The "High" Bridge
"There have been higher bridges not so long and longer bridges not so high, but taking the height and length together, this is, perhaps, the largest bridge in the world."
C.O. Sanford, South Side Railroad's chief engineer, 1852
In 1854 the South Side Railroad was completed from Petersburg to Lynchburg. To cross the Appomattox River east of Farmville, High Bridge was constructed. The bridge, 2,400 feet in length and ranging from 60 to 125 feet in height, was built on 21 brick piers. The original wood bridge had a pedestrian walkway beside the tracks and a wagon bridge below.
On April 6 and 7, 1865, the bridges were of strategic importance to the armies of General Robert E. Lee and General Ulysses S. Grant as they moved westward from Richmond toward Appomattox Court House. On April 6th following the Battle of Sailor's Creek, a small group of Union infantry and cavalry attempted to destroy the bridge but were deterred by Confederate horsemen who arrived on the scene.
On the morning of April 7th, quick marching Union troops came upon High Bridge as the Confederates were setting fire to it after crossing. Using the lower wagon bridge to continue their pursuit, Grant's men pressed on eventually coming in contact with Lee's army around nearby Cumberland Church.