The Banks House
— Pamplin Historical Park —
"Christmas has come and gone. I spent it at Mrs. Banks' where I had quite a sumptuous repast, finishing up with eggnog, cake, etc. I ate so much sponge cake that whenever you would touch me, it would be just like squeezing an India rubber ball."
- Lieutenant Edwin I. Kurisheedt, Washington (Louisiana) Artillery, CSA
In the fall of 1864, the Civil War arrived at the Banks property. Confederate soldiers of Brigadier General James H. Lane's North Carolina brigade established camps near the house in October and began constructing earthwork fortifications about 500 yards south of the house. Other units erected their winter quarters in the area north of the Boydton Plank Road, today's U.S. Route 1. Margaret Banks entertained Confederate officers from time to time and provided rooms for women who were visiting their husbands, sons, and brothers camped nearby.
Union troops attacked and broke through the Confederate defenses southwest of the Banks House on the morning of April 2, 1865. Brief skirmishing occurred around the structure as the Confederates sought to stem the blue tide, but the Southerners had to fall back to Fort Gregg, about 1,600 yards to the northeast. Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant and his staff reached the Banks House about 10:45 a.m., and Grant established his headquarters here. For a brief period, the Union officers came under Confederate artillery fire. Grant probably spent the night in or around the home. The following morning, Grant left to ride into Petersburg, evacuated by General Robert E. Lee and his army, to meet with President Lincoln.
"General Grant dismounted near a farm house which stood on a knoll, from which he could get a good view of the field of operations. He seated himself on the ground at the foot of a tree, and was soon busy receiving dispatches and writing orders to officers conducting the advance. The position was under fire, and as soon as the group of staff officers was seen, the enemy's guns began paying their respects to the party. This lasted for about a quarter of an hour, and as the fire became hotter and hotter, several of the officers, apprehensive for the general's safety, urged him to move to some less conspicuous position, but he kept on writing and talking, without the least interruption from the shots falling around him, and apparently not noticing what a target the place was becoming, or paying any heed to the gentle reminders to ?move on.' After he had finished his dispatches he got up, took a view of the situation, and as he started toward the other side of the farm house said with a quizzical look at the group around him, 'Well, they do seem to have the range on us,' ?"
- Lt. Colonel Horace Porter, Staff Officer, USA