Engagement at Dinwiddie Court House

March 31, 1865 – Confederates repulsed a Federal advance on the western sector of the Petersburg siege lines, but the Federals would not be denied for long.

On the same day the Federals stopped the Confederate breakout attempt at Fort Stedman, U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant issued orders to his top commanders: “On the 29th instant the armies operating against Richmond will be moved by our left, for the double purpose of turning the enemy out of his present position around Petersburg and insure the success of the cavalry under General (Philip) Sheridan, which will start at the same time, in its efforts to reach and destroy the South Side and Danville railroads.”[1]

The next day, Grant informed Sheridan that previous orders for him to move south and link with Major General William T. Sherman were a ruse; Grant’s true orders were for Sheridan to lead the drive to finish General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Grant planned yet another movement by the Federal left flank to block Lee’s westward escape route out of Petersburg and Richmond.[2]

Confederate Gen George Pickett | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com

Confederate Gen George Pickett | Image Credit: BlogSpot.com

Meanwhile, Lee planned to move his army southwest out of Petersburg. Guessing that Grant would attack his weak right (western) flank to cut off his escape, Lee dispatched troops under Generals Fitzhugh Lee and George Pickett to the area on March 29. That same day, Sheridan led a Federal continent of cavalry along with II and V Corps west toward Dinwiddie Court House. Sheridan hoped to not only block Lee’s escape but also cut the two railroad supply lines into Petersburg and Richmond.[3]

The large Federal contingent moved along the Jerusalem Plank Road and reached Dinwiddie around 4 p.m. on March 29. Skirmishing erupted around Five Forks and Hatcher’s Run, as rain slowed the Federal advance. Anticipating that this campaign would finally destroy Lee’s army, Grant moved his headquarters from City Point to the Boydton Plank Road, near Gravelly Run.[4]

Pelting rain continued into the 30th, with heavier skirmishing at Hatcher’s Run, Gravelly Road, and Five Forks. After inspecting his lines, Lee ordered an attack on Federal positions around Dinwiddie for the next day. The Confederates held off cavalry under General Wesley Merritt, but shifting troops to the western sector greatly weakened Lee’s siege lines.[5]

As the rain ended on the morning of the 31st, about 10,000 Confederates opposed some 50,000 Federals in the western sector of the Petersburg lines. Federals advanced from Dinwiddie, while Major General Gouverneur Warren’s V Corps, supported by II Corps, skirmished along Hatcher’s Run. Pickett deployed his Confederates in front of Five Forks, a road west of Petersburg protecting the vital South Side Railroad.[6]

Warren failed to push the Confederates back, and Pickett forced the main Federal body back toward Dinwiddie Court House. Despite holding his ground, Pickett realized the Federal force was too strong to hold off any longer and withdrew to defenses at Five Forks, where action would resume the next day.[7]

—–

[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 17855-17876

[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 17855-17895

[3] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 214; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 658-59

[4] Angle, Paul M., A Pictorial History of the Civil War Years (New York: Doubleday, 1967), p. 214; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 660; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 487-88

[5] 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 18091-18101; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 660

[6] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 574; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 660-61

[7] Catton, Bruce, The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., 1960), p. 574; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 660-61

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , ,

3 thoughts on “Engagement at Dinwiddie Court House

  1. […] cut the Confederates’ supply line at Stony Creek after the previous day’s engagement near Dinwiddie Court House. General Robert E. Lee, commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, informed Confederate […]

    Like

  2. […] Philip Sheridan’s Federals and Confederates under Major General George Pickett clashed at Dinwiddie Court House. Pickett withdrew to Five Forks this […]

    Like

  3. […] Philip Sheridan’s Federals and Confederates under Major General George Pickett clashed at Dinwiddie Court House. Pickett withdrew to Five Forks this […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: