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NP: June 21, 1864 Richmond Examiner: The War News, June 19-20

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Michael Weeks.

The War News.

                After a Sunday of exciting rumours the city was unusually quiet yesterday. This freedom from excitement was palpably due to the very full reports given by the morning papers of the three previous days’ operations on the lines near Petersburg. The only unsettled question in the minds of the people, and one which was not considered as fully answered by the press, was whether or not Grant had made any assault upon Petersburg since Friday night. Persons who spent Sunday in Petersburg and reached here yesterday morning put this point at rest. But the particulars of the occurrences of Saturday will be found in our extracts from Petersburg papers, published in another column. It will be seen that the accounts of the repulse of the enemy on Saturday, published by us yesterday, are fully borne out.

Grant’s line is distant from the outskirts of the town from two and a half to three miles, his right resting on the Appomattox on the east, and his left extending nearly to the Petersburg and Weldon railway, which runs due south from Petersburg. Although so near the armies are, owing to the fact that the country is thickly wooded, not visible from the town. We have heard no military opinions on the subject, but it is the conviction of the people of Petersburg that Grant, with the bulk of his army, is south of the Appomattox and menacing the town, only such a force being left on the north bank of that stream as is considered sufficient to prevent our pushing down to Bermuda Hundreds and menacing his base of operations at City Point. This is an interesting question, and we regret the absence of positive information regarding it.

The people of Petersburg take the novel condition of things in which they find themselves very cooly. Though in momentary expectation of the renewal of battle at their very doors, and notwithstanding that the enemy’s shells are from time to time bursting in their streets and houses, such of the inhabitants as are not under arms are quietly pursuing their usual avocations. All have an abiding faith that the skill of our generals and the valour of our troops will soon, under Providence, deliver them safely from all the dangers by which they are now environed.

It was reported on the streets that General Beauregard had held communication with Grant touching the latter’s shelling the town, and had threatened to execute a Yankee prisoner for every citizen or non-combatant killed by a Yankee shell, but we very much doubt this story. Gentlemen who were in Petersburg during the time when many Yankee shells fell there, are disposed to believe that there was no intention on the part of the enemy to throw his missiles there, and that such as came in were stray shots.

Yesterday morning between 10 and 11 o’clock a brisk cannonade was heard in the direction of Petersburg, but was believed to be nothing more than a renewal of artillery skirmishing. This artillery skirmishing is the noisiest part of war, but is now come to be regarded as of little importance It is the growl of dogs before they seize each other’s throats. The soldiers and camp followers call it, contemptuously, “only bumin.”


                Up to nine o’clock last night nothing official had been received from Petersburg. Persons who left our lines two miles beyond Chester, at eleven o’clock yesterday morning, reported that a general engagement was expected during the day. An officer, who rode over from Petersburg and reached here yesterday evening, reported that Grant had sent Beauregard a peremptory summons to surrender the town. This is not the first time that this story has been circulated. We mention it for what it may be worth.


                A semi-official despatch is believed to have been received here yesterday from Lynchburg, announcing that our troops who, by previous accounts, were in pursuit of Hunter, had come up with him at Liberty, in Bedford county, twenty miles west of Lynchburg, and had routed and were still driving them ; and that a courier had been sent to Lynchburg with an order for the reserve forces to come up and take charge of the prisoners. Other and later intelligence was said to have been received from the same source, stating that we had captured three thousand prisoners.

The accounts brought by these telegrams are generally credited, and it is thought that not half the disaster that has overtaken Hunter has been told. But we are to content to believe that any part of it is true. If it is, this enterprising Yankee and his whole force are in extreme danger of being destroyed or captured. He has a long, a rough and weary road before him, and a powerful, indefatigable and unrelenting foe behind.

On this interesting subject, however, we have no official information.


