Petersburg National Battlefield

Petersburg National Battlefield

History

Dr. John Claiborne

Born in 1828 in Virginia, Dr. John Claiborne completed his medical studies in Philadelphia in 1851. That same year he set up practice in Petersburg and served later as a House of Delegates representative and senator in the Virginia state government.

In 1862 Claiborne was ordered to establish a hospital in Petersburg for treatment of wounded soldiers and was made surgeon in charge. By the time of the siege he was the executive officer in charge of all military hospitals in Petersburg. The system in the city included seven hospitals at first but by the time of the siege they were consolidated into two buildings on the western side of Petersburg to avoid the shelling from the east.

Shortly after the war Claiborne's first wife died and he eventually remarried and raised another family. He continued to practice in Petersburg and died in 1905.

History & Culture

Prologue
Between May and mid-June of 1864 the Union army, under General Ulysses S. Grant, and the Confederate army, under General Robert E. Lee, engaged in a series of hard-fought battles in what is now called the Overland Campaign. Cold Harbor was the last battle of this campaign and was a crushing Union loss. This forced Grant to abandoned his plan to capture Richmond by direct assault.

The Key to Richmond
Only twenty-five miles south of Richmond, Petersburg was an important supply center to the Confederate capital. With it's five railroad lines and key roads, both Grant and Lee knew if these could be cut Petersburg could no longer supply Richmond with much needed supplies and subsistence. Without this Lee would be forced to leave both cities.

The Siege
Grant pulls his army out of Cold Harbor and crosses the James River heading towards Petersburg. For several days Lee does not believe Grant's main target is Petersburg and so keeps most of his army around Richmond. Between June 15-18, 1864 Grant throws his forces against Petersburg and it may have fallen if it were not for the Federal commanders failing to press their advantage and the defense put up by the few Confederates holding the lines. Lee finally arrives on June 18 and after four days of combat with no success Grant begins siege operations.

This, the longest siege in American warfare, unfolded in a methodical manner. For nearly every attack the Union made around Petersburg another was made at Richmond and this strained the Confederate's manpower and resources. Through this strategy Grant's army gradually and relentlessly encircled Petersburg and cut Lee's supply lines from the south. For the Confederates it was ten months of hanging on, hoping the people of the North would tire of the war. For soldiers of both armies it was ten months of rifle bullets, artillery, and mortar shells, relieved only by rear-area tedium, drill and more drill, salt pork and corn meal, burned beans and bad coffee.

By October 1864 Grant had cut off the Weldon Railroad and was west of it tightening the noose around Petersburg. The approach of winter brought a general halt to activities. Still there was the every day skirmishing, sniper fire, and mortar shelling.

In early February 1865 Lee had only 60,000 soldiers to oppose Grant's force of 110,000 men. Grant extended his lines westward to Hatcher's Run and forced Lee to lengthen his own thinly stretched defenses.

By mid-March it was apparent to Lee that Grant's superior force would either get around the Confederate right flank or pierce the line somewhere along it's 37-mile length. Th Southern commanders hoped to break the Union stranglehold on Petersburg by a surprise attack on Grant. This resulted in the Confederate loss at Fort Stedman and would be Lee's last grand offensive of the war.

The End
With victory near, Grant unleashed General Phillip Sheridan at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. His objective was the South Side Railroad, the last rail line into Petersburg. Sheridan, with the V Corps, smashed the Confederate forces under General George Pickett and opening access to the tracks beyond. On April 2, Grant ordered an all-out assault, and Lee's right flank crumbled. A Homeric defense at Confederate Fort Gregg saved Lee from possible street fighting in Petersburg. On the night of April 2, Lee evacuated Petersburg. The final surrender at Appomattox Court House was but a week away.

Bushrod Johnson

Born in 1817 in Ohio, Bushrod Johnson graduated from West Point in 1840. He fought in the Mexican War and the Seminole War and resigned in 1847 to teach. Johnson joined the Confederate service and as a brigadier general fought at Ft. Donelson, Shiloh, Perryville, Stones River, Chickamauga, and Knoxville.

Promoted to Major General in 1864, he commanded the section of trenches where the South Carolinian troops were at the Crater. They captured three stands of colors and 130 prisoners that day. His men spent the remainder of the siege in the lines, ending up at White Oak Road and Five Forks. His division was shattered at Sailor's Creek on April 6, 1865 and he was paroled at Appomattox without a command.

He returned to teaching to become chancellor of the University of Nashville. He then retired to a farm in Illinois where he died in 1880.

Appomattox Plantation

 

Before the War
The Eppes family home was a century old by the time Union forces occupied the site in 1864. It had been built on a large tract of land acquired by Captain Francis Eppes in 1635 and by the time of the Civil War it was the center of a plantation covering more than 2,300 acres.

The War Years
In 1861 Appomattox Plantation was owned by Dr. Richard Eppes. Though he owned a plantation and nearly 130 slaves, Dr. Eppes was not a strong secessionist. Yet when Virginia cast her lot with the South he took up arms by joining a local cavalry unit. He soon left the army to become a contract surgeon at a Confederate hospital in Petersburg. The Eppes family remained at their home until 1862 when the arrival of Union gunboats on the James River forced them to flee their home for the safety of Petersburg. Soon thereafter nearly all of their slaves left with those Union forces. When the war came to Petersburg two years later Mrs. Eppes and the children fled again, this time to her mother's home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Appomattox Plantation was used as the offices of U.S. Quartermaster Rufus Ingalls and his staff during the siege. When Dr. Eppes returned he found his house in near ruin and his plantation nearly destroyed. Not until March 1866 with the last Union regiments gone and the property back in his name did his wife and children return home to pick up the pieces and start anew.

John Gordon

Born in 1832 in Georgia, John Gordon was a lawyer and superintendent of a coal mine before the war. He fought in the Peninsular campaign and was promoted to brigadier general after Antietam. Gordon participated in Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and the Overland campaign. He was promoted to major general in May 1864.

At Petersburg he commanded the Second Corps. In March 1865, at Lee's request, Gordon planned and led the attack on Fort Stedman. This was to be Lee's last grand offensive of the war.

Following the war, Gordon returned to Georgia where he was three times elected to the United States Senate and once elected as governor. He also wrote Reminiscences of the Civil War to tell of his role in the war. Gordon was a prime mover in the organization of the United Confederate Veterans and became its first commander-in-chief, serving from 1890 until his death in 1904.

William Mahone

Born in 1826 in Virginia, William Mahone graduated from the Virginia Military Institute, taught at a military academy, and by 1861 was the president of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. In November 1861 he was promoted to brigadier general and served with his brigade from Seven Pines to the Crater, missing only Antietam.

Mahone's performance at the Crater earned him an on-the-spot promotion by Gen. Lee to major general. During the course of the siege Mahone was one of the most effective divisional commanders of either side. His troops, who were engaged in Jerusalem Plank Road, the Crater, Weldon Railroad, Reams Station, and Burgess Mill, captured thousands of Union soldiers and a number of colors and cannons.

With the surrender, Mahone returned to the presidency of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, served as mayor of Petersburg, and served as a U.S. Senator for a term. For a period of time the control of Virginia state politics was virtually in Mahone's hands. He died in 1895.

Poplar Grove National Cemetery

 

"Here sleeps a youthful hero,
With the honor of a soldier brave,
Who gave up home, and friends, and life itself,
Our country still to save."

A Nation's Need
In July 1862, Congress passed legislation giving the President of the United States the authority to purchase land for the establishment of cemeteries "for the soldiers who shall die in the service of their country." This legislation effectively began the National Cemetery system.

A Soldier's Burial
At Petersburg, implementation of this system did not begin until 1866. During the siege, Union soldiers who were killed in battle were hastily buried near where the fighting took place, some in single shallow pits, others in mass graves. Identification was as simple as a name carved on a wooden headboard, if there was time to leave even that. Most of these soldiers were not given a proper burial, save what their comrades could provide by saying a few words over them. Some units, like the IX Corps, had small cemeteries near their filled hospitals for soldiers who had died while in their care.

A Final Resting Place
In 1866, Lt... Colonel James Moore began his survey of the Petersburg area to locate land for a National Cemetery. Eventually, a farm just south of the city was chosen. This tract of land had been the campground for the 50th New York Volunteer Engineers. During the war they constructed a gothic-style, pine log church called Poplar Grove.

With the cemetery now established, work began to move approximately 5,000 Union soldiers from nearly 100 separate burial sites around Petersburg. Bodies were moved from nine Virginia counties, reaching as far west as Lynchburg, Virginia.

About 100 men comprised the "burial corps." With ten army wagons, forty mules, and 12 saddle horses, these men began their search and recovery mission. One observer noted "a hundred men were deployed in a line a yard apart, each examining half a yard of ground on both sides as they proceeded. Thus was swept a space five hundred yards in breadth . . .In this manner the whole battlefield was to be searched. When a grave was found, the entire line halted until the teams came up and the body was removed. Many graves were marked with stakes, but some were to be discovered only by the disturbed appearance of the ground. Those bodies which had been buried in trenches were but little decomposed, while those buried singly in boxes, not much was left but bones and dust." Remains were placed in a plain wooden coffin; if there was a headboard, it was attached to it. The burial corps worked for three years until 1869. In that time they reinterred 6,718 remains. Sadly, only 2,139 bodies were positively identified.

Much the same fate was suffered by the nearly 30,000 Confederate dead buried at Blandford Church Cemetery in Petersburg. Of them, only about 2,000 names are known.

"Where Valor Proudly Sleeps"
Places like Poplar Grove National Cemetery reflect the tragedy that befell the United States during the Civil War. Each simple headstone is a poignant reminder of the human cost of war. In 1933 responsibility of the cemetery was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service (NPS). Poplar Grove is one of fourteen National Cemeteries administered by the NPS. It is closed for burials but visitors are invited to walk the grounds, which are open daily.

If you have any questions about the soldiers buried at Poplar Grove, please contact Petersburg NB at (804) 732-3531. The park is currently compiling a searchable database to help you locate information about these soldiers. This will take some time because Civil War records are frequently incomplete. If you have information regarding a soldier who is buried here or a soldier that was killed in the siege and buried locally the park would like to hear from you. Help us help others by e-mailing Petersburg NB with "Poplar Grove" in the subject heading.

If you are looking for information on Confederate soldiers who may be buried in the Petersburg area, the park maintains a list of known information about those men. You may also call the Blandford Church Reception Center at (804) 733-2396 for additional information.

