On 5 February 1865, the Union Army moved on the Confederate line at Petersburg. After 3 days of vicious fighting, no one had won, but the Union had succeeded in stretching the already overstretched Rebel line. The battle has been called the Battle of Hatcher’s Run / Dabney’s Mill / Armstrong’s Mill / Rowanty Creek / Vaughan Road / Boydton Plank Road. Each name had a significance in the battle, but the battle is generally referred to as the battle of Hatcher’s Run.
The Siege of Richmond
By early February 1865, General Grant had besieged Petersburg for 8 months. Further south, Sherman had completed his march to the sea and was now heading north. Schofield was moving inland from Fort Fisher. Lee knew that Grant would not wait for a full encirclement. Grant wanted to prove he could take Lee without help. The actions from 5-7 February 1865 were the opening moves to make Lee’s hold on Petersburg unsustainable.
The Battle of Hatcher’s Run
Grant was trying to cut what he thought was Lee’s primary supply route into Petersburg. To this end, Grant sent General David Gregg’s cavalry division to conduct the operation on Boydton Plank Road to Burgess Mill, near where it crossed the Hatcher’s Run (creek). In support, he sent two divisions each of General G.K. Warren’s V Corps and General A.A. Humphreys’ II Corps. Warren set up a blocking position for Gregg on the Confederate side of Hatcher’s Run and Humphreys protected Warren’s flank.
As the action commenced on a cold morning, Gregg seized little in the way of supplies on the Boydton Plank Road. Lee was not using it heavily for supplies, partly because he suspected such an attack and partly because little supply was reaching his bedraggled troops anyway. Warren and Humphreys dug in for protection from long range artillery. Late in the day, the General John Gordon’s Rebels tried an attack on Humphreys, but it didn’t amount to much and was thrown back. Overnight, the Yankees re-enforced with two divisions from Meade.
On 6 February, Warren probed forward, but was hit hard by Gordon and pulled back sloppily until reaching the line with Humphreys. In the 6th’s fierce fighting, Gordon lost one of the Rebel’s best division commanders, General John Pegram, to a shot through the chest. The 7th brought entrenchment and stalemate.
In the end, the Yankees had to settle for extending their line to the Vaughan Road crossing of Hatcher’s Run. The Union took heavy losses, but made Lee extend his line and killed one of the south’s best leaders in Pegram. This was bad for Lee, but the worst was to come.
Battle of Hatcher’s Run Motorcycle Ride Recommendation
Check out the Petersburg battlefield tour.
If you want a longer ride, try VA-SR-10 and 31 from Petersburg to Williamsburg. You can stop off at the first English settlement in America at Jamestown Island.