DREWRY'S BLUFF, VA.
MAY 12-16,1864

     Drewry's Bluff, Va., May 12-16, 1864.  Army of the James 
Simultaneously with the movement of the Army of the Potomac 
from the Rapidan river on the north, the Army of the James, 
commanded by Maj.-Gen. B. F. Butler, moved up the James river 
to invest Richmond on the south.  On May 6 Butler landed his 
forces on the peninsula known as Bermuda Hundred and immedi-
ately began entrenching a line across the isthmus from the 
James river to the Appomattox.  (For the organization of But-
ler's army see Petersburg.)  On the right bank of the James, 
about 5 miles above Bermuda Hundred, the Confederates had a 
fortified work called Fort Darling.  From this fort a line of 
intrenchments extended southwest to the Proctor's creek bridge 
on the Richmond & Petersburg railroad.  Back of this was a 
second line, which enclosed both the railroad and the turnpike. 
At the time Butler landed on Bermuda Hundred the trenches on 
the south side of the James were held by a meager force (est-
imated by Gen. Humphreys at not exceeding 6,000) under Gen. 
Beauregard, but reinforcements were constantly arriving.  Hum-
phreys thinks that: "Gen. Butler's true policy upon landing at 
the mouth of the Appomattox would have been to disregard  Rich-
mond for a time and turn his attention to attacking Beaure-
gard's forces in detail as they arrived from the south, first 
taking Petersburg, which was then nearly defenseless."  Instead 
of adopting this course, however, he contented himself with 
entrenching his position and with sending Kautz's cavalry on a 
raid against the Weldon railroad.  When he did begin his move-
ment on Drewry's bluff, Beauregard had about 30,000 men to op-
pose him.

     Shortly after daylight on the 12th Kautz began his second 
raid on the railroads, and at the same time Smith, with the 
18th corps and Turner's divisionof the 1Oth, moved along the 
pike toward Richmond to cover Kautz's movement and develop the 
enemy's strength at Drewry's bluff.  Weitzel's division soon 
began skirmishing with the enemy and gradually pressed him back 
across Red House creek, where the Confederates opened fire with 
2 pieces of artillery stationed on the pike.  The guns were 
quickly dislodged, after which Weitzel formed his command in 
line of battle across the pike on the north side of the creek, 
six regiments of Brooks, division were deployed on the left, 
Turner's division was brought up on the right, and the whole 
line advanced.  Brooks had to force his way through a marsh and 
a dense thicket, but Weitzel and Turner, having more open coun-
try in their front, drove the enemy back across Proctor's 
creek.  Late in the day Gen. Gillmore with part of the 1Oth, 
corps and a battery, came up and took position on the left.  On 
the morning of the 13th Gillmore advanced against the right of 
the enemy's entrenchment's on Proctor's creek.  The extreme 
right the Confederate line rested on Wooldridge hill, about 
half a mile west of the railroad.  Gen. Terry attempted to 
storm the hill, but his attack was repulsed.  Soon after this 
the enemy evacuated his position on the hill and passed down 
the line of entrenchment's toward Fort Darling closely pressed 
by Gillmore's men, and early the next morning the pressure was 
renewed until over 2 miles of the advanced line of works were 
in the hands of the Federals.  Gillmore then formed a junction 
with Turner's division, which had been moved to the left of the 
18th corps, and during the 14th the Confederates were driven 
back to the second line of works at all points.  The 15th was 
spent in making reconnaissances and skirmishing.  About the 
only movement of consequence on this day was made on Smith's 
right, when Heckman's brigade was thrown back to cover a road 
leading to Bermuda Hundred.  This weakened the line of battle 
and three regiments of Ames' division, posted at the Halfway 
house on the pike near Proctor's creek, were obliged to act as 
a reserve.  Beauregard learned on the 15th that Ransom's divi-
sion would join him that evening, and he therefore decided to 
assume the offensive.  Accordingly he issued his instructions 
for an assault at daybreak on the 16th, his object being to cut 
off the Union army from its base of operations and either cap-
ture or destroy it.  Ransom was to attack the Federal right, 
Hoke who was on the right of Ransom, was to engage the forces 
in his front to prevent Smith from reinforcing against Ransom, 
and if the Union line showed signs of giving way he was to 
"push on the whole of his command and clear his entire front 
with rapidity and vigor."  During the night both divisions were
formed in two lines outside the works, supported by artillery, 
and Colquitt's division, except two regiments, was posted in 
reserve.  The two remaining regiments were to join with Whit-
ing's command and move from Petersburg to strike the left and 
rear of the Union line.  During the 15th Weitzel constructed a 
rude breastwork of logs along his entire front.  At Smith's -
suggestion telegraph wire was taken from the line along the 
pike and stretched in front of Brooks' and Weitzel's divisions, 
the wire being wound tightly around the stumps. 

