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General Mahone’s 1892 Statement on the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, June 22, 1864


John Day Smith of the 19th Maine wrote a regimental history of his regiment published in 1909. Interestingly, he walked the battlefields of Second Petersburg and Jerusalem Plank Road with Confederate General William Mahone, the mastermind behind the brilliant June 22, 1864 attack on the Union Second Corps at Jerusalem Plank Road which wreaked so much havoc. Smith related the following statement by Mahone in 1892 in his book on pages 209-210:

On the morning of June 22nd, 1864, my division and the division of Wilcox occupied the ground in front of the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac. My headquarters were in the rear of the ground afterward occupied by Fort Mahone. On that morning, General Lee rode up to my tent and sat on his horse, looking through his field -glass, where my skirmishers were quite briskly engaged with those of General Gibbon. During the preceding night and early in the morning of this day. Gibbon’s skirmishers had been pushed out in front, and his line of battle advanced through the woods up to the edge of the clearing, which, jn some places, extended to our lines. After finishing his inspection, he put up his field-glass, and, turning to me, said: ‘General, I don’t want the Federals to advance any further in this direction.’ I replied: ‘General Lee, do I understand that you wish me to drive them back?’ Lee answered: ‘You understand me correctly, sir.’ And, having saluted me in the most formal manner, he rode back toward the city.

“I knew every foot of the ground in and around Petersburg. There was quite a deep ravine near the right of my division, which extended down toward and beyond the Federal line. I sent my scouts down this gully, asking them to report to me as soon as possible the result of their observations. General Wilcox, who was not under my immediate command, wished to accompany me with a portion of his division. My scouts reported to me that the place where this ravine came out into the Federal fines was not occupied by troops, but that the left flank of the Federal line was some little distance from this ravine. They also reported that there was a line of battle evidently pushing its way through the woods, a considerable distance to the rear and on the right of this valley. That body of troops was evidently the Sixth Corps. I formed my plan at once, to push my division down into this gap between the Second and Sixth Corps, and endeavor to get into the rear of the Second Corps. I took most of my division along, leaving a part of a brigade in my original line of battle, and hurried down this ravine until I had reached the rear of the left flank of the Second Corps, and, as far as I could ascertain, without having been observed by any of the Federal troops. I hastily formed my division for a charge along the rear of the Federal line, from its left flank toward its right. I requested General Wilcox to accompany me, as a support, with the small force which he had. He insisted, however, that he ought to move farther to the right and strike some portion of the Sixth Corps. I confess, I was pretty indignant when he started on his wild goose chase. My appearance upon the left flank and rear of the Federal line was a complete surprise to them. There was a regiment or two upon their left flank which were easily brushed aside.

“The Federal troops were willing enough to run, but the difficulty was, they didn’t know which way to start. We captured those who hesitated and those who could not run as fast as my men. Many of my troops stopped to drive the prisoners over toward our lines, so that by the time I had reached McKnight’s Battery and captured that, the force of my charge was nearly spent. I pressed my troops forward, however, and I would think that I reached a point some ten or twelve rods beyond this battery. Just before reaching McKnight’s Battery, Wilcox rode up, following the sound of my guns and trailing along in the rear, and asked me where he should go. I told him he might go to hell, for all I cared. His troops had accomplished nothing. In the meantime, the Federals had recovered somewhat from their stampede, and I hastily gathered the spoils of victory and withdrew to my original line, practically unmolested. I felt, at the close of the day, that I had done something toward evening up the score which the enemy made at Spottsylvania, on May 12th.”1

Source:

1. Smith, John D. The History of the Nineteenth Regiment of Maine Volunteer Infantry, 1862-1865 (Great Western Printing Company, 1909). pp. 209-210.