The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 14-20, 1864

   

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in Fourth Offensive

Name: The Second Battle of Deep Bottom

Other Names: New Market Road, Fussell’s Mill, Bailey’s Creek, Charles City Road, and White’s Tavern

Location: Henrico County

Campaign: Richmond-Petersburg Campaign (June 1864-March 1865)

Date(s): August 13-20, 1864

Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee and Maj. Gen. Charles Field [CS]

Forces Engaged: Corps

Estimated Casualties: 4,600 total

Description:During the night of August 13-14, the Union II Corps, X Corps, and Gregg’s cavalry division, all under command of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, crossed James River at Deep Bottom to threaten Richmond, coordinating with a movement against the Weldon Railroad at Petersburg. On August 14, the X Corps closed on New Market Heights while the II Corps extended the Federal line to the right along Bailey’s Creek. During the night, the X Corps was moved to the far right flank of the Union line near Fussell’s Mill. On August 16, Union assaults near Fussell’s Mill were initially successful, but Confederate counterattacks drove the Federals out of a line of captured works. Heavy fighting continued throughout the remainder of the day. Confederate general John Chambliss was killed during cavalry fighting on Charles City Road. After continual skirmishing, the Federals returned to the southside of the James on the 20th, maintaining their bridgehead at Deep Bottom.

Result(s): Confederate victory1

Summary:

The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 14, 1864:

The Federals Advance on New Market Heights

Note: Click to see maps of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary: On June 21st, Grant ordered Foster’s Brigade of Butler’s Army of the James to cross the James from Bermuda Hundred — and establish a bridgehead at Deep Bottom. Deep Bottom is a piece of land next to James River and is about ten or eleven miles from Richmond and posed a major threat to Richmond since the bridgehead could be reinforced at any time and the Federals could mount expeditions from it to capture Richmond. The Confederates on hand were commanded by Gen. Custis Lee. They did not even attempt to drive the Federals back across the river.

In late July 1864 Grant sent the X Corps and Sheridan’s cavalry to threaten Richmond. He hoped to force Lee to recall troops from Early’s army in the Shenandoah Valley. The result was the First Deep Bottom Campaign of July 27-29, 1864. Although they won two minor battles, the Federals failed to capture Richmond. However, they did succeed in forcing to Lee to strip his Petersburg defenses of most of his infantry, and this deception allowed Burnside to attack on July 30th with only three Confederate divisions opposing him.

Grant launched the Second Deep Bottom Campaign because he mistakenly thought that Lee had sent several divisions of infantry to reinforce Early in the Shenandoah Valley. Grant sent the II Corps, part of the X Corps and Gregg’s cavalry division to threaten Richmond and force Lee to recall the infantry divisions from Early.

Early on the morning of August 14th, the X Corps crossed the pontoon at Deep Bottom and attacked the skirmishers from Field’s division who composed the Confederate left flank. These skirmishers were deployed along the Kingsland Road, half a mile south of the main Confederate entrenchments on New Market Heights. The X Corps drove in the skirmishers and the Confederates fell back to New Market Heights.

2nd Battle of Deep Bottom Aug. 14, 1864 (Julie Krick)

 

Map Created By Julie Krick for Richmond Battlefields Association’s Fussell’s Mill Page

Portions of Anderson’s Georgia Brigade occupied the Confederate left and defended some seacoast howitzers the Confederates had assembled to shell Deep Bottom. The Georgians were driven back and the howitzers were captured.

Shortly after this action ended, Hancock’s II Corps landed from ocean going steamers at Tilgman’s Wharf and two divisions threatened the Confederate left flank. A cavalry brigade succeeded in repulsing two Union attacks and gave the Confederates time to shift Field’s infantry to the left. Two of Anderson’s regiments helped repulse the final Union attack of August 14th below Fussell’s Mill on the Darbytown Road.2

The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 15, 1864:

Union Tenth Corps Shifts to the Right at Fussell’s Mill

Note: Click to see maps of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary: The initial fighting on August 14 along New Market Heights (X Corps vs. Field) and southwest of Fussell’s Mill (II Corps vs. Gary’s Cavalry Brigade and Anderson’s GA Brigade) resulted in a Union halt far earlier than Federal commander Winfield Scott Hancock had planned.  In an effort to make some headway and spring the Union cavalry free, Hancock was instructed by General Grant to shift the X Corps from west of Four Mile Creek and facing north against New Market Heights, over to the right of II Corps east of Bailey’s Creek.

