Editor’s Note: The following post serves three main purposes:
- It highlights some of the maps of The Second Battle of Deep Bottom from John Horn’s new book The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, published by Savas Beatie, to help readers see the level of detail in a book which focuses on three of the less famous battles at the Siege of Petersburg, interesting in their own right.
- It gives me the opportunity to point out John’s relatively new blog on the Petersburg Campaign (http://petersburgcampaign.blogspot.com/).
- Due to the gracious allowance of both John Horn, the author, and Savas Beatie, the publisher, I’m able to post four very good maps on the Second Battle of Deep Bottom. As I write this, there are very few maps of Second Deep Bottom freely available to view online, and the addition of these four I selected for the purposes of this post should add tremendously to the selection. They will help those looking to get a good sense of what happened from August 14-16, 1864 north of the James River, southeast of Richmond. Please note that these maps are being used with the express written consent of Savas Beatie, and they may not be reproduced in any form or fashion without their permission.
Lastly, if you are already familiar with Second Deep Bottom and just want to check out the maps, feel free to scroll down through what has become a lengthier than planned overview…
Siege of Petersburg Map Highlight:
The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: August 14-16, 1864
One of the main things which immediately interests or disinterests me when looking at potential new books to buy are the quality of the maps. Good maps made a good book very good, and a very good book great. Bad, or worse yet no, maps take the overall package in the opposite direction. So when a publisher is willing to share several maps as a “sneak peek” into their books, I’m more than happy to highlight these for interested readers. Author John Horn co-edited a second volume of “War Talks” from the 12th Virginia’s John Bernard with Hampton Newsome, and Newsome partnered with Horn on this book by acting as Horn’s cartographer.
In the post below, I’ll walk you through four maps from The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864:
- Map 2: Terry Attacks the Confederate Picket Line 7:30 a.m., August 14, 1864
- Map 3: Barlow’s First Attacks Noon-2 p.m., August 14, 1864
- Map 6: Macy’s Attack 5:30 p.m., August 14, 1864
- Map 10: Fussell’s Mill 12:30-1:00 p.m., August 16, 1864
The goal is to point out the general situation on August 14 and August 16, 1864, pointing out key features of the maps and a high level overview of the fighting which occurred on these days.
Background on Grant’s Fourth Offensive and the Second Battle of Deep Bottom
Note: Click the link here for a slightly more detailed summary of the Second Battle of Deep Bottom which I produced during the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg.
Grant’s Fourth Offensive, the first Offensive after the infamous Battle of the Crater, was launched in mid-August 1864. Like the Third Offensive, it was a two-pronged effort against Richmond and Petersburg. The right flank attack against Richmond north of the James River produced the Second Battle of Deep Bottom (Aug. 14-20, 1864). The left flank attack against the Weldon Railroad south of Petersburg resulted in the Battle of Globe Tavern (Aug. 18-21, 1864) and the Second Battle of Ream’s Station (Aug. 25, 1864). Interestingly, many of the same Second Corps units which helped kick off in the Second Battle of Deep Bottom on August 14, 1864 also ended up at the Second Battle of Ream’s Station on August 25, 1864, bookending the offensive and being driven past their breaking point.
Grant’s plan to strip Confederate defenders from Petersburg and get Lee to recall reinforcements to the Shenandoah Valley (or not send them in the first place) and force them to move to Deep Bottom worked well. Robert E. Lee himself was leading a Confederate attack on August 18, 1864 near Fussell’s Mill against a Union rear guard while Gouverneur Warren’s Union Fifth Corps was striking the Weldon Railroad at Globe Tavern south of Petersburg. On August 19, 1864, P. G. T. Beauregard could have desperately used several more Confederate brigades at Globe Tavern, brigades which were still on their way due to the previous fighting at Second Deep Bottom. But that’s enough about the southern flank of the Union offensive. Let’s focus on the topic of this post, Second Deep Bottom.
The Second Battle of Deep Bottom: Major Points of Interest
Note: For a good map showing Deep Bottom in relation to City Point and other spots on the James, see this map of the James from Chaffin’s Bluff to City Point.
Grant started the Fourth Offensive in the first place because he believed Lee was trying to reinforce Early’s Valley Army with multiple infantry and cavalry divisions. He designed an advance on Richmond to force Lee to recall these reinforcements back to the vicinity of Richmond and Petersburg. As stated before, he also wanted to pull defenders away from Warren’s thrust against the Weldon Railroad.
