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What Petersburg, Virginia looked like in the 1860s through these Historical Photos

The first modern settlement of Petersburg began in the 17th century. The city was incorporated in 1748. During the American Revolutionary War, the British occupied it, and Major-General William Phillips bombarded it from the Marquis de Lafayette’s positions north of the river. In the years following the war, it became a popular destination for blacks in Virginia and a hub for railroads. By 1860, it had become the second-largest city in Virginia.

Petersburg played a strategic role during the Civil War in 1861. Confederate troops received several infantry companies, artillery units from the city, and three cavalry companies. Over 300 free blacks from Petersburg, Virginia, volunteered to work on the fortifications of Norfolk, Virginia, in April 1861. Slaveholders also provided slave labor. Petersburg was targeted during General Ulysses S. Grant’s Overland Campaign in 1864. Petersburg served as a lifeline for Richmond, the Confederate capital, because of its numerous railroads. Confederate troops and supplies transited through Pocahontas Island’s depot, built for the Richmond & Petersburg rail line.

The Union troops finally pushed their left flank to Weldon, North Carolina and the Southside Railroad in early April 1865. After the Confederate forces lost Petersburg’s vital lifelines, the Union Army won the siege. When Richmond could no longer defend itself following the fall of Petersburg, Lee attempted to lead his men south to join Confederate forces in North Carolina. On April 9, 1865, he was surrounded and forced to surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. After the Civil War, many freedmen migrated to Petersburg to rebuild, work on the river, and escape white control. The community benefited from numerous churches, businesses, and institutions founded by free blacks.

Some incredible historic photos show Petersburg during and after the American Civil war.

#1 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, 1864

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#2 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg. June, 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg. June, 1864

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#3 Blanford Church built 1729, Petersburg, 1860s

Blanford Church built 1729, Petersburg, 1860s

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#4 Pontoon bridge across the Appomattox, 1865

Pontoon bridge across the Appomattox, 1865

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#5 Sutler’s bomb-proof “Fruit and Oyster House, Petersburg, 1860

Sutler's bomb-proof "Fruit and Oyster House, Petersburg, 1860

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#6 Signal tower at 14th New York Heavy Artillery headquarters, Petersburg, 1864

Signal tower at 14th New York Heavy Artillery headquarters, Petersburg, 1864

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#7 View from signal tower, Petersburg, 1860s

View from signal tower, Petersburg, 1860s

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#8 Gen. J.C. Robinson” and other locomotives of the U.S. Military Railroad, Petersburg, 1865

Gen. J.C. Robinson" and other locomotives of the U.S. Military Railroad, Petersburg, 1865

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#9 Another locomotive at the same point, Petersburg, 1865

Another locomotive at the same point, Petersburg, 1865

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#10 African American army cook at work, Petersburg, 1865

African American army cook at work, Petersburg, 1865

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#11 Medical supply boat Planter at General Hospital wharf on the Appomattox, Petersburg, 1865

Medical supply boat Planter at General Hospital wharf on the Appomattox, Petersburg, 1865

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#12 Wharf, Federal artillery, and anchored schooners, Petersburg, 1860s

Wharf, Federal artillery, and anchored schooners, Petersburg, 1860s

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#13 Rear view of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters, Petersburg, 1860s

Rear view of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's headquarters, Petersburg, 1860s

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#14 Brig. Gen. John A. Rawlins, Chief of Staff, with wife and child at door of their quarters, Petersburg, 1860

Brig. Gen. John A. Rawlins, Chief of Staff, with wife and child at door of their quarters, Petersburg, 1860

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#15 Head Quarters of Gen. G.L. Hartsuff, Petersburg, 1865

Head Quarters of Gen. G.L. Hartsuff, Petersburg, 1865

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#16 Effects of shot and shell on the north side of Petersburgh, Bollingbrook St. View of Dunlop house, 1860s

Effects of shot and shell on the north side of Petersburgh, Bollingbrook St. View of Dunlop house, 1860s

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#17 Bomb-proof restaurant on the Petersburg line, Petersburg, 1864

Bomb-proof restaurant on the Petersburg line, Petersburg, 1864

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#18 Soldiers and part of a battery, on the battlefield of Bull Run, Petersburg, 1861

Soldiers and part of a battery, on the battlefield of Bull Run, Petersburg, 1861

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#19 The roundhouse in a railroad yard, Petersburg, Virginia, 1865

The roundhouse in a railroad yard, Petersburg, Virginia, 1865

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#20 R.R. turntable, Petersburg, VA.between 1861 and 1865

