January 2018 - On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, Chris Bryce
presented Grant’s crossing of the James River and the defense of Petersburg
June- July 1864.
On June 12, 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant, secretly withdrew the Army of the Potomac from its position's in front of Cold Harbor. From there he and over 100,000 men of the army would embark on one of the more impressive turning movements of the war. Two days later after some hard marching and superb logistical work, the Federals began crossing the James River. Once across the river Grant set his sights on the vital transportation hub of Petersburg. Defended by roughly 4,600 Confederate troops under the command of General P.G.T. Beauregard, could Petersburg hold out until reinforcements arrived from General Robert E. Lee who was in the dark about the whereabouts of Grant's army?
For three days, June 15-18 Grant’s forces pressed the Confederate defenders to the point of breaking, but the southern troops held on and inflicted staggering losses upon the Union attackers with one regiment suffering the highest regimental single battle loss of the entire war. By the end of June with an infusion of Lee’s forces from Richmond the battle lines around Petersburg began to stabilize.
In an effort to break the Confederate line Union troops from Pennsylvania devised a plan to tunnel underneath the Petersburg defenses and pack the tunnel with explosives to rupture Lee’s line and enter Petersburg. Would this plan lead to the capture of Petersburg in July 1864 or would it be another example of “Wasted Valor” that had been witnessed in front of Petersburg before?
Chris Bryce, is the Assistant to the Superintendent/Public Affairs, Petersburg National Battlefield Chris Bryce began his National Park Service Career in 1987 as a seasonal park ranger at Manassas National Battlefield Park. He became a permanent employee in 1988 as an interpretive park ranger at Independence National Historical Park. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in History with a concentration in 18th and 19th American military history and 20th century European military history from East Tennessee State University. He resides with his family in Williamsburg, VA
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