Today was a long day on the road in Virginia. To break the monotony, the Blogland took a few side trips.
The first was to the Petersburg National Battlefield. For those of you who don't know, Lee and Grant faced off along a relatively static front line on the outskirts of Peterburg for nearly a year, until Lee evacuated Richmond and Petersburg in an attempt to withdraw to regroup, resupply, and buy time.
What was probably the most spectacular moment of the siege took place near the present-day junction of Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 460 in what became known as "The Crater".
Union forces attempted to tunnel under Confederate siege lines. The tunnel was packed with explosives. The intended plan to rush Confederate lines and cut the Petersburg forces in half failed as Confederates realized the unsupported attackers were sitting ducks at the bottom of the blast crater. The result was a costly defeat for Union forces.
The second noteworthy stop of the day's ramblings was a visit to the site of the Battle of Sayler's Creek. About an hour's drive west of Petersburg, in rolling rural farm country, Lee's rear guard caught in their retreat from Richmond and Petersburg.
Outnumbered, outgunned, and exhausted, the Confederates turned and attacked pursuing forces, under the command of General Sheridan, and almost broke through. The outcome turned when blistering Union artillery attack turned what could have become a last victory into the tragic loss of most of Lee's rear guard - nearly a quarter of the 35,000 troops remaining in the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.
Stunned by the rout at Sayler's Creek and cornered by two Union armies, Lee surrendered his command to General Grant three days later at Appomattox Courthouse. This battle was considered by some to be the last stand of Lee's army.
Here are some pics from the visit:
The Union starting position west of the creek:
A house converted to a Union field hospital: