THE LATE ASSAULT AND THE HEROIC MARTYRS WHO FELL.
The [Petersburg] Christian Sun, a most excellent religious paper published in this city by the Rev. Wm. B. Wellons, and from whose columns we have frequently been enabled to interest the readers of the Express, has in its issue of yesterday [June 16, 1864], an account of the late assault upon our breastworks1, and interesting biographical sketches of the gallant dead, which we subjoin. It will be read with melancholy interest by our patrons:
The heroism and daring bravery displayed by our citizen soldiers in defence of their City, on Thursday, the 9th [of June, 1864], has received, as it well deserved, the praise and admiration of all. The names of those who fell will be a noted placed when this generation shall have passed away, and many a tale will be told to the young in years to come, how the Militia of Petersburg [Fletcher Archer’s 3rd Battalion Virginia Reserves] poured out their life’s warm blood in defence of their homes, their altars, their wives, their children, their mothers and sisters. We append the names and characters of these noble defenders, that their deeds of valor and heroic sacrifice may be preserved in the files of the religious as well as the secular press.
Rives’ Farm is in Prince George County, about one and a half miles from the corporation limits, on the Petersburg and Jerusalem Plank Road, and about one mile from Blandford Cemetery, where repose the ashes of the ancestors of many who fought so gallantly to drive back the barbarian invaders.
WILLIAM C. BANNISTER,
who fell shot through the head, and died instantly, was retiring from the breastworks, and had reached a valley a hundred yards or more in the rear, when he met his fate. He was about 55 years of age, belonged to one of the oldest and best families of the State, and was, perhaps, one of the best types of the old Virginia gentleman that the city afforded. He had been for many years one of the officers of the Exchange Bank and had been brought in contact with all the business men of the city and surrounding country. So affable was he in his manners, and so correct was he in his transactions, that he naturally won the esteem and confidence of all who knew him. He had an interesting family, was rather deaf, and at his age might have been excused from taking his place in the ranks, and we learn, was even entreated by some of his family not to do so; but his patriotism would not allow him to remain in the rear when the enemy threatened his home, and to the front he marched with the ardor of a youth, and nobly performed his part, until ordered to retire by the officers in command. He left his interesting family in the morning, walked to the breastworks, and was brought back in the afternoon cold in death. The deceased had long been a pattern of strict morality, and was a regular attendant on the services, if not a communicant in the Protestant Episcopal Church.
GEORGE B. JONES,
was a little above 40 years of age, a Druggist by profession, well educated, and said to be one of the best Chemists in the State. He gave close attention to his business, and was a model of correctness in his transactions with others. Gentle as a woman in his disposition, agreeable in his manners and warm in his friendship. He was devotedly attached to his family, being blessed with a wife and seven children, who occupied a retired and comfortable home beyond the noisy and bustling part of the city. But more than this, he was a devoted Christian—a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and a pillar in the Washington Street congregation. Little did his dear and his friends suppose when he left home that morning, musket in hand and cartridge box to his side, reaching the breastworks just before the battle opened, that he would return lifeless. But such was the will of Providence. He was shot in the head, at the breastworks, and, it is presumed, died without speaking thereafter. His memory will long be precious.
JOHN H. FRIEND.
A native of the City, well known to all the people as a generous hearted, kind-spirited and enterprising citizen, late one of the Proprietors of Jarratt’s Hotel, fought gallantly in the first repulse of the enemy, leaping over the breastworks and capturing the horse of one of the retreating Vandals, and was killed when the force had been flanked, by a ball through the head. A wife, one son, and several family connections for whom he had acted a father’s part, are greatly bereaved in his death. He was about 40 years of age, and had been exempt from regular service on account of physical disability, but hesitated not, when his home was invaded, to take his place in the ranks and perform faithfully his part. The loss of this patriotic man is deeply deplored.
son of the late Branch T. Hurt, long a prominent merchant of the city, was a youth of some seventeen years of age. Manly in his deportment, dignified in his demeanor, there was much to hope for in the future in him. But alas! how soon earthly prospects fade. He had just commenced to read Law, and was acting as Lieutenant in a company of reserves. During the fight he was despatched by the General commanding to bring up reinforcements, and on his return found the enemy inside our breastworks, and he was shot from his horse, and fell by the roadside, dead. A widowed mother and sisters find consolation in his manly virtues, and his strictness in performing religious duties. Though he had never become a communicant in the church, or mad an open profession of religion, yet they mourn not as those without hope. The name of this gallant young man will be honored in years to come.
a native of Switzerland, and Professor of Modern Languages in the Petersburg Female College, had not long been a resident of the city, but volunteered to defend his adopted home. No man fought with more bravery and determination; indeed, he distinguished himself for his daring courage, loading and firing with the activity and coolness of a trained veteran. He feel near the breastworks mortally wounded, and died after a few struggles. His age was about 35 or 40, and he leaves a family bereaved. Prof. Staubly was a regular attendant of the Presbyterian Church, but we believe was not a full communicant.—The name of this adopted citizen and his heroic action in the battle of Thursday [June 9, 1864], will be recorded as an interesting part of its history.
