From the Petersburg Express, June 10.
Another Exciting Day.
Daring Attempt of Kautz’s Cavalry to Capture Petersburg–They Charge and take the Breastworks–Their Final Repulse and Defeat.
Yesterday [June 9, 1864] was another day of excitement in our midst, and but little else was done by our citizens than to prepare for the stern realization of the crisis which stared them in the face. It will be recollected that we stated in Wednesday’s [June 8, 1864] issue of the Express, when noticing the skirmishes which occurred on two roads in Prince George county, the evening previous [June 7, 1864], that they were but the precursors of more formidable demonstrations, which in all probablility would soon threaten us. Our opinion proved correct, and the formidable demonstrations were not long delayed.
Yesterday morning [June 9, 1864] at 1 o’clock, three distinct charges of cannon were heard in the direction of the enemy’s whereabouts, and at early dawn our pickets were driven in on City Point and Prince George C. H. roads. It was subsequently ascertained that these movements were but feints to deceive our forces, while the real movement for the surprise and capture of the city was on the Jerusalem Plank road, coming into Petersburg, from a southerly direction. On the first two named roads, the enemy appeared in considerable numbers, as early as seven o’clock, and brisk skirmishing was kept up for some time. At eight o’clock, the Courthouse and engine house bells were rung, to which the citizens responded with their usual alacrity, and manifested every disposition to defend their homes and firesides.
In the meantime, the enemy’s gunboats ascended the Appomattox, and opened a furious fire on Fort Clifton, and at various other points along the river, for the obvious purpose of occupying the attention of our troops in Chesterfield.
At nine o’clock, our pickets on the Jerusalem Plank Road were driven in, and before ten, the enemy showed himself in overwhelming numbers, filling the road, and the woods on both sides. Our breastworks here extended from the residence of Timothy Rives, Eqs,. [sic] on the left, to and across the road and beyond the house of Mr. Wm. A. Gregory, on the right. The enemy manoeuvred for a while, thinking probably that our raw troops would abandon their position without a fight. But never were yankee invaders more mistaken. Our men were made of sterner stuff, and inspired by the cool determination of their Gen. [Raleigh E.] Colston and Col. F[letcher]. H. Archer, maintained their ground like veterans. Finally the enemy ordered a charge, and came down to our breastworks with a yell, their drawn sabres flashing in the sunlight. When within forty paces of the fortifications, the order to fire was given, and the Yankees recoiled, and fell back. A prisoner taken, subsequently, states that in this charge, the notorious [Samuel P.] Speare [sic, Spear] [of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry] led, and that they had forty wounded and two killed. This charge was repeated twice, but with like results, when the enemy resorted to the flanking process, which by reason of his overwhelming numbers, he was enabled to do with much ease. A short time afterwards a regiment came around Rives’ house on our left, another appeared on our right, and a large body came down in front. We had but 170 men all told, and it was impossible with this number to guard centre, right and left, along a length of three quarters of a mile or more. The order was given to retreat, and in a few minutes the enemy had possession of our works, our camp, and were in full pursuit of our men. Couriers had been despasched [sic] for reinforcements, but they did not come up in time to save our fortifications, and many of Petersburg’s best and most gallant sons, fell in the affray, some killed, and others wounded.
The enemy came on in double column, with sabres drawn, until they reached the hill opposite the Water Works, where they planted a cannon for the purpose of shelling the city. They then started down the hill, their advance column actually took possession of a bridge which crosses Powell’s Run at the foot of the Water Works Hill.
