  
Late in the summer Butler conceived the idea of cutting a 
canal across the narrow neck of the peninsula known as Dutch 
gap, by means of which the Union gunboats could ascend the 
James river without running the fire of the Confederate 
batteries.  The isthmus was less than half a mile in width and 
by the close of the year the canal was completed, except a 
bulkhead at the upper end.  This was blown up on New Year's 
day, but the earth fell back in the canal and the enemy 
immediately planted a battery opposite the entrance to the 
canal, thus preventing its being opened, and the whole scheme 
came to naught.

     By the latter part of March, 1865, numerous changes 
occurred in the Union army.  Hancock had been sent north to 
organize a new corps and the 2nd was now commanded by Maj.-
Gen. A. A. Humphreys' the divisions being commanded by Miles, 
Barlow and Mott. Cutler's division of the 5th corps was no 
longer in existence as a separate organization.  The divisions 
of the 6th corps were commanded by Wheaton, Getty and Seymour. 
After the mine explosion Burnside was, at his own request, 
granted leave of absence, the command of the 9th corps being 
turned over to Maj.-Gen. John G. Parke. Willcox took command 
of the 1st division, Potter of the 2nd and Brig.-Gen. John F. 
Hartranft of the 3rd. Sheridan still commanded the cavalry of 
the army, the 1st and 3rd divisions, commanded by Devin and 
Custer, being known as the Army of the Shenandoah under 
command of Gen. Merritt, and the 2nd division was commanded by 
Gen. George Crook.  Wilson had been sent to Gen. Thomas at 
Nashville, Tenn.  The Army of the James, Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. 
Ord commanding, was composed of the 24th and 25th corps and 
some detached troops guarding the defenses of Bermuda Hundred 
and the landings along the James.  The 24th corps, under Maj.-
Gen. John Gibbon, included the divisions of Foster, Devens and 
Turner, and the 25th, Maj.-Gen. Godfrey Weitzel commanding, 
consisted of the divisions of Maj.-Gen. August V. Kautz, 
Brig.-Gen. William Birney, and the cavalry division under 
Brig.-Gen. Ranald S. Mackenzie.  On the last day of March the 
total strength of the army that was destined to close the war 
in Virginia was 114,335 men.