SecondDeepBottomCWPTMap

Once in position, the X Corps would attack the Confederate lines just north of Fussell’s Mill and attempt to turn their left flank.  This movement took most of the day on August 15, longer than Hancock had planned for.  The delays were attributable to the extreme heat and the decision by Tenth Corps commander David Birney to have his brother William Birney’s trailing division pass by Terry’s leading division at Strawberry Plains and then lead the march to Fussell’s Mill.

By the time David Birney’s Tenth Corps reached his assigned jump off point, he had lost a third of his men to the heat.  To make matters worse, a Rooney Lee’s cavalry division had reached the Confederae left flank on Charles City Road from Petersburg, where it drove back Gregg’s cavalry protecting the Union right.  William Birney detached an infantry brigade from his division to neutralize this threat to the rear.  He also sent a white brigade and a black regiment to turn the Confederate infantry’s left north of Fussell’s Mill.  These Union troops not only didn’t attack, but fired into each other mistakenly.  These and other concerns meant the attack planned for August 15 would have to wait until August 16.

The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 16, 1864:

The Battle of Fussell’s Mill

Note: Click to see maps of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary: August 16, 1864, day three of the Second Deep Bottom Campaign, is often referred to as “The Battle of Fussell’s Mill,” especially on the Confederate side.   This makes sense since most of the fighting on August 16, 1864 took place in the vicinity of that location. As you may recall, Birney’s Tenth Corps, Army of the James had spent the previous day marching from the Union extreme left to the Union extreme right in the vicinity of Fussell’s Mill, but had not made it in time to launch an attack.  They were in position and waiting as morning came on August 16.

The game plan for the Confederate defense under Charles Field for August 16 was to respond to Union thrusts and rush troops to those locations, leaving other areas lightly defended or not defended at all. Hancock was hoping for this strategy.  In fact, his plan for the day took this strategy into account.  He wished to attack north of Fussell’s Mill with X Corps and along Charles City Road with a combined cavalry/infantry attack at dawn, and when the Confederates rushed troops to defend against these, he would order Mott and his Second Corps division to assault the (hopefully undefended or weakly defended) Confederate works to the west at New Market Heights. Thomas Smyth’s Second corps division stretched thin to connect Mott on the far left at Tilghman’s Gate with Birney’s Tenth Corps on the far right at Fussell’s Mill.  Barlow’s division was held in reserve in the center.

To guard against these attacks, Field had his own division plus brigades from several other divisions and Gary’s cavalry.  He had shifted his man line of defense from New Market Heights, facing south, to Fussell’s Mill and the Charles City Road, facing east, to counter the Union movements of August 15.

The Union attack up Charles City Road kicked off first at 6 a.m., consisting of one cavalry brigade and one infantry brigade.  This attack pushed back the 9th Virginia Cavalry, then picketing the road against just such a push.  The fighting continued to the afternoon, by which point the Confederates had been driven well down the Charles City Road, and into Field’s left rear.  However, the timely arrival of Rooney Lee’s cavalry division, previously pegged for a trip to the Shenandoah Valley to join Early, stabilized the situation.

Meanwhile, the main infantry fight of the day took place to the west at Fussell’s Mill.

This Union division sized infantry assault was led by Brigadier General Alfred H. Terry.  He had his own 1st Division, X Corps as well as Col. Calvin Craig’s 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, II Corps.  The initial intent was to attack at Fussell’s Mill, but the area behind the mill was well defended and protected on its left (the Union right) b the large mill pond.  Terry took quite a bit of time moving north of the mill pond to launch his attack due west, into trenches defended in a single line by Wright’s Georgia Brigade, recently placed under the command of brand new Brigadier General Victor Girardey.

There were several false starts in the morning in which the Union 3rd Brigade/1st Division/X Corps under John Foster captured several north-south ravines in front of the main Confederate line, but failed to capture the main line itself.  This had all happened by a little after 11 am.  Terry, upon reconnoitering, wanted to try to move further north to flank this line, but X Corps commander David Birney ordered an assault.  Terry obliged, sending in all four brigades under his command at noon.  They achieved a breakthrough as Girardey’s Georgians melted away after only one volley.  Part of Lane’s Brigade to te north, temporarily under the command of Colonel Barbour, also gave way.

