Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE WAR NEWS.
There was great anxiety felt yesterday for the news from Petersburg, nothing being known of the operations of Thursday, for which we have to thank our military authorities, who seem to have settled upon a policy of letting the people know nothing of what is going on. This interest for the situation at Petersburg was unrelieved until about ten o’clock, when was received the following official despatch from General Beauregard:
“PETERSBURG, June 16—9.40, P. M.
“Sir: The enemy made two attacks on our lines this afternoon. They were repulsed with loss. We captured about four hundred prisoners, including eleven commissioned officers. They belong to the First brigade of Hancock’s corps. All quiet at this moment.
“(Signed) G. T. BEAUREGARD.”
Soon after this despatch of General Beauregard, the following was received from General Lee, announcing no less good news:
“HEADQUARTERS, ETC, June 17, 1864.
“HIS EXCELLENCY, JEFFERSON DAVIS:
“At eleven o’clock last night we took the breastworks at Howlett’s house. Other portions of the same line were taken. The battery at Howlett’s is being re-established.
“Five vessels have been sunk by the enemy in Trent’s Reach. Ten steamers are within the Reach, behind the monitors.
“Some fighting has occurred near Petersburg this morning, without result.
“I have ordered that the railroad at Port Walthall Junction, destroyed by the enemy yesterday, be repaired and re-opened.
“R. E. LEE, General.”
With these despatches the public mind rested easy in the confident belief that Petersburg was safe, and Grant foiled in his new plans on the Southside.
LATER AND BETTER.
The news received last night from Petersburg was even better than indicated in the despatches above.
It is said that the enemy was terribly cut up in his assaults on our works. One of their Generals, (Barlow, of New York,) is reported killed, besides a number of inferiour officers. It is thought that the aggregate number of prisoners taken by us will sum up some seven hundred. Among the eleven commissioned officers mentioned in General Beauregard’s despatch were four captains, three first lieutenants and two second lieutenants.
It is said that we recaptured the most important of our fortifications.
Prisoners taken report that Burnside’s and Hancock’s corps are operating immediately around Petersburg; that Baldy Smith is at Bermuda Hundreds.
A gentleman who was out to Chester last evening tells us that sharp skirmishing was going on when he left, some two or three miles to the left of Chester. It was reported that the enemy had been driven back, and all our works, formerly held by Beauregard, recaptured—even better, that our men had not only recaptured their old works, but also the outer works of the enemy.
ATTEMPT TO SHELL PETERSBURG.
Parties who left Petersburg on yesterday morning report that the enemy were then attempting to shell the city. Two or three shell thrown fell near Phoenix Hall, on Bollingbrook street, in the very heart of the city. One of them bursted in the rear of Brown’s bakery, a part of the fragments striking Mrs. Brown on the head. Another fell near the telegraph office. But most of the enemy’s shell, we are glad to hear, fell short of the city, reaching, on an average, not farther than the suburbs of the city, known as Blandford. We hear of no loss of life resulting from this shelling but a negro woman, who was killed early yesterday morning.
A RECONNOISSANCE OVER THE PETERSBURG RAILROAD.
A train was started out yesterday morning over the Petersburg railroad, with a view of ascertaining the condition of the track, &c. It proceeded slowly, and its officers succeeded in getting to within one mile of Port Walthall junction, and about seven of Petersburg. The road was found cut in the identical place it was before—some little distance beyond Chester—and about two miles of the track torn up. Very little other damage beyond the tearing up of the rails was done, and the repairs can be soon made. The entire road is now in our possession, and the enemy driven back—at least this was the impression of its officers yesterday.
A gentleman who went out with the train reported that heavy cannonading could be distinctly heard in the direction of Petersburg. While they were awaiting there, an officer passed who left Petersburg yesterday morning, bearing despatches to ______. He reported that there had been considerable fighting on the morning before he left, that the enemy had been repulsed, and that we had recaptured a portion of the works taken from us. What the final result was he could not state, as fighting was still going on when he left.
When the train started back—about eleven o’clock yesterday—sharp skirmishing was going on along the lines. Our forces seem to be driving the enemy back all along the line of railroad, and Port Walthall junction had been cleared of them. It was reported that we had taken some of their intrenchments and captured a number of prisoners, but the truth of this was not known.
We mentioned yesterday that as Pickett’s men were marching along, the Petersburg turnpike, about a mile and a half to the left of Chester, perfectly unapprised of the enemy’s presence, the Yankees, concealed in the woods by the roadside, poured a sudden volley into their ranks. One would suppose that this would have thrown his men into confusion—but not so. In an instant they immediately charged upon the enemy and drove them for over a mile! This little incident, simple of itself, attests the value of discipline with troops. Pickett’s men have been made to FEEL the importance of discipline, and without this lesson no arm of the service can be made efficient. The value of it might be profitably studied by some of our commanders.1
- “The War News.” Richmond Examiner. June 18, 1864, p. 2 col. 1-2 ↩