Battle of Sailor's Creek

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Battle of Sailor's Creek

Battle of Sailor's Creek
Battle of Sailor's Creek .jpg
Civil War Battle of Sayler's Creek

Other Names: Sayler's Creek, Saylor's Creek, Hillsman Farm, Lockett Farm

Location: Amelia County, Prince Edward County, and Nottoway County

Campaign: Appomattox Campaign (March-April 1865)

Date(s): April 6, 1865

Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan [US]; Lt. Gen. Richard Ewell and Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon [CS]

Forces Engaged: Corps

Estimated Casualties: 9,980 total

Result(s): Union victory

Battle of Sailor's Creek
Battle of Sailor's Creek History.jpg
Battle of Sailor's Creek History

Description: On April 6 at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, often referred to as Battle of Sayler's Creek, nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army was cut off by Sheridan’s Cavalry and elements of the II and VI Corps. Most surrendered, including Confederate generals Richard S. Ewell, Barton, Simms, Kershaw, Custis Lee, Dubose, Hunton, and Corse. This action was considered the death knell of the Confederate army. Upon seeing the survivors streaming along the road, Lee exclaimed “My God, has the army dissolved?”

Battle of Sailor's Creek Map
Battle of Sailor's Creek Map.jpg
(Battle of Sayler's Creek Map)

Background: After Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke the Confederate defenses at the Siege of Petersburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia evacuated Petersburg and Richmond on the night of April 2–3 and began a retreat in hopes of linking up with Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's army in North Carolina. As the Union Army pursued, and engaged the Confederates in the Battle of Namozine Church (April 3) and the Battle of Amelia Springs (April 5), Lee discovered that his route to Danville was blocked by fast-moving Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. His only remaining option was to move west on a long march, without food, to Lynchburg. But the Confederate Commissary General promised Lee that he would send 80,000 rations to Farmville, 25 miles (40 km) to the west.

Sailor's Creek Virginia Civil War Map (1865)
Virginia Civil War Map.gif
Sayler's Creek 1865 Virginia Civil War Battlefield Map

Sailor's Creek Battlefield Map
Sailors Creek Battlefield Map.jpg
Civil War Battle Sailor's Creek Map

(Left) The Pursuit of the rebel army, April 6th-8th, 1865, and Battle of Sailor's Creek, Va. Sneden, Robert Knox, 1832-1918.

In this detail from an unidentified printed map, Sneden depicts the area between Rice's Depot and Jetersville, Va. Named after Sailor's Creek that runs through Prince Edward, Amelia and Nottoway Counties, this engagement of the Appomattox Campaign was fought April 6, 1865. The Confederates sustained heavy losses (7-8,000) before withdrawing to Highbridge, and several generals, including Ewell, were captured.

Sailor's Creek Battlefield
Sailor's Creek Battle.jpg
Sailor's Creek Battle

Civil War Battle Sailor's Creek
Civil War Battle Sailor's Creek.jpg
The Battle of Sayler's Creek

Battle: The Battle of Sayler's Creek (also known as Sailor's Creek, Hillsman Farm, or Lockett Farm) was fought on April 6, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, as part of the Appomattox Campaign, in the final days of the American Civil War. It was the last major engagement between the armies of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant before the capitulation of Lee's Confederate army at Appomattox Court House three days later.

Battle of Sailor's Creek Historical Marker
Battle of Sailor's Creek Historical Marker.jpg
Battle of Sayler's Creek Historical Marker

On April 6 at Sayler's Creek, nearly one fourth of the retreating Confederate army was cut off by Sheridan's cavalry and elements of the II and VI Corps. Two Confederate divisions, led by Maj. Gens. Custis Lee and Joseph B. Kershaw, under the command of Lt. Gen. Richard S. Ewell, fought the VI Corps along the creek. VI Corps attacked after an artillery bombardment.
 
The Confederates counter attacked but were driven back at last. Union artillery under Maj. Andrew Cowan deployed at the Hillsman Farm played a key role in their repulse. Soon after, the Union cavalry cut through the right of the Confederate lines. Most Confederates surrendered, including generals Ewell, Lee, Kershaw, Seth M. Barton, James P. Simms, Meriwether Lewis Clark, Sr., Dudley M. Du Bose, Eppa Hunton, and Montgomery D. Corse. Col. Stapleton Crutchfield was killed leading a detachment of artillery personnel who had participated in the defenses of Richmond.
 
Also present at this battle was Confederate Commander John Randolph Tucker and his naval squadron (300–400 strong), and so sailors were fighting at Sayler's Creek. Farther away, II Corps pushed back Maj. Gen. John Brown Gordon, who had mistakenly been on a different road.

Civil War Sailor's Creek Battlefield
Battle of Sayler's Creek.jpg
Battle of Sayler's Creek, Virginia

General Robert E. Lee
General Robert E. Lee.jpg
(General Robert E. Lee in 1863)

Aftermath: Upon seeing the survivors streaming along the road, Lee exclaimed in front of Maj. Gen. William Mahone, "My God, has the army dissolved?" to which he replied, "No, General, here are troops ready to do their duty." Touched by the faithful duty of his men, Lee told Mahone, "Yes, there are still some true men left...?" (See also THE APPOMATTOX CAMPAIGN: March 29 - April 9, 1865.)
 
(Right) Photo of General Robert E. Lee in 1863.

Battle of Sailor's Creek Memorial
Battle of Sailor's Creek Memorial.jpg
Battle of Sayler's Creek Memorial

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Related Reading:
 

References: National Park Service; Freeman, Douglas S. Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command. 3 vols. New York: Scribner, 1946; Salmon, John S. The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001; civilwar.org (Civil War Trust); Library of Congress; Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historical State Park.

Subjects: Battle of Sailor's Creek, Sayler's Creek Battlefield Map, Civil War, General Lee, General Sheridan, General John Gordon, Confederate Army surrendered, Union general Grant, Appomattox Campaign History, Facts, Summary, Historical Marker, Civil War Soldiers, Sailor's Creek Battlefield Historical State Park.

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