The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865
Beginning of the End
Where, at this point, was Lee?
Lee and about forty thousand men—by the best, most optimistic estimate—were escaping by way of the roads that led west from Richmond. It was all a forlorn hope, but then again, that was what Lee had specialized in from the very beginning.
On April 6, 1865, the advance units of the Army of the Potomac caught up with the Army of Northern Virginia, which turned out for one last confrontation. By most accounts, the Battle of Sayler’s Creek was one of the most intense and vicious of the war. Realizing they were at the end of the road did not make the Confederates tame; rather, they turned and fought like lions. The sailors from the ruined ships at Richmond fought with special vigor: accounts describe them wielding rifle butts and ruined weapons. But the conclusion was inescapable: there were now three times as many men in pursuit.
By the end of the day, six thousand Confederates had been taken prisoner; Lee’s son, William Lee, was one of them.