 

Richard Eppes

Born in 1824 in Virginia, Dr. Richard Eppes had earned his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania and inherited his ancestral home, Appomattox Manor at City Point, Virginia, by the age of twenty. At the time of the Civil War he was married, had a family and owned nearly 130 slaves and 2,300 acres. Eppes favored preservation of the union providing that southern rights could be protected. In the 1860 elections he backed this opinion up by voting for John Breckinridge who led the Southern faction of the Democratic party. Breckinridge represented those who were states-rights and proslavery men but who were not radical secessionists.

When war broke out, Eppes enlisted in the 3rd Virginia cavalry and helped to equip the unit. About a year later he furnished a substitute to complete his obligation. In early May 1862, his wife and children moved into Petersburg for protection. Just days after this a Union raiding party landed at City Point and upon their departure all but twelve of his slaves had decided to cast their fortunes with the Union army.

Eppes then became a civilian contract surgeon for the Confederate army in Petersburg for the duration of the war. He was able to get his family out of Petersburg in the middle of the siege. They traveled to his in-laws in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to wait out the war. When Petersburg fell he decided to stay behind with the wounded as Gen. Lee evacuated. the city.

By May 1865 Eppes had taken the Amnesty Oath but found that due to his wealth he did not qualify to benefit from the Amnesty Proclamation. He had to raise money to obtain the title to his land and to settle up with the Federal government. Also he had to purchase any of the structures the Union army left behind on his land before he could touch them. By early 1866 after a favorable transaction with the government the plantation was back in his hands and by March his family was together again at City Point.

Robert E. Lee

Born in 1807 in Virginia, Robert E. Lee graduated from West Point in 1829. He returned from the Mexican War a highly decorated hero and served as superintendent of West Point for three years. In 1859 he commanded the Marines that defeated John Brown in his raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia. With war near at hand, Lee resigned his commission, and joined the Confederate army in April of 1861. He assumed the command of what became the Army of Northern Virginia in June of 1862 and commanded it until the end of the war.

Lee utilized the defensive advantage of trench warfare and the ability to move his troops quickly from point-to-point along his lines, to hold Petersburg and Richmond for nine and a-half months in spite of the ever increasing odds against his army. With the Union victory at Five Forks, April 1, 1865, Lee's lines broke the next day. Seven days later he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Gen. U. S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.

Lee became president of Washington College at Lexington, Virginia after the war. As much as he had done to preserve the Confederacy, he is recognized for his efforts to help the post-war United States of America heal. He died in 1870 at the college which would rename itself Washington and Lee University in his honor.

Depot Field Hospital

 

Seven hospitals operated at City Point during the siege. The largest was the Depot Field Hospital which covered nearly 200 acres and could hold up to 10,000 patients. Twelve hundred tents, supplemented by ninety log barracks in the winter, comprised the compound, which included laundries, dispensaries , regular and special diet kitchens, dining halls, offices and other structures. Army surgeons administered the hospital aided by civilian agencies such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission. Male nurses, drawn from the ranks, made sure each patient had his own bed and wash basin; and regularly received fresh pillows and linens. The excellence of the facilities and the efficiency and dedication of the staff not only made the Depot Field Hospital the largest facility of its kind in America but also the finest.

Rufus Ingalls

Born in 1818 in Maine, Rufus Ingalls graduated in 1843, served in the Mexican War and on the western frontier. He became a quartermaster in 1848 and served in that role the rest of his career. After First Manassas he was made chief of Eastern supply and would remain so the rest of the war.

In June 1864 Grant placed him in charge of supply with responsibility for all armies operating against Petersburg and Richmond. In this capacity he built up the huge supply depot at City Point, Virginia.

Ingalls left City Point May 1865, retired in 1883 as quartermaster general and brigadier general, and died in 1893.

Infantry

 

Infantry had one of the most challenging duties in the Civil War. Infantrymen represented the majority of Civil War soldiers, who traveled and fought on foot. Foot soldiers were the main participants in the siege of Petersburg, fighting in some of the most dangerous situations. If you were an infantryman during the Civil War, what would your life have been like? Soldiers tell you in their own words.

Pierre G.T. Beauregard

Born in 1818 in Louisiana, Pierre G.T. Beauregard graduated from West Point in 1838, served in the Mexican War, then as Chief Engineer in New Orleans, and briefly as Superintendent of West Point before resigning in February 1861 to join the Confederate service. He commanded the attack on Fort Sumter, fought at the First Manassas, then Shiloh, and then was put in charge of the coastal defenses of the Carolinas and Georgia.

In May 1864 he defeated Gen. Butler at Drewery's Bluff and bottled up the Union at Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard then led the successful defense of Petersburg in the opening assaults of June 15-18, 1864.

Beauregard's postwar career included a railroad presidency, being supervisor of the Louisiana State Lottery, and turning down offers of commands from the Rumanian and Egyptian armies. He died in 1893.

Clara Barton

Born in 1821 in Massachusetts, Clara Barton worked mostly as a teacher and later in the U.S. Patent Office right before the war. Upon learning the fate of many of the wounded at First Manassas she began an independent organization to get supplies and aid to soldiers. The next year the U.S. Surgeon granted her a general pass to travel with army ambulances to provide care.

During the siege of Petersburg, Barton served with the X Corps hospital at Bermuda Hundred. At this point she served as superintendent of nurses in Gen. Butler's command. Her writings from this period give insight to the horrors of trench warfare, the medical treatments of the day, and the experience of being one of the few females in the world of medicine.

After the war she organized a program for locating men missing in action. She founded the American Red Cross 1881 from which she resigned in 1904. She died in 1912.

Battles of the Siege

Out From the Trenches

The Union siege lines around Petersburg were extended in a series of offensives launched westward around the city toward the South Side Railroad. In a methodical approach, Gen. Grant would use superior numbers to attack or threaten the Richmond defenses first and then send massed troops from the trenches around Petersburg out to attack the Confederate positions defending the southern and western approaches to the city.

If the Union forces were victorious in a battle resulting from one of these offensives or if the Confederates had stopped them but had not swept them from the field, the Union army would start digging in right there and extend their existing trench lines, and eventually their Military Railroad, to connect with the new fort they were now building.

f taken chronologically, one can see, with a few exceptions, that each battle occurred further west each time until the breaking point at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. These "above ground" battles punctuated the grueling and harsh routine of trench warfare at Petersburg and were the places where most of the 70,000 soldiers became casualties in the last ten months of the war.


Decatur Dorsey

In March 1864 Decatur Dorsey was released by his owner and enrolled in the 39th United States Colored Infantry (USCT) in Baltimore, Maryland. In May he was promoted to corporal and then by July, to sergeant.

Dorsey served as color bearer for the regiment at the battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864. During this action he planted the colors upon the Confederate works in advance of his regiment and when they were driven back he carried the colors to the Union works to rally the men. This was what was written upon the citation for the Medal of Honor he was awarded after this battle.

Dorsey was honorably discharged in December 1865 while in Wilmington, North Carolina. He married soon after that and died in 1891, from the effects of typhoid and rheumatism he had contracted in Wilmington, at the approximate age of fifty-one.

Ambrose Burnside

Born in 1824 in Indiana, Burnside worked as a tailor's apprentice until securing an appointment to West Point. Graduating from the academy in 1847 he resigned five years later and was a gun manufacturer, a treasurer of a railroad company, and was involved with the Rhode Island state militia before the Civil War started.

With the outbreak of war Burnside was among the earliest troops to arrive in Washington, D.C. and became a friend of President Lincoln. After a promising start as an officer his actions at Antietam and Fredericksburg brought his ability to lead under question.

Serving as commander of the IX Corps under Gen. Grant in the last year of the war, Burnside's active military career came to an end at Petersburg. In the inquiry conducted by Gen. Meade after the Battle of the Crater most of the blame for the Union disaster was placed upon him. He took leave and never returned, resigning in 1865. A subsequent congessional investigation of the battle exonerated Burnside to a degree.

Burnside served as president of various corporations, and as governor and senator of Rhode Island until his death in 1881.

Cornelia Hancock

Born in 1839 in New Jersey, Cornelia Hancock started off her Civil War nursing career auspiciously when she arrived with other women volunteers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania July 1863. She was the only one of the group not to be accepted to become a volunteer nurse. Nonetheless, she found her way to Gettysburg and began what became a well known and respected service as a nurse in the field.

During the siege of Petersburg, Hancock worked in the II Corps hospital of the Depot Field Hospital at City Point.

After the war she opened a school for African-Americans in South Carolina. In Philadelphia she founded several charity organizations and remained active in social work until her death in 1926. Her popular collection of wartime letters is still in print.

Burgess Mill

Gen. Heth (CSA) stretched his line to stop the V and IX Corps from getting to Boydton Plank Road and he then sent Gen. Mahone (CSA) to attack the right flank of the II Corps. Gen. Hancock (USA), commander of the II Corps, turns Mahone's initial success into a trap.

The successful Confederate defense at Burgess Mill, combined with the Federal failure at Richmond added up to another failure for a Union offensive.

This, the last major battle of the siege in 1864, was a turning point in the strategy employed by the Union. From this point forward Grant would use a single-prong approach, aimed at Petersburg, to take the last supply lines of Petersburg.

City Point

 

 

Location, location, location
During the siege of Petersburg General Grant's headquarters was at City Point, Virginia, eight miles behind Union lines. A small port town at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, City Point had been connected to Petersburg by railroad prior to the war. Its strategic position next to the railroad bed and the rivers offered Grant easy access to points along the front, as well as good transportation and communications with Fort Monroe, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. When he arrived at City Point on June 15, 1864, Grant established his headquarters in a tent on the east lawn of Dr. Richard Eppes' plantation, known as Appomattox.

Supplying the Army
More important than being the headquarters for the United States Armies, City Point was the supply base for the Union forces fighting at Petersburg. Overnight the tiny village became one of the busiest ports in the world as hundreds of ships arrived off its shores bringing food, clothing, ammunition, and other supplies for the Union army. For example, on an average day during the siege the Union army had stored in and around City Point 9,000,000 meals of food and 12,000 tons of hay and oats. The only food not imported from the North was bread, which the army produced on site. In a bakery built on the grounds commissary personnel produced 100,000 rations of bread a day for the hungry soldiers fighting in the trenches.

