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NP: June 23, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: Associated Press, June 19-21


Skirmishing Along the Line—The Enemy Throwing up Works—The Wounded Sent to City Point—Arrival of Colonel Tippen and Colonel Neeper from Richmond—The Rebels Shelled by our Gun-boats—Supplies Sent to General Sheridan at White House—Execution of the Negro William Johnson.

HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 21—5 A. M.—Some skirmishing took place along the line yesterday and last evening [June 20, 1864]; but no change of position has been made by either party during the last two days.

The enemy are busily engaged in throwing up works at different points, and, although our lines reach within three quarters of a mile of the city, they seem determined to hold it till the last.

The wounded have nearly all been sent to City Point, where the hospitals are arranged for them.

Colonel [Andrew H.] TIPPEN, of the Sixty-eighth Pennsylvania, who was lately released from captivity at Richmond, arrived here on Sunday [June 19, 1864], and will assume command of his regiment.1

Lieutenant-Colonel [William B.] NEEPER, of Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania also arrived to-day [June 21, 1864].  He was captured at Gettysburg, and has only been recently exchanged.2

BALTIMORE, June 22—A letter received from Fortress Monroe says that up to 10:30 on Monday morning [June 20, 1864], there had been no general engagement.

Skirmishing was all the time going on along the lines.  The rebels have made several efforts to throw up earthworks near the James River, in the vicinity of Turkey Bend and Malvern Hills, but have as often been shelled out by our gun-boats.3

Supplies have been sent to White House to Gen. SHERIDAN, his command having arrived in that vicinity.4

Execution of William Johnson.


Private William Johnson of the 23rd USCT, was executed for rape on Jordan’s Farm at 9 am, June 20, 1864.

WASHINGTON, June 22.—A letter dated at the head-quarters of the Army of the Potomac, June 20th, says:—

The negro WILLIAM JOHNSON, who was tried and convicted of an attempt to outrage a young lady at New Kent Court House, was hung this morning, at 9 o’clock, in front of the Jordan House, on a hill, in full view of the enemy.5

A battery, close by, had been shelling the Rebel lines just previous, and they opened in reply, throwing a number of shells rather closer than was desirable, one of which struck GEORGE POLLY [sic, Polley], Sergeant-Major of the Tenth Massachusetts, who died in a few minutes.6

When JOHNSON was arrested by some cavalry, just after his crime, he stoutly denied his guilt, and have his name as ROBERT HENRY HUGHES, and said he belonged to the Quartermaster’s Department, but after being sentenced acknowledged his guilt and gave his real name, confessing also, that he enlisted in Baltimore on the 3d of March [1864], in the Twenty-third United States [Colored] Infantry; that he was twenty-three years of age, and had deserted.

He also said his punishment was just, and hoped others would take warning by his fate. He appeared quite collected during the whole time, meeting his fate with great resignation, and died apparently very easy, although his neck was not broken by the fall. His pulse ceased to beat at the end of seven minutes. His body was left hanging till afternoon, and was then buried near the spot.7

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Tippen appears to have taken command on or shortly after June 21, 1864, and the Official Records lists him as commanding the regiment on June 30, 1864.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: Although this article does not explicitly say it, Lt. Col. Neeper must have taken command on or shortly after June 21, because the Official Records lists him as commanding the regiment on June 30, 1864.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Among the various actions which had taken place are the USS Eutaw shelling Confederate cavalry at Turkey Bend on June 14 and the USS Mackinaw going to engage a Confederate battery which had hulled the Union transport Amanda Winants on June 17 at Wilcox’s Wharf.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: Sheridan and two of his cavalry divisions had just returned from the Battle of Trevilian Station, which had been fought on June 11-12, 1864.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: This execution was captured by multiple camera crews who just happened to be in the vicinity that day. For much more on this topic, see William Frassanito’s book Grant and Lee: The Virginia Campaigns, 1864-1865.
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: Polly, a very popular man in his regiment, was about to receive a commission to serve as a lieutenant in the 55th Massachusetts, another African-American Regiment. His old regiment, the 10th Massachusetts, left immediately for home after watching this hanging. The shock of seeing one of its most beloved members killed as they were scheduled to leave the front left the men of the 10th Massachusetts feeling low during what for most units would have been a happy time. Here is a good blog entry on the fate of Polley from Tim Talbott, who lives in Petersburg and works at Pamplin Park near the site of the Sixth Corps Breakthrough on April 2, 1865. For much more on this topic, see William Frassanito’s book Grant and Lee: The Virginia Campaigns, 1864-1865.
  7. “Associated Press Accounts.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 23, 1864, p. 1, col. 2
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