Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

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Bermuda Hundred Campaign

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.

‚ÄčOn 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), 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)

   Chester Station Battle Drawing

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Bermuda Hundred Campaign Officers