They were almost in Petersburg–could see its spires and steeples, and many of the houses on our suburban limits–but again that Divine arm which has been so often outstretched in our behalf, was bared, and our city was saved from the tread of the ruthless invader. Just at this opportune moment, Graham’s Battery [Petersburg Virginia Artillery] reached the Reservoir Hill, unlimbered in an instant, and with a percision [sic] and rapidity which we have have heard spoken of as being almost without percedent [sic], threw into the ranks of the enemy a shower of shell. The missiles of death coming so unexpectedly to the foe, he at first seemed overwhelmed with surprise and halted, neither advancing or retreating. But a minute or two later, another branch of our service made its appearance, which quickly determined the enemy as to the best course for him to pursue. Dearing’s Cavalry Brigade quickly dismounted, and descending the hill with a yell, charged upon the enemy in beautiful style. This was more than they expected (since they had encountered but a few militia in the breastworks, and had advanced nearly a mile, without seeing any regulars) and they instantly wheeled their horses and started back up the hill in great confusion. Graham’s Battery continued to play upon them, and Dearing’s men crossed the ravine and ascended the opposite hill, in gallant style, their carbines keeping up a regular and most musical fusilade upon Kautz and Speare [sic, Spear], and their rapidly retreating followers. Upon reaching the top of the opposite hill, the enemy hoped to make a stand, as here another column, which they had sent on to the city for the purpose of entering by the Blandford Church road, have in sight. But this column had also started on a retrograde movement, for to their surprise too, they had encountered Sturdivant’s Battery [Albemarle Virginia Artillery], which had gone out by another road, and the two columns met and continued their retreat at a speed not at all slackened by the Confederate shell and balls which were falling thick and fast among them. In Jackson’s field, a mile or so from Blandford Church, we captured a handsome cannon and six horses, which the enemy were compelled to abandon in their flight. Our forces pursued them for a few miles, killing and wounding many, and taking some prisoners.
Yesterday afternoon late, our pickets extended for several miles out on the Jerusalem Plank Road, but no signs of the enemy could be seen, and it is supposed they have retreated to the river. This is only supposition, however, and the vandals will bear constant and vigilant watching..
Gen. Kautz was in command of this force, and prisoners taken variously estimate it at from three to five thousand. None put the number at less than three thousand, and some say that it was even more than five thousand. There is no doubt but that it was intended to capture this city, and all the circumstances are strongly corroborative of this view. Thanks to a kind Providence, who has nerved the hearts and strengthened the hands of our brave men, we have been again preserved.
The enemy crept up behind the residence of Mr. Wm. A. Gregory, ascended to the roof, and knocking off the shingles, were enabled not only to obtain an excellent view, and ascertain the number of our forces; but through the openings thus made, fired upon and killed many of our men behind the breastworks.
The residence of Timothy Rives, Esq., fell into the possession of the invaders, after our forces retreated, and the scoundrels not only ransacked, and robbed it of all its valuable contents, but then applied the torch, and burnt it to the ground. They also carried Mr. Rives off a prisoner.
The foregoing are substantially all the facts connected with this bold attempt to capture Petersburg, so far as we have been enabled to collect them, but the saddest part of our statement yet remains unrecorded. Petersburg’s bravest and best blood flowed freely yesterday, and many a household has been plunged into the most inconsolable grief. We witnessed scenes yesterday afternoon, which we trust we may never witness again. All who have been so stricken, have the consolation–a sad one it is true–but nevertheless, it is consoling to know, that those who have been so suddenly snatched from them, fell in a glorious cause. Their memories will ever be held in grateful recollection by our people, and this whole community deeply sympathize with the bereaved. The following is a list of the killed and wounded, which, with great care, we have obtained, and which we believe to be correct:
Prof. Staubly, Professor of French in the Petersburg Female College, formerly of Randolph Macon.
Lieut. Wales Hurt, aged 18, a son of the late Branch T. Hurt, and a gallant youth.
John E. Friend, eldest son of our late Postmaster, Wm. N. Friend, Esq. Deceased leaves a wife and one child.
Wm. C. Bannister, for many years an accountant in the Exchange Bank, and one of our best citizens. He leaves a large family.
George B. Jones, a prominent druggist, of Petersburg, and a most excellent man.
John Crowder, of this city, a noble youth.
George R. Conway, of Prince George.
Wm. Daniels, of Prince George, a youth. He was killed by a bayonet thrust through the breast, and his head was severely mutilated with the butt of a musket.
E. P. Brown, of Sturdivant’s Battery from Albemarle.
Henry A. Blanks, of this city, seriously in body and arm.
