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NP: June 21, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express: The War News, June 16-19, 1864

[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.]


Yesterday [June 20, 1864], as usual, the Richmond papers were not forthcoming at the opening of the mails.1 Later in the day, a friend kindly gave us the [Richmond Daily] Whig, of yesterday [June 20, 1864]—From its columns we make the following extracts:


One of Robinson’s Cavalry3, who came to this city Saturday evening [June 18, 1864] with twenty-five Yankee prisoners, informs us that 10,000 cavalry, the last of Grant’s army, crossed to the Southside at Westover, on Thursday night [June 16, 1864] and Friday morning [June 17, 1864]. All of his artillery and infantry had been previously carried over. On Friday [June 17, 1864], our informant was one of a party of scouts who went as far down as the mouth of the Chickahominy, and he encountered no Yankees except those who had straggled from the main body of Grant’s army.—He says, however, the woods are filled with these, and they seem anxious, whenever occasion offers, to be made prisoners. This shows that Ulysses will have to try some other expedient than drugging with whisky, to keep his army up to a standard sufficient to fight it out on his new line “all the summer.”4 Apropos to the morale of his army, we learn from a wounded soldier just from Petersburg, that Yankee prisoners brought into the Cockade city [Petersburg] on Saturday [June 18, 1864], state that the day before Grant “moraled” his army in imitation of the great Napoleon, and said, “but not in a boastful spirit,” that if with such troops Lieut. Gen. U. S. Grant cannot put down the rebellion “there is no use for any other General or army to try it.” The prisoners, with characteristic depravity, seemed to prefer whisky rations to broken doses of oratory.

It must be remembered that yesterday [June 19, 1864] was Sunday—the day of all others when rumors are “the special order.” As the morning opened with heavy reports of artillery in the direction of Petersburg, it was but natural that every cleanly shaved man, wearing a “biled” shirt, had a budget of special intelligence from the seat of operations. Were we to discard the unimportant rumors, and only enumerate such as assumed mammoth proportions, like the Hard Shell preacher in the division of his sermon, we should soon reach eighteenthly. We must therefore confine ourselves only to such items as are reasonably authentic.

In another column we give from the Petersburg Express a full account of Friday’s [June 17, 1864] fighting. On Saturday [June 18, 1864] it was resumed, and at intervals, all along our lines, there was a series of artillery duels as well as considerable musketry firing. Several random shells were thrown, it is said, into the city during the day. From two of our wounded soldiers, who left Petersburg Saturday [June 18, 1864] night and reached this city yesterday [June 19, 1864] about 11 o’clock, we learned that early in the day the enemy endeavored to turn our right, in which they were unsuccessful, and that the principal fighting took place along this portion of our lines. They gave a very intelligent account of the location of our batteries and disposition of our forces, but this, of course, we omit. As to the numbers engaged, or killed and wounded, on either side, they seemed entirely uniformed. They agree, however, that from the beginning we had the better of it, and maintained our advantage all through the day.5

By the Danville train which arrived yesterday evening [June 19, 1864] a 6 ½ o’clock, a number of persons came from Petersburg by way of the Junction. All concurred that there was no general engagement on Saturday [June 18, 1864]. The enemy, it seems, made several assaults on our lines during the day, which was promptly repulsed. In the afternoon they boldly advanced against Eillott’s [sic, Elliott’s] brigade in heavy force, and, to use the exaggerated account of a soldier who witnessed it, “in a column an acre deep.” When within four hundred yards of our works, we opened with grape and canister, and literaly covered up the ground with dead and dying. Our loss was again very slight.—In fact, one of our informants was very certain that a thousand will cover our entire loss in killed, wounded and missing, since the commencement of the fights around Petersburg.

About 8 o’clock last night [June 19, 1864] we met a very intelligent member of the Richmond Blues [Co. A, 46th Virginia], who came over with despatches for the War Department. He left Petersburg just before 12 o’clock [noon] yesterday [June 19, 1864], and in addition to the above informed us that up to that time of his leaving, everything was comparatively quiet. He heard nothing in Petersburg of the painful rumor circulated in Richmond yesterday [June 20, 1864], to the effect that Capt. Sturdivant, of this city, who was taken prisoner on Wednesday [June 15, 1864], had been brutally murdered by negro troops.


The following is a list of the killed and wounded of the Richmond Blues [Co. A, 46th Virginia], in the fight near Petersburg on Friday [June 17, 1864], in addition to that given in another column of our issue this morning [the Richmond Whig of June 20]:

Killed: Capt Fred Carter, Private Sam’l Frayser.