This advance on Richmond, the right wing of Grant’s Fourth Offensive, had several moving parts. These parts took very different paths to arrive just north and east of Deep Bottom on the morning of August 14, 1864. The Federals had seized a bridgehead over the James at Deep Bottom earlier in the
Siege, and the Confederates had failed in several half-hearted attempts to destroy the bridgehead. Grant planned to put it to good use. Winfield Scott Hancock’s veteran Second Corps was placed on transports and first sent southeast down the James in the direction of Fort Monroe, trying to disguise where they would land. Late at night, they reversed course, steamed back up the James to Deep Bottom, and started landing at Tilghman’s Wharf, near the bridgehead. They would disembark onto Strawberry Plains during the course of the morning. The Tenth Corps of the Army of the James under David Birney would march north from Bermuda Hundred to Jones Neck, and cross the James River at Deep Bottom on the more westerly of two pontoon bridges. Gregg’s Second Division from the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, would march over most of the same roads as Tenth Corps, taking the more easterly pontoon bridge to sync up with Second Corps near Strawberry Plains.
Now that you have a sufficient background, let’s check out the maps…
Map 2: Terry Attacks the Confederate Picket Line 7:30 a.m., August 14, 1864
The first map we’re going to take a look at covers the opening attacks of the multi-day battle. “Attack” might be too strong a word, given this was more a probing of the Confederate skirmish line in front of New Market Heights. Confederate skirmishers in Field’s Division came from G. T. Anderson’s Georgia Brigade (Anderson/Field/First/ANV), Bratton’s South Carolina Brigade (Bratton/Field/First/ANV) and Perry’s (Law’s) Alabama Brigade (Law/Field/First/ANV). They squared off against Northerners from Foster’s Brigade, Terry’s Division, Tenth Corps (3/1/X/AotJ) in the brigades of Foster (3/1/X/AotJ), Pond (1/1/X/AotJ), and Hawley (2/1/X/AotJ).
Before we discuss what happened, let’s note a few things about the terrain. We can divide the map into two main areas, one west of where Four Mile Creek and Bailey’s Creek enter the James River, and one to the east. These natural obstacles funneled Northern attackers in one direction or the other.
First let’s cover the eastern area, since it is not part of the attack we’ll discuss later. David McM. Gregg’s Cavalry Division (2/Cav/AotP) marched along the same route as Terry’s Division, peeling off to the east to cross the James River on the more easterly of the two pontoon bridges at Deep Bottom to join Hancock’s Second Corps, Army of the Potomac. The cavalry pushed out to secure the area as Second Corps continued landing. The Second Corps, as I mentioned earlier, had been placed on ocean going transports which first went east towards Fort Monroe and the open sea, only turning around under cover of darkness. The landing did not go smoothly and planks were literally laid between ships so troops could get to shore more quickly. The Second Corps would take some time to land, and eventually gathered in Strawberry Plains.
To the west lay the object of Terry’s attack. Jones Neck sticks out like a finger from Bermuda Hundred, pointing directly at Deep Bottom and the bridgehead just north of the James River. The Kingsland Road ran perpendicular to the Federal advance and served as a good visual for the Confederate skirmishers there. The main Confederate line on New Market Heights was backed by artillery and allowed the Confederates time to shift their undermanned troops from one threatened point to another. In fact, their ability to do just this sort of shuffling would factor heavily into the results of the entire Battle of Deep Bottom, both on August 14 and 16, 1864.
John Pemberton, Grant’s adversary at the Siege of Vicksburg, found himself demoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel of Artillery in the Department of Richmond. He had stationed heavy mortars at the foot of New Market Heights out in front of his main line to bombard the Federal bridgehead and pontoon bridge at Deep Bottom. Rifled artillery stationed at Tilghman’s Gate to the east of the James and Deep bottom would create a cross fire on the bridgehead. However, these guns weren’t enough to so the damage necessary. To supplement these guns, he also placed four 8-inch howitzers nearer Deep Bottom with their trails buried in the ground to get the required elevation to act as mortars. This left them immobile and out in front of the main fortifications if a crisis developed, and a crisis was certainly developing on the morning of August 14, 1864. The Confederate attempt to make the Union toehold across the James untenable was too little, too late.
Terry’s Division moved out at daylight, Foster on the right and Pond in echelon on his left flank. Foster used Four Mile Creek as a guide for his right, but the terrain was difficult. From about 5-6 a.m., Terry’s men pushed the Confederates back to where you see their line on this map, and a break in the fighting occurred. During that interval, Terry brought up Hawley to extend and reinforce the Union advance to the west. After a charge by the 24th Massachusetts was backed by other Northern regiments, a breakthrough occurred against skirmishers of the 2nd South Carolina Rifles. In the ensuing melee, most of one company of the Palmetto Sharpshooters was captured. This rupture led to the mass withdrawal of all Confederate skirmishers in the area, including those of McGowan’s South Carolina Brigade to the west. Once these skirmishers withdrew, Pemberton’s “planted” makeshift howitzers were nothing less than sitting ducks. They would be scooped up in a follow-up advance by the 100th New York later on the afternoon of the 14th.
