Attack on Petersburg


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, July 2, 1864

Harper's Weekly newspapers were the primary source of information for people who lived at the time of the War. There were hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and millions of readers. Today, these original documents serve as an important research tool enabling the serious student to gain new insights into the war.

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General Lee

Robert E. Lee

Democratic Convention

1864 Democratic Convention


Attack on Petersburg



General Logan

General Johnny Logan

Escaped Slave

Escaped Slave

Map March

Map of Sherman's March

Escaped Slave

Escaped Slave, Union Soldier

Custer Cavalry Charge

Custer Cavalry Charge


Battle of Fort Powhatan








JULY 2, 1864]



(Previous Page) lightenment, they follow the advancing lines of bayonets. Their work is little heeded ; their names are unrecorded ; but there is a Book of Life in which those names are deathless; for these women early heard and obeyed the divine whisper, " Whoso doeth it unto the least of these my little ones, doeth it unto me."


FINANCIERS of the Copperhead persuasion are as unreliable as politicians of the same school. Both aim at the same goal by different roads. The one wishes to weaken the Government by crippling our armies, the other by depreciating our funds. The favorite text of the disloyal financiers just now is Prices and the Currency. " Prices," they say, " are not really high ; it is the Currency which is low. For a gold dollar you can today buy as much as you ever could." They regard gold as the one fixed thing around which every thing else revolves. The truth is, that gold, like every thing else, fluctuates in value in accordance with the law of demand and supply.

Prices are high. Every man who has any thing to buy or sell, no matter whether it be food or clothing, gold or labor, knows this and acts accordingly. That these high prices are caused in part by the increase in the amount of the currency is true. But this is only one cause out of many, No matter what the medium of making exchanges, prices in times of war must always be high. And that for the simple reason that the demand for every product of labor is increased, while the supply is diminished. War draws the farmer from the plow and the mechanic from his tools. It also changes the direction of labor. The shipwright, who formerly built clippers for commerce, now builds Monitors and Ironsides for war. War is also, of necessity, wasteful. An army of a million men must of necessity consume more than the same million would at home. War prices are therefore high prices, by a law just as inevitable as that of the attraction of gravitation.

War prices always have been and always must be high prices. If every dollar of paper currency were destroyed tomorrow, and only specie used in payments, prices would be high. A redundant currency increases this evil, but does not create it. The probability is that the currency of the country has now reached its highest point.

To the general advance in prices there is but one marked exception, and that is the bonds of the Government. They are cheap now, for the simple reason that the exigencies of the war have made them abundant. When the war ends they must be dear, because the supply will be cut off. The man who invests his capital in them now must make a good investment, because they pay a fair interest and are more secure than any thing else can be. The man who has a hundred dollars in Government bonds has really a mortgage to that amount upon every acre of land, every mile of rail-way, every ship, every house, every article of property, real or personal, in the land. He has, more over, no trouble to collect the interest. Government does that for him.

It is a great error to suppose that great capitalists alone have an interest in owning Government stock. Every man who has any surplus, however small, should own it. If he owns none he is a debtor to those who do, and his property in every shape is mortgaged for that debt. If he owns this stock he is so far a creditor, and holds a mortgage upon every other man's property. In the long-run these mortgages will cancel each other ; and our national debt, so far as it is held by ourselves, will be paid off from the accumulations of past and future years. But the man to whom the nation owes nothing will have to pay his share of the interest and receive nothing ; while the man who is a creditor of the nation receives interest as well as pays it.

Government stocks at present prices, or at prices which are at all likely to prevail during the war, are in every way the best investments possible. Every man who wishes to avoid the evils inseparable from high prices should invest a portion of his surplus earnings or capital in Government bonds.


MR. C. F. HALL has just set out upon a second exploring expedition to the Arctic regions. Only two or three days before his departure he finished the revisal of the proof-sheets of the narrative of his first expedition. The work will be published shortly by Messrs. HARPER & BROTHERS, in one large volume, profusely illustrated. The immediate object of this expedition was to gain information of the fate of Sir JOHN FRANKLIN and his companions. Mr. HALL sailed from New London, Connecticut, on board a whaling vessel, in May, 1860. He went absolutely alone, provided with the slenderest outfit with which any man ever undertook such an enterprise. He was absent about twenty-eight months, passing two entire winters in the Arctic regions. During a great part of this time he lived with the Esquimaux, adopting their habits and modes of life; he acquired a fair mastery over their language, and established the most friendly relations with them. On his return he was accompanied by EBIERBING and his wife TOOKOOLITO, two remarkably intelligent natives, who go with him in this new expedition. Although the special object of the first expedition was not attained, Mr. HALL practically demonstrated by his own experience that white men, by adopting native modes of life, can exist in the Arctic regions with no more danger to life and health than at home. He found also that the Esquimaux have accurate traditions of the events which have occurred among them for many generations. Many of FRANKLIN'S men were in the prime of life, and he assumes that there is a fair probability that some of them may be still alive, even after the lapse of fifteen years ; or, at all events, that by search properly directed, authentic information may be gained of their fate; and as they would be likely to have left written accounts of their proceedings, that these may be recovered. He under-

