The Bermuda Hundred Campaign

General Ulysses S. Grant

On to Richmond

Chesterfield County, Virginia is the only county in the Civl War conflict that a full campaign was fought.  It is unique to the Civil War in the United States.  It prolonged the war for two more years.  The first major action of the Civil War in Chesterfield County took place on May 15, 1862 when a federal flotilla led by the Union ironclad USS Monitor headed toward Richmond on the James River. The Federals were turned back after a three hour battle with Confederate guns at Drewry's Bluff.

General Ulysses S. Grant

Drewery's Bluff ( Fort Darling)

On May 15, 1862, a Union flotilla led by the ironclads Monitor and Galena attempted to force their way past the fort to bombard Richmond. In the battle that raged for over three hours, the Galena bore the brunt of the fighting, taking dozens of direct hits and suffering 23 crew members killed or wounded. The Monitor was unable to elevate her guns high enough to fire at Drewry's Bluff and retreated to safety downriver. Realizing that the river blockade could not be breached, the Union commander withdrew. Richmond was never again seriously threatened by a water-based attack.  The ground over which this battle was fought was drenched with the blood of 7000 men; Chesterfield's most deadly field of battle.  During the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, Marine Cpl. John Mackie took charge of one of the Galena's guns after the original crew had been wounded. For his actions Cpl. Mackie became the first United States Marine to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. Soon after the river battle, Drewry's Bluff became a naval station as well as an important training center for the Confederacy. The Marine Corps Camp of Instruction and the Confederate Naval Academy were established at the site.   Drewry's Bluff remained a strong point on Richmond's southern defenses until the fall of Petersburg. The last remnants of the Confederate James River Squadron met their end here when the ironclads Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Virginia II were blown up in front of Drewry's Bluff to prevent them from falling into Union hands.  After the Confederate withdrawal to Appomattox, VA., the fort was renamed "Fort Darling" as the Union forces occupied the site.  The site is now part of the Richmond National Battlefield. Drewry's Bluff has a walking trail, interpretive signs, an artillery piece, and a platform with a magnificent view of the James River. Living history events are frequently held at the park in the Spring and Fall

General Ulysses S. Grant

Grant's Plan

In April 1864 newly promoted Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant assumed command of all Federal armies.  His first task was to devise a strategic plan to destroy the Confederate armies and end the war. Grant's plan called for the main attack to be made by Major General George Meade's Army of the Potomac with 120,000 soldiers.  Meade's mission was to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia with 60,000 troops, still under the command of General Robert E. Lee.  Lee's mission was simply to defend Richmond at all costs.  Major General Franz Sigel with 6,500 soldiers in the Valley Army was given the secondary mission to advance towards Staunton, attack the Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley under General John Breckinridge and prevent them from reinforcing Lee. 

If the military situation allowed it, Sigel was to advance against Richmond from the west.  Major General Benjamin F. Butler was to gather 40,000 troops at Yorktown and Gloucester, and support Major General Meade's offensive by attacking Richmond from the south side of the James River. Lieutenant General Grant's plan called for the Federal forces to meet at Richmond in just ten days there to join in the final destruction of the Army of Northern Virginia, the capture of Richmond, and the end of the war.  General Grant set the morning of May 4th, 1864 at the start of his offensive. 

General Ulysses S. Grant

Bermuda Hundred Landing

(May 4-6, 1864): In early May 1864, Union Gen. Benjamin Butler landed his Army of the James in Chesterfield County, between Richmond and Petersburg, and threatened both cities in his drive west from landings between the James and Appomattox Rivers. The Confederates under Gen. P.G.T.  Beauregard blocked him. Within weeks, Butler was trapped between the two rivers and remained there until Petersburg was evacuated in April 1865. To deceive the Confederates as to the date and location of his attack, on May 1st Major General Butler conducts a feint up the York River and along the peninsula. Colonel Guy V. Henry's brigade is transported to West Point where work is begun to repair the port.

Colonel George W. Cole's cavalry brigade marches along the peninsula as flank protection.  On May 2, 1864, the 1st United States Colored Calvary skirmishes with Confederates forces guarding the Jones Bridge over the Chickahominy River.  The Federal Calvary on May 3, 1864, is recalled to Williamsburg.  And a day later, the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rhapadan River and entered into the "wilderness"  In the early morning hours of May 4, 1864, the Army of the James began loading aboard transport ships anchored in the mouth of the York River.  The 18th Corps embarked from its camps around Yorktown, followed by the 1oth Corps from its cam in Gloucester.  That evening the flotilla steamed into the Chesapeake Bay and anchored Fortress Monroe.  On the Morning of May 5, the Army of the James steamed up the James River, landing Brigadier General Edward A. Wild's Brigade of United States Colored Troops at Fort Pocahontas and Fort Powhatan.  General Kautz's Calvary division departs to destroy railroad bridges over the Nottoway River.  The Army of the James captures City Point and lands the 18th Corps at Bermuda Hundred.

Follow

  • Instagram
  • Facebook Social Icon

©2021 BY CHESTERFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA.