Portrait of Andrew A. Humphreys

During the afternoon of April 2, 1865, Major General Andrew Humphreys’s 2nd Corps broke the Hatcher Run Line and drove the Confederate defenders back into Petersburg’s inner defenses. Historians refer to this part of the Third Battle of Petersburg as the Battle of Sutherland’s Station. [Wikimedia Commons]

Battle of Sutherland's Station

April 2, 1865

The Battle of Sutherland's Station was one of several skirmishes that comprised the Third Battle of Petersburg. The battle took place at Petersburg, Virginia on April 2, 1865, during Appomattox Campaign.

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Prelude to the Battle

Grant’s Umbrella Strategy

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 and strike the Confederacy from several directions: Grant would travel with Major General George Meade and the Army of the Potomac in pursuit of General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia in the Richmond area; Major General William T. Sherman would march three federal armies south from Chattanooga to capture Atlanta, 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.

Stalemate at Petersburg

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 to no avail. Despite being well-entrenched, the Confederate situation grew progressively worse as their supplies dwindled.

Union prospects, on the other hand, improved over the winter. Major General Philip Sheridan completed his task of sweeping the Confederates from the Shenandoah Valley, and his well-rested troops rejoined Grant in the spring. Determined to break the stalemate at Petersburg, Grant ordered Sheridan to turn Lee’s right flank with the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps along with the 2nd and 5th Infantry Corps, and force Lee out of Petersburg.

Battle of Fort Stedman — Failed Rebel Breakout

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 succeeded initially, but blistering Union counterattacks forced the Rebels back inside their lines, ending the Battle of Fort Stedman.

Appomattox Campaign

Many historians consider March 29, 1865, as the beginning of the Appomattox Campaign. On that date, Grant opened his spring offensive against Lee’s army by ordering Major General Philip Sheridan’s cavalry (freshly returned from the Shenandoah Valley) and Major General G. K. Warren’s 5th Corps to attempted to turn Lee’s right flank at the Battle of Lewis’s Farm. Two days later the action resumed at the Battle of White Oak Road and Battle of Dinwiddie Court House as Lee shored up his right-wing to halt the federal Flanking maneuver. On April 1 Sheridan and Warren continued their offensive, with a major victory over Major General George Pickett’s forces at the Battle of Five Forks.

A String of Federal Victories

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. Losing that strategic crossroads further threatened Lee’s already limited supply lines.

Grant Orders a General Assault on Petersburg

Encouraged by the Federal victory at Five Forks, Grant ordered a general assault on the Confederate entrenchments on April 2, 1865. By 10 a.m., Lee realized he could no longer hold the Yankees back. He advised President Jefferson Davis to prepare to leave the Confederate capital at Richmond. As Lee abandoned his defenses at Petersburg, three minor engagements took place during the next three days at Sutherland’s Station, Namozine Church, and Amelia Springs.

Clash at Sutherland’s Station

During the afternoon of April 2, to the west of Petersburg, Major General Andrew Humphreys’s 2nd Corps broke the Hatcher Run Line and drove the Confederate defenders back into the city’s inner defenses. Historians refer to this part of the Third Battle of Petersburg as the Battle of Sutherland’s Station.

Aftermath of the Battle

The Third Battle of Petersburg was costly to both sides in terms of casualties. The Confederacy lost approximately 4,250 soldiers (killed, wounded, and captured/missing), compared with 3,500 men lost for the Union. The battle was also a death knell for the Army of Northern Virginia. Retreating from its entrenchments around Petersburg doomed the tired and hungry Confederate army to fall to the overwhelming federal forces it faced the next week.

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Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Battle of Sutherland's Station
  • Coverage April 2, 1865
  • Author
  • Keywords battle of sutherland's station, american civil war, appomattox campaign, ulysses s. grant, nelson miles, robert e. lee, a.p. hill, henry heth, john r. cooke
  • Website Name American History Central
  • Access Date November 29, 2021
  • Publisher R.Squared Communications, LLC
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 3, 2021
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