Burgess Mill
  Before the winter weather shut down active operations for the season, there was another Union effort to cut the remaining road and supply routes.  "I think it cannot be long now before the tug will come which, if it does not secure the prize, will put us where the end will be in sight," Grant told his wife Julia, in mid October.  This plan came from General Meade, who was anxious to silence several Northern newspapers critical of his leadership.

   The movement (to be complimented by a diversionary attack north of the James), involved the Second, Fifth, and Ninth Corps and a cavalry division in a broad-front sweep around Lee's right flank.
   The Ninth would press the Confederate lines opposite Peebles farm and, it was hoped, force a breakthrough.  Moving to the left of them was the Fifth Corps, which was to support the Ninth if it was successful and lend assistance to the Second if it was not.  The hardest task in the entire operation had once again been given to Hancock's men.  They were to march well to the south before turning west, and after crossing a lower section of Hatchers run (well beyond Lee's flank), they would move to Boydton Plank Road, from there strike for the South Side Railroad.  The cavalry was to screen Hancock's advance and protect his left flank.  On October 26, Grant wrote to Julia,  "Tomorrow a great battle will probably be fought."

   It was well before dawn, October 27, when the Union Forces went into motion.  The Ninth Corps developed the enemy line but was unable to find a weak point.  This left the prime responsibility on the shoulders of Hancock and the Second Corps, which had a hard march along a single road that was barely passable in places.
   Despite stubborn delaying actions by Rebel outposts at several stream crossings, Hancock's men reached the Boydton Plank Road shortly after 10:30 a.m.  They cut it near it's intersection with the White Oak Road, a short distance below Burgess' Mill and it's associated mill pond.

   Up to this point Hancock's only opposition had come from Wade Hampton's cavalry, but confronting him at Burgess' Mill was a line of infantry and artillery posted across Hatcher's Run and covering the Boydton Plank Road bridge.  Every passing second meant more defenders were on their way from Petersburg.
   According to the original plan, Warren was to support Hancock, but his route led him into a nearly impenetrable underbrush.  In a very short time his units became lost, confused, and unavailable to Hancock.

   At about 1:30 p.m., while Hancock was preparing for the next phase of his advance, Grant, Meade, and their staffs arrived.  Grant undertook a personal reconnaissance of the enemy's line behind Hatcher's Run and concluded that a breakthrough would not be possible.  Still hoping to punish the Rebels, Grant issued instructions for Hancock to hold his position until noon the next day  "in hope of inviting an attack."  Grant and Meade left Hancock around 4:00 p.m.

   Thirty minutes later the Confederates did attack from three directions. Some of Hampton's cavalry pushed east along the White Oak Road while another portion of it came up Boydton Plank Road from the south, pressing Hancock's rear guard.
   A force of Confederate infantry led by General Mahone swept down across Hatcher's Run and flanked one Union brigade.  This time Hancock's men stood their ground and beat off each attack, though they paid a heavy price for doing so.  When night fell, Hancock decided to withdraw along the miserable road his men had used coming out, but a lack of ambulances meant that many of the most seriously injured would be left behind.  The morning of October 28 found the Confederates in charge of a battlefield littered with military debris and Yankee wounded. Private Bernard, whose regiment fought here, concluded that the "enemy must have suffered heavily, as they withdrew their troops from the Plank Road."

   This time there was no extension of the Union trenches to mitigate the loss of nearly 1,800 men.  The Confederates could claim a victory, though  their cost was also high, about 1,300 men.  Among them were two of Wade Hampton's sons, one killed, the other seriously wounded. Never again would this grieving father allow any of his children to serve with him.  This combat operation would also be the last for Winfield S. Hancock in the Army of the Potomac.  The much respected officer would step down on Thanksgiving Day to accept a reassignment.
(Bad Moon Rising)
Fort Hell
Winter 1864-65
Fort Hell
Winter 1864
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