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150 Years Ago Today: Battle of Peebles Farm: October 2, 1864

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

Brief Summary: The third and final day of fighting at the Battle of Peebles Farm occurred on October 2, 1864, 150 years ago today.  Prior to this little known third day at Peebles Farm, the Siege of Petersburg saw a “first” in military history on the late afternoon of October 1: the grand tactical movement of troops by rail.  Those troops belonged to Gershom Mott’s Third Division, Second Corps, almost all former members of the Third Corps, disbanded earlier in 1864 prior to the start of the Overland Campaign.

Mott’s men were moved to the front as reinforcements for the Fifth and Ninth Corps divisions which had led the original attack two days earlier.  Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade’s intention was to use these reinforcements to resume the offensive, an offensive which had ground down due in part to the cautious nature of corps commanders Warren and Parke.  However, manmade delays prevented Mott’s men from getting into position for an attack until it was nearly dark.  The offensive movement Meade had planned for October 1 was thus pushed to October 2.

After Mott’s Division and other reinforcements reached the front near Peebles Farm, half of the entire Army of the Potomac was now a part of the strike force probing in the direction of the Boydton Plank Road and Southside Railroad.  Meade was determined to make even more headway southwest of Petersburg, and he hoped to catch the Confederates outside of their breastworks.  He ordered Mott’s division of the Second Corps to flank the Confederate forces at Pegram’s Farm while Parke’s Nonth Corps hit them head on, with Warren to the right also attacking straight ahead.   Diversions were scheduled for other parts of the extended lines, and Gregg’s cavalry was expected to hold of Hampton’s probing Confederate troopers on the Union far left.


Map of the October 2 Fighting at Peebles Farm from Richmond Redeemed, 2nd Edition, page 382

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The Union troops reached and took Pegram’s Farm with little opposition, confusing the Union commanders.  Where were the Confederates?  After advancing cautiously to find an answer for this question all along the line, it was discovered that the Confederates had retreated to their main line of works along the Boydton Plank Road.  By late morning, it had become apparent that Meade would find no Confederates to fight in the open field.  If he wanted to assault, it would be against breastworks, and he wanted no part of that.  Richard Sommers suggests that Meade probably did not attempt to get onto the Confederate right flank on the Boydton Plank Road because he feared the Confederate counterattack which was bound to happen in the aftermath of such an action.

In mid-afternoon, Parke ordered out some reconnaissance forces to ascertain Confederate strength and positions in their main fortifications, provoking the heaviest infantry fighting on October 2. A probe by one brigade, Zinn’s, accomplished little, and the battle degenerated into widespread skirmishing.  Ultimately, the Union forces pulled back slightly, creating permanent works on Pegram’s Farm as well as Peebles’ Farm. The Fifth Offensive on the Army of the Potomac’s front was over, though two battles would flare on the Darbytown Road in Benjamin Butler’s sector before the Fifth Offensive ended entirely in mid-October 1864.

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