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?
The 4th Division of the Union 9th Corps lost 209 men killed and wounded at the Battle of the Crater. Poplar Grove National Cemetery is the resting spot for 331 United States Colored Troops. Most of these men are unidentified burials from the Crater battlefield. (Petersburg Nat'l Battlefield)