2 April

The Third Battle of Petersburg, was fought on this day in 1865, south and southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, at the end of the 292-day Richmond–Petersburg Campaign (sometimes called the Siege of Petersburg) and in the beginning stage of the Appomattox Campaign near the conclusion of the American Civil War.

The Union Army (Army of the Potomac, Army of the Shenandoah and Army of the James) under the overall command of General-in-chief, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, launched an assault on General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia’s Petersburg, Virginia trenches and fortifications after the Union victory at the Battle of Five Forks on 1 April 1865. As a result of that battle the Confederate right flank and rear were exposed, and the remaining supply lines cut, and the Confederate defenders were reduced by over 10,000 men killed, wounded, taken prisoner or in flight.

The thinly-held Confederate lines at Petersburg had been stretched to the breaking point by earlier Union movements that extended those lines beyond the ability of the Confederates to man them adequately and by desertions and casualties from recent battles. As the much larger Union forces, which significantly outnumbered the Confederates, assaulted the lines, desperate Confederate defenders held off the Union breakthrough long enough for Confederate government officials and most of the remaining Confederate army, including local defence forces, and some Confederate Navy personnel, to flee Petersburg and the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia during the night of 2-3 April. Confederate corps commander Lieutenant General A.P. Hill was killed during the fighting.

Union soldiers occupied Richmond and Petersburg on 3 April 1865, but most of the Union Army pursued the Army of Northern Virginia until they surrounded it, forcing Robert E. Lee to surrender that army on 9 April 1865 after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.