On Friday, June 24th, after the sad affair along the Jerusalem Plank Road, the Fifth Corps came up to the long line of earthworks along the road to relieve the Second Corps. The weary men marched a couple of miles east and camped in some woods for the weekend. The weather continued hot and dry. Dust and thirst were their constant companions. On Monday, the 27th they continued eastward, crossed the Petersburg and Norfolk Railroad, and then marched another three miles toward the James River. The total distance marched was only about five miles, but many fell by the wayside because of the intense heat.
The army was being supplied by scores of steamships that came up the James River from Hampton Roads every day. During the early weeks of the siege the U. S. Military Railroad had not yet been built, so the Union soldiers were being supplied the way they had during most of the conflict, by wagon trains. Gibbon’s Second Division was used as a strong picket line to protect the wagon trains from Rebel attacks. Their position was probably between Prince George and Hopewell.
A huge bonus in this guard duty was that food was abundant. According to Sgt. Edward Wade (Co. F, 14th CT), as recorded by Charles Page in The History of the Fourteenth Regiment, “There were quite a number of plantations around here, and plenty of hogs, cows, sheep, geese, and turkeys which were confiscated by the troops. The inhabitants had mostly cleared out and left what they couldn’t carry with them, which came very handy for us. Some of their provisions they had put in barrels and hid in the woods nearby, but soldiers’ eyes are ever open….” Wade also reported that they had to dig several wells to get suitable drinking water.
Now, here’s the weird part. This guard duty and foraging expedition lasted only for one day. On Tuesday, June 28th, at about eleven in the morning, the men were ordered to march back toward the front. But they must not have returned empty handed, because Sgt. Wade added, “We lived well for a while.”