Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE SITUATION AT PETERSBURG—ATTACK AND ROUT OF THE RAIDERS.
The Petersburg papers of yesterday report that during all day Thursday the enemy’s sharpshooters were actively engaged, but there were few or no casualties among our troops. There was also considerable artillery firing, but without effect.—The Petersburg papers give the following particulars of the attack and rout of the raiding party:
The enemy was vigorously attacked Tuesday afternoon, about five o’clock, by General Wade Hampton, near Sapponi church, in the county of Dinwiddie, some three miles from Stony Creek depot [illegible] the fight was a hot one, but the enemy were soon driven beyond the church in the direction of Petersburg.
Various efforts were made to evade our cavalry by going around, but the Yankee knowledge of the geography of the country was too limited to save him. He had certain knowledge of but one road that led to Stony Creek depot, and over that the Confederate cavalry exercised absolute control—General Hampton continued to harass and annoy them during the whole of Tuesday night, forcing them back slowly. At daylight Wednesday morning he turned their left flank, and the retreat soon became a rout.
Wilson’s shattered columns now betook themselves to the next most direct route to Grant’s headquarters, which was the road from Dinwiddie Court House to Prince George, and which crosses the railroad a few hundred yards south of Reams’ station.
They little dreamed that they were literally jumping from the frying pan into the fire. At Reams’ the enemy encountered Mahone, who was well posted and strongly supported by General Fitzhugh Lee’s well known fighting brigade of cavalry.
General Mahone at first intended to ambuscade the rascals, and would have done so, but for the miscarriage of an order which allowed the artillery to fire rather prematurely, and thus apprise the retreating hordes of the whereabouts of our forces.
General Mahone’s line of battle was formed with Finnegan’s Floridians on the right, and resting on the old Brunswick stage road, while General Saunders, (now commanding Wilcox’s old brigade;) occupied the left, and rested on the railroad. Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry was on the right flank.
The fight commenced at daylight, and a prisoner informs us that the enemy’s first charge was led by the noted Colonel Speare, who advanced with the remark that “he would ride through those d__d dismounted cavalry, or die in the attempt.” The charge was so gallantly met by both artillery and infantry that the enemy’s column recoiled, and did not again essay to come forward.
Finally, the enemy took position, and commenced fortifying with fence rails, when we sent forward two regiments—the Tenth and Fourteenth Alabama, of Saunders’ brigade—to flank the raiders. We succeeded in flanking one line of the enemy, and capturing them, but the enemy’s second line came up speedily and captured thirty-four of our men. Those were the two Alabama REGIMENTS reported captured. There were but thirty-four men captured, and they were subsequently re-captured.
About 12 o’clock, all things being ready on our side, a general advance was ordered, before which Wilson’s raiders fell back. This was near the residence of Mr. Perkins, on the stage road. Our men continued to press the enemy, however, and [illegible] to fall back, until he reached the road over [illegible] swamp, about four miles from Reams’, where the enemy’s retreat became a rout. Here our infantry halted, but the cavalry continued to press the invaders, and at last accounts were still driving them.
Our victory was complete, and the fruits are glorious. We captured thirty-five United States wagons, thirty-three ambulances, filled with Yankee wounded, eleven beautiful Napoleon guns, about seven hundred negroes, a train of buggies, carriages, etc., stolen from farmers, some mile in length, and a large number of horses. The poor negroes was the most notable feature of this great capture. They comprised every conceivable class of the race, the old and the young; the robust and the infirm; the quick-footed and the halt; the bright mulatto clad in tawdry finery, and the eboshin and the “molungeon,” dressed in homespun; hundreds of children—some of them little picaninnies, with their solitary garment of shirt—scarcely reaching below their hips, and many at their mother’s breast. As an evidence of the condition of those negroes, we would state that two births occurred among them on Wednesday night; one in the bushes on the side of the road, and the other in an ambulance. General Mahone made the Yankee officers officiate in the capacity of accoucheurs and nurses.
The prisoners brought in number four hundred. There are twelve commissioned officers. In this number are not included any taken by General Hampton in the fight near Sapponi Church Tuesday afternoon and night. About one hundred and fifty of the prisoners who have reached here are very badly wounded.
It is reported by several of the prisoners that Colonel Speare was wounded in the fight at Reams’ Wednesday.
The plunder captured from the raiders embraces silver ware, clothing, buggies, barouches, pleasure carriages, harness, etc. Among other articles is a large lot of ladies’ under garments, embracing many elegant chemisets and petticoats.
Many of the prisoners state that their rations gave out three days ago, and that they have been living on hard corn and green apples for the past forty eight hours or more.
The result may be summed up: we have killed, wounded and captured at least twenty five hundred of the enemy, taken fourteen pieces of artillery, two thousand horses, and many ambulances, wagons, etc. The Yankees have destroyed a little rail on two roads, and a depot or two, but they have been made to pay dearly for their whistle.
Our loss is very small from all causes.1
- “The Situation at Petersburg.” Richmond Examiner. July 2, 1864, p. 1 col. 3 ↩