Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

The Battle of Five Forks

Academic journal article The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

The Battle of Five Forks

Article excerpt

In 2006 the Virginia Historical Society acquired an oil painting, measuring 40 ? 65 inches, capturing a scene from the April 1, 1865, battle of Five Forks. Charging Union cavalry, led by a flag-waving Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, are shown slamming into a wall of Confederate defenders near the important crossroads west of Petersburg. The scene represents a dramatic moment in the pivotal battle of the last major campaign of the war in Virginia.

The battle of Five Forks ushered in the final moments of the nearly ten-month-long siege of Petersburg. Since June 1864 the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia had extended its entrenched positions to the south and west of that rail center to protect the army's supply routes. By April 1865 the only major one open to Robert E. Lee's army was the Southside Railroad, which entered the city from the west. Ulysses S. Grant saw an opportunity to cut that rail line and compel Lee to abandon his Petersburg defenses. To accomplish this, Grant ordered his aggressive subordinate, Philip Sheridan, to take a combined force of infantry and cavalry and attack the thinly held right end of the Confederate line, located on the White Oak Road. Beginning at 4 p.m. and lasting for three hours, roughly 17,000 Federal troops under generals Sheridan and Gouverneur Warren collided with 10,000 Confederates commanded by generals George E. …

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