This Week in the American Civil War: March 29 – April 4, 1865

MN150Logo_OL_FNLInformation courtesy of the

Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force

(www.mncivilwar150.com and “Minnesota Civil War 150” on Facebook)

 

Major Highlights for the Week

Wednesday March 29, 1865

APPOMATTOX CAMPAIGN BEGINS

The Federal Army of the Potomac and Army of the James, approximately 125,000 soldiers combined, were on the move against Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg and Richmond, Virginia. Skirmishing occurred at Lewis’s Farm and at the junction of the Quaker and Boydton roads as well as the Vaughan Road near Hatcher’s Run. Rain in the evening slowed the Federal advance. Federal Major General Phil Sheridan’s cavalry rode westward towards Dinwiddie Court House south of Five Forks with two Federal infantry corps, the Fifth and Second, marching in support. The intent was to force Lee out of his entrenched lines.

Federal Major General William T. Sherman returned to his army in Goldsborough, North Carolina from City Point, Virginia.

President Abraham Lincoln remained at City Point to inquire of Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant about how the new movement was looking.

Thursday March 30, 1865

Pelting rains bogged down most of the Federal advance on the Petersburg, Virginia front, where Federal Major General Phil Sheridan, at Dinwiddie Court House, was ready to move with infantry assistance against the Confederate right flank. Skirmishing occurred on the line of Hatcher’s Run and Gravelly Run as well as near Five Forks. Confederate moves by Major Generals George Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee weakened other segments of General Robert E. Lee’s line.

Friday March 31, 1865

WHITE OAK ROAD AND DINWIDDIE COURT HOUSE, VIRGINIA

The heavy rain ended in the morning and the action began as more than 10,000 Confederates were opposed by more than 50,000 Federals on the western part of the Petersburg, Virginia line. Federal Major General Phil Sheridan pressed from Dinwiddie Court House with a portion of his troops, but was repulsed by Confederate forces which drove them back towards the main body of troops at the Court House. However, Confederate Major General George Pickett understood the strength of the Federal Fifth Corps and pulled back towards Five Forks. The Fifth Corps had its difficulties on the White Oak Road, who were unable to repulse and turn back the opposing Confederates.

At Mobile, Alabama, Federal troops were occupying nearby towns and drawing in their siege lines.

Saturday April 1, 1865

BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS, VIRGINIA

Late in the afternoon, Federal Major General Phil Sheridan’s cavalry and the Federal Fifth Corps attacked Confederate Major General George Pickett’s dug in troops at Five Forks. As Sheridan’s dismounted cavalry attacked in front, the Fifth Corps got in on the Confederate defender’s left flank and crushed them. Pickett’s forces were now separated from the rest of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The Federals sustained losses numbering around 1,000 and captured at least 4,500 Confederates.

In North Carolina, Federal Major General William T. Sherman took the time to reorganize his army as a skirmish broke out at Snow Hill.

Skirmishing occurred at Randolph, Maplesville, Plantersville, Ebenezer Church, Centerville and Trion, Alabama forcing Confederate Lieutenant General Nathan Bedford Forrest to concentrate his troops at Selma. Skirmishing also occurred at White Oak Creek, Tennessee.

President Abraham Lincoln was serving as an observer at City Point, Virginia and forwarding messages to Washington on the progress of the fighting at Petersburg. Confederate President Jefferson Davis, meanwhile, reported to General Robert E. Lee that he was struggling to advance the raising of Negro troops, noting that “distrust is increasing and embarrasses in many ways.”

Sunday April 2, 1865

    CONFEDERATES ABANDON RICHMOND AND PETERSBURG

At 4:30 a.m., Federal troops advanced under a heavy fog along the Petersburg, Virginia lines. By 7 a.m., the drive was fully under way and was successful everywhere. The Federal Sixth Corps captured the South Side Railroad, and the Confederate lines vanished along Hatcher’s Run. West of the Boydton Plank Road, while attempting to rally his men, Confederate Lieutenant General Ambrose Powell Hill was killed. Only two forts, Gregg and Baldwin, held out at noon on the western part of the lines, making retreat possible only by crossing the Appomattox River.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee was determined to hold the inner fortifications until night enabled him to withdraw. In a few places, the Confederates stiffened their resistance in the afternoon until it was obvious that they had to pull out. Orders to evacuate Petersburg and for the defenders north of the James River to retreat through Richmond and join the remainder of the Army of Northern Virginia with Amelia Court House, forty miles west, as the rally point. Federal losses sustained amounted to 3,189 wounded, 625 killed and 326 missing for a total loss of 4,140 out of 63,000 engaged. Confederates engaged approximately 18,500 with unknown losses.

In Richmond, Virginia, a messenger entered St. Paul’s Church while the minister gave the prayer for Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Davis left quietly and went to his office to learn of the disaster that occurred at Petersburg. By 11 p.m., Davis and most of his Cabinet departed by train for Danville, Virginia. Rail stations were jammed and the streets filled with many of the local citizens and refugees crowding the city. Inmates broke from the state prison and the Local Defense Brigade was unable to keep order. Confederate government records were either sent away or burned. Cotton, tobacco and military stores were set on fire, which soon raged out of control. Richmond was falling at last. However, the Confederate government still existed even though it was in transit. The war resumed.

In Mobile, Alabama, the siege of Fort Blakely began while the siege of Spanish Fort continued.

Skirmishing broke out near Goldsborough, North Carolina; along with Van Buren and Hickory Station, Arkansas.

President Abraham Lincoln went to the front at Petersburg and saw some of the fighting from a distance while keeping Washington informed to the progress of Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s armies.

