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1864 July 9: Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, Casualties at Kennesaw Mountain, News from Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley

July 9, 2014

The Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road—also known as the First Battle of Weldon Railroad—took place on June 21-23, 1864, as part of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign.  It was the first in a series of battles during the Siege of Petersburg.  The aim was to cut the railroad supply lines, and extend the Union’s siege lines.  Union casualties were 2,962 and Confederate casualties were only 572, but the battle was considered inconclusive because both sides gained advantages.

The following is from The Prescott Journal of July 9, 1864.

The News.

— The pirate Alabama, which has done so much damage to our commerce, has been captured on the coast of France by the U. S. steamer Kearsage.

— Hon. S. P. CHASE [Salmon P. Chase] has resigned¹ the office of Secretary of the Treasury, and Hon. WM. P. FESSENDEN has been appointed to the place.

— There is a rebel raid being made into Maryland, but it likely will not amount to much.

— SHERMAN [William T. Sherman] has made another brilliant movement, forced the enemy from the position where we were recently so badly repulsed, and now occupies Marietta, on the Atlanta and Western Railway, only twenty miles from Atlanta.

— There is nothing of special importance from GRANT [Ulysses S. Grant].  He will be heard from in due time.

OFFICIAL DISPATCHES.

WASHINGTON, June 23.

To Maj. Gen. Dix [John A. Dix] :

A dispatch from Gen. Grant, dated yesterday p. m., reports no operations in front, except from our own guns, which fire at the bridge at Petersburg, 2000 yards distant.

A Petersburg paper of the 20th states that Hunter [David Hunter] is striking for Jackson River depot, 40 miles north of Salem, and says if he reaches Covington; which they suppose he will do with the most of his force, but loss of material, he will be safe.

The same papers [sic] states that Gen. Wilson [James H. Wilson] destroyed a train of cars loaded with cotton and furniture and burned the depot at Burksville and destroyed the track and was pushing South.

All the railroads leading into Richmond are now destroyed, some of them badly.

A dispatch from Sherman received this morning reports that yesterday we made an unsuccessful attack on the enemy’s position.  We lost between 2,000 and 3,000.  The loss is particularly heavy in officers.  Gen. Packer [sic: Harker]¹ is reported mortally wounded, Col. Dan’l McCook,² commanding a brigade and Col. Rice³ of the 57th Ohio, very seriously; Col. Borndrell [sic: Barnhill],4 40th Illinois, and Col. Augustine,5 55th Illinois, were killed.  We took a few prisoners, but do not suppose we inflicted a very heavy loss on the enemy, as he kept behind his parapet.

E. M. STANTON [Edwin M. Stanton]

WASHINGTON, June 28—4 P. M.

To Maj. Gen. Dix :

The following dispatch has just been received from Gen. Hunter :Ly

“I have the honor to report that our expedition has been extremely successful in inflicting great injury upon the enemy and victorious in every engagement.  Running short of ammunition and finding it impossible to collect supplies while in the presence of an enemy believed to be superior to our forces in numbers and constantly receiving reinforcements from Richmond, I deemed it best to withdraw, and have succeeded in doing so without serious loss to this point, where I have met with abundant supplies of food.  A detailed report of our operations will be forwarded immediately.  The command is in excellent heart and health and ready, after a few days rest, for service in any direction.”

Nothing later than my telegram of this morning has been received from Grant or Sherman.

E. M. STANTON,
.       .Secretary of War.

THE WAR IN VIRGINIA.

HEAD QUAR’S. POTOMAC ARMY, June 27.

An attack was made on Burnside’s [Ambrose E. Burnside] line at 11 o’clock on Saturday night, with the intention of driving back the working soldiery who were engaged in digging entrenchments towards the enemy’s front, so as to gain a better position in which to more effectually cover the enemy’s works.  The firing was very brisk for about an hour, resulting in our men holding their ground and continuing their labors, without any loss of consequence.

