The American Civil War Overview


       Inside the Richmond fortifications, Lee's army had slowly been starving. Morale began to take a nose dive and between mid-February and mid-March about 8% of the men deserted. Grant meanwhile, took little offensive action but continued to extend his line southward which served to stretch Lee's already over-extended defenses almost to the breaking point.
       On March 25, 1865, Lee attempted to break through Grant's lines at Fort Stedman, but despite some initial success, was finally beaten back with heavy losses. On April 1, Sheridan broke the Southside Railroad, defeating Pickett's division in the Battle of Five Forks. Sheridan was now in Lee's rear and the Danville Railroad, Lee's last supply line, lay fully exposed to capture. Lee had no choice. He ordered the immediate evacuation of Richmond. The Confederate government and the remaining gold in its treasury were put on a special train and headed south. Richmond fell on April 2.
       Lee's last gamble was against long odds, but he had beaten long odds before and he was determined to try one last time. He had to try and link his army up with the remaining forces Joe Johnston had under his command. Perhaps if they could combine forces quickly enough, they could turn on either Grant or Sherman before the other could come to his aid. However, at this point in time, it would be problematic, even if combined, that the Confederate forces could defeat either Grant or Sherman alone.
       To implement his plan, Lee set off along the line of the Appomattox River, seeking a point at which he could turn south. Grant however, kept moving his own army in a parallel course and prevented Lee from changing direction. Finally, by the time Lee reached Appomattox Court House, and not finding rations that were supposed to be waiting for him, saw that Grant had succeeded in cutting off any further retreat. On April 9, 1865, he surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant.

This Page last updated 11/13/01


CHAPTER XXII, The Western Theater: The End