Beginning on June 12, Union forces pulled out of their entrenchment facing the Confederate defenses at Cold Harbor and moved around to the east before turning south on a march toward the James River, which runs through Richmond and on down the state of Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay at Hampton Roads. Navigation on that route, a very important element in the movement and resupply of Union forces in Virginia, was by this time under the control of the Union Command.
David Whitney's 10th Vermont Regiment, as part of the 6th Corps, spent the first night at a location down east along the Chickahominy River at Despatch Station, resting from the extreme combat conditions at Cold Harbor and the march out of there that day. The next day, Sunday, June 13, they continued eastward along the Chickahominy and then after sunset crossed the river southward at Jones Bridge, camping overnight on the south bank of the river. From there they marched the next day just beyond Charles City Court House to Wilcox's Landing on the James River, where they waited until June 16.
On June 16, David and his comrades boarded steamboats on the James and were transported upriver to the junction with its tributary Appomattox River and disembarked at midnight on a peninsular-shaped piece of land between Richmond and Petersburg at Bermuda Hundred . From there they moved up to support another Corps' fortified position and became part of a planned assault that began to move out on the evening of the 17th. However, the plans changed, returning the Union forces to their defensive position—but not before several men of the 10th Regiment were wounded by artillery shells fired in response to the aborted attack.
Two days later, on June 19, David's Regiment, as part of the 6th Corps, crossed the Appomattox River on pontoons at Point-of-Rocks northeast of Petersburg and moved into position at the left of the Union lines south of that city. The Overland Campaign toward Richmond had ended and the siege of Petersburg was about to begin. David and his 10th Vermont Regiment comrades contributed only minimally at the start of the siege of Petersburg and was soon redirected to another combat zone of great importance to the fate of the Union's capital.
Before leaving Virginia, however, the 10th Regiment was involved in one of the Union Command's attempts to cut off the Confederate resupply line from the south. The Weldon and Petersburg Railroad line, linking North Carolina and points south to Petersburg was the first target of this strategy.
The First Battle of Weldon Railroad, also known as the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road, began on June 21 with a Union calvary division tearing up track on the Weldon line in advance of a movement by the 2nd Corps across Jerusalem Plank Road, a wooden highway paralleling the railroad. David's 6th Corps was used in a support position, but miscalculations in the attack turned it into a disaster when 1800 men from the 2nd Corps were captured by the Confederates.
Regrouping on June 22 found the 10th Vermont Regiment dug in to the right of a 6th Corps division that included other Vermont units. On the 23rd, Confederates were able to outmaneuver the 6th Corps and succeeded in capturing 400 Vermonters from the 4th and 11th Vermont Regiments.
The Union Command's attempt to disrupt Confederate rail service from the south did not completely succeed in this first attempt, but they did manage to set up new positions further west toward Petersburg in preparation for the long siege that ended the following April with the Confederate surrender.
David's 10th Vermont Regiment returned to participate significantly in the final stages of the siege at Petersburg but not before they made even more significant contributions to the Union cause back in Maryland and in the Shenandoah Valley further north and west in Virginia.
©2007 by Thomas Lee Eichman. All rights reserved.