Fort Stedman

Fort Stedman - Chaney 2 By the time March 1865 rolled...

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Chaney 2 By the time March 1865 rolled around, Lee’s army, which was stationed around Petersburg, was under increasing pressure from the Federals. The supply situation for the Confederates was worse than it had been at any other point during the war and it was becoming clearer every day that Lee must either attack the Federal or withdraw from Petersburg and try to join Joe Johnston’s army in the Carolinas. Lee also knew that he could not just wait for the coming of spring, when General Ulysses S. Grant would be concentrating his main effort, but he was very limited by his situation in determining what he should most likely do. By this point in the was Lee’s forces had dwindled to around 55,000 men and Grant’s army had a healthy 150,000 troops immediately available or within a short march. 1 Sheridan had also very recently destroyed Early’s force in the valley and was now free to join Grant whenever he was needed. Lee desired greatly to relieve the nine-month siege of Petersburg and he sought to attack a weak point in the Union’s defensive position, penetrate it with a decisive attack, and force General Grant to pull back his lines around Petersburg. 2 This would then allow Lee to send some of his forces into North Carolina to join General Johnston and help defeat General William T. Sherman. After defeating Sherman these troops could then return to Virginia to help Lee defeat Grant.
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Chaney 3 General John B. Gordon, Lee’s youngest corps commander, was directed to locate a weak point in the Union defenses. Gordon had previously been in charge of holding Grant’s troops at bay and not letting them reach the South Side railroad. 3 The actual tactical planning and the execution of the attack were also left up to General Gordon. After a very careful reconnaissance, Gordon decided the area for his attack was an area where the two lines were only 150 yards apart. The spot was known to the Confederates as Colquitt’s Salient and on the part of the Federal line was the Union’s Ford Stedman. 4 Gordon presented his plan to Lee on March 22 and was determined to be a good one. 5 The site had been named after Colonel Griffin Stedman who had been mortally wounded near the site in August 1864. Fort Stedman was an earthen redoubt that consisted of a moat that was four feet deep and walls that were nine feet high. 6 It was protected by abatis, which are an obstacle of large branches placed close together with the ends sharpened and facing toward each the enemy, and by chevaux-de-frise, which consist of a log embedded all the way around with fire-hardened stakes whose sharpened points face outward. 7 To the north of the fort, were Batteries IX and X and to the south were
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Chaney 4 Batteries XI and XII and Fort Haskell. These lines and entrenchments were defended by General John G. Parke. 8
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Fort Stedman - Chaney 2 By the time March 1865 rolled...

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