UPR: Report of Major General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Johnson’s division, of operations June 16-18, 1864

   

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in Unpublished Reports Volume XL

Editor’s Note: Bryce Suderow passed along this unpublished official report of Bushrod Johnson covering the fighting his division did at the Second Battle of Petersburg on June 16-18, 1864.  Brett Schulte transcribed this material and the transcription is copyrighted 2011 by Brett Schulte.  It may not be used without my written permission.

Unpublished Report of Major General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Johnson’s division, of operations June 16-18, 1864.1

Transcribed by Brett Schulte 12/28/2011

HEADQUARTERS JOHNSON’S DIVISION
Petersburg, July 1864

Colonel George William Brent
Assistant Adjutant General

SIR: The following report of the operations of command in front of Petersburg, Virginia during the 16th, 17th, and 18th of June 1864 is respectfully submitted.  On the morning of the 16th of June, having under orders from the commanding General G.T. Beauregard withdraw the forces under my command from the main line at the Bermuda Hundreds Peninsula, and having left Gracie’s Brigade and Pegram’s and Wright’s batteries on the line of Swift Creek, I arrived at Petersburg with Elliott’s Brigade and Mosely’s Battalion of Artillery consisting of Young’s, Miller’s and Slaten’s batteries.

Ransom’s Brigade which had been serving on the North-side of James River, reached Petersburg a few minutes before Elliott’s Brigade.

Wise’s and Johnson’s Brigades of this Division had preceded the rest of the command to Petersburg, the former on the 10th and the latter on the 15th of June.  When I reached our line at about 10 A.M. on the 16th of June, I found my troops posted as follows: Wise’s Brigade to the east of Spring Garden, on the right of Hoke’s Division, with the right flank

near the Baxter Road.  The 46th Virginia Regiment of this brigade was detached, and posted on the left of Clingman’s Brigade in Hoke’s Division.  Johnson’s Brigade with a line much attenuated occupied a position at Webb’s House, with an interval of some six-hundred yards to the right and front of Wise’s Brigade, its right flank resting between Batteries No. XIV and XV on the old line of fortifications east of Petersburg and its left on a ravine, [?]-diagonally across and to the left of its line of battle.  Four companies of this brigade were detached to occupy Battery No. XVI on the extreme right of our line.  Ransom’s Brigade with six companies of the 64th Georgia Regiment attached to its left, was on the right of Johnson’s Brigade, and on the old line of fortifications where it crosses the Baxter Road, the 64th Georgia Regiment resting at Battery No. XV.   Elliott’s Brigade was placed in reserve on the Norfolk Rail-road, with its left resting on the Baxter Road.  Young’s battery of 3 guns and Blount’s of 6 guns were posted in the interval between Wise’s and Johnson’s brigades and one section of Slaten’s Battery under Lieutenant Folds was posted at Webb’s House, and the other section Battery No. XVI on the old line of fortifications.

Wise’s Brigade had thrown up some earthworks which the men were still strengthening.  Johnson’s Brigade having no intrenching tools, had constructed a very low and bad breastworks of logs and rails which was partly covered with dirt that the

men had dug up with bayonets.

The enemy’s line was from (600) six-hundred to (800) eight-hundred yards in our front and their sharp-shooters were playing upon our men.  The organization and strength of my command on the morning of the 16th of June was as near as can be ascertained as follows:

Brigade

Commanded by

Effective Strength

Aggregate Strength

Ransom’s

Col. Paul F. Faison

2581

2730

North Carolina Troops

Johnson’s

Col. Jonathan S. Fulton

633

708

Tennessee Troops

Wise’s

Col. P.R. Page

1363

1462

Virginia Troops

Elliott’s

Brig. Genl. Elliott

1887

2050

South Carolina Troops

Gracie’s

Brig. Genl. A. Gracie

944

1394

Alabama Troops

6 companies of 64th Georgia Regiment

Capt. Pritchett

160

180

Georgia Troops

Total

7568

8524

 

To which may be added the artillery under command of Major E.F. Mosely.

