Richmond Must Fall
The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864
Publication Year: 2012
In the fall of 1864, the Civil War’s outcome largely rested on Abraham Lincoln’s success in the upcoming presidential election. As the contest approached, cautious optimism buoyed the President’s supporters in the wake of Union victories at Atlanta and in the Shenandoah Valley. With all eyes on the upcoming election, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant conducted a series of large-scale military operations outside Richmond and Petersburg, which have, until now, received little attention.
In Richmond Must Fall, Hampton Newsome examines these October battles in unprecedented scope and detail. The narrative begins with one of Lee’s last offensive operations of the war at the Darbytown Road on October 7, 1864, and ends with Grant’s major offensive on October 27 to seize the South Side Railroad, the last open rail line into the Confederate stronghold at Petersburg. The offensive would spark sharp fighting at Burgess Mill south of Petersburg and on the Williamsburg Road east of Richmond.
The October 1864 operations offer important insights into the personalities and command styles of Lee and Grant, including Lee’s penchant for audacity and overwhelming thirst to strike a blow against his opponent even against bitter odds and Grant’s willingness to shoulder heavy responsibility in the face of great risk. The narrative explores the relationships within the high command of both armies, including Grant’s sometimes strained partnership with the cautious George Meade. It also illustrates Grant’s efforts to guide the strong-willed political general Benjamin F. Butler, whose steadfast support for African American troops would spark a prisoner controversy that would bring the war’s underlying issues of slavery and race into bold relief. For the Confederates, the month’s operations illustrate Lee’s necessary reliance on his key combat commanders at Petersburg, including the formidable William Mahone.
Drawing on an array of original sources, Newsome focuses on the October battles themselves, examining the plans for the operations, the decisions made by commanders on the battlefield, and the soldiers’ view from the ground. At the same time, he places these military actions in the larger political context that draped the fall of 1864. With the election looming, neither side could afford a military disaster at Richmond or Petersburg. Nevertheless, Grant and Lee were willing to take significant risks to seek great advantage. These military events set the groundwork for operations that would close the war in Virginia several months later.
Published by: The Kent State University Press
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From June 1864 to april 1865, Union and Confederate forces endured a gruel-ing campaign outside Richmond and Petersburg. during these eleven months, Ulysses S. grant sought repeatedly to overwhelm Robert e. leeâs defenses and end the Civil War. But Union success on the Richmond-Petersburg front was slow in coming, and events elsewhere dominated headlines during much of the warâs ...
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This project began over a decade ago as a vague notion and would not have pro-gressed beyond mere aspiration without the generous help of many people. Bryce Suderow, a veteran researcher and writer, helped initiate this effort by sharing sources from his vast collection of material and urging me to dive into the work. at the end of the process, he provided recommendations on the finished product. ...
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...on august 25, 1864, Confederate forces attacked the Union Second Corps at Reams Station, a remote rail stop in southern virginia. The federal troops, led by general Winfield Hancock, had been engaged in destroying a section of the Weldon Rail-road, a key supply line to the Confederate stronghold of Petersburg. over the sum-mer, the Second Corps had suffered several embarrassing defeats but remained the ...
...in early october, the countryside east of Richmond became a focal point for mili-tary activities in virginia. on the 7th, along the darbytown Road, Robert e. lee would seek to reverse the Union gains of September by launching one of his last large-scale offensives of the war. While lee strove for advantage, the Union army remained active. Benjamin Butler, commander of federal forces in this sector, ...
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...two federal armies loomed outside Richmond. george g. Meadeâs army of the Potomac manned the lines to the south at Petersburg, and Benjamin F. Butlerâs army of the James stood poised east of Richmond in Henrico County. Both forces brought their own strengths, liabilities, and reputations to the gates of the Con-federate capital. By october, both had experienced their share of hard fighting, ...
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For Benjamin Butlerâs infantry, the rumors and reports of leeâs movement the previous night warned of more combat Friday morning. at daylight, federal units prepared for a fight. But when the dawn passed and nothing happened, relief fil-tered through the ranks and âmany a joke cracked over the last needless scare.âone.superior However, about an hour after sunrise, the sounds of battle drifted from Johnsonâs ...
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...in the wake of leeâs failure at the new Market Road on october 7 and the sporadic fighting outside Petersburg the next day, the appetite for combat diminished on all sides. Though Butler still hoped for further operations, grant showed little interest. Thus, the army of the James went to work bolstering its positions. The tenth Corps troops strengthened their trenches along the new Market Road, the ...