Getting it There
Bread and other supplies were sent to the front by train and by wagon. The U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps rebuilt the line west to Petersburg, then extended it southwest behind Union lines. Twenty-five locomotives and 275 railroad cars were then brought to City Point by barge from Washington, D.C. to provide rolling stock for the line. In just 22 days the army had completed the first stage of the railroad and had trains operating on a full schedule. At Petersburg victory rode the rails.

William Smith

Born in 1824 in Vermont, William F. Smith graduated from West Point in 1845 and served as a topographical engineer until the war. As a brigadier general he fought in the Peninsula campaign, Antietam and Fredericksburg. It was his criticism of Gen. Butler at this point that cost him his command and a promotion. Sent west, he earned Grant's favor by opening up a supply line to the besieged Union army at Chattanooga. In 1864 he was given command of the XVIII Corps.

Smith was the lead element of the Union strike at Petersburg on June 15, 1864. His failure to vigorously attack the Petersburg defenses was a blunder that again cost him a command. He was placed on special duty in July 1864.

Smith resigned in 1867 and spent a good deal of time arguing his service record until his death in 1903.

Joshua Chamberlain

Born in 1828 in Maine, Chamberlain was a college professor before the war. He went into the army as a Lieutenant Colonel in the 20th Maine. He fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg (his actions there won him a Medal of Honor), Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.

On the third day of the opening action of the siege, Col. Chamberlain was wounded while leading his brigade against the Confederate position known as Rives' Salient. The severity of the injuries were such that the Union Army published his obituary prematurely, as he would survive them after months in the hospital. For his actions that day he was promoted on the field to a brigadier general. Towards the end of the Petersburg Campaign, Chamberlain played a pivotal role on March 31, 1865, in the battle of White Oak Road, as he and his men turned an initial Union setback into a Union victory.

The morning of April 12, 1865 found Chamberlain designated as commander of the parade on the occasion of the formal surrender of the arms and colors of the Army of Northern Virginia. He left the army in 1866.

After the war Chamberlain served as Governor of Maine, president of Bowdoin College, and president of a railroad construction company. He died in 1914.

U.S. Grant

Born in 1822 in Ohio, Ulysses S. Grant graduated from West Point in 1843. He fought in the Mexican War, served out west and then resigned from the U.S. Army in 1854. He spent the next seven years in various jobs. Joining the army with the start of the war Grant gained national attention with his victories at Forts Henry and Donelson, Shiloh, and Vicksburg. Promoted to Lieutenant General March 9, 1864 after his victory at Chattanooga, he was then made General in Chief of the Armies of the United States just three days later.

While accompanying Gen. Meade's Army of the Potomac, Grant directed a national, multi-theater strategy aimed at outflanking the Confederates and destroying their communications and subsistence. At Petersburg Grant displayed his mastery of logistics. His supply base at City Point was one of the world's busiest seaports and combined with the use of the Military Railroad for communication and transportation, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the James were able to maintain its siege operations around Petersburg and Richmond. Grant's success in doing this manifested itself in the collapse of Lee's lines on April 2, 1865 and the subsequent surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia on April 9, 1865.

Grant was elected President of the United States twice (1869-1877). In 1884 he lost all his savings in a financial venture and ended up writing his autobiography to get his family out of poverty. He completed the book a few days before his death of throat cancer in July of 1885. The book was a success and his memoirs are considered one of the best ever written.

Jefferson Davis

Born in 1808 in Kentucky, Jefferson Davis graduated from West Point in 1828. After seven years in the army he resigned his commission to become a planter in Mississippi. Davis was elected to Congress in 1845 and then left in 1846 to fight in the Mexican War. From 1853 to 1857 he was secretary of war for President Franklin Pierce and then served in the U.S. Senate until 1861. Davis resigned from the senate in January 1861 and was inaugurated February 1861 as president of the Confederacy.

Davis' administration was marked by cronyism, autocracy, hard work, and complete devotion to the cause. Outside his constant support of Lee, Davis often quarreled with his generals and interfered with the War Department to the point where he had six secretaries of war in four years . Still he worked ceaselessly, was able to hold onto talented staff, and promoted a much needed nationalistic view of the Confederacy.

In 1865, his responses to the failed Peace Conference and Gen. Lee's report on the state of the army at Petersburg display Davis' complete dedication to the Confederacy. Even with the surrender of Lee's and Johnston's armies he couldn't accept the end of the Confederacy. After his capture in Georgia he spent two years in prison and was released without being brought to trial. He wrote The Rise and and Fall of the Confederate Government in 1881 and died in 1889.

Philip Sheridan

Born in 1831 in New York, Philip Sheridan graduated from West Point in 1853 and served in the West until the war began. He fought at Perryville and his success at Stone's River earned him a promotion to major general in March 1863. Sheridan participated in the Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Overland campaigns.

His Shenandoah Valley campaign lasted until early March 1865 when he returned to Petersburg. Grant then sent Sheridan westward to destroy the South Side Railroad, the last supply route into Petersburg. Sheridan's victory at Five Forks sealed the fate of Richmond and Petersburg and initiated the campaign to Appomattox Court House.

A month after the war he led U.S. troops to the Mexican border in response to a military threat from that country. Sheridan then served as military Governor of Texas and Louisiana. In 1884 he succeeded Gen. Sherman as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army and four years later he died.

Women at City Point

Though the City Point operation was governed by men, women created their own place - as caregivers, hospital managers, relief agents, and laborers - within those boundaries set down by the military and society. Women contributed to the Union cause while enriching their own lives.

