Historic America

Five Forks National Battlefield

The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, at junction of Five Forks in Dinwiddie County, Virginia between Confederate units under command of Maj. Gen. George Pickett and Union Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan’s V Corps in the American Civil War. The battle was a decisive Union victory and resulted in approximately 3,700 total casualties, most of which were Confederate.

Five Forks National Battlefield is part of Petersburg National Battlefield Park. The park has a visitors center, several cannon and monuments (erected in the 1960s), and a driving tour. The tour consists of five stops. There hasn’t been much development in this quiet neighborhood, so the battlefield is remarkably preserved.

For weeks prior to the battle, Union General Ulysses S. Grant had been gradually moving his forces west, trying to sever General Robert E. Lee’s supply lines and force him out of his Petersburg defenses. When Sheridan’s V Corps overran Pickett and seized the South Side Railroad, Lee was forced to evacuate Richmond and Petersburg, beginning the Appomattox Campaign and leading to the Confederate army’s eventual surrender. It is for that reason the Battle of Five Forks is sometimes called the “Waterloo of the Confederacy.”

Colonel William R.J. “Willie” Pegram was mortally wounded commanding three guns west of Ford’s Road. Pegram, 23, fought with the Army of Northern Virginia in virtually every major battle in the Eastern Theater. He was denied promotion because Robert E. Lee thought he was too good an artillery officer to ever command an infantry brigade.

Located at 9840 Courthouse Road, the Five Forks Visitor Center is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., excluding major holidays. It features museum displays, artifacts, and a 12-minute video. Eight miles of walking and biking trails meander through the park.

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