NP: June 21, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: The Siege of Petersburg, June 17-18

   

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in June 1864

THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG.

Operations of Saturday – Affairs Progressing Favorably – The Situation – Nearing the City – Details of the Assault by the Third Division of the Ninth Corps – Terrible Fighting in the Rifle-pits – The Enemy Driven from Every Line – The Casualties.

Special Correspondence of the Inquirer.

Before Petersburg,
Saturday June 18, 10 P. M.

Reviewing the operations of to-day [June 18, 1864], I may safely write that affairs are progressing favorably.  Standing on the heights occupied by the Rebel line of fortifications captured by the Eighteenth Corps on the evening of the 15th [of June 1864], I could distinctly see the extreme right of our front line of battle resting on the Appomattox River, not more than a half a mile from Petersburg.  This was near sunset tonight.  From the point where I stood, a broad, flat plain extends towards the Appomattox on the right, and towards Petersburg in front, and looking across these flats to the right of the line, at a distance more than two miles, it appears close to the suburbs of the city.

It has swung around since early this morning a distance of two and a half miles, and is now that nearer Petersburg.  This morning the front of the right wing ran obliquely to the river, and then extended two divisions covering more than two miles of ground, but in sweeping up the river its length has been shortened one-half. On the left we have been equally successful, for although there has not been so great an advance there as on the extreme right, the movement was less of the nature of swinging on a pivot, and the average distance gained is nearly equal.  At all events we have gained on the left not less than a mile since four AM and this gain was sufficient to throw our line across the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad.  This places us in possession of two of the several branches that diverge east, southeast, south and southwest from Petersburg.

The next is the Petersburg and Roanoke Railroad [sic, the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad], the main artery of the Rebel Confederacy, and the only direct line of communication between Richmond and the seaboard and Gulf States.  It is on this that the strategic value of Petersburg mainly depends.1  The centre has not advanced so far beyond its former position as the two wings, but up to last night it was considerably nearer Petersburg than the right or left, and a greater advance of the two latter portions of our lines was necessary.  On an average our present position is probably a mile in advance of the one held this morning.  This advance has been made without any very severe fighting.  The way had been paved for it by the assaults of yesterday, in which the enemy had lost portions of their lines of entrenchments.

In my last I mentioned the assault by the Third Division of the Ninth Corps, at three PM yesterday [June 17, 1864], which was unsuccessful.  The charge was made on the line of breastworks opposite our left, and running across a cornfield front of and parallel with a track of pine woods.  The Third Division advanced from their own position across a ravine running parallel with the breastworks, and over the crest of its further declivity into the open fields before the works.  Then, under a heavy fire, they advanced across the field nearly to the rifle-pits before them, but their having to cross a slight hollow, which afforded shelter from the shower of bullets that had been pelting them, they stopped and did not advance further.  At six PM General Ledlie’s division of the First Corps [sic, Ledlie’s First Division of the Ninth Corps, or 1/IX/AotP] was ordered to renew the attempt.

General Ledlie formed his attacking column under cover of the ravine above mentioned, in three lines, the First Brigade [1/1/IX/AotP], Colonel [Jacob P.] Gould, Second Brigade [2/1/IX/AotP], Colonel [Ebenezer W.] Pierce [sic, Peirce] and Third Brigade [3/1/IX/AotP], Colonel [Elisha G.] Marshall,  succeeding each other in the order named.  Reaching the open field at the top of the slope, and emerging, they started on a run for the entrenchments, with fixed bayonets, and without stopping to fire a gun. Two batteries to the left, and one to the right, poured a heavy fire of grape and canister into them as they advanced, while another was firing at extremely short range directly in front, combined with musketry.  It was a terrible tempest of deadly missiles to pass through, and many a good man fell on the way, but the work was nevertheless accomplished in gallant style.