Wounded: Lieut Chas Bigger, severely in shoulder; Lieut Levy, slight, still in command of the company; Ordl’y Sgt Bob McDowell, severely; Privates Chersterman, Miller, mortally; Watkins, slight; H E Pace, Rush Wilson, slight; Madlecote, Omenbanser, prisoner; Thos Payne, flesh wound; and E W Blackburn.


It is stated upon undoubted authority, that Hunter shelled the town of Lexington before he occupied the place, and that too, without notice.

A cavalry skirmish took place in Bedford, about one mile this side of Forrest depot on what is known as the Forest road, Thursday afternoon [June 16, 1864]. The results were unimportant.

The Yankees in their advance through Bedford burned all the bridges on the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad. Among others those across Big and Little Otter Rivers and Elk Creek. The two former are considerable structures.

The [Lynchburg, VA] Republican [of which day?] says: The evident design of Hunter is to capture Lynchburg, open railroad communication with Washington, and make this point his base for important operations further South. An excellent plan, but one that will be signally foiled.

A cavalryman, a native of the [Shenandoah] Valley, who, while on furlough, has been acting as scout for General Imboden, reached the city [Richmond] yesterday evening [June 19, 1864] on the Danville train. He furnished us with the following:

On Saturday [June 18, 1864] the enemy attacked our sharpshooters about two and a half miles from Lynchburg, and were soon repulsed. This may have been done to cover the retreat which, he says, they soon after commenced by way of the Salem road. We took, according to the report, five pieces of artillery. He estimates the combined force of Averill, Crook and Hunter at 18,000—He says their cavalry is decidedly poor.—A much larger portion of their force, however, is infantry, than has been represented. This will render their escape more difficult than we had been led to expect.

At 9 o’clock last night [June 19, 1864], we obtained the following dispatch from the Adjutant General’s office:

PETERSBURG, June 19, 1864.
Hon. Secretary of War:

A dispatch, just received from New London, states that an assault was made on our lines at Lynchburg last night [June 18, 1864] and repulsed by troops that had arrived.—When the rest of our force came up preparations were made to attack this morning [June 19, 1864], but the enemy retreated in confusion.—Our troops in pursuit.

(Signed)                                     R. E. Lee, Gen.


From a gentleman just from Spotsylvania county, we obtain the following account of the route taken by Sheridan’s raiders after their defeat by Gen. Hampton.6 The fight on Sunday [June 12, 1864] commenced at Trevilian’s Depot, on the Central Railroad, and extended to the Grass Springs neighborhood, the hardest fighting taking place near the houses of Mssrs. Vast and Michie, on the road leading from Louisa C. H. to Mechanicsville. The raiders, after being badly whipped by Gen. Hampton, retreated on the road leading through the upper end of Louisa county, by Brock’s bridge. They crossed the north fork of the North Anna at Holliday’s Hill, into Spotsylvania county. They went through the Mount Harmon neighborhood in the upper end of Spotsylvania county, and struck the Catharpen Road at Shady Grove Church. Here they divided their force, one portion going by Spotsylvania C. H., and the other by Remy’s old place. From Spotsylvania C. H. they continued their retreat in the direction of Bowling Green, in Caroline county, the two columns uniting near the Mud Tavern. On Wednesday night [June 15, 1864] they camped at the Reedy Mills, in Caroline, and on Thursday [June 16, 1864] were at Bowling Green.

They camped at Mount Harmon Church on Monday night [June 13, 1864].

Gen. Rosser has a flesh wound of the leg below the knee, cutting the posterior titial artery. He is in Louisa doing well.

From another source, we learn that Sheridan, on Saturday [June 18, 1864], was in Newtown King and Queen. He had only 23 wagons left—the rest having been either captured by cavalry or abandoned during his hasty retreat.

Our cavalry are on his trail.

Newtown is about 20 miles south west of Tappahannock, and about the same distance in a south easterly direction from Bowling Green.


[SOPO Editor’s Note: Before reading the following section, I’d highly suggest opening this map of the James River and environs and check it out as you read.]