takes the present expedition under the auspices of merchants and men of science, by whom he has been provided with every thing necessary for its prosecution. He will proceed at once to the region where FRANKLIN disappeared. He expects to be absent three years. Whether or not he succeeds in accomplishing the immediate object of his expedition, he can not fail of making important additions to our knowledge of the Arctic regions. Even in a purely commercial point of view the enterprise is an important one; for there can be no doubt that the whales, seals, and walruses which abound in the region will furnish products of no inconsiderable value. In every aspect, philanthropic, scientific, and commercial, Mr. Hanes enterprise is deserving of the cordial sympathy and liberal encouragement which it has received.


IT was at Memphis that I saw one of the most affecting scenes in my whole experience as nurse. Some one came up one day to the hospital and told me that a boat had just come from Vicksburg, loaded with wounded, in a very suffering condition. I had no one of my own sex with me at the time, save a young girl, a daughter of one of the wealthiest and once most prominent men of the vicinity—a secessionist by the way.

This girl—Olive Lancaster—of course I can not give her real name—had left her father's house to nurse wounded Union soldiers, greatly to the disgust of her family, who at once disowned her, not at all, however, to the daunting of the brave girl.

She had been educated in a Northern school, and she told me sometimes of a young Northern cousin, whom she loved very dearly—beyond cousinly limits I fancied—for her cheek took a richer carmine when she talked of him, and her eyelids drooped, as eyelids are not apt to droop for cousins. It was from him more than any other Northern association she had got those sentiments which banished her from her father's house, and made her a tender and sufficiently nurse of our loyal defenders. I alone knew how fearfully she watched for his face among the wounded who came to us.

She was very beautiful this Olive Lancaster. The circumstances under which I knew her were enough in themselves to make her lovely in my eyes, but she was undeniably beautiful aside from that--a brunette—dark but clears with a tropically scarlet lip, and faintly flushing cheeks, and the soft darkness of her eyes was like a June evening. She went with me down to the landing, each of us carrying a basket of such necessaries as we knew by experience would be most acceptable. It was a terrible sight. I have seen other terrible sights since, but then I had had no such experience as that, and I thought when my foot first touched that awful deck that I should faint.

These poor wounded soldiers lay as thickly as they could be put, upon the open deck, and the blood from their wounds had literally drenched the whole floor, so that we could not step without putting our feet in pools of it.

Olive did not once falter. Glancing at her sometimes, I saw that her face was very white, but she stepped quietly along among them—and her eyes had a look in them that I thought must of itself be as much almost to those fainting men as the wine and food she put to their pallid lips.

After the first sickening sensation of fright and appalling I was strong enough. One could not be weak at such a time, with such moans in our ears, such awful need lifting hollow hungry eyes at us. Some had fainted from exposure, privation, and loss of blood ; others were so near fainting, that it was long before they could be sufficiently revived to be removed in the litters which were waiting to take them to the hospital. Some were quite dead—for lack, perhaps, of those very offices we were rendering to their surviving comrades. Some—the heroes —refused the succoring draught till a weaker brother had tasted it ; and others, delirious, babbled of home, sweet-heart, or wife, " Joney," or " little Joe."

There was one among the last that I bent over, and toward whose handsome, boyish-looking face I had glanced more than once as I moved along the line. It was such a young face—handsome as a girl's, and with a patient sweetness about the mouth that touched me exceedingly. His eyes were closed, and he lay so still, so without sound or movement, that I could not tell whether he were dead or only fainting.

But he was neither, for when I touched him, speaking, he opened his eyes and looked at me, and smiled as I offered him wine. Such a smile ! I have never in my life seen any thing like it ; and the lustre of those eyes—the expressiveness that was in them, and that I can no more paint to you than I can the awful reality of the tragic scene about me. I looked at him in amazement, thinking he was either delirious or unhurt ; but he was not the first, and his whole right side was oozing scarlet.

