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Grant's Headquarters

The Siege of Petersburg

Foreseeing that he could not withstand General Grant's much larger army, Confederate General Robert E. Lee attacked east of Petersburg at Fort Stedman in the early morning hours of March 25, 1865. This was a desperate attempt to cut Grant's military railroad which supplied his extended lines. The attack, led by General John B. Gordon, went well at first. Lee's army easily captured Fort Stedman and moved on. However, they didn't make it far. The Confederate army was stopped at Harrison's Creek, a quarter of mile beyond Fort Stedman.

At daybreak, the Union artillery opened with a terrific bombardment. Lee, seeing the attack had failed, ordered a withdrawal. By 7:45 a.m., the Union line was completely restored and the battle was over. More than 4,000 Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded, and captured. Union casualties were less than 1,500.

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

Sheridan's Calvary and Warren's Corps attacked Five Forks at 4 p.m. the next day, April 1, and by nightfall the Confederates had been routed. The success at Five Forks enabled the Union forces to reach the South Side Railroad and the river at the Battle of Sutherland Station. The South Side Railroad was the last supply route leading into Petersburg, and capturing it was a key win for the Union Army. On the next day, April 2, about 7:00 a.m., Grant's army attacked the defense line at Petersburg, and by 9:30 a.m., the line which led to Hatcher's Run had been captured. The Union troops now returned in full force to attack the defenses west of Petersburg, which included Fort Gregg on the Boydton Plank Road south of the river.

Taking advantage of the time gained by the heroic defense at Fort Gregg, the Confederates fell back to a new line east of Old Indian Town Creek. Bonfires dotted the Confederate lines around Petersburg that night, and at about 8:00 p.m., the Army of Northern Virginia began leaving the city. Richmond was evacuated the same night.

By 4:30 a.m., April 3, Michigan troops had placed their flags on the Petersburg courthouse and Post Office. The siege of Petersburg was over, with a cost of more than 28,000 casualties for Lee's army and at least 42,000 for Grant's.

A week after Grant's soldiers stormed into Petersburg, Grant accepted General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, nearly 100 miles west of Petersburg. Lee's surrender heralded the coming end of the war, and Grant immediately proceeded to Washington, D.C., to begin disbanding the army, although the fighting continued until the end of May. On the way, he stopped at City Point to pick up his wife and son. Mrs. Grant and her son had earlier left City Point for Norfolk when the fighting intensified, but then returned there at Grant's cabin following the siege of Petersburg.

With the war finally drawing to an end, President Lincoln knew that there would be significant struggles ahead in the reconstruction of the South.

Learn more about Grant's Headuarters at City Point, VA:

Setting Up Camp
President Lincoln Comes to City Point
The Meeting That Changed the Course of History
A Vision For Peace
Lincoln Waits For the War's End
A Deadly Premonition
The Siege of Petersburg
Lincoln's Plans For Reunification
Lincoln's Dream Comes to Life
Preserving Grant's Cabin
Visiting Grant's Headquarters at City Point, Petersburg National Battlefield, Hopewell, VA