     About 5 A.M. on the 16th Ransom advanced in a dense fog, 
drove in the  skirmishers in front of Heckman's brigade, and 
though Heckman made a stubborn resistance he was overpowered 
after an hour's hard fighting, his works were carried by the 
enemy's superior force and he, several hundred of his men and 5 
stands of colors, were captured.  By this time the fog had 
lifted to some extent and Hoke began his attack on Gillmore. 
Terry repulsed three determined assaults, when it was learned 
that Heckman had been defeated and the whole line was moving to 
the right.  At this moment Gillmore received the following mes-
sage from Butler:  "Move by your right flank so as to join on 
to Gen. Smith's left, as the enemy are fighting us at Ware 
Bottom church."  Just before this Gillmore had been ordered to 
assault, but had not done so because Terry was too seriously 
engaged on the defensive.  He now determined to attack the 
flank of the enemy's column that was forcing back Smith's 
right.  Orders to that effect were sent to Terry and Turner and 
they were moving to execute the order when Gillmore received 
notice that Smith and Weitzel were both falling back.  Gillmore 
then formed a new line covering the road leading to his rear 
and held this position until ordered to move to the pike in or-
der to cover Smith's left.  In the meantime Weitzel had been 
actively engaged in repelling the assaults on his breastworks. 
Here the telegraph wire evidently proved a formidable barrier, 
as in his report Weitzel says:  "The four regiments of Heck-
man's brigade were crushed by the attack. but there was no sur-
prise on account of the fog as the whole line was in line of 
battle and prepared for the shock. * * * The other seven regi-
ments of my line did not move until (after they had thrice re-
pulsed the enemy with terrible slaughter, he being piled in 
heaps over the telegraph wire) they were ordered to fall back." 

     Ransom suffered heavy loss in his attack on Heckman, his 
troops became scattered in the fog, and at 6:30 he called for 
reinforcements.  Colquitt was sent to his assistance, reaching 
the field about the time Weitzel repulsed Hoke's first assault, 
in which part of Hagood's brigade advanced too far and was or-
dered back by Hoke.  This movement led Ransom to believe that 
Hoke's left was in danger and he sent Lewis' brigade to 
strengthen that flank.  This was not in conformity with Beaure-
gard's plan of battle and resulted in some confusion.  Ransom 
then reestablished his line in front of the works he had cap-
tured from Heckman and was directed to halt there for further 
orders.  Between 9 and 10 o'clock Beauregard sent orders to 
Whiting to press forward, but that officer had been checked by 
Ames at Walthall Junction and had fallen back to Swift creek. 
Toward noon Butler gave orders for the whole army to retire to 
the entrenchment's and on the morning of the 17th the Confeder-
ates moved up to a position close to the Federal lines and en-
trenched, thus "bottling up", Butler on Bermuda Hundred, where 
the Army of the James remained inactive until Grant crossed the 
James. 

     Beauregard reported his casualties on the 16th as being 
364 killed, 1,610 wounded and 220 missing.  The Union reports 
are incomplete but Badeau gives the loss at Drewry's bluff as 
390 killed, 1,721 wounded and 1,390 captured or missing.  The 
Federals lost 5 pieces of artillery and 5 stands of colors, 
which were captured by Hagood's brigade in one of the assaults 
near the turnpike. 


Source: The Union Army, vol. 5