Monday April 3, 1865

Petersburg, Virginia was now occupied by Federal troops. President Abraham Lincoln and Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant conferred at a private home in the city and reviewed the troops passing through the city, which had undergone more than nine months of siege warfare.

The first flag flying over Richmond, Virginia, was a small guidon raised by Major Atherton H. Stevens Jr., of Massachusetts over the former Capitol of the Confederacy building. More Federal troops arrived as more people, many of whom were jubilant Negroes, swarmed into the streets of the city that was still in flames. Federal infantry playing “The Girl I Left Behind Me” soon arrived. The Federal occupation of Richmond was commanded by Major General Godrey Weitzel, who received the surrender in the City Hall at 8:15 a.m. Federal troops immediately attempted to restore order and put out the fires.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia slowly moved westward towards Amelia Court House, shadowed by Federal Lieutenant General Ulysses Grant’s Army of the Potomac who ran parallel to keep Lee from intersecting General Joseph E. Johnston’s army in North Carolina. Federal Major General Phil Sheridan’s cavalry skirmished with the retiring Confederates on the Namozine Church Road.

The train from Richmond to Danville moved slowly due to roadbed difficulties but by midafternoon, Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet had arrived in Danville, where citizens hurriedly prepared to receive their guests. Headquarters for Davis was at the home of Major W. T. Sutherlin. Davis admitted that he was not abandoning the cause.

Tuesday April 4, 1865

LINCOLN ARRIVES IN RICHMOND

President Abraham Lincoln traveled up the James River on the River Queen, transferred to the U.S.S. Malvern, and then landed in Richmond on a smaller landing vessel not far from Libby Prison. Admiral David Dixon Porter, three other officers and ten sailors armed with carbines served as Lincoln’s escort as he walked to the White House of the Confederacy. Crowds, mostly cheering Negroes, surrounded Lincoln as he toured the home that Confederate President Jefferson Davis recently vacated. Lincoln drove through the city under escort in the late afternoon. Before leaving Richmond, Lincoln talked with John A. Campbell, former U.S. Supreme Court justice and former Assistance Secretary of War for the Confederacy. Campbell admitted that the war was over and urged Lincoln to consult with public men of Virginia regarding restoration of peace and order. Lincoln returned to the Malvern for the night.

Skirmishing occurred at Tabernacle Church, also known as Beaver Pond Creek, and at Amelia, Virginia. Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s decimated army lacked supplies which brought on post-war discussion. There was an unfounded charge the Davis was using the necessary railroad and communications, though Federal Major General Phil Sheridan arrived at Jetersville on the Danville Railroad southwest of Amelia Court House, blocking Lee’s further use of that route towards North Carolina.

At Danville, Virginia, the new capital of the Confederacy, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation to the remaining people of the crumbling nation while admitting that there was now a new phase of the conflict, and that he had vowed to maintain the struggle.

Where Minnesota Regiments were the week of March 29 – April 4, 1865 

Active units:

1st Battalion Minnesota Infantry – Participated in the Appomattox Campaign including the battles of Hatcher’s Run, Boydton Road, Sutherland’s Station and the fall of Petersburg, Virginia, and were now in pursuit of Confederate General Robert E. Lee until April 9, 1865.       

2nd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Goldsborough, North Carolina until April 10, 1865.

3rd Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Duvall’s Bluff, Arkansas until May 13, 1865.

4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Goldsborough, North Carolina until April 10, 1865.

5th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, Alabama until April 8, 1865.

6th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, Alabama until April 8, 1865.

7th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, Alabama until April 8, 1865.

8th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty at Goldsborough, North Carolina until April 10, 1865.

9th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, Alabama until April 8, 1865.

10th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – On duty in the Siege of Spanish Fort and Fort Blakely, Alabama until April 8, 1865.

11th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Assigned to duty guarding the line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad from Nashville to the Kentucky line. Companies E, G, and I were at Gallatin, Tennessee. Company A was at Buck Lodge. Company B at Edgefield Junction. Company C at Richland. Company D at Sandersville. Company H was at Mitchellsville. The location of companies F and K are unknown at this time. The regiment remained on duty at these locations until June 25, 1865.

2nd Regiment Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling, until November 17, 1865.

Brackett’s Battalion of Minnesota Cavalry – Engaged in frontier and patrol duty between Forts Wadsworth, Abercrombie, Ripley and Ridgely with headquarters at Fort Snelling until May 1866.

Hatch’s Independent Battalion of Cavalry – Companies A, B, C and D moved to Fort Abercrombie. Companies A and B assigned to garrison at Fort Abercrombie.  Company C assigned to garrison at Alexandria and Pomme de Terre. Company D on patrol duty from Fort Abercrombie to Pembina.  Companies E and F on frontier duty. The battalion would remain in these duty locations for the duration of the war – until April 26, 1866.

1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Battery – On garrison duty at Chattanooga, Tennessee until September 27, 1865.

1st Minnesota Light Artillery Battery – On duty at Goldsborough, North Carolina until April 10, 1865.

2nd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – On duty in Philadelphia, Tennessee until July 1865.

3rd Independent Battery Minnesota Light Artillery – Various sections on duty at Fort Ridgely, Fort Ripley and Fort Sisseton until May 1865.

Inactive units: 

1st Regiment Minnesota Cavalry “Mounted Rangers” – Formally mustered out of service on December 7, 1863. Inactive.  

1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry – Mustered out of Federal service on April 29, 1864. Inactive. 

2nd United States Sharpshooters, Company A – Transferred to the 1st Battalion, Minnesota Infantry on February 20, 1865 at Petersburg, Virginia for duration of service.  

1st United States Sharpshooters Company I Mustered out of Federal Service on March 19, 1865.

About civilwarweek

Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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