Sailor's Creek Battle
Keith Rocco, "Victory or Death"

Sailor's Creek

Sayler's Creek

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Five days after Robert E. Lee's men retreated from the trenches of Petersburg, cavalry under Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan effectively cut off three separate corps of Lee's army near Sailor's Creek, a tributary of the Appomattox River, while the Union Second and Sixth Corps approached from the east. On April 6th, two brigades of Andrew H. Humphrey's Second Corps overwhelmed two brigades of Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon's division as the Confederates struggled to move their supply and artillery trains across the creek. Gordon's men were forced to make a stand at the Lockett family farm on the west bank. In a separate action, Lieut. Gen. Richard Anderson's Confederate infantry were attacked by Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. George Crook at Marshall's Crossroad, where the Yankee troopers blocked Anderson's route to join with the other Confederate units.  The Union cavalry captured many of Anderson's artillery pieces near the creek, and most of Anderson's men fled the battlefield. In a third fight, two divisions of Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright's Sixth Corps took up positions on the Hillsman farm north of Sailor's Creek opposite Gen. Richard S. Ewell's corps.  Brig. Gen. Wesley Merritt's cavalry division engaged Ewell on Wright's left, cutting Ewell off from retreating west to Farmville and forcing the Confederate commander to surrender. In all three actions, the Federals overwhelmed the defending Confederates, capturing 7,700 men and depriving Lee of roughly one-fourth of his army.  Among the prisoners were six Confederate generals including 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." Lee surrendered three days later.

Battle Facts

Result

Union Victory
COMMANDERS
Forces Engaged
27,500

Union

16,000

Confederate

11,500
Total Estimated Casualties
9,980

Union

1,150

Confederate

8,830