• Poplar Grove National Cemetery Luminary Event (photo courtesy of Joanne Williams)


    National Battlefield Virginia

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  • No Parking Available in the Eastern Front Unit August 2

    Free shuttle service will transport all visitors to and from the Eastern Front Unit on August 2 during 150th Anniv. of the Battle of the Crater events. Shuttles will depart from the Farmer's Market located at 9 Old St. in Old Towne Petersburg.

  • Eastern Front Unit Trails Closed to Horse Traffic on August 2

    Those who would like to ride horses at the park on Aug. 2 are encouraged to use the trails at Five Forks in Dinwiddie County as other trails will be closed to horses that day while the park commemorates the 150th Anniv. of the Battle of the Crater.

Fort Stedman


In March 1865, Gen. Lee (CSA) could only watch as Union armies defeated Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley and in the Carolinas. Added to this was President Jefferson Davis' (CSA) commitment to continued prosecution of the war and Gen. Grant's (USA) continued buildup of Union troops at Petersburg.

Lee had Gen. Gordon (CSA) formulate a plan that, at the very least, would enable the Army of Northern Virginia to pull out of Petersburg unmolested and perhaps give it a chance to link up with the Confederate army in North Carolina. The idea was a surprise attack that would force Grant to shorten his lines or even set his lines back, allowing for a clean pullout for Lee.

Gordon developed a pre-dawn surprise attack on a Union fort, Fort Stedman. It was one of the closest spots on the line, there were fewer wooden obstructions, and a supply depot on the U.S. Military Railroad was less than a mile behind it. Lee approved the plan.

March 25, 1865
4:00 am

On a signal, lead parties headed out to overwhelm Union pickets and to remove wooden defenses. This was the initial wave of a force that represented nearly half of Lee's army.

It was a complete surprise as they captured Fort Stedman and the batteries just to the north and south of it with little resistance. As the Confederates rounded up nearly a 1,000 prisoners, the lead attackers reached Harrison's Creek along the Prince George Court House Road.

6:00 am - 7:00 am

Due to the various whereabouts of the senior commanders, the Union response fell upon Gen. Hartranft (USA), a divisional commander in the IX Corps.

Between some confusion among the attacking Confederates, Union artillery support from up and down the line, and the response by Hartranft's infantry the attack is stopped.

Gordon, who was in Fort Stedman, realized the plan had failed when his lead men started returning unable to find the depot and reporting Union resistance. Lee soon gave permission to Gordon to pull his men back.


Did You Know?

Poplar Grove National Cemetery

Poplar Grove National Cemetery, located just south of Petersburg, Virginia, has two Medal of Honor recipients buried there: Lewis Morgan (Grave #3142) and Henry Hardenburg (Grave #1283). (Petersburg National Battlefield)