...in the wake of the battles along the darbytown Road in Henrico County, atten-tion drifted back south to Petersburg. over the following weeks, grant would plan and execute his sixth major offensive of the campaign. in doing so, he sought to complete his stranglehold on Petersburg and hasten Richmondâs fall. The op-eration would bring much maneuvering and intense fighting southwest of Peters-...
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...over the summer and fall, the Union and Confederate armies had transformed the landscape around Petersburg into a dizzying array of trenches, rif_le pits, forti-fications, and military roads. george F. Williams, a New York Times reporter who had covered much of the campaign, provided readers in october with a vivid account of the earthworks ringing the city, describing the maze of forts, trenches, ...
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...âPolitics absorb more and more of the time and thoughts of of_f_icers and men,â wrote one federal artillery commander on october 16.one.superior in the Union trenches and regimental camps, the upcoming election was on everyoneâs mind. While opinions varied, lincoln appeared to enjoy an advantage among the rank and file. as Union general Joshua Chamberlain explained later, McClellanâs âpersonal popularity in ...
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...on Sunday evening, october 23, grant met with Meade and Butler separately to discuss the upcoming operation.one.superior The next day, he issued of_f_icial orders for Meade to launch an offensive to seize, hold, and fortify the South Side Railroad on Thursday, october 27. Following its secondary role in the late September offen-sive, Meadeâs army would lead the upcoming operation and Butlerâs army of the ...
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...in the camps of Meadeâs army, the rumor mill turned. on Monday, the 24th, a member of the 12th new York wrote that from âall indications something of im-portance is going to happen soon.âone.superior as preparations commenced, some soldiers correctly predicted the object of the upcoming operation. a Pennsylvanian in the Fifth Corps noted that the orders were âquickly interpreted to mean a deter-...
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The army of the James rose on Thursday, the 27th, for its move against Richmond. at dawn, the tenth Corps commander, alfred terry, ill from a recurrent malarial fever, climbed into a buggy and headed north.one.superior after reaching the darbytown Road, he established headquarters at the Johnson house and waited for his three divisions to arrive.two.superior terryâs mission was simple and largely free of the uncertainty ...
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The severe repulse at the Williamsburg Road did not exhaust godfrey Weitzelâs op-portunities east of Richmond. as his initial efforts faltered, he received a message from Butler directing a probe of the York River Railroad, which was farther to the north.one.superior Such a reconnaissance would stretch the Confederate left even more, not only prohibiting Confederate commanders from sending troops to Petersburg but ...
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South of Petersburg, soldiers of the Union ninth Corps broke camp at 3 a.m. Thursday, quickly washed down hard tack with coffee, and marched out into the darkness.one.superior The badges on their caps bore a cannon tube crossed over an anchor, in recognition of their successful operations along coastal north Carolina in 1862. Through much of the 1864 campaign, though, the ninth Corps had served un-...
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...earlier that Thursday morning, the soldiers of the Second Corps rose for the dayâs work. John Haley of the 17th Maine took note of the âdark and drizzlyâ conditions and recorded that the men âwere in a sour mood for marching.âone.superior The schedule af-forded little time for breakfast. one new York recruit found the time too short by far. Unacquainted with his regimentâs âshort order meal system,â the unlucky soul ...
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With gregg covering the left f_lank to the south, Hancockâs Second Corps resumed its westward march from Cummings Ford. Thomas eganâs division crossed first, with Thomas Smythâs brigade in the lead.one.superior Smyth, in turn, deployed a Pennsyl-vania regiment to pursue the retreating Confederates and then followed with his entire brigade southwest along the vaughan Road for a short distance, scat-...
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...at 10:40 a.m. on october 27, Hancock received a message from Meade reporting the dim prospects for success on Parkeâs ninth Corps front. The dispatch urged Hancock to open communications with Warrenâs Fifth Corps and noted that one of Warrenâs divisions was headed his way.one.superior But Hancockâs mission to seize the South Side Railroad remained unchanged. The Second Corps continued west through ...
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Several miles east of the Burgess Farm, the afternoon near the Clements house had settled into a wet, uncomfortable calm. Parke and Warren arranged their two corps in a continuous line to guard against Confederate counterattacks. in the ninth Corps sector to the north, Potterâs division anchored the right f_lank, with Ferreroâs USCts in the center, and orlando Willcoxâs brigades dug in north of ...
