by Andy Mateja

During the Civil war’s final year there was lots of sparring going on outside of Richmond & Petersburg as both sides were angling for advantageous positioning. During the early part of October 1864 while Lt Gen Ulysses S Grant was seeking reinforcements in Washington to advance his grand plan to launch an aggressive assault on Gen Robt E Lee’s ever shrinking defenders outside of Richmond & Petersburg, He had ordered Army of Potomac Commander Maj Gen George Meade to probe the Confederate lines for movement and/or weakness. Grant believed Petersburg was merely the communication center for Richmond the Confederates were planning to move and consolidate their forces in the vicinity of Richmond to launch a counter attack.

Meade did not agree and while ordering his II, V, and IX Corps to advance northwestward from their current positions near the Weldon Railroad, the movement was somewhat slow and cautious almost as if to avoid any type of conflict.  Confederate field commander Lt Gen AP Hill moved to respond almost in the same way. It seemed as though that neither side wanted to fight at this time…..

While the Union troops did their best to disengage the Rebels along the rail line, AP Hill and his forces kept enough pressure in place do delay the Yankee advance and delay their forward progress. Each side took their turn at jabbing the other but did their best to avoid bringing on a major battle while Grant was  “away” ….

The results were that the lines remained as they were and the siege continued for five additional months until the next major conflict occurred in March 1865 at Ft Stedman with Lee trying unsuccessfully to break out of the strangle hold that Grant put on him. Two weeks later Lee had met with Grant at a little village called Appomattox Court House and surrendered the remaining semblance of his Army of Northern Virginia.

One can only wonder if the bloody war could have ended months sooner if Grant had not chosen to head toward Washington to personally seek reinforcements???   Missed opportunities abounded in his absence ………