The Appomattox Campaign

 

Before beginning your tour of the Appomattox Campaign, visit the Lee's Retreat website for information on the 25 site self-guided tour.  This site contains a downloadable pdf map, information about each of the tour stops, and an interactive map. Audiocassette  tours are also available at the Petersburg Visitor Center.  Please click on link below for map. Petersburg National Battlefield, Virginia, United States

We would strongly suggest that you designate a navigator to guide through the many different roads.  Take your time and enjoy the Virginia countryside.  You should use our commentary as a general guide and rely on the map for specific directions.

The tour covers over 100 miles and begins at South Side Station in Old Town Petersburg and ends at Appomattox Court House Petersburg, Virginia, United States

From the South Side Station take Route 613 to White Oak Road, VA On March 30th, Lee shifted reinforcements to meet the Federal movement to turn his right flank, placing Maj. Gen. W. H. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry divisions at Five Forks and transferring Pickett’s division from the Bermuda Hundred front to the extreme right. Warren pushed the V Corps forward and entrenched a line to cover the Boydton Plank Road from its intersection with Dabney Mill Road south to Gravelly Run. Ayres’s division advanced northwest toward White Oak Road. On March 31st, in combination with Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s thrust via Dinwiddie Court House, Warren directed his corps against the Confederate entrenchments along White Oak Road, hoping to cut Lee’s communications with Pickett at Five Forks. The Union advance was stalled by a crushing counterattack directed by Maj. Gen. Bushrod Johnson, but Warren’s position stabilized and his soldiers closed on the road by day’s end.

From White Oak Road drive via Route 1 to Dinwiddie Court House, VA  Dinwiddie County Courthouse (courthouse), Virginia, United States

On March 29, the Union Cavalry Corps and the II and V Corps under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan began a flank march to turn Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Petersburg defenses. A steady downpour turned the roads to mud, slowing the advance. On March 31, Maj. Gen. W. H. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry and Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s infantry division met the Union vanguard north and northwest of Dinwiddie Court House and drove it back, temporarily stalling Sheridan’s movement.

Proceed from Dinwiddie Court House to the Five Forks Battlefield Five Forks, Dinwiddie, Virginia, United States

Following the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House on March 31st, Pickett learned of reinforcements arriving from the Federal V Corps and wanted to pull back to a position behind Hatcher's Run. However, Lee ordered Pickett to stop short of Hatcher's Run and hold the crossroads of Five Forks with his infantry division and three cavalry divisions. Pickett's troops built a log and dirt defensive line about 1.75 miles long on the White Oak Road, guarding the two flanks with cavalry. Sheridan's plan of attack was to pressure the entire line lightly with his cavalry troopers, pinning it in position, while he massed all of the V Corps, under Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, on the Confederate left flank.

Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered Pickett with his infantry division and Munford’s, W. H. F. Lee’s, and Rosser’s cavalry divisions to hold the vital crossroads of Five Forks at all hazard. On April 1, while Sheridan’s cavalry pinned the Confederate force in position, the V Corps under Maj. Gen. G. K. Warren attacked and overwhelmed the Confederate left flank, taking many prisoners. Sheridan personally directed the attack, which extended Lee’s Petersburg lines to the breaking point. The loss of Five Forks threatened Lee’s last supply line, the South Side Railroad. The next morning, Lee informed Jefferson Davis that Petersburg and Richmond must be evacuated.

From the Five Forks Battlefield take Route 613 east to the Pamplin Historical Park.Pamplin Historical Park, Virginia, United States

The Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier which is located on the site of the April 2, 1865 "Breakthrough." This was the battle that ended the Petersburg Campaign, led to the evacuation of the Confederate capital at Richmond, and Lee's surrender at Appomattox.  With Confederate defeat at Five Forks on April 1st, Grant and Meade ordered a general assault against the Petersburg lines on April 2nd. A heroic defense of Fort Gregg by a handful of Confederates prevented the Federals from entering the city that night. After dark, Lee ordered the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond. Grant had achieved one of the major military objectives of the war: the capture of Petersburg, which led to the fall of Richmond.

