NP: June 16, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express: From the Petersburg Front, June 15, 1864

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in June 1864

SOPO Editor’s Note: I am “missing” some issues of The Daily Express (Petersburg, Va) from the microfilm of this paper.  As a result, I am trying to utilize other papers to “fill in” as much of those missing days as possible.  In addition, I will be publishing these reprinted versions under the Express label rather than under the paper in which the reprint occurs.  If you know of any papers which contain reprinted material from the Petersburg Express for the missing days listed here, please Contact Us.

From the Petersburg Express [of the] 16th [of June, 1864].

From the Front—The Enemy in Force.

The enemy are determined to annoy our people with all the means and appliances at their command, if they cannot effect our subjugation.  At this time they are threatening a half dozen or more localities in Virginia, requiring on the part of the Confederates the exercise of all the vigilance necessary to watch closely the movements of a crafty and insidious foe.  Our own immediate vicinity was again menaced yesterday [June 15, 1864], and at several points by such a show of force, that it was no doubt the intention of the enemy to have effected an entrance into the city, had he been permitted to do so.

At early dawn [on June 15, 1864] our citizens were aroused by the discharge of artillery, the sound of each cannon being distinctly heard here, and coming from the direction of the City Point road.  At seven o’clock [am], it was ascertained that the enemy was advancing in force, and every man able to shoulder a musket, did so, and hastened to the fortifications.

We learned last evening, that the main point of attack, was on the City Point Road, at a distance of six or seven miles from town.  At an early hour the enemy advanced with at least seven regiments of infantry, and one of cavalry, upon some breastworks thrown up hastily during Tuesday night at Baylor’s Farm, by Col. [Dennis D.] Ferrebee, of the 4th N[orth]. C[arolina]. Cavalry.  They were held in check by Col. Ferrebee’s men and Graham’s (Petersburg) Battery, for four hours, who fought bravely, but were finally compelled to fall back before overwhelming numbers.  Ferrebee’s men inflicted serious loss upon the enemy, and Graham’s Battery shelled the masses of his men with admirable effect.  Our men retired in good order, and sustained but few casualties during the fight.  It is stated that Graham lost one gun, in consequence of the horses being disabled, but we know not that this is correct.1

Image of 22nd USCT pulling a captured Napoleon on June 15, 1864 at Baylor's Farm.

Soldiers of the 22nd USCT celebrate as they drag a Napoleon captured from Graham’s Petersburg VA Artillery at Baylor’s Farm on June 15, 1864. (July 9, 1864 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

The enemy demonstrated at other points along our lines but his attacks were feeble and easily repulsed.2

It is stated that our sharpshooters did admirable execution, picking the enemy off wherever he showed himself, and in some instances at a distance which appeared almost incredible.  It is estimated that this effective arm of our service, placed not less than sixty Yankees hors du combat along our lines yesterday [June 15, 1864, prior to Smith’s main arttack].

A few prisoners were taken.  Among the number was a fellow who rode into our lines at full speed, minus his cap.  He was mounted upon a blooded steed, no doubt stolen from some Virginia gentleman, in one of the recent raids, and could not rein his animal up.  In fact, the fellow was a poor rider, and let go the bridle, and hung on to the pommel of the saddle with as much tenacity as a drowning man would a drifting log.  Some of the prisoners stated that they belonged to Burnside’s corps, and asserted also that Burnside, the barber, was at City Point with his whole corps.  We presume it is not very formidable, since it was pressed into service on the very second day of Grant’s fearful encounter with Gen. Lee, and has been engaged ever since.  Burnside may probably expect to win some laurels around Petersburg, but we can assure him in advance that he will pay dearly for them.  Our authorities are more than ever alive to the importance of defending Petersburg, and should the invaders renew their attempts this morning, as it is probable they will, a very different reception awaits them to any which has been heretofore extended.3

FROM CHESTERFIELD.4

We understand that the enemy withdrew all their white Yankees from Gen. Beauregard’s front in Chesterfield Tuesday night, and substituted negro Yankees in their stead.  Yesterday morning [June 15, 1864] our pickets over there were surprised when the day dawned, to find themselves confronted by soldiers purely of African ‘scent.  Be it so.  If the elegant, refined and fastidious Butler, desires to achieve the reputation of a warrior with such troops, it is not in our power to prevent him, however much we may object.  But when the actual conflict does come, it will be a sad day for those sable sons of Mars, and their burly leader, too, if he should take the field.5

[SOPO Editor’s Note: I want to reiterate what the Express account is about to say below.  Everything above this point was written at 5 pm on the afternoon of June 15, 1864 to make it ready for publication in this issue of the newspaper.  As you are about to see, Baldy Smith’s Eighteenth Corps FINALLY launched attacks late in the day.  Everything below this point covers those main assaults against the portion of the Dimmock Line east of Petersburg.]

LATER—DESPERATE FIGHTING—THE ENEMY CHARGE AND TAKE A PORTION OF OUR BREASTWORKS.