On the 16th of June something less than 5000 aggregate of the above infantry force occupied our front line.  Throughout this day the skirmishing was kept up by artillery and infantry with much spirit and with considerable force on both sides.  At Twelve M[eridian, i.e. noon] the 17th South Carolina Regiment of Elliott’s Brigade was sent to Battery No. 25 and at 3 P.M. the 22nd South Carolina Regiment was sent to Swift Creek.  Between 5 and 6 P.M. the enemy made an assault upon my front [reaching?] from the left regiment (the 24th North Carolina) of Ransom’s Brigade

to the left of my line.  But the main attack was on the advanced position of Johnson’s Brigade, where the enemy charged with much spirit in four lines.  Our troops behaved very handsomely and a steady and deliberate fire, aided by Folds’ section of artillery did great execution and repulsed the assault.  It was repeated some four or five times and repulsed each time with greater loss to the enemy.  The enemy’s dead and wounded were seen lying in large numbers in front of our work.  In this assault eleven officers and three hundred and sixty-four men of the 2nd Army Corps, with three stand of colors, were captured by Johnson’s Brigade aided by the 64th Georgia Regiment.  The conduct of Lieutenant [Kelsoe?] of [the] 44th Tennessee Regiment merits on this as on former occasions especial commendation.  In this connection attention is especially called to the report of Colonel John S. Fulton commanding Johnson’s Brigade here-with enclosed.  The services of Lieutenant Folds’ section of Slaten’s Battery in repelling this assault is also especially noted.  In consequence of intervening ravines, the enemy did not in this assault approach so near to or make such a vigorous attack on any other part of my line, but kept up a heavy volley at greater distance which was eagerly and successfully responded to by our men in Wise’s Brigade and by the 64th Georgia Regiment and 24th North Carolina Regiment.  The pickets of Wise’s Brigade were however driven in and the enemy approached under the crest of a hill to within

some 300 yards of the right of that brigade and entrenched there during the night.  The conflict continued until late in the night and the artillery fire was kept up till morning.  Under cover of the darkness of night the enemy carried the ravine and established a line about one hundred yards from the left of Johnson’s Brigade.  At about 10 P.M. the 23rd South Carolina Regiment of Elliott’s Brigade was moved forward and placed in position, with a view to protect the left flank of Johnson’s Brigade; and upon more particular information and by the approval of the commanding general, the remaining regiments of Elliott’s Brigade in reserve, the 18th and 26th South Carolina regiments were ordered to move up to the interval between Wise’s and Johnson’s brigade.  At early dawn on the 17th of June before the two regiments of Elliott’s Brigade had reached our front line the enemy moved upon the front of Johnson’s Brigade in several lines, and advanced two lines in echelon by the right flank, in the interval on the left of that brigade.  There attacked by heavy force in front and flank this little brigade made a gallant resistance.  The artillery Folds’ section fired some two rounds and the infantry three rounds before the enemy gained the rifle pits.  The columns having gained the rude works on the left now swept steadily up our line, which was stubbornly held to the last moment by our men, until our ranks mingled with those of the enemy and many of our men and officers who moved forward or stood firm in the

rifle pits to meet the attack were killed or overpowered and captured.  For individual instances of gallantry and for the evidence of steadiness and good conduct [?] this brigade commander.  With the line held by Johnson’s Brigade the enemy took the guns of Slaten’s Battery at Webb’s House.  One of these guns was captured in consequence of the horses being killed after it had been withdrawn by Lieutenant Folds from Webb’s House.

The enemy continued to advance firing along our breast-works to Battery No 16 when they captured the two other guns of Slaten’s Battery, Ransom’s Brigade having retired, after having suffered some losses in the 24th North Carolina and considerable losses in the 64th Georgia regiment.  I immediately proceeded to establish a new line on the crest of the hill in rear of our former one, leaving Wise’s Brigade in its entrenched position.  Elliott’s Brigade was moved up in echelon on its right and rear, and Ransom’s Brigade was placed with its right resting on our old line of fortifications, near to and in front of the point where it crosses the Norfolk Railroad.  Johnson’s Brigade was directed to rally on the left of Ransom’s Brigade.  About this time the morning light revealed the position of the enemy lines, two of which were halted on the left of Webb’s House on the ground, with their flank toward us some 600 yards distance in a position to be enfiladed by our fire, and to enfilade Wise’s Brigade which gallantly engaged them.

Here a mortal wound deprived the Confederacy of the valuable service of the gallant and highly esteemed Col. P.R. Page and the command of Wise’s Brigade devolved on Col. Goode.  [With?] the two lines thus exposed, I directed Blount’s and Young’s batteries to open fire.  A few shots handsomely thrown into the enemy ranks turned them to the rear and caused them to seek the cover of the broken ground adjacent.  Young’s Battery was soon turned upon the enemy line at Battery No 16 and the advance of the enemy was now entirely obstructed.  Blount’s Battery was moved to the interval in the open field between Elliott’s and Wise’s brigades and was posted on the left of the Baxter Road.  There being an interval between Blount’s Battery and Wise’s Brigade, I directed Brigadier General Elliott to place half of his left regiment, the 23rd South Carolina on the left of that battery.  This detachment commenced a line of rifle-pits on right of the 26th Virginia which was thrown back at obtuse angle with rest of Wise’s Brigade.  I soon after found Johnson’s Brigade in the pine woods in rear of and supporting Blount’s Battery.  Though I had not ordered this disposition of that brigade I did not deem it advisable at that time to change its position.  Johnson’s Brigade subsequently dug rifle pits from the left of Elliott’s Brigade and I tended them to the right of Blount’s Battery.  Miller’s and Young’s batteries was [sic] posted between Elliott’s and

Ransom’s brigades.  The enemy continued to shell our line during the day and it was continually exposed to the fire of the enemy’s sharp-shooters.

At 3 P.M. on the 17th of June the enemy advanced in force upon the salient of Wise’s Brigade and furiously shelled the lines adjacent.  The fighting continued about one hour when the enemy was completely and gallantly repulsed with heavy loss.  The main force of the enemy’s charges fell upon the 59th and 26th Virginia regiments which occupied a salient in our lines.  The conduct of these regiments is worthy of all praise.  Their fire was delivered with accuracy and deliberation, and with the oblique fire of the artillery and infantry adjacent caused great destruction in the enemy’s ranks which broke and fled pursued by a portion of the 59th Virginia regiment, leaving the ground covered with dead and wounded.

The 46th Virginia regiment was now moved up from the left of Clingman’s Brigade and took up position on the right of the detachment from the 23rd South Carolina regiment.  The enemy again attacked with a heavy force the right of Wise’s Brigade and were gallantly repulsed leaving about (60) sixty prisoners behind.

The 59th Alabama regiment of Gracie’s Brigade having arrived from Swift Creek was placed on the left of Johnson’s Brigade, thus filling sufficiently it was believed the interval in the retired part of the line between Wise’s and Johnson’s brigades.

The 41st Alabama regiment and the 23rd Alabama Battalion of Gracie’s Brigade commanded by Col. Stansel were ordered to our

breastworks on the Jerusalem Plank Road.  The 43rd Alabama regiment (of Gracie’s Brigade) was now held in reserve on the rail-road near Spring Garden.  For a third attack the enemy massed a large force under the brow of a hill in front of Wise’s Brigade.  At 6 ½ P.M. supported by a furious artillery fire, they made a vigorous charge in columns of regiments four lines deep, upon the salient occupied by Wise’s Brigade and on the troops to the right of the salient.  Miller’s, Young’s, and Blount’s batteries all played handsomely upon the advancing column.  Our troops stood firm and poured a destructive fire upon the enemy’s lines.  The struggle was protracted.  The weight of the enemy’s forces, gallantly repulsed with great slaughter at some parts of Wise’s lines, still bore down heavily at others.  After a severe contest at our very breastworks, the enemy succeeded in gaining possession of a portion of our line and rushing over our parapets, in great strength flanked our troops in the trenches.  The detachment from the 23rd South Carolina regiment and nearly the whole of Wise’s Brigade were driven from their works.

The 59th Alabama regiment on the left of Johnson’s Brigade with the exception of the right company was driven back, after suffering considerable loss.  Here the advance towards the right of our line was stayed by the fire of Blount’s Battery and the troops supporting it.

The manner in which this Battery was served, elicited…

[Transcriber’s Note: About one half of the next page is blank.  A portion of the report appears to be missing.]

…were driven in by the enemy, but our artillery and the 18th and 26th South Carolina regiments promptly repulsed them, except about 300 who sought shelter in the ravine on that part of our front.  A raking fire of one of Slaten’s guns followed by the fire of two companies moved forward from our lines by Brigadier General Elliott promptly drove them from their cover.

About 6 ½ o’clock in the evening the enemy appeared in line of battle on the north-side of Baxter road, in front of Pegram’s Battery of four guns.  A conflict immediately commenced with the artillery and infantry.  Five colors were counted in this part of the enemy’s line.  They gained the cover of the hill and established trenches in the edge of the woods some two-hundred yards in front of Ransom’s Brigade.  At the same time about one brigade on the Southside of the Baxter Road charged up to within about 100 yards of

our lines, exposed to nine rounds of canister, and the direct and flank fire from Elliott’s Brigade, which inflicted severe losses and drove them back in disorder.  They subsequently pushed forward and established at night their line of skirmishers on the Westside of Taylor’s Creek.  During the night my command was relieved by Field’s Division and part of Kershaw’s.

