Friday, March 25, 2011

Kind Of Late In The Game

An attack by the Confederate Major General John B Gordon that brought on the Battle of Fort Stedman on March 25th 1865, was an attempt to break the siege on Petersburg.

Confederate General Robert E Lee’s army of Northern Virginia had spent the last nine months in and around Petersburg, Virginia along a 37 mile long front. His supplies were short, and the Confederate soldiers there had suffered through a ruff winter. Lee had to break the Union hold. He pulled 12,000 soldiers, about half his army and massed them on the Union right, where the lines were only about 150 yards apart. The attack was to be focused on Fort Stedman and its 4 cannon.

On March 25th 1865 at 4am Confederate General John B Gordon’s skirmishers quickly overtook Union pickets. These were followed by ax men who cleared barriers in front of the fort. Fort Stedman under command of Union Major General John G Parke, fell in the first wave of Confederate attackers. This opened up a mile wide gap in the Union line. They turned the Fort’s captured cannons, using them to fire into nearby forts. Other of Gordon’s troops moved out into the trenches and batteries. Those Union soldiers who weren't taken prisoner, regrouped and slowed up the Confederate movement. Union reinforcements began massing for a counterattack. The counterattack placed the Confederates under a galling crossfire.

By 8am Lee who had been watching the attack, ordered Gordon to call it off. Many hundreds of Confederate soldiers surrendered. The battle was very costly for the Army of Northern Virginia, they lost over 2,900 men. Union losses were about 950.

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