The Federal Eighteenth Corps, under William F. “Baldy” Smith, crossed the James and advanced on Petersburg., supported by Augustus V. Kautz’s cavalry division. As his troops approached the Dimmock Line, the main defenses of Petersburg, Smith discovered they were lightly manned and determined to attack on a broad front with dispersed formations to minimize casualties.
PGT Beauregard, in command of the rebel forces defending the city, scrambled for troops to man its fortifications. Lee, with the Army of Northern Virginia, remained north of the James, unwilling to uncover Richmond until he was certain about the destination of the majority of Grant’s forces. Beauregard would have to defend the city’s fortifications, known as the Dimmock Line, with a scratch force consisting of Henry Wise’s Brigade and reinforcements rushed to the scene from Bermuda Hundred.
Battery 5 (see slideshow) guarded the western face of a salient in the Dimmock Line jutting northward along the bed of the Petersburg and City Point Railroad. Without sufficient supporting infantry, the battery itself was indefensible. Smith’s troops attacked near dusk. They overran Battery 5 and large portions of the Dimmock Line, but failed to advance beyond Harrison Creek (see slideshow) to the west. Beauregard positioned his reinforcements on high ground along Harrison Creek and braced for another assault on the following day. Fighting from these new positions, the rebels gained enough time to establish a permanent line along the Jerusalem Plank Road farther west.
Today, the Petersburg Visitors Center stands nearby the remains of Battery 5. The fortifications are well preserved and offer an excellent example of the forts both armies used to position batteries at various points in their lines at Petersburg. In the woods just beyond Battery 5 stands the Dictator (see slideshow), a monstrous Federal seacoast mortar used to shell batteries north of the Appomattox River during the later stages of the siege.
South of Battery 5, and the next stop on the tour route, lies Confederate Battery 8, renamed Fort Friend after it s capture by troops of the USCT during the mid-June fighting. This fort offers a study in reversing works, as the Federals refaced the ramparts and enclosed the position once they captured it.