Beginning on June 15, 1864, less than three miles east of where you are standing, 18,000 Union troops attacked the Confederate line of defensive fortifications surrounding the city. When all attempts to take the city by direct assault failed by June 18th, General Ulysses S. Grant began laying siege upon Petersburg, which would become one of the longest campaigns of the Civil War. The National Park Service's Petersburg National Battlefield is the place to learn more about some of the fiercest fighting of the Siege. Here the two armies were literally yards apart in some areas of the lines, placing the men under constant danger of sharp shooting and mortar fire. The Eastern Front Unit of the battlefield contains a Visitor Center and museum as well as walking trails and a four mile tour road. As you venture down the park's tour road, you will be able to see trenches and fortifications where soldiers lived and died. You can walk on the grounds where the famous Battle of the Crater took place and learn about the lesser known but pivotal Battle of Fort Stedman which was General Robert E. Lee's only major offensive of the campaign. Discover why one soldier said, "This life in the trenches was awful—beyond description."
Grant's Headquarters at City Point
As Grant's attempt to lay siege on Petersburg continued, serious hardships afflicted both Southern soldiers and civilians as the Union Armies systematically attempted to cut off their supply lines. The Union Army would not have the same problems. Ten miles east of here lay City Point, which for almost ten months, served as the logistic and supply base for the Federal Army. This area, now part of the City of Hopewell, also served as General Grant's main headquarters. President Abraham Lincoln visited twice and spent two of the last three weeks of his life at City Point. Visitors to the site will find a park ranger located in Appomattox Plantation, the home of the Dr. Richard Eppes Family. There they will find a 15 minute video as well as participate in a tour of the house and grounds.
The Western Front Unit
The Western Front Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield allows visitors to learn about the battles which occurred south and west of the defense lines at Petersburg. As General Grant ordered his troops to attack supply lines coming from North Carolina nd from points west, General Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia did everything they could to protect these routes. But Lee's army was diminishing. General Grant, realizing the weakened state of Lee's army, made a determined push for the last of Petersburg's supply lines in the spring of 1865. Visit the Western Front Unit to learn about these offensive movements of the Union army as grant placed a stranglehold on Lee's lifelines. Included along the tour is Poplar Grove National Cemetery which is the resting site of over 6,000 Union soldiers. A Visitor Contact Station is staffed at Polar Grove during the summer.
The Five Forks Battlefield
The Five Forks Battlefield is located approximately 20 miles southwest of where you are standing. Known as the "Waterloo of the Confederacy," this desperate battle included some of the most famous generals of the Civil War. Union generals Philip H. Sheridan, Gouverneur K. Warren, George Armstrong Custer, and Joshua L. Chamberlain joined together to combat Confederate generals George E. Pickett and Fitzhugh Lee. Realizing that the Five Forks intersection in Dinwiddie County was all that stood between the Union forces and the last of Petersburg's supply lines, the South Side Railroad, General Robert E. Lee ordered General Pickett to "hold Five Forks at all hazards." Visit this battlefield in Dinwiddie County and find out why General Lee's order to General Pickett was easier said than done. This part of Petersburg National Battlefield includes a Visitor Contact Station and a five-stop driving tour.