April 3, 1865
Fought on April 3, 1865, the Battle of Namozine Church was an inconclusive engagement took place in Amelia County, Virginia during the Appomattox Campaign.
On March 12, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed native Ohioan Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States of America. Upon his arrival in Washington, Grant drafted a plan to get the various Union armies in the field to act in concert and 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; Ohioan 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, Virginia 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 Sherman's troops south of Petersburg moved west with orders to threaten or 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, Ohioan Major General Philip H. 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 10:00 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 and 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. Early in the morning of April 3, Union cavalry began harassing Lee's rearguard cavalry, and a running skirmish erupted as the Rebels fell back along Namozine Road. When the Confederates reached Namozine Church, Major General Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry brigade stopped to hold the road and delay their Federal pursuers. At around noon, a brigade of Ohioan Brigadier General George Custer's cavalry division, commanded by Colonel William Wells, attacked the Rebels. In an inconclusive battle that lasted into the night, the Confederates held the road long enough to enable Major General Bushrod Johnson's infantry division to pass by and continue its march toward Amelia Court House.
Casualties at the Battle of Namozine Church were light for both sides. The Union lost 95 soldiers killed and wounded. The number of Confederates killed and wounded is unknown, but the Federals did capture approximately 350 Rebels during the battle. After the battle, General Custer's younger brother, Captain Thomas Custer, was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at Namozine Church.
Some of the Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Namozine Church included:
4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry
6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
13th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Regiment
- William Tecumseh Sherman
- Ulysses S. Grant
- Battle of Five Forks
- Appomattox Campaign
- Abraham Lincoln
- Battle of Dinwiddie Court House
- Battle of White Oak Road
- Robert Edward Lee
- Jefferson Finis Davis
- George Gordon Meade
- Bushrod Rust Johnson
- Thomas Ward Custer
- Army of the Potomac (USA)
- Franz Sigel
- Army of Northern Virginia
- Fitzhugh Lee