NP: June 17, 1864 Richmond Examiner: The War News

   

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in June 1864

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Ken Perdue.

THE WAR NEWS.

The first bulletin of the morning, yesterday, was the following official despatch from General Lee:

“HDQ’RS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA.,

“June 15, 1864 — 6 P.M.

Honourable Secretary of War:

“Sir — After the withdrawal of our cavalry yesterday evening from the front of the enemy’s works at Harrison’s landing, his cavalry again advanced on the Salem Church road, and this morning were reported in some force on that road and at Malvern Hill.

“General William H. F. Lee easily drove back the force at the latter point, which retreated down the river road beyond Carter’s mill.

“A brigade of infantry was sent to support the cavalry on the road to Smith’s store, and drove the enemy to that point without difficulty.

“Nothing else of importance has occurred to-day. Very respectfully, &c.,

“R. E. LEE, General”

During the day nothing additional was received. The Department last night was without any further intelligence, and all we could learn was through persons who came up last evening from the front. They reported that nothing had occurred during the day but some skirmishing near Malvern Hill, principally with the cavalry, in which the enemy were handsomely repulsed.

It is still a matter of doubt whether Grant’s army is on this side, or has crossed over to join Butler. The reports are conflicting, but it seems to be pretty well settled that Grant has at least crossed over a portion of his forces. Whether this is done as a feint, or what are Grant’s designs, time alone will develop. Deserters taken on the Southside report that Burnside’s and Baldy Smith’s corps have been sent over, and are now co operating with Butler.

THE MOVEMENT ON PETERSBURG — THE ENEMY CHARGE AND CARRY OUR FORTIFICATIONS.

We mentioned yesterday that Petersburg was menaced by the enemy. This was as much as we could learn on the night previous, but the morning yesterday brought us full particulars of the situation, which our authorities, in their profound wisdom, had smothered in hope, perhaps, of the people never hearing of it!

On Wednesday morning, at daylight, Petersburg was aroused by the discharge of artillery, the sound of each cannon being distinctly heard there, and coming from the direction of the City Point road. By seven o’clock it was ascertained that the enemy was advancing in force. The alarm was quickly given, and every man able to shoulder a musket hastened to the fortifications.

The main point of attack was on the City Point road, at a distance of six or seven miles from Petersburg. Here the enemy advanced with at least seven regiments of infantry and one of cavalry upon some breastworks thrown up hastily during Tuesday night, at Baylor’s farm, by Colonel Ferrebee, of the Fourth North Carolina cavalry. They were held in check by Colonel Ferrebee’s men and Graham’s (Petersburg) battery for four hours, who fought bravely, but were finally compelled to fall back before overwhelming numbers. Our men retired in good order, and sustained but few casualties during the fight. The enemy demonstrated at other points along our lines, but his attacks were feeble and easily repulsed.

In a few hours all became comparatively quiet along our lines for two hours or more, and it was the general impression that the fighting had ceased. But this was but a momentary delusion, for it was soon ascertained that the enemy had massed a very heavy force on our left — especially on the City Point and Prince George Court House roads. — About sunset the enemy came up, charging our batteries commanding these roads. The enemy advanced in line of battle six and seven columns deep. Three furious assaults were made, the enemy coming up with a yell, and making the most determined efforts to carry the works. Our troops received them with a terrific volley each time, sending the column back broken and discomfited. The fourth assault was made by such overwhelming numbers that our forces found it impossible to resist the pressure, and were compelled to give way. The enemy now poured over the works in streams, captured three of our pieces, and turning the guns on our men, opened upon them an enfilading fire, which caused them to leave precipitately. The guns captured belonged to Sturdivant’s battery, and it is reported that Captain Sturdivant himself was captured, and two of his Lieutenants wounded, both of whom fell into the enemy’s hands. The battery was fought up to the last moment in the most gallant manner. The Twenty-sixth and Forty-sixth regiments, of Wise’s brigade, also bore a conspicuous part in the affair.

