Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
OPERATIONS ON THE SOUTHSIDE—ATTEMPT OF GRANT TO REACH THE RAILROAD.
The Petersburg EXPRESS says Grant has been attempting with all his might to extend his left, and reach, if possible, the Southside railroad.—He is reported to have forty thousand men on the field—two or three corps of infantry, a corps of cavalry, and a full complement of artillery. The EXPRESS thus summarizes the movements of Grant in the last few days:
On Tuesday night [March 28, 1865] the enemy advanced up the Military road to within one mile of the Boydton plank road, threw up intrenchments on either side, and built a large fort at the Lewis house. During the same night he also pushed forward a body of troops within a few hundred yards of the plank road.
On Wednesday [March 29, 1865] this column was attacked by our troops and driven back, our vanguard entering and for a time holding the fort at the Lewis house. Not receiving immediate or sufficient support the fort was yielded. After driving the enemy thus far, with beautiful success, our troops fell back a short distance and offered battle, but the Yankees declined to accept it, and failed even to make any pursuit.1
The fighting in the vicinity of Hatcher’s run on Wednesday afternoon was quite severe for a while, and the Yankees suffered heavily. One Brigadier General, whose name we could not learn, was killed, and a number of officers and men placed HORS DE COMBAT.
Friday morning [March 31, 1865] the enemy’s cavalry were ascertained to be approaching the “Five Forks,” on the White Oak road, leading from the plank road near Burgess’ mill across to the Southside railroad. This point is about midway between these two points. This cavalry column had passed around our works, and was confidently making for the railroad. But a lion was found in their path, in the person of General Fitz Lee and his brave troopers. Heavy firing was heard near the “Five Forks” subsequently, and from the direction it took at a late hour, it is believed that battle was joined and the enemy driven.2
Just beyond Burgess’ mill and to the southeast skirmishing commenced early in the day. Here Grant had his infantry massed and his flanks supported by cavalry, and here the heaviest fighting occurred. The discharges of artillery and the volleys of musketry could be distinctly heard in the city—the former at times very heavy, and the latter, with occasional intervals, almost incessant. We held our own, and the enemy gained no advantage. Between two and four o’clock P. M. the heaviest fighting occurred, and at sunset the firing still continued, but was changed both in direction and severity. It was evident from the direction of the firing, late in the afternoon, and that of an earlier hour, that the enemy had either been driven back or changed the point of attack—most probably the latter.
An intelligent courier, who arrived in town on business about sunset, reports that the enemy attacked our lines in heavy force, and made several furious charges thereon, in all of which they were most handsomely repulsed. They subsequently massed heavily in front of one of our divisions and forced our men back for some distance, but reinforcements coming up, the tide was turned, and charging upon the Yankees, they were driven in confusion and slaughter back to their original position.3
We know positively that the enemy’s loss in yesterday’s fighting was severe, but are unable to form any correct estimate. We also understand, from good authority, that our own loss was comparatively slight.
It is stated that some five or six hundred prisoners were captured. Their condition was pitiable. They were covered with mud from head to heels.
Generals Grant, Meade and Sheridan were on the field or in its vicinity during the day. All the prisoners and several deserters who came over to us assert this fact.
Both prisoners and deserters state that the enemy’s intention is to strike the Southside railroad—probably at the Junction. The prisoners state their loss to be very heavy.
The enemy was at Dinwiddie Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon [March 29, 1865].
In the affair on our left night before last, the Yankees attempted one charge, exposing a regimental front opposite General Lewis’ brigade.—They were easily repulsed. Afterwards the officers were heard to entreat and persuade the men to another charge, but to no avail. The Yankees could not be forced to come up again.45
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the March 29, 1865 Battle of Lewis Farm, or Quaker’s Road. The “fort” the Petersburg Express refers to was actually sawdust. The Federals also mistook this pile of sawdust for a Confederate fort, much the same as had happened at Dabney’s Mill on February 6, 1865 at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This paragraph is describing the March 31, 1865 Battle of Dinwiddie Court House. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: These paragraphs describes the March 31, 1865 Battle of White Oak Road, with the Confederate newspaper crediting the Confederates with a better showing than they achieved historically. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This would have been on the Petersburg front near the Appomattox River, but I’m not certain which fight this is referring to, and not positive on the date. The specific date of this Petersburg Express article is not noted in the Richmond Examiner’s intorduction. The very latest the article could have been written is for the April 2 Petersburg Express, meaning “night before last” would refer to March 31, 1865. If you know the fight and the date, please use the Contact link at the top of the screen and let me know. ↩
- “Operations on the Southside.” Richmond Examiner. April 3, 1865, p. 1 col. 5 ↩