By William E. Welsh By the Summer of 1864, it was no longer likely the Army of Northern Virginia would invade the North a third time, would launch another major offensive, or even drive Union forces away from Richmond and Petersburg. The Army of Northern Virginia’s only real hope lay in inflicting enough casualties on the Union armies to force the U.S. government to the peace table. While General Robert E. Lee focused on winning the war in the trenches, two Confederate agents explored ways they might inflict severe damage on the sprawling Union supply depot at City Point where General Ulysses S. Grant had established his headquarters. The supply depot, located at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers, supported upward of 100,000 Union soldiers and 65,000 animals following the start of the siege of Petersburg in June 1864. Approximately 225 ships arrived daily at the supply depot to unload ammunition, food, building materials, and other equipment needed by the Union Army. A long warehouse made of pine paralleled the wharf and ran the length of it. On the opposite side of the warehouse from the wharf was a railroad track. The tracks ran from the warehouse to the front lines at Petersburg. The supplies were unloaded from the ships into the warehouse and then onto the railroad cars. By August, 275 railcars had been sent by boat from Washington to be used to transport food, ammunition, and equipment to the front. A short walk beyond the railroad track was a row


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