With the fall of Richmond the Civil War was drawing rapidly to a close. However, Lee still led the remnants of his army and he had a plan: march to the west and break contact with the Army of the Potomac and head south to join up with Johnston in North Carolina. It was unlikely that he could accomplish this, but Lee felt duty bound to try. His main initial problem was to feed his army. To accomplish this he had the army concentrate at Amelia Court House where he expected to find supplies. To his astonishment he found plenty of ammunition but no food. To feed his army he had to draw upon the civilian population:
To the Citizens of Amelia County, Va.
The Army of Northern Virginia arrived here today, expecting to find plenty of provisions, which had been ordered to be placed here by the railroad several days since, but to my surprise and regret I find not a pound of subsistence for man or horse. I must therefore appeal to your generosity and charity to supply as far as each one is able the wants of the brave soldiers who have battled for your liberty for four years. We require meat, beef, cattle, sheep, hogs, flour, meal, corn, and provender in any quantity that can be spared. The quartermaster of the army will visit you and make arrangements to pay for what he receives or give the proper vouchers or certificates. I feel assured that all will give to the extent of their means.
R. E. Lee, General
The next day Lee found his path south blocked as the Army of the Potomac occupied Jetersville. General Longstreet in his memoirs gives us the details:
Our purpose had been to march through Burkeville to join our forces to those of General J. E. Johnston in North Carolina, but at Jetersville, on the 5th, we found the enemy square across the route in force and intrenching, where our cavalry under General W. H. F. Lee engaged him. General Field put out a strong line of skirmishers to support the cavalry. Field’s, Heth’s, and Wilcox’s divisions and artillery were prepared for action and awaited orders. General Meade was in front of us with the Second and Fifth Corps and Sheridan’s cavalry, but his Sixth Corps was not
up. General Fitzhugh Lee had been sent by the Painesville road with the balance of his cavalry to guard the trains raided by detachments of the enemy, which latter made some important captures.
General Lee was with us at Jetersville, and, after careful reconnaissance, thought the enemy’s position too strong to warrant aggressive battle. He sent for some of the farmers to get more definite information of the country and the strength of the position in front of us, but they knew nothing beyond the roads and by-roads from place to place. General Meade, finding that his Sixth Corps could not join him till a late hour, decided to wait till next morning for his attack. General Ord rested his column for the night at Burkeville. The enemy was quiet at Jetersville, except for a light exchange of cavalry fire. No orders came, the afternoon was passing, further delay seemed perilous. I drew the command off and filed to the right to cross Flat Creek to march for Farmville. The other
infantry and trains and artillery followed and kept the march until a late hour, halting for a short rest before daylight.
Lee would continue his trek west hoping to elude his pursuers who were clearly closing in.