Crossroads on the Sailor's Creek Battlefield. (Painting Courtesy Keith Rocco)
Following the breakthrough of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s army at Petersburg, Va., Gen. Robert E. Lee fled west in hopes of maneuvering his way toward the nearest friendly army under the command of General Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. The worn-out and starving Confederates were harried along their entire retreat, and on April 6, Union cavalry under Maj. Gen Phil Sheridan effectively cut off three corps of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia near Marshall's Crossroads. Meanwhile, the Union 2nd and 6th Corps approached from the east, further tightening their grasp upon the Rebels and very nearly encircling them. In each of the three distinct engagements – near Marshall’s Crossroads, The Hillsman Farm, and Lockett Farm – the Federals overwhelmed and routed the defending Confederates, capturing 7,700 men and depriving Lee of roughly one-fourth of his deteriorating army. Among the prisoners were six Confederate generals including Richard S. Ewell, Joseph Kershaw, and Custis Lee, the commanding general's son. To President Jefferson Davis, Lee wrote, "a few more Sailor's Creeks and it will all be over." The general was nearly correct in his assertion, and with the failed battle fought near Appomattox Courthouse, Va. three days later, Robert E. Lee would finally agree to surrender terms with Gen. Grant, thus ending the war in Virginia.