The Second Battalion
Battle of Globe Tavern
(Second Battle of Weldon Railroad)
The Maryland Line in the Confederate Army. 1861-1865 by
W. W. Goldsborough
For several days after the battle of Cold Harbor the
enemy was comparatively quiet, and contented himself with keeping up a heavy
artillery fire. Grant had had enough of Cold Harbor, and was looking about
him to find means to extricate his army from the unfortunate position into which
he had led them.
On the 6th of June, much to the regret of the
battalion, Breckinridge's Division was ordered to report to General Early in the
Valley of Virginia. Gladly would the battalion have accompanied him, for
it was believed that Early intended the invasion of Maryland. A
communication was sent to General Lee asking that the battalion be not detached
from General Breckinridge, or at least that they be sent to General Early's
command at all events. To this General Lee made the following reply :
HEADQUARTERS, July 19, 1864.
Communication respectfully returned. General Early is
now in the Valley of Virginia. The object of this application cannot now,
therefore, be accomplished. Should an opportunity occur for gratifying the
wishes of this brave battalion, it will be remembered.
R. E. LEE, General.
After the departure of General Breckinridge the
battalion was assigned temporarily to Frye's Brigade, Heth's Division, A. P.
Hill's Corps, and their position changed to some distance to the rear and right,
where it was held in reserve.
On June 13th the battalion was marched to White Oak
Swamp, where it was sent out to skirmish with the enemy, and soon became hotly
engaged. In this encounter John G. Wagoner, of Company A; Lewis H. Viet,
of Company C, and William H. Calhoun, of Company G, were killed.
Except marching and countermarching, picket duty,
throwing up earthworks, etc., nothing of importance transpired until the 18th,
when the battalion was marched to Drewry's Bluff, where it crossed the James
River on a pontoon bridge, and halted below Port Walthall Station, in
Chesterfield County, after a hot and dusty march of over twenty miles.
Taking the train some distance below Port Walthall, the battalion rode four or
five miles, when they were again compelled to march to within a mile of
Petersburg, where on the north side of the Appomattox River they threw up
breastworks for their protection.
The Second Maryland was now fairly in the
trenches around Petersburg, where they were destined to spend so many weary
months of privation and suffering. The battalion had been tried at
Winchester, at Gettysburg and at Cold Harbor, but never before had it been
called upon to undergo the terrible hardships that day and night duty in the
trenches entailed. Without shelter from the weather, half-starved, they
were subjected to a steady fire from the enemy every hour of the twenty-four,
and were called upon from time to time to come forth from the partial protection
their earthworks afforded from the shot and shell of the enemy and fight vast
odds in the open field. And still under all these trying conditions there
was but one desertion from the ranks of the battalion, whereas from others there
were hundreds. This fact was well known to their division commander, and
even to those higher in authority, and it was no wonder, then, that they were
called upon to perform more than their share of outpost duty. If the men
of the battalion felt proud of their achievements at Gettysburg and Cold Harbor,
they had yet other laurels to win at Peebles Farm, the Weldon Railroad and
Hatcher's Run, of which they were equally as proud.
During the time they occupied the trenches many of
their number were stricken down. On August 10th John Parker, of Company H,
was wounded; August 12th James Abbott, of Company G, who had served in the old
First from the first Manassas, was severely wounded, it being the sixth time
since his enlistment. Richard T. Andersen, of Company C, was wounded at the same
time; and on the 15th George Langford, of Company G, was severely wounded.
By August 15, 1864, Grant had assembled 110,000 men
around Petersburg, and this immense army was held in check by a force under
General Lee of 36,000 men. After the failure of Burnside's mine. Grant abandoned
the idea of further direct attack, and spent the autumn and part of the winter
in attempting to extend his left around Petersburg, and in efforts to pierce the
Confederate lines north of the James.
On August 16 a movement was made from the direction of
Deep Bottom upon the works at Chafin's Bluff, which failed, and another
movement, in which the Second Maryland became interested, was made on
August 18 for the purpose of getting possession of the Weldon Railroad, over
which supplies came for General Lee's army.
On the morning of the 18th the Fifth Corps reached a
point about five miles southwest of Petersburg, and about one mile east of the
Weldon Railroad. Warren, in command, upon reaching this point proceeded to throw
out skirmishers, which soon came in contact with Deering's Brigade of Cavalry,
which for some hours stubbornly disputed the Federal advance. Deering was
finally forced back to within a mile or two of Petersburg, when A. P. Hill
suddenly fell upon Warren and drove him back, with heavy loss. In the meanwhile
General Griffin had been sent with a portion of the Fifth Corps to seize the
railroad, which he did, and immediately proceeded to entrench himself.
On the afternoon of the 19th General Lee sent Heth's
and Mahone's Divisions of Hill's Corps to drive Warren back. A vigorous
attack was made upon Warren, and he retired from his advanced position, but was
not dislodged from the railroad. After the close of the fight the
Confederates withdrew to their main line, when Warren next day occupied the
ground he had lost.
The above is by way of introduction to the following
interesting account, by a member of the battalion, of the part taken by the
Second Maryland in the first day's engagement :
Thursday, the eighteenth day of August, 1864, found the
Second Maryland Infantry, then attached to Archer's Brigade, Heth's
Division, A. P. Hill's Corps, bivouacked in a little valley about one hundred
yards wide, the hills on either side crowned with a few stately pines, and a
bold stream coursing through the centre. We had only a short time before
been relieved from the trenches, and were congratulating ourselves on the
prospect of rest. Near midday we heard the boom of artillery away around
on our extreme right; then slowly and solemnly another boom, and then another.
Soon the drum beat the " assembly." " Right face ! Forward ! March ! " was the
command, and off we went to the Weldon Railroad. The whole column marched
southward on the track. A piece of artillery unlimbered in the road and
fired down it, betokening danger ahead. We soon filed off to the left, Davis'
Brigade to the right, and formed a line on cither side and at right angles to
the railroad. In a short time the two brigades received orders to advance.
As we emerged from the woods the view that presented itself was an open space,
nearly level, about half a mile wide, with a forest on the southern side.
When half across the enemy commenced firing. Onward we moved, our line
being bent like a bow, the Second Maryland well up in front. When
scarcely two hundred yards from, and in the immediate front of the enemy's line
of battle, we came to a lane with a fence on either side.
We climbed these fences in the face of the enemy's
fire, and why they did not ruin us I have never been able to understand.
Still we pushed on, tiring all the time. As we entered the woods we came
upon fifty or sixty killed and wounded in our battalion front. We drove
the enemy back easily, and advanced several hundred yards into the woods.
On the enemy threatening our flanks, we fell back to the line from whence we had
first driven them. The enemy attempted to charge us, but a few
well-directed volleys drove them back.
While this attack was being made a new brigade was
brought up. and lay down in our rear. We felt proud as we heard their
officers say to their men. as they pointed to us: " Look how these men are
standing up to their work ! " After this attack had been repulsed we moved
to our left to the support of our skirmish line, which had been holding the
enemy's line of battle in check. We remained there until 8 or 9 o'clock,
when we left our skirmish line and fell back to Petersburg. We had but
three brigades engaged, and the enemy a much larger force, as they overlapped
The night was dark and damp. We kindled our
fires, roasted our corn, and lay down on our wet wrappings for a night's rest.
But severe as was the first day's fight on the Weldon
Railroad, the little battalion was to go through a still more trying ordeal the
next day, when more of the heroic band, already reduced to a handful of brave
men, were to disappear from its ranks, alas many of them forever.
On that day (August 19) General Lee determined to make
another attempt to regain possession of the Weldon Railroad. Again it was
a portion of A. P. Hill's Corps that was ordered to the attack. The route
taken on the19th was the same as that of the day before, and through a drenching
rain the troops moved steadily to meet the enemy. Line of battle was
formed just as it had been on the 18th, and upon nearly the same ground.
Breastworks more numerous now, even, and stronger than the day before, were to
be stormed. The ground was unfavorable for attack, and it was apparent to
all that the day was to see some hard fighting, with but little prospect that
success would crown the Confederate arms.
Skirmishers were thrown out and the heavy line of
battle moved forward to meet the enemy. It was not long before the
irregular fire of the skirmishers in front gave warning that the work had been
cut out. " Forward, double-quick ! " was the command, and the line of
battle swept on with beautiful precision, and the enemy in heavy masses were met
on the edge of the wood. The spattering fire of the skirmish line had now
changed to one continuous roar of musketry, and brave men on both sides fell by
hundreds. The enemy was driven back, and the first line of works were soon
in the hands of the Confederates. Archer's Brigade, to which was attached
the Second Maryland, captured the second and afterward the main line of
works, but the supports on the left were unable, or, through someone's
blundering, did not get to the breastworks where the little brigade was battling
with an overwhelming force. For an hour this unequal contest was waged,
when Colonel Christian in command of the troops in possession of the fort
ordered the Second Maryland to be thrown obliquely to the right and form
line, which movement had hardly been performed when the enemy came on in heavy
force, with bayonets fixed and not firing a shot. The battalion poured a
heavy fire into them, which staggered them for an instant, but they still
pressed on until they had reached the fort. Here a hand-to-hand conflict
ensued, the Confederates on the inside trying: to retain, and the Federals on
the outside trying to regain possession of the fort. But this unequal
contest could not long continue, for the Federals soon swarmed into the works,
where for awhile the fight was continued, the survivors then trying to fight
their way out. Some succeeded, but one-third of that gallant band of
Marylanders lay dead and wounded or were prisoners in the hands of the enemy.
Many were the noble spirits who fell in those two days
of desperate fighting, among them Adjutant J. Winder Laird. Thus a comrade
speaks of him:
" On that day, too, J. Winder Laird, our heroic
Adjutant, tall and handsome in figure, and not less perfect in character, fell,
shot through the brain. We would not leave him to be insulted by the foe.
Pearson, Gill, Ridge Howard and Grayson placed his body on their guns and
hurried off to the Davis house on the railroad. Here they dug his grave, and
each of us, taking a blanket from his scanty store, wrapped it about our dead
comrade, and so buried him. Soon the guns of the enemy reopened, and we returned
to the front."
[Source: W. W. Goldsborough. The
Maryland Line in the Confederate Army. 1861-1865. (Baltimore: Guggenheimer,
Weil, & Co., 1900 ]
Battle of Globe Tavern / Second Battle of Weldon
Second Maryland - Company G - Lieutenant G.G. Guillette commanding.
Killed - John D. Edelen
Wounded - Private Martin L. Rider, slightly
Captured - Lieutenant G. G. Guillette, Sergeants Daniel A. Fenton,
George W. Manning, Algernon Henry, Corporal Benjamin F. Twilly,
Privates William L. Brannock, W. L. Etchison, Levi Wheatley.