American Civil War: Battle of Globe Tavern

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Major General Gouverneur K. Warren. Photograph Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Battle of Globe Tavern - Conflict & Dates:

The Battle of Globe Tavern was fought August 18-21, 1854, during the American Civil War (1861-1865).

Armies & Commanders

Union

Confederate

Battle of Globe Tavern - Background:

Having begun the Siege of Petersburg in early June 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant began movements to sever the railroads leading into the city.

Dispatching troops against the Weldon Railroad in late June, Grant's effort was blocked by Confederate forces at the Battle of Jerusalem Plank Road. Planning further operations, Grant transferred Major General Winfield S. Hancock's II Corps north of the James River in early August with the goal of striking at the Richmond defenses.

Though he did not believe that attacks would lead to the city's capture, he hoped they would draw troops north from Petersburg and force Confederate General Robert E. Lee to recall troops sent to the Shenandoah Valley. If successful, this would open the door for an advance against the Weldon Railroad by Major General Gouverneur K. Warren's V Corps. Crossing the river, Hancock's men opened the Second Battle of Deep Bottom on August 14. Though Hancock failed to achieve a breakthrough, he succeeded in drawing Lee north and prevented him from reinforcing Lieutenant General Jubal Early in the Shenandoah.

Battle of Globe Tavern - Warren Advances:

With Lee north of the river, command of the Petersburg defenses dell to General P.G.T. Beauregard. Moving out at dawn on August 18, Warren's men moved south and west over muddy roads. Reaching the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern around 9:00 AM, he ordered Brigadier General Charles Griffin's division to begin destroying the tracks while Brigadier General Romeyn Ayres' division deployed to the north as a screen.

Pressing up the railroad, they swept aside a small force of Confederate cavalry. Alerted that Warren was on the Weldon, Beauregard ordered Lieutenant General A.P. Hill to drive back the Union forces (Map).

Battle of Globe Tavern - Hill Attacks:

Moving south, Hill directed two brigades from Major General Henry Heth's division and one from Major General Robert Hoke's division to attack the Union line. As Ayres made contact with Confederate forces around 1:00 PM, Warren ordered Brigadier General Samuel Crawford to deploy his division on the Union right in the hope that he could outflank Hill's line. Advancing around 2:00 PM, Hill's forces assaulted Ayres and Crawford, driving them back towards Globe Tavern. Finally stemming the Confederate advance, Warren counterattacked and regained some of the lost ground (Map).

As darkness fell, Warren directed his corps to entrench for the night. That night, elements of Major General John Parke's IX Corps began to reinforce Warren as Hancock's men returned to the Petersburg lines. To the north, Hill was bolstered by the arrival of three brigades led by Major General William Mahone as well as the cavalry division of Major General W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee.

Due to heavy rain through the early parts of August 19, fighting was limited. With the weather improving late in the afternoon, Mahone moved forward to strike the Union right while Heth assaulted Ayres in the Union center.

Battle of Globe Tavern - Disaster Turns to Victory:

While Heth's attack was stopped with relative ease, Mahone located a gap between Crawford's right and the main Union line to the east. Plunging through this opening, Mahone turned Crawford's flank and shattered the Union right. Desperately attempting to rally his men, Crawford was nearly captured. With the V Corps position at risk of collapse, Brigadier General Orlando B. Willcox's division from IX Corps moved forward and mounted a desperate counterattack which culminated with hand-to-hand fighting. This action rescued the situation and allowed the Union forces to maintain their line until nightfall.

The next day saw heavy rains descend upon the battlefield. Aware that his position was tenuous, Warren used the break in the fighting to construct a new line of entrenchments approximately two miles to the south near Globe Tavern. This paralleled the Weldon Railroad facing west before turning ninety degrees just north of Globe Tavern and running east to the main Union works along the Jerusalem Plank Road. That night, Warren ordered V Corps to withdraw from its advanced position to the new entrenchments. With clear weather returning on the morning of August 21, Hill moved south to attack.

Approaching the Union fortifications, he directed Mahone to assault the Union left while Heth advanced on the center. Heth's assault was easily repulsed after being hammered by Union artillery. Advancing from the west, Mahone's men became bogged down in a swampy wooded area in front of the Union position. Coming under intense artillery and rifle fire, the attack faltered and only Brigadier General Johnson Hagood's men succeeded in reaching the Union lines. Breaking through, they were quickly thrown back by Union counterattacks. Badly bloodied, Hill was forced to pull back.

Battle of Globe Tavern - Aftermath:

In the fighting at the Battle of Globe Tavern, Union forces sustained 251 killed, 1,148 wounded, and 2,897 captured/missing. The bulk of Union prisoners were taken when Crawford's division was flanked on August 19. Confederate losses numbered 211 killed, 990 wounded, and 419 captured/missing. A key strategic victory for Grant, the Battle of Globe Tavern saw Union forces assume a permanent position on the Weldon Railroad. The loss of the railroad severed Lee's direct supply line to Wilmington, NC and forced materials coming from the port to be off-loaded at Stony Creek, VA and moved to Petersburg via Dinwiddie Court House and the Boydton Plank Road. Eager to eliminate the Weldon's use completely, Grant directed Hancock to attack south to Ream's Station. This effort resulted in defeat on August 25, though additional parts of the railroad line were destroyed.

Grant's efforts to isolate Petersburg continued through the fall and winter before culminating in the city's fall in April 1865.

Selected Sources