Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
From the Petersburg Express, June 16.1
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, 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 our citizens were aroused buy 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, 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. Ferrebee, of the 4th N. C. 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.
The enemy demonstrated at other points along our lines, but his attacks were feeble and easily repulsed.
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.
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.
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 our pickets over there were surprised when 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. Nut 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.
Later–Desperate Fighting–The Enemy Charge and Take a Portion of Our Breastworks.
The above account was written at 5 p. m., yesterday [June 15, 1864] afternoon, 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 Courthouse 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 and 46th regiments, of Wise’s brigade, and Sturdivant’s battery of four guns.
Three furious assaults were made, the enemy coming up with a yiell [sic], 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 numbers numbers, that our force 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 Captain S. himself was captured, and two of his lieutenants 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 Capt. S. and his men stood up manfully to their work, and the last discharge was made by Captain Sturdivant almost solitary and alone.
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 captured, and also Maj. Batte, of the Petersburg City Battalion. 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 to-day.
Officers in the field yesterday estimate the number of the enemy actually seen fronting different portions of our line, at from ten 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.
Twenty-three prisoners brought in last night, belonging chiefly to the 148th N. Y. 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, state that they belong to Burnside’s Corps.
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 occured [sic] on the Baxter Road yesterday, about three miles from this city. It seems that 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. W. Slater, 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 [sic] into their ranks with great rapidity and accuracy, and the work becoming too warm for them, they broke and fled in confusion.
They were pursued by the 34th for some distance, who poured several galling volleys into their ranks.
Among the dead left on the field in front of the battery was Col. Mix, of N. York, who seemed to have been instantly killed by a canister shot in the breast.
About sundown the enemy entirely disappeared from this portion of our lines, and returned to the left.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: All of the events described occurred on June 15, 1864, the first day of the Second Battle of Petersburg. Keep this in mind as you read an article from a June 18 paper which copied information from a June 16 article in another paper. ↩
- “From the Petersburg Express, June 16.” Raleigh Confederate. June 18, 1864, p. 2 col. 3-4 ↩