The Battle of Hatcher’s Run

February 7, 1865 – A three-day fight ended in which Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant tried extending his siege lines around Petersburg, Virginia.

In October 1864, Confederates stopped Grant’s attempt to seize the Southside Railroad (which supplied the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from the southwest) at the Boydton Plank Road and Hatcher’s Run. This month, Grant approved a smaller operation to seize just the Boydton road, which Grant believed also supplied the Confederates. Portions of two Federal army corps under Major Generals Gouverneur K. Warren and Andrew A. Humphreys advanced toward the road and Hatcher’s Run on February 5.[1]

The Federal advance through bitter cold and rain surprised the Confederates so much that they barely resisted at first, and the Federals quickly seized the Boydton road. However, they soon learned the road had no strategic value; Confederate General Robert E. Lee had stopped using it as a supply route because of its vulnerability to seizure. Federals repulsed a Confederate attack late on the 5th and then reinforced during the night.[2]

Confederate Brig Gen John Pegram | Image Credit: civilwardailygazette.com

Confederate Brig Gen John Pegram | Image Credit: civilwardailygazette.com

Next afternoon, four Confederate divisions viciously counterattacked a Federal probe under Warren in a small area of about 500 yards. Several Confederate charges drove the Federals back, but in the last charge the promising division commander, Brigadier General John Pegram, was killed. He had just been married on January 19 in Richmond’s society event of the year. The Federals fell back to the line beside Humphreys’s troops and held their positions by nightfall.[3]

The Federals abandoned their fragile hold on the Boydton Plank Road the next day, instead moving southwest to occupy the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. This extended the Federal siege line around Petersburg and compelled Lee to defend another three miles. He now had 37 miles to defend with only 46,398 “present for duty,” many of whom were too sick to adequately serve. In the three-day fight, the Federals suffered 170 killed, 1,160 wounded, and 182 missing, or 1,512 casualties out of some 35,000 engaged; the Confederates had about 14,000 engaged with casualties unknown.[4]

On February 8, Lee informed Secretary of War John C. Breckinridge that his troops had fought for nearly 72 straight hours, including during “the most inclement day of the winter… Some of the men have been without meat for three days, and all are suffering from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to battle, cold, hail and sleet.” Lee warned, “Taking these facts in connection with the paucity of our numbers, you must not be surprised if calamity befalls us.”[5]

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  • [1] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16401-16412
  • [2] Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16416-16426; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 634-35
  • [3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 635; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16423-16433; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 483-84; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 19
  • [4] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 635-36; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16422-16442
  • [5] Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 20, 24-26; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16432-16442
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2 thoughts on “The Battle of Hatcher’s Run

  1. […] change hindrance or delay, of your military plans or operations.” Accordingly, Grant launched an attack at Hatcher’s Run outside Petersburg as […]

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  2. […] the Battle of Hatcher’s Run took place and Lee attended Sunday church services in Petersburg, a messenger unofficially informed […]

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