Petersburg National Battlefield; The Civil War’s Longest Siege

42,00 Union and 28,000 Confederate casualties in the last eight months of a siege that lasted 292 days. That’s the history you will learn at Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia.

It was here that General Grant showed down against Robert E. Lee; establishing a siege on Petersburg aimed at cutting Confederate supply lines and capturing critical railroads.

But what of the human toll?

When you visit you will learn about Appomattox Plantation, the home of a doctor and his family, who vacated and moved to Petersburg when Union troops began to arrive. This plantation became Grant’s headquarters.

But what of the people of Petersburg, a thriving city before the Civil War? It is hard to imagine what life must have been like as their city collapsed around them. From June 1864 through April 1865, the armies jockeyed for position and the Union continued to cut supply lines, forming a stranglehold on the city. This was to be the longest siege in American warfare.

About Petersburg National Battlefield

Petersburg was one of the last major Confederate defeats; leading to the Union attack on Richmond that led to the end of the Civil War. This entire area is rich in history. At this national park unit you will learn about the strategy and tactics of both sides, and of how the Civil War ultimately came to an end.

There is driving tour that takes you around the main locations, and from the visitor center you can walk around one of the major fortifications. We were astounded at the size of “The Dictator”. Although the original was lost, you can see a similar 13 inch Seacoast Mortar on site. This huge weapon was used by the Union to pound the Confederate artillery. It weighed 17,120 pounds and used 200 pound shells, and was mounted on a specially reinforced rail flat car that enabled it to be moved around. 

The Dictator

It was also interesting to learn that The Dictator was a favorite subject of photographers who were covering the war. The sheer size and lack of maneuverability made this weapon truly unique. Like now, the media had to come up with a different angle on the news.

Walk to the edge of “The Crater”, where the Union troops had dug a tunnel and then exploded a mine under Confederate troops. Unfortunately the follow up battle didn’t go quite as planned. They talk of the Union troops running into the crater before the smoke had cleared, ultimately finding themselves trapped. 5500 casualties later, neither side won.

Remains of the Crater

Civil War History

This region of the country has so much history. It is hard to imagine the lives lost and the number of people who were displaced. Although fascinating, we also find that visiting Civil War battlefields is a very sombre and humbling experience.

We have talked about our experiences visiting Wilson Creek National Battlefield, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and Gettysburg, Vicksburg, and Shiloh National Military Parks. You can read our blogs to learn more. All of them cover a slightly different aspects of the war and together help create a clearer understanding of the scope and scale of the American Civil War. 

Need Help Planning Your Visits?

If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.



1 thought on “Petersburg National Battlefield; The Civil War’s Longest Siege

Comments are closed.