Dr. Wm. Bellingham, of Petersburg, a prominent dentist, severely in side.
Wm. Howard, a clerk at the bookstore of Richard Riches.
Wm. A. Meanley, of this city, shot in three places, severely.
Robt. A. Martin, of the firm Martin, Tannahill & Co., shot in the arm.
Wm. T. McCandlish, merchant of this city, shot in the hand and prisoner.
Rich’d A. Harrison, of this city, shot through the hand.
Samuel Hall, hat merchant of Petersburg, shot in the thigh, severely.
H. Hardee, merchant of Petersburg, in the leg below the knee, since amputated.
Lieut. Geo. V. Scott, of this city, severely in the face and leg.
Norbourne T. Page, of this city, in the hand.
Ad’jt Guy G. Johnson, shot in the bowels–feared mortally wounded.
Joseph Cooper, son of Joseph H. Cooper, Esq., of this city, wounded and a prisoner.
A. C. Harrison, of this city, slightly in the arm.
Richard M. Cary, formerly of Hampton, but now of Petersburg, in the thighs in two places–not mortal.
C. L. Bartlett, Professor of Music, in three places, severely.
A. S. Shafer, of Petersburg, in leg, slightly.
Nathan Pritchard, of this city, slightly.
Wm. F. Johnson, of Albemarle, Sturdivant’s Battery, through the head–supposed mortally.
Wm. Griffith, Of Price [sic] George, wounded in both thighs.
James Kane, of Prince George, in the leg.
Rev. Wm. A. Hall, Chaplain Washington New Orleans Artillery.
Professor Carr, of the Petersburg Female College.
James Boisseau, merchant of this city.
James Kerr, of Petersburg.
Timothy Rives of Prince George.
Sam’l Jones, of Prince George–6.
The following prisoners were brought in at an early hour yesterday afternoon:
William Tompkins, Co. F, 11th Penn. Cavalry, commanded by Col. Speare [sic, Spear]; Solomon Saxton, do; John Logan, Co. D same regiment, and Peter White, bugler, of the same regiment.
These men all agree that the expedition was for the purpose of capturing Petersburg. They say that Gen. Kautz was in command, and that Col. Speare [sic, Spear] was along.
They left Bermuda Hundreds [sic] at half-past 10 o’clock, on Wednesday night [June 8, 1864], and crossed on a pontoon bridge three miles this side of City Point.
The [Petersburg] Express of Saturday [June 11, 1864] contains other particulars of interest, from which we glean the following: Rev. Mr. Hall, chaplain, who was taken prisoner, made his escape, and reports thirty prisoners taken by the yankees, nearly all of whom belonged to the militia force and are residents of Petersburg. He recollects only the following: A. M. Keilly [sic], Rev. J. A. Jefferson, J. H. Lachmeyer, John McIlwaine, John E. Smith, Thos. D. Davidson, W. T. Davis, Jas. Kerr, (slightly wounded in side,) John Davidson, J. E. Wolf, Peyton Alfriend, J. B. Stephens, W. T. McCandlish, (slightly wounded,) Richd. McCandlish, Timothy Rives, Thos. H. Daniel and Mr. Chalkley.
The following are missing and supposed to be captured: E. A. Broadnax, Mr. Kinsman, and Jos. Peebles.
We captured two pieces of cannon and eleven horses, and killed thirteen, which were found after the yankees retreated.
Among the citizens of Petersburg reported among the wounded above, two have since died. G. G. Johnston and H. A. Blanks.–W. H. Hardee is in a very precarious condition and his recovery considered doubtful.–Dr. Bellingham, Sam’l Hall, W. A. Manly and G. V. Scott, suffering greatly from their wounds.
Additional wounded–James H. Cooper wounded and in the enemy’s hands, Richard Bagby not dangerous, Willie Howard, arm amputated.
The enemy’s total casualties 150.1
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- “Another Exciting Day.” Raleigh Confederate. June 13, 1864, p. 2 col. 3-4 ↩