Today in History:

17 Series I Volume XL-I Serial 80 - Richmond, Petersburg Part I


CITY POINT, VA., July 30, 1864 - 10 a. m.

Finding that my effort to surprise the enemy by sending an army corp and three divisions of cavalry to the north bank of the James River, under cover of night, for the purpose of getting on to the railroads north of Richmond, drew all of his forces from Petersburg except three divisions, I determined to attack and try to carry the latter place. The enemy's earth-works are as strong as they can be made, and the ground is very broken and favorable for defense. Having a mine prepared running for a distance of eighty feet along the enemy's parapet, and about twenty-two feet below the surface of the ground, ready loaded, and covered ways made near to his line, I was strongly in hopes, by this means of opening the way, the assault would prove successful. The mine was sprung a few minutes before 5 o'clock this morning, throwing up four guns of the enemy and burying most of a South Carolina regiment. Our men immediately took possession of the crater made by the explosion, and a considerable distance of the parapet to the right of it, as well as a short work in front, and still hold them. The effort to carry the ridge beyond, and which would give us Petersburg and the south bank of the Appomattox, failed. As the line held by the enemy would be a very bad one for us, being on a side hill, the crest on the side of the enemy, and not being willing to take the chances of a slaughter sure to occur if another assault was made, I have directed the withdrawal of our troops to their old lines. Although just from the front, I have little idea of the casualties. I think, however, our loss will be but a few hundred, unless it occurs in withdrawing, which it may not be practicable to do before night. I saw about 200 prisoners taken from the enemy. Hancock and Sheridan returned from the north side of the river during the night, and are now here.



Major General H. W. HALLECK,

Chief of Staff.

CITY POINT, VA., August 1, 1864.

The loss in the disaster of Saturday last foots up about 3,500, of whom 450 men were killed and 2,000 wounded. It was the saddest affair I have witnessed in the war. Such opportunity for carrying fortifications i have never seen and do not expect again to have. The enemy with a line of works five miles long had been reduced by our previous movements to the north side of james River to a force of only three divisions. This line was undermined and blown up. carrying a battery and most of a regiment with it. The enemy were taken completely by surprise and did not recover from it for more than an hour. The crater and several hundred yards of the enemy's line to the right and left of it and a short detached line in front of the crater were occupied by our troops without opposition. Immediately in front of this and not 150 yards off, with clear ground intervening, was the crest of the ridge leading into town, and which, if carried, the enemy would have made no resistance, but would have continued a flight already commenced. It was three hours from the time our troops first occupied their works before the enemy took possession of this crest. I am constrained to believe that had instructions been promptly obeyed that Petersburg would have been carried with all the artillery and a large