22 Aug. 1864
The fight at Petersburg.
The Petersburg Express contains an account of the fight near that city on Friday. It appears that on Thursday our forces, after attacking the Yankees on the Weldon road and driving them one mile, ceased the pursuit, and fell back to a point nearer the city, leaving only a skirmish line in front of the enemy, which was also soon after withdrawn. The Express says:
The enemy did not discover our disappearance from their front until yesterday morning, when they immediately threw forward their lines of skirmishers and advanced their left to the battle-field of Thursday, in Davis's corn-field, throwing up, as they advanced, two lines of breastworks. Their right was extended in an oblique direction to the northeast of the railroad, and batteries were placed at favorable points along the whole line.
|Gen. A.P. Hill|
(Confederate Veteran Magazine)
This occupation of one of our main lines of communication with the South was, of course, not to be permitted without an effort to dislodge the enemy. Accordingly, all arrangements having been completed, General A. P. Hill, commanding Mahone's and Heth's divisions, attacked them between the hours of 3 and 4 o'clock. General Mahone commanded the troops to the left of the railroad, and General Heth those to the right. The attack was opened by Mahone, and was speedily responded to by Heth on the right, and the battle raged furiously.
On the right, General Heth, with the gallant brigades of his divisions — Davis's, Walker's and Archer's — struck the enemy's picket line in the cornfield a short distance beyond Davis's residence.--These were quickly forced back upon the first line of breastworks, held by a formidable force. With a cheer, the Confederate troops bounded forward and swept over all obstruction, pressing the Yankees back with severe loss into their second line; and charging onward, forced them thence with an equal lack of ceremony. Beaten from their works, and defeated in their every effort to retain them, the Yankees retreated to their main line of entrenchments, into which they had been driven on the previous evening. This line having been greatly strengthened, proved too strong to be stormed, and our troops were checked in the face of the slaughter which threatened a further advance.
In the meantime, General Mahone, with Clingman's, Colquitt's, and his own former brigade, had struck the right of the Yankee lines and captured eight hundred prisoners. Pressing forward with his usual energy, he drove the enemy before him, successfully charging them wherever they made a stand.
Finding them strongly entrenched, however, in the thick woods opposite Davis's farm, it was determined to dislodge them by a flank movement. Clingman's and Mahone's old brigade engaged them in front, while, by a circuitous route, Colquitt's (Georgia) brigade was thrown on their flank. The movement proved a brilliant success, and caused scarcely any loss to our troops.
Colquitt's men were upon the Yankees almost before they were aware of such close proximity of the rebels, and surrender or fighting under fearful disadvantage was the alternative. Crawford's crack division, of Warren's (Fifth) corps, here fell a helpless victim to rebel strategy, and the greater part of two brigades — numbering over two thousand men--threw down their arms and surrendered. The prisoners were quickly placed under guard and sent to the rear, where they were formed into line and marched to General Hill's headquarters.
The battle still progressed successfully until the enemy was driven back to the position from which he advanced in the morning. At dark, our lines were close up to his works, and occasional volleys of musketry showed still farther fighting.
Among the prisoners taken is Brigadier-General Hays, of Massachusetts, several colonels, and other field officers of less grade. General Hayes was brought into town last night.
During the engagement we left a number of men taken prisoners, but we understand they were afterwards recaptured. The success which followed the attack threw our men into the best spirits, and every soldier wore a smile of satisfaction upon his countenance.
The result of the attack is highly satisfactory to the officers in command, and is viewed in the most favorable light. The enemy has been materially weakened by the loss of three thousand of his best troops taken prisoners and several thousand killed and wounded. He is demoralized by his defeat, and though he may fight hard yet to hold the position he has gained, his prestige is gone, and he will not offer the front he has shown during the last few days.
The weather was rainy during the day, and especially so during the afternoon. The fighting was done amidst a series of heavy showers, which not only incommoded our men, but rendered the ground heavy and slippery. Most of the fighting on our left was done in a dense growth of underbrush and woods.
We can form no estimate of the Yankee loss other than the statement of officers that it was very heavy, Many of their dead and wounded fell into our hands. Nor are we able to form an idea of our own loss, as up to night but few of the wounded had been brought from the field. The great majority of those we saw were slightly wounded. We shall learn further particulars of the casualties and of the battle to-day. We regret to state, however, that General Clingman was painfully, though not seriously, wounded.
The battle for the possession of the railroad will probably be resumed this morning, and it is believed the enemy will not only be dislodged, but disastrously defeated. This expedition will turn out, in the end, to be the greatest disaster that has yet happened to Grant in this department.
Reports from the battle-field, late last evening, represent our forces between the enemy and the main army in front of Petersburg. If so, something interesting may occur to-day.
It is also stated that several hundred more prisoners have been taken, thus running the number above three thousand.
As the enemy still hold the railroad, it is impossible to state what damage has been done the track. It is believed, that instead of sending a body of raiders across towards the south side, the enemy's cavalry are operating on the Weldon road in the rear of the army.