Petersburg Battlefields (National Park Service Historical Handbook Series NO. 13)
by Lykes, Richard Wayne
56 pp. Profusely illustrated with black and white maps & photographs. "Petersburg's 1860 population was 18,266, half of whom were black. Free blacks numbered 3,224 or one-third, attracted to the city for the job opportunities in industries and trades. The Petersburg population had the highest percentage of free blacks of any city in the Confederacy and the largest number of free blacks in the Mid-Atlantic. Many free blacks had settled on Pocahontas Island. Because of this significant past and prehistoric archaeological evidence, the Pocahontas Island Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Ninety percent of the white half of the population were native Virginians. Their devotion to the cause during the War of 1812 had inspired the nickname "Cockade City" for Petersburg in honor of the rosettes which residents wore on their caps. By that time, ninety percent or more of free and enslaved blacks were also native Virginians, as most of their ancestors had been in the state since the 1600s and 1700s. When the Civil War started in 1861, Petersburg's men again responded. They provided the Confederacy several infantry companies and artillery units, as well as three troops of cavalry. In April 1861 more than 300 free blacks from Petersburg volunteered to work on the fortifications of Norfolk with their own leader. Slaveholders "volunteered" the work of numerous enslaved men. In 1864, Petersburg was a significant target during the Overland Campaign of Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Its numerous railroads made Petersburg a lifeline to Richmond, the Capital of the Confederacy, and other major points. The depot at Pocahontas Island, built for the Richmond & Petersburg line, was an embarkation point for Confederate troops and supplies. After the Battle of Cold Harbor, Grant stayed east of Richmond and headed south to Petersburg. Grant decided to cut off the rail lines into Petersburg, and thus Richmond's supplies. On June 9, troops under William F. "Baldy" Smith, of the 18th Corps, attacked the Dimmock Line, a set of defensive breastworks originally constructed in 1861 and 1862 to protect Petersburg against the Army of the Potomac under General George McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign. The Confederate troops numbered around 2,000. The lines could have easily been taken, but with the memory of Cold Harbor still fresh, Generals Smith and Winfield S. Hancock were reluctant to attack a fortified line. Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard alerted Lee that he was facing the Army of the Potomac at Petersburg. Lee later arrived, and the 292-day Siege of Petersburg began. On the Eastern Front, the trench lines were very close together. One soldier in the 48th Pennsylvania, a coal miner in civilian life, remarked aloud, "We could blow that battery into oblivion if we could dig a mine underneath it." Colonel Henry Pleasants, division commander, took this idea seriously and moved it up the chain of command. The plan was given the go ahead. On July 30, the mine was exploded. Due to poor Union leadership and the timely arrival of Confederate General William Mahone, the Union lost the Battle of the Crater. They suffered more than 4,000 casualties. This famous battle was portrayed in the 2003 film Cold Mountain (based on the novel by the same name). In early April 1865, Union troops pushed successfully on their left flank to reach both the railroad to Weldon, North Carolina and the Southside Railroad. These were Petersburg's crucial lifelines to the rest of the Confederacy and supplies. With these developments, the Siege of Petersburg ended." - Wikipedia
Keywords: CIVIL WAR VIRGINIA AMERICAN HISTORY PETERSBURG MILITARY HISTORY Edges of cover toned. National Park Service, 1961. Reprint. Near Fine/Not Applicable. (Inventory #: 2186701)
Literature, American & Military History, General Antiquarian
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