Category Archives: Petersburg

Advanced notice on Petersburg 150th Schedule

Petersburg National Battlefield posted advanced notice about their schedule of sesquicentennial events this year.  Some of those listed are:

June 14 -15, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Opening Assaults Weekend.  Living history programs, ranger guided walks, artillery demonstrations and a bus tour all covering the stories of the opening actions of the Siege of Petersburg.

July 30, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Battle of the Crater.  A commemorative program will take place at the time of the explosion, a keynote address will be given at mid-day, and ranger tours will be provided in the morning and afternoon.

August 1, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Battle of the Crater – Panel Presentations.

  • Morning Panel Discussion – Gillfield Baptist Church, 209 Perry Street, Petersburg 10 – 12 pm.
  • Afternoon Panel Discussion – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 10 Union Street, Petersburg 1 – 3 pm

In the morning and afternoon two panel discussions, with three speakers each and a Q&A session, will be held in downtown Petersburg. One will address the battle and the other impacts of the siege on those living in the city.

August 2, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Battle of the Crater – Living History Program. Living history programs on the battle, the soldiers and their weapons, and field medicine throughout the day. Watch Union & Confederate artillery in action and “meet” Generals Grant & Lee to hear their thoughts on this battle. The Virginia Civil War History mobile will be on hand and family activities will be available.

August 9-10, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Grant’s Headquarter’s City Point, VA. Ranger programs and living history events will bring to life and explore the role of this village as it was transformed into one of the world’s busiest ports and one of the largest field supply bases of the Civil War.

August 23-24, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Battles of Weldon Railroad & Reams Station. Rangers and living historians at stops along these two battlefields will provide insight to Gen. Grant’s Fourth Offensive of the siege and the impact it had on the struggle over Petersburg’s fate.

September 27-28, 2014 – 150th Anniversary: Battle of Peeble’s Farm. Rangers and living historians at stops along this battlefield will present tours and demonstrations on the Grant’s Fifth offensive of the siege. Gen. Lee thwarts this effort at great cost to his hold on Petersburg and Richmond.

Look for more details (and maybe some additions) as we proceed into the “campaign” season.  There’s no shortage of topics to consider on the Petersburg Campaign.

More Overland Campaign / Petersburg-Richmond Siege 150th events

The Richmond National Battlefield Park alerts us to “mark the dates” for events covering the Overland Campaign and the Petersburg-Richmond Siege:

In the coming weeks, we will begin posting schedules and details of the park’s 1864 / 2014 programs. In the meantime, we invite you to mark these key dates on your calendar:

  • May 24, 2014: Reverberations – Commemorating the Overland Campaign (in partnership with Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park and Petersburg National Battlefield)
  • May 29-31, 2014: Commemoration of the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek
  • May 31, June 1, June 3, and June 7, 2014: Commemoration of the Battle of Cold Harbor
  • September 27 – 30, 2014: Commemoration of the battles of Fort Harrison and New Market Heights Additional events and dates will be added for programs still in development.

In addition, the park notes the following programs outside the NPS, but related to the campaign (and the later Petersburg-Richmond Campaign):

Bermuda Hundred Campaign 150th Anniversary

  • April 25-27, 2014
  • Chesterfield County
  • Website

North Anna Battlefield Trail Dedication

  • May 24, 2014
  • Hanover County Parks and Recreation
  • Website (more details promised after April 1)

Reenactment of the Battle of New Market Heights / Campaign Before Richmond 1864

  • September 27-28, 2014
  • Henrico County Recreation and Parks
  • Website

Looks like 2014 is picking up to be just like 2013 – a busy year for sesquicentennialists.

“I feel desirous to do something…”: Foster looking for action along the James

On this day (October 8) in 1863, Major-General John G. Foster, commanding  the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, wrote to Major-General Henry Halleck in Washington to propose a series of operations in his sector.  Foster’s command included everything from the Virginia Peninsula down to the northern border of South Carolina.  Earlier in the summer, he’d forwarded reinforcements to the Department of the South when operations on Morris Island evolved into an extended siege.  Such limited Foster’s activity through the summer. Not one to be idle, he looked to create an opening that fall to break the quiet James River sector.  From his headquarters at Fort Monroe, he addressed Halleck:

General: I feel desirous to do something, and although my force is very small, I hope, by substituting the defense of citadels for that of the long lines, as Williamsburg, Yorktown, Gloucester, and Getty’s line, outside of Portsmouth, to obtain a small but effective movable column. The sickness which has prevailed at Williamsburg, Gloucester, Yorktown, and throughout the whole of North Carolina, has very much enfeebled the troops and made them for a time incapable of long marches. They are, however, available for expeditions by water, and what marches I may be forced to make can be borne by the negro troops. This is the case in the expedition now out scouring Matthews-County, of which the infantry is wholly composed of negro troops. To come to the point, I propose (now that I am obliged to understand that the troops sent to the Department of the South cannot be replaced so as to give me force enough to go to Weldon or to take Fort Caswell) to undertake little operations in succession, calculated to attract the attention of the enemy and draw off his force, which can be made very safe by means of the aid of the navy and the army gunboats.

The first point is Fort Powhatan, now deserted, which I propose to seize and turn into a small but strong work for us, from which I can commence a system of cavalry raids. Then, as soon as this has attracted the attention of the enemy so as to accumulate force enough to stop the operations of the cavalry, to seize a point on the other shore of the James, higher up, say, at Wilcox’s or Swynyard’s Wharves, or Harrison’s Landing, and pursue the same game. Then, with a small increase of force, City Point may be seized and fortified, and a dash be made toward Petersburg. To make sure of taking it will require quite an increase of force, say, 20,000 men; but this force can be sent, if you judge expedient, at any time. All that I can do now is to annoy the enemy, and from time to time to accumulate a force to meet an apprehended attack. If this meets with your approval, I will at once enter upon the necessary preparations.

I have the honor to be, general, your obedient servant,
J. G. Foster, Major General.

With hindsight we know this proposal was dead on arrival.  After September 21, the weight of the Federal armies shifted towards Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Sickness and the need to hold the purchase gained at Morris Island prevented Gillmore from releasing troops.  And within a day the Army of Northern Virginia would take up the march once again, threatening to take back any gains of the summer’s fighting in the east.

Take Petersburg to cut off connections to the deep South?  Foster was about a year ahead things.

(Foster’s letter appears in OR, Series I, Volume 29, Part II, Serial 49, page 267.)