SIEGE OF PETERSBURG
On June 15, 1864, the Union army commanded by General Grant encircled the city of Petersburg, Virginia, thus beginning a 10-month siege. Although the Union soldiers had open supply lines between City Point and Petersburg which brought ordnance, sustenance, medicine, clothing and fresh troops to Grant's army, they wished to end the siege and the war quickly.
Using the expertise of former Pennsylvania mining engineers who were serving in the Union army, officers devised a plan to construct a tunnel from their lines to a Confederate fortification about 500 feet away and place explosives inside. The Battle of the Crater followed the spectacular explosion.
After eight grueling months under siege in Petersburg, General Lee formulated a strategy that might allow most of his army to break through Union lines and join General Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina in an effort to create a more formidable opponent for Grant. Lee's plan pitted a concentration of Confederate soldiers against one of the Union's closest positions, Fort Stedman. General Grant would respond by pulling his forces from other areas, thereby allowing General Lee to break through the federal line on either side of Stedman. On March 25, 1865, General John B. Gordon was entrusted with executing Lee's plan. The Union army was quick to realize that the Confederates, posing as deserters without loaded guns, were merely a ruse. Fort Stedman changed hands three times that day.
One week later after General Lee's outnumbered line at Five Forks collapsed, General Grant ordered an assault against all Confederate lines around Petersburg. General Lee telegraphed President Jefferson Davis, advising him to evacuate the Confederate capital in Richmond immediately. General Lee needed time to reorganize his army to begin an orderly withdrawal west towards Appomattox. A small group of Confederate soldiers gave Lee's army the time it needed. They made their stand in a partially completed fort southwest of Petersburg known as Fort Gregg.
April 2, 1865 63,000 Union soldiers charged 18,500 Confederate
defenders along the Petersburg lines. General Nathaniel H.
Harris left 214 men at Fort Gregg, an unfinished earthwork west
city, with orders to hold as long as they could to provide
Lee's army an opportunity to form up and retreat towards the
the salvation of the army is in your keep. Don't surrender this
fort," is the final order Gen. Harris gave them. The Washington
Artillery from Louisiana as well as men from Mississippi and
Virginia stood their ground for nearly two hours, the last 30
minutes in hand to hand combat against more than 2,000 Union
soldiers. The Union losses far exceeded Confederate losses. A
Union soldier wrote, "They fought like demons." The
earthworks today are fairly intact as is the moat around them.
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