April 4, 1865
— Lee's Retreat —
After Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant broke through Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's lines at Petersburg on April 2, 1865, Lee ordered the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond. The Army of Northern Virginia retreated west on several roads, with Grant in pursuit. Lee planned to turn south and join Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina, but Grant kept part of his force between Lee and his objective. On April 9, surrounded at Appomattox Court House, Lee surrendered.
Gen. Richard S. Ewell led his infantry column out of the Confederate capital on the morning of April 3, marching southwest to Amelia Court House, to rendezvous with the rest of the army. His subordinate, Gen. G.W. Custis Lee (Gen. Robert E. Lee's eldest son), soon followed with reserves and heavy artillerymen armed as infantry. Sailors and marines joined his command later.
On reaching Genito Road, Ewell turned north to Tomahawk Baptist Church, where he bivouacked nearby for the evening. Lee's wagon train, however. chose a parallel route, following the Buckingham Road through Coalfield Station (Midlothian), then here to Powhatan Court House. Farther west near Meadeville, the train crossed the Appomattox River at Clementown Bridge and then was attacked by Federal cavalry before reaching Amelia Court House.
Confederate Pvt. William L. Wilson attempting to reach his unit. the 12th Virginia Cavalry, also passed by here. He wrote: "Passing Genito we proceed to Powhatan Court-House and thence on the Clementown Road soon over taking an immense wagon train under [quartermaster] Maj. Maynard Post. ? The train is endeavoring to get to Gen. Lee's army and was ordered from Richmond direct to Amelia C.H. but as yet to cross the river. ? We travel with the wagons for several hours when reaching the vicinity of Clementown we secure quarters for the night. The more I see of matters the less hopeful I become."