« PreviousContinue »
outright. It appears that some men had gone to the front of these troops, who were throwing up temporary breastworks, and built a fire. This, running through the parched shrubbery and undergrowth, soon spread through the entire plot of timber, causing a dense smoke. The rebels, relying on the smoke to conceal them until they could approach our busy troops, dashed noiselessly at them through the fiery barrier. Wholly off their guard against any such desperate feat on the part of the rebels, our men were thoroughly surprised, and captured ere they could make the slightest re
HEADQUARTERS, June 25-6 A. M.
The only fighting that took place yesterday was an attack made by the enemy on General Burnside's position. The enemy opened with a heavy fire of artillery, which was returned by our batteries, and the rebels, in making a charge, were driven back in confusion, upward of one hundred prisoners being taken.
This occurred about eight o'clock A. M., and the artillery firing was kept up for an hour, when all became quiet at that point. 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.
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 to make a change in the skirmish line without some loss from the enemy's sharpshooters, 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 was quite severe, particularly in front of the Second division, commanded by General Wheaton.
Only a short distance of the railroad had been destroyed when the party were attacked by a heavy force of the enemy under General Anderson, supported by Wilcox's division. Captain Beatre, of the Third Vermont regiment, was in charge of the party that reached the road, and he 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 the line of battle.
They, however, did not penetrate far enough, although they succeeded in taking a number of the skirmishers prisoners, of the Fourth and Eleventh Vermont regiments, Vermont brigade. The enemy afterward 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 retreated across the railroad bank, 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 ours. We lost quite a number of prisoners, but the figures cannot be as yet correctly given.
The railroad from City Point to Petersburg is being placed in order, and an engine and cars are already provided to put on the road as soon as it is in running condition. Supplies arrive at the front regularly, and the troops lack nothing in that respect, but they suffer somewhat from a scarcity of water.
June 25th-9 P. M.--Our pickets extend within a short distance of the Petersburg and Weldon railroad track. The enemy seem determined to make a serious fight for its possession. The damage done to the road by Wilson's cavalry is reported to be already repaired by them.
The general course of our line is now north and south, with turns to the west on the extreme right and left. The right and right-centre are close to Petersburg, the course of the line being such as to make the left-centre on a line vergent from the city. It is owing to this that, while it has been quiet in front of our left during the past forty-eight hours, desultory musketry firing and artillery have steadily continued along the front of General Smith and General Burnside. During the latter part of the afternoon, the artillery on both sides, on that part of the lines, has been active. A battery of thirty-two-pounder guns, on the right of Smith's position, threw shells into Petersburg every five minutes for two hours.
General Smith has been engaged all day in placing heavy guns and mortars in batteries at various points on the hills in the rear of his line. He expects to give a night entertainment with them. General Burnside is also locating some heavy pieces and mortars.
The other parts of our line were too distant from Petersburg and the rebel works on the west bank of the Appomattox for an effectual use of heavy pieces, and the bombardment will be opened from the right and right-centre alone.
The extraordinary heat continues, and with the air of dust in which this whole vicinity is enveloped makes active movements almost impracticable.
Captain Elder, of the First United States Artillery, Chief of Artillery of the Eighteenth corps, rode into the enemy's lines yesterday, by mistake, and was captured.
June 26-9. P. M.-At about ten o'clock last evening the enemy, mistaking the movements of our reliefs for an abandonment of our line, attempted to advance their picket-line in front of Potter's and Ledlie's divisions of the Ninth corps, and Turner's division on the left of Smith's line. From our line a heavy musketry and artillery fire was immediately opened upon them, that speedily checked their advance. The firing continued for about an hour, and sounded like a heavy engagement. Our casualties were very few.
In the course of the night Smith's line was felt several times by the enemy, each attempt to advance being stopped by a few volleys from our side. One of the heavy batteries on the right threw shells into Petersburg all night. Nothing occurred along our line to-day beyond the usual ragged firing on our right and right-centre.
The last few days of rest have been well improved in reorganizing the army as far as practicable.
THE COLORED TROOPS.
