Selected Samples from the Siege of Petersburg Online: June 14, 1864
Description: Here’s another article from the Papers of the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts penned by Meade ADC Theodore Lyman. Unlike his earlier article covering the operations of June 5-15, 1864, this one focuses in more closely on the crucial days covering the crossing of the James River and the early attempts by Baldy Smith and Winfield Scott Hancock to capture Petersburg. The march to the James started late on June 12 and into June 13, 1864. Engineers were busy preparing the approaches to the “to be constructed” pontoon bridge across the James River. The multitude of small things that go into a successful march were being put into motion 150 years ago today. Grant’s army would soon be knocking at the gates of Petersburg.
Description: In a display of how different 1864 was from our modern day 24 hour news cycle, it took until June 16, the second day of the battle of Petersburg, before the Examiner and the other Richmond papers could report on the happenings of June 14: “But by night it was pretty definitely ascertained that Grant, or at least the greater portion of his army, had crossed over to the Southside. We heard of no official intelligence of this, but, from information we received last night, we see no reason to doubt it. Westover, where General Lee, in his despatch above, states the enemy to have moved, is immediately on the James river, not far from Bermuda Hundred, where Butler is, and the river at that point is narrow and well situated for the laying down of pontoons. It is likely he crossed his forces over here, and effected a junction with Butler. At any rate, it was generally reported and believed last night that the enemy was moving on Petersburg”.
Description: The Inquirer could, by June 16, report on Grant’s prior movements without fear of giving Lee too much information on current movements. They even managed to get what amounts to a quote from key player Grant as of June 14, 1864: “Our forces will commence crossing the James River to-day. The enemy show no signs of yet having brought troops to the south side of Richmond. Our movement from Cold Harbor to the James River has been made with great celerity, and so far without loss or accident.” Grant hadn’t counted on Beauregard’s upcoming and surprising display of tenacity and ability in holding on to the Cockade City.