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Appomattox Campaign

  • Time Period: March 25- April 9, 1865
  • Area: Areas around Petersburg, Virginia
  • Explanation: Gen. Robert E. Lee sought to break Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's ever-tightening stranglehold at Petersburg by attacking Union positions at the surrounding areas.

The final campaign of the Army of Northern Virginia began on March 25, when Gen. Robert E. Lee sought to break Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's ever-tightening stanglehold at Petersburg, Virginia by attacking the Union position at Fort Stedman. The assault failed, and when Grant counterattacked a week later at Five Forks on April 1-2, the thin Confederate line snapped, and Lee's skeleton forces abandoned Richmond and Petersburg. The Confederate retreat began southwestward as Lee sought to use the still-operational Richmond & Danville Railroad. At its western terminus at Danville, he would unite with Gen. Joseph Johnston's army, which was retiring up through North Carolina. Taking maximum advantage of Danville's hilly terrain, the converging armies of Grant and Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman.

Grant moved too fast for the plan to materialize, and Lee waited 24 hours in vain at Amelia Court House for trains to arrive with badly needed supplies. Union cavalry, meanwhile, sped toward and cut the Richmond & Danville at Jetersville. Lee had to abandon the railroad, and his army stumbled across rolling country in an effort to reach Lynchburg, another supply base that could be defended. Union horsemen seized the vital rail junction at Burkeville as Union infantry continued to dog the Confederates.

On the 6th, almost 1/4 of Lee's army was trapped and captured at Sayler's Creek. Lee, at Farmville when he received news of the disaster, led his remaining 30,000 men in a north-by-west arc across the Appomattox River and toward Lynchburg. In the meantime, Grant, with 4 times as many men, sent Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's cavalry and most of 2 infantry corps on a hard, due-west march from Farmville to Appomattox Station. Reaching the railroad first, the Federals blocked Lee's only line of advance.

On the morning of the 9th, Confederate probes tested the Union lines and found them to be too strong. Lee's options were now gone. That afternoon, Palm Sunday, Lee met Grant in the front parlor of Wilmar McLean's home to discuss peace terms.

The actual surrender of the Confederate Army occured on April 12, an overcast Wednesday. As Confederate troops marched past silent lines of Union troops, a Union general noted "an awed stillness, and breath-holding, as if it were the passing of the dead."

Campaign Battles

See 1861 Battles, 1862 Battles, 1863 Battles, 1864 Battles and 1865 Battles for more battles)

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