Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE WAR ON THE SOUTHSIDE—FIGHTING IN THE VICINITY OF PETERSBURG—BATTERIES TAKEN BY THE ENEMY AND RETAKEN BY OUR FORCES—THE MILITARY SITUATION UP TO THURSDAY NIGHT.
From the Petersburg REGISTER of yesterday, we extract the following account of the movement of a portion of Grant’s army upon that city, and the fighting consequent thereon:
At sundown on Wednesday evening affairs looked gloomy along the line of our intrenchments. From early daybreak till past six o’clock, P. M., the enemy were kept at bay. Heavy lines of skirmishers made repeated attacks, always with the same disastrous result. Battery No. 5, situated on Jordan’s farm, was all day a special object of the enemy’s attention. It mounted four guns, two manned by Major Batte’s company of the city battalion, and two belonging to Sturdivant’s battery. Their repeated repulses from this well-served battery caused a cessation of their efforts about four o’clock, P. M., but after that hour they received reinforcements, which enabled them to outflank the few gallant and exhausted defenders of the post. Soon after six o’clock a heavy charge was made in front, while a large body succeeded in crossing the breastworks and placing our troops beneath a cross-fire. Without reserves to fall back upon, or muskets to defend themselves, a precipitate retreat was the only alternative. Four guns were captured, and Major Batte and Captain Sturdivant made prisoners, besides some officers and privates who were wounded. No blame can be attached to the troops who were thus overpowered.—For a long summer’s day they have defended their post without food or refreshment, and only yielded when flanked and overpowered by an overwhelming force of fresh and unwearied enemies.
At the same time the enemy succeeded in carrying several other batteries, and at nightfall all our lines and batteries from No. 1 to No. 14, were in possession of the enemy. The capture of battery No. 5 unfortunately gave them a position from which they could shell a portion of the suburbs of the city.
True to their fiendish instincts, which set at aught all the courtesies of civilized warfare, and following the unhallowed promptings of a malignant hatred to the Southern people, they commenced throwing shell into the city at an early hour. Availing themselves of their temporary advantage, without giving the slightest notice, they hurled their shrieking missiles amidst the homes of helpless women and children. For about two hours these messengers of death flew fast and furious, but an overruling Providence baffled the villainous designs of these would-be murderers of unresisting non combatants. There were no injuries done to the dwellings and but trifling casualties to the persons of our citizens. A few shells fell, but did not explode, in the neighbourhood of the South Carolina hospital, on Washington street. On Main street, in Blandford, near the Cemetary, a small shell passed through the frame house of a coloured man named Hargrave, doing no damage but displacing a few inches of the weatherboarding. We hope the mark will be allowed to remain unrepaired, as a specimen of the Yankee mode of winning our affections and restoring the Union. In the same neighbourhood a shell exploded as it passed the house of Mrs. Naw, who was seated in her back parlour with her infant in her lap; a fragment struck her on the head, inflicting a painful, but not serious wound, which did not prevent her from walking into town for medical assistance. A number of negroes fled in affright from their dwellings, but only one was hurt by a fragment slightly bruising his arm. About nine, A. M., the shelling ceased. We hear our troops captured the gun from which it proceeded, but rather think the advance of our troops compelled the enemy to remove it.
From 10, A. M., to 4, P. M., the heavy boom of a slow cannonade could be distinctly heard along our front. An officer from the field informed us that it was an artillery duel. Up to that hour (11, A. M.) no attempt had been made to recover the works taken by the enemy on day before yesterday. It would be impossible to select the true from the false, among the floating rumours of the day. The following facts we learned from gentlemen entitled to credit. Captain John C. Pegram, Adjutant General to General Mathew Ransom, was mortally wounded by a ball which entered his abdomen and passed out through his back. He was a son of Captain Pegram, Confederate States navy, and a gallant and esteemed officer. About noon the enemy attacked the militia posted at Mr. Avery’s farm, and after a short contest compelled them to retreat. Report says they lost two killed and thirteen wounded. We may learn the particulars before going to press. Major Archer, in command of the militia, was wounded in the left arm.
A gentleman who reached our works on the river bank about noon, informs us he found them unoccupied by the enemy, who had left after spiking the guns. The rifle pits, for a considerable distance, were also unoccupied. At four o’clock, A. M., our batteries from No. 5 to 14, were in the hands of the enemy, except No. 9, which had been taken in a charge made by the Fifty ninth Virginia regiment.
At the present hour, eight o’clock, P. M., a battle is raging along the centre of our lines, probably at batteries No. 5 and 6. A courier to headquarters, at sundown, announced the gratifying intelligence that our troops made a general advance and drove the enemy before them, recapturing all or nearly all of our batteries and line of breastworks. It is difficult to substantiate the fact, but we certainly believe the statement to be true.
We have had a conversation with the gallant commander of the militia, Major Archer, and we are happy to state his wound is a flesh one and the bone uninjured. He states his men were exposed to a tremendous shelling, mingled with showers of minie balls, which was borne with great firmness for a length of time. Being ordered to change their position, and while in the act of doing so, a shell fell in their midst, causing some confusion and loss. Mr. Thomas Scott and Mr. Nathan Hoag were killed, the body of the last being within the enemy’s line was not recovered. We were unable to ascertain the names of the wounded, the militia being actively engaged at the front all day. The number does not exceed thirteen.
From what we learn, the killed and wounded among the regular troops will not be a high figure. The casualties in an artillery duel is never very heavy, and the close fighting occurred at too late an hour for us to learn any particulars.
At an early hour this forenoon a party of the enemy reached the Richmond and Petersburg railroad and destroyed a portion of the track at Port Walthall junction. A train of cars which left Pocahontas depot to convey troops had to return. The telegraphic communication with Richmond is unbroken.
The utmost confidence reigns throughout all classes of our citizens. Petersburg is safe from the fiercest assaults of the enemy. It is unnecessary to make any farther allusion to our means of defence, which are amply sufficient for all emergencies. The delay of transportation between here and Richmond will be soon remedied, and even if there is a delay of a few days it will avail the enemy but very little.
TEN O’CLOCK, P. M.
We have just learned that from fifteen hundred to eighteen hundred prisoners have been taken.—An instalment of four hundred has just passed uptown, so much is certain. We take the balance due upon trust.
A heavy cannonade is still in progress, and occasionally with sharp musketry. Soldiers from the front state, upon our advance the enemy abandoned the intrenchments, which our troops immediately occupied. The enemy, seemingly regretting their precipitate retreat, made several endeavours to retake them, but were repulsed and severely punished. A large number surrendered after very little resistance.
A shell from the enemy’s batteries exploded in Blandford this afternoon, and killed a negro woman belonging to Mr. A. S. Shafer.
ELEVEN O’CLOCK, P. M.
The last arrival from the front states that the enemy is yet in possession of Battery No. 9, and that Batteries 7 and 8 are unoccupied by either party. The enemy have suffered fearfully, and on our side the loss has not been small, but all is guess work at present.
The valley of the Appomattox, on yesterday, was so enveloped in smoke that personal observation from a distance was nearly impossible. It is stated that Fort Clifton joined in the artillery chorus and shelled the enemy for some hours.
There are eleven commissioned officers in the first batch of prisoners. The privates seem very much fagged, but very saucy.
A meeting of the citizens of Petersburg was held at 9 o’clock yesterday (Friday) morning to provide further for the defence of the city and the guarding of prisoners, so as to relieve the regular troops from the latter duty.1
- “The War on the Southside.” Richmond Examiner. June 18, 1864, p. 3 col. 3-4 ↩