Comstock: “Birney made an assault an hour ago…but was repulsed with considerable loss”

I have received this dispatch from Lt. Col. Comstock with news of the attack.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 18, 1864-6 p.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT,

City Point:

Birney made an assault an hour ago, vigorous, with nine brigades, but was repulsed with considerable loss. The attack is reported to have been well made and the troops still in good condition. Burnside is about attacking, or has done so, but nothing has been heard from him yet, nor any heavy firing.

C. B. COMSTOCK,

Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 79

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 155-6

Meade: “My lines are advancing and will continue to do so until the enemy is found and felt”

I received the following update from Gen. Meade,

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 18, 1864-5.30 a.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

On advancing this morning the enemy’s works of yesterday were found evacuated. Prisoners and deserters report that the enemy fell back about 2 a.m. to a shorter line, said to envelop the railroad bridge and to be about one mile from Petersburg. My lines are advancing and will continue to do so until the enemy is found and felt. Further movements will depend on the developments of the morning. Ledlie was forced back last night from the advanced position he had taken. His command suffered quite severely in his attack. The men require rest, and it is probable, unless some favorable chance presents itself, that we shall not do more than envelop the enemy. I have made every effort to open telegraphic communication with you, and hope this morning to succeed.

Respectfully,
GEO. G. MEADE.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 78-9

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 156

“hold all your troops in readiness to take advantage of any weakening of the enemy in your front”

I received the following note from Gen. Butler,

JUNE 18, 1864-12.15 a.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

I have directed the attack to be made between this and daybreak, and if the line is got to intrench and hold it.

BENJ. F. BUTLER,

Major-General, Commanding.

I wrote him,

CITY POINT, VA., June 18, 1864-1 a.m.

Major-General BUTLER,

Commanding,&c.:

Your dispatch just received. As you were unable to make the attack at the time first ordered, you will suspend the attack you have ordered to be made between this and daylight, but hold all your troops in readiness to take advantage of any weakening of the enemy in your front, that may be caused by their withdrawal of troops to re-enforce Petersburg against an attack that will be made by Meade in the morning.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 75-6

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 197

“It seems to me important that we should…maintain a position commanding the road between Petersburg and Richmond”

I received the following from Gen. Butler,

HEADQUARTERS,
In the Field, June 17, 1864-6.30 a.m.

Lieutenant-General GRANT:

There has been no change during the night. I have re-enforced my picket-line, between which and the enemy there has been some slight skirmishing. I have received one negro regiment and am now awaiting the coming up of General Wright’s corps, about 2,000 only of which have arrived. The enemy are reported in considerable numbers on our right. If you desire, when General Wright’s troops get up and are refreshed by a little rest, I will endeavor to drive the enemy back on the railroad or turnpike.

BNJ. F. BUTLER,

Major-General.

I wrote,

BERMUDA, June 17, 1864-9.15 a.m.

Major-General BUTLER:

I have sent a staff officer to communicate with you and to go out on the line and report what you think can be done with re-enforcements, and how many will be needed. It seems to me important that we should hold our advantage gained yesterday and maintain a position commanding the road between Petersburg and Richmond. With such advantage, it seems to me, we can always force a heavy column between the two cities and force the enemy to abandon one or the other. I remain here for an answer.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 68

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 140-1

Meade: “The latter is of opinion an attack can be made to advantage… I have therefore ordered one for 6 o’clock.”

I wrote Gen. Meade urging him to press onwards and attack today if advantage can be gained.

HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Near Petersburg, June 16, 1864-10.15 a.m.

Major-General MEADE,

Commanding Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: General Smith carried very strongly located and well-constructed works, forming the left of the enemy’s defenses of Petersburg, taking some prisoners and 16 pieces of artillery. The enemy still hold their right works and are massing heavily in that direction. Hurry Warren up by the nearest road to reach the Jerusalem plank road, about three miles out from Petersburg. As soon as you receive this, and can give the necessary directions, start yourself, by steamer, and get here to take command in person. Leave your headquarters train to follow by land. Put Wright in charge of all left behind, with directions to get the trains over as rapidly as possible, to be followed by the cavalry, the cavalry to cut in as soon as the last wagon gets within his (Wright’s) lines.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

He replied,

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 16, 1864-3 p.m.

