The Battle of Sailor’s Creek was fought on April 6, 1865, near Farmville, Virginia, as part of the Appomattox Campaign, in the final days of the American Civil War. It was the last major battle between the armies of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
After Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke the Confederate defenses at the Siege of Petersburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia evacuated Petersburg and Richmond on the nights of Aril 2 & 3, 1865. They began a retreat in hopes of linking up with Gen. Joseph Johnston’s army in North Carolina. As the union Army pursued and engaged the Confederates in the Battle of Namozine Church (on April 3) and the Battle of Amelia Springs (on April 5), Lee discovered that his route to Danville was blocked by the Union cavalry under the leadership of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan. Lee’s only remaining option was to move west on a long march, without food, to Lynchburg. But the Confederate Commissary General promised Lee that he would send 80,000 rations to Farmville, about 25 miles to the west.
On the rainy morning of April 6, skirmish fire announced that Gen. Andrew Humphrey’s Union Second Corps was in pursuit. Gen. Sheridan’s cavalry cut off nearly one-fourth of the retreating Confederate army. The Confederates counter attacked but were driven back just as the Union cavalry cut through the right of the Confederate lines.
April 6, 1865 became known as “Black Thursday” among the Confederates. In the three engagements along Sailor’s Creek, Lee lost roughly one-fourth of his army, many of them captured. The Federals claimed 7,700 prisoners that day, including six generals. Lee wrote to President Jefferson Davis, “a few more Sailor’s Creeks and it will all be over.” Lee surrendered three days later.
The Appomattox County Historical Society will present the battlefield re-enactment of “The Battle of Sailor’s Creek” April 11-13, 2014. The location of the re-enactment is the Appomattox Center for Business and Commerce, Industrial Park Lane (access from Route 26), Appomattox, VA 24522. The business center is about 1/4 mile northwest of Route 460 and the town of Appomattox. Spectator admission is $10 for a single day pass or $15 for a 2-day pass. Guests attending the re-enactment while staying at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast will be provided with a “bag lunch” to take with you to the re-enactment. Call us at 434.846.1388 to inquire about availability and prices.
While visiting the area, be sure to visit High Bridge Trail in Farmville.
Richard Thomas Watts, better known as R.T. had the home at 404 Cabell Street built for he and his family in 1878. Today the home is The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in historic Lynchburg Virginia and was named as one of the top 10 Bed and Breakfasts in the United States by BedandBreakfast.com. On the anniversary of his death we are reprinting the obituary that was published in Lynchburg News on September 22, 1911.
Citizen, Business Man and Veteran Passes Away After Long Illness.
Richard Thomas Watts, aged 78 years, one of the pioneer wholesale merchants and for many years a man prominent in the financial affairs of the city, died yesterday morning at his residence on Cabell Street where he had been ill nearly two years. Mr. Watts’ illness dated back to a stroke of apoplexy which was sustained on November 17, 1908. He recovered from that sufficiently to be about, but never gave attention to business. For some days his condition had been critical and the end did not come as a surprise today, for it had been expected for the past day or two.
Mr. Watts was a native of Bedford County, having been born on September 5, 1838. When but a youth he went to Salsibury, N. C. and at the age of 18 years started in business with the firm of G, M. and A. T. Jones. Later, he went to Selma, Ala.,where he was a partner in a merchandise business with A. T. Jones. When the war between the States broke out, Mr. Watts enlisted as a private in company A, Second Virginia cavalry, joining that command at Manassas Junction. He served as a private and color bearer with that company until he was recommended by General T. T. Munford, now of Lynchburg, for promotion as adjutant of Whites battalion, this promotion coming for bravery. He held that command until May 6th, 1864 at which time his horse was killed under him and he was wounded and taken a prisoner at Spotsylvania Courthouse. He was sent to Fort Delaware, where he was held prisoner of war until the surrender took place, after which he returned to his old home in Bedford.
Later he came to Lynchburg and together with his brother, the late J. W. Watts, and brother-in-law, the late George M. Jones, formed the well-known house of Jones, Watts & Co., this being one of the first wholesale houses of the city. In 1888 he retired from this concern and became largely interested in coal properties as well as holding other large financial and industrial institutions of the city. Until his health gave way he was vice president of Lynchburg Trust and Savings Company and a director in the Lynchburg Cotton Mill, as well as in other private industries of the city.
Mr. Watts was educated at Emory and Henry College, having spent several years there before the war.
On April 22, 1874, Mr. Watts married Miss Emma M. Hurt, a daughter of the late Stephen H. Hurt, who, together with four sons and a daughter, survive. The children are: R. T. Watts Jr., Dr. Stephen H. Watts of the University of Virginia; James O. Watts, R. C. Watts, and Miss Mary Watts, all of whom were present when the end came.
Mr. Watts was a member of Court Street Methodist church, having been faithful in his attendance upon its services until sickness prevented him from doing so.
The funeral service will take place this afternoon at 4 o’clock from the residence, and the burial will be at Spring Hill.
General T. W. Munford, who recommended the promotion of Mr. Watts, has prepared the following tribute to the decease:
Adjutant R. T. Watts entered the Confederate Army as a private in Company A, Second Virginia Cavalry, from Bedford County, then commanded by Capt. W. R. Terry, who was promoted to the Twenty-fourth Virginia Infantry as its colonel, succeeding Colonel Jubal A. Early, and subsequently becoming brigadier general of Pickett’s Division, Col J. W. Watts a brother of the deceased, succeeding Colonel Terry at the re-organization of the army in March 1862, was elected lieutenant colonel without opposition. He detailed his brother as courier at his quarters. He soon attracted my attention by his dash and strict attention to all duties. At a sharp encounter between General Ewell’s division, to which we then belonged, and General Hooker’s division near Bristoe station the day before the second battle of Manassas, it became necessary for General Ewell to retire his battery because of the advantage of position and metal of the enemy, but is was a delicate . Ewell was not there to bring on a battle nor to run, he ordered me to send a sergeant and four men to gather up the debris left by our crippled battery, not wishing to show that it was a retreat. Courier R. T. Watts was dispatched for this detail and soon returned with the four troopers. General Ewell said to me: “Where is the sergeant?” The reply was: “He has not yet gotten up.” I replied, “Watts will take them himself and the next time the sergeant will listen to his instructions.” Watts was then told by General Ewell to go to that position and gather up every buckle that belonged to the battery. We were watching and they were soon dashing up to where the battery had stood. The enemy opened fire upon them, but they literally swept the deck and brought off everything.
General Ewell remarked to me: “That fellow should be a sergeant, for he has won it by distinguishing himself.”
The next day in the great cavalry fight he was made by my order sergeant major of the Second Cavalry.
Col Elijah White, whose original company had served some months with the Second Cavalry, wrote me a note requesting me to send him a man to act as his adjutant and believing Sergeant Major R. T. Watts qualified he was dispatched and graciously accepted the offered position, and he more than once exemplified his qualifications and satisfaction for the promotion.
“Adjutant Watts was a quiet, unobtrusive, active soldier. Like his noble brother, when his name is mentioned in the presence of old comrades it will ever be with pride which only Confederates felt toward each other and understand.”
Perhaps the most recognizable architectural structure in the town of Buchanan is the Buchanan Swinging Bridge. Not long ago we read an article about this quaint little town and decided to head there to check the town out and to see if there were any treasures we couldn’t live without in the couple of antique stores in town (there weren’t). The town is a small southern town on the James River. Main Street is dotted with mom and pop shops (there were no chain stores that we saw). The people were friendly and this would be a great place to get away from the rat race.
While the town is small, the town and the bridge are rich in history. The bridge is 366 feet long and just over 57 feet tall and portions of this bridge date back to 1851. Today the Buchanan Swinging Bridge is recognized as a National Register Historic Landmark. The large stone pier rising from the James River was constructed in 1851 as part of the Buchanan Turnpike Company’s Toll Bridge. Back then, the bridge was a covered bridge. The toll to use the bridge was five cents for every person plus an additional five cents for each horse, mule, oxen or wagon. On June 13th 1864 Confederate General McCausland burned the bridge by packing it with oil soaked hay and then lighting it on fire when Union General William Averell’s cavalrymen attempted to cross the bridge on their way to Lynchburg where they would join up with Union General Hunter who was under orders to burn Lynchburg because Lynchburg was a major supply depot for the Confederate Army. The wind carried embers across the river and eleven houses burned. Averell’s men helped extinguish the fire. The bridge survived the fire but was unusable. The next day, General Hunter’s troops crossed the Blue Ridge Mountain (on what is now Route 43) on his way to Lynchburg.
After the war, the bridge was rebuilt but in 1877 the bridge was destroyed by a major flood. The R&A Railroad Company built another bridge during this time and that bridge was toll free. In 1897 this bridge was replaced with a steel bridge that remained in use until 1938. In July 1937, construction of the current concrete James River Bridge was started with an agreement to maintain a pedestrian bridge (today’s Buchanan Swinging Bridge) between the town of Buchanan and Pattonsburg (the town on the opposite side of the James River). Today, the Buchanan Swinging Bridge uses the large stone pier of the original covered bridge that dates back to 1851.
If you are looking for a nice day trip you may want to consider a trip to Buchanan where you can grab a bite to eat at one of the mom and pop restaurants in town. From Lynchburg, take RT 460 west to Bedford’s RT 43 exit. Stay on RT 43 and you will wind up at the Peaks of Otter entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn Left onto the Parkway (heading south) and stay on the Parkway for about 5 or 6 miles until you see the exit for RT 43. Take Rt 43 into the town of Buchanan. As you enter the downtown area, the bridge is on the right. Driving time from The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg is about 90 minutes. And just in case you were wondering, yes, the bridge does swing back and forth as you walk across the bridge.
It’s hard to imagine Americans being held as a Prisoner of War in America, but there was once an instance in our history where this actually occurred, during the Civil War. Most of us probably never think about this but during the Civil War Lynchburg housed thousands of Prisoners of War. In 1862, the current site of E. C. Glass High School, was known as the fairgrounds. During this period it was a large military encampment that quartered Confederate troops on their way to various battlefields earlier in the war. In June of 1862 (about 150 years ago) the city of Lynchburg had thousands of Union POW’s arrive in the city as trainloads of prisoners, who were captured by General Stonewall Jackson in the Shenandoah Valley, were taken to the Fair Grounds. Below are copies of articles that were reprinted from The Daily Virginian which recently appeared in the News and Advance. The photo above shows what a tent during the Civil War would have looked like. These tents are on the grounds of E. C. Glass High School, which can be seen in the background. The Virginia State Flag would not have been flying during the War.
June 12, 1862
“A large number of Yankee prisoners variously estimated at from 3,000 to 3,500 who were taken by Jackson some weeks since, arrived here yesterday, and were escorted to the Fair Grounds. The poor [demons] looked jaded and dirty, whilst some of them were actually bare footed. …though they came into our country upon a hostile mission and deserved death on the battlefield, there was much in their woebegone appearance to excite our sympathy. They are prisoners in an enemy’s country and that is enough to repress any undue manifestation of exultation over them, and to excite emotions of humanity towards them; but if it were not, the fact that many of our own brave country men are similarly circumstanced should …awaken feelings of pity for our …foes.”
June 13, 1862
“Our Yankee Guests—The prisoners of whom we spoke yesterday are encamped near the Fair Ground, and will, we understand, remain there several days. We indulged in conservation with a number of them yesterday and found them exceedingly insolent. They seem to presume upon their condition as prisoners, to offer insult to those who would reason with them calmly about the folly and wickedness of their invasion of our territory … We saw not a man who talked otherwise or seemed disposed to admit that we have any right of self government. They say that we will be compelled to submit to their overwhelming numbers … We are sorry to say that we left them with a more decided repugnance for the whole race than we had previously.”
June 13, 1862
“We are not in favor of treating our enemies who are helpless prisoners in our hands, with either inhumanity or indecorum … And yet it becomes us not to act in such a manner as to lead our enemies to suppose they are welcome amongst us, or that our people have any sympathy for their cause. … They should not be feted and entertained at private houses, as we understand was the case with the Yankee officers who were here a few nights ago. If Northern men amongst us … would indicate to the public, their sympathy for the cause represented by the prisoners of, they could not adapt any means that would more effectually accomplish that object, than by acting in the manner aforesaid … it is obviously proper that the community should know whether there are any amongst us who have Northern proclivities…”
The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast in Lynchburg, VA is approximately 20 miles from Appomattox Courthouse we wanted to make our blog followers and guests aware of a unique experience taking place just minutes from us in April.
“The Long Road Home – Fall of Richmond” re-enactment and living history weekend will take place April 5, 6 & 7, 2013 in the Clover Hill Village, just east of Appomattox, VA. Beginning at 9:00 am of Friday and lasting until 2:00 pm Sunday a unique set of events, activities and interactions will be taking place within the living history village. Visit with troops while they set camp. View battalion drills, trench work, battles and hospital scenes. Interact with Generals Lee and Grant, Presidents Lincoln and Davis. Attend a wedding and barn dance. Watch the medal presentation and pay call. Obtain an interesting perspective of life during the Civil War.
Unless you are a re-enactor and will be “camping” call us, 434.846.1388, to make your reservation and stay in comfort (indoor plumbing, central heat, a hot shower, our delicious 4-course breakfast, comfortable bed)! We’d love to host you while you experience the way things were.
For more detailed information and to see the full weekend schedule visit www.appomattoxhistoricalsociety.org Clover Hill Village is located at 5747 River Ridge Road in Appomattox.
Just east of downtown Farmville, a 19th century railroad bridge has been converted into a pedestrian trail that provides a sweeping panoramic view of the Virginia countryside. High Bridge spans nearly half a mile, reaches a height of 125 feet above the Appomattox River and is well worth the hour drive from Lynchburg.
Part of a 31-mile trail system and state park that connects Burkeville, Rice, Farmville, Prospect and Pamplin City the trail has become popular with walkers, bikers and even horseback riders. Though the trail is wide, level and flat it’s almost a mile from the parking lot to the bridge. The deck of High Bridge originally consisted of almost 2000 railroad ties. Along the bridge are several lookouts and covered benches to sit upon and reflect. At either end of the bridge are picnic tables.
Built in 1853 as part of the South Side Railroad the original single track, wooden bridge had a pedestrian walkway beside the tracks and a wagon bridge below. The bridge was a vital link for trade between Lynchurg and Petersburg.
In April 1865, during the Civil War, the bridge became of strategic importance to the Confederate and Union armies as they moved west from Richmond toward Appomattox Courthouse. After the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, a band of Union soldiers attempted to destroy the bridge but were thwarted by arriving Confederate horsemen. The following morning the Confederates set fire to the bridge in an attempt to prevent the Union soldiers from crossing. Despite the damage done to the bridge, the Union troops managed to follow in pursuit on the lower wagon bridge. In 1914 the railroad company completed the steel-tower bridge that remains standing today.
After our walk this past Sunday we stopped for lunch at Walker’s Diner. This 1950’s era diner is best known for it’s homemade french fries. They have the usual diner breakfast fare, served until 11 each day. The lunch menu consists of nine varieties of hamburgers, several subs, wraps and other sandwiches along with the appropriate diner sides. The people we saw eating dessert looked very satisfied. Farmville has several antique shops, various specialty shops but is best known for Greenfront.
To get to the High Bridge State Park parking area closest to the bridge take Route 460 toward Farmville. Travel Main Street through downtown. Once you pass the shops & restaurants turn right onto River Road. The parking lot is about 3 miles down River Road on your left. To walk toward the bridge follow the trail toward Richmond, not Farmville.
We plan to return in the fall when the leaves have begun to turn colors. The colors should be spectacular! As you walk the bridge trail you are in the treetops and we can’t wait to see the colored leaves against the dark green of the native pine trees.
If you choose to stay with us at The Carriage House Inn Bed and Breakfast your 4-course breakfast will keep you from being hungry until after your hike. We can pack you a picnic lunch to enjoy along the trail if you choose not to dine in Farmville. Call us at 434.846.1388 and we’ll help you enjoy a day with Mother Nature.
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