McIllwaine Hill, Petersburg

Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
560
Location
Southern Virginia
#1
Early on the morning of March 27, 1865 elements of McGowan's, Scales', Thomas' and Lane's brigades were ordered to attack and take the Federal position on a little knoll called McIllwaine Hill, which General Lee feared might become a dangerous position for enemy artillery.

The plan of attack called the men to advance in silence, with men commanded by Captain William Dunlop of the 12th South Carolina and Major Thomas Wooten of the 18th North Carolina to lead the assault. Dunlop's men were to drive the Federals to the right and Wooten's were to drive them to the left, with Scales and Thomas to follow them, occupy the hill and repulse any Federal counterattacks.

In the half-light of very early morning the attack was launched and it succeeded in taking and holding the hill. As for the significance of the affair, opinions differed. Capt. Dunlop said it "was unquestionably one of the most daring and successful engagements of its dimensions ever witnessed upon any field during the great struggle." Sgt. Abraham Brewer of the 61st Pennsylvania disagreed, saying "The advantage gained was slight and temporary. Our blended picket line was soon straightened out and the enemy brushed away, leaving his dead and wounded in our care."

Yesterday I set out to see if I find the location of the battle. It is not part of the park and is essentially unmarked.

I used two maps, the first from Blue and Gray magazine and the second from Wilson Greene's book The Final Battles of Petersburg.

066.jpg

042.jpg


Fort Lee (Battery 45) was at what is now the intersection of Fort Lee Road and Boydton Plank Road. There is an SCV marker there, but it appears to me the Battery was across the road to the south of the marker.

024.jpg


Throughout the vicinity, earthworks are all still plainly visible.

021.jpg


027.jpg


I can't be sure I found the right place, but after bouncing down a badly rutted private drive, past a feed mill, I came to this, which I believe to be the general area of the objective--McIllwaine Hill.

028.jpg


Whether I found the precise place or not, it was a beautiful day for exploring.
 
Last edited:

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

AUG

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
7,280
Location
Texas
#2
Another great post, thanks for sharing!

This was an interesting small-unit action. The Confederate force to take the hill was actually the sharpshooter corps of Wilcox's division - the sharpshooter battalions from each of the four brigades. The plan for two battalions to breakthrough and veer right and left, with the other two in reserve to occupy the hill was based on a method devised by Major Thomas Wooten, commanding Lane's sharpshooters, and had been put to use a few times before on a smaller scale to raid the Federal picket line. It was known as the "seine hauling method" from the fishing technique, using a net to catch and drag the fish to shore, like the two battalions sweeping right and left.
 

Jamieva

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Messages
4,135
Location
Midlothian, VA
#3
Interesting I have lived in the area my entire life and haven't thought to go seeking that spot. It looks like on the 1st map that a key indicator to figure out if that is the spot is to be between those 2 waterways. That's always the best spot to find well preserved earthworks is off the beaten path that nobody knows they are there
 
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Messages
560
Location
Southern Virginia
#6
Another great post, thanks for sharing!

This was an interesting small-unit action. The Confederate force to take the hill was actually the sharpshooter corps of Wilcox's division - the sharpshooter battalions from each of the four brigades. The plan for two battalions to breakthrough and veer right and left, with the other two in reserve to occupy the hill was based on a method devised by Major Thomas Wooten, commanding Lane's sharpshooters, and had been put to use a few times before on a smaller scale to raid the Federal picket line. It was known as the "seine hauling method" from the fishing technique, using a net to catch and drag the fish to shore, like the two battalions sweeping right and left.
Excellent info. Thanks for sharing.
 
Joined
Dec 31, 2010
Messages
6,464
Location
Kingsport, Tennessee
#8
Early on the morning of March 27, 1865 elements of McGowan's, Scales', Thomas' and Lane's brigades were ordered to attack and take the Federal position on a little knoll called McIllwaine Hill, which General Lee feared might become a dangerous position for enemy artillery.

The plan of attack called the men to advance in silence, with men commanded by Captain William Dunlop of the 12th South Carolina and Major Thomas Wooten of the 18th North Carolina to lead the assault. Dunlop's men were to drive the Federals to the right and Wooten's were to drive them to the left, with Scales and Thomas to follow them, occupy the hill and repulse any Federal counterattacks.

In the half-light of very early morning the attack was launched and it succeeded in taking and holding the hill. As for the significance of the affair, opinions differed. Capt. Dunlop said it "was unquestionably one of the most daring and successful engagements of its dimensions ever witnessed upon any field during the great struggle." Sgt. Abraham Brewer of the 61st Pennsylvania disagreed, saying "The advantage gained was slight and temporary. Our blended picket line was soon straightened out and the enemy brushed away, leaving his dead and wounded in our care."

Yesterday I set out to see if I find the location of the battle. It is not part of the park and is essentially unmarked.

I used two maps, the first from Blue and Gray magazine and the second from Wilson Greene's book The Final Battles of Petersburg.

View attachment 292306
View attachment 292307

Fort Lee (Battery 45) was at what is now the intersection of Fort Lee Road and Boydton Plank Road. There is an SCV marker there, but it appears to me the Battery was across the road to the south of the marker.

View attachment 292308

Throughout the vicinity, earthworks are all still plainly visible.

View attachment 292309

View attachment 292310

I can't be sure I found the right place, but after bouncing down a badly rutted private drive, past a feed mill, I came to this, which I believe to be the general area of the objective--McIllwaine Hill.

View attachment 292311

Whether I found the precise place or not, it was a beautiful day for exploring.
Another great post !
 



Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top