Banjo World Tour 2007
Off to find some Civil War......!
On the way, Adam slackly does a drive thru cash point. From the rear passenger seat.
Petersburg is a key Civil War site, as the epic siege there ground down Lees Confederate army in a protracted war of attrition as the Union troops attempted to capture a key railroad junction supplying Richmond, the Confederate Capital. The view of the three experts you will see in the following pictures is that the grinding down of Lees army by superior numbers of Feds was as important as capturing the town itself, as on our map it would have been easier to bypass the town and cut the rail link elsewhere.
Press play to see the course of the siege campaign
The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 15, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War. Although it is more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, it was not a classic military siege, in which a city is usually fully surrounded and all supply lines are cut off. It was ten months of trench warfare in which Union forces commanded by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant assaulted Petersburg unsuccessfully and then constructed trench lines that eventually extended over 30 miles around the eastern and southern outskirts of the city. Petersburg was crucial to the supply of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's army and the Confederate capital of Richmond.
Lee finally yielded to the overwhelming pressure—the point at which supply lines were finally cut and a true siege would have begun—and abandoned both cities in April 1865, leading to his retreat and surrender in the Appomattox Campaign. The Siege of Petersburg foreshadowed the trench warfare that would be common in World War I, earning it a prominent position in military history. It also featured the largest concentration of African American troops employed in the war, who suffered heavy casualties at such engagements as the Battle of the Crater and Chaffin's Farm
Various pieces on display outside the visitor center, which is near Battery XII and the area of the battle for Fort Steadman
A Confederate position (Battery XII) later overrun by the Feds and used again as a gun position. Not the largest fortification you will ever assault...
Some of the park is now forested, and this would have been cut down in the War to provide wood for various uses. However its useful to imagine what the many wooded areas in Fire & Fury maps look like for real. I may have to buy a lot of new trees....
The Dictator Siege Mortar. This used to lob a handful or large mortar shells into the town on a daily basis from this position.
The ground falls away to a stream, which means the earthworks seem more intimidating from the appropriate angle...just as long as the Feds don't assault from the Visitor Centre eh?
Another view of the slope
Re-enactors employed by the National Park Service litter the battlefield giving realistic demonstrations of period dress and military drill for the benefit of passers by.
A re-created earthworks shows what the real scene may have looked like
Firing positions for artillery give a commanding view over the enemy approaches
Sometimes the presence of the Park Service Re-enactors can get irritating. However they were able to help me direct fire to prevent several SUV's approaching down the road.
I think this is what's called dead ground ? Useful for any terrain mat manufacturer..
This imposing obstacle was the basis for the defensive line of the Confederates after they fell back from the previous positions at the end of the battle in 1865, and had previously been a dividing line between the armies earlier in the siege.
It looked paltry, but then again, none of us fancied manhandling a Parrot gun over it under close range fire from grey-suited redneck sharpshooters..
Click here for the National Park Service display board on this stream.
The other key feature is The Battle of The Crater.
This is an epic Civil war story, of ingenuity, political meddling, brilliance, heroism and incompetence in equal measure. The Union troops attempted to dig a mine below the Confederate lines and create a huge explosion to break open the defences.
This is the forming up point for the Union attack planned for after the explosion
The entrance to the mineshaft
Click the image to learn how the 500 foot long shaft was ventilated.
The battle features in the film Cold Mountain. But the crater in the film is much larger than the real one !
The mine and explosion worked, however the union troops who then stormed the crater were so shocked by the devastation they saw - and so poorly supported by their colleagues - that a vigorous Confederate defence was able to pin them down in the smoking hole and slaughter them, eventually costing the Union many times more losses than it inflicted, and preventing a breakthrough.
This is where the Confederate counter attack came from. There are numerous monuments erected on this site by the Sisters of the Confederacy and various other arguably politically dubious organizations. Their continued presence is almost as enlightening as some of the walk-rounds.
Behind another re-enactor you can see the rather unimpressive earthworks and ramparts thrown up by the explosion.
Further Reading on Petersburg & the Campaign
To see someone else do the tour click here:
On to Norfolk Virginia