In 1862, the Confederate army became concerned that Petersburg might eventually become a target for the Union army. In addition to its location near Richmond, the capitol of the Confederacy, five railroad lines came into the city. Grant's Army of the Potomac did not succeed in capturing Petersburg during the initial attack, so the railroads soon became a target. Grant knew that an army could not last without proper supplies.
The maps below will illustrate the significance of Petersburg during the Civil War. Focus questions accompany the maps to help lead discussion and student activities.
What significant city was located approximately 23 miles north of Petersburg? What was significant about this city?
Why was Petersburg a target for the Union army, according to the map?
What five railroad lines came into Petersburg? What did they bring to the soldiers fighting here, or send to the soldiers fighting further south?
Within the first three days of fighting, June 15th through the 18th, Union soldiers had captured two Confederate railroad lines which came into Petersburg. What two railroad lines had they captured?
When the Union army failed to capture the city of Petersburg during the opening attack, General Grant changed his strategy to focus on the railroad lines that came into the city. Why did the Union army target the railroad lines?
The Weldon Railroad became the next target of the Union forces, as they moved their lines westward. They eventually captured a portion of the Weldon Railroad, however, the railroad operated for the Confederate forces farther south of the city and down into North Carolina. How could Confederate forces still get supplies into Petersburg, using the Weldon Railroad up to a certain point? (Hint: Remember the other forms of transportation.)
The U.S. Military railroad belonged to the Union or the Confederate army? What was the purpose of the U.S. Military railroad. (Hint: Remember that the Union troops are headquartered at City Point.
The red lines represent the Confederate position, while the blue lines represent the position of the Union army. What was one of the only remaining supply lines available to the Confederate army? What was the Union army's target in the Battle of Five Forks?
What would it mean for the Confederate army once all of their railroad lines were captured by Union forces? How long did it take the Union army to capture all of these supply lines?