The Second Battle of Petersburg, Day 2: June 16, 1864
Brief Summary: The first day of the Second Battle of Petersburg had seen the Confederate defenders driven back from the Dimmock Line to the western bank of Harrison Creek. Beauregard had received reinforcements through the night, with Hoke’s division arriving first, and then Johnson’s division after Beauregard made the decision to strip the Bermuda Hundred lines to the north of all but skirmishers. Lee would have to plug that hole with his Army of Northern Virginia. Over on the Union side, Hancock’s Second Corps had joined Baldy Smith’s Eighteenth Corps late on the evening of June 15, and the Ninth Corps joined them late on the morning of the 16th. The Union corps kept expanding the line to the left from the anchor of the Appomattox River, the Eighteenth Corps on the right, the Second in the center, and the Ninth on the far leftt. Three Union corps, around 50,000 men, confronted two Confederate divisions, around 14,000 or so.
Hancock had instructed Second Corps division commanders Gibbon and Birney to scout the positions in front of them for a dawn attack, but delays prevented this from occurring until 6 am, well after dawn. Gibbon was on the right, Birney in the center, and as Barlow’s division of the Second Corps showed up after a frustrating march in which they lost their way, they formed the left of the corps. Grant conferred with Meade, asked him to take charge of the assaults, and asked for an attack by 6 pm on the evening of the 16th.
Despite three full corps being present, Hancock’s Second Corps was the only one which made any attacks greater than a demonstration. Batteries 3, 13, and 14 fell after the 6 pm attacks commenced. However, Beauregard’s lines had held, and he even made a few local counterattacks that evening to try to regain some ground. These failed, but kept the tired Union soldiers from getting much needed sleep. The odds were not going to get better than this for the Union forces. Again, more men would arrive on each side on the night of the 16th into the 17th. The third day of the Second Battle of Petersburg would see more attacks…
To Learn More, Read the Following: Books:
- The Petersburg Campaign Volume 1: The Eastern Front Battles June-August 1864: Chapter 2 of the book covers the Second battle of Petersburg. June 16 is described in summary form from pages 86 to 90, because Ed Bearss did not write a detailed monograph on this day’s fighting. In fact, the action on June 16, 1864 would make an excellent article for a Civil War magazine, if anyone is interested in writing it.
- The Petersburg Campaign: Wasted Valor June 15-18, 1864 by Thomas Howe: Howe’s book is part of the H. E. Howard series, and is the only one which focuses specifically and completely on the Second Battle of Petersburg.
Best Posts Freely Available on this site:
- Ulysses S. Grant’s Utter Failure at the Battle of Petersburg: June 15-18, 1864 by Bryce Suderow
- “A Gloom Over the Entire Command”: The 117th New York at the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 15-17, 1864
- UPR: Report of Major General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Johnson’s division, of operations June 16-18, 1864
- NP: July 16, 1864 Irish-American (NY): Letter from the 5th New Hampshire Vols., account of the June 16th fighting
- MHSM Papers V5: The Failure to Take Petersburg on June 16-18, 1864 by John C. Ropes
- LT: June 16, 1864 Theodore Lyman
If you have other resources you’ve found useful, feel free to post them in the comments section.