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Ulysses S. Although the Confederates held off the Federals in the Battle of Petersburg, Grant implemented a siege of the city that lasted for days and ultimately cost the South the war. General Ulysses S. His strategic goals shifted from the defeat of Robert E. Lee's army in the field to eliminating the supply and communication routes to the Confederate capital at Richmond.
The city of Petersburg, 24 miles south of Richmond, was the junction point of five railro that supplied the entire upper James River region.
Capturing this important transportation hub would isolate the Confederate capital and force Gen. Robert E. Lee to either evacuate Richmond or fight the numerically superior Grant on open ground. From June 15—18,Confederate general Beauregard and his troops, though outed by the Federals, saved Petersburg from Union capture. After the crushing Union defeat at Cold Harbor, Grant uses stealth and deception to shift his army south of the James River.
His troops begin crossing the river both on transports and a brilliantly engineered 2,foot-long pontoon bridge at Windmill Point on June By the morning of June 15, Grant is ready to launch his attack. Standing in his way is the Dimmock Line, a series of 55 artillery batteries and connected infantry earthworks that form a mile arc around the city. However, with Lee still defending Richmond, a scratch force of only 2, soldiers under Confederate general P. June Union general William F. Smith delays his assault until p. Winfield S. Once under way, the Union attack proves anti-climactic.
Federal troops gain the rear of Battery 5, throwing the defenders from the Twenty-sixth Virginia and a single battery of artillery into a panic. Batteries 3 through 8 also fall. Batteries 6 through 11 are captured by U. Colored Troops, commanded by Brig. Edward Hinks.
Colonel Joseph Kiddoo, commanding the Twenty-second U. The Union Second Corps capture another section of the Confederate line. The Confederates lose Batteries 12 through The Union Ninth Corps gains more ground, but the fight is poorly coordinated. That night, Beauregard digs a new line of defense closer to Petersburg that meets up with the Dimmock Line at Battery 25, and Lee rushes reinforcements from other elements of the Army of Northern Virginia. The men of the First Maine Heavy Artillery advance across a cornfield and straight into Confederate fire.
Supporting units fail to protect their flanks. Within ten minutes, men lay dead or wounded on the field. It is the largest regimental loss of the entire Civil War. With Confederate works now heavily manned, the opportunity to capture Petersburg without a siege is lost. After four days of fighting with no success, Grant begins siege operations.
As he attacks Petersburg, other Union troops simultaneously attack around Richmond, which strains the Confederacy to the breaking point. During the 10 months of the siege, both armies endure skirmishing, mortar and artillery fire, poor rations, and intense boredom. Grant continues to order attacks and cut off rail lines. That evening, Grant evacuates Petersburg.
Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court House a week later. Captain Charles Dimmock of the Confederate Corps of Engineers deed the impressive ten-mile trench line that stretched around Petersburg in a "U" shape and was anchored on the southern bank of the Appomattox River.
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The fortifications held 55 artillery batteries and the walls reached as high as 40 feet in some areas. Work on the defense line began in the summer of Under the orders of Maj. Daniel H. Hill, Dimmock used soldiers and enslaved laborers to execute the plan. Some enslaved people from Virginia's Eastern Shore and more than 1, from North Carolina dug the fortifications.
But progress on the defenses was continually hampered by a shortage in manpower. By DecemberDimmock asked the Petersburg Common Council for " negroes" to perform more labor. The slaves were "to report each morning upon the work … at eight o'clock [and] to be dismissed and permitted to return home at 4 p. Labor on the Dimmock Line continued through the rest of Captain Dimmock wrote that by late in Julythe Dimmock Line was "not entirely completed, but sufficiently so for all defensive purposes.
Though incomplete, the fortifications were an initial obstacle to Union troops as they descended on Petersburg in June But once the city was under siege by the Federals, the trenches of the Dimmock Line proved to be as much of a prison as a protection for the exhausted and hungry Confederate troops trapped there throughout the winter.
African Americans served as soldiers and laborers for both the Union and Confederate armies in the battle and siege at Petersburg. Petersburg was considered to have the largest of free Blacks of any Southern city at that time. Before the battle and siege of Petersburg, both freedmen and slaves were employed in various war functions, including working for the numerous railroad companies that supplied the South.
Once the siege began in JuneAfrican Americans continued working for the Confederacy. In September of that year, Confederate general Robert E. Lee asked for an additional 2, Blacks to be added to his labor force.
In Marchas white manpower in the army dwindled, the desperate Confederacy called for 40, slaves to become an armed force. A notice in the April 1,Petersburg Daily Express read, "To the slave is offered freedom and undisturbed residences at their old homes in the Confederacy after the war. Not freedom of sufferance, but honorable and self won by the gallantry and devotion which grateful countrymen will never cease to remember and reward.
Black troops in the Union army, including some freedmen and some former slaves from the southern states, had already distinguished themselves before the action at Petersburg.
During the war nearlyAfrican Americans served the Union. In the initial assault on the city on June 15, a division of U. It was the largest Black force assembled during the war and ranged between 9, and 16, men. During the Petersburg Campaign, U. Petersburg Assault on Petersburg. City of Petersburg, VA Jun 15 - 18, How it ended Although the Confederates held off the Federals in the Battle of Petersburg, Grant implemented a siege of the city that lasted for days and ultimately cost the South the war. In context General Ulysses S.
During the Battle. Union 62, Aftermath Union. Estimated Casualties.
Union 8, Questions to Consider 1. Who built the elaborate Confederate fortifications known as the Dimmock Line at Petersburg?
What critical roles did African Americans serve at Petersburg? Petersburg: Featured Resources.
Civil War Video. Civil War Article. Civil War Biography. Civil War Battle Map. Petersburg: Search All Resources. All battles of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign.