39th Illinois Park
About 39th Illinois Park
39th Illinois Park is a 3 acre park located in North Chesterfield. The park includes a natural 0.2 mile walking trail. There is limited parking at the trailhead.
The park is named for the 39th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, which was an infantry regiment that served in the Union Army during the Civil War.
The 39th Illinois Regiment was formed in Chicago, Illinois. It then embarked with General Benjamin F. Butler's expedition up the James River. On reaching Bermuda Hundred, they advanced into the interior for several miles when the entire command was halted and entrenchment's thrown up.
On May 16, 1864, Confederates attacked the Union forces in an attempt to drive them away from their supply base and eliminate them as a threat to Richmond. The attack, which took place in a blinding fog, was initially successful, but stalled due to poor visibility and determined stands by Union troops on the right and center of the line. Rather than counter attack, Union commanders ordered a withdrawal back to their defensive positions in Bermuda Hundred.
In the general confusion of battle, word of the withdrawal never reached the 500 men of the 39th Illinois on the far left of the Union line. Isolated and alone, the regiment repulsed 3 attacks before being overrun. The survivors fled south along the railroad with other shattered Union regiments toward Chester Station, where many were taken prisoner by Confederate cavalry. The 39th Illinois had succeeded in cutting their way out, after great loss. To use General Butler's own words, "The 39th fought most gallantly, and have suffered most severely."