But at another part of our works the enemy was repulsed. On the Baxter road, about three miles from Petersburg, the enemy appeared about twelve o’clock. Immediately in front of battery number sixteen, was stationed the Macon (Georgia) Light Artillery, Captain C. W. Slater, supported by a portion of the Thirty-fourth Virginia regiment, Wise’s brigade. The enemy showed himself at once, driving in our pickets, and planting a battery in front of our works, with which he opened a furious cannonade. The Macon Artillery quickly responded, and a sharp artillery duel was maintained for two hours, when the enemy charged our works, but, after arriving within two hundred yards of the fortifications was repulsed with considerable loss. The artillery continued to throw round after round of shell and canister into their ranks with great rapidity and accuracy, and the work becoming too warm for them, they broke and fled in confusion. They were pursued by the Thirty-fourth Virginia regiment for some distance, who poured several galling volleys into their ranks. About sundown the enemy entirely disappeared from this portion of our lines, and returned to the left. — Among their dead left on the field in front of this battery was Colonel Mix, of New York, who seemed to have been instantly killed by a canister shot in the breast.

Officers who participated in the operations of Wednesday estimate the number of the enemy actually seen fronting different portions of our line at from ten thousand to twelve thousand. Prisoners brought in, belonging to the One Hundred and forty-eighth New York regiment, all concur in the statement that Baldy Smith’s entire army corps (the Eighteenth) is on the south side of the river again. Other prisoners taken stated that they belong to Burnside’s corps, and that his whole corps had arrived at City Point. The prisoners had three days’ cooked rations in their haversacks.

It was believed in Petersburg that this force was merely the advance column, and that Grant had moved almost his entire army to the Southside. It was rumoured that over thirty transports were in the river laden with troops.

In resisting this advance of the enemy our sharpshooters are reported to have done some admirable execution, picking the enemy off wherever he showed himself.

FIGHTING ALONG THE PETERSBURG RAILROAD.

A gentleman who left Chester yesterday evening, about half past three o’clock, reports that at the time of his leaving there was, and had been during the day, fighting all along in that direction, principally about two miles on the other side of Chester. About half past eleven o’clock yesterday morning our skirmishers near Port Walthall Junction were driven in. Soon thereafter — about twelve o’clock — as a body of our troops were quietly marching along the turnpike on their way to Petersburg, not supposing that there was a Yankee near, and when about a mile and a half to the left of Chester, the enemy opened a sudden fire on them from the woods. Our men quickly attacked the enemy and drove them beyond our intrenchments, our forces sustaining but a very slight loss in killed and wounded.

There was also considerable fighting about some three or four miles to the left of Chester, all indications showing that the enemy’s forces were thick through that country. It is supposed that they were advancing on the railroad. The telegraph wire had been cut, and it was taken for granted, of course, that the railroad track had also been torn up. Our informant ventured about two miles beyond Chester — that is about midway between Richmond and Petersburg — but the rapid discharge of musketry along the line of railroad admonished him of the presence of the enemy, and that it would be useless for him to attempt to go further. The enemy seemed scattered all through that country and approaching the railroad in various directions, and the woods all around echoed with the fire of musketry up to the time of his leaving. It is probable this movement is intended by the enemy to get possession of the railroad, and thus cut off our communication with Petersburg.

The enemy devastated the country and burned the houses on their line of march on Petersburg. — Dense volumes of smoke could be seen from the hills surrounding Petersburg, rising from the various portions of Prince George county. The residence of Mr. Alexander Jordan, on the City Point road, was destroyed, and the residence of Mr. William Bowden, on the Baxter road, was also destroyed. The torch was applied to the outhouses on the estate of Colonel Avery, also on the Baxter road, but the dwelling house was not burned.

It is reported that the enemy have withdrawn all their white Yankees from their front in Chesterfield and substituted negroes in their stead. Yesterday morning our pickets were surprised when day dawned to find themselves confronted by black pickets.

THE RAIDING PARTY FROM LYNCHBURG.

