Petersburg was a flourishing industrial center that played an essential role in the Civil War military conflict due to its proximity to and the defense of the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia. Although the Union was a dominant power, the year of 1861 brought drastic changes to Petersburg’s political background and changed it to dominantly Confederate (Greene, 2006). In September of 1864, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia occupied Petersburg when Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of the Potomac began the so-called Siege of Petersburg (Greene, 2006). It turned out to be one of the most famous and lengthy battles of the Civil War that lasted until April of 1865 and brought a considerable advantage to the Union. Bearss and Suderow (2014) highlighted the six biggest battles of the Siege of Petersburg: “Peeble’s Farm, Burgess Mills, Hatcher Run, Fort Stedman, Five Forks Campaign, and the Sixth Corps Breaks Lee’s Petersburg Lines” (p. 11). According to Chambers and Anderson (1999), the Siege of Petersburg has also been significant for military history due to its foreshadowing of the trench warfare, which later became dominant in World War I.
Resulting from Lee’s failure and surrendering to the Union powers in 1865, the Union was able to take over Petersburg and, consequently, advance to Richmond, overtaking the Confederate territories and ending the Civil War. Upon Petersburg’s fall, Lee recommended the Confederate troops to flee the neighboring Richmond due to the inevitable collide with Grant’s powerful army (Chambers & Anderson, 1999). Therefore, the fall of Petersburg is significant due to its deciding role in the power dynamic between the Confederates and the Union, bringing the victory to the latter.
Bearss, E., & Suderow, B. (2014). The Petersburg Campaign. Savas Beatie.
Chambers, J., & Anderson, F. (1999). The Oxford companion to American military history. Oxford University Press.
Greene, A. (2006). Civil War Petersburg. University of Virginia Press.