Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
Prior to midnight on April 8, 1865, with Federal troops closing in on three sides and the line of retreat along the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road blocked, General R. E. Lee held a Council of War with his ranking generals to discuss options—surrender or try to break through. Believing only Federal cavalry stood in the way, the council agreed upon a last ditch attempt to breakout.
General John Gordon's infantry, already closest to the point of attack, took position during the night along Tibbs Lane, supported on the right by General Fitz Lee's Cavalry Corps and General Armistead Long's artillery. About 9,000 Confederate soldiers prepared for the assault.
Opposing the Confederates was a Federal cavalry brigade led by Colonel Charles Smith, who had deployed across the intersection of the Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road and the Oakville Road. Smith had about 1,200 troopers and two cannon under Lieutenant James Lord.
After receiving scattered artillery ﬁre since daybreak, Gordon's troops advanced in a left wheel spearheaded by General Bryan Grimes' division. A member of the 1st North Carolina Sharpshooters, Henry Bahnson noted: "I never saw [a charge] so magniﬁcently executed as this. Our men advanced as regularly as though on parade and as the shells and grape ploughed through the ranks the ﬁles closed up without faltering. [The men] broke into a double quick and with the old time yell and an irresistible rush they carried the enemy's position . . . ."
General Roberts' North Carolina cavalry brigade charged ahead and captured Lord's two artillery pieces.
Gordon s men drove Smith s brigade from the ridge and repulsed several counter attacks before reinforcements of Federal infantry from the Army of the James arrived to block the road once again. After initial clashes with the Federal infantry, Gordon's command withdrew across the Appomattox River to the Northeast and couriers with truce ﬂags advanced from the Confederate lines. Fitz Lee escaped to the Northwest, with the cavalry divisions of Generals Rosser and Munford.
"The division had not proceeded very far before [the] brigades were exposed to a murderous artillery ﬁre, but, instead of halting and recoiling, they promptly charged and captured it."
"An infantry captain was captured and brought before me, and gave me the ﬁrst information that [Federal] General Ord with ten thousand infantry was in our front."
Major General Bryan Grimes
As the last of Gordon's corps retreated to the Appomattox River valley 25 volunteers of the 4th and 14th North Carolina Infantry under the direction of Captain Wilson Jenkins remained behind, near here, to slow the Federal pursuit The stalwart band fought until nearly surrounded and forced to surrender.
Major General John B. Gordon
Private Henry T. Bahnson
Major General Bryan Grimes
Captain Wilson Jenkins