This week 150 years ago during the Civil War, the Union Army of the Potomac crossed the James River and began heading towards Petersburg, Va., ever closer to the capital of the Confederacy. The movements came days after Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler had sent thousands of cavalry and infantry soldiers up against thousands of Confederate fighters manning stout defenses all around Petersburg, not far from Richmond, Virginia.
Union forces had early success in driving back the outer ring of Confederate defenders, but Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee quickly dispatched new forces to Petersburg who repulsed subsequent Union attacks over four days of fighting. With Lee's Army of Northern Virginia now firmly in control of the defense works at Petersburg, any Union attempt at a breakthrough was lost. The early Confederate victory in these hot June days of 1864 would eventually open the way for a long and grinding Union siege of that city near Richmond.