THE SIEGE OF PETERSBURG.
Operations of Wednesday [June 22, 1864]—The Movement on the Weldon Railroad—The Fortifications of Petersburg—Advance of the Second Corps—[?] of Casualties—Picket Firing not Popular—Practice of Our Artillery.
Special Correspondence of the Inquirer.
HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF POTOMAC,
June 22d —Night,
My last despatch announced to you an extension of our lines to the left, with the supposed object of throwing it across the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad. The supposition that the object had been affected last night [June 21, 1864] proved incorrect. A portion of the Second Corps [II/AotP] penetrated to within less than half a mile of the road, but afterwards retired to a direction further off.
The enemy appear to have discovered or suspected our intention of making this movement, and last night it was found that a heavy force, probably HILL’S entire Corps [Third/ANV], had been despatched in the same direction to meet us, having moved down the Jerusalem plank road, which runs on this side of the [Weldon] railroad, and in the same general direction with it at a distance of about two miles from it.
Some imagine that this movement of HILL’S was made with the intention of turning our left flank, and that our meeting him there was through an accidental coincidence of movement made without any interference to each other. This is hardly probable. In discovering our presence HILL appears to have fallen back immediately towards the railroad, and selected a position for its defense, which he at once set to work fortifying. To give a clear understanding of the Rebel line as it pushed forward a map would be necessary; but a general idea can be conveyed without one. It will be remembered that our advance in Petersburg was made from the east, and the fortifications on that side of the city were taken in the first attack. But the line is continuous, forming a curve and defending the place from attack in any direction.
On our right, or east of Petersburg, our line of battle is far within these fortifications, and the Rebel line of defense consists only of ordinary breastworks. But this line, extending in a general southern direction from the Appomattox River, strikes the regular fortifications that defend the city to the south, and these for some distance form a portion of the present line. The latter, however, then bends to the southward, extending between [road?] and the railroad, and fronting south of east. Our own left rises on a branch of the Blackwater, called Second Creek, and our line runs for some distance nearly parallel with the railroad, about a mile distant, it then bends eastward across the Jerusalem plank road above mentioned, and runs throughout to close proximity to that of the enemy, the two facing at some points within fifty yards apart, and on the right our sharp-shooters being so close to Petersburg as to occupy houses in the suburbs. The country near the Weldon Railroad, on our left, is very different from that bordering the Appomattox on our right, being almost as densely covered with timber and underbrush as that which formed the base of our first operations in the Wilderness.
The troops forming our left wing came up this morning and went into position this afternoon, having considerable skirmishing as they moved out.1
A portion of the Second Corps to the left of the Plank Road sustained, this afternoon, quite a severe repulse. The corps had taken position last night and thrown up rifle-pits. To-day about noon the line was advanced. The left, on which was the First Division, went forward nearly a mile, which was considerably further than the distance moved over on the right, and threw the flank of the First Division [1/II/AotP] very near to the Rebel intrenchments. While in the act of pushing out their skirmishers in front a fierce attack was made on their left flank. The skirmishers thrown out in that direction were driven back, and the Rebels advanced with loud yells, pouring crushing volleys upon front, rear and flank at [?] moment.
The First Brigade [1/1/II/AotP], which first received the attack, remained and fired a volley, but without any effect upon the impetuous charges of the enemy, and we were compelled to fall back as rapidly as possible to our line of breastworks, the Rebels, meanwhile, following closely. On reaching their rifle-pits our men instantly rallied and at once checked the advance of their assailants. The remainder of the corps was less severely attacked, but of course fell back to the intrenchments. Our losses in this affair must have been considerable, including a number of prisoners.2
It is also reported that the Twelfth New York Battery, Captain [GEORGE F.] MCKNIGHT, was left in the hands of the enemy, but another report represents two of the guns to have been recaptured, which makes our loss only two.3
A partial list of the wounded is appended. The number brought to the First Division Hospital did not exceed fifty up to about 4 1/2 P. M. [on June 22, 1864], but it is feared that many more were left on the ground.
Batteries have been posted at several points along the new portion of our lines, which may now be considered pretty well established, and considerable artillery firing has been kept up all through the afternoon. Heavy volleys of musketry opened soon after dark in front of the Second Corps and a portion of the Fifth. It was probably nothing more than one of the night alarms, which are very common, especially when the position in front is imperfectly known, men being under such circumstances much more apprehensive of an attack, and firing a volley whenever any sight or sound in front excites their suspicion. Skirmishing was very brisk, especially from the centre to the left, nearly all the afternoon, and continued long after dark.
On the extreme right the pickets on opposite sides of the Appomat[t]ox, below Petersburg, were, this morning, on very amicable terms. They had entirely ceased firing, and were talking and badgering each other rather more in the style of old friends than old enemies. The men on each side find that they can get fighting enough in contending for some definite object, and have naturally concluded not to indulge in useless slaughter.