                While the cannonade at Petersburg was engaging attention yesterday morning, another more rapid, but fainter and apparently more distant, could be heard in the direction of the White House on the Pamunkey-that is, in a direction almost due east of the city. The impression created here by this cannonade was that Hampton had overtaken and attacked the flying Sheridan, the great Yankee raider who, on the 8th instant, started on an expedition against Gordonsville, Charlottesville and Lynchburg, confident in the belief that the Confederate cavalry “were not in a condition to seriously impede his successful progress,” and sanguine, no doubt, of being able to put a girdle of devastation around Richmond, and rejoin Grant on the Southside. Our readers have already been informed in what manner these brilliant hopes of this horse thief, this ransacker of farm houses, have been dashed ; but to freshen a pleasant memory we will make a brief recapitulation of his last career, bringing it down to the latest date when we have any authentic information of him. Leaving Grant at Cold Harbour, he crossed the Pamunkey at New Castle on the 8th of June, with two divisions of mounted men, a large wagon train, and all the supplies necessary for a protracted raid, and struck out in a northwesterly direction for Gordonsville. He was getting along gloriously, having everything his own way, stripping the farms of their horses and cattle, and wasting the growing crops, when General Hampton struck him on Saturday evening, the 11th instant, between Louisa Court House and Trevillian’s depot, on the Central railroad. This was a preliminary skirmish, which resulted very much in our favour ; but Sheridan, believing, as has been previously stated, that our cavalry “was not in a condition to seriously impede his successful progress,” determined to turn and crush us. With this design, he halted and gave battle Sunday morning. He was routed, lost four hundred and eighty seven prisoners, and nearly the whole of his wagon and ambulance train, and leaving his dead and wounded in our hands, escaped destruction by a precipitate flight into Spotsylvania, and thence, by circuitous routes, to Bowling Green, which place he reached last Thursday in most piteous plight, having lost all of his train but twenty-five wagons, and more than one-third of his men being on foot. In this condition we find him, instead of marching victoriously on Gordonsville, doubling on his track like a hunted hare and seeking safety by attempting to make his way back to the Peninsula. Hampton was still after him, but this time not following his trail, but pushing across the country to head him off.

From Bowling Green, Sheridan, fearing to trust his shattered and weary column in striking distance of the cavalry he, at starting out, had so much underrated, pushed down the north bank of the Mattaponi to Newtown, in King and Queen, and thence to Walkerton, which he reached on Saturday evening. Sunday morning he crossed to the south bank of the Mattaponi, and turned his towards Putney’s, the lowest ferry on the Pamunkey, and distant from the White House some five or six miles. The last we hear from him, up to the time of writing, he had burnt King William Court House, and was making for Putney’s, but had not reached that place.

General Hampton having cut across the country, keeping south of the Pamunkey, has, we believe, met the raider at Putney’s, and we hope and believe that it was the cannon of this collision that we heard yesterday morning. Grant is reported to have left some gunboats and fifteen hundred or two thousand infantry at the White House. It is to the protection of this force that Sheridan has been running.

We may mention, in this connection, that the five hundred prisoners captured from Sheridan at Trevillian’s on the twelfth, and who were subsequently carried to Charlottesville, were received at the Libby last Sunday night, having been brought down the James river canal in barges from New Canton, to which point they had been marched from Charlottesville.

Persons who left the White House early yesterday morning and reached the city last evening, report that at the time of their departure General Hampton engaged the enemy near that place. They were not near enough to the scene of operations to be able to give any accurate information as to the position of the hostile forces, but it was the impression in the neighbourhood that Sheridan had not crossed at Putney’s ferry, but had kept down the north bank of the Pamunkey to the railroad bridge which crosses the stream at the White House and that in opposing his attempt to cross at this place, that General Hampton brought on the action. Possibly Sheridan having united with the Yankee infantry force at the White House, considered himself strong enough to meet and disperse our cavalry. We must, however, mention that other parties from the White House neighbourhood, assert that Sheridan is attempting to embark his cavalry. This we are not disposed to credit, seeing the immense number of transports that would be necessary for such an undertaking. A vessel that would carry easily eight hundred or a thousand men would not accommodate one hundred horses. But by his other means, either by his transports or by forcing a way across New Kent and Charles City counties, Sheridan must get to Grant. Even if he could procure subsistence for his men and beasts at the White House or West Point, it would be most ridiculous and unsatisfactory, for almost the entire cavalry force of Grant’s grand army of invasion to be penned up ignominiously forty miles away from the scene of the great battle. Already Grant is missing his dragoons sadly. Having got Lee snugly ensconced in his earthworks, he wants them to play the part in the grand drama so charmingly described by the mercurial correspondent of the World of “away we go round his flanks.”

Before going to press we may have something authentic from these interesting raiders, and of how they fared yesterday.


The following official despatch was received at headquarters here last evening. The wharves mentioned as destroyed by our cavalry are on the north side of James river, opposite City Point:



”Gatewood’s, June 20th, 1864.

“Major T. O Chestney, A. A. General:

“Major: I have the honour to report that last night I burned the wharves at Wilcox’s, Harrison’s and Westover landings. They were entirely consumed. The enemy did not discover us until the work was accomplished.

“Very respectfully,

“Your obedient servant,

{Signed}                               “M. GARY,

“Colonel commanding brigade.”1


  1. “The War News.” Richmond Examiner. June 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 1-2
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