March 25, 1865
By March 1865, Lee's army at Petersburg was under increasing pressure. The supply situation was worse than ever, and it was clear that Lee must either attack or withdraw from Petersburg to try to join Joe Johnston's army in the Carolinas. Lee chose to attack and selected corps commander John B. Gordon to lead the attack. Gordon massed 11,500 men at Colquitt's Salient, less than 300 yards from the Union Fort Stedman. Pickett's division of 6,500 men was to move from north of the James to support and exploit a penetration along with the cavalry. Lee hoped to destroy a Union supply depot at Meade's Station and divert Union troops away from his western flank.
The Confederates' View From Colquitt's Salient
Rear of Fort Stedman
This is the view from the rear of Fort Stedman. Fort Stedman is on the left, and the entrenchments that extend to the right of the picture go to Battery X about 90 yards away. At about 3:30 A.M. on March 25th, attacking Confederates took Battery X after each of the guns had fired off a round of canister shot. To the right, or north, of Fort Stedman, Battery XI fell with barely a fight. The men of Fort Stedman moved one of their four guns to face the Rebels advancing on them from Battery X.
These are the remaining three guns of Fort Stedman. Confederates advanced on the fort from several directions, and although these guns got off several shots, the fort was soon taken in hand to hand combat. Confederates poured through this massive hole in the Union line and moved north and south clearing the Union defensive line. To expand the penetration and allow cavalry exploitation, three groups of one hundred men each advanced to take forts in the Union rear. These groups failed, and Union artillery and infantry began to assemble in the rear.
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