Some interesting artillery practice may occasionally be witnessed between the Rebel batteries over the Appomat[t]ox and three or four of our own. At one point there is little more than the breadth of the river between an Ohio battery4 of ours and a battery of the enemy. They are concealed from each other by intervening timber, and consequently do not exchange compliments with each other. That of the enemy is guided in its firing by signals from a building[?] in Petersburg, indicating the position of our troops. Usually it is not very successful in molesting the unseen object against which its fire is directed, but when by chance it gets the right range, a single gun of Captain [JOHN H.] BURTON’S battery [I, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery] of rifled 30-pounders instantly reduces them to a respectful distance.
A battery of 20-pounder parrotts, far down on the right, commanded by Lieut. [?]5, occasionally puts in some beautiful shots. This morning a shot was aimed at a battery, one of about four, posted on a prominent hill, about a quarter of a mile beyond the river. Watching the result with a glass, I saw a cloud of dust thrown up close to the battery and the men hastily scattering and taking refuge behind their parapets. This evening I saw a captured Rebel Major, who, with a Colonel captured at the same time, is said to be desirous of returning to his allegiance to the United States Government.
WOUNDED IN FIRST DIVISION, SECOND CORPS, JUNE 22D .
Lieut J. Warren Yocum, Co. I, A. A. G., 116th P[ennsylvani]a., arm, slight.
Lieut. Stephen R. Newman, B, 66th N[ew]. Y[ork]., thigh, flesh.
First Lieut. Edwin Parshell, A, 111th N[ew]. Y[ork]., back.
Adjt. B. Miller, 125th N[ew]. Y[ork]., left hip.
First Lieut. F. Meagher, F, 63d N[ew]. Y[ork]., thigh, flesh.
First Lieut. [?] E Lee, D, 145th P[ennsylvani]a., face.
S. S. Willard, F, 145th P[ennsylvani]a., left foot.
J. Perry, D, 116th P[ennsylvani]a., thigh, flesh.
J. McBride, C, 116th P[ennsylvani]a., shoulder.
Joseph Wagner, F, 116th P[ennsylvani]a., left thigh.
C. Adams, G, 116th P[ennsylvani]a., right leg.
W. C. Bennett, F, 14[?]th P[ennsylvani]a., hand.
Corp. Adam Smith, D, 145th P[ennsylvani]a., face.
Joseph Fay, D, 145th P[ennsylvani]a., back.
W. Gorman, B, 116th P[ennsylvani]a., hand.
WOUNDED IN FIRST DIVISION, SECOND CORPS, JUNE 21st.
Capt J. M. Sattan, Co. C, 111th N[ew]. Y[ork]., foot.
Lieut. L. Crandall, B, 125th N[ew]. Y[ork]., forearm.
Lieut. John D. Black, of General Barlow’s Staff, right side, slight.
Lieut. Wm. Newall, H, 2d U[nited]. S[tates]. S[harp]. S[hooters]., head.
Sergt. Older Curly, C, 81st P[ennsylvani]a., ankle.
Sergt. E. Reynolds, H, 81st P[ennsylvani]a., side.
Sergt. G. F. Saxenhammer, C, 81st P[ennsylvani]a., leg.
Corp. Geo McIntosh, C, 81st P[ennsylvani]a., leg, flesh.
John Sterling, I, 81st P[ennsylvani]a., both hands.6
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: This is probably a reference to Horatio Wright’s Sixth Corps, army of the Potomac, which formed the far left of the Union line, and the left half of the mobile column Meade was using to approach the Weldon Railroad. The Second Corps formed the right half of the mobile column. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The preceding paragraphs describe the first day’s fighting at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road on June 22, 1864. William Mahone went out with a portion of his division and, taking advantage of his knowledge of the terrain in the area due to his pre-war career, utilized a ravine to sneak in between the left of the Union Second Corps and the right of the Union Sixth Corps. Though Mahone captured many prisoners, the relatively small number of men in the attack could not make the disaster even worse. The Second Corps managed to hold off Mahone at the Jerusalem Plank Road. There was some controversy about what Cadmus Wilcox’s Division was doing further south. Some speculate that if Wilcox could have added his division to the attack, the Confederates would have been able to score an even greater victory. ↩
- The former report, with all four guns captured, was correct. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was almost certainly 1st Ohio Light, Battery H, the only Ohio battery of artillery in the entire Army of the Potomac. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The name of the Lieutenant commanding this battery of 20 pound Parrott rifles is badly scratched up and illegible. If you know which battery of 20 pound Parrott rifles at Petersburg was commanded by a lieutenant on June 22, 1864, please Contact Us. ↩
- “The Siege of Petersburg.” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), June 27, 1864, p. 1, col. 1 ↩