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…
To Learn More, Read the Following:
- The Petersburg Campaign Volume 1: The Eastern Front Battles June-August 1864: Chapter 2 of the book covers the Second battle of Petersburg. June 17 is described briefly from pages 90 to 96. Maps start on opage 90 and the text starts a few pages later. Bryce Suderow wrote this brief summary because Ed Bearss did not write a full length monogrpah on the attacks of this day. Day 3 of the Second Battle of Petersburg would make an excellent topic for a Civil War magazine article.
- 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.
- John Hoptak has a nice post up on the 48th Pennsylvania’s June 17 assault at 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: June 23, 1864 Raleigh Confederate: Ransom’s Brigade at Second Petersburg
- LT: June 17, 1864 Theodore Lyman
- NP: July 14, 1864 Pittston (PA) Gazette: Interesting Letter 2nd Pa Provisional Heavy Artillery
- NP: August 27, 1864 Quincy Patriot: Camp of 56th [Mass] Reg.
- NP: June 20, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: The Attack on Petersburg, June 15-18
If you have other resources you’ve found useful, feel free to post them in the comments section.