Poplar Springs Church
The Army of the Potomac continued to slide westward. After destroying the Weldon Railroad, the Southside Railroad, to the northwest, became the next important transportation target. That goal, however, was much more difficult to achieve. Being the last connection between Petersburg and the rest of the Confederacy, it was held on to at all costs. The 44th battalion was allowed several days to organize and give some basic training to 207 recruits who had joined the regiment on September 17. Bradford Wood commanded the Battalion, and Captain Albert Husted commanded Company E, one of the four remaining companies, and the few Normal School students who still remained in the regiment. (1)
On September 30, the battalion began marching toward the left of the army at 7:00 a.m. Shortly before noon, after several miles of marching, the companies reached an open field and saw a Confederate fort, Fort McRae, in the distance. The officers realized that a battle would soon occur, formed the men into line of battle, and waited. The men were ordered to lie down for protection from the gunfire of the fort. (2)
At noon, the order came to charge. Enemy shells flew harmlessly over their heads as they neared the fort. As the brigade began to climb the incline to the fort, the enemy shot canister from its gun, which did some damage, but failed to slow the assault. When they reached the abatis of cut logs and branches, the enemy firing ceased. The battalion went around the abatis, and joined the right of the brigade, which had attacked at a place with no obstructions. The men arrived too late to see the surrender of the fort and its 50 men to the 83rd Penn. After the battle, the entrenchments were rebuilt to face the enemy. (3)
Later that day, the 44th was detached from the brigade and moved to a fort further on the right, where it joined the 83rd Penn. and the 16th Mich. They were placed in the fort in anticipation of an attempt by the enemy to reclaim it. After spending a short time in the fort, they returned to the brigade on the double-quick, joining it in an open field in front of the fort they had earlier captured. They were there to provide protection for part of the Ninth Corps, which was falling back after an attack. After they came through the lines, the enemy, following closely behind, was counterattacked and driven back after 30 minutes of fighting. The battalion suffered 26 casualties, but none involved the original men from the Normal School Company. (4)
The movement against Poplar Spring Church was made in conjunction with an attack made north of Petersburg. Despite minor successes, the Confederate lines held, and the Union Army could not destroy the Southside Railroad or break through Lee's fortifications. The 44th spent the next two days reversing captured trenches and on October 6, was ordered out of the Third Brigade in preparation of its dissolution. Special Order No. 275, issued October 11, 1864, ordered the battalion to be divided between the 140th N. Y. and the 146th N. Y., and the remaining officers discharged. (5)
1. Wood, "Service With the Forty-Fourth N.Y. Vols. in 1864," 292.
2. Nash, 209.
3. Nash, 209-10.
4. Nash, 210-11.
5. Nash, 212-3.
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