" You haven't got much of that left, and the others need it more than I do ," he said, with a gesture of his well hand toward my wine bottle ; and then, as I hesitated an instant, "I've got something better than wine. Let me alone, please, and come back when you've attended to the rest of those poor fellows." I passed on, wondering, and got back to him as soon as possible, vaguely uneasy.

Olive was only a few steps away, coming toward us, as I knelt beside him, and his glance tried to reach her ; he could not move his head, and his face was turned from her. " Is it Olive ?" he asked, eagerly. In an instant it flashed over me who he was—even before Olive, with a low cry, had dropped beside him, and was covering his face with her kisses and her tears.

"I knew you were there," he said ; " I heard your voice, and it was better than a whole bottle of wine to me."

" You knew I was here, and yet waited without calling to me ?" Olive said, reproachfully.

" You couldn't have come to me without leaving others, yon know," he said, gently.

The girl's only answer was a kiss and a sob ; and then she said to me,

" It is my cousin Philip."

"Of course it is, Olive," I said, " and it is time he was removed to the hospital."

She got up then, blushing deeply as she saw the men waiting with a litter—waiting with a respectful, sympathetic look, that spoke plainly enough their appreciation of the scene.

Poor Philip was so badly wounded that it hurt him terribly when they lifted him, But though his lips whitened, and drops forced out by agony stood on his forehead, he made no moan.

Olive several times cried out sharply as though they had hurt her, and wrung her hands at the pain it was to him.

He lived, but it was with the loss of his right arm ; and just before I left Memphis I was present at a ceremony in which my sweet and brave Olive exchanged the name of cousin for that of wife. I left them both there, both nurses, since Philip could no longer fight,



SENATE.--June 15. The bill repealing an acts for the return of fugitive slaves was received from the House, and, after some discussion, referred to the Committee on Slavery and Freedmen, from which committee Mr. Sumner immediately reported it favorably..-- A report was made from the Judiciary Committee in reference to the right of Generals Schenck and Blair to hold seats in the present Congress. They considered that, while the title of General Blair to a seat is doubtful, that of General Schenck is not, he having resigned his commission in the army before the assembling of Congress, which General Blair did not.—The bills for the disposal of coal lands and town property in the public domain and granting; lands to Wisconsin to build military roads were passed.---June
16. The House bills repealing certain provisions of law concerning seamen on board of public and private vessels of the United States, and requiring the prepayment of duties on imported salt before the allowance of bounties to fishing-vessels is made, were passed.--The remainder of the session was occupied in considering the House bill to increase the duties on imports and for other purposes.---June I7. The day session was spent in the consideration of the Tariff bill. In the evening, the amendments made in Committee of the Whole were agreed to, and the bill reported to the Senate and passed.---June 18. Mr. Harlan reported the Northern Pacific Railroad bill, with amendments, one of which provides that not more than ten sections of land per mile shall be granted for that part of the line east of the western boundary of Minnesota, until the whole line is finished and in running order; and that no railroad already constructed, in whole or part, shall receive the benefit of the act.----June 20. A message from the President was received communicating letters and papers relative to Mexican affairs.--The bill to prohibit the discharge from military service by reason of the payment of a commutation came up, and Mr. Wilson's amendment, that every person who shall be drafted, and who shall serve honorably for the period of one year, shall receive a bounty of $100, to be paid upon his discharge from the service, and every person so drafted, who shall be honorably discharged after a term of service less than one year, shall receive a bounty proportioned to his term of service, to be estimated at the rate herein prescribed for one year's service, was passed.---June 21. The International Telegraph bill was passed as amended. It grants the right of way, the assistance of the army and navy while building, and 40 acres of land for each station.

House.---June 15. The entire day session was taken up with the consideration of the Senate joint resolution for an amendment to the Constitution abolishing and forever prohibiting slavery throughout the country. After a long debate, participated in by various members, the question was put on its decision, when ninety-four voted for the resolution and sixty-five against it. It thus fell eleven yeas short of the two-thirds necessary for its adoption. Mr. Ashley, of Ohio, subsequently gave notice that he would move a reconsideration of the vote.--In the evening session the House concurred in the conference committee's report on the Consular and Diplomatic Appropriation bill.—Mr. Knox, of Missouri, was qualified and took the seat recently occupied by General Blair.---June 16. The resolution authorizing the Postmaster-General to extend for one year the preset contract with the Overland Mail Company was passed. The Internal Revenue Bill was taken up, and many of the Senate amendments concurred in. The amendment striking out the tax on whisky on hand was adopted by a vote of 72 to 62.---June 17. Several bills concerning the District of Columbia were passed. No public bills were considered.---June 18. A bill was passed chartering another street railroad in the District of Columbia, from which no person shall be excluded on account of color. The bill giving assimilated rank to warrant officers of the navy was also passed. The joint resolution giving relief to Captain Ericsson, by taking the contract for the new iron-clad Puritan off his hands, was passed after a long discussion.--The House took up and passed the joint resolution that the President be authorized to give notice to the Government of Great Britain that it is the wish and intention of the Government of the United States to terminate the treaty arrangements of 1817 in respect to a naval force on the lakes at the end of six months. ----June 20. Some amendments were passed to the Civil Appropriation bill, having especial reference to coast surveys.---June 21. Several bills were passed granting relief to individuals. Mr. Schenck's bill relative to the draft, proposing that the commutation clause should be stricken out of the Enrollment Act, was rejected--100 to 50.


