[SOPO Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the Richmond Daily Whig of June 20, 1864. However, I have not been able to find the Daily Whig available online, and I am unsure if the time period from June 1864 to April 1865 is available on microfilm from some entity. I am posting this “copied” version from the Petersburg Express until/unless I find the original. If you know where I can find the Richmond Daily Whig, please Contact Us.]
The Richmond Whig, of yesterday [June 20, 1864], has the following editorial on “The Situation”:
As we surmised would be the case, Grant has definitely established himself on the South-side1 The scene of immediate assault is transferred from Richmond to Petersburg. The mass of the Federal army is now south of the Appomattox, and about 15 miles farther from this city [Richmond] than when it made its last effort on the north side of the James [at Cold Harbor]. For one thing we must give Grant credit. He seems to be in just as much of a hurry as we are, to get through with this campaign. To be sure, he is hastening to a very different conclusion from that which he had hoped to reach; but after all, it is a conclusion. He has at his command a certain number of men, and a definite amount of resources. He has no sort of hesitation in sacrificing the men and expending the resources within the shortest possible space of time.—When he has solved this little problem nothing more can be done. Richmond will still stand a monument to the skill and constancy of the one side, and to the unrelenting but fruitless vindictiveness of the other and—viola la fin. But Grant will at least have done one thing in which his predecessors have failed. He will have exhausted the means of the Yankee nation. He is resolved to differ in something from that long list of fugacious chieftains who educated the Army of the Potomac to defeat and safety. If the beginning of every Yankee campaign in Virginia had for its object to capture Richmond, the end of every campaign had for its purpose to save the army. So when McClellan made his famous change of base; when Burnside recoiled from the heights of Fredericksburg, when Hooker rushed frantically back across the Rappahannock, the Yankee papers could say with some truth that those Generals had accomplished their objects—they had saved the army. Grant evidently thinks that if Richmond cannot be taken the army is not worth saving.—With dogged resolution he led it to slaughter at the Wilderness, at Spotsylvania and at Cold Harbor, and managed in these fruitless assaults to dispose of as many men as McClellan took away from the Chickahominy, or as Hooker saved from the shambles of Chancellorsville. With the battered remnant he is now making his last effort on the south side of the James. Laus Deo2! when that is over, Grant and the Army of the Potomac will pass away into the depths of history together.
But in the meantime he will doubtless strike heavy and furious blows. The assaults on our lines at Petersburg, in the early part of last week [June 15-16, 1864], were but a prelude to a more ferocious attack on Friday [June 17, 1864]. It appears that on the morning of that day the enemy gained a partial success in the capture of one of our batteries, but heavy and repeated charges on the others were successfully repelled. In the evening a general advance was attempted; but was met by our troops with their resolute courage, and after severe fighting the Yankees were driven from the ground they had gained, and our lines were re-established in their original integrity. Of the operations of Saturday [June 18, 1864] in that quarter, we have, at the moment of writing, no definite information. Rumors were current yesterday [June 19, 1864] that there had been very severe fighting; but up to a late hour, no official, or even authentic unofficial, information to this effect had been received. We imagine that, after the repulse of Friday [June 17, 1864], Grant took at least a day to rest his forces and modify his plans.
On the line between this city [Richmond] and Petersburg the schemes of the enemy have signally failed. It was, no doubt, Grant’s intention and his hope to interpose a force on our lines of communication before a sufficient number of men could be concentrated in Petersburg for its protection against the sudden assault which he meditated. It was for this object that the Yankees advanced from Bermuda Hundred and occupied the lines which we had temporarily abandoned [on June 16, 1864]. But there must have been some notable defect in this part of the scheme, for a very slight effort [on June 17, 1864] sufficed to eject the Yankees from their threatening position and to force them back into their works at Bermuda [Hundred]. When Grant marched against Petersburg in force he found, of course much to his mortification and chagrin, that he was again confronted by the redoubtable troops who have stood between him and Richmond, like a wall of brass. It is useless to try strategy, Lieut. Gen. Grant, Lee is your master in that, just as the Army of northern Virginia is the master of the Army of the Potomac in valor and enduarance.3
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: To the papers in the area of Richmond and Petersburg, the “Southside” referred to the areas south of the James River, while the “Northside” likewise referred to areas north of that river. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Praise be to God! ↩
- “The Situation.” The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA). June 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 3-4 ↩
Brett, That’s a great find. I think the confident mood on that day (June 20th, 1864) was prevalent around Richmond. I have a quote from Capt. Henry Jeffers of the 7th SCC, from a letter he wrote on that same day:
“Camp 7th Regt. [near Richmond], June 20th 1864
…I feel this morning more cheerful than I have for months. Certainly the hard fighting must now be over & it is an impossibility for the North to raise an army that can begin to cope with Genl Lees, no matter how many there may be. I saw a great portion of Lees Army as it passed us sliding down to the James. A hardier, braver and more determined looking set I never saw. Were you to see Genl Lee riding along in front of his staff you would think it was some old farmer guiding a party of men on a certain road. The day we fought at Riddles Shop he came up himself with the Cavalry [unclear words] to our relief….”
Another interesting detail in this letter is that the health of the men in the 7th SCC suffered somewhat from eating only corn bread and bacon for so long, “but but we will get some flour soon and as we have been doing such active service with Genl Lees Army we [get] Sugar & Coffee tomorrow.”