At Edge Hill, Lee had little if any sleep on the night following the disaster at Five Forks. Hill, who had been ill and on furlough, came out of his headquarters at Indiana, on the western edge of town. Longstreet and his staff traveled on the dirt road to leave more room in the cars for the men.
Lee first learned of the breaking of the line when he was told Union wagon's were coming down Cox Road. Despite warnings to be careful, A.P. Hill hurried off with his aid, Sergeant G.W. Tucker, to rally his troops on Hatcher's Run. Somewhere west of Mahone's winter quarters on the Whitworth farm, a Yankee marksman from the Union VI Corps raised his rifle and shot Hill through the heart. "He is at rest now," said Lee, when he heard the news, "and we who are left are the ones to suffer."
About 10 o'clock in the morning Lee sent his message advising that all preparation be made for leaving Richmond that night. This was the message which President Davis received in St. Paul's Church, Richmond. Although a battery had been placed in the Edge Hill Garden to protect headquarters, the place soon had to be evacuated. The house was struck nine times by artillery and was put to the torch by Union soldiers. After watching the fighting from Mayfield, home of Captain Thomas Whitworth, Lee established headquarters at Cottage Farm, home of Captain Robert Dunn McIlwaine. There he planned the details for the evacuation.
By the middle of the day the Confederates had retreated to a line along Indian Town Creek, which was stabilized as a line east of the creek from battery 45 to the river. The entrenching of this line is said to have been the only task which the Confederates required Negroes to perform under fire, and it was recalled that they worked with apparent willingness. Field's division of Longstreet's corps was put into position to stem the expected Union tide. Longstreet's handling of Bennings brigade was credited with especially effective resistance. Union troops fortified a line on the west side of the creek.
One of the heroic events of the day was the defense of Fort Gregg, which with Fort Baldwin stood in the way of the Union advance. It is said that a garrison of 250 resisted three attacks by 5,000 Union troops and that 30 survived. These figures may be in error, but the fort's defenders used field guns as long as they could, then muskets,and then bayonets. Wounded men loaded guns and handed them to men still able to fight. A year later visitors could see the ground before the fort covered with the graves of Union dead, the ground behind it covered with the graves of Confederate dead. Fort Baldwin fell soon after Fort Gregg. The defense of Fort Gregg has been credited with preventing Grant's capture of Petersburg on April 2.
".. I can compare the appearance of Fort Gregg to nothing but a slaughterpen. The blue and the gray were there promiscuously heaped together. Their kindred blood commingling presented a sight not could not fail to impress one indelibly with the horrors of a civil war. I was informed that the defenders of Fort Gregg were sons of the Green Isle, which fact I can readily believe from their stubborn resistance to our troops. Among those found therein wearing the blood stained blue I recognized some of the 23rd Illinois, the remnant of Mulligan' Irish Brigade. One of the latter, named Dwyer, with whom I had been talking only a short time before he went in, was found among the slain..."
"The Flying, Gray-Haired Yank," 1888 by Capt. Michael Egan Co. B 12th West Virginia Infantry. Edmond O'Dwyer of the 23rd Illinois is in the regimental records as killed at Fort Gregg.
On Sunday, April 2, the church bells of Petersburg had heavy competition from artillery, but this was no new dissonance. Children on their way to church were advised to return home. Railroad rolling stock and supplies were removed, stripped, or burned. Numerous cars of the Southside Railroad standing on the tracks beside the Appomattox River were put to the torch. Columns of smoke rising above West Hill Warehouse and Centre Warehouse revealed the burning of government stores of cotton and tobacco.
The Last Night Attack on Petersburg.
The Night of April 1-2 saw and heard perhaps the greatest discharge of artillery during the whole campaign for Petersburg. The very ground seemed to shake as in an earthquake as preparations for the final assault were made. On one side there were masses of men in waiting, on the other force so reduced that men stood 10 to 21 feet apart in the trenches.
The Union assault, delayed somewhat by fog, got underway about 4:40 on the morning of April 2. The first important gains were made about 5:15 by units of General Horatio G. Wright's VI Corps, attacking from the vicinity of Forts Fisher and Welch after a gun in Fort Fisher, competing with the general noise, boomed the signal. The attackers moved through the ravine below the Banks house, where Confederate defenses had been weakened by capture of the picket line on March 25. Even now, the price for Petersburg was high, and the celebrated rustic chapel near Fort Fisher soon would be filled with the dead and dying.
The attacking column cleared the woods to the left and right but moved mosty to the west. Symbolism was served when a few men went to the Southside Railroad and tore up some tracks. Temporarily Grant moved his headquarters to the Banks house. Three miles to the southwest Union troops broke the line near Hatcher's Run, and the Confederates who were cut off retreated to Sutherland Station. There they proved there was still fight in them by defending themselves from behind a barricade of fence rails and by beating off two Union attacks before retreating in the face of overwhelming force.
On the eastern lines the Union troops achieved less success. They carried the picket line from the City Point Railroad to the river. About daybreak troops of Parke's IX Corps, attacking from in front of Fort Sedgwick, captured a portion of the strong outer Confederate line. At points where inner lines were pierced Gordan concentrated his men at the double quick and forced the enemy out of all but one. The Union attack gained 800 prisoners and 12 guns---but not the road into Petersburg. Confederates fought from ditches and batteries, from traverse to traverse. The familiar picture book photograph of a 14-year old Confederate soldier pierced by a bayonet lying in a trench illustrates the story.