Map 3: Barlow’s First Attacks Noon-2 p.m., August 14, 1864
The first thing you’ll notice as we discuss Map 3 is that we’ve moved to the northeast a bit. Note the Confederate entrenchments southeast of the Fussell house, the Fussell house itself, and Bailey’s Creek as you look at the differences between Map 2 and Map 3.
The biggest new terrain feature, however, is Fussell’s Mill Pond, almost exactly in the center of the map. It was impassable, and would soon play a role in how this battle, and the offensive, turned out. It was especially important given the lack of Confederate manpower early on in this multi-day fight.
This map focuses on the first tentative movements of Hancock’s Second Corps on what was an extremely hot day in an extremely hot week in mid-August Tidewater Virginia. Hancock’s Second Corps had started arriving at Deep Bottom on ocean going transports around 2:30 a. m. Mott’s Third Division (3/II/AotP) was on dry land by 7:45 a. m., and all but one transport was empty by 9. Mott was ordered to move north to where the New Market Road crossed Bailey’s Creek, which was guarded by Confederate skirmishers, and he reached that point around 9:30 a. m. After Mott moved into position, Barlow’s two divisions, his own First (1/II/AotP) and Smyth’s (Gibbon’s) Second (2/II/AotP) would move northeast and attempt to flank the Confederates out of their New Market Heights line. Things didn’t go as planned.
Many Northern troops dropped out from heat exhaustion as they moved north and northeast. When Mott reached Bailey’s Creek, he found the imposing New Market Heights lines too tough a nut to crack with a frontal assault.
Barlow extended the line northeast cautiously rather than disregarding his flanks. Eventually, after Smyth’s Brigade (3/2/II/AotP) and the massive 4th New York Heavy artillery extended the line to the right in order to cover the Long Bridge Road crossing of Bailey’s Creek, Lynch’s Brigade (1/1/II/AotP) was deployed as skirmishers. On a small road (Horn calls it a “track” in the book) the 7th South Carolina Cavalry under Alexander Cheves Haskell was encountered, and the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery was ordered to push ahead. The rest of Lynch’s Brigade operated as skirmishers to the right. Major George Hogg led his 2nd New York Heavy Artillery due north, but soon found fire coming in from his left and right. Barlow chastised this commander and his regiment after the fight for their poor performance this day. Hogg had run into a section of the 3rd Richmond Howitzers and two regiments of G. T. Anderson’s Georgians (Anderson/Field/First/ANV). After the failure of the 2nd, the three New York regiments of the former Irish Brigade (63rd, 69th, and 88th New York) tried the same assault. They too were driven to the right and into the relative protection of the woods. Barlow, not known for his love of Irishmen, also castigated the famous brigade in his after action report.
The attacks did eventually drive Haskell’s 7th South Carolina across Bailey’s Creek, but nothing more was accomplished in this area. Seeing that the Confederates had successfully blocked his effort to turn their flank here, Barlow was resigned to continuing the hot, dusty plod to the northeast.
Map 6: Macy’s Attack 5:30 p.m., August 14, 1864
The time depicted on this map is 5:30 p.m. on August 14, about 3 ½ hours after the attacks of the 2nd New York Heavy Artillery and the remnants of the Irish Brigade. Here we have the same relative view of the terrain, but with a continuing shift of Barlow to the right, and a corresponding shift of Field’s Division (Field/First/ANV) and Gary’s Cavalry Brigade (Gary/DoR) on the Confederate side.
At 4 p. m., Broady’s Brigade (4/1/II/AotP) had attacked just east of the Darbytown Road, facing only the two Georgia regiments of Anderson’s Brigade across Bailey’s Creek. However, the section of the 3rd Richmond Howitzers opened up on Broady’s men and was enough to drive off this fairly feeble attack.
Time was running out and the men were exhausted given the intense heat of the day. As he had earlier in the day, Barlow again attacked piecemeal rather than concentrating something more than a brigade sized force. This last attack occurred at 5:30 p. m., and was undertaken by Macy’s Brigade (1/2/II/AotP). Two relatively fresh brigades of Gibbon’s Division remained unused.
The Confederates had placed two regiments of Gary’s Cavalry Brigade, the 7th South Carolina and 24th Virginia, in the lines east of Anderson’s Georgians. Luckily for them, Fussell’s Mill Pond provided some measure of security on their left flank. However, Gregg’s Union Cavalry had been sent further north and then west to try to get around the Confederate flank, and so a portion of the 24th Virginia was headed away from the battlefield when Macy’s attack kicked off.
