The Second Battle of Petersburg, Day 4: June 18, 1864
Brief Summary: The previous two days of battle had seen uncoordinated Union attacks made by the Second Corps (June 16) and the Ninth Corps (June 17), and Beauregard’s Confederates from the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia had just been able to fend them off. Meade attempted to stage a more coordinated assault on June 18, 1864, the fourth day of the Second Battle of Petersburg. Between dawn and 2 pm, all four Federal corps along the lines facing Petersburg cautiously moved forward to establish Beauregard’s new line. During that time, the First Corps divisions of Kershaw and Field had arrived, the first veterans of the Army of Northern Virginia to make their appearance in front of Petersburg. Beauregard stationed them to the right, extending his line in a similar manner to the Union commanders when they had received reinforcements.
Once the new Confederate line had been found and scouted, Meade ordered an attack around 3 pm. Three disjointed attacks occurred over the next three hours or so. Warren’s Fifth Corps started things off, and Gettysburg hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was severely wounded, thought at the time to be mortally so. See the book focusing on this charge below for further reading. The next attack, by the Second Corps, featured the doomed famous charge by the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery. This massive regiment, now serving as infantry, charged unsupported, and lost over 600 out of over 900 men, the largest single day’s loss by one regiment in the entire Civil War. See the two newspaper articles below from the Charleston News and Courier for further details. Ninth Corps attacks by Willcox ended the day’s fighting, and the battle.
Grant would make the decision to initiate the Siege of Petersburg on June 19, 1864. The First Offensive against Petersburg had ended. More violence would break out again in a few days during Grant’s Second Offensive. A hitherto average Confederate division commander, William “Little Billy” Mahone, would make the first of many devastating attacks during the Siege of Petersburg at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road on June 22, 1864…
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.
- 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.
- Chamberlain at Petersburg: “The Charge at Fort Hell, June 18,1864”: This microtactical history of the Gettysburg hero’s charge at Petersburg is one of the most specific books written about any combat at Petersburg. The book also covers events leading up to June 18, 1864 in the Union Fifth Corps.
- This article from Maine at War covers the famous charge of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery regiment, which suffered the greatest single day loss of any regiment in the entire Civil War.
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
- NP: July 18, 1897 Charleston (SC) News and Courier: The First Maine Heavy Artillery at Petersburg, June 18
- NP: July 25, 1897 Charleston (SC) News and Courier: The Slaughter at Petersburg, June 18, 1864
- MHSM Papers V5: The Failure to Take Petersburg on June 16-18, 1864 by John C. Ropes
- NP: July 5, 1864 Batavia (NY) Republican Advocate: From the 8th N.Y. Artillery
- LT: June 19, 1864 Philip W. Pringle
- Henry F. Charles Memoirs: The Second Battle of Petersburg – June 18, 1864
- UPR: Report of Major General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Johnson’s division, of operations June 16-18, 1864
If you have other resources you’ve found useful, feel free to post them in the comments section.