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Near Rice in Prince Edward County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Ewell’s Line of Defense

The Confederates Dig In

 
 
Ewell’s Line of Defense Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 26, 2007
1. Ewell’s Line of Defense Marker
Marker is located along the Route of the Lee's Retreat Driving Tour.
Inscription. On Thursday, April 6, 1865, this high ground above Little Sailor’s Creek was protected by troops from the Richmond fortifications under Confederate General Richard S. Ewell. They hurriedly threw up a line of breastworks consisting of fence rails and earth in preparation for the inevitable attack. For many, this would be their first and last battle.

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 to the creek. The Southerners then counterattacked, during which fierce hand-to-hand fighting broke out.

Soon Ewell’s men, realizing their desperate situation, began surrendering. At the
Close Up of the Map image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, April 18, 2010
2. Close Up of the Map
Final troop positions for the Battle of Marshall's Crossroads and Little Sailor's Creek, April 6, 1865.
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.
 
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails, Department of Conservation and Recreation.
 
Location. 37° 18.194′ 
Marker in Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 26, 2007
3. Marker in Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park
This photo looks north in the direction of Little Sailor's Creek. Union troops under Gen. Wright forded the creek and advanced up this hill towards Ewell's line of troops(near the marker). The Union troops were repulsed, but a Union artillery barrage forced the Confederates to surrender.
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. Touch for map. Marker is in Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park. Marker is in this post office area: Rice VA 23966, United States of America.
 
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 Sailors (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
Hillsman House image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 26, 2007
4. Hillsman House
Hillsman House, located about a ½ mile from the marker, served as a hospital after the April 6, 1865 Battle of Sailor's Creek. Private Samuel Eddy walked to this house after being seriously wounded in the battle.
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.) 
 
Categories. Notable EventsNotable PlacesWar, US Civil
 
Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, April 26, 2007
5. Sailor’s Creek Battlefield State Park
This park preserves the site of the last major battle of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 26, 2008, by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,901 times since then and 155 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.
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