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150 Years Ago Today: The Second Battle of Petersburg, Day 3: June 17, 1864

The Second Battle of Petersburg, Day 3: June 17, 1864

Brief Summary: Just as June 16 featured mostly attacks by one Union corps, the Second, so June 17 would move the focus to yet another Union corps, the Ninth.  Burnside’s Ninth Corps started early, with Potter’s Division attacking near the Shand House at dawn and scoring a major breakthrough against Johnson’s Tennessee Brigade.  Bushrod Johnson, the division commander, ordered Elliott’s South Carolinians to form a new line to the rear, to which the Confederates retired.  Bryce Suderow believes that Potter’s assault might have taken Petersburg had Ledlie’s Division and a Second Corps division properly supported Potter.

Meanwhile, Warren’s Fifth Corps of the Army of the Potomac arrived in the morning and was in place on Burnside’s left before noon.  This meant the Union now had four corps, the Eighteenth, Second, Ninth, and Fifth, in order from left to right, to face the divisions of Hoke and Johnson on the Confederate side.  The Sixth Corps, however, was landed at Bermuda Hundred and would not factor in the fighting on June 17-18 at Petersburg, where they might have made a difference.

Willcox’s Division of the Ninth Corps made the second attack of the day at 2 pm, also at the Shand House, but the typically tepid support provided by Warren’s Fifth Corps on Willcox’s left helped to guarantee this effort went nowhere.  The last assault of the day was made by the last White division of the Ninth Corps, Ledlie’s.  Ledlie also assaulted near the Shand House at 6 pm, and this effort proved more successful.  A brigade of Willcox and Barlow’s division of the Second Corps provided added support.  In back and forth fighting, Beauregard ordered the brigades of Ransom, Colquitt, Clingman, and Wise to counterattack, which they did successfully.  By 10 pm on the 17th, the fighting was over and the Confederates had regained the lines they had held since after Potter’s dawn attack.  During the night he fell back another 500-800 yards to what would become the “final” Confederate lines east of Petersburg during the Siege.  These new lines tied into the Dimmock line southeast of Petersburg at Battery 25.

Beauregard still held Petersburg, and now Lee’s veterans from the Army of Northern Virginia would begin to arrive in force…


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