The 25,000-square-foot facility features seven galleries exploring the life of the common soldier in camp, on the march and in battle. Other park features include a restored 1812 plantation house, a "field quarter" with excellent slavery interpretation, and a walking tour following the course of a Federal attack on the site that overwhelmed Confederate defenders April 2, 1865.

From the Pamplin Historical Park drive west on Route 708 to Sutherland's Station, VA.  Sutherland, Dinwiddie, Virginia, United States

Union columns converged on Petersburg on April 2nd. Mile's force struck north from White Oak Road meeting elements of four Confederate brigades attempting to defend the South Side Railroad. The Confederates placed their left flank on Ocran Methodist Church, where it was overrun by three Union brigades commanded by Miles. The Confederate defenders were scattered and driven northwestward. With this victory, the Federals possessed the South Side Railroad, Lee's last supply line into Petersburg.

Continue on Route 708 to Namozine Church, VA where a brigade of Union cavalry under Col. William Well's attacked Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry on April 3rd. 

From Namozine Church take 708 to Route 38 to Amelia Springs, VA.

On April 5th, Confederate cavalry under Fitzhugh Lee and Rosser assaulted Union cavalry under George Crook as they returned from burning Confederate wagons at Painesville. This running fight started north of Amelia Springs and pushed through and beyond Jetersville.

Go south on Routes 360, 307, and 460 to the Sayler's Creek Battlefield.

Sailor's Creek Battlefld Hist St Pk (state park), Virginia, United States

On April 6th at Sayler’s Creek, nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army was cut off by Sheridan’s Cavalry and elements of the II and VI Corps. Most surrendered including several Confederate generals. This action was considered the death knell of the Confederate army.

After visiting Sayler's Creek continue your drive to  Rice's Station.

On April 6th, Longstreet’s command reached Rice's Station, its farthest point south, where it was blocked by Union XXIV Corps. After some skirmishing, Longstreet withdrew over the High Bridge during the night toward Farmville.

Near 2 pm on April 7th, the advance of the Union II Corps encountered Confederate forces entrenched on high ground near Cumberland Church. The Union forces attacked twice but were repulsed, and darkness halted the conflict.

On April 6th, the Confederate cavalry fought stubbornly to secure the Appomattox River bridges. On April 7th, elements of the II Corps came up against Longstreet’s rear guard attempting to fire the High Bridge and wagon bridge. Union forces were able to save the wagon bridge over which the II Corps crossed in pursuit of Lee’s army. Failure to destroy this bridge enabled Union forces to catch up with the Confederates at Farmville.

The Battles of Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House are described on the National Park Service Appomattox Court House site.

At Appomattox Station, VA on April 8th, Maj. Gen. George A. Custer’s division captured a supply train and twenty-five guns, driving off and scattering the Confederate defenders.  This unique action pitted artillery without infantry support against cavalry. Custer captured and burned three trains loaded with provisions for Lee’s army.

A final engagement took place at Appomattox Court House, VA on April 9th. Early on April 9th, the remnants of  Gordon’s corps and Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry formed line of battle at Appomattox Court House. Lee determined to make one last attempt to escape the closing Union pincers and reach his supplies at Lynchburg. At dawn the Confederates advanced, initially gaining ground against Sheridan’s cavalry. The arrival of Union infantry, however, stopped the advance in its tracks. Lee’s army was now surrounded on three sides. Faced with overwhelming force, Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9th.

The tour concludes with a visit to the National Park Service site at Appomattox Court House. You can tour the McLean House where Lee surrendered to Grant and explore other buildings at park. Please click on link below for map.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (national historical park), Virginia, United States

 

Please check out the following guides:


Return to Battlefield Road Trips

Revised 12/11/2012