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NP: June 21, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express: From the Petersburg Front, June 19-20, 1864





Contrary to public expectation there was not a general engagement yesterday [June 20, 1864] between the two great armies now massed near the corporate limits of Petersburg.—From certain movements of the enemy, which were unmistakably apparent on Sunday [June 19, 1864], every body with whom we conversed, fully expected the ball to open at an early hour yesterday. It was thought too, that the chief efforts of the foe would be directed against our left, as in that direction he was observed actively moving on Sunday. But as an evidence of the uncertainty of military operations, all was unusually quiet up to half past six o’clock last evening [June 20, 1864], on that part of the enemy’s lines. It may be that that enemy contemplates an assault here, and as it is very near the river, and would give him control of that important stream, we should not be surprised at any moment to hear that Grant had made one of his characteristic assaults in the vicinity of Jordan’s Farm, but of course he is under the eye of watchful leaders, and strike where he will an opposition will be offered, that will, test the metal and endurance of his hordes to their fullest capacity.1

On other portions of the lines there was heavy skirmishing yesterday [June 20, 1864], but nothing more. The enemy have learned a lesson, during the past four or five days, which has not been without its salutary effects. He approaches now with great caution, and the least show of determined opposition on our part, generally causes him to desist. This was especially the case yesterday.


There was considerable artillery practice yesterday [June 20, 1864], as must always be the case where two armies of such magnitude confront each other. The damage inflicted, if any, we could not ascertain.


The inhuman, uncivilized and anti-Christian practice of the barbarous foe, was continued yesterday [June 20, 1864] without abatement. All the day long, at intervals of every five minutes, his shell were thrown into the city. Fortunately, the ingenious foe have discovered no plan or method of deadening or destroying the sound, when they hurl their deadly missiles into our midst, and every report which falls upon the ear, puts all persons in exposed situations on the watch. Their whizzing sound and rapid flight through the air, are easily heard and seen, and hence we are glad to know that the damage inflicted yesterday amounted to comparatively nothing. We heard of a little bricks and mortar being displaced, the pavements torn up in two or three streets, and in one instance a large store door on Sycamore street was unhinged. But we heard of no injury to life or limb yesterday [June 20, 1864], and the enemy probably threw an aggregate of 150 or more shells into the city’s limits.2


It is quite evident from a speech delivered by Lincoln in Philadelphia on Thursday last [June 16, 1864], that his ticklers, Grant and Stanton, have impressed upon his obtuse brain the ridiculous idea, that the army of the Potomac, now occupies a position from which it cannot be driven by Gen. Lee. This speech, will be found in another portion of to-day’s Express. Never, however, did Lincoln labor under a more fallacious idea. Of all the positions the Army of the Potomac has occupied, and they have been numerous, no one has been more precarious than the present. In due time Old Abe will learn to his sorrow, that our opinion on this matter is correct, and that of his “greatest of all loving generals” wrong.


The flags of truce sent in by the enemy Sunday [June 19, 1864], and referred to by us yesterday [June 20, 1864], was forwarded by that cautious Yankee commander, [George G.] Meade. He desired the privilege of burying his dead. For obvious reasons, which it is not necessary here to mention, Gen. [P. G. T.] Beauregard courteously, but peremptorily declined to grant the requests. It seems a little singular, that in all the heavy fights in the Wilderness, and around Spotsylvania Courthouse, thousands upon thousands of Yankee dead, were permitted to bake and fester, and yet no solicitude was manifested for their burial. But now when the fatal casualties are not near so large, because of the fewer numbers engaged, the enemy manifests an undue anxiety to put his dead under the sod. This glaring inconsistency must strike every reader at the first glance.


An ordinarily intelligent Teuton, who fell into our hands Saturday night [June 18, 1864], gave the brave Confederate who captured him, a statement of Grant’s forces, which is believed to be in the main correct. He says Grant’s army now on the Southside of James River, is composed of the Second, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eighteenth and Twentieth Corps. The second, commanded by Hancock; the Fifth by Warren, and the Ninth by Burnside, are all operating immediately around Petersburg. The Eighteenth, commanded by Baldy Smith, is at and near Bermuda Hundreds. The Tenth and Twentieth, have no regular commanders, and are held near City Point as a reserve.3 All these army corps have been fearfully reduced since the commencement of the present campaign, and many of the regiments composing them, do not now muster 200 men.

The prisoner who furnishes this information, says he was enlisted in Germany two and a half years ago, and for the sole purpose of fighting in the Yankee army. He is highly pleased at the idea of being taken prisoner.


Last evening [June 20, 1864] about seven o’clock, the enemy was observed to double his pickets on our extreme left—a generally sure indication of an attack on his part. Up to one o’clock this morning [June 21, 1864], no engagement had occurred, but there was much picket firing going on.4,5

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: June 19-20, 1864 occurred just after the large four day Second Battle of Petersburg.  It was not yet obvious that this would turn into a lengthy siege at this point in the proceedings.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: One of the pet projects I’ve been working on includes documenting all of the actions, skirmishes and artillery duels which occurred during the Siege of Petersburg.  If you have any more information on the artillery firing on June 20, 1864 and which units may have been involved, please Contact Us.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: All of this is remarkably accurate other than the absence of Sixth Corps and the presence of the 20th Corps.  The Sixth Corps was also present south of the James and Appomattox rivers.  The 20th Corps was still in the West, fighting in Sherman’s combined armies moving against Atlanta. The Tenth Corps was on the Bermuda Hundred line, opposing the Confederate Howlett Line.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: By “extreme left,” I assume this Petersburg paper meant the portion of the Confederate lines adjacent to and just south of the Appomattox River, in the Hare’s Hill neighborhood.  Interestingly, the Confederates, not the Union, would attack in this area a few days late on June 24, 1864.
  5. “From the Front.” The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA). June 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 2
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