The Bermuda Hundred Campaign

General Ulysses S. Grant

Port Walthall on the Appomattox River

1st Port Walthall Battle

(May 6th, 1864) -The 1st Battle at Port Walthall Junction, an animated map tutorial by Robert J. Forman, Author of the Civil War Tour Guide Book, Bermuda Hundred Campaign.  General Charles Heckman's Federal forces of Butler's Army of the James was initially stopped by General Hagood's Confederate forces at Port Walthall Junction in Chesterfield County.  Heckman left the field and retreated back to Point of Rocks, leaving 8 dead, and his attack was deemed a failure.  He had 60 soldiers wounded. Confederate reinforcements continued to arrive at Port Walthall Junction.   Two days later, Butler was allowed to push the Confederates back to Swift Creek fortifications effectively cutting the railroad. 

General Ulysses S. Grant

Pending new photo

Railroad Raids

Major General Butler's plan was to move the 18th Corps to Port Walthall Junction and destroy the railroad line while the 10th Corps moves to destroy the railroad lines at Chester Station with the division of General Ames in the lead.  Following them were the divisions of General Turner and General Terry.  They moved along the Bermuda Hundred Road past Ware Bottom Church to Chester Station.  General White's brigade (Ame's Division) crossed the Richmond Turnpike north of Port Walthall Junction.  Moving west, the brigade reached the railroad and began to destroy track.    Soon Generals Terry and Turner arrived and did effective destruction of the railroad until General Butler ordered them to move south.  Meanwhile, Graham's Army gunboats moved against Fort Clifton and rail station, Chester Station, was burned.

General Ulysses S. Grant

Battle of Swift Creek

Battle of Swift Creek

(May 9- 10, 1864)  On May 8, 1864,  General George Pickety, Commander of the Petersburg defenses on ordered 11 Confederate divisions to occupy defensive positions on the banks of Swift Creek.  On Monday, May 9, 1864, the Union forces began probing for Confederate forces along the banks of Swift Creek.  Fighting erupted with musketry and the roar of artillery as Butler's army attacked the Confederates.  Failing to make contact, the Union 10th and 18th Corps moved towards Swift Creek probing for the Confederates.  General Haygood's N.C. Brigade is ordered to attack with disastrous results, however Confederate artillery prevents a disaster.  Swift Creek had three important crossings.  Most important was the Richmond Turnpike followed by the railroad bridge to the east and Brander's Bridge Road to the west. Haygood's Brigade defended the Turnpike and Brander's Bridge.  The 51st NC Regiment defended the railroad bridge.  The Federals formed for an attack.  Firing at 40 yards apart, the Federals with four regiments effectively fired volley after volley of rifle fire into the advancing Confederates.  Confusion and unclear orders on the part of the Confederates caused major casualties on Haygood's North Carolinians and the 21st SC Troops.  They were forced to retreat.  General Butler ordered a withdrawal back to his defensive positions at Bermuda Hundred.  But before that could be done, a battle ensued at Chester Station.  On May 10, 1864, General Robert Ransom's Divsion attacks the Federal rear guard.  The Federals rush in Hawley's, Whites, and Wistar's brigades to Chester Station.

General Ulysses S. Grant

Confederate General P.T. BeaureRobert Ransom

Battle of Chester Station

The Bermuda Hundred Campaign of 1864    Battle of Chester Station,  38913 Proctors Run Ct, Chester, VA 

The 39th Illinois Regiment was formed in Chicago, Illinois.  By March, 1864, returning from a furlough, the strength of the 39th Illinois Regiment had grown to 750 men.  It left, early in March 1864, for Washington, D.C., and from thence sailed to Georgetown, Virginia, where in was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Tenth Army Corps. It then embarked, the 5th day of May 1864, with General 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. After remaining for a day or two, the whole column was moved forward to Drewry's Bluff.   The Thirty-ninth was located on the extreme left of General Butler's command on the 16th of May 1864, when the entire force under Butler was attacked and driven back.

On May 16th, 1864, Confederates under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard attacked the Union forces under command of Benjamin F. Butler 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 three 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 Thirty-ninth fought most gallantly, and have suffered most severely". Colonel Thomas O. Osborn (pictured), Major Linton, Captain Phillips, Captain Wheeler, Lieutenant Kidder and Lieutenant Kingsbury were all wounded - the latter losing an arm. Colonel Osborn had a musket ball shattered his right elbow and lodged in his arm.  Captain James Wightman and Adjutant Joseph D. Walker were killed while gallantly cheering on the men. The entire loss in this engagement, including killed, wounded and missing, reached nearly 200 hundred soldiers. The unit survived and the Regiment was again ordered out on the 20th of May, to dislodge the enemy from some temporary works near Ware Bottom Church. with the loss of forty (40) in killed and wounded. The Thirty-ninth captured in this charge a large number of prisoners, including General Walker, who was seriously wounded. Lieutenant Colonel Mann was also seriously wounded in this engagement, thus leaving the command without a field officer.

Drewry's Bluff, Chesterfield County, VA

Battle Map showing 39th Illinois Position on the left


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