Petersburg/Richmond This is part one of a history series On the siege of Petersburg

Bryce

Private
Joined
Jun 2, 2011
Location
Washington, D.C.
Let’s begin part one by making four points clear. This will help you understand the siege better.

first point, the the siege of Petersburg lasted from June 15, 1864 through April 2, 1865. This was the longest siege in American history. During this time Grant launched eight offenses in his attempt to capture Petersburg.

Second point, the Petersburg defenses consisted of a horse shoe shaped ring of forts called the Dimmock line. The open part of the horseshoe faced on the Appomattox River. The fighting from June 15, 1864 to August 25, 1864 took place along the eastern front of the horseshoe and the Southern front of the horseshoe. Each of these Confederate defense lines was approximately 3 miles long.

Of Grant‘s eight offensives, the first four took place along the eastern and southern Fronts of the horseshoe.

Third point, out of these eight offenses, only three of them were aimed at breaking through the Confederate lines and seizing the city of Petersburg. The first attempt is known as the first offensive. It lasted from June 15 through June 18, 1864. The federals carried Most of the eastern face of the Dimmock line, but the Confederates under Beauregard fell back and build a second line only a short distance east of the city. This was called the Harris line and the federal failed to capture it. The first offensive left the federals holding a line of fortifications east of the city. This line stretched from the Appomattox River on the north to the point where the Southern face of the Democrat line began

The second attempt to seize the city took place on July 30, 1864. It was part of the third offensive and It is known as the battle of the Petersburg crater.

The third and final attempt To carry the fortifications took place on April 2, 1865. This was the part of the eighth offensive and it resulted in the breaking of the Confederate lines west of Petersburg. Lee was forced to evacuate the city that night.

The other five Unionoffensives were aimed at cutting Lee’s supply lines by seizing the railroads supplying Petersburg. There were two railroads. The one closest To the federal entrenchments was the Weldon railroad. It ran south a short distance west of the Dimmock line. The southside railroad was north west of the city and was located near the Appomattox River.

Fourth point, with the exception of the three assaults, all of the battles around Petersburg took place in the heavily wooded areas south and west of the city. In other words they were fights in the open field.

This terrain around Petersburg resembled the famous wilderness where the battles of Chancellorsville and the wilderness took place. There were only a few farms scattered about the area. Everywhere else there was forest. The only roads in the region were narrow dirt roads that the farmers used to take their produce and tobacco to market.

fifth and final point, during the siege grant also established siege lines outside of Richmond for reasons which I will describe later. between Richmond and Petersburg is Chesterfield County. The northern boundary is the Appomattox and the southern boundary is the James river. There were union entrenchments along This front which is known as Bermuda hundred. This is the area that Benjamin butler seized in May 1864.

This is the end of part one Of my presentation. In part two I will tell the story of the two offensive aimed at capturing the Weldon railroad. In part tBree I will describe in general terms what happened after the federals seized the Weldon Railroad on August 21, 1864.

feel free to ask questions and to make requests
 

Bryce

Private
Joined
Jun 2, 2011
Location
Washington, D.C.
Let’s begin part one by making four points clear. This will help you understand the siege better.

first point, the the siege of Petersburg lasted from June 15, 1864 through April 2, 1865. This was the longest siege in American history. During this time Grant launched eight offenses in his attempt to capture Petersburg.

Second point, the Petersburg defenses consisted of a horse shoe shaped ring of forts called the Dimmock line. The open part of the horseshoe faced on the Appomattox River. The fighting from June 15, 1864 to August 25, 1864 took place along the eastern front of the horseshoe and the Southern front of the horseshoe. Each of these Confederate defense lines was approximately 3 miles long.

Of Grant‘s eight offensives, the first four took place along the eastern and southern Fronts of the horseshoe.

Third point, out of these eight offenses, only three of them were aimed at breaking through the Confederate lines and seizing the city of Petersburg. The first attempt is known as the first offensive. It lasted from June 15 through June 18, 1864. The federals carried Most of the eastern face of the Dimmock line, but the Confederates under Beauregard fell back and build a second line only a short distance east of the city. This was called the Harris line and the federal failed to capture it. The first offensive left the federals holding a line of fortifications east of the city. This line stretched from the Appomattox River on the north to the point where the Southern face of the Democrat line began

The second attempt to seize the city took place on July 30, 1864. It was part of the third offensive and It is known as the battle of the Petersburg crater.

The third and final attempt To carry the fortifications took place on April 2, 1865. This was the part of the eighth offensive and it resulted in the breaking of the Confederate lines west of Petersburg. Lee was forced to evacuate the city that night.