A gentleman who arrived last evening, direct from Danville, tells us that nothing had been seen or heard there of the Yankee raiders who were supposed to be making for Danville from Campbell Court House. They had not been seen any where near there, and nothing had been heard of their appearance in the county. It appears now, from information received, that, after completing their work at Campbell Court House, they made off in the direction of Fincastle, with the design, it is supposed, of passing through the upper edge of Campbell and Bedford counties and passing around back to the Valley.

It is reported that Campbell Court House was burned by the enemy. It was a fine building, and will be a great loss to the county.

Can nothing be done with the Treasury Department? Its condition has been drifting into chaos and confusion for a month or two back, until now it seems to be an useless appendage of the Government. Its coffers are empty, and its whole machinery seems deranged. It is actually so reduced that it is not able to pay the poor soldiers, many of whom have not been paid a cent for months. — We saw yesterday a number of soldiers who wanted to draw what was owing to them — who were suffering for it — but not a dollar could they get. — There was no money to pay them! As they turned away dejected and disconsolate, a sympathizing gentleman, who chanced to be near by, remarked to them that never mind — Congress had raised their pay. They aptly replied, “what is that to us, when the Government can’t pay us what it already owe us. Instead of raising our pay, we much rather Congress had seen to our getting what is already due to us.”

It is hard, indeed, that the poor soldier should be kept out of his pay. He bears the burdens and hardships of the war — he gets at best but a pitiable sum — and it is cruel to withhold from him the small pittance that he claims. There is no manner of cause for it. It is true Mr. Memminger uses the very convenient plea that he has no money, but why is it he has none? What has there been to hinder it? He has had ample time and opportunity. He has no one to blame but himself. So far back as February, Congress gave him authority to issue a new currency — the business was at first commenced in such haste and confusion that not even time was given for new plates, the old plates being made to serve after a little scratching and tinkering, and yet here, in the month of June, with his mills to issue and his large corps of clerks to sign notes — with every facility at his command — he turns off the poor soldier who comes, dirty and battle scarred, for his eleven dollars a month, with flippant rebuff that there is “no money to pay him!” Yet Mr. Memminger and his pay clerk, a sleek, dapper little gentleman, sit in their offices, reading the papers and reclining in their easy chairs, not caring a fig for the outside world, so long as they can get their own salaries.

The same with the clothing bureau. Let a private come in from the army and apply for clothing or shoes, and the probability is that he is told there is none to give him, while at the very same time the officers of that bureau are strutting the streets in their suits of Confederate gray, and the numerous officers hanging around the city, in the bomb-proof department, are clothed from head to foot at the very same Government stores. It is an undeniable fact that men have been seen to march through Richmond without a vestige of shoes or jacket — this no one will or can deny. Now, will any one say that they have ever seen an officer of the clothing bureau, or any officer on duty in Richmond, without being decked in his full suit from head to foot? Indeed, the favouritism in the distribution of cloth at one time grew so prejudicial to the service that the President was required to interpose.

ARRIVAL FROM THE NORTH. — Dr. Kerr, formerly in charge of the Marine Hospital in Baltimore harbour, reached Richmond on Tuesday night, traveling in the desolate path of Grant’s advance. The country through which he came, the greater part of which he traversed on foot, presented a constant recurring scene of desolation, burned farm houses, barns and fencing, dead horses, and dead Yankees by the score and hundred. Dr. Kerr affirms that the war spirit at the North is dead, swallowed up in the pending Presidential campaign. Maryland has been stripped of every organized force, and hundred day men have taken their places. About fifteen hundred of these were in the Arlington defences in front of Washington. Grant had got all the men he could get, unless troops were recalled from Sherman. The losses sustained by Grant since he set out on his bloody pilgrimage to Richmond, the “Mecca” of all Yankee desire, were estimated at the North at even higher figures than Confederate accounts have fixed them. Thousands had straggled and deserted on the march, and our informant encountered hundreds on his way through, making their way to the Potomac, which was filled with guard boats picking them up. Dr. Kerr has six brothers in the Confederate service.1

Note: This newspaper article is used with the permission of NewsInHistory.com.  All rights reserved.

Source:

  1. Richmond Examiner, June 17, 1864

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