On this day in 1864, the Battle of Peebles Farm took place during the Siege of Petersburg
By September of 1864, General’s Grant and Meade had pinned down General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia around the cities of Richmond and Petersburg since mid-June. While no major breakthroughs had occurred, there had been constant maneuvering by the Union forces to stretch the flanks of the armies in an attempt to break supply routes to the Confederates. Also it was hoped that extending the flanks continuously would cause the Confederates to be stretched too thin in their fortifications around the cities, weakening their defensive capabilities.
In one of the many maneuvers that Grant ordered, in September of 1864 he ordered General Benjamin Butler to attack Fort Harrison, east of Richmond. After successfully capturing that strong point of the Confederates, Grant ordered troops to the south of Petersburg in Dinwiddie County to move toward the enemy lines southwest of that city in an attempt to break the supply route along the Boydton Plank Road and hopefully gain control of the Southside Railroad as well. He expected that Confederate troops had been pulled from that area to help in counterattacks against Fort Harrison, as Lee hoped to recapture that place. He was right in this regard, as the area southwest of Petersburg near the Peebles Farm and Squirrel Level Road were very weak as Union troops moved forward on September 30.
The Union V Corps, under Major General Gouverneur K. Warren, was the primary force making this attack. At 1p.m. on the 30th, the lead Union force attacked near Poplar Springs Church, capturing Fort Archer and routing Confederate units in the area. The Confederate line along Squirrel Level Road was captured as they fell back to the Boydton Plank Road fortifications. Warren halted his attack and realigned for the expected counterattack. This attack did indeed come about 4:30 that afternoon, as Confederates under the immediate command of Henry Heth made a determined effort against the Union position. His attack came at a weak gap between the V and IX Corps, and resulted in a rout of many IX Corps units, including the capture of over 1,000 troops of General Potter’s Division. General Warren managed to rally troops and stop the Confederate advance further, but the counterattack did manage to stop the Union momentum.
On October 1, Warren again attempted to move against and capture the Boydton Plank Road position, but failed. The Confederate position was strong and had been reinforced with troops that had been pulled away in prior days to support the actions north of the James River near Fort Harrison. By October 2, the area had been secured on both sides of the lines. Both Confederate and Union forces settled back down to siege operations.
The Battle of Peebles Farm is considered a Union victory as it succeeded in extending the lines and capturing some Confederate fortifications. It also kept Lee from sending more troops to the Fort Harrison area in his attempts to regain control of that position. The main objectives of cutting the Boydton Plank Road and Southside Railroad were not accomplished though. The fighting at Peebles Farm actually was much worse on the Union side, as they suffered approximately 2,800 troops, including over 1,300 captured. The Confederates lost about 1,300 casualties, but these were much harder to replace for the South.