The Amelia Campaign

April 5, 1865 – Confederate General-in-Chief Robert E. Lee and his worn out Army of Northern Virginia reached Amelia Court House after fleeing from Petersburg and Richmond.

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Confederate Gen R.E. Lee | Image Credit: Wikispaces.com

Lee concentrated his dwindling forces as he planned to turn south and join General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederate army in North Carolina. Lee had set out toward Amelia on April 2, with Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant’s Armies of the Potomac and the James pursuing him along a parallel route. The Federal vanguard, commanded by Major General Philip Sheridan, hurried for the railroad junction at Burkeville to block Lee’s path until the rest of the army could arrive and give battle.[1]

Lee had asked the Confederate Commissary Department to send rations for his hungry troops to Amelia Court House. Moving along five different routes and skirmishing along the way, the army vanguard reached that point on April 4. Lee followed soon after, but to his dismay, only war supplies awaited him at Amelia, no food. The confusion of Richmond’s fall had apparently disrupted Lee’s communications with the Confederate government. This compelled him to send Confederate foragers to beg for food carrying a special appeal “To the Citizens of Amelia County,” signed by “R.E. Lee”:

“The Army of Northern Virginia arrived here today, expecting to find plenty of provisions. But to my surprise and regret, I find not a pound of subsistence for man or horse. I must therefore appeal to your generosity and charity to supply as far as each one is able the wants of the brave soldiers who have battled for your liberty for four years.”[2]

Meanwhile, Federal cavalry and elements of V Corps reached Jetersville on the Danville Railroad, just six miles southwest of Amelia Court House and directly in Lee’s path. Lee planned to hurry out of Amelia, but his Confederate corps under General Richard Ewell would not arrive until the next day, so Lee had to wait.[3]

Lee’s foragers returned on the 5th with hardly any food. As Lee concentrated his army at Amelia Court House that day, the Federal II and VI Corps joined the cavalry and V Corps at Jetersville. Lee wired Confederate officials to send rations to Danville, 12 miles away along the Danville Railroad, but the Federals blocking Lee at Jetersville cut the telegraph line. Federal cavalry also attacked a Confederate supply train near Painesville, capturing and burning nearly 200 wagons and destroying many of Lee’s official papers.[4]

When Confederate troops encountered Federals outside Amelia, Lee realized his path southwest to Danville had been blocked. His only hope was to march his hungry troops farther west to Farmville, where food could be transported to his army from Lynchburg via the South Side Railroad. From there, Lee could resume his move down the Danville line toward North Carolina. In a message to General John B. Gordon, Lee stated, “I know that the men and animals are much exhausted. But it is necessary to tax their strength.”[5]

As Lee’s troops began leaving Amelia, Sheridan gathered his Federals to confront him.[6]

—–

[1] Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 109-19; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 665-66

[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 19099-19119; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 109-19; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67; Ward, Geoffrey C., Burns, Ric, Burns, Ken, The Civil War (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990), p. 375

[3] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 19099-19119; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 109-19

[4] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 19099-19119; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 109-19

[5] Crocker III, H.W., The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2008), p. 87-91; Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 19119-19159; Korn, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles, p. 113; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67

[6] Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox, Kindle Locations 19119-19159; Long with Long, The Civil War Day by Day, p. 666-67

Advertisements

Tagged: , ,

2 thoughts on “The Amelia Campaign

  1. […] E. Lee’s Confederates arrived at Amelia Court House with no supplies waiting for them as Lee had […]

    Like

  2. […] E. Lee’s Confederates arrived at Amelia Court House with no supplies waiting for them as Lee had […]

    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: