A Confederate attempt to regain ground that had been lost around Richmond, Virginia,is thwarted when Union troops turn back General Robert E. Lee’s assault at the Battle ofDarbytown.
In the summer of 1864, the campaign between Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant ground to a halt at Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. The two great armies settled into trenches for a siege, and the lines soon extended all the way back to Richmond. Grant periodically attacked portions of the Rebel defenses but was not successful. On September 29, Union forces captured part of Richmond’s outer defense at the Battle of New Market Heights. AlthoughRichmond was still safely in Confederate hands, Lee was concerned about the new position of the Yankee troops.
Lee sent two divisions under generals Charles Field and Robert Hoke to move around the end of the Union line. Lee hoped that the Federal flank could be turned and the Confederates could regain the defensive works lost the week before. On the morning of October 7, the Confederates moved down Darbytown Road and around the Union right flank and attacked 1,700 cavalrymen. The assault sent the Yankees into a quick retreat. The Confederates captured eight cannons and drove the Union troops into the breastworks of General Alfred Terry. Alerted to the advancing Confederates, Terry summoned reinforcements to his position. By the time the Confederates worked their way through the thick foliage, they faced a strong Union force. Lee ordered an attack anyway. Brigades advanced one at a time, and the Yankee artillery tore the lines apart. By the afternoon, the Confederates withdrew to their original position. They lost 700 men while the Yankees lost only 400, and no ground was gained. Lee did not make another attempt to regain the ground and focused instead on setting up defenses closer to Richmond.