IN THE FIELD, NEAR PETERSBURG, VIRGINIA,
The problem is solved. The negro is a man, a soldier, a hero. Knowing of your laudable interest in the colored troops, but particularly those raised under the immediate auspices of the Supervisory Committee, I have thought it proper that I should let you know how they acquitted themselves in the late actions in front of Petersburg, of which you have already received newspaper accounts. If you remember, in my conversations upon the character of these troops, I carefully avoided saying anything about their fighting qualities till I could have an opportunity of trying them.
took to their rifle-pits as infantrymen. Our brave fellows went steadily through the swamp, and up the side of a hill, at an angle of almost fifty degrees, rendered nearly impassable by fallen timber. Here again our color-sergeant was conspicuous in keeping far ahead of the most advanced, hanging on to the side of the hill, till he would turn about and wave the stars and stripes at his advancing comrades; then steadily advancing again, under the fire of the enemy, till he could almost have reached their rifle-pits with his flagstaff. How he kept from being killed I do not know, unless it can be attributed to the fact that the party advancing up the side of the hill always has the advantage of those who hold the crest. It was in this way that we got such decided advantage over the enemy at South Mountain. We took, in these two redoubts, four more guns, making, in all, five for our regiment, two redoubts, and part of a rifle-pit as our day's work. The Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh United States colored troops advanced against works more to the left. The Fourth United States colored troops took one more redoubt, and the enemy abandoned the other. In these two we got two more guns, which made, in all, seven. The Sixth regiment did not get up in time, unfortunately, to have much of the sport, as it had been previously formed in the second line. We left forty-three men wounded and eleven killed in the ravine, over which our men charged the last time. Our loss in the whole day's operations was one hundred and forty-three, including six officers, one of whom was killed. Sir, there is no underrating the good conduct of these fellows during these charges; with but a few exceptions, they all went in as old soldiers, but with more enthusiasm. I am delighted that our first action resulted in a decided victory.
That opportunity came on the fifteenth inst., and since, and I am now prepared to say that I never, since the beginning of this war, saw troops fight better, more bravely, and with more determination and enthusiasm. Our division, commanded by General Hinks, took the advance on the morning of the fifteenth instant, arrived in front of the enemy's works about nine o'clock A. M., formed line, charged them, and took them most handsomely. Our regiment was the first in the enemy's works, having better ground to charge over than some of the others, and the only gun that was taken on this first line was The commendations we have received from taken by our men. The color-sergeant of our the Army of the Potomac, including its general regiment planted his colors on the works of the officers, are truly gratifying. Hancock's corps enemy, a rod in advance of any officer or man arrived just in time to relieve us (we being out in the regiment. The effect of the colors being of ammunition), before the rebels were reinthus in advance of the line, so as to be seen by forced and attempted to retake these strong all, was truly inspiring to our men, and to a cor-works and commanding positions, without which responding degree dispiriting to the enemy. We they could not hold Petersburg one hour, if it pushed on two and a half miles further, till we were a part of Grant's plan to advance against came in full view of the main defences of Peters-it on the right here. burg. We formed line at about two o'clock General Smith speaks in the highest terms of P. M., reconnoitred and skirmished the whole the day's work, as you have doubtless seen, and afternoon, and were constantly subject to the he assured me, in person, that our division shells of the enemy's artillery. At sunset we should have the guns we took as trophies of charged these strong works and carried them. honor. He is also making his word good in Major Cook took one with the left wing of our saying that he could hereafter trust colored regiment as skirmishers, by getting under the troops in the most responsible positions. Colguns, and then preventing their gunners from onel Ames, of the Sixth United States colored using their pieces, while he gained the rear of troops, and our regiment, have just been relieved the redoubt, where there was no defence but in the front, where we served our tour of fortythe infantry, which, classically speaking, "ske-eight hours in turn with the other troops of the daddled." We charged across what appeared to be an almost impassable ravine, with the right wing all the time subject to a hot fire of grape and canister, until we got so far under the guns as to be sheltered, when the enemy
corps. While out, we were subjected to some of the severest shelling I have ever seen, Malvern Hill not excepted. The enemy got twenty guns in position during the night, and opened on us yesterday morning at daylight. Our
men stood it, behind their works, of course, as well as any of the white troops. Our men, unfortunately, owing to the irregular features of ground, took no prisoners. Sir, we can bayonet the enemy to terms on this matter of treating colored soldiers as prisoners of war far sooner than the authorities at Washington can bring him to it by negotiation. This I am morally persuaded of. I know further that the enemy wont fight us if he can help it. I am sure that the same number of white troops could not have taken those works on the evening of the fifteenth; prisoners that we took told me so. I mean prisoners who came in after the abandonment of the fort, because they could not get away. They excuse themselves on the ground of pride; as one of them said to me, D-d if men educated as we have been will fight with niggers and your government ought not to expect it." The real fact is, the rebels will not stand against our colored soldiers when there is any chance of their being taken prisoners, for they are conscious of what they justly deserve. Our men went into these works after they were taken, yelling "Fort Pillow!" The enemy well knows what this means, and I will venture the assertion that that piece of infernal brutality enforced by them there has cost the enemy already two men for every one they so inhumanly murdered.
