Why Battle of Five Forks Is Notorious

The Battle of Five Forks, Virginia, on April 1, 1865, is both militarily significant and historically notorious. It collapsed Confederate defenses before Richmond and Petersburg, leading directly to the Appomattox campaign that culminated in Robert E. Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. But its notoriety stems from an incident immediately following the battle, when Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan relieved Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren of his command. A great Union victory, then, became forever sullied by Warren's replacement at its triumphant conclusion. And it became an issue that would not die, thanks to Warren's obsessive determination to prove to the world that Sheridan's reasons for taking away his command were without merit. N Removing American field officers for poor combat performance is not unprecedented. George Washington superseded Gen. Charles Lee on the field of Monmouth, and Dwight D. Eisenhower replaced Gen. Lloyd Fredendall with George S. Patton after the Kasserine Pass disaster. Yet what happened to Warren after Five Forks is in a class by itself. His relief had little to do with his conduct during the battle; rather, it was predicated on what he might have done in the campaign to follow.

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