February 5 – 7, 1865
The winter of 1864-65 was unusually cold and dreary, and life was a struggle for soldiers in the trenches at Petersburg, Va. “The cold north wind was chilling and terrible to withstand,” remembered a soldier. Yet in the midst of this miserable weather, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant decided to mount his first major offensive of the new year, an extension of the Union line west of Petersburg.
On February 4, 1865, Grant ordered four of his divisions to march southwest from the Petersburg entrenchments to the Boydton Plank Road, which they would seize and hold. Grant’s men started out early the next day, a Sunday. Confederate army commander Gen. Robert E. Lee received word of the Union movement while attending church. Fearing that Grant was attempting to sever the Southside Railroad — his army’s last open supply line to the west and south — Lee soon had four divisions of his own soldiers trudging westward over the frozen roads.
The two forces collided at Hatcher’s Run in the early afternoon. The Yankees were still erecting earthworks as the Rebels formed their battle lines in front of them. At 3:45 P.M. two Rebel brigades came screaming out of the woods, charging the Union entrenchments. Three different attacks were repulsed before the Southerners withdrew to their lines. Both sides stayed in their trenches until the next day, when two Union divisions moved out to the northwest.
They were met near Dabney’s Mill by a Confederate division, but the Yankees held fast and again the Rebels fell back. Then another Southern division arrived and counterattacked. This time the Yankees fell back, were routed and ran in disorder until reinforcements came up and stopped the Rebels in the last fighting of the day. There was skirmishing the next day as Grant strengthened his line, which now extended all the way to hatcher’s Run. Of the 35,000 Union soldiers engaged, 1,512 became casualties, while about half that many were lost among the 14,000 Confederates who fought at Hatcher’s Run.
Fascinating Fact: The Battle of Hatcher’s Run is also known as the Battle of Boydton Plank Road, Dabney’s Mill, Armstrong’s Mill, and of Vaughan Road.