Name: The Battle of Darbytown Road
Other Names: Alms House
Location: Henrico County
Campaign: Richmond-Petersburg Campaign (June 1864-March 1865)
Date: October 13, 1864
Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Alfred Terry [US]; Lt. Gen. Richard Anderson [CS]
Forces Engaged: Corps
Estimated Casualties: 950 total
Description: On October 13, Union forces advanced to find and feel the new Confederate defensive line in front of Richmond. While mostly a battle of skirmishers, a Federal brigade assaulted fortifications north of Darbytown Road and was repulsed with heavy casualties. The Federals retired to their entrenched lines along New Market Road.
Result: Confederate victory1
Note: Click to see maps of the Battle of Darbytown Road, which should help you follow along with the action.
Brief Summary: On October 13, 1864, the second of three October battles along the Darbytown Road occurred, 150 years ago today. On October 7, 1864, at the Battle of Darbytown and New Market Roads, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate strike force failed to drive back the Union Army of the James. As a result, Lee instructed the divisions of Charles Field and Robert Hoke to build a new intermediate defense line between his old outer line, still held by the Federals, and Richmond’s inner defense line.
The work on this new line attracted the attention of Union pickets and Kautz’s Federal cavalry patrols, and Grant determined to interfere. He sent the First and Third Divisions of the Tenth Corps, Army of the James, now under Alfred Terry, to reconnoiter and attempt to break up the Confederate work on their new line of entrenchments.
As the Federals slowly tried to feel for Field’s left, the Confederate general kept moving his own forces further north, with Hoke’s Division to the south moving into the rifle pits vacated by Field’s men. Grant and Butler warned Terry about making any frontal assaults against intrenchments. Although the fighting was mainly heavy skirmishing, an attack was launched north the Darbytown Road against Field’s Division by Ames’ First Division, Tenth Corps, Army of the James. Pond’s First Brigade, First Division, Tenth Corps got the assignment. These men of Ames’ Division forced to make the attack knew it was doomed before it began. They assaulted Perry’s Alabama Brigade, and the result was a disaster. Pond lost over half of his small 550 man brigade in the attack.
Shortly after the failure of this unsupported, one brigade attack, Terry retreated back the way he had come. The Confederates only lost 50 men in the fighting on this day. Bryce Suderow, in his detailed account of the fighting linked to above, criticizes Grant, Butler and Terry for the planning, and he was equally underwhelmed by Terry’s tactical decision to spread out his two divisions along a wide front and then attack with a single unsupported brigade. Hampton Newsome, in Richmond Must Fall, is less critical of Grant and Butler, choosing to criticize Terry alone for not listening to his commander and the overall commander.
The end result was that the Confederates had successfully built and defended a new intermediate defense line to help keep the Army of the James out of Richmond. The Fifth Offensive was finally over after more than two weeks of grappling on both flanks of the defenses guarding Richmond and Petersburg. Grant had gained ground in both areas, and his sixth Offensive late in October would try to grab even more. Lee’s ability to hold Grant away from the last supply lines keeping his army fed was gradually weakening, and Grant was not about to let up.
First Person Accounts:
Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Battle:
- “An Ugly Looking Chance for a Charge”: The Battle of Darbytown Road, October 13, 1864 by Bryce Suderow
- 150 Years Ago Today at Petersburg: October 13, 1864
- 150 Years Ago Today: Battle of Darbytown Road: October 13, 1864
- 7th SC Cav: “A Last Hurrah!: The Seventh South Carolina Cavalry at the Battle of Darbytown Road”
- 864jac: Union Forces Battle of Darbytown Road 13 October 1864
- Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864
- Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg (2nd Edition) by Richard J. Sommers
- Richmond Redeemed: The Siege at Petersburg by Richard J. Sommers
- BEARSS MAP: The Battle of Darbytown Road, Map 1: October 13, 1864 Midnight to 6:30 am
- BEARSS MAP: The Battle of Darbytown Road, Map 2: October 13, 1864 6:30 am to 2 pm
- BEARSS MAP: The Battle of Darbytown Road, Map 3: October 13, 1864 2 pm to Midnight
- Book Review: Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864
- CLARK NC: 17th North Carolina at the Siege of Petersburg
- CLARK NC: 8th North Carolina at the Siege of Petersburg
- Hampton Newsome Video on the October 1864 Battles Around Petersburg and Richmond
- LT: October 14, 1864 Elias S. Peck
- MAP: The Battle of Darbytown Road, October 13, 1864 (Bryce Suderow)
- NP: May 27, 1908 St. Johnsville NY News: John Reardon Diary (115th NY): September 26-December 5, 1864
- NP: October 20, 1864 Richmond Examiner: The War News, October 13 and 19
- SHS Papers: Volume 14: Campaign of 1864 and 1865 by Charles W. Field
- The Battle of Darbytown Road: October 13, 1864
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