Union Forces Commanded by: Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Maj. Gen. GeorgeG. Meade
Confederate Forces Commanded by: Gen. Robert E. Lee and Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Confederate Victory
The Second Battle of Petersburg, also known as the Assault on Petersburg, was the major attempt by the Union Army to take Petersburg, before the main Confederate army could reinforce the city.
After the Battle of Cold Harbor, the Union Army slipped away from Gen. Robert E. Lee and began crossing the James River. The Union advance unit was the XVIII Corps under Maj. Gen. William F. "Baldy" Smith. The city was lightly defended by Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, but Smith waited too long before launching his assault.
By the time Smith did, reinforcements from Gen. Robert E. Lee were marching into the city. When Smith finally did attack, he drove the Confederates from their first line of trenches.
Marching from Cold Harbor, Maj. Gen. George C. Meade's Army of the Potomac crossed the James River on transports and a 2,200-foot long pontoon bridge at Windmill Point. Brig. Gen. Benjamin Butler's leading elements (XVIII Corps and Kautz's cavalry) crossed the Appomattox River at Windmill Point. On June 15,
the Union army attacked the Petersburg defenses. The 5,400 Confederate defenders of Petersburg under command of Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard were driven from their first line of entrenchments back to Harrison Creek. After dark, the XVIII Corps was relieved by the II Corps. On June 16, Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock with the II Corps reinforced Smith and captured another line of trenches. Reinforced by the IX Corps, the Union Army captured a third line of trenches as Beauregard pulled troops from Bermuda Hundred. The Federals failed to press their advantage and more of Lee's reinforcements were rushing to the defense. On June 17, the IX Corps gained more ground. Beauregard stripped the Howlett Line (Bermuda Hundred) to defend the city, and Gen. Robert E. Lee rushed reinforcements to Petersburg from the Army of Northern Virginia. The II, XI, and V Corps from right to left attacked on June 18 but was repulsed with heavy casualties. On June 18, despite being reinforced by the V Corps, the Union attacks were repulsed with severe losses. The Union assaults continued, but to no avail. Grant arrived and suspended the assaults.
The chance to take Petersburg was lost, but the Confederate army was unable to prevent the Union army from laying siege to the city. The siege would last until April 1865.
By now, the Confederate works were heavily manned and the greatest opportunity to capture Petersburg without a siege was lost. The siege of Petersburg began. Gen. James St. Clair Morton, chief engineer of the IX Corps, was killed on June 17.