GENERAL GRANT’S ARMY.
Wilson’s Cavalry Destroying the Track of the Weldon Railroad—The Second and Sixth Corps Moved Toward the Railroad—Lee Attempts to Turn our Right Flank—The Second Corps Meets Hill’s Corps—An Engagement Ensues—The Twelfth New York Artillery Loses Four Guns—Heavy Firing in Front of the Ninth Corps—Return of the Third Excelsior Regiment.
HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 23 , 6 A. M.—Wilson’s Division of Cavalry [3/Cav/AotP] have moved off in the direction of the Weldon Railroad. When last heard from they had reached Ream’s Station, and were tearing up the track.1
The Second [II/AotP] and Sixth Corps [VI/AotP] moved from their old position on the right toward the Weldon Railroad.
LEE seems to have anticipated a movement by our alert, and determined to turn our right flank.
When near the Jerusalem Plank Road [on June 22, 1864], the Second Corps was confronted by HILL’S Corps [Third/ANV], and a smart engagement ensued.2
A battery of the Twelfth New York Artillery [sic, the 12th Independent Battery New York Artillery] was annoying the Rebels, who succeeded in getting round in the flank, and charged it.
The infantry support being surprised, retired, leaving four guns in the hands of the enemy; but our line of battle was soon reformed.
The men had become accustomed to LEE’S new practice of acting entirely on the defensive, and must have been confused by his bold assault.
Two divisions of the Fifth Corps were within easy supporting distance on the right, and the Sixth Corps was ready for any hostilities on the left.
Several charges were made by the Rebels, who suffered severely.
There was heavy firing in front of the Ninth Corps about midnight. At times the musketry broke out into regular volleys. The firing lasted all night.3
HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 24 .—Major [HORACE] HOLT, of the First Massachusetts [Heavy Artillery], is slightly wounded.
It is reported that the Seventeenth [sic, Twelfth] New York battery has lost four guns by being surprised.4
Skirmishing was continued all last night on our left, but with what result it is not yet known.5
The Third Excelsior Regiment [aka 72nd New York Infantry], Lieutenant-Colonel [JOHN] LEONARD Commanding6, will leave here, to-morrow, for home, their term of service having expired. This regiment participated in all the battles of the Peninsula, under General MCCLELLAN, and with the exception of Antietam, all those in which the Army of the Potomac have been engaged.
FORTRESS MONROE, June 23, 5 P. M.—The mail steamer, CHARLES [sic, CHARLOTTE] VANDERBILT7, from Bermuda Hundred, reports no fighting up to ten o’clock this morning.
There is nothing later from the White House, and no particulars from General SHERIDAN since his arrival there.8
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: Wilson’s Division was accompanied by August Kautz’ Cavalry Division from the Army of the James on what would be called, appropriately enough, the Wilson-Kautz Raid. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This is the June 22, 1864 fighting at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road. Confederate Division commander William Mahone, who knew the ground, brilliantly used a ravine to get in between the Union Second Corps’ left and the VI Corps’ right. He then smashed into the left flank of Second Corps, capturing thousands of men and an artillery battery, while pushing the Federals back to the Jerusalem Plank Road where they had started. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: A brief glance at the Official Records, Volume XL, Part 2, pages 359-361 corroborates this account. The Confederates briefly drove in the Union skirmish line on the Ninth Corps front near Roemer’s 34th NY Btty, but the line was quickly reestablished, though firing went on all night long. Ninth Corps commander Ambrose Burnside believed the fighting to have begun around 11 pm on June 22 rather than midnight June 23. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This appears to be a reference to the four guns lost by the 12th NY Btty at Jerusalem Plank Road on June 22. The 17th NY Battery was not yet present at the Siege of Petersburg at this time. It is unfair to blame the battery for the guns’ capture. They were in an impossible position, and any battery situated as they were would have lost its guns. Numerous first person accounts back up this statement. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This skirmishing on the left was the final phase of the June 21-24, 1864 Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 72nd New York was the third regiment of Sickles’ Excelsior Brigade, made up of New York regiments numbered in the 70s. It was often referred to as the “Third Excelsior” as a result. A simple check of the 72nd New York’s roster shows Colonel Leonard’s Christian name is John. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I knew when I saw this name, I’d have a mystery to untangle. There were no less than five ships named Cornelius Vanderbilt, C. Vanderbilt, and Charlotte Vanderbilt during this time frame. To make matters worse, there was NO ship named “Charles Vanderbilt.” Given that this ship had sailed down the James from Bermuda Hundred to Fortress Monroe, I assumed it would make its way north in the day or days following June 23. Sure enough, I found hits in an Alexandria paper and a Washington, D. C. paper from June 24 which mentioned the “Charlotte Vanderbilt” arriving from City Point on June 24. It therefore appears the ship in question was the Charlotte Vanderbilt. If anyone has other sources to confirm or refute my educated guess, please Contact Us. ↩
- “General Grant’s Army.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 25, 1864, p. 1, col. 1 ↩