Petersburg/Richmond The Battle of Five Forks NPS Tour

Buckeye Bill

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Jul 29, 2013
On the morning of April 1, 1865, Pickett withdrew his forces back from Dinwiddie Court House to the intersection of Five Forks. The Confederate left hung in the air; that is, no geographical obstacle prevented the position from being flanked. Aware of this deficiency, the Confederates "refused" their left flank: some troops took positions at a perpendicular angle to the rest of the line in order to prevent flanking maneuvers.

Warren marched his Fifth Corps west, to be placed under the overall supervision of Sheridan. The cavalryman planned an attack that would hit the Confederate line head on with cavalry (fighting primarily as dismounted infantry) while the Fifth Corps slammed into the Confederate left. The Union attack did not begin until 4:15 p.m., mainly because of the difficulties rain-soaked roads and swampy terrain caused the Fifth Corps while trying to get into position. Sheridan had intended that the attack begin earlier, and, not realizing the logistical difficulties Warren faced, blamed the commander of the Fifth Corps.

At four thirty, the Fifth Corps struck the weak return line on the Confederate left. Although Sheridan and Warren had intended for the entire Fifth Corps to fall on the Confederates, both men believed the Confederate line extended farther east than it actually did. As a result, the divisions of Samuel W. Crawford and Charles Griffin proceeded far past the Confederate line, while the division of Romeyn B. Ayres shattered the return line. Warren chased after his lost divisions and redirected them toward the Confederate rear. Sheridan, wondering where Warren was, finally let his impatience and temper get the best of him and determined to relieve Warren from command.

George Pickett, accompanied by Rosser and Fitz Lee, had removed himself to a position behind the lines at Five Forks to enjoy a Virginia tradition—the shad bake. Sources conflict as to whether the Confederate leaders also imbibed a tipple of whiskey along with their fish. Intent on savoring this delicacy, the top three Confederate commanders had neglected to inform their subordinates where they might be found. Thus when Confederates on the lines detected Union movement that portended an attack, commanders shored up local defenses but received no coordination from above. By the time Pickett arrived on the field, it was too late to salvage the situation. Ayres's attack had rendered the Confederate line untenable, and Sheridan's cavalry troopers pressed hard along the entire front, preventing the Confederates from forming a secondary line.

By seven o'clock, the Union troops had driven the Confederates from the field in a stunning victory.

* The Battle of Five Forks Map.

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* The Battle of Five Forks National Park Service Visitor Center.

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* Tour Stop #1 (Union Cavalry Attacks).

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* Tour Stop #2 (The Angle).

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* Tour Stop #3 (Five Forks Intersection).

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* Tour Stop #4 (Final Stand).

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* Tour Stop #5 (Crawford's Sweep).

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* The Battle of Five Forks Monument at the Five Forks Intersection.

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* Virginia State Historical Marker.

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Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Well, dang....it was all due to a fish fry...or a shad bake....or whatever.

Seriously, I appreciate Buckeye Bill's thorough travel to all the battlefields he can find, and even more I appreciate his willingness to document them for us in such easy to understand terms. Thanks, Bill!
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Thank you, Patrick!

The General Robert E. Lee Retreat Tour was a blast! My son and I toured every spot on this map.

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I highly recommend this tour. I recommend you complete this tour with a co-pilot. The back roads are very curvy and narrow.

Bill
I expect this one requires a bit more dedication, travel time, stopping time to read wayside markers, and so on. Thank you, Bill!
 

JeffBrooks

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2009
Location
Manor, TX
Why is Pickett the one who gets all the blame for attending the shad bake, while not many people mention the event when they talked about Rosser and Fitz Lee?
 

Buckeye Bill

Captain
Forum Host
Annual Winner
Joined
Jul 29, 2013
One of the battlefields I need to visit

This venue is part of the Petersburg National Battlefield tour. I visited the Petersburg National Battlefield separately from Five Forks. I included Five Forks when my son and I toured Lee's Retreat from Petersburg in 2014.

Bill
 
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