[SOPO Editor’s Note: The following account, originally published in the June 13, 1864 Petersburg Express, covers the First Battle of Petersburg, aka The Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, fought on June 9, 1864. These accounts from Petersburg papers are important to publish because they were so close to the fighting, and also because many of these issues of the Petersburg papers are not easily available or are no longer in existence at all.]
Rebel Extracts—The Cavalry Attack on Petersburg—Orders from Generals Colston and Wise.
From the Petersburg Express, Monday, June 13.
The Repulse of the Enemy at Petersburg—Congratulatory Orders.
HEAD-QUARTERS FIRST MILITARY DISTRICT, DEPARTMENT N[orth]. C[arolina]. AND S[outhern]. V[IRGINI]A., June 12, 1864.—SPECIAL ORDERS No. 11.—VII. To the troops of my command for the defense of Petersburg, on the south side of the Appomattox, on the 9th instant [June 9, 1864], I have, with the approval and under the instructions of the Commanding-General, to offer my grateful acknowledgments for their gallant conduct, and my congratulations upon their successful repulse of the enemy. Approaching with nine regiments of infantry and cavalry, and at least four pieces of artillery, they searched our lines from Battery No. 1 to Battery No. 29, a distance of nearly six miles. HOOD’S [Virginia Reserves Battalion] and BATTE’S [44th Virginia] battalions, the Forty-sixth Regiment Virginia Volunteers, and one company (Captain WOODS, Company F), of the Twenty-third South Carolina, with STURDIVANT’S [Albemarle Virginia] battery and a few guns in position, and TALLIAFERRO’S cavalry, kept them at bay and punished them severely until they reached the Jerusalem Plank road, in front of Battery 29, defended by Major [Fletcher H.] ARCHER’S [3rd Virginia Reserves Battalion] corps of reserves and second-class militia, and by one piece of STURDIVANT’S battery, a howitzer, under the temporary command of Brigadier-General [Raleigh E.] COLSTON.
Then, with overwhelming numbers, they were twice repulsed, and succeeded only at last in penetrating a gap on the line, and in flanking and gaining the rear of a mere handful of citizen soldiers, who stood firmly and fought bravely as veterans until ordered to fall back. Alas! some of the noblest of them fell “with their backs to the ground and their front to the foe,” consecrating with their blood the soil of the homes they defended. Their immediate commanders have reported the heroism of them all, the living and the dead, and now with pride and gratitude I announce that BEAUREGARD himself has thanked ARCHER and his comrades on the very spot of their devotion. If they lost, killed, wounded and missing, sixty-five out of less than one hundred and fifty men, they spent their blood dearly to the enemy; if STURDIVANT’S battery lost one gun a better was captured, and another disabled and if they lost a half a mile of ground, they gained about a half hour of time and saved their beloved city by holding on long enough for STURDIVANT’S and GRAHAM’S [Petersburg Virginia Artillery] and YOUNG’S [Halifax Virginia Artillery] batteries, DEMING’S [sic, DEARING’s] cavalry, and the Forty-sixth Virginia Infantry, with WOOD’S South Carolina company, a company of convalescents [under Captain Lockhart], and a company of penitents [prisoners under Lieutenant Hawes], to drive back the insolent foe from approaches which their footsteps for the first time polluted.
With the help of God it shall be the last time. With such troops as all have proved themselves, commanders may well give assurance with confidence to the people of Petersburg. A people who can thus fight for their altars must be aided, supported, guarded by every arm that can be outstretched for their defense. Comrades, their wives and daughters are daily and hourly nursing our sick and wounded; they wipe the hot brow, cool the fevered lips, and tenderly nourish and comfort the suffering soldiers in their hospitals. The angel nurses and the stricken patriots of this patriotic place shall not fall into the hands of ruffian invaders. Its very militia has set an example which inspires the confidence that Petersburg is indomitable, and which consoles and compensates for every drop of blood which has been spilled at Nottaway, at Walthal Junction, and at Drewry’s Bluff and Howlett’s Neck, for the defense of the old Cockade City.
Let the reserves and second-class militia of the surrounding counties now come in promptly, one and all, and emulate this bright and successful example—let it hotly hiss to blood-red shame the laggards and skulkers from the streets and alleys of the city to the lines; and let it proclaim aloud that Petersburg is to be and shall be defended on her outer walls, on her inner lines, at her corporation bounds, in every street, and around every temple of God and altar of man in her very heart, until the blood of that heart is spilled. Roused by this spirit to this pitch of resolution, we will fight the enemy at every step, and Petersburg is safe.
HENRY A. WISE, Brig.-Gen.
Official:—J. V. PEARCE, A[ssistant]. A[djutant]. G[eneral].
The Late Raid on Petersburg.
From the Petersburg Express, Monday, June 13.
In the defeat of the Yankee raiders before Petersburg last Thursday [June 9, 1864], the hand of Providence was plainly visible. A mere handful of untrained and undisciplined militia were nerved to the repulse and holding in check of eighteen hundred regulars, whose calling is war, and whose business is to fight. To these militia the city owes an incalculable weight of gratitude, for mainly to their bravery and heroism we owe it that our depots of supplies, our public buildings, our bridges, and probably much private property, are not now in ashes.
