Monday, June 16, 2014

Battle of Petersburg – Beauregard Holds On

After the Federal troops nearly captured Petersburg, Virginia the day before, Confederate commander P. G. T. Beauregard knew the danger he faced. He later wrote,
Petersburg at that hour was clearly at the mercy of the Federal commander, who had all but captured it, and only failed of final success because he could not realize the fact of the unparalleled disparity between the two contending forces.  
Beauregard brought up all the men he could to put them between Smith and Petersburg. He decided on his own authority to abandon the Bermuda Hundred position, as Richmond would not give him directions and he saw holding that Petersburg was much more important. During the night he had 14,000 men in Petersburg working on entrenchments a mile back from the line he had lost. When Lee heard the news of the attack on Petersburg he set his troops moving to reoccupy the Bermuda Neck and reinforce Petersburg. However, he was still looking for certain information that Grant's entire army had crossed the James before he would move his entire army to join Beauregard.

On June 16th, Grant arrived in Petersburg along with more troops, those of Burnside's IX Corps, and ordered that reconnaissance be made in preparation for an attack. All three Federal corps on the scene moved forward at 5:30 pm, and pushed hard on Beauregard's men in their new works. The 14,000 greybacks fought hard against greatly superior number of troops pressing them, and as breakthroughs were made, erected new defenses in the rear, or counter attacked to try to regain their line. Hard fighting prevented a complete breakthrough, though some progress was made by the Federals.

Confederate Major General Bushrod Johnson wrote in his report:
Our troops behaved very handsomely and a steady and deliberate fire, aided by Folds’ section of artillery did great execution and repulsed the assault.  It was repeated some four or five times and repulsed each time with greater loss to the enemy.  The enemy’s dead and wounded were seen lying in large numbers in front of our work. … The conflict continued until late in the night and the artillery fire was kept up till morning.  Under cover of the darkness of night the enemy carried the ravine and established a line about one hundred yards from the left of Johnson’s Brigade.


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