Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin. Also note that like the media of today, some 1864 newspapermen jumped the gun on getting the story first. In this case, the story below was a bit premature. The Federals had captured the eastern end of the Dimmock Line, but the Confederates were still very much alive and well and guarding the eastern approaches to the Cockade City. It would be nine long months and many hard fights before Petersburg and Richmond fell.
THE VICTORY AT PETERSBURG.
The vigor of General GRANT’S movements in Virginia is proved by the celerity of the attack upon and capture of Petersburg. The Eighteenth Corps, under Major-General “Baldy” SMITH, began to arrive at City Point, on the James River, in transports, on Tuesday afternoon. By half-past five o’ clock five thousand of them had landed. The whole corps must have been ashore at some time in the evening. Instead of resting they moved immediately upon Petersburg, and before daylight upon Wednesday morning were in position to assault the outer defenses of that town. The Rebels made a good artillery fight, but they could not stand the impetuosity of the Union troops. The colored regiments which led the assault acted with distinguished bravery. They carried the rifle-pits with firm gallantry. The battle continued all day. At twenty minutes after seven o’ clock in the evening General SMITH made the grand assault upon the main line of the Rebels, the colored troops still in the advance.
The latter did the hardest fighting, and behaved with such splendid gallantry that they received the special thanks of the General. Of thirteen guns which were captured, the black troops took six. They also participated in the capture of prisoners. The gains of the day were, thirteen guns, several stands of colors, and between three and four thousand prisoners.
After these works were taken General GRANT and General BUTLER went over the lines with engineer officers. General GRANT was of opinion that the works were stronger than those at Missionary Ridge, which were taken by assault at the Battle of Chattanooga. This is valuable testimony to the courage and endurance of our soldiers, and gives the happiest promise for success in future operations.
The result of the operations of Tuesday were the capture of Petersburg and the retreat of the remnant of the Rebel force to the opposite side of the Appomattox, where they seemed to be preparing for further resistance. Another result of our victory was the withdrawal of the Rebel troops which were in front of BUTLER, at Bermuda Hundred, and the abandonment of the railroad leading to Petersburg, which they have guarded so long. BUTLER took advantage of this retreat to tear up the railroad and totally destroy it. He is now upon the flank of the Rebels, if they remain in line upon the Appomattox, and the latter are thereby placed in great danger.
The capture of Petersburg is a very important object in the plan of the campaign. It completely shuts off all access to Richmond by the railroad leading to Weldon, Goldsboro, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah, with lateral lines running from Charleston to Atlanta, and from Savannah by way of Macon to the same city. If HUNTER and CROOKS have captured Lynchburg, which is their object, the railroad communication with Richmond remains but the road to Danville. SHERIDAN is probably operating upon that line. There is a report in the Richmond papers of the defeat of that gallant officer by FITZHUGH LEE, but with the memory of the mendacious despatches from LEE, Senior, in relation to his VICTORIES over GRANT between the Wilderness and Cold Harbor, we shall take the liberty of doubting this piece of Rebel news until we hear further.
Petersburg is a very important place. It had a population in 1860 of twenty thousand. It possesses extensive (illegible) for business. Vessels of one hundred tons burden can go to its wharves, up the Appomattox, and those of large size, to Waltham’s Landing, six miles below. The larger vessels engaged in the Petersburg trade usually discharged their cargoes at City Point. The town is well built, and contains about a dozen churches. It has also three or four banks, several cotton and woolen factories, three rope-walks, two iron furnaces, and numerous mills of various kinds. The limits of the borough include the decayed village of Brandford, in Prince George county, which was once, in some respects, superior even to Petersburg itself. The remains of its church are among the most interesting and picturesque ruins of Virginia.
The next movements of General GRANT will be of great importance. He has several objects to attain. One is the capture of Fort Waltham, which now guards the left flank of the Rebel line. Another will be the reduction of Fort Darling, and another will be, such a powerful demonstration against the line of the Danville Railroad as will place that last resource of the Rebels within our power. Hard fighting may be necessary to effect these objects, but with GRANT there is “no such word as FINAL.”1
- “The Victory at Petersburg.” Philadelphia Inquirer. June 18, 1864, p. 4 col. 1 ↩