One of the major goals of the Petersburg siege was to destroy the railroads leading into the city. From the south came the Weldon Railroad, and from the west the Southside Railroad. To defeat Lee and end the war, these railroads would have to be destroyed. On August 16, the 44th's division was relieved from the trenches, and at 3:00 a.m. on August 18, the 44th broke camp and marched to the Weldon Railroad in a hard march, "passing through a dense swamp" and "expecting every moment to come upon the enemy." They reached the tracks at 9:00 a.m. without encountering the enemy and tore up the tracks and rails for a long distance. The ties were burned in a fire, which was used to heat and twist the rails. (1)
The 44th eventually went into position on the western side of the railroad and built breastworks. Its division formed the left of the Union line. The other divisions of the Fifth Corps, stationed to the right of the 44th and along the railroad, were attacked by the enemy without much success. Fighting continued for about two hours on the 18th. It began to rain heavily, transforming the roads into muddy ankle-deep bogs. On the 19th, the enemy attacked the right of the line again, and the First division was marched to the right to aid in the repulsion of the attack. But by the time they arrived, the Second Division had been victorious, albeit with heavy losses. The 44th returned to its position, and encountered some picket fire the following day. On August 21, the Confederates attacked one last time. But the Fifth Corps was so strongly entrenched that the attack failed, as the First Division and the Fourth Division combined to take between 700 and 800 prisoners. The 44th helped extend the siege line to the west of the Weldon Railroad and strengthen the Union stranglehold on Petersburg. Two men from Company E, David Gregory and James Pangburn (a former musician transferred to the company when it arrived in Maryland in 1862), were captured and a third, Erastus Miller, of Onondaga County, was wounded. (2)
The battle of Weldon Railroad was the last for the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. The regiment continued in the trenches until September 23, when the original enlistees were sent home, their three-year term of service expiring. Not enough veterans reenlisted, so the remaining men could not retain the regimental designation, and were instead formed into the 44th Battalion New York State Volunteers, which continued its service in the trenches of Petersburg.
1. "Weldon Railroad," in Nash, 338; Wood, "Service With the Forty-Fourth N.Y. Vols. in 1864," 292.
2. "Weldon Railroad," in Nash, 338; Wood, "Service With the Forty-Fourth N.Y. Vols. in 1864,"
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