This week in the Civil War | Chaotic evacuation of the wounded, fighting in Virginia

June 13, 2014 

The Associated Press reported in a dispatch June 23, 1864, that the Confederates had been firing upon horse-drawn hospital wagons evacuating the wounded to steamers off the Virginia coast. Union forces reported that “the Rebels pay no respect to our hospital flags; and on Thursday last they fired upon one of our hospital trains from a battery stationed near Petersburg, (Virginia), killing and wounding several horses.”

The AP account said no one aboard the hospital wagons was wounded in that and other incidents as Union troops took aim at Petersburg 150 years ago in the Civil War. AP reported, meanwhile, that the toll of war was ghastly: Thousands upon thousands of bloodied, wounded men were being taken to steamer ships off Virginia for the trip northward.

Also evacuated were many wounded rebel prisoners, including one rebel lieutenant who had lost an arm in the fighting. In a separate dispatch, AP reported the artillery duels had continued unabated for days near Petersburg.

“The city is full of lofty shade trees, and the steeples of the churches are the only prominent objects on which to take effective range. The effects of the shooting have not yet been ascertained, aside from the burning of some of the buildings,” AP’s correspondent wrote in June 1864, adding the air was humid and hot with the dust and din of battle.

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