After the battle of Friday, June 8, in which it was decided that Richmond could no longer be approached with advantage from the north, preparations were made to transfer the entire army to the south side of the James River. The movement was commenced Sunday night, the 12th, and was completed by Wednesday morning a distance of fifty-five miles having been traversed by four of the army corps during that time. The Eighteenth Corps proceeded by water to Bermuda Hundred, reversing the route which it took a few days before to reinforce Grant's army. The remaining corps crossed the Chickahominy at James Bridge and Long Bridge. These points are below Bottom's Bridge, the latter being the extreme right of the enemy's lines at the time of crossing. From rebel journals it appears that Grant was not expected to cross the James but only to reach Malvern Hill, or some other point, the possession of which would flank the rebel right. Wright and Burnside crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge, six miles below Bottoms, Hancock and Warren crossing five or six miles farther down at Jones's Bridge. The army crossed the James in the neighborhood of City Point, Wright and Burnside just above, Warren and Hancock ten miles below at Fort Powhatan.


Our artist has contributed a sketch on page 429 of the pontoon bridge over the James, across which our army was in steady motion from Wednesday morning till Friday.

Says the Times correspondent: " As we approach the pontoon bridge we see distinctly the huge bodies of infantry, cavalry, horses, artillery, and wagons moving across the pontoon. They extend across the entire length of the bridge, and can be seen winding along from far away up the east bank of the James, enveloped in a dense cloud of dust, while on the western bank is a part of the great body which has already effected its crossing. The army has been steadily marching for fifty hours. A brigade of infantry with possibly a thousand cavalry horses and a battery of artillery has just gotten over, and at this moment not more than twenty men are marching in units or couples across the bridge, now comes a man leading a

horse; now a cannon ; now a dozen teamsters ; now a battalion of negro soldiers. But a heavy body of troops of all arms is passing out of the woods filing on to the bridge, and besides the column of infantry there are immense numbers of horses, long trains of wagons, numberless pieces of artillery and caissons.

"Now another body can be seen emerging from the woods on the river bank, and passing on to the pontoons--a long procession of beef cattle. They are in little detachments of four, five, or half a dozen each, every detachment preceded and followed by two or more negro soldiers. Meridian is an hour gone, and about a mile up the river a heavy volume of dust is sweeping southward. Forward marches the long, long line of cattle, All the afternoon they advance and pour over the river. The movement is slow. I am told that in this whole mass there are but 2500 head, or some six days' supply for the Army of the Potomac."

Below the bridge may be seen a fleet of transport. which have been accumulating, waiting for the bridge to be removed before they can pass up to City Point, the new base of supplies. It should be mentioned here that Warren's Corps protected the crossing of the trains.

Our artist has also contributed (on page 429) a sketch of Fort Powhatan, which was just below the pontoon bridge over which Warren and Hancock crossed.


Smith's corps arriving at its destination earlier than the others marched directly on Petersburg. Just one week before, an unsuccessful attempt had been made to take possession of that city by Kautz and Gillmore. On that occasion Kautz had succeeded in carrying the outer lines about the city, but not being supported by Gillmore he retired. The enemy was now better prepared to resist attack.

The forward march from Bermuda Hundred was ordered for 2 o'clock A.M., while some of the transports were yet coming up the James. The Appomattox River, where it empties into the James, separates Bermuda Hundred on its left (or north) bank from City Point on its right ; the course of the river is such that it covers the northern front of Petersburg. As the approach was to be made from the east, the Appomattox was crossed by means of a bridge of boats. After crossing, the corps separated into four columns, pursuing different roads: Martindale taking the right or river road, Brooks the City Point road, Hinks's colored division the Jordan Point road, while Kautz, with his cavalry, made a detour away to the left on the Prince George road. Between five and six o'clock, when these columns were within five miles of Petersburg, they came upon some of the enemy's rifle-pits, which were gallantly assaulted and taken by the negro troops. At noon, Smith's corps was within two miles of the city ; here it halted, waiting for Kautz. After waiting till evening, and Kautz not arriving, an assault was made on the batteries covering the approaches to Petersburg on the northeast, and supported by a portion of Wise's brigade. The position was carried, a whole regiment, the Thirty-eighth Virginia, and sixteen pieces of artillery, were captured. A portion of the guns were turned against the enemy, who precipitately retreated to Petersburg.

