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NP: June 27, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: Associated Press Accounts, June 23-24, 1864



A Desperate Conflict—They Are Repulsed with Great Loss—Our Loss Small—The Engagement with the Sixth Corps on Wednesday [sic, Thursday, June 23, 1864]—Condition of Our Army.

HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 25 [1864], 6 A. M., Saturday.—The only fighting that took place yesterday [June 24, 1864] was an attack made by the enemy on BURNSIDE [sic, Stannard’s First Division, Eighteenth Corps], but whether intended as a feint to cover some more important move, or an attempt to break through his lines, it was a failure.

They opened with a heavy fire of artillery, which was returned by our batteries, and the Rebels [of Hagood’s South Carolina Brigade], making a charge, were driven back in confusion, upwards of one hundred of them being captured.

This occurred about 8 A. M. [on June 24, 1864], and the artillery firing was kept up for an hour, when all became quiet at that point.1

About the same time a battery opened in front of a hospital on the left of the Fifth Corps, which the Rebels seemed desirous of cleaning out, but they were deterred by our guns before any damage resulted to us.2

Picket firing is still kept up along nearly the entire line, and in almost every hospital are a few victims of this species of warfare.

It is almost impossible for a change to be made in the skirmish line without some loss from the enemy’s sharp-shooters, and these lines have to be relieved always after dark on that account.

The engagement between the Sixth Corps and the enemy for the possession of the railroad, on Wednesday [sic, Thursday, June 23, 1864], was quite severe, particularly in front of the Second Division, commanded by Gen. [FRANK] WHEATON [2/VI/AotP].

Only a short distance of the railroad had been destroyed, when the party were attacked by a heavy force of the enemy under Gen. ANDREWS [sic, William Mahone] [Mahone/Third/ANV], supported by [CADMUS] WILCOX’S Division [Wilcox/Third/ANV].

Captain [ALEXANDER M.] BEATTIE, of the Third Vermont, was in charge of the party that reached the road, and fell back slowly, while the skirmish line held the enemy in check; but a body of the enemy made a flank movement, expecting to turn the left flank of his line of battle.  They, however, did not penetrate far enough, although they succeeded in taking a large number of the skirmishers prisoners, principally of the Fourth [Vermont] and Eleventh Vermont Regiments of the Vermont brigade.3

The enemy afterwards advanced, and attempted to break through the line at several points, but were met with such a heavy fire from our forces that they were driven back every time with heavy loss.

They finally, at dark, gave up the effort, and returned across the railroad embankment, where they took up an advantageous position.

Our loss was very light in killed and wounded, while that of the enemy, it is supposed, was more than double.

We lost quite a number of prisoners; but the figures cannot be correctly given.4

The railroad from City Point to Petersburg is being placed in order, and an engine and cars are already procured, to put on it as soon as it is in running condition.5

Supplies arrive at the front regularly, and the troops lack nothing in this respect, but they suffer some from the scarcity of water.

Colonel [WILLIAM E.] BLAISDELL, Eleventh Massachusetts, was killed to-day [June 23, 1864]6, by a sharp-shooter, while visiting the skirmish line.

W[ILLIAM]. H. CHILD [sic, Childs], Forty-fifth Pennsylvania, who was to have been re-instated yesterday as First Lieutenant, was shot dead by a Rebel sharp-shooter on Thursday evening [June 23, 1864, but also possibly Wednesday, June 22, 1864].7

Major [THOMAS J.] HALSEY, Eleventh New Jersey, is missing, and is supposed to be captured.8,9

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

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the June 24, 1864 Action at Hare’s Hill, at which Hagood’s Brigade of South Carolinians attacked Stannard’s First Division, XVIII Corps, Army of the James. Hagood was decimated after Field’s Division failed to properly provide support, starting a feud between Hagood’s Division commander Robert Hoke and Charles W. Field, which would resurface at The Battle of Fort Harrison on September 30, 1864.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: I always double check these newspaper articles for accuracy. This is one of those times where an account is not backed up with evidence.  In the Official Records, Volume XL, Part 2, pages 384 and 394, Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade asks Fifth Corps commander Gouverneur Warren and Ninth Corps commander Ambrose Burnside, respectively, what the artillery firing is and where it is located.  Warren answers it is “to his right”, where the Ninth Corps and Eighteenth Corps are located. Burnside, next in line to the right, says the firing is on the Eighteenth Corps’ front, which is where the Action at Hare’s Hill was occurring.  So in this case, the Associated Press is describing an artillery skirmish which didn’t happen in front of Fifth Corps!  If you disagree with my conclusion and/or have evidence to prove an artillery fight in front of Fifth Corps, please Contact Us.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: The June 23, 1864 fighting at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road was the worst day in the Vermont Brigade’s history. A reinforced Confederate division under William Mahone aggressively attacked the Union lines in front of Second Division, Sixth Corps, right where the Vermonters were stationed.  They lost 400 men captured in a matter of minutes due to faulty skirmish line placement and Mahone’s intense familiarity with the ground around Petersburg. To make matters much worse, all of the enlisted men were sent to Andersonville, where half did not survive. For much, much more on this fight and the devastating effects to the Vermont Brigade, see David F. Cross’ book A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad: The Vermont Brigade, June 23, 1864.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: As noted above, almost all of the prisoners belonged to the 4th Vermont and the 11th Vermont (formerly the 1st VT Heavy Artillery).
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Union army was a logistical machine during the Siege of Petersburg.  Here we are, less than two weeks from the time the Union first appeared in front of Petersburg, and US Army Engineers were already creating a “United States Military Railroad” from their supply depot on the James River at City Point all the way behind their front lines. In this case, they just had to repair the existing railroad from City Point to Petersburg, but they would soon create a branch line running behind the Union trench lines for miles as they extended south and southwest of the doomed city of Petersburg. This work would continue throughout the Siege, and was highly successful.  One illustrative story mentions that in some cases bread reaching front line troops would still be warm from the ovens at City Point!
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: I always double check newspaper accounts for accuracy, and in this case, though the Associated Press story has a dateline of June 25, 18674, Colonel Blaisdell was actually killed on June 23, 1864, NOT June 25.
  7. SOPO Editor’s Note: A quick glance at the field and staff roster for the 45th Pennsylvania shows Sergeant Major William H. Childs as having been killed at Petersburg on June 22, NOT June 23, 1864.
  8. SOPO Editor’s Note: I found Halsey’s Find a Grave memorial, and from reading there it appears he was indeed captured on June 23, 1864, and spent eight months in Andersonville prison before returning to his regiment prior to the end of the war.
  9. “Associated Press Account.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 27, 1864, p. 1, col. 3-4
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