It will be observed that during the 16th and 17th of June my command had four distinct engagements in which it repulsed repeated assaults of the enemy’s forces massed in several lines and in superior numbers, upon the salient points of my lines, and inflicted remarkably heavy losses upon them in killed, wounded and captured.

On the 18th of June two additional assaults on our new position were repulsed with considerable damage to the enemy and small loss to ourselves.  No accurate or reliable estimate can be formed of the enemy’s losses in my front.  Northern accounts place their whole losses to include the 17th of June, to which time we opposed them with two divisions alone, at an aggregate of (8000), and refer to the conflicts of the 16th and 17th of June as [samples of?] battles unparalleled in modern Europe in carnage, in desperate assaults, and in the steady valor of the troops.  The whole Army of the Potomac was thus held at bay and foiled in a grand movement while a strong defensive position was secured for our troops.  Of the gallantry of our men, I need not say more.  To my brigade commanders, Brigadier Generals A. Gracie and S. Elliott and Colonels P.R. Page, Jonathan S. Fulton, P.F. Faison and…

[Transcriber’s Note: No more text is found in this report.  A table of casualties, displayed below, finishes the report.]

Officers

Enlisted Men

Total

Aggregate

Command

Killed

Wounded

Missing

Killed

Wounded

Missing

Killed

Wounded

Missing

Johnson’s Brig

1

6

33

14

52

254

15

58

287

360

Elliott’s Brig

6

10

2

11

134

16

17

144

18

179

Gracie’s Brig

1

8

3

11

90

54

12

98

57

167

Ransom’s Brig

4

23

7

38

260

160

42

283

167

492

Wise’s Brig

4

17

3

31

137

78

35

154

81

270

64th Ga Regt

0

1

0

3

9

31

3

10

31

44

Total

16

65

48

108

682

593

124

747

641

1512

Source:

  1. NARA RG 109, Entry 66, Box 106: War Department Collection of Confederate Records, General Records of the Government of the CSA, Battle Reports 1862-1864: Bushrod Johnson’s Report on Petersburg Assaults June 15-18, 1864

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary Kathryn Kozy June 29, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Have a 3rd-g-grandfather, John W. Shiver, who was (according to his Confederate service record and his wife’s widow’s pension), wounded at the Battle of Petersburg on 17 Jun 1864 and captured. Another statement in these documents states that he was killed on 23 Jun 1864. He was a Private in Co. D, 64th Regiment, GA Vol. Infantry, Army of Northern VA, C.S.A. (they were out of Dougherty County, Georgia). I suspect that what happened is that he was wounded and captured during the part mentioned above: “The enemy continued to advance firing along our breast-works to Battery No 16 when they captured the two other guns of Slaten’s Battery, Ransom’s Brigade having retired, after having suffered some losses in the 24th North Carolina and considerable losses in the 64th Georgia regiment.”

My question, based on this report, is whether the 64th fought under Wise’s Brigade or if they were separate. In the report, it appears to be the latter is the case, but I know that after the Battle of Olustee in Florida, the 64th was reassigned to the Army of Virginia. I’m going to be visiting Petersburg next week and am trying to figure out where his company would have been during the battle.

Thanks for any help you can give me. 🙂

Mary Kathryn

Brett Schulte June 30, 2016 at 10:44 am

Mary Kathryn,

The 64th Georgia has a page on my site: http://www.beyondthecrater.com/resources/units/conf-u/conf-inf/ga-inf/64th-georgia-infantry/

During the First Offensive (June 15-18, 1864), the unit was part of Johnson’s Brigade of hoke’s Division, rather than a part of wise’s Brigade. Due to the chaotic nature of the fighting, Confederate units were thrown in wherever they would do the most good as they arrived. So while the 64th Georgia did fight near Wise’s Brigade during this time frame, they weren’t really a part of Wise’s Brigade, if that makes sense.

Brett

Mary Kathryn Kozy June 30, 2016 at 11:00 am

It does! Thanks so much for your help. I figured it was pretty chaotic and I imagine that the situation changed moment-by-moment as the battle progressed. I will use that information when I get to the battlefield.

Thanks again!
Mary Kathryn

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