Monday, March 25, 2013

Battle of Fort Stedman, Virginia, March 25, 1865
The Battle of Fort Stedman, also known as the Battle of Hare's Hill, was fought on March 25, 1865, during the final days of the Civil War

The Union Army fortification in the siege lines around Petersburg, Virginia, was attacked in a pre-dawn Confederate assault by troops led by General John B. Gordon. The attack was the last serious attempt by Confederate troops to break the Siege of Petersburg. After an initial success, Gordon's men were driven back by Union troops commanded by General John G. Parke.

A distinguished visitor came close to witnessing the action on March 25. President Abraham Lincoln was conferring with General Grant and a division-size review parade was scheduled nearby for that morning. Because of the Confederate attack, the review was postponed until that afternoon. A Confederate prisoner was amazed to see the general and president so soon after what he considered a massive attack, riding "by us seemingly not the least concerned and as if nothing had happened." He and his fellow prisoners took note of this self-confidence and "with one accord agreed that our cause was lost." 

Lincoln had telegraphed to Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton that morning, "Arrived here all safe about 9 P.M. yesterday. No war news ... Robert [Lincoln's son, serving as an aide to Grant] just now tells me there was a little rumpus up the line this morning, ending about where it began."

The attack on Fort Stedman turned out to be a four-hour action with no impact on the Union lines. The Confederate Army was forced to set back its own lines, as the Union attacked further down the front line. To give Gordon's attack enough strength to be successful, Lee had weakened his own right flank.

Union casualties in the Battle of Fort Stedman were 1,044 (72 killed, 450 wounded, 522 missing or captured), Confederate casualties a considerably heavier 4,000 (600 killed, 2,400 wounded, 1,000 missing or captured). 

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