Introduction

The first shots fired at Fort Sumter in April 1861 signaled the start of the American Civil War and the end of compromise between the North and the South. A divided nation would now settle their differences over the issues of slavery and states’ rights on fields of battle. From May to June 1864, in the fourth year of the Civil War, the armies under General Grant and General Lee had fought across Virginia from near Fredericksburg to just outside Richmond. The last battle of this campaign was a crushing Union loss and forced Grant to abandon his plan to capture Richmond by direct assault. Only twenty-five miles south of Richmond, Petersburg was an important supply center to the Confederate capital. With its five railroad lines and key roads, the city of Petersburg became the setting for the longest siege of the Civil War when Grant’s army settled in to subdue the Confederacy by cutting off Lee’s supply lines.

The siege of Petersburg, with all its stories – a Georgian soldier reading a plea for his return home; a doctor treating the latest wave of battlefield casualties; a family moving across town to escape the shelling; a Pennsylvania soldier fighting to ensure his friends’ deaths were not in vain; a black dock worker waiting in line for the first pay day of his life; a family learning of their son’s death; a woman writing letters home for the wounded; a black Union soldier hoping to change the future for his family; and a plantation owner watching his way of life disappear - uniquely embodies the cost of commitment to the American ideals of freedom.

 

Map of the Petersburg Area

The Siege of Petersburg uniquely embodies the cost of commitment to the American ideals of freedom. Explore the Petersburg area to learn more about the people involved and the events that unfolded during this tragic chapter of the American Civil War. Select an area to explore from the map or the list.

 

Grant's Headquarters at City Point

The events at City Point reveal the roots of the Civil War, the factors that influenced its end, and the beliefs that shaped America’s future.

 

Eastern Front

The intense misery of trench warfare and the tension from the presence of black Union troops define the Eastern Front experience.

 

Western Front

Trading lives for roads and rail lines characterizes the fighting on the Western Front.

 

Five Forks

The battle for Lee’s last supply line at Five Forks is critical to the collapse of the Confederacy.

 

Poplar Grove National Cemetery

Poplar Grove National Cemetery honors those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, their families who shared that sacrifice, and reminds us of the debt we owe them today.

 

Links

Petersburg Index

Introduction (current section)

Grant's Headquarters at City Point

The Eastern Front

The Western Front

The Battle of Five Forks

Poplar Grove National Cemetery

Challenge Your Understanding

 

Open multimedia version of The Siege of Petersburg

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