In the Hospitals
Women's greatest contribution to life at City Point was their care of the wounded and sick soldiers. With most of these women having only cared for sick relatives before this, nothing prepared them for the horrors they witnessed in the hospitals. But like their male counterparts time lessened the shock and dread experienced when treating men maimed by iron and lead or incapacitated by disease.

Their responsibilities included supervising male nurses assigned to them, identifying dead soldiers, dressing wounds, feeding and washing patients, and arranging transportation home for the seriously wounded. Though few in number women like Clara Barton, Cornelia Hancock, and Sarah Palmer were not forgotten by those they helped or by those for whom they paved the way in the field of medicine.

Agents of Relief
Women who served as U.S. Sanitary Relief agents, U.S. Christian Commission delegates, and representatives of the various Northern states also devoted a great deal of time to the hospital wards, even assuming the role of nurse when mass casualties came in. The ladies mostly collected and distributed supplies from the home front to the soldiers and spent time sitting with individual patients reading to them, writing for them, and changing their dressings. Agents also ran hospital kitchens supervised cooks and other duties outside the hospitals as well.

A Step Towards Freedom
As none of the African-American women who lived and worked at City Point recorded their own stories, little is known about them. Understandably, women who had been slaves flocked to this Federal outpost in Confederate territory. These women labored as cooks and laundresses in the hospitals and on ships cooking and cleaning for hundreds of people every day. Black women also worked as maids and cooks for some of the officers and hospital staff members. Thus African-American women assisted in the union war effort at the same time they took positive steps for themselves. They were in a protected, free area and for the first time, for many, received wages for their work.

After the War
By taking on the tasks of nurses and agents, these women had stepped outside traditional female roles and created a space they did not want to retreat from. Several women validated their experiences during the Civil War by writing them down and having them published. Many continued their path outside traditional roles; for example, several of the nurses attended medical school and became physicians. Others served as teachers in the Freedman's Bureau or as matrons in orphanages. African-American Women used the knowledge and freedom gained as a transition on their way to emancipation. The experience of war may have been horrible, but it had provided opportunities for women, new roles that were hard to relinquish.

Abraham Lincoln

Born in 1809 in Kentucky, Abraham Lincoln worked as storekeeper, served as a militia captain, and was employed as a postmaster, before serving four terms in the Illinois state government. By 1836 he was a licensed lawyer and in 1847 served a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. The debates he had in his loss to Stephen Douglas propelled him to national recognition. In 1860, as the Republican nominee, he was elected president of the United States.

During the war Lincoln's primary concerns were the preservation of the Union and, with the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the abolishment of slavery. To achieve this he believed in the vigorous prosecution of the war and allowed the enlistment of African-American troops. In the fall of 1864 with long casualty lists and stagnant battlefronts at Petersburg and Atlanta, Lincoln's re-election was only assured with Gen. Sherman's victory in Georgia and Gen. Sheridan's victory in the Shenandoah Valley.

In late March 1865, Lincoln visited Grant at City Point. It was here he had his last conference with Generals Grant and Sherman and Admiral Porter regarding the terms of surrender for Confederate forces. Also, Lincoln would leave from City Point to visit Richmond when it fell into Union hands.

Less than a week after leaving Grant's headquarters Lincoln is assassinated.

Wade Hampton

Born in 1818 in South Carolina, Wade Hampton was the son of wealthy planters. He ran his plantations in South Carolina and the lower Mississippi Valley and held several public offices before the war. At the start of the war he personally raised and mostly equipped the Hampton Legion, a force of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Hampton fought at First Manassas and participated in the Peninsula, Antietam and Gettysburg Campaigns. The last two as a cavalry commander. In September 1863 he became a major general and with Gen. Jeb Stuart's (CSA) death in May, 1864 he takes command of the cavalry corps during the siege.

During the siege of Petersburg he was involved in the Beefsteak Raid, Reams Station and Burgess Mill.

He was twice elected governor of South Carolina after the war and served as a U.S. Senator until 1891.

Gouverneur Warren

Born in 1830 in New York, Gouverneur Warren graduated from West Point in 1850. He served with the Corps of Topographical Engineers and taught mathematics at West Point until the beginning of the Civil War. He participated in the Peninsula Campaign, Second Bull Run, and Antietam. At Gettysburg he gained fame for helping the Union avert probable disaster on Little Round Top. Subsequently, he was promoted to major general.

He was the commander of the V Corps for most of the remainder of the war. This corps was heavily engaged in most of the fighting around Petersburg. Criticisms of him being too cautious led to his removal, by Gen. Sheridan, of command of the V Corps as the battle of Five Forks was ending.

Warren spent the rest of his army career as an engineer. He requested and finally received a court of inquiry into the charges that led to his removal. The court convened fourteen years after the fact and published its findings in November of 1882. The court had cleared Warren of the principal charges - three months after his death.

Winfield Hancock

Born in 1824 in Pennsylvania, Winfield Hancock graduated from West Point in 1844. He served in the Mexican War, the Seminole War, and in Kansas during the border disturbances. Hancock participated in nearly all the major engagements in the eastern theatre of the war.

He led the II Corps from Gettysburg to Burgess Mill, it was at Reams Station that Hancock suffered his greatest defeat as corps commander. By November 1864 Hancock relinquished his command and went to organize the 1st Corps of Veterans and led the Department of West Virginia until the end of the war.

After the war he served as the commander of the Fifth Military District during Reconstruction and eventually he assumed command of the Department of the East. In 1880, as the Democratic candidate, he lost the election to James Garfield. Hancock died in 1886.

George Pickett

Born in 1825 in Virginia, George Pickett graduated from West Point in 1846. He served in the Mexican War and in the western territories until June 1861 when he resigned his commission in the U.S. Army to enter the Confederate service. Pickett participated in the Seven Days battles and as a Major General commanded the Confederate center at Fredericksburg and led the third day's charge at Gettysburg.

At Petersburg his command spent most of their time north of the Appomattox River, at Bermuda Hundred. By late March Gen. Lee put him in charge of a force to keep the Union from seizing the South Side Railroad, the last rail line into Petersburg. The resulting battle took place at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. The defeat was made more poignant as Lee relieved him of his command after the loss at Sayler's Creek on the way to Appomattox Court House.

After the war he turned down offers to serve in the Egyptian military and to serve as a US Marshal, and instead became an insurance salesman. He died in 1875.

Songs of the Civil War

The Bonnie Blue Flag

We are a band of brothers
And native to the soil,
Fighting for our Liberty,
With treasure, blood, and toil;
And when our rights are threaten'd,
The cry rose near and far,
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag,
that bears a Single Star!
Hurrah! Hurrah!
for Southern rights hurrah!
Hurrah! for the Bonnie Blue Flag
that bears a Single Star.

Battle Cry of Freedom

Yes we'll rally 'round the flag, boys,
we'll rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom,
We will rally from the hillside,
we'll gather from the plain,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.
The Union forever
Hurrah, boys, Hurrah!
Down with the traitor,
Up with the star;
While we rally round the flag, boys,
Rally once again,
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom.


Tenting Tonight on the Old Campground

We're tenting tonight on the old Campground,
Give us a song to cheer
Our weary hearts, a song of home,
And friends we love so dear.
Many are the hearts that are weary tonight,
Wishing for the war to cease,
Many are the hearts looking for the right
To see the dawn of peace.
Tenting tonight,
Tenting tonight,
Tenting on the old Camp ground.
Dying on the old Camp ground.


Goober Peas

Sitting by the roadside on a summer day
Chatting with my mess mates, passing time away,
Lying in the shadow underneath the trees,
Goodness, how delicious, eating goober pear!
Peas! Peas! Peas! Peas! eating goober peas!
Goodness how delicious
eating goober peas!


Hard Crackers Come Again No More

Let us close our game of poker,
Take our tin cups in hand,
While we gather round the cook's tent door
Where dry mummies of hard crackers Are given to each man;
Oh, hard crackers come again no more!
'Tis the song and the sign of the hungry,
"Hard crackers, hard crackers, come again no more!
Many days have you lingered upon our stomachs sore,
Oh, hard crackers, come again no more."

Just Before the Battle Mother

Just before the battle, Mother,
I am thinking most of you,
While upon the field we're watching,
With enemy in view,
Comrades brave are round me lying,
Fill'd with tho'ts of home and God;
For well they know that on the morrow,
Some will sleep beneath the sod.
Farewell, Mother, you may never
Press me to your heart again;
But O, you'll not forget me, Mother,
If I'm number'd with the slain.


Wait for the Wagon

Will you come with me, my Phyllis dear,
to yon Blue Mountain free,
Where blossoms smell the sweetest
come roving along with me;
It's every Sunday morning,
when I am by your side,
We'll jump into the wagon and all take a ride.
Wait for the wagon,
wait for the wagon,
Wait for the wagon and we'll all take a ride.


O, I'm a Good Old Rebel

O, I'm a good old rebel,
Now, that's just what I am,
For this "Fair Land of Freedom" I do not care at all;
I'm glad I fit against it,
I only wish we'd won;
And I don't want no pardon
For anything I've done.

I hates the Constitution,
This Great Republic, too
I hates the Freedman's Buro
In uniforms of blue;
I hates the nasty eagle,
with all his brags and fuss,
The lyin', thieven' Yankees,
I hates 'em wuss and wuss.

Henry Heth

Born in 1825 in Virginia, Henry Heth graduated from West Point in 1847 and served out west until resigning his commission in April 1861. He was promoted to brigadier general in 1862, fought at Chancellorsville and commanded the division that made initial contact with the Union forces at Gettysburg.

As division commander in the Third Corps, Heth participated in much of the fighting around Petersburg including Weldon Railroad, Reams Station, Peebles Farm, Burgess Mill and Hatcher's Run.

At the close of the war he worked in the insurance business and later served the government as a surveyor and in the Office of Indian Affairs. He died in 1899.

United States Military Railroad

The Need
The United States Military Railroad Construction Corps (USMRRC) was instrumental in Grant's plan to defeat Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the Siege of Petersburg. From the waterfront at City Point Grant supplied more than 100,000 troops and more than 65,000 horses mules. Living off the land was not an option. All food, equipment and supplies had to be shipped in from northern ports and then delivered to the battlefront eight miles from City Point.

