Battles of the Siege
Out From the Trenches
The Union siege lines around Petersburg were extended in a series of offensives launched westward around the city toward the South Side Railroad. In a methodical approach, Gen. Grant would use superior numbers to attack or threaten the Richmond defenses first and then send massed troops from the trenches around Petersburg out to attack the Confederate positions defending the southern and western approaches to the city.
If the Union forces were victorious in a battle resulting from one of these offensives or if the Confederates had stopped them but had not swept them from the field, the Union army would start digging in right there and extend their existing trench lines, and eventually their Military Railroad, to connect with the new fort they were now building.
If taken chronologically, one can see, with a few exceptions, that each battle occurred further west each time until the breaking point at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. These "above ground" battles punctuated the grueling and harsh routine of trench warfare at Petersburg and were the places where most of the 70,000 soldiers became casualties in the last ten months of the war.
Did You Know?
Union Brevet Brigadier General Frederick Winthrop was Massachusetts Bay Colony Governor John Winthrop's sixth great-grandson. Winthrop was mortally wounded at the Battle of Five Forks on April 1, 1865. (Petersburg National Battlefield)