R.R. turntable, Petersburg, VA.between 1861 and 1865

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#21 Fort Sedgwick near Petersburg, 1862

Fort Sedgwick near Petersburg, 1862

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#22 Headquarters 6th Army Corps. Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1862

Headquarters 6th Army Corps. Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1862

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#23 Camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

Camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#24 Church in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

Church in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#25 Headquarters 6th Army Corps. Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Headquarters 6th Army Corps. Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#26 Quarters of Chief Ambulance Officer, 9th Corps in front of Petersburg, 1864

Quarters of Chief Ambulance Officer, 9th Corps in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#27 Gabions in Engineer Camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

Gabions in Engineer Camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#28 Man seated on gabions in engineer camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

Man seated on gabions in engineer camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#29 Company “B”, 170th N.Y. Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

Company "B", 170th N.Y. Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#30 Homes along a dirt road. View may be of Gettysburg rather than Petersburg, 1865

Homes along a dirt road. View may be of Gettysburg rather than Petersburg, 1865

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#31 Petersburg, Virginia, 184

Petersburg, Virginia, 184

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#32 Headquarters, 6th Army Corps, Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Headquarters, 6th Army Corps, Warren Station, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#33 Confederate fortifications at Warren Station, 1864

Confederate fortifications at Warren Station, 1864

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#34 Fort Mahone (Confederate), 1864

Fort Mahone (Confederate), 1864

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#35 Fort Rice, 1864

Fort Rice, 1864

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#36 Federal picket line in front of Fort Steadman, 1863

Federal picket line in front of Fort Steadman, 1863

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#37 Interior of Fort Steadman in front of Petersburg, 1863

Interior of Fort Steadman in front of Petersburg, 1863

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#38 Crow’s Nest battery and lookout in front of Petersburg, 1863

Crow's Nest battery and lookout in front of Petersburg, 1863

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#39 Rifle pits on the picket line in front of Petersburg, 1864

Rifle pits on the picket line in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#40 Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1865

Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1865

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#41 Fort Mahone (Confederate) in front of Petersburg, 1863

Fort Mahone (Confederate) in front of Petersburg, 1863

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#42 Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1864

Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1864

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#43 Interior of Fort Sedgewick (i.e. Sedgwick) in front of Petersburg, 1864

Interior of Fort Sedgewick (i.e. Sedgwick) in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#44 Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1860s

Fortifications on the Petersburg lines, 1860s

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#45 13 inch mortar “Dictator”, in front of Petersburg, 1860s

13 inch mortar "Dictator", in front of Petersburg, 1860s

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#46 A group of soldiers stand on gabions used as fortifications near Petersburg, 1860s

A group of soldiers stand on gabions used as fortifications near Petersburg, 1860s

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#47 Variety of barricades in use near Petersburg, Virginia, 1860s

Variety of barricades in use near Petersburg, Virginia, 1860s

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#48 Chevaux de frise in front of Confederate fortifications, Petersburg, 1860s

Chevaux de frise in front of Confederate fortifications, Petersburg, 1860s

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#49 Two trench mortars behind sandbagged barricade, 1860s

Two trench mortars behind sandbagged barricade, 1860s

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#50 The lone graves at Warren Station in front of Petersburg, 1860s

The lone graves at Warren Station in front of Petersburg, 1860s

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#51 Soldiers in Union uniforms with swords and others in zouave uniforms of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Petersburg, 1864

Soldiers in Union uniforms with swords and others in zouave uniforms of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, Co. G, Petersburg, 1864

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#52 Stone wall at foot of Marye’s Heights, Fredericksburg, Va. at the front carried by 6th Maine Infantry, May 3, 1863.

Stone wall at foot of Marye's Heights, Fredericksburg, Va. at the front carried by 6th Maine Infantry, May 3, 1863.

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#53 Surgeons of 3rd Division, 9th Army Corps, in front of Petersburg, Virginia, August 1864

Surgeons of 3rd Division, 9th Army Corps, in front of Petersburg, Virginia, August 1864

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#54 Officers of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

Officers of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#55 Field and staff of 39th U.S. Colored infantry, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Field and staff of 39th U.S. Colored infantry, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#56 A Sutler’s Tent, Petersburg, 1864

A Sutler's Tent, Petersburg, 1864

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#57 The Thirteen-Inch Mortar “Dictator”, Petersburg, 1864

The Thirteen-Inch Mortar "Dictator", Petersburg, 1864

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#58 Camp sports, 13th N.Y. Artillery playing ball, before Petersburgh, Virginia, 1863