Eight wharves were built to accommodate hundreds of vessels conveying war material. More than 280 buildings were constructed by the USMRCC at City Point by the end of the siege. The lumber was pre-cut as per orders and then assembled once it arrived. The sleepy little village took on the appearance of a thriving, bustling port in just a few days.

The Logistics
As the siege progressed Grant extended his lines around Petersburg and the United States Military Railroad (USMRR) followed. After every major action, with few exceptions, the railroaders received orders to investigate the terrain and chose a site suitable for a temporary rail line. In the nine months of the siege 21 miles would be laid, 25 locomotives and more than 275 rolling stock would be used, and 2,300,000 miles would be logged on the railroad. Thousands of troops used the line but the primary cargo was food, weapons, and ammunition. Wounded soldiers were eventually transported by rail to the Depot Field Hospital at City Point.

Stations were established along the railroad for distribution of supplies. Sidings were built at these stations so trains unloading would not interfere with other trains on the line. On average eighteen trains made the trip from City Point to the front and back again and timetables were published to insure smooth running.

The Impact
The ultimate Union victory over the Confederate army of Lee at Petersburg is due in part to the well organized operations of the USMRCC. The transportation system and the logistical apparatus established by the Federals during the Siege of Petersburg enhanced Grant's ability to ensure the collapse and final defeat of the Confederacy in Virginia.

African-Americans at the Siege

In Petersburg
At the beginning of the Civil War, Virginia had a black population of about 549,000. This meant that of the Confederacy's total black population 1 in every 6 blacks lived in Virginia. Of those African-Americans in Virginia 89% were slaves. In Petersburg about half the population was black of which nearly 35% were free. Petersburg was considered to have the largest number of free blacks of any Southern city at that time. Many of the freedmen prospered here as barbers, blacksmiths, boatmen, draymen, livery stable keepers and caterers.

Serving the Confederacy
When Petersburg became a major supply center for the newly formed Confederacy and its nearby capital in Richmond, both freedmen and slaves were employed in various war functions. One of which was working for the numerous railroad companies that operated in and out of the city. In 1862 Captain Charles Dimmock used freedmen and slave labor to construct a ten-mile long defensive line of trenches and batteries around the city.

Once the siege began in June 1864, African-Americans continued working for the Confederacy. In September 1864, General Lee asked for an additional 2,000 blacks to be added to his labor force. In March 1865, with the serious loss of white manpower in the army, the Southern army called for 40,000 slaves to become an armed force in the Confederacy. A notice in the April 1, 1865, Petersburg Daily Express, called for black recruits with the statement, "To the slaves is offered freedom and undisturbed residences at their old homes in the Confederacy after the war. Not freedom of sufferance, but honorable and selfwon by the gallantry and devotion which grateful countrymen will never cease to remember and reward." It is not known how many responded to this challenge. The war ended before any major contribution could be made.

Serving the Union: U.S. Colored Troops in the Siege
During the war a total of nearly 187,000 African-Americans served in the Union army. Of those the greatest concentration of U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) was at Petersburg. In the initial assault upon the city on June 15, 1864 a division of USCTs in the XVIII Corps helped capture and secure a section of the Dimmock Line. The other division at Petersburg was with the IX Corps and it fought in the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864.

In December 1864, all the United States Colored Troops around Petersburg were incorporated into three divisions and became the XXV Corps of the Army of the James. It was the largest black force assembled during the war and varied between 9,000 to 16,000 men. Overall in the Petersburg Campaign USCTs would participate in 6 major engagements and earn 15 of the 16 total Medals of Honor awarded African-American soldiers in the Civil War.

At City Point
African-Americans served in varying capacities at the Union supply base at City Point. They served as pickets, railroad workers, and laborers "discharging the ships, wheeling the dirt, sawing the timber and driving the piles." Many also worked at the Depot Field Hospital as cooks.

John Hartranft

Born in 1830 in Pennsylvania, John Hartranft attended school in Virginia and received his degree from Union College in New York. Before the war he was a trained civil engineer, a lawyer, and had held political office. The 90-day volunteer unit he belonged to turned its back and went home on the eve of First Manassas. Though their enlistment was up, Hartranft was humiliated by the decision and he stayed to fight with the army. This act earned him the Medal of Honor. He spent time in North Carolina, fought at Antietam, and served in the West, before gaining command of the 3rd Division of the IX Corps towards the end of the war.

Hartranft is credited with the Union success at Fort Stedman and for this was made a brevet major general.

At war's end he was appointed a special provost marshal during the trial of those accused in Lincoln's assassination. Afterwards he became a general auditor, a two-term governor of Pennsylvania, the postmaster of Philadelphia, and collector of the city port. He died in 1889.

A.P. Hill

Born in 1825 in Virginia, Ambrose Powell Hill graduated from West Point in 1847 and saw service in the Mexican War and the Third Seminole War. He resigned his commission in the U.S. Army in March 1861 to join the Confederate service. Due to his distinguished service Hill was promoted to Major General in 1862 and then to Lieutenant General in 1863. He participated in the Seven Days battles, Antietam, Chancellorsville, and led the Third Corps at Gettysburg and in most of the Overland Campaign.

His Corps defended Petersburg throughout the siege against three to five corps of the Union army. On April 2, 1865 he returned from sick leave to rally his men in the wake of the Federal breakthrough along the Third Corps' line. While riding to the front he was shot and killed by a Union soldier.