Comments on the Map “Action at Howlett’s Bluff, June 21, 1864”
I started with a base map found between pages 632 and 633 (and still represented as folded together at Google Books!) of Volume 11 of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Luckily, a passable but still slightly folded version of the map is available online at the University of North Texas Libraries site, allowing me to snip out the relevant portion at a good resolution. I removed Battery Wood and Battery Brooke on the Confederate side because they were not operational until October 1864. I also removed Battery Sawyer on the Union side because it was not completed and operational until about a week after this small affair. In addition, Battery Semmes is located in the wrong place on the Official Records map, and I had to shift the name further north to the James. See this map as just one source I found which places Battery Semmes on the James River near Howlett’s Farm. I placed the ships on this map based on the reports found in , pages 176-193, and also an account of this fight found on pages 336 to 338 of William H. Parker’s Recollections of a Naval Officer. Parker was in command of the Richmond, but she was fouled on a chain and had to be towed toward the fighting. At best she got in one or two shots as things ended. I chose not to represent her on the map as she was not involved for most of the engagement. Note that this fight happened because the newly armed Howlett House Battery, or Battery Dantzler, was unmasked just before noon. This activity caused the Federal monitors to begin firing, and a general engagement ensued. After Battery Dantzler became active, the Union monitors spent their time around the bend from Trent’s Reach nearer Dutch Gap. They would stay just out of sight of the new battery rather than constantly engage and expend ammunition. Federal forts were strengthened along the south bank of the James and were used to engage Battery Dantzler going forward. The Confederate work permanently changed the dynamic of power in Trent’s Reach for the rest of the Siege. I am extremely grateful to Bruce Terrell and Taft Kiser for their assistance in helping me find the location of the “ferry”, which turned out to be near the Graveyard. The Fredericksburg was reported to be near “the ferry” and also “downriver from upper Howlett’s.” Their help gave me the one additional piece of information needed to more accurately place this Confederate ironclad.
- Base map: United States. War Department. Map of the James River from Chaffin’s Bluff to City Point, map, 1900; Washington D.C.. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth284650/m1/1/: accessed February 26, 2021), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department. Some fortifications and Dutch Gap Canal were removed since they did not yet exist. In addition, ships and labels were created. This new map is copyrighted by Brett Schulte, 2021 and may not be reproduce without his express written consent. All rights reserved. ↩