General [Pierre G. T.] BEAUREGARD, who visited this city on Saturday [June 11, 1864], took occasion, we understand, to express to Major [Fletcher H.] ARCHER, the gallant commander of the militia, his high admiration of the distinguished bravery shown by him in the fight on Thursday, and his deep appreciation of the valuable services rendered by them. They fought, he said, like veterans. Such a compliment coming from such a source was no doubt doubly appreciated. We have already published the names of many of those taken prisoners, in which list occurred several errors. Thus far we have been unable to get a correct list, and only publish the names as they reach us. Since our last issue we have ascertained that Mr. THOMAS W. CLEMENTS, Mr. JOHN F. GLENN, Mr. GEORGE CAMERON and Mr. BRANCH T. ARCHER, all well-known citizens, were also made prisoners.
We understand from one of our wounded, who was carried by the Yankees to Mr. WM. A. GREGORY’S residence during the conflict, that while there the notorious Colonel [Samuel P.] SPEAR [commander of 2/Cav/AotJ] came in, coolly ordered his orderly to bring a basin of water bathed his head, and, casting himself upon a lounge, slept for an hour. Colonel SPEAR is represented to have shown great kindness to our wounded, giving strict orders to his subordinates regarding their comfort, and supplying them with brandy and such other delicacies as he had.1
It is now understood that the enemy’s loss was much heavier than at first represented. They lost some thirty or forty killed, and a large number wounded. The roads near the battle-ground will testify to numerous burials of their dead.
The Attack on Petersburg.
From the Petersburg Express, June 13.
To the Editors of the Express—Now that Petersburg has been reinforced, we can speak freely of the past. Gen. [Henry A.] WISE commanding the First Military District of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia, having gained information that the enemy were advancing on the city of Petersburg, placed his troops in a position to meet them. Major HOOD, Major BATTE, Captain STURDIVANT, and the Forty-sixth Virginia Regiment, Colonel [Randolph] HARRISON, were on the left, extending from the Appomattox River, covering the Broadway, City Point, Jordan’s Point, and Prince George Court House road. Gen. COLSTON and Colonel ARCHER, with the militia, were on the right, from the BAXTER road, across the Jerusalem Plank Road. On the 9th instant [June 9, 1864], at an early hour, our pickets were driven in on the Broadway, City Point, Jordan’s Point and Prince George Court House roads, and the enemy soon appeared in force in front of the left of our line, and were soon engaged with Colonel [V. H.] TALLEFERO’S Seventh Confederate Cavalry. The boom of BATTE’S and STURDIVANT’S guns echoed far in the morning breeze, while the small arms of HOOD and the Forty-sixth Virginia, Colonel HARRISON’S, chimed in to tell mothers, wives and sisters, and others as dear, that this day brave hearts will defend the town which before the war was hospitable and kind to strangers, and which since the war has proven the soldier’s friend.
Though it was the work of death, my heart throbbed with joy as I saw shell after shell fall and explode near our direful foe, who strove to force our works that he might sack the town. General WISE sat on his horse and commented on the firing of our men; a smile played on his face as the enemy were driven back. Though repulsed with loss the enemy’s infantry remained in heavy force in front of our left, engaging us through the day, and sent his cavalry with some artillery from the left to feel our lines on the right. Here the eagle eye of General WISE, our skillful, firm, bold commander, as he rode from point to point, exposing his body to the Yankee lead, watched their work. When the cavalry, with several pieces of artillery, reached the Jerusalem plank road, he found the militia, with one piece of Captain STURDIVANT’S artillery, descending that point. Here, too, were brave men ready to die for their loved ones at home. Veterans never fought better.
General COLSTON says this of them, and he knows what a soldier should be, for he is gallant, brave and true. Though many tears will be shed for the dead, Petersburg will ever be proud of Colonel ARCHER and his men. The militia—why! one hundred and twenty were flanked right and left by the enemy, still they stood under a cross fire until ordered to fall back. The enemy entered the line of fortifications and rode up near the town. The ladies, who crowded housetops, expected now to be under Yankee rule, and to know all the horrors of Yankee wrongs. But the enemy, as if by the lurid lightning’s flash, were brought to a stand. The reinforcements ordered to the right by General WISE came in time; one of our guns, which had done good service in the morning, routed them again, and soon GRAHAM’S battery from the Reservoir Hill opened on them again, and soon Colonel TALLIFERO, who began the fight outside our lines at early dawn, together with a portion of General DEARING’S cavalry, YOUNG’S battery, the Forty-sixth Virginia infantry, with WOOD’S South Carolina company, many of the sick and wounded, under the command of Captain LOCKHART and Lieutenant LINDSAY, who have been so kindly nursed by “angel hands,” were ready to begin again for their country’s cause, and even the Confederate prisoners under command of the Provost Marshal, Lieutenant HAWES, who has already lost the use of one leg in defense of his country, all aided to repel the foe.
The Yankee force consisted of four regiments of infantry and five of cavalry. We had killed, 10; wounded, 33; missing, 23; total, 71. The enemy, as far as known, had 35 killed, 80 wounded, and 4 prisoners. We lost one piece of artillery and captured a better piece.
Gen. WISE has ever been for defending the City of Petersburg. His brigade has lost four hundred and ninety men in the fights around the town. When placed in command here, he proclaimed he would hold the place or fall with it. His defense on the 9th [of June 1864] proves him to be as good as his word. The hero of Charleston will stand by him. We’ll trust in God and fight.2
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
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- SOPO Editor’s Note” Spear and his 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry had been in the vicinity since 1863. Spear and his men must have gained quite a reputation in the area, because the Petersburg papers routinely used the word “notorious” to describe Spear. If you know the details of what Spear did to earn this reputation, please Contact us. ↩
- “Southern News.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), June 20, 1864, p. 2, col. 1-2 ↩