The other five Unionoffensives were aimed at cutting Lee’s supply lines by seizing the railroads supplying Petersburg. There were two railroads. The one closest To the federal entrenchments was the Weldon railroad. It ran south a short distance west of the Dimmock line. The southside railroad was north west of the city and was located near the Appomattox River.

Fourth point, with the exception of the three assaults, all of the battles around Petersburg took place in the heavily wooded areas south and west of the city. In other words they were fights in the open field.

This terrain around Petersburg resembled the famous wilderness where the battles of Chancellorsville and the wilderness took place. There were only a few farms scattered about the area. Everywhere else there was forest. The only roads in the region were narrow dirt roads that the farmers used to take their produce and tobacco to market.

fifth and final point, during the siege grant also established siege lines outside of Richmond for reasons which I will describe later. between Richmond and Petersburg is Chesterfield County. The northern boundary is the Appomattox and the southern boundary is the James river. There were union entrenchments along This front which is known as Bermuda hundred. This is the area that Benjamin butler seized in May 1864.

This is the end of part one Of my presentation. In part two I will tell the story of the two offensive aimed at capturing the Weldon railroad. In part tBree I will describe in general terms what happened after the federals seized the Weldon Railroad on August 21, 1864.

feel free to ask questions and to make requests
I would greatly appreciate it if some of you would read this and comment on it. Bryce
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Interesting to read this -- thanks for putting it together. One thing that would be helpful would be a map showing things like the lines of entrenchments, major roads, railroads, and maybe locations of some of the offenses.

I've read some comments to the effect that this wasn't technically a "siege." What's meant by that, and is this just a technicality, or does the question really matter?

Roy B.
 

jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I am impressed with your general overview of the various offensives at and around Petersburg from June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865. In particular, categorizing the 8 offensives into 2 main categories (directly aimed at the city lines vs. attempts to cut rail lines outside the city), is a unique and informative way to explain a series of assaults that can often appear confusing in their aims and results. Looking forward to your continued posts.
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Let’s begin part one by making four points clear. This will help you understand the siege better.

first point, the the siege of Petersburg lasted from June 15, 1864 through April 2, 1865. This was the longest siege in American history. During this time Grant launched eight offenses in his attempt to capture Petersburg...


feel free to ask questions and to make requests
Petersburg wasn't a siege; an attack on a city isn't necessarily a siege. In a siege a city is invested--surrounded--and cut off from sources of supply. No way in or out. Petersburg wasn't invested---Lee had routes in and out and an open line of retreat. When he decided it was time to leave he left, no sweat. He was not in a bag.

Petersburg was warfare on a fortified line but no siege. Note the lack of approaches and mining that characterized Grant's efforts during the siege of Vicksburg. Grant's efforts on the flanks at Petersburg were intended to force Lee out of the city and reestablish open warfare, not to bag Lee in the city, which was of course impossible. Note that when Vicksburg fell the rebel army fell with it--they were in a bag. No bag, no siege.
 

Bryce

Private
Joined
Jun 2, 2011
Location
Washington, D.C.
Interesting to read this -- thanks for putting it together. One thing that would be helpful would be a map showing things like the lines of entrenchments, major roads, railroads, and maybe locations of some of the offenses.

I've read some comments to the effect that this wasn't technically a "siege." What's meant by that, and is this just a technicality, or does the question really matter?

Roy B.
Technically, it’s a siege when the attacking army cut off the supply lines. Good examples are Vicksburg and Port Hudson
 

1SGDan

Captain
Joined
Dec 13, 2009
Location
New Hampshire
Good luck Byrce,
As you will find out for yourself there are too many genius sharpshooters here that are happier filling your post with holes than possibly learning something new. That is why I stopped posting my research.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
Petersburg wasn't a siege; an attack on a city isn't necessarily a siege. In a siege a city is invested--surrounded--and cut off from sources of supply. No way in or out. Petersburg wasn't invested---Lee had routes in and out and an open line of retreat. When he decided it was time to leave he left, no sweat. He was not in a bag.

Petersburg was warfare on a fortified line but no siege. Note the lack of approaches and mining that characterized Grant's efforts during the siege of Vicksburg. Grant's efforts on the flanks at Petersburg were intended to force Lee out of the city and reestablish open warfare, not to bag Lee in the city, which was of course impossible. Note that when Vicksburg fell the rebel army fell with it--they were in a bag. No bag, no siege.

