NP: June 18, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express: From the Petersburg Front, June 16-17, 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 18th [of June, 1864].

From the Front.

More heavy fighting—The enemy repulsed in Prince George and driven in Chesterfield—casualties in various commands, etc.

Yesterday’s [June 17, 1864] operations were again inaugurated by heavy firing, and this time, the roar of the cannon and the rattle of musketry, came from both sides the [Appomattox] river.1  In Chesterfield, the enemy had presumed upon a temporary evacuation of our breastworks, on Thursday [June 16, 1864] to move up towards the railroad, but yesterday morning [June 17, 1864] early Kershaw and Pickett opened briskly, and soon drove him back to his original position, and re-occupied all our old lines.  The enemy, we hear, did not offer very stout resistance, but the result would have been the same, for we had the men, and those men had the vim to whip four times their numbers.2

In Prince George [County, just east of Petersburg], the enemy showed his same hankering for the position known as Battery No. 16 and vicinity, which covers the Baxter road.  About half past three o’clock [a.m. on Friday, June 17, 1864], as soon as the moon had sunk below the horizon, he appeared in great force, and by creeping stealthily through the thick undergrowth, got within twenty or thirty yards of our breastworks, before he was discovered.3

Image showing Ninth Corps attack near Shand House, June 17, 1864

The attack of Potter’s Division, Ninth Corps, rolled past the Shand House against the Confederate Dimmock Line fortifications on the morning of June 17, 1864. Later Ninth Corps attacks that day would take place in the same general area. (July 16, 1864 Frank Lesllie’s Illustrated Newspaper)

In four lines of battle they rushed forward, and finding our men somewhat unprepared, leaped over the breastworks, and demanded a surrender.  On they poured, but our men gave them battle, and a desperate hand to hand fight ensued.  A small gap having been left on the right, a large number of the enemy quickly availed themselves of this advantage, and our men finding themselves flanked, retreated in some disorder.  Gen. Bushrod Johnston’s old Brigade [led by Colonel John S. Fulton of the 44th Tennessee]4 sustained the chief force of this assault, and lost more heavily than any other.  The entire loss, however, we hear, from all causes, killed wounded and missing, will not aggregate over 100.  A portion of our lines in this vicinity was held by the 26th Virginia, Wise’s Brigade, but the attack here was handsomely repulsed.  We regret to hear that Col. P[owhatan]. R. Page, of the 26th, commanding Brigade, was mortally wounded in this assault.  He was brought to the city, but died in the course of an hour or two after reaching the hospital.  Several other officers were wounded.5

Our men fell back to a second line of works, but a short distance in rear of the first, which had been hastily constructed.

In this assault, we regret to hear that the battery of the Macon (Ga.) Light Artillery was captured.  It consisted of four 12 pounder Napoleon Howitzers.  The men of this battery fought with unsurpassed bravery, and only abandoned their guns after losing 21 horses, which rendered the saving of their guns simply an impossibility.

Along other portions of the lines there was heavy skirmishing yesterday [June 17, 1864] and occasional cannonading, until 3 P. M., when an effort was made to carry Battery No. 17, in close proximity to 16, and all important to a successful occupation of the Baxter Road.  The enemy approached in three lines of battle, but met with such determined opposition, that after two or three attempts, they abandoned the effort.6

ANOTHER REPULSE.

At 4 o’clock, the enemy charged our works on the hill near New Market Race Course; but were signally repulsed.  A participant in this fight informs us that the enemy lost heavy in this charge, leaving many dead and wounded in our front.  Unless recovered last night, the bodies lie there still, the two lines of breastworks being too near for either party to come out, lest they fall by the hands of sharpshooters.7

THE FIGHT RENEWED—IT BECOMES GENERAL—TERRIFIC CANNONADING AND MUSKETRY FIRING—THE ENEMY REPULSED.

There was now quite a cessation of hostilities, until six o’clock [p.m. on the evening of June 17, 1864], when heavy cannonading again commenced, the reverberations of the guns roaring through the city, and jarring the windows of every house.