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Mary Burgess, safely removed from her battle-wrecked farm, resolved to reach Petersburg, nearly seven miles away. With the children in tow, she and her mother-in-law carried nothing save the bread and gold pieces salvaged from their home. The bewildered party found the Boydton Plank Road filled with Confeder-ate soldiers from Hethâs and Mahoneâs commands rushing south toward the fight. ...
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...only three months after the Reams Station debacle, Winfield Hancockâs com-mand faced another crisis at the Boydton Plank Road. in the wake of Mahoneâs at-tack, conditions had turned grim. The assault had nearly stranded eganâs division at the Burgess Farm. gershom Mottâs command, at the dabney Mill Road, oper-ated with only one functioning brigade. to the southwest, general greggâs cavalry ...
...on the evening of the 27th, grant and his commanders withdrew their men from the field, ending the sixth offensive. in the wake of the operationâs failure, ample discussion appeared in the press, and plenty of finger pointing occurred within the army. While many wondered whether the battles at Burgess Mill and the Wil-liamsburg Road would affect the election, grant began to consider what lessons ...
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Colonel Charles Weygant, of the 124th new York, struggled to the rear with his third wound of the war. leaving his command near the Plank Road, he staggered to a small house beyond the park of wagons and ambulances.one.superior after having his wound examined by a surgeon, he stepped out into the dusk and headed for a row of ambulances. Weak from loss of blood, he crawled into a wagon and lay down. ...
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Question by the Judge Advocate: What did you do at 9:30 oâclock in the morning Answer: i called in what men i had posted in my front during the night and also the 19th Regt Mass vol. which i knew were posted in the edge of the timber. i sent out men from 7 until 8:30 am, in different parties to see if our troops were occupying the same position they did on the night before or had left. They ...
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...grantâs sixth offensive at Petersburg ended a failure in many respects. Union troops did not reach the South Side Railroad, seize the Boydton Plank Road, or break rebel trench lines in Henrico County. in fact, compared to the successes of the fifth offensive in September, the sixth was underwhelming. it gained no significant ground and merely added to the long list of Union casualties already ...
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...today, the sites of the october 1864 battles go largely unnoticed by people in their daily lives around Richmond and Petersburg. north of the James, Johnsonâs Farm, the focal point of the initial Confederate attack on october 7, 1864, at the dar-bytown Road, is now the site of Henrico Countyâs dorey Park, a recreation area complete with ball fields and a fitness center. a stone âFreemanâ marker, named ...
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For the most part, this table ref_lects unit organization as of october 31, 1864, for the principal combat units featured in this book, as ref_lected in the of_f_icial Re-cords. However, some changes have been made to identify commanders or units present during the battles of october 7, 13, and 27. in addition, this table does not include miscellaneous units such as the naval Brigade, the âSeparateâ Brigade, en-...
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...1. Billings, History of the Tenth Massachusetts, 322; Walker, General Hancock, 275.2. long, Jewel of Liberty, 188â94; McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, 768â73.3. long, Jewel of Liberty, 192; Harris, Lincolnâs Last Months, 16â17.5. See, e.g., nevins, Diary of Battle, 477. Colonel Charles S. Wainwright, an artillery of_f_icer in the Fifth Corps, heard rumors that McClellan planned to crush the South....
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...o.R. The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union agassiz, george R., ed. Meadeâs Headquarters, 1863â1865: Letters of Colonel Theodore Ly-man from the Wilderness to Appomattox. Boston: The atlantic Monthly Press, 1922. allen, george, H. Forty-Six Months with the Fourth R.I. Volunteers in the War of 1861 to 1865: Comprising a History of the Marches, Battles, and Camp Life. Providence, Ri: J.a. ...
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Typical scene on the Petersburg Lines. Several bombproofs dot the foreground. The para-pet is topped with sandbags and supported by a revetment of cut tree trunks. Rows of Captain Babcockâs October 24, 1864, map of Boydton Plank Road trench line. The Con-federate line did not, in fact, end at the intersection of the Plank Road and Hatcherâs Run as depicted on the map. Instead, it terminated about a mile east and downstream from ...
Page Count: 324
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Civil War Soldiers and Strategies Series
Series Editor Byline: Wills, Brian S.