Grant's offensives to the west were to cut off the means of supply for Lee's army from points south. Grant wanted to starve Lee out and make him abandon the city without a costly full frontal assault, because he had tried those in June 64. Lee could depart due west from Petersburg along the south bank of the Appomattox, or cross over the Appomattox and retreat westward through Chesterfield County with the river as a barrier, which is what he did in April 65
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
One small technicality won't ruin a good accounting of the battles around Petersburg. I will admit the technicality spoken of was meaningful in it's own right, and helped me learn something I had overlooked. Likewise the operations against the rail lines of supply and the 'investment' of the city itself. Thanks,
Lubliner.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
I would love to provide a map or maps to illustrate my points. How do I do that?

That's great -- it would add a lot to the discussion here.

To insert any kind of image into a post (such as a map), you need to prepare an electronic file, then click this button on the menu of publishing tools:

1608479503062.png


That will open up a dialog box for uploading the file from your computer. Or you can just drag the image into the box. Sometimes you might get an error message that a file is too large, in which case you will have to reduce the size or resolution.

Roy B.
 

bschulte

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
One small technicality won't ruin a good accounting of the battles around Petersburg. I will admit the technicality spoken of was meaningful in it's own right, and helped me learn something I had overlooked. Likewise the operations against the rail lines of supply and the 'investment' of the city itself. Thanks,
Lubliner.

I agree with everything you said. In addition, it has been popularly referred to as the "Siege of Petersburg" for so long that it doesn't matter if it was a true siege or not. I find it odd that so many are sticklers and get seemingly upset when someone calls it a siege.
 

bschulte

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
I can help with maps. My Petersburg site has a ton of maps, both of overviews and down to specific regiments in specific battles. Click here for the Petersburg maps.

I'll upload one here too so people can get a sense of where for Bryce's post. Honestly, the best map by Michler is too big to post here with any kind of detail, so I've linked it. I've attached a less detailed map of the PEtersburg region from Battles and Leaders.

BattlesAndLeadersVol4Pag538.jpg
 

Irishtom29

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
I agree with everything you said. In addition, it has been popularly referred to as the "Siege of Petersburg" for so long that it doesn't matter if it was a true siege or not. I find it odd that so many are sticklers and get seemingly upset when someone calls it a siege.

Words have meanings. To those interested in fortifications and siegecraft those meanings are important. If the word siege is commonly misused and tolerated as such then what word can be used to distinguish the nature of what happened at Vicksburg from what happened at Petersburg? I think that on a historical discussion board precision of technical terms should be welcome.

To make a point doesn't necessarily mean one is upset.
 

bschulte

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 31, 2005
Words have meanings. To those interested in fortifications and siegecraft those meanings are important. If the word siege is commonly misused and tolerated as such then what word can be used to distinguish the nature of what happened at Vicksburg from what happened at Petersburg? I think that on a historical discussion board precision of technical terms should be welcome.

To make a point doesn't necessarily mean one is upset.

How many non-sieges, in your opinion, have been incorrectly called sieges during the Civil War, in its entirety?
 

Dave DuBrucq

Corporal
Joined
Oct 28, 2020
Location
Tennessee
Very Interesting. One of my Federal ancestors, serving with the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters was mortally wounded at Petersburg on June 16th, 1864. He died of his wounds on the 17th.
 

Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Words have meanings. To those interested in fortifications and siegecraft those meanings are important. If the word siege is commonly misused and tolerated as such then what word can be used to distinguish the nature of what happened at Vicksburg from what happened at Petersburg? I think that on a historical discussion board precision of technical terms should be welcome.

To make a point doesn't necessarily mean one is upset.
I have got one for you! A book about Charleston, South Carolina defenses called 'Siege Train' by Arthur Manigault. The technical terms are difficult to learn sometimes, and many times very little differentiates one thing from another. We have a relatively new member over at Forgotten Forts & Places (civilwartalk.com), @jrweaver that you should meet, if you have not already.
Anyway the ingrained commonness sometimes gains acceptance, such as the word, 'ain't',. Back to the Siege of Petersburg, and it's investment by the Federal Armies!
Lubliner.
 

jrweaver

Corporal
Joined
Dec 9, 2020
My definition in the glossary of A Legacy in Brick and Stone: "Siege: The protracted taking of a fort, beginning with investment and continuing through the breaching and ultimate reduction of the work. By the time of the Third System, it was understood that ultimately no fort could hold out indefinitely to a siege." This glossary applies to the Third System of American Coastal Forts, 1816-1867, and is built on D. H. Mahan's Treatise on Permanent Fortifications, Scott's Military Dictionary, and other period sources. I hope this helps!
 
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