The Western Front Battles, September 1864-April 1865 (The Petersburg Campaign, Volume 2)
Edwin C. Bearss, Bryce Suderow
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The wide-ranging and largely misunderstood series of operations around Petersburg, Virginia, were the longest and most extensive of the entire Civil War. The fighting that began in early June 1864 when advance elements from the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and botched a series of attacks against a thinly defended city would not end for nine long months.
This important—many would say decisive—fighting is presented by legendary Civil War author Edwin C. Bearss in The Petersburg Campaign: The Western Front Battles, September 1864 - April 1865, Volume 2, the second in a ground-breaking, two-volume compendium.
Although commonly referred to as the "Siege of Petersburg," that city (as well as the Confederate capital at Richmond) was never fully isolated and the combat involved much more than static trench warfare. In fact, much of the wide-ranging fighting involved large-scale Union offensives designed to cut important roads and the five rail lines feeding Petersburg and Richmond. This volume of Bearss' study includes these major battles:
- Peeble's Farm (September 29 - October 1, 1864)
- Burgess Mills (October 27, 1864)
- Hatcher Run (February 5 - 7, 1865)
- Fort Stedman (March 25, 1865)
- Five Forks Campaign (March 29 - April 1, 1865)
- The Sixth Corps Breaks Lee's Petersburg Lines (April 2, 1865)
Accompanying these salient chapters are original maps by Civil War cartographer Steven Stanley, together with photos and illustrations. The result is a richer and deeper understanding of the major military episodes comprising the Petersburg Campaign.
only with axes, would move in the darkness to cut paths through the Northern fraise. These men would be drawn from the squads of pioneers in each regiment who felled trees and honed logs for everything from firewood to fortifications. To further ensure surprise of the enemy, the first wave of 300 Confederate infantrymen, with unloaded weapons, would advance silently on the heels of the axmen. They would use their bayonets and the butts of their muskets to subdue the garrison at Fort Stedman.
Johnnie, come on in. We won’t shoot.” Most of the Federal pickets were thus subdued with bayonets or clubbed muskets before they could react to the ruse. Lieutenant Flemming’s pioneers sprang into action. According to one witness, “as soon as Lieutenant Edmondson’s success was apparent, a gallant corps of pioneers dashed upon the enemy’s obstructions and with their axes chopped and battered them down to make way for the two regiments to enter and take the enemy’s line of defense.”48 Union
20 men. The Rebels likewise suffered several casualties. Among the Confederates wounded was Brig. Gen. William H. Payne. Returning to J. Boisseau’s farm, Morris informed General Merritt that a strong force of Rebel cavalry had occupied Five Forks.127 The other two patrols sent out by Gibbs—Crowninshield’s and Leiper’s —crossed Gravelly Run. Advancing up Boydton Plank Road, Crowninshield’s cavalrymen successfully connected with Warren’s V Corps. Having accomplished their mission, Crowninshield’s
and the Confederates, if the advance slowed, would discover what was transpiring. The hesitation, however, was only momentary; the Green Mountain boys pushed forward with a determination that knew no such word as fail. Case-shot and canister came whistling out of the gloom. Fortunately for Getty’s division, most of these projectiles passed overhead. Though considerable confusion was engendered by the character of the ground and the dim light, resolute men rushed ahead to assist the pioneers in
of the II Corps, General Humphreys, wanted Smyth to secure a crossing of Hatcher’s Run at Armstrong’s Mill. After covering the bridgehead, Smyth was to extend to the right beyond R. Armstrong’s house, anchoring his right on Rocking Branch. Preceded by a company of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, the Second Division followed de Trobriand’s column to within one-half mile of the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. Here it turned into a cart road leading westward through the woods to Armstrong’s