Battle of June 9, 1864
Ladies' Memorial Association
Grand Army of the Republic
Mrs. Logan Inspired by Memorial Observances in Petersburg
General Order Number 11
BATTLE OF JUNE 9, 1864
Background. The Federal Army of the James under General Benjamin Butler established a beachhead at Bermuda Hundred on the James River in April 1864. Bermuda Hundred is a peninsula at the confluence of the James and Appomattox Rivers between Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia. On April 4, Butler had been reinforced by General Gillmore with 10,000 troops and ordered by General Grant commanding all Federal armies to “advance by the James River, having Richmond and Petersburg as the objective.”After initial success, Butler’s army was bottled up on the peninsula by Confederate General Beauregard. Butler failed to establish himself on the highway between the Confederate capital Richmond and Petersburg the Confederate railroad center. On May 6, Butler missed an opportunity to capture Petersburg “which was almost defenceless.” (Grant, 410-414, 424) By June 9th, Grant had combined Butler’s Army of the James and Meade’s Army of the Potomac so they could operate as one unit. Grant decided on June 9 to conduct a campaign on Petersburg. (Grant, 510; Horn, 1993, 41) Butler had planned an attack on Petersburg for that day to be commanded by General Gillmore with a total force of about 4,500. In Petersburg, the Confederate forces under General Wise numbered about 1,000 including a reserve of Petersburg militia made up of old men and boys. Petersburg had been fortified during 1862 and 1863 by a system of trenches and forts surrounding the city. Supervised by Captain Charles Dimmock, these fortifications had been built by free blacks of Petersburg who were paid the going wage of the day. (Petersburg Daily Express, Feb. 3, 1862, p. 1, col. 3) The fortifications were designed to be defended by 25,000 troops, considerably more than Wise’s meager force which included wounded and “penitents.” The lines had deteriorated over time due to weather and neglect.
The Battle. Butler’s forces appeared before Petersburg around 9:00 AM on June 9th. The Confederate defenders hurried to the fortifications. The militia equipped with unreliable muskets from the War of 1812 and commanded by Major Archer hurried to their positions south of the city at Rives’ farm. (Richmond Daily Enquirer, Oct. 31, 1861, p. 3, col. 4) Lacking coordination and overestimating Confederate strength, the Union infantry of about 3,200 including US Colored Troops under Colonel Hincks failed to gain much success on the eastern approaches to the city and withdrew early. The Federal cavalry force of about 1,300 under General Kautz arrived late but mounted an attack on the southern approach. Kautz’ main opposition was the local militia, old men and boys, numbering around 100 effectives. With a single cannon artillery unit directed by Confederate General Raleigh Colston, the militia held off Kautz’s initial attack at Rives’ farm for about two hours just long enough for reinforcements to reach the city from Beauregard north of the Appomattox River. The militia withdrew. Union medical officers took care of the wounded of both sides. Captured militia and artillerymen “were treated with great kindness and humanity” by the Federal troops. (Robertson, 1989, p. 67) Kautz then maneuvered his cavalry to attack the city again, this time from the east. The eastern heights of the city in the meantime had been reinforced by more troops from Beauregard including the Petersburg battery of artillery under Captain Graham. Slaughter’s Brass Band of free blacks played “Dixie” and regimental tunes to trick the Federals into thinking more troops were arriving in the city. (Robertson, 1989, p. 86) The Confederate reinforcements and the remainder of the old men and boys of the militia all under the command of General Dearing drove Kautz’ attacking cavalry back. His attacks on Petersburg having failed, Kautz returned to Bermuda Hundred carrying with him a captured cannon and captured old men and boys of the militia. The Petersburg militia’s losses on June 9, 1864, were: 14 killed, 19 wounded, and 35 captured; or over 60%. However, the city was not captured on June 9 because of the critical delay due to their repelling of Kautz’ force long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Grant did not capture Petersburg until almost ten months later.
Please see the following article titled “Ladies Memorial Association” in order to understand the progression of events connecting the Battle of June 9, 1864, with the National Memorial Day.
List of Sources
Calkins, Chris. Historian, Petersburg National Battlefield. Personal communication concerning General Raleigh Colston, May 12, 1997.
Grant, Ulysses S. The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, New York, NY: Konecky & Konecky, 1992.
Griess, Thomas E., Series ed. The West Point Military History Series: The American Civil War. Wayne, NJ: The Avery Publishing Group, Inc., 1987.
Horn, John. The Petersburg Campaign: June 1864-April 1865. Conshohocken: Combined Books, Inc., 1993.
Petersburg Daily Express, 1859-1865.
Richmond Daily Enquirer, 1861.
Robertson, William Glenn. Back Door to Richmond: The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, April- June, 1864. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1987.
Robertson, William Glenn. The Petersburg Campaign: Battle of Old Men and Young Boys, June 9, 1864. 1st ed. Lynchburg: H.E. Howard, 1989.
Robertson, G.E., and George Wingfield. Graham’s Battery: A History Done for the A.P. Hill Camp, Confederate Veterans, November 30, 1909. (Unpublished, in the author’s collection.)
Ryan, James H., Ph.D. The Battle of the 9th of June, 1864. Proceedings, Vol. 7, No. 1. Petersburg: Historic Petersburg Foundation, Inc., 2000.
Schiller, Herbert M., M.D. The Bermuda Hundred Campaign. Dayton: Morningside House, Inc., 1988.