1865 – The final campaign of the war begins in Virginia when Union troops of General Ulysses S. Grant move against the Confederate trenches around Petersburg. General Robert E. Lee’s outnumbered Rebels were soon forced to evacuate the city and begin a desperate race west. Eleven months before, Grant moved his army across the Rapidan River in northern Virginia and began the bloodiest campaign of the war. For six weeks, Lee and Grant fought along an arc that swung east of the Confederate capital at Richmond. They fought some of the conflict’s bloodiest battles at Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor before they settled into trenches for a siege of Petersburg, 25 miles south of Richmond. The trenches eventually stretched all the way back to Richmond, and for ten months the armies glowered at each other across a no man’s land. Periodically, Grant launched attacks against sections of the Rebel defenses, but Lee’s men managed to fend them off. Time was running out for Lee, though. His army was dwindling in size to about 55,000, while Grant’s continued to grow–the Army of the Potomac now had more than 125,000 men ready for service. On March 25, Lee attempted to split the Union lines when he attacked Fort Stedman, a stronghold along the Yankee trenches. His army was beaten back, and he lost nearly 5,000 men. Grant seized the initiative, sending 12,000 men past the Confederates’ left flank and threatening to cut Lee’s escape route from Petersburg. Fighting broke out there, several miles southwest of the city. In a downpour, General Grant launched his wide-swinging move to the southwest of Petersburg to roll up Lee’s flank. Ever concerned about his lifeline on the James River, he wrote Rear Admiral Porter: “In view of the possibility of the enemy attempting to come to City Point, or by crossing the Appomattox at Broadway Landing, getting to Bermuda Hundred during the absence of the greater part of the army, I would respectfully request that you direct one or two gunboats to lay in the Appomattox, near the pontoon bridge, and two in the James River, near the mouth of Bailey’s Creek, the first stream below City Point emptying into the James.” Porter complied with double measure, sending not one or two but several ships to Grant’s assistance. Lee’s men could not arrest the Federal advance. Two days later, the Yankees struck at Five Forks, soundly defeating the Rebels and leaving Lee no alternative. He pulled his forces from their trenches and raced west, followed by Grant. It was a race that even the great Lee could not win. He surrendered his army on April 9 at Appomattox Court House.