Wilson, with his cavalry command, is near Reams' station, on the Weldon railroad, returning from his raid at the point named, which is about eight miles from here. The main body of the enemy's cavalry are said to be obstructing his progress, and endeavoring to prevent him from forming a junction with the rest of the army. Sheridan has been sent for to come to his assistance, with the other two divisions of the cavalry corps, and pending his arrival, the Sixth corps has left its position on the left, and has gone on the same errand.
While these events are in progress on our side, a column of the enemy, comprising about eighteen regiments, is observed moving down west of the Weldon railroad. They may be making for Reams' station, in which case a collision is likely to occur between them and General Wright's corps; or possibly they may make an attack on our left, when the Second corps will have to bear the brunt of their assault. General Hancock, who has just resumed command of his corps, is making all necessary preparations for such an event, and will not be taken by surprise.
Wilson succeeded in destroying forty miles of railroad. Last night he was at Stony Grove, south of Stony creek, a branch of the Nottoway river, and on attempting to cross found his passage opposed by the enemy. He then sent Kautz's division westward to cross the stream higher up and then make for the railroad near
Reams' station, in which vicinity the entire command now is.
ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA, NEAR GAINES' MILL, June 3, 1864. Yesterday evening, about four o'clock, after having been previously arranged, Gordon's and Rhodes' divisions of Ewell's, and Heth's divisions of A. P. Hill's corps, executed a flank movement on the enemy's right, near Bethesda Church, on the Mechanicsville turnpike, capturing, it is said, some eight hundred prisoners. Rhodes and Gordon certainly captured five hundred and twelve, and I have it on good authority that Heth took between two and three hundred more, and driving the enemy back nearly a mile, taking from him no less than three strongly intrenched lines, two of them being lines of battle and one a skirmish line. Our loss will not reach over three hundred; of that, Ewell's loss being about two hundred, and Heth's estimated at about one hundred.
Among the killed is the gallant BrigadierGeneral Doles, of Georgia, who fell, pierced through the left breast, while leading his brigade into action. Among the wounded, I hear the names of Brigadier-General Kirkland, who was slightly hurt; Colonel Williams, Thirty-ninth Virginia, and Colonel Berry, Sixtieth Georgia, were also wounded slightly.
It seems Gordon, who led this flank movement, discovered a swamp, across which he charged. This swamp the enemy supposed to be impassable, and hence were not on their guard for a flank movement in that direction. Our men first drove in the enemy's line of skirmishers; then pressing them, we caused their first line of battle to give back rapidly by the vigor of our charge, and without the firing of a gun on our side, the enemy firing feebly. On our boys pressed, up to the second strongly intrenched line of battle, which was also protected by stockades; so close were our men on the heels of the enemy, that both worked together in pulling down the stockade defences, and some of our men entered their breastworks along with the enemy. The enemy dared not fire for fear of shooting their own men. As we took the second line of the enemy, our men fired into the enemy, who now made a stand and fought us until night ended the engagement.
All the troops engaged in this fight acted well, and especially that far and justly famed Stonewall brigade, under the lead of its new commander, the gallant Terry.
The position from which we drove the enemy was naturally very strong, and rendered doubly so by very heavy lines of fortifications. They had transverse lines, and parallel lines, and lines running every way, and it seems a marvel how they were driven from their position.