[Lieutenant-General GRANT:]

GENERAL: General Butler has sent a dispatch reporting that his troops have advanced to the Richmond railroad and the pike without opposition. This is most remarkable, in my judgment, and indicates the abandonment of Richmond, and the holding of Petersburg with the roads to Lynchburg and Weldon, thus preventing our forcing them out of Richmond by holding the Petersburg and the Danville road. Barnard and Comstock have just come in from an examination of the lines. The latter is of opinion an attack can be made to advantage; the former is, also,of opinion an attack is practicable. I have therefore ordered one for 6 o’clock.

Respectfully, yours,
GEO. G. MEADE,

Major-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 60-1

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 86

“From appearances the enemy are massing heavily on our left, and may attack this afternoon”

Gen. Smith was able to make some progress against Petersburg, but the city is still in rebel hands.  I wrote Gen. Burnside,

HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Near Petersburg, June 16, 1864-10.30 a.m.

Major-General BURNSIDE,

Commanding Ninth Army Corps:

GENERAL: Mass your corps on the left of the Second Corps in such position as General Barnard, chief engineer, may direct, and prepare as soon as possible either for attack or defense. From appearances the enemy are massing heavily on our left, and may attack this afternoon. If they do not, we want to prepare to improve the advantage gained by Smith last night.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 56

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 97

“The enemy are now seen to be reinforcing Petersburg by rail and by troops marching”

I wrote Gen. Hancock to urge him to push on to Petersburg.  If he can reach it before Lee can reinforce it, we may still capture it.

Headqrs Armies of the U. S. City Point Va
June 15th/64 8.30 P. M.
Maj Gen Hancock Comd’g 2nd A. C.
Gen,
If requested by Gen Butler or Smith to move up to where Smith now is do so. The enemy are now seen to be reinforcing Petersburg by rail and by troops marching. So far however but two regiments and eleven car loads have been reported. Your rations have gone up. Hope they have reached you by this time. Gen Butler says he understands you have halted at a creek short of the one (Harrisons Creek) to which you were to go
Respectfully &c
U. S. Grant
Lt Gen.
P. S. If Petersburg is not captured tonight it will be advisable that you and Smith take up a defensive position and maintain it until all the forces are up. It was hoped to be able to carry Petersburg before the Enemy could reinforce their garrison—
U. S. Grant
Lt Gen

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 53

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 60 incomplete

“I have not yet heard a word of the result of the expedition against Petersburg”

I have still not heard any news of the attack that was ordered against Petersburg by Gen. Smith.  I wrote to find out more information.

CITY POINT, VA., June 15, 1864-3.30 p.m.

Major-General BUTLER,

Commanding, &c., or

Major-General SMITH:

The Second Corps, 28,000 strong, was directed to march this morning on the direct road from Wind-Mill Point to Petersburg, stopping at Harrison’s Creek, in the absence of further orders. I have not yet heard a word of the result of the expedition against Petersburg, but still hearing firing in that direction, and seeing indications of the enemy moving from the north to the south side of James River, I have sent back orders to hurry up this corps. If you require it, send back to General Hancock, under cover to General Gibbon, with directions for him to read, and the corps will push forward with all speed.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 49

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 73

“Have just arrived. Will make headquarters at City Point.”

I have arrived at City Point.  I wrote Gen. Butler,

BERMUDA, June 15, 1864.

Major-General BUTLER:

Have just arrived. Will make headquarters at City Point. Have you any news from Petersburg? No rations arrived yet for Hancock. I started him, however, this morning on the road to Petersburg, with directions to stop at Harrison’s Creek, unless he should receive other orders. Rations must now be sent for him by wagons as soon as possible to Harrison’s Creek. Thirty thousand will do, but double that will be better. I await answer.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 47

O.R., I, xl, part 2, p 72

“Our forces will commence crossing the James to-day”

We are beginning the process of crossing the James River.  I wrote Gen. Halleck,

Major-General HALLECK,

Washington, D. C.

BERMUDA HUNDRED, VA.,

June 14, 1864 – 1.30 p. m.

Our forces will commence crossing the James to-day. The enemy shows no signs yet of having brought troops to the south side of Richmond. I will have Petersburg secured, if possible, before they get there in much force. Our movement from Cold Harbor to the James River has been made with great celerity and so far without loss or accident.

U. S. GRANT,

Lieutenant-General.

 

The Papers of Ulysses S Grant, Vol 11, p 45

O.R., I, xl, part 1, p 12