— 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.
On the morning of April 4,1865, Confederate Gen. Richard S. Ewell received word that his column could not Cross the rain-swollen Appomattox River a short distance to your left at Genito Bridge because "some one" had failed to lay pontoons there. The column then marched three miles south and crossed on the Richmond and Danville Railroad bridge at Mattoax Station. A Confederate soldier, McHenrv Howard, wrote, "By 4 o'clock we were within one mile of [Mattoax], but as some flooring had to be laid or put in order and after that a large train of artillery was to pass over before us, we halted and cooked a scanty supply of flour which one or two of our wagons had luckily brought us. At dark we commenced to file by twos across the bridge, the men being cautioned to march in the very middle of the flooring, between the rails, as otherwise it might turn over." That night, after burning the bridge behind them, Ewell's men camped a mile farther on near a plantation called The Oaks.
Lee's army was to rendezvous at Amelia Court House to be resupplied by railroad and by Gen. G.W. Custis Lee's wagon train, which had crossed the river far to the west at Clementown Bridge. Federal cavalrymen under Gen. Henry E. Davies, Jr., however, intercepted the train near Paineville. Pvt. William Wilson, 12th Virginia Cava1ry later recalled that "the panic was greatest in the wagons nearest the river and of course most remote from the scene of danger. The road was soon blocked with wagons, sacks of corn, oats, meal, flour, bacon, trunks, knapsacks, cooking utensils and every other article of camp equipage were indiscriminately thrown out. Teams were cut loose in a twinkling and a general rush ensued for the bridge." Davies captured 200 wagons, 320 prisoners, 310 teamsters (possibly newly recruited black Confederates), and 11 battle flags.