The Last Gasp

The American Civil War was fought for four long years. Someone should have negotiated a truce to spare the slaughter of Gettysburg and all the battles in a lost cause, but The Southerners fought to the bloody end and on March 25, 1865 the Rebels launched a final offensive against the siege lines facing Petersburg.
The assault carried Fort Stedman in the darkness before the dawn.

According to Wikipedia Brevet Brig. Gen. Napoleon B. McLaughlen, the officer responsible for the Fort Stedman sector, heard the sounds of the attack, dressed quickly and rode to Fort Haskell, just to the south of Battery XII, which he found to be ready to defend itself.

As he moved north, McLaughlen ordered Battery XII to open fire on Battery XI and ordered a reserve infantry regiment, the 59th Massachusetts, to counterattack, which they did with fixed bayonets, briefly re-capturing Battery XI. Assuming that he had sealed the only breach in the line, McLaughlen rode into Fort Stedman. He recalled, “I crossed the parapet and meeting some men coming over the curtains, whom in the darkness I supposed to be part of the picket, I established them inside the work, giving directions with regard to position and firing, all of which were instantly obeyed.”

He suddenly realized that the men he was ordering were Confederates and they realized he was a Union general, capturing him. He was taken back across no man’s land and surrendered his sword personally to Gordon.

Within four hours the early triumph turned to a ghastly defeat.

Last Saturday morning I walked on the battlefield.

The dead, maimed, and unwounded last buried elsewhere.

Grass covered the ground.

Not the blood of 4,000 men.

Several days later the Federals broke into Petersburg.

General Robert E. Lee telegraphed President Jefferson Davis to flee and then retreated west in hopes of escape.

There was none.

Only Appomattox.

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