     On Feb. 27, 1865, Sheridan, with the two divisions of 
cavalry left Winchester and moved up the Shenandoah valley via 
Staunton and Charlottesville to within a short distance of 
Lynchburg, destroying the James river canal for some distance, 
and on March 27, effected a Junction with Grant's army in 
front of Petersburg and Richmond.  A few days before his 
arrival Lee and Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, 
held a conference in Richmond, at which it was decided to 
abandon the Richmond and Petersburg lines as soon as the 
railroads would admit of it, the purpose being to unite Lee's 
forces with those of Johnston in North Carolina and attack 
Sherman there.  Lee knew that Grant was preparing for a 
movement against the Danville and South Side railroads and to 
counteract this he proposed a sortie against the works on the 
east side of Petersburg, which he believed would oblige Grant 
to concentrate there, thus thwarting the design on the 
railroads and postponing the evacuation until the weather was 
more favorable.  The point selected for the attack was a 
redoubt known as Fort Stedman, about a mile from the 
Appomattox and not more than 15O yards from the Confederate 
works.  This part of the line was held by the 9th corps, 
Willcox on the right Potter on the left and Hartranft in 
reserve, Fort Stedman being garrisoned by a detachment of the 
18th N. Y. heavy artillery under Maj. G. M. Randall. Gordon's 
corps was chosen to lead the assault in which he was to be 
supported by portions of Hill's and Longstreet's commands.  At 
this time Lee's army was in desperate straits for food.  The 
capture of Fort Fisher in January had closed the port of 
Wilmington to the Confederacy, thus making it impossible to 
obtain supplies from abroad.  It had become a common 
occurrence for squads of Confederate soldiers, impelled by the 
hope of securing better rations, to desert with their arms in 
their hands and come over to the Union lines.  About 4 a.m. on 
March 25 several such squads, claiming to be deserters, left 
the enemy's works and when near enough made a dash and 
overpowered the Federal pickets.  Immediately three strong 
columns emerged from the Confederate abatis, one moving 
straight on Fort Stedman, one on Battery No 10, a short 
distance north of the fort, and the third against Battery No. 
11, about the same distance on the south of it.  The second 
column broke the main line between Batteries 9 and 10 and then 
turned toward the fort, taking it on the flank.  The garrison 
was soon overpowered and the guns of the fort, as well as 
those of Battery 10, were turned on Willcox's troops. 
Batteries 11 and 12 were quickly captured by the column that 
had turned to the right, and for a little while it looked as 
though Gordon's attack was to be a complete success.  When the 
assault was commenced it was so dark that friends and foes 
could not be distinguished and the artillery of the other 
batteries could not be used.  As soon as it was light enough 
Gen. McLaughlin, whose brigade occupied the line near Battery 
11 opened a mortar fire on the enemy there and soon afterward 
carried the battery at the point of the bayonet.  He then 
entered Fort Stedman, not knowing it was in the hands of the 
enemy, and was taken prisoner.  Gordon was under the mistaken 
impression that there were some forts in the rear of the main 
line and the column which captured Battery 10 was moving to 
capture these forts when it came in contact with Hartranft's 
division, which was coming up to Willcox's support, and was 
driven back to the battery and Fort Stedman.  Battery 12 was 
retaken soon after No. 11, and by 7:30 Parke had driven the 
Confederates there into the fort, upon which was concentrated 
the fire of several of the Union batteries on the high ground 
in the rear.  A heavy cross-fire of artillery and infantry was 
also brought to bear on the open space between the lines, 
rendering it almost impossible for the enemy to return to his 
own works or to receive reinforcements.  Hartranft then moved 
against the enemy in the fort and recaptured the position with 
comparatively small loss, capturing 1,949 prisoners, most of 
whom had sought shelter in the bomb-proofs, and 9 stands of 
colors.  Many of the Confederates were killed or wounded by 
the murderous cross-fire, while endeavoring to get back to 
their own lines.  The Union loss was 494 in killed and wounded 
and 523 missing.  The 2nd and 6th corps were then directed to 
make a reconnaissance of the enemy's works in front of Fort 
Fisher on the right of Fort Stedman, and to attack if it was 
found the force there had been sufficiently weakened to 
support Gordon.  The intrenched picket line was carried and 
the Union troops advanced close to the main works, when it was 
found that Hill occupied them with a force too strong to be 
assaulted.  The enemy tried to recapture the picket line at 
several points, but every attack was repulsed.  In this affair 
the Union loss was about 900 in killed and wounded and 177 
missing.  The Confederate loss in killed and wounded was about 
the same and nearly 1,000 were captured.

     Grant was now in shape to operate against the railroads 
on Lee's right.  On April 1 the Confederate forces under Gen. 
Pickett were defeated in the battle of Five Forks, and on the 
morning of the 2nd the 6th corps broke through the Confederate 
lines near Hatcher's run, about 4 miles southwest of 
Petersburg.  In an attempt to recover the captured line Gen. 
A.P. Hill, one of Lee's ablest lieutenants, was killed.  The 
defeat of Pickett and the breaking of his line determined Lee 
to evacuate the Petersburg fortifications before it was too 
late, and early on Sunday morning, April 2, he sent the 
following despatch to Gen. J. C. Breckenridge, Confederate 
secretary of war: "I see no prospect of doing more than 
holding our position here till tonight.  I am not certain that 
I can do that.  If I can I shall withdraw tonight north of the 
Appomattox, and, if possible, it will be better to withdraw 
the whole line tonight from the James river.  The brigades on 
Hatcher's run are cut off from us; the enemy has broken 
through our lines and intercepted between us and them, and 
there is no bridge over which they can cross the Appomattox 
this side of Goode's or Beaver's, which are not very far from 
the Danville railroad.  Our only chance, then, of 
concentrating our forces is to do so near the Danville 
railway, which I shall endeavor to do at once.  I advise that 
all preparation be made for leaving Richmond tonight.  I will 
advise you later, according to circumstances."