Camp sports, 13th N.Y. Artillery playing ball, before Petersburgh, Virginia, 1863

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#59 Union soldier standing near a 13 inch mortar on a platform on a flatbed railroad car near Petersburg, Virginia, 1864

Union soldier standing near a 13 inch mortar on a platform on a flatbed railroad car near Petersburg, Virginia, 1864

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#60 Railroad mortar at Petersburg, 1864

Railroad mortar at Petersburg, 1864

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#61 Quartermaster’s mechanics, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps in front of Petersburg, 1864

Quartermaster's mechanics, 1st Division, 9th Army Corps in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#62 Army forge in front of Petersburg, 1860s

Army forge in front of Petersburg, 1860s

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#63 A camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

A camp in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#64 Camps of companies C & D. 1st Mass. Cavalry, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Camps of companies C & D. 1st Mass. Cavalry, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#65 Headquarters U.S. Engineer Battalion in front of Petersburg, 1864

Headquarters U.S. Engineer Battalion in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#66 Views in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

Views in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#67 Views in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1865

Views in camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1865

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#68 Surgeon’s Quarters, camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

Surgeon's Quarters, camp of 50th New York Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#69 Brady’s photo outfit in front of Petersburg, 1864

Brady's photo outfit in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#70 Photographers and wagon, Petersburg, 1864

Photographers and wagon, Petersburg, 1864

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#71 Hospital Stewards of 2d Division, 9th Army Corps. in front of Petersubrg, 1864

Hospital Stewards of 2d Division, 9th Army Corps. in front of Petersubrg, 1864

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#72 Surgeon John H. Brinton and group of hospital attendants in front of Petersburg, 1864

Surgeon John H. Brinton and group of hospital attendants in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#73 Camp of Chief Ambulance Officer, 9th Army Corps. in front of Petersburg, 1864

Camp of Chief Ambulance Officer, 9th Army Corps. in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#74 General Willcox’s headquarters, in front of Petersburg, 1864

General Willcox's headquarters, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#75 Essayon Dramatic Club, U.S. Engineer Battalion in front of Petersburg, 1864

Essayon Dramatic Club, U.S. Engineer Battalion in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#76 Assistant engineers at headquarters Army of Potomac, November, 1864

Assistant engineers at headquarters Army of Potomac, November, 1864

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#77 Petersburg, Va., vicinity. The execution of William Johnson, Jordan’s farm, Petersburg, 1865

Petersburg, Va., vicinity. The execution of William Johnson, Jordan's farm, Petersburg, 1865

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#78 Wharves after the explosion of ordnance barges on, Petersburg, August 4, 1864

Wharves after the explosion of ordnance barges on, Petersburg, August 4, 1864

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#79 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1865

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1865

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#80 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, 1865

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, 1865

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#81 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

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#82 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

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#83 Petersburg, Va. Group of Company B, U.S. Engineer Battalion; wagons in background,1864

Petersburg, Va. Group of Company B, U.S. Engineer Battalion; wagons in background,1864

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#84 Petersburg, Va. Company D, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

Petersburg, Va. Company D, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

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#85 Group of Company D, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

Group of Company D, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

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#86 Petersburg, Va. Officers of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry at Army of the Potomac headquarters, 1864

Petersburg, Va. Officers of the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry at Army of the Potomac headquarters, 1864

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#87 Petersburg, Va. Gen. Orlando B. Willcox and staff, 3d Division, 9th Corps, 1864

Petersburg, Va. Gen. Orlando B. Willcox and staff, 3d Division, 9th Corps, 1864

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#88 Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry playing cards in front of tents, 1864

Officers of the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry playing cards in front of tents, 1864

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#89 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

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#90 The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

The main eastern theater of war, the siege of Petersburg, June 1864

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#91 Petersburg, Va. Railroad gun and crew, 1864

Petersburg, Va. Railroad gun and crew, 1864

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#92 Cedar Level, Va. Commissary depot with supply train wagons, 1864

Cedar Level, Va. Commissary depot with supply train wagons, 1864

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#93 Group of Company B, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

Group of Company B, U.S. Engineer Battalion, 1864

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#94 Tents of the general hospital, 1864

Tents of the general hospital, 1864

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#95 The “Dictator,” a 13-inch mortar, in position, Petersburg, 1866

The "Dictator," a 13-inch mortar, in position, Petersburg, 1866

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#96 Headquarters, 50th New York Engineers, Petersburg, 1864

Headquarters, 50th New York Engineers, Petersburg, 1864

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#97 Group of the quartermaster department, 1st Division, 9th Corps, at leisure, 1864

