The 38th Virginia at Five Forks

White Flint Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 9, 2017
Location
Southern Virginia
The area around Five Forks is still rural and undeveloped, probably looking much as it did on April 1, 1865, although of course the roads are now paved.

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Five Forks–so named because five roads intersect here

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The 38th Virginia was part of Steuart’s Brigade. So maps such as this one would lead one to believe that the regiment was entrenched on White Oak Road, with the rest of the brigade.

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But in fact, once the battle began the 38th was detached from the brigade, along with two other regiments, and sent at a double quick to deploy on Ransom’s left--the extreme left of the Confederate line.

The entrenchments that the Confederates occupied that day are now overgrown in young trees, but as the map above indicates, the area was clear at the time.

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Although not clear in the photo, the earthworks are plainly evident on the ground

So while under attack from the federal forces advancing from the east, the regiment had a clear view of Crawford’s federal troops passing to their north and into the rear of the Confederate lines.

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In a desperate attempt to meet the threat, Colonel Griggs pivoted the regiment to face north, and began to fire at the enveloping federals, but by this time the regiment, the division and the Army of Northern Virginia itself were doomed. Overwhelmed, out of ammunition, and being surrounded, the line collapsed. Some of the men of the 38th regiment were able to escape, but many were captured.

In his official report Colonel Griggs wrote:

Early in the action Colonel Griggs (with the Thirty-eighth) was ordered from his brigade, and to go to the left of Brigadier-General Ransom which he did at a double quick. Finding no troops but a few cavalrymen, who left to join (they said) their command, he deployed his regiment into single file, and opened a destructive fire upon the enemy, who were marching in view, to the rear of their line of battle, in three columns to our left. Colonel Griggs dispatched a courier to brigade and division headquarters to report this movement of the enemy, and continued to deploy his regiment and fire upon the enemy, and kept his front in check; but there being no troops on his left, the enemy’s column soon passed to the rear of his line and opened upon his front and rear. Many of the men having expended all their ammunition, and the enemy rapidly closing all means of escape, the few men left were ordered to retire. After cutting through the lines of the enemy, Colonel Griggs reported in person to General Pickett the condition he was in. The general replied, “He knew it, but could not help it – had done all he could.” The regiment fought odds of about ten to one, in full view of the enemy, where each private could see for himself the odds against him. Yet there seemed no unusual excitement or fear among them, and some were seen to club their muskets after they had fired their last round of ammunition.​

With his crucial lifeline now gone, General Lee ordered the evacuation of Richmond and began his retreat, which would end with the surrender at Appomattox nine days later.

Many men from my community served in Company C, the Laurel Grove Riflemen. At least five of them were captured at Five Forks.

Samuel T. Crews. had enlisted on March 15, 1862. A resident of Halifax County, he had been wounded at Gettysburg. After being captured, he was sent to the federal prison in Point Lookout, Maryland. He was released on June 25, 1865.

Robert H. Greenwood. A 36 year-old wheelwright from Halifax County, he was sent to Point Lookout prison. He was released on June 27, 1865. His younger brother Benjamin had also enlisted in the Laurel Grove Riflemen. Benjamin died of pneumonia in Richmond in April 1862 at age 24. Their parents were Henry Greenwood and Rhoda Epps Greenwood.

John H.S. Hubbard. Enlisted in Danville on October 14, 1864. He was sent to Point Lookout prison on April 6, 1865, and was released on June 13, 1865. John was one of 15 children of Rev. Joel Hubbard and his wife Elizabeth Stone Hubbard. Forty years old when he enlisted, John was married to the former Anne Jackson and they had at least four children, all born before the war.

Thomas J. Johns. Having been severely wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Seven Pines on May 31, 1862, Thomas had been absent from the company recovering from his wound until Feb. 25, 1865, a little over a month before the battle. He was sent to Point Lookout prison and was released on June 14, 1865.

Abram Rives/Reaves

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He enlisted on May 30, 1861 and had been hospitalized with illnesses three times before being captured at Five Forks. He was sent to Point Lookout prison and later released on June 17, 1865. He married Eliza Ann Chaney on April 3, 1858 and they raised ten children. Abram is buried in the Chaney Burying Grounds on Reeves Mill Road in Keeling.

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