Nine months of grueling trench warfare, of discouraging stalemates that fatigued both armies and depleted their supplies. Nine months of ineffective assaults and bungled raids, one of which ended in “a wild skedaddle” of abandoned artillery and captured soldiers. Nine months that saw over 50,000 Union casualties and over 30,000 Confederate casualties. It’s fitting that the Siege of Petersburg is the ninth diorama in the Soldiers National Museum’s collection.
To call it a siege is really something of a misnomer. Technically, it was the preliminary build-up to establishing a siege, but it was over before a true siege could be implemented. Union incursions aimed to sever the Confederate railroad supply lines, but Generals Lee and Beauregard proved adept at repelling these attempts, so the fighting dragged on. It wasn’t until April that, following heavy losses on both sides, Grant’s men broke through to Petersburg and the city was surrendered, as was Richmond.
The dynamic miniature scene is truly something to behold. Set in the winter, this diorama might draw a shiver from you, so zip up your coat. The heavily bundled-up soldiers are sympathetic, huddled over cooking fires or patrolling the camp. They look tired. Footprints in the snow exemplify the artist’s attention to detail, marking the paths of the tiny men. The trenches stretch into the distance on the backdrop. It’s almost like being there.
Check out this and other incredible dioramas at the Soldiers National Museum! Stay tuned because a new display is on its way!