April 8, 1865
The Battle of Appomattox Station took place in Appomattox County, Virginia on April 8, 1865, during Appomattox Campaign.
On March 12, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. Upon his arrival in Washington, Grant drafted a plan to get the various Union armies in the field to act in concert to strike the Confederacy from several directions. Grant would travel with Major General George Meade's Army of the Potomac in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the Richmond, Virginia area; Major General William T. Sherman would march three Federal armies south from Chattanooga, Tennessee to capture Atlanta, Georgia; and Major General Franz Sigel would invade western Virginia's Shenandoah Valley to cut off supplies to Lee's army and to prevent any Confederate attempts to attack Meade's flank.
The Union Army of the Potomac relentlessly engaged the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia throughout the spring of 1864. By June, Grant forced Lee to retreat to the Richmond-Petersburg area. Thereafter, both armies entrenched, and a stalemate ensued for the next ten months. During that period, Grant probed Lee's defenses but to no avail. Despite being well entrenched, the Confederate situation grew progressively worse as supplies dwindled. By the spring of 1865, Lee knew that, when the weather allowed, his army must escape the Union stranglehold or be starved into submission.
On March 25, 1865, Lee made one final attempt to break the Siege of Petersburg by ordering forces commanded by Major General John B. Gordon to attack Fort Stedman, a Union fortification in the siege lines surrounding Petersburg. Gordon's pre-dawn attack was successful initially, but blistering Union counterattacks forced the Rebels back inside their lines.
Grant's spring offensive, the Appomattox Campaign, began in late March 1865, when General Philip Sheridan's troops south of Petersburg moved west with orders to threaten or to capture Boydton Plank Road and the South Side Railroad, which connected to Petersburg from the southwest. Grant intended to cut off supplies coming into Petersburg and to prevent Lee from using the two arteries as avenues of escape from the city. On March 29, Major General G.K. Warren's 5th Corps defeated several Confederate brigades commanded by Major General Bushrod Johnson at the Battle of Lewis's Farm. Two days later, the action resumed at the Battles of White Oak Road and Dinwiddie Court House, as Lee shored up his right wing to halt the federal flanking maneuver. On April 1, Philip Sheridan and Warren continued their offensive, with a major victory over Major General George Pickett's forces at the Battle of Five Forks. The loss of that strategic crossroads further threatened Lee's already limited supply lines.
Encouraged by the Federal victory at Five Forks, Grant ordered a general assault on the Confederate entrenchments around Petersburg on April 2. Federal troops breached the Confederate defenses during the Battle of Petersburg III and forced the Rebels to withdraw to the city's inner defenses. By 10 a.m., Lee realized that the day was lost, and he advised President Jefferson Davis to prepare to leave the Confederate capital at Richmond. Lee spent the afternoon preparing his withdrawal from Petersburg.
Lee's plan was to march his beleaguered army west to Amelia Court House, where he expected to find much-needed provisions. From there, he intended to move south to join forces with Major General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of North Carolina. As the Confederates moved west, Sheridan's cavalry began hounding them almost immediately. Three minor engagements took place during the next three days at Sutherland's Station, Namozine Church, and Amelia Springs.
On April 6, Lee was marching the Army of Northern Virginia west towards Farmville, where supplies awaited. Lee's 1st and 3rd Corps, commanded by Major General James Longstreet, led the march. Major General Richard Anderson, commanding the army's 4th Corps, followed Longstreet. Two more divisions, led by Major General Custis Lee and Major General Joseph B. Kershaw, under the command of Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell, trailed Anderson. The Confederate 2nd Corps, consisting of three cavalry divisions commanded by Major General John B. Gordon, served as Lee's rearguard.
The Federals scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Sailor's Creek on April 6, capturing approximately 7,000 Confederate soldiers, including nine generals. Lee ordered another in a series of night marches to move what remained of his army westward. The Rebels crossed the Appomattox River the night of April 6, but they failed in their attempts to destroy the wagon bridge at High Bridge on the morning of April 7, enabling the Federals to continue their pursuit.
After crossing the Appomattox River, Lee's design was to reach Appomattox Station on the South Side Railroad, where four supply trains loaded with 300,000 rations, plus ammunition and clothing, awaited his hungry soldiers. The first of Lee's army to arrive near Appomattox Station was a detachment of reserve artillery commanded by Brigadier General Rueben Lindsay Walker, which bivouacked near the station, about a mile west of the village of Appomattox Court House on April 8.
Unbeknownst to Lee, Union scouts had informed General Philip Sheridan of the arrival of the trains at Appomattox Station. Sheridan ordered Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer to advance on the station with his cavalry and to capture the supplies before Lee's army could be provisioned. Custer arrived at Appomattox Station at approximately 4 p.m. on April 8. The Northerners had no problem commandeering the lightly guarded trains.
Custer then turned his attention to Walker's artillery detachment. By 9 p.m. that evening, after several charges, Custer dispersed Walker's soldiers, capturing much of Lee's artillery and securing the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road. Casualties at the Battle of Appomattox Station were light, but the engagement was important. In addition to Lee losing access to needed provisions, Custer's victory ensured that the Union held the high ground west of Appomattox Court House, squarely across Lee’s line of retreat.
Some of the Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Appomattox Station included:
2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
8th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
- Battle of Five Forks
- Ulysses S. Grant
- William Tecumseh Sherman
- Abraham Lincoln
- Appomattox Campaign
- George Armstrong Custer
- Battle of Sailor’s Creek
- Battle of Amelia Springs
- Battle of Namozine Church
- Battle of Sutherland’s Station
- Battle of Dinwiddie Court House
- Battle of White Oak Road
- Robert Edward Lee
- James Longstreet
- Jefferson Finis Davis
- George Gordon Meade
- 13th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
- Bushrod Rust Johnson
- 8th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
- 6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
- Army of the Potomac (USA)
- 2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
- Franz Sigel
- Gouverneur Kemble Warren
- Army of Northern Virginia