As night approached, the cannon firing grew more incessant, and the rattle of musketry, which was continuous, was distinctly audible to every ear.

The fight, we learn, commenced on our right near Batteries 17, 18, 19 and 20, at Col. Avery’s farm, but gradually extending around to our extreme left, and by dark, the engagement was general along the whole line, a distance of about five miles.8

As the contestants in the vicinity of the New Market Race Course became engaged, the booming of the cannon, and the popping of musketry, fell upon our people with a distinctiveness which aroused the entire city to the highest pitch of excitement, and every street and alley, and all the surrounding hills, were crowded with people, listening with breathless anxiety to hear the result.  The moon was high in the Heavens and shone with unusual brilliancy, and the flashes of the big guns and the blaze of musketry, could be seen from the Blandford Church and Bolling Hills with great distinctness.

For a half hour the battle raged and roared, and during this time, from the nearness of the sound, many became impressed with the idea that the invaders of our soil were getting the advantage of our troops, but all of a sudden there was one universal blaze of musketry along the entire length of our line, and then fell upon the ears of the listening multitude, a shout from the throats of our brave boys, which none were slow to interpret.  It was the shout of victory—a glad and welcome sound to the fathers, mothers and daughters of this city.  Couriers soon arrived, announcing the glad tidings that we had repulsed the enemy along the entire line, and occupied the lines which we held at early dawn yesterday [June 16, 1864].  Never were a people more relieved than ours, and many a venerable matron and fair daughter, wept profuse tears of gratitude.  It was now 10 minutes to 10 o’clock [p.m. on the night of June 17, 1864], and the firing gradually slackened, until 11 o’clock when it had almost entirely ceased.  About 11 o’clock there was a renewal of the musketry firing, and a few discharges of cannon, but it did not last more than fifteen minutes.9  As we now write, at 12 o’clock, the firing has entirely ceased, with the exception of that 32-pounder Blakely gun, which the Yankees fired during all of Thursday night [June 16, 1864] at intervals of five minutes.

We have been unable to obtain any details, or very little reliable intelligence, but parties who participated, inform us that [Robert] Hoke’s Division stood like a wall of adamant, never receding an inch from their position.  In front of their breastworks all accounts agree that the slaughter of the enemy was fearful, and an ordnance officer who came in for ammunition, informs us, that he has been present at all the great battles of Lee’s army, but that he has never witnessed greater mortality in the ranks of the enemy.

On the right, occupied by a portion of Bushrod Johnston’s Division, we hear that the enemy came up in seven lines of battle, and so great was the pressure of overwhelming numbers, that there was a temporary wavering among our men, who upon the first shock gave way.  They were soon rallied, however, our lines restored, and the enemy made to pay fearfully for their temporary success.

PRISONERS CAPTURED.

We understand that we took many prisoners but the exact number cannot be ascertained.—At 11 o’clock, a batch of 90 was brought in, and at 12 o’clock, 150 additional are being registered by our friend Memoine, Provost Hawes’ efficient clerk.  Others, we learn are behind.

CASUALTIES.

We heard of several casualties on our side, which from the severity of the battle, were to have been expected.  We are unable to announce the name of but one with certainty, and with him we conversed.  Col. [William B.] Tabb, of the 59th Virginia, Wise’s Brigade, was shot through the thigh [on June 17, 1864], while gallantly cheering his men on.  We are pleased to state that it is only a flesh wound, and though painful is not serious.

BL[O]UNT’S BATTERY.

Bl[o]unt’s Battery [Lynchburg Virginia Artillery], we hear, fought with unsurpassed gallantry, mowing the Yankees down, and creating great gaps in their ranks, as they approached several lines of battle deep.  This battery exhausted every ounce of ammunition, grape, cannister and solid shot, and then the men refused to retire, but remained at the front and cheered lustily as our infantry would repulse the Yankees, and send such as remained alive reeling back.  Others fought well, no doubt, but we refrain from any special mention of them, until we can hear particulars.