The course of James river, below Richmond, describes on the map the profile of a human face, looking westward, with an aquiline nose and well defined chin.—Drewry’s Bluff, or Fort Drewry, is on the South side of the river, at the point of the nose. The turn under the nose is the locality of the naval attack on Fort Drewry in 1862. Immediately under the chin of the profile, (to follow up the simile,) is a curious bend in the river of seven miles, forming what is called “Farrar’s Island,” the neck or isthmus of which is known as “Dutch Gap” and is only half a mile wide. Trent’s Reach, alluded to in Gen. Lee’s dispatch, is on the South side of the horse shoe turn of the river, at Farrar’s Island.7 Howlett’s Hill, in Chesterfield, is opposite Trent’s Reach, nearly half a mile from the river, and is considered an important position. Ware Bottom Church is between Howlett’s Hill and Bermuda Hundred.8

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: There seems to have been something of a rivalry between the Richmond and Petersburg papers.  This isn’t the only time I’ve read a similar comment lamenting the fact that Richmond papers were not good about sending issues on to their fellow editors in Petersburg!
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: The term Southside refers to everything south of the James River.  Likewise, the term Northside refers to every north of the James.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: I can find no cavalry commander by the name of Robinson in the  Confederate ranks near Richmond.  However, Col. William T. Robins commanded the 24th Virginia Cavalry, of Gary’s Brigade, Department of Richmond.  This unit was in the area and probably captured prisoners during this time frame. If you know of another candidate here please Contact Us.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: As the summer of 1864 wore on and Grant failed to take Richmond and Petersburg, Southern papers reveled in mocking his famous quote, “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”  This is more of the same.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: This paragraph covers the third and fourth days of the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 17-18, 1864.
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: This section discusses the June 11-12, 1864 Battle of Trevilian Station and Sheridan’s retreat back to the safety of Grant’s lines south of the James River in the ensuing weeks.
  7. SOPO Editor’s Note: Trent’s Reach and Farrar Island would be the scene of numerous engagements between the Union and Confederate land batteries and naval vessels.
  8. “The War News.” The Daily Express (Petersburg, VA). June 21, 1864, p. 1 col. 4-5
{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Lisa Fulton August 4, 2020, 3:52 pm


    I’m always checking it out! The first paragraph in the article above states:

    “One of Robinson’s Cavalry, who came to this city Saturday evening [June 18, 1864] with twenty-five Yankee prisoners, informs us that 10,000 cavalry, the last of Grant’s army, crossed to the Southside at Westover, on Thursday night [June 16, 1864] and Friday morning [June 17, 1864]. All of his artillery and infantry had been previously carried over. On Friday [June 17, 1864], our informant was one of a party of scouts who went as far down as the mouth of the Chickahominy, and he encountered no Yankees except those who had straggled from the main body of Grant’s army.—He says, however, the woods are filled with these, and they seem anxious, whenever occasion offers, to be made prisoners.”

    Thanks to your helpful notes, I did recognize material relating to that report in a letter written on June 18, 1864, by Henry Jeffers, acting as captain of 7th SC Cavalry, Gary’s brigade. First he writes about how Gary’s brigade pushed back the Union cavalry at Malvern Hill on June 15th:

    “Next morning about 9 o’clock [June 15, 1864] our pickets were driven in below Malvern Hill, about a mile from where we then sat on our horses waiting orders. Gary gave the order to forward & at the gallop we marched off. Came up to where the enemys balls begin to reach us & the 1st Squad (or ours, which was in front) ordered to dismount and skirmish with the enemy. We moved forward at the double quick across an open field up towards the top of the hill where the enemy were. As soon as we got close enough to see them good the men lay down & commenced to give it to them. In the meantime part of our men went round on our left and flanked the enemy, when they gave back & after a while retired hastily.”

    Later in this letter, Henry Jeffers tells of the Union retreat on the 16th and 17th, corresponding to the above paragraph from the Petersburg Daily Express. It also sounds like Henry was in the party of scouts that went down to the Chickahominy:

    “Thursday [June 16, 1864] we marched about watching the enemy and camped about night, at this place. Yesterday (Friday) [June 17, 1864] early in the morning Gary’s pickets reported the enemy gone & of course we started to find out where they had gone to. After going down to the Chickahominy about twenty-five miles we found that the enemy had cleared out and probably all crossed the James. Some Cavalry may still be on this side of the James. We returned to camp and I hope will rest a few days. So you see we commenced in his front as he moved down the River and closed our active campaign in his rear.”

    Your collection of material is a wonderful resource.

  • Brett Schulte August 5, 2020, 7:58 am


    Thanks for this! I was just recently looking for accounts of that clash at Malvern Hill on June 15. That is a WONDERFUL description of the skirmish on that day. And thanks for the compliment. I hope I am just getting started.


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