SOPO Editor’s Note: In 2011 this site published an unpublished report of Confederate Division commander Bushrod Johnson, whose division of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia faced repeated Federal attacks on June 18, 1864 on the last day of the Second Battle of Petersburg. In 2016, Dennis Rasbach and Bryce Suderow have offered up an enhanced version of this report by attempting to insert portions of Johnson’s June 18, 1864 diary entry into the unpublished report. They both believe these insertions improve the value and accuracy of what happened to Johnson’s Division on June 18, 1864. I want to stress that the following IS NOT AN ORIGINAL DOCUMENT, even though it features portions of two original documents penned by Bushrod Johnson. Portions below in red are from Johnson’s diary.
Dennis Rasbach writes:
Bushrod Johnson’s UPR, which you transcribed, starts with a note saying “About half of the next page is blank. A portion of the Report seems to be missing.”
I believe the missing portion is to be found in Bushrod Johnson’s Diary, which is to be found in the Supplement Army Official Records, Volume 7, Addendum Reports (ed. Hewitt). The two sources give strikingly parallel accounts, with some significant details in each that are missing in the other.
In the attachments below, I have placed the two passages side-by-side for comparison. I have also merged the two accounts into a single document, to provide the most detailed and accurate picture possible of the events of June 18, 1864, as seen from Bushrod Johnson’s Confederate perspective.
The attacks described in these reports were mounted by elements of General Charles Griffin’s Division, V Corps. The brigades of Chamberlain and Hofmann conducted in the mid-afternoon assault, and Colonel Jacob B. Sweitzer’s brigade spearheaded the movement in the early evening hours.
I hope you will be able to share the information with your followers on your wonderful The Siege of Petersburg Online website!
Portions of the Unpublished Report of Major General Bushrod R. Johnson, C. S. Army, commanding Johnson’s division, of operations June 16-18, 1864 supplemented with Elements from Johnson’s Diary.
June 18, Saturday. [In the] morning the atmosphere grew thick. The sun was dim and red, and the light was obscured after sunrise. My lines were not formed until near sunrise. Ransom’s Brigade was last to turn out and came in good force. Wise’s Brigade came out about 400 [strong] in detachments and increased to about 600 by sun up.
Enemy seen advancing 7:30 a.m., [the] delay being quite astonishing, and at that hour opened first gun from section of Pegram’s Battery on right of Baxter’s Road. Miller’s section on right and Pegram’s four Napoleons on left joined in fire. First shot cut a regiment in two. Firing all very good. The enemy’s line, about one brigade of Yankees about crest of hill east side of Taylor’s Creek in front of Taylor’s House, was driven by ﬂank at double-quick to Wise’s left to the woods by artillery alone. At ﬁrst shot, Yankee’s line was down. Enemy massed in the woods. Brought up four batteries in case of hole and on edge of woods.
Opened first battery about 8 o’clock. All these batteries commenced 10 o’clock from their new position–battery of two Napoleons and two I0-pounder Parrott guns on right of road. Fired on seven Yankee guns on crest of hill. Enemy concentrated ﬁre over battery on right of road for about one hour. Changed position of the enemy’s left battery to right. Artillery practice continued all day.
Sharpshooters and skirmishers advanced about 10 o’clock. Our skirmishers were driven from slope in front of Taylor’s House about 3 o’clock to railroad (we had men of enemy’s battery found on crest of hill).
At 9 or 10 o’clock a.m. skirmishers advanced from enemy’s lines at I0 a.m. and drove in our advanced skirmishers to the second line of skirmishers on west side of Taylor s Creek. In afternoon enemy’s skirmishers descended the slope to railroad and advanced across the creek.
At about 4 p.m. enemy’s skirmishers advanced on road, (one Napoleon wheel broke off, one limber wheel disabled, one Parrott gun carriage disabled) of Taylor’s Creek, and drove in our skirmishers to their work. The enemy made a charge in two lines of about one brigade near Elliott’s right artillery, but our artillery and the 18th and 26th South Carolina regiments promptly repulsed them, except about 300 who sought shelter in the ravine on that part of our front. A raking fire of one of Slaten’s guns followed by the fire of two companies moved forward from our lines by Brigadier General Elliott promptly drove them from their cover.
About 6:30 p.m. the enemy appeared in regular lines of battle on the north-side of Baxter road, with one color of United States and one state ﬂag, the regiment [being] in front of Pegram’s four guns at about 200 yards. A conflict immediately commenced with the artillery and infantry.
Soon five enemy’s colors were counted, perhaps but the regiments of one brigade. They gained the cover below brow of hill north of Baxter’s Road and established trenches in the edge of the woods some two-hundred yards in front of Ransom’s Brigade, and were soon under cover with skirmishers advanced.
At the same time, about one brigade on the right [or] south side of the Baxter Road charged up to within about 50-100 yards of our lines, [consisting of] a battery and Elliott’s Brigade, exposed to nine rounds of canister, and the direct and flank fire from Elliott’s Brigade, which inflicted severe losses and drove them back in disorder with great loss [of] men to top of hill on east of Taylor’s Creek. They subsequently pushed forward and established at night their line of skirmishers on the Westside of Taylor’s Creek, which advanced about dusk to within fifty yards of Elliott’s works (he having not thrown out skirmishers) [and] established a line which was not reported to me. [They] removed their wounded and dead.
During the night my command was relieved by Field’s Division and part of Kershaw’s.
SOPO Editor’s Note: I’ve added a link below which shows a direct side by side comparison of the June 18, 1864 diary entry of Bushrod Johnson published in Volume 7 of the Supplement to the Official Records and the unpublished report of Bushrod Johnson for June 18, 1864 found in the National Archives and published at The Siege of Petersburg Online.
Link Showing Side by Side Comparison of Johnson’s Diary and Unpublished Report for June 18, 1864
For more on this topic, go check out Dennis Rasbach’s new book, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the Petersburg Campaign: His Supposed Charge from Fort Hell, his Near-Mortal Wound, and a Civil War Myth Reconsidered.