Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of Union and Confederate accounts of the fighting on July 27, 1864 at the First Battle of Deep Bottom. His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.
Bermuda Hundred, Thursday Morning, July 28, 1864: The monotony which has reigned along our lines for several weeks has been broken by a sharp skirmish which took place at Deep Bottom, early yesterday morning resulting in the driving of the enemy from his line of rifle pits on the Peninsular side of the James and the capture of four 20-pound Parrot guns and a score or two of prisoners. The movement resulting in the above success was commenced on Tuesday afternoon the 26th inst. and at this time there can be nothing and at this time there can be nothing detrimental to the cause by placing before the public the details of an expedition which at present seems to promise a highly gratifying termination. But few are aware of the special objects to be attained by the movement now in process of consummation, but the knowing ones are confident that its close will find Grant’s army considerably nearer the accomplishment of his intentions, viz, the capture of the Rebel capitol and the final overthrow of the Slaveholders’ Rebellion.Major Gens. Hancock and Sheridan have been assigned the prominent characters in this new scene in the drama of war in Virginia and their well known gallantry and skill will certainly accomplish all that their Commanding General could reasonably expect. Where the dashing Hancock fails, few other general officers need hope for success.
On Tuesday afternoon at 4 1/2 o’clock the 2nd Corps, soon after followed by the cavalry corps of Sheridan, withdrew from its position on the left of our line and marched rapidly toward Point of Rocks on the Appomattox, which was crossed early in the evening. Barlow’s division, preceding Mott’s formerly Birney’s and Gibbon’s bringing up the rear. An order had been issued during the day by Gen. Hancock announcing the intimation of a movement where success depended mainly on the discipline of his troops and instructing any one who might fall into the hands of the enemy to refuse to give the division or corps to which they had been attached.
As it seldom the case, but few stragglers brought up the rear of the rapidly marching column, which at 3 a.m. yesterday, reached the James River at Jones’s Neck and silently crossed over to Deep Bottom on a muffled pontoon, which had been laid several days previous. A brigade of the 19th Army Corps, with its left resting on Four Mile Creek, formed the right of Foster’s line at Deep Bottom, but took no part in the action.
Soon after daybreak Sheridan’s cavalry following the 2nd Corps, crossed the river and taking the New Market road occupied a position several miles to the right of the infantry, which immediately on crossing had deployed into line of battle, the 3d forming the right, the 1st the center, and the 2d the left. From the pont of crossing a road running through an open field leads to another bordering a pine forest and running nearly at right angles with the former. Along this road the enemy had thrown up a strong line of rifle pits, which was occupied by Kershaw’s division of South Carolinians. Near the junction of the roads mentioned were posted six pieces of artillery, four of which afterward fell into our possession. Skirmishing commenced at 7 3/4 o’clock our men steadily advancing under a sharp fire from the enemy in the pits.
The artillery of the enemy immediately opened, but so inaccurate was the range of their guns that but very few casualties were sustained on our side from the shelling. In the mean time the gunboat Mendota lying in the river, opened with 100 pound Parrots on the enemy, and judging from the splintered pines in close proximity to the Rebel works, with such effect as to hasten the abandonment of their rifle pits.
At 8 1/2 o’clock the skirmish line of Barlow’s division, consisting of the 183rd Pennsylvania, Col. Lynch, the 28th Mass., Capt. Flemming, and the 5th N.H., Maj. Larkin, supported by the 26th Mich., Capt. Dally, charged the enemy’s line, and by a skillfully and rapidly executed flank movement drove the Rebels from their pits, capturing in the assault the four 20-pound Parrot guns before mentioned together with several prisoners.
The enemy then fell back on confusion over a mile and as is their wont, immediately commenced intrenching in a commanding position. Owing to the difficulty of our planting artillery, some delay took place in posting our guns and following up the temporary success we had obtained. As sunset last night, however, a battery was got into position in full view of the Rebel line and was about to open on the enemy when they were discovered falling back behind, where it was believed they would commence the construction of a new line of intrenchments.
When I left at a late hour last night everything although quiet was in readiness to resume offensive movements against the enemy this morning. Up to this hour, 8 a.m., but little cannonading has been heard in the direction of Deep Bottom, and nine along our immediate front. The guns captured yesterday formerly belonged to Ashby’s Battery and were taken by the enemy on the occasion of Gilmore’s repulse in front of Petersburg some weeks since. Four limbers and two caissons were taken with the gun, the remainder being run off by the artillerymen.
The loss on both sides was comparatively trifling. I inclose a list of casualties in the 3rd division which probably sustained a greater loss than any other. The 110th Pa. from its exposed position on the picket line of the 3rd Division suffered severely. Several Rebel dead were left behind in the pits, but their wounded were generally sent to the rear in time to prevent capture.
It is unnecessary to speculate on the results of this new movement. Rumor for the last two weeks has erroneously located Sheridan on the war path, but at this time she can do so with a greater degree of certainty than before. Let the people await results with that confidence indicative of an abiding faith in the justice of our cause and in Him who is the Great Captain of the Armies of the Union.
- “Bermuda Hundred(?),” New York Daily Tribune, July 30, 1864, p. 1, col. 1: Bryce did not have a clear title mentioned for this article. ↩