39th Illinois Infantry - CHSV

Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia
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39th Illinois Infantry

Bermuda Hundred Campaign in Chesterfield County, VA
              39th Illinois   Infantry
The 39th Illinois Regiment was formed in Chicago, Illinois.  By March, 1864, returning from a furlough, the strength of the 39th Illinois  Regiment had grown to 750 men.  It left, early in March 1864, for Washington, D.C., and from thence sailed to Georgetown, Virginia, where in was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Tenth Army Corps. It then embarked, the 5th day of May 1864, with General Butler's expedition up the James River. On reaching Bermuda Hundred they advanced into the interior for several miles, when the entire  command was halted, and entrenchment's thrown up. After remaining for a day or two, the whole column was moved forward to Drewry's  Bluff.  The Thirty-ninth was located on the extreme left of General Butler's command on the 16th of May 1864, when the entire force under Butler was attacked and driven back.  

On May 16th, 1864, Confederates under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard attacked the Union forces under command of Benjamin F. Butler in an attempt to drive them away from their supply base and eliminate them as a threat to Richmond. The attack, which took place in a blinding fog, was initially successful, but stalled due to poor visibility and determined stands by Union troops on the right and center of the line.  Rather than counter attack, Union commanders ordered a withdrawal back to their defensive positions in Bermuda Hundred. In the general confusion of battle, word of the withdrawal never reached the 500 men of the 39th Illinois on the far left of the Union line. Isolated and alone, the regiment repulsed three attacks before being overrun. The survivors fled south along the railroad with other shattered Union regiments toward Chester Station, where many were taken prisoner by Confederate cavalry.   

The 39th Illinois had succeeded in cutting their way out, after great loss. To use General Butler's own words, "the Thirty-ninth fought most gallantly, and have suffered most severely". Colonel Thomas O. Osborn (pictured top left), Major Linton, Captain Phillips, Captain Wheeler, Lieutenant Kidder and Lieutenant Kingsbury were all wounded - the latter losing an arm. Colonel Osborn had a musket ball shattered his right elbow and lodged in his arm.  Captain James Wightman and Adjutant Joseph D. Walker were killed while gallantly cheering on the men. The entire loss in this engagement, including killed, wounded and missing, reached nearly 200 hundred soldiers. The unit survived and the Regiment was again ordered out on the 20th of May, to dislodge the enemy from some temporary works near Ware Bottom Church. with the loss of forty (40) in killed and wounded. The Thirty-ninth captured in this charge a large number of prisoners, including General Walker, who was seriously wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Mann was also seriously wounded in this engagement, thus leaving the command without a field officer. (The Bermuda Hundred Campaign of 1864 Battle of Chester Station, 38913 Proctors Run Ct, Chester, VA)

Visit here. Battle Animation
39th Illinois Infantry- Continued
39th Illinois Infantry

At Appomattox, VA, the Regiment was retained at Appomattox Court House, for several days, as guard over the baggage and camps of the conquered army. It was then ordered to Richmond where it remained until August. On the 11th of May 1865, Brevet Brigadier General Osborn was made full Brigadier General, and Brevet Major Plimpton, full Major.  From Richmond, the Regiment was sent to Norfolk, Virginia, reporting to Brevet Brigadier General O. L. Mann, Colonel of the Regiment, who, after recovering partially from his wounds received on the 20th day of May 1864, had been appointed in January 1865, Provost Marshal for the District of Eastern Virginia, and soon after breveted Brigadier General and placed in command of said district.  

After the war, the Thirty-ninth remained on duty at Norfolk until the 5th of December 1865, at which time General Order No. 131 was issued from Headquarters, Department of Virginia, ordering its muster-out of service, which was accomplished on the 6th of December, and on the afternoon of the 7th, the Regiment started for Springfield, Illinois, for its final muster-out and payment, via Chicago, where it arrived on the afternoon of the 10th of December. The following morning it continued its way to Springfield, arriving at Camp Butler on the morning of December 12th.

On the morning of December 16th, the Regiment, prior to its final payment, was assembled in the chapel, where the ceremony of surrendering the flags of the Regiment to the State authorities transpired. The Adjutant General, thanking them for their gallantry, and congratulating them on the happy termination of their services, received the old battle-worn relics, making a brief but appropriate speech. General Mann read his farewell order to the remnant of his old command. The Regiment was then paid off by companies, and 'ere the day closed, the gallant old Thirty-ninth Regiment of Illinois Volunteers, ceased to exist as an organization.

Military History Committee
Military History Committee Chair:
Scott Williams

About  Us :  We meet at the Historic Trinity Church in Chesterfield, VA.  We  research military history and historical sites within Chesterfield  County and develop educational and tourist information on military history pertaining to Chesterfield County. We also help to preserve and maintain the military integrity of the Civil War sites in the county and sponsor the annual Veterans Day programs at the historic 1917 Courthouse.  Our History Committee consists of two sub-committees.  If you are an avid military enthusiast, we encourage you to join the CHSV and the Military History Committee.   
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