Wednesday, June 18, 2014

150 Years Ago: The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery

June 18, 1864:  Assault of the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery

The scene outside Petersburg, June 18, 1864. The Hare House on hill at left marks the location of attack conducted by the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery regiment.  Later, it became the site of Union Fort Stedman.  Bradford's (Confederate) Battery unlimbered off to the right on the high ground north of the river during the fighting on June 18. LOC (W.Waud)

Fred C. Lowe (1st Maine Heavy Artillery)

"Our regiment went into the charge with 900 men (some of our officers think we had only 850 men in line).  We charged in three lines of battle, four companies of each, the regiment being commanded by Major (afterwards Bvt. Brig. Gen.) Russell B. Shepherd.  In five minutes 632 men and officers were killed and wounded of whom 210 (whose names I read at the dedication of the monument) were killed and died of their wounds.  The casualties of the regiment were in excess of those officially reported.
-- Fred C. Lowe, 1st Maine Heavy Artillery (from letter to George S. Bernard quoted in P.C. Hoy, "Of the Siege of Petersburg:  Some Interesting Recollections of an Officer in Bradford's Battery" in Civil War Talks)

P.C. Hoy (Bradford's Battery)

"Here we were ordered to unlimber and immediately open fire upon the enemy's infantry, who were then in heavy force assaulting our lines on the south bank of the river, all the way it seemed, from the river southeasterly towards O.P. Hare's residence . . . we could not distinctly see the men in the assaulting [column] . . . but, from the smoke and heavy musketry, we could hear, we knew that a hard fight was in progress.  Our position was excellent, about eight hundred yards from the right flank for the Federal attacking column, and our guns quickly enfilading the right flank of the line with shells . . . ."  
-- P.C. Hoy (from Hoy's recollections in Civil War Talks)

Monday, June 9, 2014

150 Years Ago: The Petersburg Campaign Begins

It's a good day to share some nuggets about the Battle of Old Men and Young Boys.  On June 9, 1864, Union forces under Benjamin Butler, including more than a 1,000 cavalrymen led by August Kautz, tested the lines surrounding a lightly-defended Petersburg in the first combat of what would become the months-long Richmond-Petersburg Campaign.  In the city's defense, a small band of militia and citizens rushed to the parapets along the Dimmock Line and repelled the Union attack.

August V. Kautz (LOC)
August V. Kautz: "many blunders"

In the 1890's, William Carr, a former instructor at the Petersburg Female College and a participant in the June 9th engagement, published a letter about that day in the Petersburg Daily Index-Appeal.  In preparing his account, Carr contacted August V. Kautz seeking information about a specific movement during the fight.  Kautz, an aging veteran residing in Annapolis by that time, had suffered his share of failure in 1864.  In response to Carr, Kautz wrote in part:

"I have no recollection of the movement you mention and it was perhaps some stupid movement of which there were others on that occasion . . . There were many blunders perpetrated in that eventful year in and around Petersburg . . . ."  - August V. Kautz, March 14th, 1898  (Both Carr and Kautz's letters appear in Civil War Talks)

Raleigh E. Colston: "no mention . . . of my name"

Raleigh E. Colston (LOC)
Petersburg's defense was orchestrated, in part, by Brigadier General Raleigh E. Colston, who was in the city at the time waiting for a new assignment.  Colston organized the defense and led the soldiers and civilians, the "old men and young boys," in their successful stand against Kautz's probe at the Jerusalem Plank Road.  June 9th became a day of remembrance for many of Petersburg's citizens.  After the war, Colston wrote a long account of the fight, which appeared in the fourth volume of Battles and Leaders of the Civil War and is reproduced at The Siege of Petersburg Online.  However, in a private letter to George S. Bernard in 1895, an ailing Colston wrote:

 "I confess that I have felt hurt that in the commemoration of the fight of June 9, 1864, which have taken place in Petersburgh [sic] year after year, no mention whatever has been made of my name in the City papers or the addresses delivered, so that it might be imagined that I was not there at all." - Raleigh E. Colston, October 7, 1895 in Civil War Talks 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Campaign Before Richmond Symposium, June 20

From W. Waud,"The Battle of Darbytown Road" (LOC)

On June 20, I'll be at Deep Bottom Park outside Richmond to participate in a symposium about military events in Henrico County during the last year of the war.  During my presentation, I plan to discuss the October 1864 battles at the Darbytown and Williamsburg Roads covered in my book, Richmond Must Fall. The program, presented by Henrico County and the Richmond Civil War Roundtable, will be held outdoors in the evening under a large tent.  I'm looking forward to joining fellow panelists John Mountcastle, Jimmy Price, Doug Crenshaw, and Bobby Krick for this event. Here is the full announcement from the Henrico website

Campaign Before Richmond Sesquicentennial Weekend, 
Fri-Sat, June 20-21, Deep Bottom Park

Fri, June 20, 6-9pm, Campaign Before Richmond Symposium. For ages 12+. Join notable historians discuss significant battles that occurred north of the James River for control of Richmond and Petersburg in the last year of the Civil War. Discussion is followed by a Q & A session. Program is outdoors on the picturesque banks of the James River. Presented by Henrico Recreation and Parks and the Richmond Civil War Roundtable. Free. Rain or Shine.

Scheduled Speakers: Moderator – Dr. John W. Mountcastle, Brigadier General US Army (retired); James S. Price, author of “The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword” and upcoming publication “Battle of First Deep Bottom”; Douglas Crenshaw, author of “Fort Harrison and the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm: To Surprise and Capture Richmond”; Robert E.L. Krick, author of “Staff Officers in Gray: A Biographical Register of the Staff Officers in the Army of Northern Virginia” and numerous other Civil War publications; and Hampton Newsome, author of “Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864”

Sat, June 21, 9-11am or 6-8pm, Civil War Boat Tours- Tour the Civil War era James River. For ages 12+. Either enjoy our morning cruise or evening cruise. Information: (804) 652-3409. Preregistration required at $45.