The enemy displayed the utmost pertinacity, and in the rifle-pits the fight was waged hand to hand, and large numbers of dead.  Rebels were left in them mingled with our own men. After being driven from the main line, the enemy rallied at the second and smaller line, not more than one hundred yards in the rear, from which they were also driven, but, rallying, again retook them, but again were compelled to retreat.  Still they returned to the charge four several times, rushing from the woods in our front with a degree of determination that seemed inexhaustible, and after dark, when the firing had somewhat subsided, their skirmishers crawled forward and scooped out, in the light sand soil, their little rifle-pits, as close as possible to our lines.  During the night [of June 17-18, 1864], however, they withdrew to a position further back.

The Second Maine Battery, Captain [Albert F.] Thomas, and Fourteenth Massachusetts [Battery], Captain [Joseph W. B.] Wright, posted in the rear of the ravine above mentioned, did splendid service in this assault.  A cannon belonging to the Rebel battery in front was blown up by one of their shells.  The woods just in its rear bore evidence of tremendous shelling, and on the space where the fire had been concentrated, a considerable number of dead were found, killed by shot and shell.  On this space I was shown a remarkable spectacle.  At a distance of two or three rods apart, and in line with each other, were three dead Rebels, each killed in precisely the same way, the top of the skull being taken completely off and the brains of each lying near him.  From their relative positions it seems that all three had been killed by the same round shot.

The severity of the fighting in this assault is attested by the losses sustained, which are estimated at nearly one thousand.  Major [Job C.] Hedges, of the Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery, was killed while leading his men in a charge.  Colonel Marshall, of the same regiment [but leading 3/1/IX/AotP], received a contusion of the thigh.  Lieutenant McKinney, Fourth United States Infantry, A[ide] D[e] C[amp] to General Ledlie, was wounded in the neck.  That the Rebels suffered severely was evident from the number of dead left on the ground.  In the entrenchments they lay, in some places, three or four deep, while the ground between the entrenchments and the woods was thickly strewn with them.  Muskets lay scattered around by scores, and the evidence of the hot work that had taken place were visible everywhere.

Besides their losses in killed and wounded, the enemy left in our hands, at this point, a considerable number of prisoners and one stand of colors, captured by Ledlie’s division.  Those portions of the Rebel lines continuous with the section whose capture is above narrated, and not already in our hands, were occupied by us in the first advance this morning [June 18, 1864] at four AM, on the broad flats near the Appomattox, on the right of the Second division of the Sixth corps [2/VI/AotP], and even Martingdale’s [Second] division of the Eighteenth Corps [2/XVIII/AotJ] gained the Rebel line of works in their front in the first charge.

At this part of the line our further advance was delayed for some time by the Rebel sharp-shooters, who occupied a house near by, and whose fire was especially troublesome.  Battery H, First Ohio, Captain [Stephen W.] Dorsey, getting the range of the house, quickly dislodged them.  Three successive advances were made during the day [of June 18, 1864] along the whole line, to a greater or less extent, the first occurring at four AM, the second at noon, and the last between three and four PM, each succeeding with but little difficulty except the afternoon attack by portions of the Second Corps in the centre or right centre, where the enemy showed a more spirited resistance, and inflicted on us a partial repulse.  The fact is, there has been no very severe fighting on any part of the line to-day, and our advantages have been gained at comparatively small cost.

It is evident that a deep game of strategy is being played by the commanders of the opposing armies, in which, of course, the object of each is to learn as much as possible of the designs and dispositions of the other while keeping his own concealed; and under such circumstances too much care cannot be exercised to guard against improper disclosures.

Among the casualties of the day [June 18, 1864] are Colonel [Joshua L.] Chamberlain, commanding the First Brigade, First Division, Fifth Corps [1/1/V/AotP], wounded.

It appears to be the opinion now that only a portion of Lee’s force is opposed to us here, and it is apprehended that he will concentrate against Butler at Bermuda Hundred.  No uneasiness, however, is felt on this score, as we prepared at that point for any attack that may be made.  I refrain from giving any statement of our forces at this point, or even the exact formation of our line of battle, as in the present peculiar state of affairs the publication of this information would be injurious.

Additional List of Casualties Before Petersburg and in Hospital at City Point.

