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Battle of Five Forks

From Academic Kids

Template:Battlebox The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia. It was the final major battle for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. The battle pitted Union Major General Philip Sheridan against Confederate Major General George Pickett.

"Five Forks" referred to the intersection of the White Oak Road, Scott's Road, Ford's (or Church) Road, and the Dinwiddie Court House Road.

Lee ordered Pickett, with his infantry division and three cavalry divisions, to hold the crossroads of Five Forks. Lee's dispatch stated:

Hold Five Forks at all hazards. Protect road to Ford's Depot and prevent Union forces from striking the Southside Railroad. Regret exceedingly your forces' withdrawal, and your inability to hold the advantage you had gained.

Pickett's troops built a log and dirt defensive line about 1.75 miles long, guarding the two flanks with cavalry. Unfortunately for the Union plans for attack, faulty maps and intelligence misunderstood where these flanks actually were.

While Sheridan’s cavalry pinned the Confederate force in position, at about 4 p.m., the V Corps under Major General Gouverneur K. Warren attacked and overwhelmed the Confederate left flank, taking many prisoners. Pickett's unfortunate military career suffered another humiliation—he was two miles away from his troops at the time of the attack, enjoying a shad bake with some other officers. By the time he returned to the battlefield, it was too late.

The loss of Five Forks threatened Lee’s last supply line, the South Side Railroad. The next morning, Lee informed President Jefferson Davis that Petersburg and Richmond must be evacuated. Union general Frederick Winthrop was killed and Willie Pegram, beloved Confederate artillery officer, was mortally wounded. Sheridan was dissatisfied with the performance of the V Corps in the approach to Five Forks and he relieved Warren of his command.

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