Grant scarcely believed that this offensive would reduce the Confederate capital, but it might draw enough of Lee's army north of the James to allow a simultaneous push toward the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad to succeed. Events unfolded as Grant predicted. The attacks north of the James August 14–16, styled the Second Deep Bottom operations, foundered, but they did prompt Lee to recall reinforcements sent to the Valley and transfer a portion of his forces north of the James from the Petersburg trenches. This set the stage for Grant's thrust toward the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad.
Warren deployed his entire corps to cover the railroad, leaving a gap between his right flank and the established Union lines to the east. Into that gap on August 19 plunged three Confederate brigades led by Major General William Mahone, while more Confederates pressed Warren's front. Mahone smashed one Fifth Corps division and pressed the next one in line until reinforcements from the Union Ninth Corps halted Mahone's progress. The Confederates captured more than 2,500 enemy soldiers on August 19 and killed or wounded nearly four hundred more, but their victory fell short of recovering the critical railroad.
Union troops quickly fortified the gap between the railroad and their old lines. Grant's efforts to expand destruction of the tracks to the south ended with defeat at the Battle of Reams Station on August 25, but Union troops would control the Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad for the remainder of the campaign. Lee now had no choice but to offload his supplies from North Carolina at the Stony Creek station, eighteen miles south of Petersburg, and transfer them by wagon to Dinwiddie Court House and then up the Boydton Plank Road into Petersburg. This new, less-efficient supply line became the target of Grant's fifth offensive at Petersburg in September.
August 21, 1864 - Beginning at 9:00 a.m., Confederate forces under the generals Pierre G. T. Beauregard and A. P. Hill attack the Union troops that have taken the critical Petersburg (Weldon) Railroad. By noon the Confederates are repulsed everywhere and fall back to their main line of defense, ending the Battle of the Weldon Railroad.
- Civil War, American (1861–1865)
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First published: March 18, 2009 | Last modified: September 18, 2012
Contributed by A. Wilson Greene, who is the president of Pamplin Historical Park & the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier near Petersburg. He is the author of Civil War Petersburg: Confederate City in the Crucible of War (2006) and The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign: Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion (2008).