April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg



With Union victory at Five Forks, General Lee desperately shifted troops to the west to protect the Southside Railroad.  Grant, realizing that Lee was thinning his lines around Petersburg and Richmond to protect the railroad, ordered a general assault against the Confederate fortifications.

The VI Corps achieved  a major breakthrough up the Boydton Plank Road.  Lee telegraphed Secretary of War Breckenridge:

I see no prospect of doing more than holding our position here until night. I am not certain I can do that. If I can I shall withdraw to-night north of the Appomattox, and, if possible, it will be better to withdraw the whole line to-night from James River. I advise that all preparations be made for leaving Richmond tonight. I will advise you later according to circumstances.

The II Corps to the left of the VI Corps and the XXIV Corps to the right of the VI Corps also achieved breakthroughs.  Union casualties were about 4,000 compared to 5000 Confederate, most of whom were taken prisoner.  The siege of Petersburg and Richmond was at an end as Lee moved his army out of his lines and began the march to the west that would end at Appomattox Court House.



Here is General Longstreet’s account of the Third Battle of Petersburg in his memoirs: (more…)

Published in: on April 2, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 2, 1865: Third Battle of Petersburg  
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October 28, 1863: Battle of Wauhatchie


Major General Ulysses S. Grant arrived at Chattanooga on October 23, 1863.  Major General William Rosecrans, who Grant relieved, placing in command of the Army of the Cumberland Major General George Thomas, presented Grant with a plan to reopen the supply lines to the besieged Army of the Cumberland in Chattanooga, devised by Brigadier General William F. “Baldy” Smith, chief engineer of the Army of the Cumberland.  Grant in his memoirs admitted that the plan was a good one, and, always unable to avoid taking a dig at Rosecrans who he disliked intensely, said he was surprised that it had not yet been implemented.

Opening up what would become known as “the cracker line involved the Army of the Cumberland seizing Brown’s Ferry and linking up with Major General Joseph Hooker’s two corps relief force sent from the Army of the Potomac that was advancing up Lookout Valley.  Brown’s Ferry on the Tennessee River was seized in a daring combined amphibious operation with one Union brigade landing from the river and another brigade linking up overland.  The attack occurred in darkness at 4:40 AM on the morning of October 27.  Phase one of operation cracker line was completed.

Phase two was accomplished the new day when Hooker’s two corps reached Brown’s Ferry.  The Union now controlled a good route into Chattanooga down which supplies could travel unmolested.

Longstreet began a counterattack shortly before midnight on October 28, 1863, to cut the rail line in Lookout Valley, making the battle of Wauhatchie one of the few night battles of the war.  The comedy of errors that ensued in the clumsily fought, on both sides, engagement underlined why generals rarely chose to fight at night.  Longstreet committed too few troops to the attack, only a brigade and a division, while Hooker left Geary’s division that occupied Wauhatchie Station, the key position of the battle without reinforcements, while he took  the bulk of his forces to make futile assaults on a Conferate hilltop position.  Geary held Wauhatchie Station, the hard fought battle there taking an immense personal toll on him with his son, an artillery lieutenant, dying in his arms, with the Confederates retreating due to a false report that Union troops were in their rear.  A true dog’s breakfast of a confused engagement.  Grant was disgusted at Hooker’s lack of skill in the battle and almost relieved him.  I am sure Grant’s mood was not improved when he read Hooker’s vainglorious report, which is set forth below: (more…)

Longstreet Goes West




By the end of the summer of 1863 it was clear that something radical needed to be done if the Confederate war effort in the West was not to suffer complete collapse, after the surrender at Vicksburg.  General Braxton Bragg was planning a battle in which his Army of the Tennessee would stop the offensive of General William Rosecran’s Army of the Cumberland which had seized Chattanooga, a major rail hub, on September 9.  Longstreet, leading two divisions of his corps from the Army of Northern Virginia, with the reluctant approval of Lee, would participate in this battle if the rickety Confederate rail system could deliver his troops in time.  Using sixteen separate rail lines, and traveling 775 miles in a journey lasting three weeks, most of Longstreet’s men would fight in the forthcoming battle.

In 1905 in his memoirs Longstreet’s chief of staff General Moxley Sorrell recalled this mass movement of a corps from one army to another: (more…)

Published in: on September 13, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Longstreet Goes West  
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