Macy launched his thousand men, including the remnant of the famous 1st Minnesota, straight at Fussell’s Mill, where they were to cross Bailey’s Creek and seize the Confederate works. Many Union soldiers did manage to cross Bailey’s Creek and get close to the 24th Virginia Cavalry’s position, but the portion of the Confederate cavalry regiment which had left returned and counterattacked, saving the day, and the entire Confederate line, from disaster.
Barlow’s piecemeal attacks and tentative approach on August 14 led to an impasse on this portion of the line. On the next day, Birney’s entire X Corps was ordered to march around behind the Second Corps, and again try to turn the Confederate left somewhere to the northeast of Fussell’s Mill. They took so long in the intense heat that no further attacks could happen. The climactic fight of the Second Deep Bottom Campaign would take place on August 16, north of Fussell’s Mill Pond.
Map 10: Fussell’s Mill 12:30-1:00 p.m., August 16, 1864For a third time the map remains exactly the same. We’ve advanced a day and half into the future. David Birney’s Tenth Corps, Army of the James has moved entirely around the back of Hancock’s Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, northeast of Fussell’s Mill pond. The resulting battle depicted here is most commonly referred to as the Battle of Fussell’s Mill, part of the larger Second Battle of Deep Bottom. Interestingly, this battle has been referred to with an endless number of misspellings by veterans recalling their experiences in this fight, including Fussel’s, Fuzzle’s, Fuzzell’s, etc.) Keep this in mind if you’re looking for online references to this fight.
This battle is almost entirely unknown to most students of the Civil War, so I wanted to make sure one of the maps I selected from John Horn’s book covered a portion of the fighting here. First, keep in mind that this area was heavily wooded. Also note the three ravines (eastern, western, and oblique) which lay in the path of Birney’s advance. All three played a role in the fight, with the oblique ravine especially allowing the Confederates to contain what looked like a potential Federal breakthrough here. And if the Federals broke through here, the Darbytown Road to Richmond was wide open. It was do or die for Lee’s men here.
This map depicts the point in the battle of the largest Union penetration of the Confederate lines, after the attack by Terry’s Division (1/X/AotJ) and Craig’s Brigade (2/3/II/AotP). They initially hit the brigade of Wright’s Georgians recently placed under the command of newly promoted Brig. General Victor Girardey stationed at the western ravine. Girardey was killed early in the fighting, and Terry’s noon assault of four brigades broke through. As the Union assault penetrated the Confederate line, Confederate division commander Charles Field was informed by an aide that “they” were breaking. Field, ever confident in his command, assumed his aide meant the Federals were the ones running. He received a huge shock when he was informed that his own men were the ones running this time. (See page 74 of Horn’s book for this exchange.)
Facing disaster, Field and other Confederate commanders, including Robert E. Lee himself, worked to contain the breach. In what became a complete Confederate counterattack, bits and pieces of whatever brigades could be pulled together first halted the Federal advance, and then eventually drove it back to the western ravine. Even later in the day, the Federals retired from the western ravine and gave up the fight.
Conclusion: August 18 Confederate Attack and Aftermath
The brief Federal breakthrough near Fussell’s Mill got General Lee’s attention in a big way. He organized reinforcements and personally supervised a Confederate attack in the area late on August 18, 1864. Grant’s intention to draw Confederate troops away from the Weldon Railroad worked well. Gouverneur Warren’s Fifth Corps gained and held the Weldon Railroad, and it would never be relinquished.
I hope this little essay gives interested readers a bit more of an understanding of the fighting at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom on August 14 and 16, 1864. The four maps you see here have been added to the list of online Second Deep Bottom maps here at the Siege of Petersburg Online and may be freely viewed by anyone looking for more online information on the battle.
I want to thank both Savas Beatie and author John Horn for enthusiastically agreeing to allow these maps to appear online. Please keep in mind that they are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of Savas Beatie.
To Learn More, Read the Following:
- The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864 by John Horn
- Henrico County Field of Honor, Volume 2by Louis H. Manarin (scarce and expensive, scroll down after you click this link and buy from the Henrico County Historical Society for $90 for the two-volume set, cheaper than used.)
- Bryce Suderow’s North & South Magazine Article on Second Deep Bottom: North and South Volume 4, Number 2, entitled “Nothing But a Miracle Can Save Us”
- Horn, John. The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864. Savas Beatie, 2015, p. 25. ↩
- Horn, John. The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864. Savas Beatie, 2015, p. 31. ↩
- Horn, John. The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864. Savas Beatie, 2015, p. 41. ↩
- Horn, John. The Siege of Petersburg: The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864. Savas Beatie, 2015, p. 87. ↩