Civil War Site Petersburg National Battlefield
South of Dutch Gap the highway markers commemorating events of the Civil War increase in number because Petersburg was the center of the area in which Lee made his last desperate stand, con- tending against starvation and discouragement that were causing many desertions from his army, as well as against the superior num- bers of Grant's army. From May 1864 until April 1, 1865, the taking of Petersburg, the key supply city, was a main Union objective. Butler had been defeated at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff in May 1864 and bottled up between the James and the Appomattox Rivers. In the following month 1,300 Union cavalrymen made an unsuccessful surprise raid on the city. Beauregard was holding off Grant's army with a small force when Lee arrived with reinforcements. Grant settled down to a siege that lasted nine months; both armies threw up extensive earthworks to the E. and S. of Petersburg, and Grant suc- ceeded but slowly in his attempt to encircle the city. The dead, wounded, and missing on the Union side at the end of these operations numbered 42,000 and on the Confederate 25,000. A marker (L) indicating where the Confederate Gen. A. P. Hill was killed on April 2, 1865, at the age of 40. Hill did not know that Lee's line had been broken at last in the siege of Petersburg and rode into a party of Union troops advancing on the city. He had been one of Lee's most reliable young lieutenants and had taken a prominent part in most of the major engagements of the Army of Northern Virginia. His is said to have been the last name on the lips of both Lee and Jackson, on each occasion being mentioned in delirium preceding death. This section of US 1 follows what was the BOYDTON PLANK ROAD of stagecoach days, a route between Petersburg and an area with springs that were very popular in the days when the fashionable world spent its summers at mineral water resorts in the hills. The sound of the coachman's horn was as familiar to the countryside as was later the whistle of the locomotives, though the sounds had differ- ent purposes. The locomotives' whistle was chiefly a warning, but the coachman's horn was advance notice to would-be passengers and to the landlords who were preparing meals; the number of toots indi- cated the number of passengers who planned to eat at the long tables of the inns. Then, as now, Virginia ham was served at every meal, with corn and other hot breads. In addition chicken, sometimes venison, crackling bread, black bean soup, and many other foods associated with Virginia hospitality were offered.