The Second Battle of Ream’s Station

August 25, 1864 – Confederates scored another victory on the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg, decimating the Federal II Corps.

As troops of Major General Winfield Scott Hancock’s Federal II Corps, Army of the Potomac, tore up rails on the Weldon Railroad to prevent supplies from reaching Confederates besieged in Petersburg, Lieutenant General A.P. Hill launched a surprise attack. The Confederate assault drove back the Federal cavalry, and the Federal infantry hurried behind breastworks.[1]

A general Confederate attack began at 2 p.m., but the Federals held their positions. A Confederate artillery bombardment around 5 p.m. preceded a massive attack, which threatened to flank the Federal line. The Federals held firm until two regiments in the center under Brigadier General John Gibbon fled in panic. A Confederate force exploited the gap, while another force attacked the Federal left.[2]

"Frank Leslie's - 2nd Reams Station" by Frank Leslie (publisher) - From Frank Leslie's Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War. From a digital scan available at available at the Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

“Frank Leslie’s – 2nd Reams Station” by Frank Leslie (publisher) – From Frank Leslie’s Scenes and Portraits of the Civil War. From a digital scan available at available at the Internet Archive. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

Hancock desperately tried reforming his fleeing men, shouting, “We can beat them yet. Don’t leave me, for God’s sake!” The Federals fell back nonetheless, with many of Gibbon’s green New Yorkers surrendering. A reserve brigade sent in to close the gap in the center “could neither be made to go forward nor fire.” Two Federal divisions were sent to reinforce Hancock, but he withdrew in disgust that evening to the Jerusalem Plank Road.[3]

Federals lost 2,750 men, over 2,000 of whom surrendered. They also lost nine cannon, 12 battle flags, and over 3,000 small arms. Confederates lost 720 men. This fight shattered the famed II Corps, as Hancock’s chief of staff, Colonel Charles H. Morgan, later said, “The agony of that day never died from that proud soldier (Hancock), who, for the first time, saw his lines broken and his guns taken.”[4]

Hancock rejected Gibbon’s explanation that his men fled because they had lost nine brigade and 40 regimental commanders in four months. Gibbon, the former commander of the feared Iron Brigade, ultimately resigned. Although the second engagement at Ream’s Station ended in Confederate victory just like the first, it did little to stop the overall gradual westward extension of the Federal siege lines around Petersburg.[5]

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[1] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 105-10; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11458-68; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 560

[2] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 105-10; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11458-68

[3] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 105-10; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11458-68; Wikipedia: Second Battle of Ream’s Station

[4] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 105-10; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Loc 11458-68; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 214; Wikipedia: Second Battle of Ream’s Station

[5] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 105-10; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 214; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 560

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