The force which we put to flight, and of whom we captured so goodly a number, be
longed to Warren's Fifth corps. Five regular regiments are represented among the prisoners, namely, the Second, Ninth, Eleventh, Twelfth and Fourteenth. We also captured the commanding officers of three of them-Captain Kibbor of the Fourteenth; Captain Penn, of the Second, and another officer, whose name I forget. These officers seemed to care little or nothing about themselves, their great anxiety appearing to be to learn something about the fate of their colors.
Besides the five hundred well Yankees, some fifty wounded ones were captured, nearly all of whom were wounded in the back. It is also related by an officer, that, passing over one of these officers-a captain-he supposed him to be dead; chancing, however, to look back, great was his surprise to see this dead captain, as he had supposed, heeling in rearwards.
While this warm work was going on in Ewell's front, picket and field skirmish lines were heavily engaged with the enemy, and there was considerable shelling. It is also reported that the enemy attacked Hoke, near this point, about night yesterday, but were gallantly repulsed with considerable slaughter of their numbers; our side suffered little or nothing.
Last evening, just before dark, Wilcox placed a battery of twelve guns in position, on the extreme right, and having shelled the enemy's position, advanced and occupied the heights near McClellan's bridge, on the Chickahominy. During the advance Brigadier-General Lane was severely wounded in the thigh.
This morning about sunrise the ball opened again, principally on Longstreet's and Stokes' fronts, and for three hours the enemy continued to assault our lines. Each time, however, they were most gallantly and successfully repulsed, our men suffering scarcely any, while the loss of the enemy is reported to be very heavyindeed it is believed that the enemy has lost to-day not less than seven thousand men, while ours can scarcely be one twentieth of that number. The principal and most repeated assaults have been made on Kershaw's front, the enemy, it is said, having charged him not less than fourteen times. Each time, however, his gallant division (formerly McLaws'), has successfully driven back the assailants. Hoke had also signally repulsed three different assaults, this time capturing a few prisoners.
At one time this morning, the enemy having made a most vigorous attack upon Breckinridge, a portion of his command was forced back. Finnegan's Floridians, however, at once bounded forward with a yell, and regained what Breckinridge had temporarily lost. Three pieces of artillery, belonging to Reid's battalion, were, for a while, taken, but Finnegan recaptured them. General Finnegan himself was slightly wounded, but did not leave the field. General Law, of Fields' division, was also wounded this morning, in the eye, not, however, dangerously.
The enemy also made, early this morning, a feeble assault upon Heth's and Rhodes' divisions, on our extreme left, but were repulsed by our skirmish line.
Since morning there has not been much fighting, but heavy skirmishing and artillery firing has been going on all day along the lines. Grant has evidently been reinforced from Butler, and seems to be contracting his lines and massing his troops.
My information, derived from what I deem good authority, was that Heth and Rhodes had been slightly assaulted.
Later information, however, represents that the assault on Rhodes and Heth was very vigorous, and that we literally piled up the Yankee dead in front of these divisions. LieutenantGeneral Ewell has been sick, but is now recovering. His corps, for the last ten days, has been under the command of Major-General Early.
The battle-ground, to-day, has extended from one and a half miles to the left of Mechanicsville to McClellan's bridge, a distance of some seven miles.
Grant's main efforts to-day have been directed against our right wing.
BATTLE-FIELD NEAR GAINES' MILL, June 3—5 r. M. Heth's division participated with Ewell in the fight yesterday, capturing over two hundred prisoners. Among his wounded was BrigadierGeneral Kirkland, slightly.
The battle opened at sunrise this morning, from the Mechanicsville road to McClellan's about ten miles below Richmond, extending bridge, making the line of battle over seven miles long, the enemy making the attack.
The heaviest fighting is reported in Rhodes', Kershaw's, and Hoke's front, who gallantly repulsed every assault of the enemy.
dred in killed and wounded. That of the enemy Our loss is very slight-not over five hunis fully six thousand. Some estimate it as high
inridge's division, capturing three pieces of arThe enemy at one time broke through Brecktillery. Finnegan, however, quickly came up, recapturing the artillery and taking one piece from the enemy. Breckinridge lost probably two hundred prisoners.
The heaviest fighting was up to eleven o'clock; since then there has been heavy cannonading and incessant skirmishing.
Generals Law and Finnegan slightly wounded. The latter did not leave the field.
THE ATTACK ON PETERSBURG.