The above account was written at 5 p. m., yesterday afternoon [June 15, 1864], when comparative quiet had prevailed along our lines for two hours or more, and it was the general impression that the fighting had ceased for the day.  In this our troops were mistaken, for it was ascertained before dark, that the enemy had massed a very heavy force on our left—especially on the City Point and Prince George Court House roads.

At sunset the enemy charged our batteries commanding these roads, coming up in line of battle six and seven columns deep.  The brunt of the assault was sustained by the 26th [Virginia] and 46th [Virginia] regiments, of Wise’s Brigade, and Sturdivant’s Battery [Albemarle VA Artillery] of four guns.

Three furious assaults were made, the enemy coming up with a yell, and making the most determined efforts to carry the works.  Our troops received them with a terrific volley each time, sending the columns back, broken and discomfited.  The fourth assault was made by such overwhelming number, that our forces found it impossible to resist the pressure, and were compelled to give way.  The enemy now poured over the works in streams, captured three of our pieces, and turning the guns on our men, opened upon them an enfilading fire, which caused them to leave precipitately.  The guns captured belonged to Sturdivant’s Battery, and we regret to hear, that Capt. [Nathaniel A.] S[turdivant]. himself was captured, and two of his Lieutenant’s wounded, both of whom fell into the enemy’s hands.  The gallant manner in which this Battery was fought up to the last moment, is the theme of praise on every tongue.  All present with whom we have conversed, say that Captain S. and his men stood up manfully to their work, and the last discharge was made by Capt. S. almost solitary and alone.6

The city was filled with rumors last night regarding the killed and wounded, but as we could get nothing authentic regarding names, we forbear to give them.  It is generally conceded that Capt. Sturdivant was captured7, and also Maj. [Peter V.] Batte, of the Petersburg City Battalion [aka 44th Virginia Battalion].8 We shall certainly receive more definite information during to-day.

The position gained by the enemy is a most important one.  Our Generals are fully aware of this, and we shall undoubtedly have hot work today [June 16, 1864].9

Officers in the field yesterday [June 15, 1864], estimate the number of the enemy actually seen fronting different portions of our line, at from ten thousand to twelve thousand.  It is believed that this is only the advance column and that Grant has nearly his entire army on this side of the river.  Thirty-odd transports ascended James River with troops yesterday.10

Twenty-three prisoners brought in last night, belonging chiefly to the 148th N[ew]. Y[ork]. regiment, all concur in the statement that Baldy Smith’s entire Army Corps (the 18th,) is on this side of the river again.  Other prisoners, taken yesterday morning [June 14, 1864], state that they belong to Burnsides Corps.11

A FIGHT ON THE BAXTER ROAD—THE ENEMY REPULSED.

An officer engaged, furnished us at a late hour last night, with a brief account of an engagement which occurred on the Baxter Road yesterday [June 15, 1864], about three miles from this city.  It seems the enemy appeared on this road near the residence of Col. Avery about twelve o’clock.  Immediately in front of Battery No. 16 was stationed the Macon (Geo.) Light Artillery, Capt. C[harles]. W. Slater [sic, Slaten], supported by a portion of the 34th Virginia Regiment, Wise’s Brigade.  The enemy showed himself at once, driving in our pickets, and planting a battery in front of our works, with which he opened a furious cannonade.  He was promptly and gallantly responded to by the Macon Artillery.  This fire was maintained for two hours, when the enemy charged our works, but after arriving within two hundred yards of the fortifications, was repulsed with considerable loss.  The artillery sent round after round of shell and cannister into their ranks with great rapidity and accuracy, and the work becoming too warm for them, they broke and fled in confusion.12

They were pursued by the 34th [Virginia] for some distance, who poured several galling volleys into their ranks.

Among the dead left on the field in front of this battery was Col. [Simon H.] Mix, of New York [commanding the 3rd New York Cavalry], who seemed to have been instantly killed by a canister shot in the breast.13

About sundown the enemy entirely disappeared from this portion of our lines, and returned to the left.14

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Dan Eyde.

If you are interested in helping us transcribe newspaper articles like the one above, please CONTACT US.

Article Image

An image of a June 16, 1864 Petersburg Express article about the fighting at Second Petersburg, June 15, 1864

Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the opening salvo of the four-day Second Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864.  It is often referred to as the Battle of Baylor’s Farm to distinguish this fight from the other engagements on June 15, 1864.  It featured Hinks’ Division of United States Colored Troops on Union side. I’m sort of shocked the paper did not mention this.  They mention African-American soldiers later in this article, but in connection with Bermuda Hundred, which I do not believe is correct. About 400 men of Ferrebee’s 4th North Carolina Cavalry and a section of two Napoleons from Graham’s Petersburg VA Artillery made up the entirety of the Confederate force.  The 4th USCT and 6th USCT regiments of Duncan’s Brigade had a rough time of it on the Union left, bearing the brunt of the Confederate fire as well as a volley into their backs from the raw 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry (dismounted). On the Union right the 5th USCT and 22nd USCT regiments charged ahead and forced the Confederates to flee.  Graham’s section left one Napoleon behind which was quickly captured by the jubilant men of Hinks’ Division.  See the illustration on this post which shows these men pulling away the captured gun while Ohio troops cheer in the background. Historically Baylor’s Farm was important as it marked the first offensive use of Black troops in the main Eastern Theater.  USCTs had held off Fitz Lee’s Cavalry at Wilson’s Wharf on May 24, 1864, shortly before the Petersburg Campaign began, but it was purely a defensive fight.  For a GREAT explanation of this fight in its entirety, see Will Greene’s book A Campaign of Giants, Volume 1, pp. 84-91, with a map on page 87. Gordon Rhea has a similarly excellent account in his book On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee June 4-15, 1864, pp. 252-261, with maps on pages 252 and 255.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: I was confused at first by this sentence until I read all the way through the article.  This was written around 5 pm, before the main Union attacks of the day.  Eighteenth Corps commander Baldy Smith spent, many would say wasted, the afternoon reconnoitering the Confederate Dimmock Line looking for a weak spot east of Petersburg.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Express had the wrong man.  William F. “Baldy” Smith’s Eighteenth Corps, accompanied by Kautz’s Cavalry Division, all a part of the Army of the James, were the troops the Confederates were facing east of Petersburg on June 15, 1864. The Second Corps came up on the night of the 15th and attacked on June 16. The Ninth Corps finally attacked on June 17, a few days later.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: “Chesterfield” typically refers to the Bermuda Hundred front in these articles.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: I am unaware of any African-American troops on the Bermuda Hundred front on June 15, 1864.  As we’ve already covered, Hinks’ Eighteenth Corps division was fighting at Baylor’s Farm.  Edward Ferrero’s division from the Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac, was busy guarding the trains and was at the rear of the Union armies operating against Petersburg. According to the official itinerary for Ferrero’s Division, they were still north of the Chickahominy River on June 15, 1864, only crossing the next day.  See OR, XL, Pt. 1 (80), pp. 178-218. I suspect this entire paragraph is a mistake.  If you feel I am incorrect and you can point me to a source, please CONTACT US.
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: As stated above this section, it covers the major fighting east of Petersburg along the Dimmock Line where Baldy Smith’s Eighteenth Corps hurled itself against a rag tag set of defenders.  Although Smith waited too long to attack in hindsight his assaults were successful and captured many works along the Dimmock Line. The Confederates were forced to fall back and defend a new line behind Harrison’s Creek on the night of June 15-16, 1864 as they received some reinforcements from Bermuda Hundred.
  7. SOPO Editor’s Note: See Sean Michael Chick’s book The Battle of Petersburg: June 15-18, 1864, p. 140 for confirmation of Sutrdivant’s capture on June 15, 1864.
  8. SOPO Editor’s Note:  See this excerpt from Sean Chick’s book on Second Petersburg for confirmation of Batte’s capture on June 15, 1864.
  9. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Confederates most certainly did “have hot work today” on June 16, 1864.  Winfield Scott Hancock’s Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, was launching multiple furious assaults against the new Harrison Creek line on June 16, 1864 as people were reading this paper.
  10. SOPO Editor’s Note: This is actually a pretty good estimate of Northern forces.  Will Greene, is his first volume of A Campaign of Giants, estimates Smith had some 14,000 or so men available at Petersburg on June 15, 1864.
  11. The 148th New York belonged to Stedman’s (of Fort Stedman fame, unfortunately for him) Second Brigade, Martindale’s Second Division, Eighteenth Corps.  This brigade attacked on the far right of the Union lines near the Appomattox River on June 15, 1864. Iam unsure who the prisoners were from June 14, 1864.  I do not see how they possibly could have been from Burnside’s Ninth Corps, Army of the Potomac.  Perhaps there was some subterfuge going on, or perhaps the paper just simply received bad information.  If you know more here, please CONTACT US.
  12. This fight occurred on the Baxter Road southeast of Petersburg on the Dimmock Line.  Kautz’s Cavalry Division, which earlier had been ordered to the southwest during the Baylor’s Farm fighting that morning, had cut across and come up the Baxter Road to the Dimmock Line near Battery 16.  As mentioned here the Confederates were able to successfully drive off Kautz’s Cavalry and killed Colonel Mix of the 3rd New York Cavalry.  Interestingly, writes Gordon Rhea, Kautz thought his infantry had again deserted him like they did on June 9, 1864 at the First Battle of Petersburg so he left and went back to City Point! Rhea’s account of the fighting is on pages 276-277 of his book On To Richmond, which is also mentioned earlier in my notes with a link to purchase the book.
  13. SOPO Editor’s Note: Mix was leading the First Brigade of Kautz’s Cavalry Division, and he was indeed killed on June 15, 1864 in this little affair.  See Rhea’s book, page 276 for details.
  14. “From the Front.” Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), June 19, 1864, p. 2, col. 2-3, originally printed in The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA), June 16, 1864, page and column(s) unknown.

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