Gen. Grant’s strategy for victory at Petersburg remained basically unchanged from mid-June, when all out assaults failed to produce any positive results and only added to the ever-lengthening lists of dead and wounded Union soldiers. This strategy had two main parts. First, Grant tried to keep pressure on Lee to keep him from dispatching troops to other threatened points (such as the Shenandoah Valley of Atlanta). Second, Grant wanted to cut Petersburg off from all supply routes so that the Confederates would have to surrender or abandon the city.
In the map above (L.O.C. Digital Map Collection http://www.loc.gov/item/99448332/) Confederate lines are drawn in blue and the Union in red. At the end of September 1864 the western end of the Union Line ran from Fort Wadsworth at the north southward along the western side of the Weldon Railroad, which is just right of center above. Grant’s two objective’s can be seen at the upper right, the Boydton Plank Road and in the upper right corner the South Side Railroad. Seize these two vital links to the rest of the Confederacy and the situation in Petersburg would become dire indeed.
Early on the morning of September 30th, while Lee was doing everything possible to retake Fort Harrison 32 miles away, the First and Second Divisions of the Fifth Corps, under Gen. G. K. Warren, and the Second and Third Divisions of the Ninth Corps under Gen. John Parke, marched westward from Fort Wadsworth toward the Confederate line along Squirrel Level Road. Early in the afternoon Griffen’s Division of Warren’s Corps charged from the vicinity of Poplar Springs Church across the fields of Peeble’s Farm (misspelled Peeple on map). The Confederates resisted at first, but could do nothing to stop the attack. Fort Archer, the strongest point in the Squirrel Level line was soon taken. Federal engineers reversed the fortifications and it was renamed Fort Wheaton.
Confederate Gen. Henry Heth scraped together every man he could find and counter-attacked late that afternoon. The furious attack fell upon the left flank of the Ninth Corps who had taken a position just south of the Fifth near Peeble’s Farm. The Ninth Corps was routed by Heth’s sudden assault, but Warren rallied both his and Parke’s command and forced Heth to give up the fight for the day. The next day both Gen. Heth and cavalry Gen. Wade Hampton attacked the advanced Union positions, but both attacks were repulsed.
On October 2nd, a division of the Second Corps reinforced the Fifth and Ninth Corps and the Confederates were forced to retire to their main fortifications that paralleled the vital Boydton Plank Road. The stage was now set for Grant to try to seize that road and tighten his strangle hold on Petersburg.