After this success, Smith was reinforced by Hancock, who took the command, placing his corp further to the south and left of the Eighteenth. The next day, Thursday, other positions were carried; and in the afternoon Burnside's Corps came up, moving to the left of the amend. The latter was commanded by Birney, Hancock, suffering from his old wounds, not being able to take the field.

In the mean time it was discovered by General Butler, on Thursday morning, that Beauregard had evacuated the intrenchments in front of Bermuda Hundred. Beauregard, in his haste to assist in the defense of Petersburg, had left before Longstreet, who was to take his place, had come up. Butler took the opportunity thus offered him to destroy a portion of the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad.

Thursday night our forces held the heights south of Petersburg, while the enemy was posted on opposite elevations: the city itself being exposed to our artillery. At six o'clock an attack was made by the Eighteenth, Second, and Ninth Corps, and a line of the rebel rifle-pits was carried. The next morning the assault was repeated, when Burnside carried two more redoubts, capturing four guns and four hundred and fifty prisoners. During the day Warren's Corps reached Burnside's left, and Wright's took the place of Smith's, the latter returning to Bermuda Hundred. In the afternoon Ledlie's Division of Burnside's Corps gained an advanced position which forced the rebels to retire to an inner line. The rebel line stretched between us and the city in the form of a semicircle, both flanks resting on the Appomattox. During the night the enemy made an attack and recovered an earth-work which Burnside had wrested from him in the morning. On Saturday three attacks were made, and the flanks of our army were pushed up close to the rebel works, the centre remaining nearly the same.


Sheridan crossed the Pamunkey on the 7th, and moved eastward, in the direction of the Gordonsville Railroad, intending to strike a point south of Gordonsville, and then march through Mechanicsville, cut the Gordonsville and Charlottesville Railroad, and move on Charlottesville. In pursuance of this plan he arrived at Buck Childs, three miles northeast of Trevilan Station, on the Gordonsville Road, on the 10th. Here he found the enemy's cavalry in his front. An obstinate contest followed the next day, in which the enemy was driven back by Gregg and Torbert from his breast-works to the Station, where he was attacked in the rear by Custer and completely routed, leaving his dead and wounded in our hands, besides five hundred prisoners, including twenty officers. The next day, the 12th, the railroad was destroyed from the Station to Loraine Court House. Sheridan then advanced against Gordonsville, but finding the enemy too strongly posted there he withdrew his command across the North Anna. His loss during the expedition was about 575, of whom 490 were wounded.

In the mean time Hunter, after taking Staunton and effecting a junction with Crook's and Averill's commands, proceeded against Lynchburg. Our news of this movement comes through rebel sources. The various commands marching from Staunton by two roads, formed a junction several miles northeast of Lexington, which town they captured on the 11th. Lynchburg was only forty miles distant, and on the 13th our forces had invested it on the north, south, and west. Averill had also cut the Lynchburg and Charlottesville Railroad at Tye River Bridge, 24 miles from Lynchburg. The bridge was burned.


Sherman's line has not been materially altered since our last week's report. The Confederate works on the Kenesaw have been hardly pressed, and Thomas has gained ground. In an engagement on the 14th the rebel General Polk was killed; Sturgis, after his defeat at Guntown, was relieved of his command, and A. J. Smith was dispatched by General Sherman to operate against the rebel cavalry in the rear of the latter.


General Foster informs the War Department that he is in receipt of dispatch from the rebel commander at Charleston, stating that five Union General officers, prisoners of war, have been placed in those portions of Charleston subject to our fire. General Foster asks and has received permission to have an equal number of rebel General officers exposed to similar perils from the enemy's fire.

The ship Rockingham, from Callo for Queenstown, was burned by the pirate Alabama, on the 23d of April, in latitude 15° south, longitude 32° west.



THE Dano-German Conference held at London was to be extended to the 26th. Denmark refuses absolutely to treat on the Schleswig line.

In a debate in the House of Commons on Federal recruiting in Ireland, strong remonstrances were made against it by Earl Russell, who has several times complained of the non-attention of the Washington authorities to the representations made by Lord Lyons on that subject.




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