Wounded

Lieut G C Patterson, Co. E, 165 Pa

Lieut J Eagan, 65 Pa

Col Ramsay, comd’g Fourth Brigade, Second Division

J Guyen, D, 73 Pa

A Elston, A 73 Pa

D U Spitzer, E, 184 Pa

J Welsh, G, 69 Pa

N J Richardson, I, 69 Pa

L Fozzelt, A, 106 Pa

J Hanson, F, 71 Pa

J T Smith, A, 7 NJ

J Calhoun, A, 7 NJ

Corp B Reese, A, 7 NJ

J Vanderhoff, C, 7 NJ

G Felmley, C, 7 NJ

T A Mathews, C, 7 NJ

S Lyon, C, 7 NJ

J Marshall, C , 7 NJ

D K Rockefeller, E, 6 NJ

P J Doremus, G, 7 NJ

M Gilmore, 7 NJ

W Smith, H, 7 NJ

P Kelly, K, 7 NJ

S B Hale, K, 7 NJ

W E Loper, K, 7 NJ

T McKnight, K, 7 NJ

P Kane, K, 6 NJ

N Clarkson, I, 11 NJ

J Jones, C, 11 NJ

W Winton, E, 11 NJ

Keeve, D, 11 NJ

A Kibler, B, 11 NJ

C Boker, I, 11 NJ

Serg McAllister, B, 11 NJ

J Conley, C, 11 NJ

C Brant, E, 11 NJ

E Robinson, I, 11 NJ

J Marshall, K, 11 NJ

TJ Thompson, I, 11 NJ

G tone, F, 11 NJ

J Dunn, F, 11 NJ

J Whiter, C, 11 NJ

J Winshauser, Co H, 68 Pa

M Carbough, B, 69 Pa

A P Stark, 163 Pa

Sergt Gilbert, C, 71 Pa

J S Smith, C, 184 Pa

J Regan, E, 48 Pa

H H Harper, F, 184 Pa

E W McCormick, K, 71 Pa

J Kagan, B, 48 Pa

L Bell, B, 71 Pa

G A Hendricks, A, 53 Pa

E Vreeland, A, 7 NJ

D Armack, K, 7 NJ

– Halsey, K, 7 NJ

W Eddy, D, 7 NJ

G Pultz, H, 7 NJ

W Foster I, 5 NJ

H Newell, I, 11 NJ

M Southard, H, 11 NJ

P Conila, G, 11 NJ

S Stevens, D, 11 NJ

Snyder, A, 11 NJ

W Lindsey, I, 11 NJ

P Ball, D, 11 NJ

P Marcell, D, 11 NJ

W Jackson, D, 11 NJ

R Nelson, D, 11 NJ

J Reynolds, C, 11 NJ

J Brannan, E, 11 NJ

G Holloway, G, 11 NJ

H Mulcahy, D, 11 NJ

K Nelson, D, 11 NJ

M Lewis, F, 11 NJ

W Woodward, G, 11 NJ

P Donelly, B, 11 NJ

M Nelzebeshet, B, 11 NJ

Lt C H Masury, H, 1 Mass Artillery

D McAllister, B, 11 NJ

J Donnelly, H, 11 NJ

O Evans, C, 8 NJ

R J Ritman, B, 8 NJ

J Negaly, B, 8 NJ

C S Engtel, B, 8 NJ

 

Killed

 

Capt Hinckman, H, 1 Del

J G Stayek, B, 184 Pa

Sergt Williams, H, 69 Pa

Fleming, H, 11 NJ

Freeman, G, 11 NJ

Capt M Mulvery, I, 7 NJ

Corp J Boers, K, 7 NJ

Sergt Bates, D, 7 NJ

A H Pierson, K, 7 NJ

J Barry, G, 11 NJ

D Adriance, K, 11 NJ

Capt Layton, D, 11 NJ

T Twiggs, D, 11 NJ

T Babcock, I, 11 NJ2

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Mike Czaikowski.

If you are interested in helping us transcribe newspaper articles like the one above, please CONTACT US.

Article Image

18640621PhiladelphiaInquirerP1C1to3SiegeOfPetersburg

Sources/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Grant’s Second, Third, and Fourth Offensives would be mostly or partly concerned with seizing this railroad, and it was seized successfully in late August 1864.
  2. “The Siege of Petersburg.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 21, 1864, p. 1, col. 1-3

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