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150 Years Ago Today: Battle of Peebles Farm: September 30, 1864

The Battle of Peebles Farm:

September 30, 1864

Note: Click to see maps of the Battle of Peebles Farm, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary: As Benjamin Butler’s Army of the James hammered away at the scant Confederate forces from the Department of Richmond and First Corps defending Richmond on September 29, Ulysses S. Grant held George Meade’s Army of the Potomac in readiness near Petersburg, ready to launch an attack at the far opposite end of the line if the Confederates were shown to have weakened their defenses there to save Richmond.  Although Meade closely observed on the 29th, he really didn’t see anything notable which would guarantee an attack would succeed.

Grant proceeded anyway.  On September 30, 1864, 150 years ago today, Meade launched a strike force of almost 25,000 men against the Confederate right near the Boydton Plank Road.  His force was composed of portions of the Fifth and Ninth Corps, along with Gregg’s cavalry division.  Facing Warren (Fifth Corps commander) and Parke (Ninth Corps commander) were two Confederate lines of entrenchements.  The first, along the Squirrel Level Road, was lightly defended by three regiments of Confederate cavalry, although Meade didn’t know this at the time.  The Confederate infantry which had been guarding this line had been pulled out as the Confederates reshuffled forces in an attempt to save Richmond from capture. The main Confederate line nearer Boydton Plank Road was better defended.



Grant’s Plan


Despite the weakness of the Confederate force, Warren’s advance from Globe Tavern, capture during the Fourth offensive back in mid-August 1864, was tepid.  When Griffin’s Division launched an assault on Fort Archer on the Squirrel Level line, though, it fell quickly.  Now two divisions of the Ninth Corps under Parke took the lead and advanced to the Peebles and Pegram farms.  Parke seems to have handled his troops rather poorly at this point, leaving some back at Pegram’s Farm and sending others north in a search for more Confederates to fight.



September 30, 1864: 1 PM

The fall of Fort Archer on the Squirrel Level line caused a portion of Wilcox’s Division, earmarked for the Richmond rescue operation, to reverse course and head back to the Boydton Plank Road lines.  Heth’s Division was also mobilized for a fierce counterattack.  Hampton’s Confederate cavalry had also reformed on the Confederate right.  As they had in offensives past, the Confederates swooped down on the disorganized and scattered Ninth Corps, capturing more than 1,000 prisoners at minimal cost to their own men.  Only a determined stand by a Ninth Corps brigade at Pegram’s Farm saved the day from becoming a complete disaster for the Ninth Corps.


September 30, 1864: 5 PM

That night, Meade pulled back to a less advanced line near Peebles Farm, left one brigade near Pegram’s Farm as a sort of early warning system, and connected his right via skirmish line to the more permanent Union defenses near Globe Tavern.  The fighting was done for September 30, but it would spill into October before the Battle of Peebles Farm was finished.  More on that tomorrow…


September 30, 1864: End of Day

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