Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road
conflict=Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road
American Civil War
June 21–24, 1864
result=Inconclusive (Union extended siege lines; Confederates defended railroad)
combatant2= flagicon|CSA|1863 CSA (Confederacy)
Ulysses S. Grant George G. Meade
Robert E. Lee
The Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, also known as the First Battle of the Weldon R.R., was fought
June 21– 24, 1864, near Petersburg, Virginia. It was the first of a series of battles during the Siege of Petersburgaimed at extending the Union siege lines to the west and cutting the rail lines supplying Petersburg.
After the failure to capture Petersburg the previous week, Lt. Gen.
Ulysses S. Grantdecided on a siege. His Union armyentrenched east of the city, running from near the Jerusalem Plank Road in the south to Bermuda Hundredin the north. Grant's first objective was the Weldon R.R., an important line supplying the Petersburg defenses. George G. Meadesent the II Corps, temporarily commanded by David B. Birneyas Hancock was suffering from wounds incurred at Gettysburg, towards the Weldon R.R., an attack which was to be supported by the VI Corps. On June 21a division of cavalry under James H. Wilsonpreceded the infantry and began tearing up track on the railroad as Birney moved the II Corps past the Jerusalem Plank Road. The VI Corps was supposed to be relieved in the trenches by units from the XVIII Corps. Confederate forces began firing on the XVIII Corps, pinning it down. Therefore, the VI Corps was unable to move to the aid of the II Corps with sufficient amounts of reinforcements. Robert E. Leewanted to push the Federals completely away from the Jerusalem Plank Road area. Ambrose Powell Hill's corps moved to the vicinity of Globe Tavern on June 22. Confederate General William Mahonehad been a railroad engineer prior to the war, and had in fact worked on the railroad along this exact stretch of track. Using his knowledge of the terrain, Mahone's division was chosen to lead the attack. At 3 p.m. on June 22, Mahone's division counterattacked through a ravine running through the II Corps lines and routed the Union division of John Gibbon. The remaining II Corps divisions were unaware of the fighting due to the heavily wooded area until Gibbon's men began streaming through. By that time, however, it was too late as Mahone's troops were right behind Gibbon. The entire II Corps front lines fell back and formed a new line along the Jerusalem Plank Road, where they repulsed Mahone. An attempt was made by the Union forces to retake their lost ground, but it was pushed back. Hill's troops withdrew to the Weldon R.R. and the Union troops began constructing new trenches along the Jerusalem Plank Road.
The battle was a strategically a draw. The Confederates were able to retain control of the Weldon R.R. The Federals were able to destroy some of the Weldon before being driven off, but more importantly, the siege lines were stretched further to the west, a strategy Grant would continue throughout the siege. The Weldon R.R. would eventually fall to the Union Army during the
Battle of Globe Tavern.
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