The health of our troops, in the main, is good, considering the oppressively hot weather.  The 18th corps seem to have the greatest number of men in hospital, from the effects of the weather.  The colored troops are reported as being unaffected by the heat—Sergeant Jackson, in charge of the 4th division of the 9th corps, reports that in that division only 40 men out of 4,000 were unfit for duty when they were put in front on Tuesday last, to relieve the 2d corps.  This shows how much better they can endure the strong rays of the sun than white troops.

NEW YORK, June 28.

In the affair of Wednesday last, the Tribune correspondent says the 19th and 75th Massachusetts and the 42d and 82d New York were captured bodily.  The object of the movement getting possession of the railroads south of Petersburg was not gained.  The movement of our forces was promptly resumed after the rebels retreated with their captures.  Owing to the rebels have the inside track and reaching the point first they repulsed our advance forces, consisting of the Vermont brigade, which lost severely in prisoners.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY POTOMAC, June 28.

The left wing swung around and took possession of the Weldon Railroad, four miles from the city, without opposition.

It is believed the enemy’s lines have been contracted and a force sent to drive back Hunter.

There are 5000 sick and wounded at City Point Hospitals.

NEW YORK, June 29.

A special dispatch to the Tribune dated at the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac, June 26, says the enemy are in very strong force in front, exhibiting a determination to resist every attempt of our men to advance.  The possession of the Petersburg and Weldon railroad is of such vital importance to them, that only the most consummate skill and bravery will be able to wrest it from them.

The repulse of a remnant of a brigade on Friday shows stubborn determination of the enemy, and there is no doubt that ever since they have strengthened that portion of their lines with defenses and men.

The World’s special, dated headquarters, 27th says we have not got possession of the Weldon and Petersburg road as yet, and as matters stand now there is no ground for saying we will have it immediately.  Our position is such, however, as to prevent the enemy running any trains on that road.  Gen. Grant is making the enemy’s position a warm one.

The Herald’s Bermuda Hundred correspondent of June 25th says :  The situation of the enemy to-day in relation to Gen. R. S. Foster’s6 position at Jones’ Neck, is somewhat menacing, though quite a reconnaissance resulted in some picket firing.  Just now the gunboat Hunchback opened the enemy, who is discovering them throwing up earthworks at the head of Four Mile Creek.  After several rounds the enemy left.

1.  Brigadier General Charles Garrison Harker (1837-1864) graduated from West Point in 1858. He was shot from his horse and mortally wounded during the failed attack on Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864.
2.  Brigadier General Daniel McCook, Jr. (1834-1864) was a lawyer in Ohio before the Civil War and became one of the “Fighting McCooks.” He was selected by General Sherman to lead the assault on Kennesaw Mountain on June 27, 1864. He was mortally wounded on that day but did not die until a month later, July 27, 1864.
3.  Americus Vespucius Rice (1835-1904) studied law in Ohio before the Civil War and was commissioned a captain in the 21st Ohio Infantry when the War started. By the Atlanta Campaign he was colonel of the 57th Ohio Infantry and was wounded at Kennesaw Mountain, resulting in the amputation of his right leg.
4.  Rigdon S. Barnhill was the lieutentant colonel of the 44th Illinois at this time. He was killed in battle June 27, 1864, at Kennesaw Mountain.
5.  Jacob M. Augustine had been the captain of Company A, then the lieutenant colonel of the regiment, and finally the colonel. Most records say only that he was the captain of Company A and that he was killed June 27 at Kennesaw Mountain.
6.  Robert Sanford Foster (1834-1903) played a prominent role in the siege of Petersburg and later in the Appomattox Campaign. During the Bermuda Hundred Campaign Foster served as chief of staff to General Gillmore. Foster notably led his division in an assault on Fort Gregg during the Union breakthrough at Petersburg. Foster’s division helped block Robert E. Lee’s retreat at Appomattox Court House.

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