Group of the quartermaster department, 1st Division, 9th Corps, at leisure, 1864

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#98 Sutler’s tent, 2d Division, 9th Corps, 1864

Sutler's tent, 2d Division, 9th Corps, 1864

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#99 Detachment of 3d Indiana Cavalry, 1864

Detachment of 3d Indiana Cavalry, 1864

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#100 Hospital stewards of 2d Division, 9th Corps, in front of tents, 1864

Hospital stewards of 2d Division, 9th Corps, in front of tents, 1864

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#101 Three surgeons of 1st Division, 9th Corps, Petersburg, 1864

Three surgeons of 1st Division, 9th Corps, Petersburg, 1864

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#102 The “Dictator,” a closer view, Petersburg, 1864

The "Dictator," a closer view, Petersburg, 1864

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#103 Federal supplies deposited on the landing, 1864

Federal supplies deposited on the landing, 1864

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#104 Gen. Edward Ferrero in front of Petersburg, Va., 1864

Gen. Edward Ferrero in front of Petersburg, Va., 1864

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#105 Bvt. Major General C. H. T. Collis Col. 114th Pa. Inf. in front of Petersburg, 1864

Bvt. Major General C. H. T. Collis Col. 114th Pa. Inf. in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#106 Co. F, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

Co. F, 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#107 Co. B, U.S. Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

Co. B, U.S. Engineers in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#108 Band of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

Band of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#109 General Grant’s Cavalry escort, City Point, 1865

General Grant's Cavalry escort, City Point, 1865

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#110 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#111 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#112 Rear view of the 13-inch Mortar “Dictator” in the works of Petersburg, Va. September 1, 1864

Rear view of the 13-inch Mortar "Dictator" in the works of Petersburg, Va. September 1, 1864

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#113 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

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#114 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

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#115 Outer lines of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

Outer lines of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Army Corps, June 15, 1864

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#116 Confederate works in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Corps, June 24, 1864

Confederate works in front of Petersburg, Va. captured by 18th Corps, June 24, 1864

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#117 Interior view of Rebel fort in front of Petersburg works, manned by Cowan’s Independent battery, 1st N.Y., 24th June, 1864

Interior view of Rebel fort in front of Petersburg works, manned by Cowan's Independent battery, 1st N.Y., 24th June, 1864

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#118 Part of Federal Line of Works showing bombproof tents occupied by U.S. Colored Troops in front of Petersburg. Aug. 7, 1864

Part of Federal Line of Works showing bombproof tents occupied by U.S. Colored Troops in front of Petersburg. Aug. 7, 1864

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#119 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#120 13 inch mortar “Dictator” in front of Petersburg, 1864

13 inch mortar "Dictator" in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#121 13 inch mortar “Dictator” in front of Petersburg, 1864

13 inch mortar "Dictator" in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#122 Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

Outer line of Confederate fortifications, in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#123 Officers of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

Officers of 114th Pennsylvania Infantry in front of Petersburg, 1864

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#124 Jone’s Neck from Gen R.S. Fosters Head Quarters at Deep Bottom, 1864

Jone's Neck from Gen R.S. Fosters Head Quarters at Deep Bottom, 1864

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#125 Trestle bridge on south side of railroad, near Petersburg, Virginia, 1865

Trestle bridge on south side of railroad, near Petersburg, Virginia, 1865

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#126 Interior of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh (i.e. Petersburg), 1865

Interior of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh (i.e. Petersburg), 1865

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#127 View from the parapet of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh, 1865

View from the parapet of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh, 1865

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#128 Interior of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh, 1865

Interior of the rebel works in front of Petersburgh, 1865

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#129 Ditch and “Cheavaux de frise” in front of the Union Fort Sedgwick, 1865

Ditch and "Cheavaux de frise" in front of the Union Fort Sedgwick, 1865

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#130 Soldiers’ quarters in the Union Fort Rice adjoining Fort Sedgwick (fort Hell”.), 1865

Soldiers' quarters in the Union Fort Rice adjoining Fort Sedgwick (fort Hell".), 1865

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#131 Ditch and “Cheavaux de Frise” in front of the Union Fort Sedgwick, called by the rebel soldiers “Fort Hell”, 1865

Ditch and "Cheavaux de Frise" in front of the Union Fort Sedgwick, called by the rebel soldiers "Fort Hell", 1865

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#132 Gen. Ferrero and staff, Petersburgh, 1865

Gen. Ferrero and staff, Petersburgh, 1865

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