Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Steven Lonergen.
THE NEWS FROM PETERSBURG—OPERATIONS OF THE ARMIES—FLANKING OF HANCOCK’S CORPS AND CAPTURE OF LARGE NUMBER OF PRISONERS &c.
The Petersburg papers of yesterday bring us news of the operations of the armies about that city, and the particulars of the flanking of Hancock’s corps, which was announced yesterday by telegraph. We condense the news in the following summary:
At early dawn, and until nine o’clock, scarcely a heavy gun was discharged, and, if the pickets continued their shooting, the rumbling of wagons and the busy hum if the populace, prevented its being heard in Petersburg. This state of quiet prevailed until nine o’clock, when heavy cannonading was heard on our extreme left, and, upon inquiry, it was ascertained to proceed from a Confederate battery admirably posted in Chesterfield. This battery had obtained the range of two of the enemy’s twenty-pounder Parrott’s planted at batteries numbers one and two, on Jordan’s farm, and, by the admirable aim and precision of our gunners, rendered admirable service. In less than thirty minutes after our battery opened, the enemy’s guns were effectually silenced. Reposted attempts were made during the day to re open these guns, which for several days past have been throwing shells into our city, but every attempt was met by a hot fire from the Chesterfield heights, which prevented the accomplishment of the enemy’s purpose. Petersburg enjoyed a remarkable exemption from these annoying missiles of the enemy, and many were surprised at the amiable disposition which seemed to have taken possession of our uninvited visitors.
WEDNESAY AFTERNOON—FLANKING OF HANCOCK’S CORPS AND LARGE HAUL OF PRISONERS, ARTILLERY, ETC.
About two o’clock, P. M., heavy firing was heard on our extreme right, to the rear of Wells’ old place, in Dinwiddie, about two miles from Butterworth’s bridge. The firing was rapid, and the discharges of musketry were plainly heard by persons residing in the suburbs in that portion of the city. The report that a fight was progressing in that direction spread rapidly through the city, and many hastened where they supposed they would be enabled to witness the battle. In this, however, they were disappointed, for the country was too thickly wooded to see the conflict, without exposing one’s person to the flying balls and bullets. All, however, could hear the firing, and listened sounds with breathless attention. The enemy had advanced an entire corps around to this extreme southwesterly direction during Tuesday night, for the purpose of seizing and holding the Weldon road, and our generals were on the qui vive at a very early hour. Shortly after mid-day, a flank movement which had been planned was put into process of execution, and this brought on the fight which had attracted the attention of our citizens.
It soon became evident that our forces were driving the invaders, and before four o’clock it was ascertained that we had gained a very [illegible] success. Three brigades, under the command of General Mahone, had by the skillful manoevering of their officers, succeeded in getting to the front, right and left of a large body of the invaders, before the vandals were fully appraised of the danger of their situation. Their front was protected by a heavy line of breastworks, which had been thrown up during Tuesday night, but this did not deter our troops from their duty, for no sooner was the order to charge given, than our troops rushed forward with one of their characteristic yells. Simultaneous with this charge in front of the enemy, the two other brigades mentioned opened on both flanks, and between the three fires but a few moments sufficed to end the conflict, the great bulk of the vandals throwing down their arms and begging for quarter.
The results of admirably planned and no less admirably executed movement are, the capture of sixteen hundred prisoners, eight stands of colours, four pieces of artillery, and two formidable lines of breastworks. But better than all, we relieve the line of railroad, and still maintain our communications with the South.
Among the prisoners are fifty-seven commissioned officers, but none higher than Colonel. The men mainly belong to the Second and Fourth brigades, Birney’s division, Hancock’s Second army corps. We captured no general officers, Colonels Fraser and Custard both commanding brigades. ___ Some of the prisoners taken say that the movement towards the railroad was generally regarded as hazardous, and General Hancock was unfortunately taken sick just on the eve of the expedition. Birney was in command, of whom the prisoners do not speak at all complimentary. They say he invariably manages to get into trouble.
As usual, all nationalities are represented among the prisoners, and many of the men say that they left the trenches around Washington twelve days since. A majority of them express great satisfaction that they are now prisoners of war, and declare that they have no heart to fight. A some-what matured son of the Emerald Isle, whose head was heavily sprinkled with grey, upon being asked where he was from, promptly responded.”Ireland, and by Jasus and would to God that I were back there today.”
LATER—THE FIGHT STILL PROGRESSING—THE ENEMY DRIVEN—THEIR WORKS TAKEN
At nine o’clock last night a gentleman just from the vicinity of the front reported that the fight was still progressing, and that we were driving the enemy rapidly. We had forced him from the vicinity of the railroad back to and across the Jerusalem plank road, a distance of four miles. It was discovered as we moved that the enemy had many lines of breastworks, extending easterly from the main line around the city, to prevent flank movements, but from each of these he was handsomely driven.
After being forced from the two first lines, the enemy were reinforced and made an effort to recapture them; but our troops turned their own guns upon them (many having left their muskets when they fled), and repelled them in gallant style.
Batches of prisoners continued to arrive up to the latest accounts; and a gentleman who left the vicinity of the battle at dark thinks our total captures will reach two thousand five hundred.
A large number of the enemy were killed and wounded, all of whom were left in our hands. Our casualties will be heavy, but the most of them, we are pleased to hear, are only slightly wounded.
Military men regard the affair of yesterday as one of the most brilliant of the war, the numbers engaged considered.
A RAID UPON THE WELDON ROAD—OUR FORCES PURSUING
A large body of the enemy’s cavalry, estimated by many as high as four thousand, made a dash at the Petersburg railroad Wednesday morning between the hours of six and eight o’clock, at Ream’s station, ten miles distant from Petersburg. They cut the telegraph wires, burnt the water tanks, wood sheds and office, and tore up about one hundred and fifty yards of the railroad track. The entire party is said to have taken the old stage road to Dinwiddie Court House upon leaving, and are if course aiming for the Southside and Danville railroads. A large body of Confederate cavalry are in hot pursuit, and not more than two hours in their rear.
We learn that the telegraph on the line of the Southside railroad ceased to work at four o’clock yesterday afternoon, and it is supposed that the advance guard of the raiders have reached this line of travel. It is generally hoped that these raiders may be captured.
VANDALISM OF THE ENEMY
All accounts from Prince George represent that this county is being thoroughly scoured by the worse than vandal too, who now invade that section. Every house is visited, and not an article of any value is overlooked. The enemy’s cavalry horses are turned into large fields of wheat, corn and oats, and allowed to trample and graze the crops as they like.
Among the prisoners captured on Wednesday was one cut throat looking fellow, who fell into the hands of Charlie W. Grant, of the Forty-fifth Georgia. This Union restorer had on his person the family Bible of Mr. George M. Browder, a well known citisen [sic] of Prince George. Mr. Browder resides near the Plank road, about four miles from Petersburg, and fled from his home a few days since to escape the vengeance of the despoilers We saw his precious Bible restored to him yesterday evening at the office of the Provost Marshal, and we witnessed the joyful emotions which a sight of its sacred and familiar pages produced.—Who can measure the depth of degradation to which these incorrigible scoundrels have descended, when they actually steal the Word of God, and that, too, under any circumstances from which any but a Yankee would revolt?1
- “The News from Petersburg.” Richmond Examiner. June 24, 1864, p. 2 col. 4-5 ↩
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