Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Fighting Ranges at Peebles Farm, Sept. 30-Oct. 2, 1864

The peaceful and quiet fields that extend south from the Hart Farm in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, were anything but tranquil during the afternoon of October 2, 1864. The operations that culminated in the engagement on this piece of ground began two days earlier and is popularly known as the Battle of Peebles Farm; part of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s Fifth Offensive in the Petersburg Campaign.

After two days of battle, which resulted in significant gains in territory by the Union’s V and IX Corps, Grant wished for more. September 30 and October 1 witnessed a strong push north from around Poplar Springs Church (today’s Sharon Baptist Church), then up Squirrel Level Road through the Peebles Farm. The continued thrust north up Church Road nabbed Confederate Fort Archer and pushed on to the adjoining farms of John Pegram and Albert W. Boisseau, and right up to the Robert H. Jones farmhouse.

Joining the fray on October 2 were brigades of Gen. Gersham Mott’s Division of the II Corps. Instead of traveling north with the V and IX Corps, they moved west toward Duncan Road, and hopefully the Boydton Plank Road beyond, to test if defenses protected these routes. Opposing them were Confederate cavalry led by Col. Joel R. Griffin, who fell back to the line of earthworks recently under construction through the Hart Farm. William McRae’s North Carolina brigade of infantry soon relieved the horsemen at the works.

Around noon, Brig. Gen. B. R. Pierce developed his brigade into a reconnaissance in force to test the defenders. At 2:00 p.m., led by Lt. Col. George Zinn of the 84th Pennsylvania, the brigade formed up in line of battle about 200 yards or so from the works in a shallow ravine of Reedy Branch. At 3:00 p.m. the charge went forward toward the Confederate works at the Hart House. The Confederates replied with fierce fire from McRae’s infantry defenders and artillery from Ellett’s Virginia Battery. Zinn soon determined that the effort was futile without risking great loss of life and ordered his men to retire. The brief assault resulted in the Union brigade losing 5 men killed, 49 wounded, and 14 missing; most of whom were probably captured. Among the wounded was Zinn; hit in the right leg. Zinn’s 84th comrade, Capt. J. J. Wirsing, initially presumed dead in the attack, actually became a prisoner. McRae reported no losses on October 2.

Convinced the Confederate defenses were too strong to risk another assault, Mott withdrew back to the Peebles Farm line. There the Federals started digging in to ensure they kept the valuable ground they had gained in the three-day battle.

No comments:

Post a Comment