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The Battle of Darbytown Road: October 13, 1864

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

Full Summary:

Note: Click to see maps of the Battle of Darbytown Road, which should help you follow along with the action.

Note 2: For a VERY DETAILED look at the October 13, 1864 Battle of Darbytown Road, see this original article penned by Bryce Suderow.

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.

October 13 1864 Darbytown Road map

Modern Day Map of the Darbytown Road Battlefield with Unit Positions Drawn Over Top. Used with Permission of Bryce Suderow. This map may not be reproduced without this written permission.

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:


    { 3 comments… add one }
    • Jim Sanders January 18, 2012, 9:19 pm

      My ancestor John D. Laurie fought in this battle. He was wounded and captured. He was later paroled and died of his wounds on Nov 3. Learning about the lives of my civil war ancestors has been quite enlightening. One of my ancestors was wounded, captured and later died of his wounds. I learned this by ordering their service and pension records. However at $75 per pension record file ordering them from NARA can be very expensive. I was able to hire a profession genealogist from the NARA area. I paid less than 1/2 of what I would have if I order them directly from NARA. I also received the copies much faster. See my blog about the details at Civil War Ancestors.

      Regards, Jim

    • bschulte January 18, 2012, 9:22 pm


      Thanks for commenting! And thank you also for the tip on obtaining pension records in a more cost effective manner. I’ve ordered NARA microfilm records before and I know how expensive this can be.


    • Myrlene Johnston Jack August 25, 2012, 10:50 am

      My Great Grandfather Joseph (Joe) Johnston (Johnson) was Co. H 8th Georgia Reg’t Floyd Co Georgia Inf. He appears on an Inspection Report of Anderson’s Brigade commanded by George T. Anderson. The report is dated Near Petersburg Va. August 8 1864 as sick at Gen Hosp. signed by T. E. Murphy..

      My great Grandfather Joe Johnston Lt. Co H, 8 Regt., Ga. Inf. appears on a LIST of Casualties, in the 8th Reg’t. Georgia Inf., Anderson’s Brigade, during the year 1864.. His LIST dated March 5 1865..;
      Where wounded or captured? Darby Town Road
      Date of wound or capture? Oct 7 1864
      Nature of wound? Severely in the Breast.
      (His mother gave him a small bible that was in his breast pocket. It saved his life)

      My Great grandfather J. Johnson entered as a Pvt. age 24 On May 18 1861 in Rome Georgia under Capt E. J Magruders Company of Georgia Volunteers, known as Rome Light Guards, Cherokee Artillery. The Company mustered-in at Howards Grove near Richmond VA. June 4 1861.

      My Great Grandfather J. Johnston 2nd Lt. Co H 8 Regiment Georgia Volunteers appears on LIST of Prisoner of War belonging to the Army of Northern Virginia,who have been this day surrendered by General Robert E. Lee, C.S.A commanding said Army, to Lieut. Genl. US. Grant, commanding Armies of the United States.
      Done at Appomattox Court House, Virginia. April 9, 1865.

      Source: Atlanta State Archives, Atlanta Georgia. Photo Copies of Civil War Military and Hospital Records.

      FYI: Those of you who are looking for your Civil War Ancestors that were in the Battle of Petersburg and Darby Town road were taken to Macon Georgia and were prisoners of War in Andersonville which is called Americas Auschwitz.

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