Battle of Sailor's Creek
(also known as Sayler's Creek)
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Location: Amelia County, VA
               (near Deatonville, VA)
Dates: April 6, 1865
Union Commander:  Phil Sheridan, Major General
Confederate Commander:  Richard S. Ewell, Lieutenant General

Battle Summary:
In early April, 1865, Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia was on the move.  After being pushed out of their works at Petersburg, and Richmond, they were retreating along the Appomattox River, hopeful to find supplies and unite with Joseph Johnston's army in North Carolina.  After engagements at Sutherland Station, Namozine Church and Amelia Springs, Lee intends to head for Jetersville.  His son, W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee, on April 5, advises Lee that Federal cavalry are entrenched across the road there, Lee decided on a different route.  Needing food, and needing to move around the Union troops, Lee sets out on a night march, around the Union left flank, that will take him to Farmville.  With the South Side Railroad running through Farmville, Lee is confident he will find food waiting for his footsore army.  This route would allow Lee to conceal his movements, in the rolling hills of the Appomattox valley.

With James Longstreet's combined command, of the 1st and 3rd Corps leading the way, Lee set out.  Longstreet was closely followed by Lieutenant General Richard Anderson's small corps and Richard S. Ewell's Reserve Corps.  Lieutenant General John B. Gordon's Corps was assigned to be the army's rear guard.

With the Army of Northern Virginia, stretched out over several miles, the rear of Longstreet's Corps, under Lieutenant General Richard Anderson, became separated from the rest of the army.  An ever observant, Brigadier General George Custer, watched this unfolding, and led his US Cavalry force into the gap, blocking Anderson from rejoining with Longstreet.

CS Lieutenant General Richard Ewell, realizing an engagement was imminent, sent his wagon train, to the north, with the John B. Gordon's troops protecting it.  Meanwhile, Ewell took his corps to the southwest side of Sailor's Creek, forming a battle line looking northeast, toward the Hillsman Farm - and the approaching column of US Major General Horatio Wright's VI Corps.  With Wright established on the high ground, north of Sailor's Creek, he commenced a strong artillery barrage on Ewell's line at 5:00 PM.  After a 1/2 hour of bombardment, his infantry started down into the creek valley, crossed the over flowing creek and engaged Ewell's Corps at the top of the hill.  They were pushed back handily, after which time, the rebels counterattacked, being pushed back with very heavy losses.  After regrouping, Wright's infantry made another attack on the rebel line, this time breaking through and overwhelming it.  Wright's infantry captured more than 3,000 troops and six general officers - including Ewell.

While this was going on at the Hillsman farm, John B. Gordon's troops, guarding the supply train, were forced to protect it, when the train became bogged down at the confluence of the Little, and Big Sailor's Creeks.  Gordon's troops, making a stand at the Lockett Farm, at twilight, was hit hard by U.S. Major General Andrew A. Humphrey's II Corps.  The battle was lopsided from the beginning, with 16,000 plus Federal troops assaulting 7,000 Confederates.  The Union troops pushed Gordon's rebels back to the low ground near the creek  Gordon, seeing more Union troops, about to flank him, from the north, wisely decided to retreat up the opposite slope of the creek.  At the close of fighting, in this sector, the US. II Corps, had captured two hundred, much needed, wagons and inflicted huge losses on Gordon.

Meanwhile, further south, three divisions of U.S. Cavalry, under Brigadier Generals George Custer, Thomas Devin and George Crook, hammered away at Lieutenant General Richard Anderson's troops.  This action netted the Federals two more captured generals and pounded Anderson's troops with more losses than the Confederates could afford.

R.E. Lee, watching the action from high ground overlooking Sailor's Creek exclaimed, "My God!  Has the army been dissolved?"  Standing with him, CS Major General William Mahone stated, "No, General, here are troops ready to do their duty."

After the battle, US Major General Phil Sheridan wired Grant, "If the thing is pressed, I think that Lee will surrender."  Monitoring the telegraph traffic, at army headquarters at City Point, Lincoln sent Grant a telegram on April 7, "General Sheridan says, 'If the thing is pressed I think that Lee will surrender.' Let the thing be pressed."

Campaign: Appomattox

Outcome: Union victory

Troop Strengths
Union: 36,500
Confederate: 16,900

Casualties (estimated):
Union: 1,148 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)
Confederate: 7,700 (killed, wounded or missing/captured)

Battle Aftermath:
The battle of Sailor's Creek was disastrous for the Army of Northern Virginia.  Losing eight general officers and thousands of troops, Robert E. Lee's army was a skeleton of what he left Petersburg with.  His troops were on the run to Farmville.  Once there, they found a train with 80,000 rations.  While distributing them, they heard musketry in their rear.  Phil Sheridan's cavalry was on their heels.  Again, the rebels were forced to run, ending up at Appomattox Court House, the site Lee would surrender his army at, two days later.
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