Near Rice in Prince Edward County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Ewell’s Line of Defense
The Confederates Dig In
Shortly after 5 p.m., Union artillery under Major Andrew Cowan, positioned directly across the valley at the Hillsman farm, began a thirty minute bombardment along this line. The Confederates had to endure the cannonade without returning fire as they had no artillery with them.
After the shelling stopped, the Southerners anxiously watched as two divisions (about 7,000 men) of General Horatio Wright’s Sixth Corps formed into a line of battle and waded the waist-deep creep below them.
As the Federal soldiers moved up the slope toward the waiting Confederates, many of them taunted Ewell’s men by waving handkerchiefs, trying to induce them to surrender. Instead, the Confederates rose and fired two deadly volleys into the Union ranks, causing a portion of the line to break and retreat
Soon Ewell’s men, realizing their desperate situation, began surrendering. At the battle’s end, about 3,400 men and six generals laid down their arms and were sent off as Northern prisoners. In total, General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would lose approximately 7,700 men in the fighting around Sailor’s Creek, nearly one-fifth of his fighting force. Lee would surrender close to 30,000 men 72 hours later at Appomattox Court House.
“The battle degenerated into a butchery of brutal personal conflicts. I saw … men kill each other with bayonets and the butts of muskets, and even bite each other’s throats and ears and noses, rolling on the ground like wild beasts.”
- Confederate Major Robert Stiles
Sidebar: One Union soldier, Private Samuel Eddy, was pinned to the ground by a bayonet that had been thrust through his body. A Southern soldier tried to take Eddy’s rifle from him, but Eddy, despite his awful wound, managed to shoot and kill his assailant, withdraw the bayonet from his body, rise to his feet and walk to the Hillsman house where he was treated. He survived this wound and was eventually given the Medal of Honor. Fifty-six others also received the medal for their actions at Sailor’s Creek.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Notable Events • Notable Places • War, US Civil.
Location. 37° 18.194′ N, 78° 13.631′ W. Marker is near Rice, Virginia, in Prince Edward County. Marker is on Saylers Creek Road (Virginia Route 617), on the left when traveling south. Marker is in Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Rice VA 23966, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Final Clash: With Fate Against Them (within shouting distance of this marker); Victory or Death (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Battle of Sailors Creek (about 400 feet away); Assaulting the Confederate Battle Line (about 600 feet away); Crossing Little Sailor's Creek (approx. ¼ mile away); Marshall’s Crossroads (approx. half a mile away); Battle of Sailor's (Sayler's) Creek (approx. 0.6 miles away); Overton / Hillsman House (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Rice.
More about this marker. The left of the marker contains a drawing of the “Surrender of Gen. Ewell’s Corps, by Alfred R. Waud.” The center features a map showing the “Final troop positions for the Battle of Marshall’s Crossroads and Little Sailor’s Creek, April 6, 1865.” The right of the marker has a Keith Rocco painting of the battle entitled “Victory or Death, the Last Stand of the Savannah Vol. Guard at the Battle of Sailor’s Creek, VA., April 6, 1865”.
Also see . . .
1. Sailor's Creek State Park. Virginia State Parks website. (Submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
2. Lee's Retreat to Appomattox. Virginia Civil War Trails. (Submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
3. Sailor’s Creek. CWSAC Battle Summaries. (Submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,106 times since then and 47 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. 2. submitted on June 12, 2010, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 3, 4, 5. submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey.