The Second Battle of Weldon Railroad, also known as the Battle of Globe Tavern, was fought near Petersburg, Virginia, on August 18-21, 1864, as part of the larger Petersburg Campaign. The Weldon Railroad was a Confederate supply line that ran from Richmond, the capital of the Southern States, to Wilmington international seaport in North Carolina. During the battle, Union forces successfully captured the railroad and destroyed sections of the track, cutting off the supply line. The victory came at a cost, with some 2,500 Union soldiers being captured and taken prisoner. Three days of fighting resulted in 4,300 Union casualties and 2,250 Confederate casualties.
On August 17, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the Union Fifth Corps, who were under the command of Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, to capture a section of the Weldon railroad. The railroad was a major supply line for Lee’s army, which faced shortages and possible starvation without supplies.
At dawn on August 18, 1864, Warren’s troops, who were entrenched near Jerusalem Plank Road in Petersburg, advanced westward toward the rail line. It was the Union Army’s second attempt to sever the railroad track. Two months earlier, during the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road on June 21-24, 1864, Union forces tried but failed and were repelled by the Confederates.
The Fifth Corps reached the rail line at Globe Tavern by 9:00 a.m. and initially found a relatively weak Confederate defense. They successfully captured the rail line and destroyed sections of the track, heating the metal, and twisting it into the shape of a Maltese Cross, the insignia of Fifth Corps. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard and Lt. Gen. A. P. Hill sent infantry brigades led by Gen. Henry Heth. They arrived in the afternoon and launched a sharp counterattack.
The next day, August 19, the Confederate brigades led by Maj. Gen. William Mahone launched a massive counterattack when they broke through a gap between Warren’s right flank and Gen. John Parke’s Ninth Corps. The Confederates regained some lost ground but failed to take back the railroad. During fierce fighting, the Confederates took some 2,500 Union prisoners, and another 400 were wounded or killed.
On August 20, both sides regrouped and planned. It was rainy, muddy, and miserable, and no major offensive occurred. On August 21, the skies cleared, and the Confederates launched another counterattack. The offensive failed, and by noon, Confederate troops withdrew to their Petersburg defenses. The capture of the railroad at Globe Tavern was a turning point. It was the first Union victory during the Petersburg siege, and the loss of the railroad had a significant impact on the Confederates. Lee’s army had to create a new supply line. That meant off-loading rail cars and carrying supplies by wagon some 30 miles to Petersburg to keep their troops armed and fed.
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