Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of articles from the New York Daily News. His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.
Army of the Potomac
June 19 – 12 M
As I predicted in my last, our next move would be to James River, here we are, sure enough, and that too without having attempted to test the strength of the enemy’s position for more than a week past. On Sunday last the army was ordered to prepare for a change of position and the V Corps took the advance until it crossed the Chickahominy on Monday morning when it was thrown out westward to protect the crossing During that afternoon a body of rebel cavalry were reported on the New Market Road, and a brigade of the Second Division was sent to drive them off. They found the job too much for them however and were compelled to fall back, reporting the enemy in heavy force with infantry and artillery.
A portion of the V Corps was sent forward to dislodge them, but the only enemy they found was a body of dismounted cavalry who, after firing a volley or two, retired to White Oak Bridge where a section of artillery was posted to cover their crossing. Finding it impossible to take the bridge, our forces withdrew after some skirmishing to the New Market Road, where they remained overnight, falling back toward Harrison’s Landing in the morning. Our loss during the affair numbered about one hundred altogether. The enemy’s is not known.
Our advance Monday night reached Charles City Court House, which point we left on Wednesday morning, arriving at our present position, four miles from Petersburg, the same evening. The XVIII Corps under Gen. Smith had reached this point the evening previous, and finding a small force of the enemy behind a very strong position attacked them in force, and caused them to fall back to another line. A colored division occupied the left of the line and participated in the charge, losing quite a number. They are said to have acted quite bravely, as did all the other troops engaged. But had the rebels been in equal numbers, and made a vigorous defense, they could easily have held it, and the loss of the above shows their want of strength. Only a few hundred were wounded in the fight.
In the evening the II Corps arrived and took position on the left of Smith and had they gone in and pushed the enemy there is little doubt the city might have been in our possession the same night. But no further attack was made that night, and in the morning new and strong lines confronted our men, manned with fresh troops thrown in during the night, and although several desperate attempts were made to dislodge them during the day the only success was gained by Burnside early in the morning. At daylight he surprised them, and was almost in their lines ere they could make any resistance. He got about 12 guns and some 250 prisoners.
During the day the V Corps arrived, and advanced on the left of the line, toward dark where he had some skirmishing, but without coming to an engagement. In the afternoon the First Division of Burnside’s corps made an attack on the center and after a desperate struggle in which the men displayed the utmost bravery, carried the line he fought so well for, and held it, although several charges were made by the enemy to recover it. He took four guns and 250 prisoners. The dead and wounded at this point lay very thick, Ledlie’s division losing nearly 1,500 men. Our loss was about 4,500 during the day.
On yesterday repeated attacks were made along the entire line, but without success, there seeming to be a want of unity of action between the division and brigade commanders. Each one seemed to go in pretty much on his own hook, and was driven back before getting near the enemy’s works. The II Corps was principally engaged, and its loss is very heavy. It will count up at least 3,000, and the entire loss for the two days will foot up about 10,000.
This is a very severe loss to our army just now, but lives nowadays seem to be held cheap, from the way in which they are sacrificed.
We are still within about two miles of the city, and don’t seem able to get any nearer. Shells have been thrown into the town, and churches and houses are reported as having been hit, but without aiding us in the least in getting possession.
The number of officers killed and wounded is very large, among whom I met Col. Eagan, than whom a braver officer never drew a sword, and who, had he received justice, would now be wearing a star instead of some others who have never done anything to deserve such distinction.
Gen. Pierce was also wounded while in command of his brigade, but not seriously.
The Artillery Brigade of the Third Division suffered more severely than any other in the fighting yesterday. After advancing toward the enemy’s line, about half way over an open field, they received such a terrific volley as to cause them to stagger, and finally to break, and they lost heavier in getting back to the starting point than while advancing. The 10th Maine suffered most, losing nearly a third of its strength.
Very little firing took place during the night and today, so far, all is quiet, except some occasional shells thrown into Petersburg.
- “Army of the Potomac,” New York Daily News, June 23, 1864, p. 1 col 3 ↩