Follow by Email

Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Petersburg Canon, Part IX: Missing Histories

Now comes a big gap in the history of the Siege of Petersburg, covered only by the general histories of the siege, not by any more detailed studies than perhaps a magazine article.

First, there is the Applejack Raid, also known as the Stony Creek Raid or the Weldon Railroad Raid, of December 7-12, 1864.  Grant sent a reinforced corps to wreck the Weldon Railroad from Stony Creek to Hicksford.  Lee dispatched A. P. Hill with infantry and Hampton with cavalry in pursuit.  Little fighting resulted, but there will always be speculation about what might have happened if Hill had adopted Mahone's plan to send half the infantry to Jarratt's Station to cut off Warren's retreat.  The destruction of a reinforced Federal corps might not have amounted to a Saratoga at this point, with the presidential election over.  A history of the Applejack Raid must also focus on the impact of the raid upon civilians.  It must draw upon many individual accounts.

Next, there is the naval Battle of Trent's Reach, January 23-25, 1865.  This affair was probably connected with the march of Mahone's Division to Belfield at the same time.  The Confederate James River Squadron sortied in the absence of almost the entire Federal fleet, which had gone to assist in the capture of Fort Fisher.  The mission was to bombard City Point, something that brings to mind Kongo and Haruna bombarding Henderson Field on the night of October 13, 1942.  The Confederate ironclads did not make it to City Point.  Though Virginia II and Richmond grounded, Fredericksburg made it through, frightened off the double-turreted monitor Onondaga, and then--turned back!  Never Send an Admiral on a Suicide Mission would be my title.  When fatigue sets in, sailors revert to their default mode--save the ship.  Look at Admiral Mikawa after Savo Island and Admiral Kurita at Leyte Gulf--charged with destroying the American transports, both turned back to save their ships after destroying everything in their way.  There was no point in saving their ships.

Finally, there is the Battle of Hatchers Run, February 5-7, 1865.  This was Grant's eighth offensive at Petersburg, with most of the Army of the Potomac fighting it out in terrible weather with elements of Lee's Second and Third Corps.  The offensive appears linked with the Hampton Roads Conference, where the Confederates tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace on terms better than unconditional surrender.  There will be many Federal regimental histories to draw upon and to get a balanced view, the author will have to do a lot of research into Confederate manuscripts and newspapers.