THE SITUATION.

We have great cause to be thankful for our present situation, when we consider the overwhelming hordes who were brought against us.  We hold our own, thanks to the brave and noble troops who have stood up like a wall of fire between the invading hosts and our devoted city.  The Petersburg people owe them a debt of gratitude which they can never repay.10

THE CAPTURE THURSDAY EVENING.

It was Captain Pritchett, of the 64th Georgia Regiment, to whom the large number of prisoners surrendered Thursday evening [June 16, 1864], and not Pritchard, as stated by us yesterday [June 17, 1864].

COLORS TAKEN.

We secured two handsome stand of colors—one belonging to the 7th New York Artillery–, the other had inscribed upon it the word “Excelsior”.11, the 70th through 74th New York, who were just barely still a brigade.  Those regiments would mostly muster out one by one in the coming days and weeks.  That said, it might have been some other unit than one in the Second Corps.  This article appeared in the June 18 paper, so the other flag may have been captured on June 17.  And lastly I’m no flag expert.  Which New York units had the word “Excelsior” inscribed on their flags and also had a flag captured on or about June 16, 1864? Or am I completely off on the state too? If you can add information on this topic, please CONTACT US.]

MACON LIGHT ARTILLERY.

The following are the casualties in the Macon (Geo.) Light Artillery, during the fights near Petersburg, on Thursday and Friday, June 16 and 17:

Killed : Corpl. A. Waitz.

Wounded : Corpl R. H. Hines, slight in the bowels.  Privates John H Lingold, seriously in bowels; Dominick Craddock, severely in hip and hand, and a prisoner.

Missing : Sergt J H King, supposed to be killed; Corpl C M McKenna and Eugene C Powers.  Privates S S Cearow, Jas A Angle, W G Shephard, Silas Murray, Thomas Canold, R A Lundy, Brantly Williams, J H Lawson and J H Barton.

LOSS OF HORSES.

This battery had 21 horses killed, and lost all their cannon, after doing all that men could do to save it.  The enemy in overwhelming numbers, rushed over their infantry support.  It was this battery that did such effective firing at Battery No. 16, on Wednesday last [June 15, 1864], killing Col. [Simon H.] Mix, of the 3d New York cavalry, Kautz’s Brigade [sic, Division].

[SOPO Editor’s Note: A portion of this article from the June 18, 1864 Petersburg Register has been excised because it will appear from the original paper later.]12

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

Image of June 18, 1864 "From the Front" article, first appearing in the Petersburg Express.

Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: There were two fights on June 17, 1864.  The first was the relatively minor Skirmish on the Bermuda Hundred Front, where Pickett’s Division drove the Army of the James back into Butler’s corked bottle.  There was also day three of the Second Battle of Petersburg, featuring multiple attacks by Burnside’s Union Ninth Corps upon Beauregard’s defenses east of Petersburg.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the Skirmish on the Bermuda Hundred front of June 17, 1864, which occurred north of the Appomattox River on the same day as day 3 of the Second Battle of Petersburg.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: The attack was made by Potter’s Division of the Union Ninth Corps during day three of the Second Battle of Petersburg on June 17, 1864.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: Fulton was commanding Johnson’s Tennessee Brigade during the battle. See Porter, G. W. D. “Col. John S. Fulton.” 44th Tennessee Infantry, www.tennessee-scv.org/4455/fulton.html. Accessed 13 Aug. 2020: “On June 16th, Fulton’s, Gracie’s, and Wise’s commands, and a few militia, met and defeated Butler in front of Petersburg, at the head of six Federal army corps – two of the James River army, and four of the Potomac, commanded as follows: Gilmore’s, Tenth Corps; Smith’s, Eighteenth Corps; Hancock’s, Second Corps; Warren’s, Fifth Corps; Wright’s, Sixth Corps; Burnside’s, Ninth Corps. Fulton’s command captured almost all of Wilcox’s command, six stands of colors, seven hundred prisoners and their arms. For the details of this battle see the October number of Annals of Tennessee, by Dr. Drake. The disaster the following day-the 17th-was not attributable to Fulton, but the result of weakness, not having men enough to close the gap; for he anticipated the move of the enemy, and called on Johnston for men, which he could not furnish. To avoid the disaster and conceal his weakness, Fulton then proposed a sortie upon the enemy on tile night of the 16th, believing they could be dislodged; but Gen. Johnston would not allow it, fearing the enemy would discover it and take advantage of the weakened lines.”
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: Colonel Powhatan R. Page was in charge of Henry Wise’s Brigade on June 17, 1864, as the paper writes, and he was mortally wounded that day.  See Page’s Find a Grave page, for instance, for confirmation.
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: This paragraph admittedly confused me.  Willcox’s Third Division of Ninth Corps made an attack around 2 pm, but it was a little to the north of the morning attack.  See Will Greene’s A Campaign of Giants, Vol. 1, page 159 for map of Willcox’s attack.  Battery 17 was further south of the morning attack. If you can help clarify this, please Contact Us.  EDIT: Phil Shiman, who runs the excellent site www.petersburgproject.org with David Lowe and Julie Steele, confirmed fighting at Battery 17.  Phil writes: “There was indeed fighting near Battery 17 on June 17. Cutler’s Division of the 5th Corps, if I’m not mistaken, advanced on the Confederate pickets in front of the Avery House. (Ransom’s main line was behind the house.) It did not attempt a full assault, however. The action devolved into a very noisy skirmish, nothing like the fighting on the Shand farm.” Thanks Phil!
  7. SOPO Editor’s Note: Although the time seems to be a little off, THIS paragraph describes Willcox’s Division’s afternoon attempt, just north of the morning fighting. Per Wil Greene, Willcox assaulted at 2 pm, not 4 pm. Willcox’s men were facing the Confederate brigades of Clingman and Wise in this assault. Miles of the Second Corps faced Martin’s Brigade on the Confederate side further north near the Hare house.
  8. SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the third and final Ninth Corps assault on June 17, this time by Ledlie’s First Division, Ninth Corps. The main assault started sometime after 5:30 pm, and was directed at Wise’s Virginia Brigade and Elliott’s South Carolina Brigade. Supporting Confederate brigades included Ransom’s North Carolinians, Clingman’s North Carolinians, Gracie’s Alabamans, and Fulton’s Tennesseans. Wise and Elliott broke from this attack for good, leaving the Ledlie’s Division in command of the field, but the Confederate brigades on both sides held firm. Union reinforcements arrived in the form of Crawford’s Division of Fifth Corps and the 1st Michigan Sharpshooters, also of Ninth Corps.  However, no more advantage could be gained in the darkness.  Beauregard’s Confederates withdrew that night to a line closer to Petersburg.  There would be a fourth day of fighting on June 18.
  9. SOPO Editor’s Note: This entire paragraph is wishful thinking.  It does not bear any resemblance to the actual state of affairs on the ground.
  10. SOPO Editor’s Note: The divisions of Bushrod Johnson and Robert Hoke were the units doing the fighting for the Confederates on June 17, 1864.  Both were parts of P. G. T. Beauregard’s Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia.  They do indeed deserve praise for the stand they made from June 15-17, waiting for the Army of Northern Virginia to arrive. Beauregard and his men had saved Petersburg.
  11. SOPO Editor’s Note: The 7th NYHA is a Second Corps unit, so these flags were probably captured on Thursday, June 16, 1864 during the various attacks by that Corps throughout the day and into the evening.  The word “Excelsior” makes me believe the other unit is probably a New York state unit. I pulled up my First Offensive Order of Battle page to check for the other New York units in the Second Corps.  As many of you probably know, there are a TON of them.  On tantalizing possibility is that it might be from the actual Excelsior Brigade [4/3/II/AotP
  12. “From the Front.” Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, GA), June 21, 1864, p. 2, col. 3-5, originally printed in The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA), June 18, 1864, page and column(s) unknown.

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