Battle of Fort Stedman
A photo of Fort Stedman as it appeared in 1865
The current site of Fort Stedman, taken in 2009
Confederate General John B. Gordon who led the attack
Union Major General John G. Parke who tried fighting off the Confederate assault
Union Brigadier General John F. Hartranft who led the counterattack to recapture the fort
postwar map of the Fort Stedman area of the Petersburg siege lines. Stedman is found in the center of the map
A rendition of the attack on Fort Stedman
Siege lines around Fort Stedman, circa 1864-1865
Ariel view of the remains of Fort Stedman
Backstory and Context
Gordon continued to advise Lee on his actions, and they came to the conclusion that a preemptive assault should be launched immediately, thereby forcing Grant's men to retreat and disrupt his plans to attack Confederate infrastructure. Coincidentally, Grant had already given the orders to attack Confederate works and the attacks were scheduled to happen 4 days after the battle began. At dawn on March 25, the Confederate attack began. Starting at the Confederate Fort known as Colquitt's Salient, the Confederate forces marched on the Union Fort Stedman. The attack seemed like a simple victory for the Confederacy, Fort Stedman was poorly equipped and very near to a Union railroad critical to the Confederate victory.
Lee's forces included high-ranking Confederate officers from surrounding areas as well as his his own men totaling a strength of over 10,000 soldiers. Their offensive strategy one one of swift surprise, sending unarmed men under the guise of desertion to overpower and defeat Union forces patrolling the area. The confusion surrounding their attack even caused Union General McLaughlen to mistake Confederate forces for his own and even ordered them to fire on their own men, which they did until their mistake was realized and they captured McLaughlen who presented his officer's sword to Gordon. After a day of fierce fighting, the Confederates had captured Fort Stedman. Their victory was short lived due to a union counterattack and successive recapture of the fort. This would the last assault ordered by Lee during the Civil War.