Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Battle of Petersburg – Beauregard Holds On

150 years ago today the Confederates in Petersburg were still struggling to hold on, hoping that reinforcement arrived before the weight of Grant's numbers took their toll. Lee still did not have certain information that the troops opposing Beauregard were from Grant, not Butler. The Federals had been reinforced to 80,000 men by the arrival of Warren's corps, and Beauregard's 14,000 men should not have been able to maintain their line. But they were because of the failure of the Federal generals to coordinate the assaults and use their strength effectively. One Confederate wrote:
Three times were the Federals driven back, but they as often resumed the offensive and held their ground. About dusk a portion of the Confederate lines was wholly broken and the troops in that quarter were about to be thrown into a panic, which might have ended in irreparable disaster, when happily, as General Beauregard, with his staff, was endeavoring to rally and reform the troops, Gracie's brigade ... came up.... It was promptly and opportunely thrown into the gap on the lines and drove back the Federals, capturing ... prisoners. The conflict raged with great fury until after 11 o'clock at night.
After beating back the attacks all day, Beauregard's tired troops fell back in good order to a shorter line which had been had been marked out, and began digging defenses. Beauregard sent a staff officer to Lee with the message, “Unless reinforcements are sent before forty-eight hours, God Almighty alone can save Petersburg and Richmond.”

The report of the staff officer, along with recent messages from Beauregard, finally convinced Lee that Grant was indeed south of the James. Therefore he got two divisions moving before dawn on June 18th to reinforced the hard-pressed rebels in Petersburg. When these forces arrived, they brought the total forces defending the city up to 20,000.


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