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A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad, The Vermont Brigade June 23, 1864

A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad, The Vermont Brigade June 23, 1864

Civil War authors and historians generally paint with a broad brush. Multiple books are available, and more appear every day it seems, describing the great battles and campaigns of the war. Infantrymen, however, do not fight great battles. They slug it out in thousands but “minor” (but personally very important) engagements. Someone has counted 10,000 individual military actions in the four years of the Civil War. Most have been forgotten. The First Battle at the Weldon Railroad which took place June 23, 1864 south of Petersburg between the Vermont Brigade of the VI Army Corps AOP and Mahone's Division of A. P Hill's Corps, ANV is one such “minor affair” remembered now by relatively few of the more erudite historians. It was one of the early battles of the Jerusalem Plank Road as U. S. Grant extended his investment of Petersburg. For those interested in small unit actions, the Federal debacle at the Weldon Railroad explains much about the problems and difficulties which plagued Grant in his effort to end the War by crushing the Army of Northern Virginia.

To the proud Vermont Brigade it was a disaster and arguable the worst experience for the Green Mountain State of the entire war (the surrender of the entire 9th Vermont Regiment as part of the Harper's Ferry garrison in 1862 is its nearest rival.) It was probably the worst performance by a Vermont unit of the war. One Vermont Civil War buff likes to refer to it “as the screw-up at the Weldon Railroad.” The official Vermont historian termed it “an inexcusable blunder.” Cowardliness, negligence and inept behavior my multiple officers resulted in the needless capture of more than 400 Vermonters. The enlisted men were sent to Andersonville and later other Confederate prisons where 60% perished. Most of the survivors came home mere wrecks of men and almost all suffered premature crippling degenerative arthritis as a sequala of scurvy.

In A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad, The Vermont Brigade June 23, 1864 (White Mane Publishing Co. 2005), I have related exactly what occurred at the Weldon Railroad: what went wrong and who was to blame. The story itself of the fate of 400 Vermonter captured at the Weldon Railroad is a tale of remarkable courage and devotion to country. The occurrence of a massive and lethal epidemic of hookworm (Necator americanus) in producing the grim mortality at Andersonville is elucidated and adds insight to the Andersonville story (See “Why Did the Vermonters Die at Andersonville”).

For a book review by Tom Ledoux, webmaster of Vermont in the Civil War website, see: http://vermontcivilwar.org/books/review.php

For more information and links regarding purchase the book from White Mane or Amazon.com see A Melancholy Affair at the Weldon Railroad.

David F. Cross MD

Ferrisburgh, Vermont