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Illustration of the rolling hills landscape at Petersburg
Library of Congress

Petersburg Breakthrough

The Fall of Petersburg

Petersburg, VA  |  Apr 2, 1865

With the Confederate defeat at Five Forks on April 1st, Lieut. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. George Meade ordered a general assault against the Petersburg lines by the Second, Ninth, Sixth and Twenty-Fourth Corps to take place April 2nd. In the pre-dawn darkness, the Union infantry gained achieved a breakthrough when Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright's advancing Sixth Corps breached Confederate lines held by Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill. Attempting to reach his men, Hill was killed in the ensuing. Confederate infantry pulled back to Forts Gregg and Whitworth as Maj. Gen. John Gibbon's Twenty Fourth Corps entered the fight, with Brig. Gen. William Birney's United States Colored Troops (USCT) division in reserve. The Confederates managed to delay Gibbon's advance at Fort Gregg and prevent the Federals from entering the Petersburg that evening. Wright's breakthrough and the subsequent follow-up troops surged north and severed the South Side Railroad near Petersburg. The Union Army now had access to the Appomattox River and were free to cross the next day to threaten Lee’s communications on the north side of the river. After dark, Lee informed President Jefferson Davis that he could "hold his position no longer," and that Petersburg and Richmond must be evacuated. Grant had finally achieved one of the major military objectives of the war: the capture of Petersburg, which led directly to the loss of the Confederate capital at Richmond, which finally fell on April 3rd.

All battles of the Appomattox Campaign

Civil War  |  Battle
White Oak Road
Dinwiddie County, VA  |  Mar 31, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 2,670
Union: 1,870
Confederate: 800
Civil War  |  Battle
Five Forks
Dinwiddie County, VA  |  Apr 1, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 3,780
Union: 830
Confederate: 2,950
Civil War  |  Battle
Petersburg Breakthrough
Petersburg, VA  |  Apr 2, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 7,750
Union: 3,500
Confederate: 4,250
Civil War  |  Battle
Sailor's Creek
Amelia County, Prince Edward County, and Nottoway County, VA  |  Apr 6, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 9,980
Union: 1,150
Confederate: 8,830
Civil War  |  Battle
High Bridge
Cumberland County, VA  |  Apr 6 - 7, 1865
Result: Inconclusive
Est. Casualties: 947
Union: 847
Confederate: 100
Civil War  |  Battle
Appomattox Station
Appomattox County, VA  |  Apr 8, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 1,121
Union: 121
Confederate: 1,000
Civil War  |  Battle
Appomattox Court House
Appomattox County, VA  |  Apr 9, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Est. Casualties: 652
Union: 152
Confederate: 500

Related Battles

Petersburg, VA | April 2, 1865
Result: Union Victory
Commanders
Forces Engaged
83,000
Union
63,000
Confed.
20,000
Estimated Casualties
7,750
Union
3,500
Confed.
4,250