2nd Battle of Deep Bottom Aug. 16, 1864 (Julie Krick)

 

Map Created By Julie Krick for Richmond Battlefields Association’s Fussell’s Mill Page3

Confederate commander Charles Field was lounging on the ground behind the line when his aide suddenly told him their lines had broken.  Field sprung into action and ordered up reinforcements from the left (north) and right (west) to hasten to Girardey’s aid.  His article in Volume 14 of the Southern Historical Society Papers contained the famous phrase “only a miracle could save us,” a thought Field considered immediately upon learning of the breakthrough and his current troops dispositions.  By 12:30, three Union brigades (Pond, Hawley, and Craig) had formed a semi-circular defense west of the captured Confederate line.  Foster’s Brigade to their left had been stopped by Sanders’ Alabama Brigade, posted on a bluff and with its left flank partially protected by a steep ravine.  That ravine would prove troublesome for the Federals, and they ultimately never advanced further.  Division commander Terry left the field of battle at this time in person to request reinforcements from his Corps commander David Birney.

By the time Field’s ordered up reinforcements arrived, Girardey was dead.  He had been shot in the head by Ohio sharpshooters while trying to hold his line together.  John Gregg, commanding Field’s division, managed to send along portions of Law’s Alabama Brigade, Bratton’s South Carolina Brigade, Benning’s Georgia Brigade.  From the north came Lane’s North Carolinians and Conner’s South Carolinians.  In addition, Anderson’s Georgia Brigade had regiments on both sides of the rupture.  Together, they slowly but surely pushed Terry’s leaderless division back east to the Confederate works.  Terry came back trailed by two brigades of infantry (Coan’s and Osborn’s), but they were unable to do much to stem the tide of the battle.  By 2 pm, the Confederates had driven the six Union brigades back to where they had started in the morning.  Only a line of X Corps cannon which supported the advance discouraged further Confederate pursuit.

Hancock, who had planned to have Mott take advantage if the Confederates wekened the New Market Heights line west of Fussell’s Mill, only first telegraphed Mott at 1:50 pm.  Mott’s Second Corps Division, over 4,000 men, made a feeble attempt against three of Bratton’s SC Brigade regiments numbering less than 1,000, but soon gave up.  Hancock, upon learning of Birney’s repulse, ordered another attack at 5 pm, but later postponed and then cancelled it at 5:50 pm.

The major fight of the Second Deep Bottom Campaign was over.  The Union forces lost 1583 men at Fussell’s Mill and elsewhere in the area to the Confederates’ loss of 917.     One more round of fighting would occur in the area on August 18, but the main fighting would shift south of Petersburg on the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern, where Grant’s left hook fell after this right jab at Deep Bottom.  Lee’s reinforcements sent north of the James to combat Hancock were sorely missed on the Weldon Railroad.  But that fighting is set to be discussed in a few days right here at the Siege of Petersburg Online.  Stay tuned.

The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 18, 1864:

Lee Counterattacks at Fussell’s Mill

Note: Click to see maps of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary: On August 18, 1864, as Gouverneur Warren’s Fifth Corps was taking the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern and preparing for massive Confederate counterattacks south of Petersburg, General Lee was himself in command of Confederate forces north of the James River at Fussell’s Mill, intent on sending cavalry around Winfield Hancock’s right flank.  Once Hancock became aware of the threat and retreated, Lee would deliver an infantry assault at Fussell’s Mill in an attempt to cut Hancock off from the James River and deal him a severe blow.

The day did not go according to plan, and an 11 am assault turned into a belated and feeble attack at 5 pm.  Lee’s troops never even reached Hancock’s main line.  Wade Hampton’s cavalry, directed to penetrate Hancock’s rear on the Charles City Road, was blocked by Gregg’s cavalry as well.

Once Lee learned of Warren’s attacks at Petersburg, his attention, and many of the troops then north of the James near Fussell’s Mill, were moved south to combat a new threat.  This one had the potential to cut the Southerners off from supplies via the Weldon Railroad, one of only a few remaining supply lines they possessed into Richmond and Petersburg.

After a few more days in position, Hancock withdrew his forces on August 20, and the northern wing of Grant’s Fourth Offensive had ended.  As a diversion, the Second Deep Bottom Campaign is at least a partial success.  If you consider Hancock’s goals upon setting out on the evening of august 13, however, it must be deemed a complete failure.

Full Summary (Bryce Suderow)4: On June 21st, Grant ordered Foster’s Brigade of Butler’s Army of the James to cross the James from Bermuda Hundred — and establish a bridgehead at Deep Bottom. Deep Bottom is a piece of land next to James River and is about ten or eleven miles from Richmond and posed a major threat to Richmond since the bridgehead could be reinforced at any time and the Federals could mount expeditions from it to capture Richmond. The Confederates on hand were commanded by Gen. Custis Lee. They did not even attempt to drive the Federals back across the river.

In late July 1864 Grant sent the X Corps and Sheridan’s cavalry to threaten Richmond. He hoped to force Lee to recall troops from Early’s army in the Shenandoah Valley. The result was the First Deep Bottom Campaign of July 27-29, 1864. Although they won two minor battles, the Federals failed to capture Richmond. However, they did succeed in forcing to Lee to strip his Petersburg defenses of most of his infantry, and this deception allowed Burnside to attack on July 30th with only three Confederate divisions opposing him.

Grant launched the Second Deep Bottom Campaign because he mistakenly thought that Lee had sent several divisions of infantry to reinforce Early in the Shenandoah Valley. Grant sent the II Corps, part of the X Corps and Gregg’s cavalry division to threaten Richmond and force Lee to recall the infantry divisions from Early.

Early on the morning of August 14th, the X Corps crossed the pontoon at Deep Bottom and attacked the skirmishers from Field’s division who composed the Confederate left flank. These skirmishers were deployed along the Kingsland Road, half a mile south of the main Confederate entrenchments on New Market Heights. The X Corps drove in the skirmishers and the Confederates fell back to New Market Heights.

Portions of Anderson’s Georgia Brigade occupied the Confederate left and defended some seacost howitzers the Confederates had assembled to shell Deep Bottom. The Georgians were driven back and the howitzers were captured.

Shortly after this action ended, Hancock’s II Corps landed from ocean going steamers at Tilgman’s Wharf and two divisions threatened the Confederate left flank. A cavalry brigade succeeded in repulsing two Union attacks and gave the Confederates time to shift Field’s infantry to the left. Two of Anderson’s regiments helped repulse the final Union attack of August 14th below Fussell’s Mill on the Darbytown Road.

On August 15th, Hancock shifted the X Corps from the Union left to the Union right and on the 16th, the X Corps attacked the Confederate line above Fussell’s Mill. The Confederates gave way and the X Corps occupied their trenches, but the Federals attempts to penetrate into the Confederate rear were halted, partly due to the efforts of two of Anderson’s regiments. Anderson’s brigade helped recapture the lost Confederate works.

This was the end of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom, although further skirmishing continued until Hancock’s Federals withdrew on August 20th. Again Lee shifted most of his army north of James River to protect Richmond — and the weakened Confederates at Petersburg were unable to prevent Warren’s V Corps from occupying the Weldon Railroad.

Bibliography:

First Person Accounts:

Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Battle:

Source:

  1. CWSAC Battle Summary
  2. Summary for the Second Battle of Deep Bottom used with permission by Bryce Suderow.
  3. This map was created and is owned by Julie Krick and was made for the private use of the Richmond Battlefields Association.  It is used here with the written permission of Ms. Krick and the Richmond Battlefields Association and may not be reproduced in any form without her express written consent. All rights reserved.
  4. Summary for the Second Battle of Deep Bottom used with permission by Bryce Suderow

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

tina wood April 3, 2014 at 12:49 pm

Thomas jefferson rolls was killed at the second battle of deep bottom va. on aug 14, 1864. How can i find out where he is buried?

Thank You

bschulte April 4, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Tina,

I apologize, but the burial of the dead around Petersburg and their eventual final resting places are not topics I’ve studied in any detail. I would suggest emailing Petersburg National Battlefield. I bet the Park Rangers there will be able to tell you where soldiers were buried. It would help if you include the soldiers unit when sending that email. I also invite other readers to weigh in if you know the answer to Tina’s question.

Brett

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