HENRY A. BLANES.
No sterner, purer man and true patriot gave his life in defence of his home. He was in his 53d year, but went into camp at once when duty called. Being a man of few words and unpretending in his appearance, only those who knew him best, properly estimated his great worth. A native of Charles City county, he came to this city when a boy; at manhood became a merchant tailor, and attended strictly to his business, making a reputation for honesty and straightforward dealing, which any man might envy, and in advanced life it might well be expected that his death would create a vacuum in social and business circles not easily supplied. When the raiders charged our breastworks, he stood up boldly before them, and fired his piece again and again, seeming to be a stranger to fear. A minnie ball passed through his arm, and he was ordered to the rear. Feeling faint from the loss of blood and fatigue, he sat down to rest, and soon our forces were flanked, and he saw mounted men hurrying toward him. He started to walk off, and was shot through the body, and soon fell into a ditch, and was passed over by the marauders as dead. In this place he was found and brought to his home. His wounds were mortal—he was conscious of it—called his wife and children around, bade them farewell—exhorted them to meet him in Heaven—told them he had no fears as to the future—left a message for an absent son, now a prisoner in the hands of the enemy at Point Lookout, and then breathed his last in peace. The deceased had been for many years an exemplary member of the Washington Street Methodist Episcopal Church, and his loss will be deeply felt by his Church as well as his family.
GUY G. JOHNSON,
was more than 50 years of age, and had only a few days previous to the fight resigned the position of Adjutant to the Militia Regiment; but when he heard the enemy was advancing, hurried to join his old comrades in the struggle, and stood manfully at his post until a retreat was ordered, when he fell back, and had seemingly made good his escape, when he was discovered by a Yankee sharpshooter and fired upon, the ball entering his body, and mortally wounding him. He was brought home and died that night, fully conscious from the first that he could not survive—He was a native of a New England State, but had lived in Petersburg for nearly thirty years past. All his family connections were at the North, but he preferred to stay here and share the fate of those who had been his associates in manhood’s prime. And nobly did he do his part.—He had been for several years a communicant in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and died trusting in the merits of Christ’s blood for redemption.
WILLIAM H. HARDEE
was a native of North Carolina, but had been for many years a prominent merchant in this city, where he had made many warm and devoted friends. He was about 50 years of age. On the morning of the fight he seemed to be impressed with the thought that some important event was just before him, and bade his only daughter adieu with marked expressions of affection, and hurried to the conflict. A shell from the enemy’s gun tore away his right foot, and he was left on the field some hours before assistance could be obtained. He was brought home and his leg amputated, but he never rallied, and after suffering a day and night, passed into the valley and shadow of death. In the social and business circles of the city, he will be greatly missed; and the large concourse of persons who attended his funeral obsequies at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church told plainly how much he was loved.
a gallant youth from Etricks, on the opposite side of the Appomattox [River], with no pecuniary interest to defend, and but few social ties to bind him to the city, fought as earnestly and with as much ardor as any at the breastworks. He fell at his post, a ball passing through his head.
a brother to the before named, was shot some time during the fight, escaped in the retreat to the woods, and their [sic] died, not being discovered until two or three days after. The father of these boys, was also in the battle, and was carried off a prisoner. Their deeds of patriotism and valor will not soon be forgotten.
To these might be added the names of Geo. R. Conway and William Daniel, of Prince George, who fell in the fight, and also the name of E. C. Brown, of Albemarle, but we cannot protract this article.
The brave acts of the wounded and captured are praised and admired by all, but any farther notice of them must be deferred. May the Lord spare our city any additional sacrifices of precious blood.
In after years, the graves of the heroic defenders of Petersburg, will be sacred spots, and many a pilgrimage will be made to old Blandford Cemetery to look upon the places where the remains of patriots repose.2
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: On June 9, 1864, Benjamin Butler sent a combined arms force of infantry under Quincy Gillmore and cavalry under August Kautz to surprise Petersburg from the east and south. The cavalry was opposed by the Petersburg militia, a unit which lost many local Petersburg men that day. The Petersburg papers of mid-June 1864 contain many accounts of the June 9, 1864 First Battle of Petersburg, aka The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, as well as its aftermath. ↩
- “The Late Assault and the Heroic Martyrs Who Fell.” The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA). June 17, 1864, p. 1 col. 3-4 ↩