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Petersburg in Dinwiddie County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Petersburg Battlefields

Life between the Picket Lines

 
 
Petersburg Battlefields Marker image. Click for full size.
By Shane Oliver, July 18, 2015
1. Petersburg Battlefields Marker
Inscription. "When a man is on picket at night he is monarch of all he surveys. No one living has more absolute power than he. His word is law."—Corp. Lewis Bissell, 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery, USA

"I have seen veterans of three full years who have faced death incessantly who believe in the southern cause as sincerely as I do, finally be conquered by gnawing hunger and desert to the enemy. I hate the idea, but I won't criticize."—Sgt. James E. Whitehorne, 12th Virginia Infantry, CSA

Daily freezing and thawing rendered the roads around Petersburg impassable during the winter of 1864-1865, bringing large-scale campaigning to a temporary halt. Both armies remained vigilant, however, and maintained a continuous line of pickets to provide early warning of any significant attacks and to prevent the enemy from gaining positions of observation. These pickets conducted their own brand of warfare for months, a routine that included periodic raids, unauthorized commerce, and desertion.

Here on the Jones Farm the opposing picket lines were in plain view, as soldiers from both armies systematically cut down the remaining trees to provide firewood for their camps. Duty on the picket line could be dangerous. Whenever officers desired to update their intelligence about enemy activities, they authorized
Petersburg Battlefields Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, October 17, 2015
2. Petersburg Battlefields Marker
nocturnal raids that netted prisoners from the picket force. Officers outlawed trading with the enemy, but the rank and file skirted such regulations as often as possible. Confederates often swapped tobacco for Union coffee. Desertion proved more problematical. Hundreds of Confederates, discouraged by inedaquate rations and pessimism from the home front, crossed to the Union picket line seeking a personal end to their war. Surprisingly, many northern soldiers deserted as well, having collected generous enlistment bounties with little intention of actually serving.

(captions)
This contemporary drawing illustrates a typical vista across the opposing battle lines at Petersburg. Here the main lines were separated by nearly a mile of alternately muddy and dusty no-man's land guarded by opposing lines of pickets. — Courtesy Library of Congress

Less than half a mile from here, the Federals built this 125-foot-high signal tower behind their main lines. Soldiers with telescopes could see for miles from the top. Courtesy Library of Congress
 
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails and the Civil War Trust.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
 
Location. 37° 10.407′ 
Trenches near the Petersburg Battlefields Marker image. Click for full size.
By Shane Oliver, July 18, 2015
3. Trenches near the Petersburg Battlefields Marker
N, 77° 27.56′ W. Marker is in Petersburg, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Church Road (Virginia Route 672) and Flank Road, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker can be reached by hiking the trail located across Church Road west of Fort Fisher (Tour Stop 3 on Petersburg National Battlefield's Western Front Auto Tour). Marker is in this post office area: Petersburg VA 23803, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Petersburg Battlefields (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); a different marker also named Petersburg Battlefields (about 300 feet away); a different marker also named Petersburg Battlefields (approx. ╝ mile away); The Largest Fort (approx. 0.3 miles away); Siege of Petersburg—Grant's Fifth Offensive (approx. 0.3 miles away); Fort Conahey (approx. ż mile away); A Mysterious Historic Feature (approx. 0.8 miles away); “A Great Struggle is Now Impending” (approx. 0.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Petersburg.
 
Also see . . .  Petersburg Breakthrough. Civil War Trust (Submitted on July 22, 2015.) 
 
Categories. MilitaryWar, US Civil
 
Trenches near the Petersburg Battlefields Marker image. Click for full size.
By Shane Oliver, July 18, 2015
4. Trenches near the Petersburg Battlefields Marker
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 320 times since then and 44 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia.   2. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.   3, 4. submitted on , by Shane Oliver of Richmond, Virginia. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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