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1864 June 25: First Battle of Petersburg

June 29, 2014

The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign, more popularly known as the Siege of Petersburg, was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865.  Although it was not a classic military siege, in which a city is surrounded and supplies are cut off, it was also not strictly limited to actions against Petersburg.  The campaign was nine months of trench warfare, raids, and battles either to keep the railroad lines between Peterburg and Richmond open (Confederate goal) or to cut them (Union goal).  Finally in April  of 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee abandoned both cities and retreated, leading to his final surrender at Appomattox Court House.

The following article is from the June 25, 1864, issue of The Polk County Press and concerns Union General Benjamin F. Butler‘s initial attempt on June 9 to capture Petersburg.  This is known as the First Battle of Petersburg.

From Butler’s Army.

FAILURE OF AN ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE PETERSBURG.

NEW YORK, June 12.— The “Tribune” correspondent with Butler says of the expedition against Petersburg :  There were 7,400 picked cavalry under Kautz [August V. Kautz] and between 3,000 or 4000 infantry under Gilmore [sic: Quincy A. Gillmore], and all under command of Gilmore [sic].  At noon when the infantry were within a mile and a half of Petersburg Gilmore [sic] sent a dispatch that he heard Kautz’s guns away to the left, but had no communication with him.

Gilmore [sic] had intentions to advance on Petersburg and engage the enemy.  He returned to-night.  It was immaterial whether he succeeded or not.  The real object being to divert attention from Kautz, who was to dash into the city from the opposite side, burn Appomatox [sic: Appomattox] bridge, destroy stores, supply depots, &c,, and do all he could to annoy and harass the enemy.

A signal glass showed that Kautz was fulfilling his mission as the cavalry were seen attacking upon the further side, and driving the enemy before them.  This was inside of the entrenchments on the outskirts.

Availing himself of the second clause of his instructions, namely, to return the same night word that he had found the works quite formidable, more so than he had anticipated, and that he and Gen. Hicks [sic]¹ did not deem it prudent to attack and therefore retired half a mile, where he formed a line of battle.  Meanwhile Kautz had entered the line of entrenchments with his cavalry and was fighting in the city, expecting the infantry would assist him.

The rebels, seeing Gilmore’s [sic] force withdrawing, turned their attention to Kautz, pressing him closely and capturing a three-inch gun.  At this the cavalry pounced upon a twelve-pound brass piece, which they seized and brought away.  Still there was no diversion in their favor by the infantry.  To attempt to accomplish the work assigned him was madness, and Kautz reluctantly withdrew.

The correspondent of the “Herald” from Butler’s department gives details of the recent attack on Petersburg, showing that Gilmore [sic] advanced to within a short distance, but being informed by a woman that the rebels were prepared to receive him, they having received information of the movement some days previous, he decided to return, which he did safely with only twenty-five wounded.

Gen. Kautz, by another road, surprised the enemy’s works by a brave dash, capturing several pieces of artillery and a number of prisoners ;  but not being cooperated with by Gilmore [sic], was obliged to fall back to prevent being surrounded, bringing off his prisoners and captured guns with him.

The gunboats in the Appomatox [sic] threw many shells into Petersburg during the movement.

1.  Edward Winslow Hinks / Hincks (1830-1894), a career military officer, received a commission the regular army’s 2nd U.S. Cavalry, but was soon after offered a commission as colonel of the 19th Massachusetts Infantry. Hinks served at Ball’s Bluff, in the Peninsula Campaign, and at Glendale, where he was wounded. He was wounded again, seriously, at Antietam (September 17, 1862). In March 1863 he received a promotion to brigadier general of Volunteers. He then spent time on court martial and recruiting duty, and from March through May 1864, commanded the prison camp at Camp Lookout, Maryland. Shortly before the Siege of Petersburg he was assigned to command the 3rd Division of the XVIII Corps, which was composed entirely of U. S. Colored Troops. Hinks, one of the leaders of the unsuccessful First Battle of Petersburg, served through the Siege of Petersburg.
After the War, Hinks remained in the army as a lieutenant colonel of the 40th U.S. Infantry Regiment and retired as a colonel in December 1870. After he retired, he returned to using the original spelling of his surname, Hincks, and served as governor of the National Military Home for Disabled Veterans in Hampton, Virginia (1870–1873), and in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1873–1880).

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