     This despatch-reached Richmond at 10:40 a. m. and was 
handed to President Davis while in attendance upon the service 
at St. Paul's church.  He at once left the church and late in 
the day, in company with the officials of the Confederate 
States, took a train for Danville.  That night the Confederate 
army withdrew from Richmond and Petersburg and commenced its 
last march, the line of which was up the Appomattox river 
toward Amelia Court House.  During the winter the people of 
Richmond had been kept in ignorance of the real state of 
affairs and gave themselves up to pleasures, confidently 
expecting to hear any moment of a great Confederate victory. 
Lee's despatch, therefore, created consternation among them 
and there was a mad rush for the railroad stations in the 
desire to leave the doomed city.  But transportation was out 
of the question, as every available coach and car were loaded 
with the officials, attaches and effects of the government, 
and to make matters worse orders had been issued that none 
should be permitted to board the trains without a pass from 
the secretary of war who could nowhere be found.  Ewell's 
command was the last to leave the city, and scarcely had his 
rearguard departed when a fire broke out near the center of 
the town and the mob took possession.  Stores were broken open 
and plundered private residences were robbed and new fires 
kindled, until the city was a perfect pandemonium.

     At 3 a.m. on the 3rd Parke and Wright discovered that the 
enemy had been withdrawn from the trenches in their front, and 
upon advancing ascertained that Petersburg was evacuated. 
Willcox was ordered to occupy the town with his division, 
while the remainder of the 9th, with all of the 6th and 2nd 
corps, pushed on after Lee.  Weitzel, who commanded the Union 
forces on the north side of the James, was informed by Gen. 
Devens about 5 o'clock that the Federal pickets had possession 
of the enemy's line.  Two staff officers, with 40 of the 
headquarters, cavalry, were sent forward to receive the 
surrender of the city, in case the Confederates had evacuated 
it, and soon afterward Weitzel followed with the divisions of 
Kautz and Devens.  Entering the city by the Osborn pike, 
Weitzel rode direct to the city hall, where he received the 
formal surrender of the city at 8:15 a.m.  For several days 
Lieut. J. L. de Peyster, a son of Maj.Gen. J. W. de Peyster, 
had carried a United States flag upon the pommel of his 
saddle, ready to raise it over the Confederate capitol when 
the city should fall into the hands of the Union forces.  The 
same flag had waved over Butler's headquarters at New Orleans. 
Scarcely had the surrender been made before de Peyster, in 
company with Capt. Langdon, chief of artillery on Weitzel's 
staff, raised this flag over the state house, bringing 
Virginia once more under the realm of the Stars and Stripes.

