The above battle map of Civil War shows the Union (blue) and Confederate (red) forces in the 2nd of three battles that took place at or near Petersburg in the state of Virginia on several days in March 1865. Today's story is about the four hour battle at Fort Stedman on 25 March and is shown in the upper right of the map. Here you can see the Union troops trying to advance towards Petersburg and the Confederates trying to push the Union back in and easterly and southerly direction.
Both the North and South had addition troops nearbye and the South would ultimately bring to the battle some 10,000 soldiers against the North's close to 15,000. The plan was to attack the North in the hours were most were asleep. They would first throw in some skirmishers that would sneak in at about 4 AM to remove any obtacles such as the ancient cheval de frise as shown above. Then they would send in a handful of men to pick off the listening or observation posts and pickets, then others would be sent in impersonating drifters or deserters who would gain entry and final the intial storming parties would be sent in. Many of the initial troops had to advance with their muskets UNLOADED to prevent the premature firing, and waking up of the Union forces.
The southern soldiers were successful in the surprise attack, captured the 12 pounders and moved further into Union lines and caught many of the Union men asleep or stumbling about in confusion. Canadian born Sergeant James T Murphy was at the Fort and serving with the Ist Connecticut Heavy Artillery. Murphy was able to recapture one of their guns and turn it against the enemy with such effect that the Confederates started losing considerable ground. He manned the cannon for several hours and because of his bravery was later awarded a Medal of Honor. There would be four awarded in the battle, but his was the only one apparently in the history of the Ist Connecticut Heavy Artillery throughout the war.
By the time the battle was over, both sides held about the same ground they did at the start. Had the south been more successful, and continued their push south some 16 miles, they would have been most pleased to find stading in front of them none other than General Grant. And beside him was a fellow named Abe Lincoln, who had arrived earlier that mornig and was to attend a grand parade. It was put off till the afternoon!
The Union lost 72 soldiers and another 450 wounded that day. About another 500 were captured or MIA. But the South would lose over 600 to death, 2400 to wounds and another 1,000 to MIA or POW's. Within the next couple of weeks Petersburg would be captured by the Union and then Richmond would also be lost by the South and the Civil War would come to an end.
James Murphy signed up for CW service with the Ist Connecticut in December 1961 and would be in numerous battles right up till the end of the war. On first enlistement he was given the rank of Cpl and a year later would be promoted to Sgt. A few days after his MOH deed he would be wounded while still at Petersburg, were two other Canadias had earned MOH's eight months earlier.
James Murhy died at New Haven in 1904 and lies at rest in a cemetery in that city.
He earned his Medal of Honor 148 years ago yesterday.