Major General Benjamin Butler USA
Major General P.T. Beauregard CSA
On May 20, 1864, Beauregard's Confederates attacked Butler's Bermuda Hundred line around rustic Ware Bottom Church in Chesterfield County, Virginia. About 10,000 troops were involved in this action. Before the day was done, 1,400 dead and wounded men from fourteen American states lay sprawled and bleeding upon the ground. After driving back Butler's advanced pickets, the Confederates constructed the Howlett Line, effectively bottling up the Federals at Bermuda Hundred. Confederate victories at Proctor's Creek and Ware Bottom Church enabled Beauregard to detach strong reinforcements for General Lee's army in time for the fighting at Cold Harbor.
A nearby spring was a favorite gathering spot for both armies taking a respite from the battles. Here they exchanged stories, tobacco, food and other sundries until the Confederate officers stopped the practice. The Spring was in a deep ravine among old pines and oaks along present day Rt. 10. At the time of the Civil War the spring consisted of a circular brick wall about nine feet in diameter and 5 feet deep. The spring has been infilled with leaves, dirt and trash. The spring is not part of the present day battlefield park.
This climactic battlefield of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign was overshadowed by larger events of the time and lapsed into relative obscurity. Today, sadly, the battleground itself has all but disappeared and efforts are ongoing to preserve what remains of the site. A Chesterfield County ordinance is now in place that prohibits relic hunters and scavengers from destroying the site. The property comprises the heart of the Ware Bottom Church battlefield and also contains a portion of the Howlett Line, the strong defensive line that the Confederates built between the James and Appomattox rivers to "bottle up Butler" Union Gen. Benjamin Butler and his Army of the James. Earthworks on the site are 8 feet high and 20 feet thick, according to Chesterfield Historian, George Fickett, and extend for 1,200 feet in an unbroken line. "It's a really significant site." The 10 acres is part of a 60-acre property that includes a dozen cannon emplacements and the route of the entire Confederate assault against the Union works. The park features a trail with interpretive signage.
Warebottom Battle Map (Courtesy Robert Forman, Major, US Army (Retired)
Road Map WareBottom Battlefield Park 1600 Old Bermuda Hundred Rd, Chester, VA
Confederate forces were under the direxton of Commodore John K, Mitchell who commanded the James River Squadron in his flagship, the CSS Fredericksburg. The CSS Fredericksburg weighed approximately 2500 tons and armed with one smoothbore cannon and three rifled smaller guns. The ironclad rams, the CCS Richmond and the CC Virginia II also participated in the attack. Mitchell's orders were to sail down the James and attack GRant's supply Center at City Point. They had to fight their way past multiple obstacles including warships, a naval mine field, shore batteries, a net and Fort Brady.
A Sketch by Alfred Waud dated Feebrary 11. 1865 from Haper's Illustrated showing the Confederate Fleet breaking through the boon at Trent's Reach.