PETERSBURG, VA
FEB. 27TH - MARCH 28TH, 1865

     Petersburg Va., Feb. 27-March 28, 1865.  Sheridan's 
Expedition.  On the 27th Maj.-Gen. P. H. Sheridan left 
Winchester for an expedition to the front of Petersburg, the 
object being the destruction of the Virginia Central railroad, 
the James river canal, and the capture of Lynchburg, after 
which Sheridan was to join Gen. Sherman's army in North 
Carolina or return to Winchester.  His forces consisted of the 
1st and 3rd cavalry divisions of the Army of the Shenandoah, 
respectively commanded by Brig.-Gen. T. C. Devin and Bvt. 
Maj.Gen. G. A. Custer; one section of the 2nd and one of the 
4th U. S. artillery, and a pontoon train; the total strength 
being about 10,000 men.  Mount Crawford was reached on March 
1, and here about 200 of Rosser's Confederate cavalry were 
discovered trying to burn the bridge over the middle fork of 
the Shenandoah.  Two regiments of Capehart's brigade swam the 
river above the bridge charged and routed Rosser, pursuing him 
nearly to Staunton, killing a few of his men and capturing 30 
prisoners, with 20 wagons and ambulances, Capehart's loss 
being 5 men wounded.  This caused Gen. Early to retreat from 
Staunton to Waynesboro, where he intrenched a position.  At 
Staunton Sheridan detached a part of his command for the 
destruction of some stores at Swoope's station, and pushed on 
with the main column, Custer's division in advance, for 
Waynesboro.  At Fisherville, 6 miles from Staunton, Custer's 
advance encountered the enemy's pickets and drove them rapidly 
to Waynesboro.  Without waiting for the 1st division to come 
up, Custer sent the 2nd brigade against Early's position, to 
display the force in the works, and directed Lieut.-Col. 
Whitaker to take three regiments of Pennington's brigade to 
the extreme right.  The 1st Conn., 2nd Ohio and 3rd N. J., all 
armed with Spencer carbines, were moved to the right and 
dismounted under cover of the woods.  When they were in 
position to attack, Woodruff's section of horse artillery 
opened fire with such vigor that the Confederates were 
compelled to lie down behind their embankment.  Wells and 
Capehart moved their brigades to the attack in front, at the 
charge, and at the same time the three regiments on the right 
caught the enemy on the flank, the whole movement being so 
sudden that Early's men were completely routed and fled in all 
directions, leaving 11 pieces of artillery, with their horses 
and caissons, 200 wagons loaded with subsistence, with their 
teams and harness; a large quantity of ammunition; all the 
camp equipage and officers, baggage; the headquarters, papers; 
16 battle flags and 1,600 prisoners in the hands of the 
Federals.

     On the 3rd the expedition moved toward Charlottesville, 
which place was reached on the 4th, the bridges, depots, etc., 
between Staunton and Charlottesville having been destroyed 
during the march.  At Charlottesville the command divided, the 
1st division moving to Scottsville on the James river, and the 
3rd, with the wagon trains, along the Lynchburg railroad, 
destroying the bridges and culverts as far as Buffalo river. 
The two divisions came together near New Market, where the dam 
and locks on the canal were thoroughly destroyed.  At 
Duguidsville, on the 8th, the Confederates fired on Devin's 
division from across the river, but the 5th U. S. cavalry was 
dismounted and covered the retirement of the rest of the 
division.  All the locks on the canal between Goochland and 
Duguidsville were destroyed, as well as large stores of 
cotton, tobacco and subsistence.  Columbia was reached on the 
1Oth. where the expedition rested for a day, and on the 12th 
the march was resumed toward the Virginia Central railroad, 
which was struck at Tolersville on the 13th, and several miles 
of track torn up.  The next day Custer directed his march 
toward Ground Squirrel bridge, while Devin moved along the 
railroad to the South Anna.  Both bridges were destroyed after 
a slight skirmish with the guards, in which the 5th U. S. 
cavalry captured a number of prisoners and 3 pieces of 
artillery.  The 1st division was here ordered to move toward 
Hanover Court House and the 3rd to push south as far as 
Ashland, but upon learning that a considerable force of the 
enemy under Longstreet was moving to intercept the expedition, 
the two divisions were united, the whole command recrossed the 
South Anna and moved along the north bank of the Pamunkey to 
White House landing, which was reached on the 18th.  Here the 
expedition rested until the 25th, when it again took up the 
march and two days later rejoined the Army of the Potomac. 
During the movement Sheridan's forces captured 1,603 
prisoners, 2,154 horses and mules, 16 battle flags, 17 pieces 
of artillery and over 2,000 stands of small arms.  The line of 
march was marked by wholesale destruction.  Sixteen large 
mills and factories 26 warehouses and 8 railroad depots, 
together with their contents of valuable stores, were laid in 
ashes 47 miles of railroad track, 30 miles of telegraph, 49 
canal locks, 44 railroad and several wagon bridges, 10 
watertanks, and about 40 canal and flatboats all loaded with 
provisions, etc., were completely destroyed.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 6