Sally Gets to Run around Hatcher’s Run Battlefield

Sally Gets to Run around Hatcher’s Run Battlefield

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Sally Seddon

We had a rare opportunity on Saturday to see the newly acquired land purchased by the Civil War Trust at Hatcher’s Run. This special Sesquicentennial event was made possible by Will Greene and the Pamplin Historical Park staff. The land at Hatcher’s Run is not yet open to the public, but PHP members were invited to walk the lines with Ed Alexander, a ranger historian at PHP. Of course, our beagle, Sally Seddon was anxious to experience another battle walk and add Hatcher’s Run to the long list of battlefields and forts she has visited—her list stands at 58.

Here is some information about Hatcher’s Run, a neglected battle in many respects in terms of what has been written about it. This narrative was provided via email by PHP to its members:

HatchersRun-02February 1865 dawned unseasonably warm for the Union and Confederate soldiers huddled in the trenches around Petersburg and Richmond. Comforted by the illusion of an early beginning to spring, many turned their thoughts upon a final end to the war.

Rumors spread of a peace conference between the two governments to at last bring a conclusion to the hostilities that plagued the nation for the previous four years. Accompanying that news was word from Washington that the House of Representatives had ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery on the last day of January.

Both armies debated these topics under the warm February sun and for the first time began to believe that an amicable resolution could be accomplished on paper. By the end of the first week of the month, their dreams of a warm peace were shattered by the cold reality of the harsh resumption of combat.

Ulysses S. Grant remained determined to squeeze the livelihood out of Petersburg, Richmond, and the two cities’ defenders. His relentless campaigning through the summer and autumn of 1864 had stretched the Confederate army out to thirty-seven miles worth of fortifications with just two supply routes left into Petersburg: Boydton Plank Road and the South Side Railroad. The southern terminus of these lines lay at Hatcher’s Run’s, a very tortuous stream.”

With the warm weather hardening the muddy road network in Dinwiddie County for military use, Grant decided to continue his strategy of cutting the Confederate supply lines outside the protection offered by their massive fortifications. He selected Dinwiddie Court House on the Boydton Plank Road for his next maneuver.

HatchersRun-01On February 5, one division of Union cavalry trotted out of their camps and easily reached the county seat. However, the Yankee troopers only found eighteen wagons to plunder on the road. To support their move, Grant sent the II and V Corps south to Hatcher’s Run to prevent Confederate intervention on the raid. Unwilling to stay put in his fortifications while Grant ravaged his lifelines, Lee brought four infantry divisions out of their fortifications and set them on a path to forever mark the wooded marshes around Hatcher’s Run as hallowed ground.

During the three day engagement that followed, between 2,500 and 3,000 Americans became casualties in intense combat that see-sawed across narrow farm roads along the run. Both sides witnessed devastating tragedies from the fight.

Confederate general John Pegram had just christened his engagement to Hettie Cary, by all accounts the prettiest woman in the south, with a charming wedding ceremony on January 19. Mrs. Pegram stayed with her new husband for three weeks along the line to the delight of the general’s men who found the new bride in high life.” Sadly, the native Virginia general was killed in action near Dabney’s Saw Mill on the second day of the battle leaving behind a down cast broken hearted widow.

HatchersRun-03Across the lines, the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry ceased their fire during the middle of the engagement for a solemn moment. A handful of men dropped their muskets to dig a small trench to lay down one of the war’s most unfortunate victims a three-year old bull terrier named Sallie. Sallie had served as regimental mascot since the beginning of the war, suffering a handful of wounds but still delivering several litters of additional puppies along the way. At Gettysburg she stayed behind for a few days with the wounded members of the regiment to guard them after the unit was overran. Now her men faithfully looked after her until a proper burial could be provided.

After two days of indecisive fighting, the weather took a sudden turn for the worse. A fierce winter storm chilled the soldiers to the bone and ground operations to a halt on February 7th. Both sides returned to their camps with the grim realization that suffering and violence still remained in store to see the war to its conclusion.

Two months later, they would return to the same ground as part of the final campaign to determine the struggle for Petersburg.

Over this past winter, the Rangers at Pamplin Historical Park have constructed a walking trail along the Civil War Trust property at Hatcher’s Run. This path provides the first opportunity for visitors to view some of the best preserved earthworks in the county, if not the nation.

America’s History, LLC is a proud to support Pamplin Historical Park. We encourage you to join PHP because they are doing good work in the name of Civil War history.

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