Yesterday was another day of excitement in our midst; little more was done by our citizens than to prepare for the stern realities of the crisis which stared them in the face.
Yesterday morning at one o'clock three discharges of cannon were heard in the direction of their whereabouts, and at early dawn
our pickets were driven in on the City Point and Prince George Court-house roads. It was subsequently ascertained that these movements were but feints to deceive our forces, while the real movement for the surprise and capture of the city was on the Jerusalem plank-road, coming into Petersburg from a southerly direction. On the two first-named roads the enemy appeared in considerable numbers as early as seven o'clock, and brisk skirmishing was kept up for At eight o'clock the Court-house and engine bells were rung, to which the citizens responded with their usual alacrity, and manifested every disposition to defend their homes and firesides.
In the meantime, the enemy's gunboats ascended the Appomattox river, and opened a furious fire on Fort Clifton and at various other points along the river, for the obvious purpose of occupying the attention of our troops in Chesterfield.
At nine o clock our pickets on the Jerusalem plank-road were driven in, and before ten the enemy showed himself in overwhelming numbers, filling the road and woods on both sides. Our breastworks here extended from the residence of Timothy Rivers, Esq., on the left to and across the roadway, and beyond the house of Mr. William A. Gregory on the right. The enemy manoeuvred for a while, thinking, probbably, that our raw troops would abandon their position without a fight.
cannon for the purpose of shelling the city.
They were almost in Petersburg; could see
The missiles of death coming so unexpectedly surprise, and halted, neither advancing nor reto the foe, he at first seemed overwhelmed with treating; but, a minute or two later, another branch of our service made its appearance, course for him to pursue. Dearing's which quickly determined the enemy as to the best cavalry brigade quickly dismounted, and descending the hill with a yell, charged upon the enemy in beautiful style. This was more than they expected (since they had encountered only a few militia in the breastworks, and had adregulars), and they instantly wheeled their vanced nearly a mile without seeing any But never were the Yankees more mistaken. horses, and started back up hill in great conOur men were made of sterner stuff, and in- fusion. Graham's battery continued to play spired by the cool determination of their leaders, upon them, and Dearing's men crossed the General Colston and Colonel F. H. Archer, main- ravine and ascended the opposite hill in gallant tained their ground like veterans. Finally, the style, their carbines keeping up a regular and enemy ordered a charge, and came down to our musical fusilade upon Kautz and Spear and their breast works with a yell, their drawn sabres rapidly retreating followers. Upon reaching flashing in the sunlight. When within forty the top of the opposite hill the enemy hoped to paces of the fortifications the order to fire was make a stand. Here another column which given and the Yankees recoiled and fell back. they had sent to the city for the purpose of enA prisoner, taken subsequently, states that intering by the Brentford Church road hove in this charge the notorious Spear led, and that he had forty killed and wounded. This charge was repeated twice, but with like results, when the enemy resorted to the flanking process, which, by reason of his overwhelming numbers, he A short was enabled to do with much ease. time afterward a regiment came round Rivers' house, on our left, another appeared on our right, and a large body came down in front. We had but a hundred and seventy men, all told, and it was impossible with this number to guard centre, right and left, along a length of The order three quarters of a mile or more. was given to retreat, and in a few minutes the enemy had possession of our works, our camp, Couriers and were in full pursuit of our men. had been despatched for reinforcements, but they did not come up in time to save our fortifications, and many of Petersburg's best and most gallant sons fell in the affray, some killed and others wounded.
The enemy came on in double columns, with sabres drawn, until they reached the hill op
sight. But this column had also started on a retrogade movement, but, to their surprise, too, they had encountered Sturdivant's battery, which had gone out by another road, and the two columns met and continued their retreat, the speed not at all slackened by Confederate shell and balls, which were falling thick and fast among them.
In Jackson's field, a mile or so from Brentford Our forces pursued Church, we captured a handsome cannon and six horses, which the enemy were compelled to abandon in their flight. them for a few miles, killing and wounding many and taking some prisoners. Yesterday afternoon late, our pickets extended several miles on the Jerusalem plank-road, but nothing of the enemy could be seen, and it is supposed that they have retreated to the river. This is only supposition, however, and the vandals will bear constant and vigilant watching.
Kautz is in command of this force, and prisoners taken variously estimate it at from three thousand to five thousand. There is no