Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

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Bermuda Hundred Campaign

2nd Battle of Drewry's Bluff

 

On May 15-16, 1864, General P.T. Beauregard (pictured above) had patched together three divisions under the command of Major Generals Robert Ransom, Hoke and Colquitt and positioned hem in place for an attack..    Ransom was tasked to assault along Old Stage Road to push the Federal right towards its center.  Hoke  was to  attack the Federal's center and their left.  This was suppose to apply pressure to hold them and prevent their reinforcing the Union right.  Colquitt was placed in Reserve. This was the plan to  hold the Federals in place and preclude any reinforcemnt from the right.  Colquitt was placed in reserve with Matt Ransom's brigade.  Major General W.H.C. Whiting’s two brigades would move north from Petersburg and cut off the Federal retreat.

However, Beauregard sent Major General Chase Whiting with his brigade to Drewry's Bluff and to march Wise and Martin along with the remaining men of Colquitt's brigade to Port Walthall.  Butler’s army would then be either destroyed or at least forced to fall back from the Confederate capital and the vital Richmond & Petersburg Railroad. At 4:30 a.m., Ransom’s men began moving through heavy fog and slammed into Smith’s corps. The Confederates routed a Connecticut brigade and captured 400 men including its commander, Brigadier General Charles Heckman. The Federal right flank bent but did not break. Ransom’s attack soon stalled.

The rest of Hoke’s division struck the Federal left but made no progress. Meanwhile, Butler ordered Gillmore to send reinforcements to the right, and then he ordered Smith to abandon the right altogether and fall back. To the south, Whiting’s Confederates met a single Federal division at Port Walthall Junction and halted, as Whiting feared that more Federals were coming. Butler received word that Confederates were in his rear, adding to the general confusion among the Federals. 

The Federals fell back in driving rain about a mile before reforming their line at Half Way House around 2 p.m. About two hours later, after receiving word that Confederates from Richmond were crossing the James to confront him, Butler ordered a retreat to the Federal entrenchments at Bermuda Hundred. As he reported, “The troops have been on incessant duty for five days, three of which were in a rainstorm. I retired at leisure to within my own lines.”

Beauregard had driven Butler away from Richmond and the railroad, but he could not destroy Butler’s army. Beauregard accused Ransom, despite his successful initial attack, of lacking the aggression needed to finish the Federals off. Nevertheless, the Federals returned to the peninsula where Beauregard could seal the neck with a token force and ensure that Butler could not threaten Richmond or Petersburg anymore.  Butler was bottled up.  This battle is detailed in the "Bermuda Hundred Tour Guide" book (available at Research Library of the Chesterfield Histotical Socie

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Bermuda Hundred Campaign Officers