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.
[Special Dispatch to the World]
Bermuda Hundred July 28 – 5 a.m.
via Washington July 29
I have just reached here from a point on the east side of the James River, known on the maps as Deep Bottom, where I had accompanied the Second Corps and an immense body of cavalry. The river being very narrow at this place, and within the limits of General Butler’s lines, makes it an important post, inasmuch as it is easily pontooned and defended, thus leaving an unobstructed way for aggressive bodies of infantry or cavalry through the peninsula. Taking into consideration that it is only ten miles from Richmond, and its importance is vastly increased, it might even be made the base for future operations against the rebel capital. Hence it is not strange that the enemy should have bestirred himself to impede our advance into this portion of his territory. The sequel will show that although he anticipated this movement, he had not made any extensive preparations to meet it. But the probability is that he did expect it so soon.
The fact that General Foster’s division had crossed some time since, and after intrenching their position had allowed their pickets to be driven in several times without attempting much opposition, probably led them to believe that nothing serious was intended in the vicinity. It certainly served to mislead them as to the real point we intended to make, and watching Foster on the upper side of Four Mile Creek, they neglected to strengthen themselves against attack on the lower side of this stream. I don’t wish to convey the idea that our people intend to threaten Richmond from this point, but simply that as a rendezvous from which to send out a raiding party it would be good. But to the expedition.
The Second Corps left their position near the left of our line about 3 1/2 o’clock on the afternoon of the 26th, and, marching in quick time to Point of Rocks, crossed the Appomattox on the pontoon crossing. Scarcely halting on the other side, they again pushed on toward the James River, which was likewise crossed on the pontoon bridge that had been laid just below the mouth of the Four Mile Creek under direction of General Weitzel.
At the time this bridge was laid but one brigade of the Nineteenth Corps crossed to protect it. Before the crossing of the II Corps and cavalry the bridge was so thickly covered with hay and grass that scarcely the least sound was to be heard when the troops moved over it. This probably insured the surprise of the rebels, for surprised they certainly seem to have been. Immediately on reaching the east side of the river, which they did at 2 3/4 in the morning of the 27th, the infantry bivouacked under shelter of a thick forrest until nearly 7 o’clock, when they were deployed into line of battle, skirmishers sent out, and the advance began.
The skirmishers actually engaged covered the front of Barlow’s division, and consisted of the 183rd Pennsylvania, Colonel Lynch, 28th Pennsylvania, Captain Fleming, and Fifth New Hampshire, Major Larkin. They were supported by the 26th Michigan, under Captain Daley, the whole being under command of Colonel Lynch. Moving steadily ahead, the line was soon discovered by the enemy, who was posted behind hastily constructed breastworks on the line of an old country road. They immediately opened fire with artillery, and the fight was inaugurated.
The gunboat Mendota, which with others was awaiting to participate, immediately opened with her one-hundred pounder parrots. Meanwhile Colonel Lynch rapidly advanced his skirmishers, until, arriving on the crest of the hill in his front, he discovered the enemy’s artillery in position on the road. Quickly determining on his course of action, he withdrew the 183rd Pennsylvania and the 28th Massachusetts regiments, and moved them around either flank of the rebel artillerists, trusting to the remaining regiments in their front, and the fire of the gunboats, which had now become very accurate and rapid, to distract the enemy’s attention from the maneuver.
The best proof of the complete success of the deception lies in the fact that scarcely were they aware of the presence of the flankers ere the guns were seized, the gunners barely escaping. The battery, of which there were four twenty pounder pieces, proved to be those taken from Lieutenant Ashby on the misty morning before the breastworks of Fort Darling when General Hickman and his brigade were surprised and captured.
The enemy’s line being broken, nothing remained for him but to fall back, which he did until, arriving at the crest of a steep ridge which nearly follows the course of the river, he turned again. Finding we did not intend to attack them immediately in this position, they deliberately resumed throwing up works without molestation.
Towards evening we planted some batteries to command the enemy and made a new disposition of our fire. When the batteries appeared it was funny to see the Johnnies scamper towards the timber, intending probably to remain in its protecting shelter until darkness should enable them to resume their labor with less danger.
The cavalry, who did not complete their crossing until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, were immediately moved off in the direction of our right and may ere this be deeply among the enemy again. General Sheridan is in command. Having said this, I have said enough to satisfy the public that some one is going to get hurt.
But little fighting was done at any portion of our line, except in the immediate front of General Barlow. A section of the enemy’s artillery annoyed General Mott’s – late Birney’s – division, but they were soon silenced. In the fight our loss was very slight, not being over twelve killed and wounded.
After the enemy had taken up his new position and we had advanced our pickets however, the usual sharpshooting business began, and we lost quite heavily for a while.
My affixed list of killed and wounded is but a partial list of men shot on the picket line. The slight loss in the actual fight is, I suppose, to be attributed to the fact that the enemy were rendered very nervous by the incessant hissing and explosion of the terrible on hundred pounders, and did not shoot well, covered although they were to a certain extent by their works.
The timber surrounding the enemy’s line is very much marred and attests to the accuracy of our gunners’ practice. The rebels had fired but five shots from the 20 pounders before they were captured and one of them was found to have been recently loaded. Two of them had not been brought into action. Some light firing can be heard from that direction, but nothing of consequence.
List of Wounded
1. Samuel Smith, K, 74th NY, leg
2. J.C. Bell, C, 110th Pa., arm
3. J. Atwell, C, 110th Pa., face
4. A. Tetwyler, B, 34th Pa. arm
5. E.A. Allen, A, 99th Pa., thigh
6. G. Deaumill, A, 110th Pa., back
7. J. Burck, E, 110th Pa., arm
8. J.A. Sutton, C, 110th Pa., shoulder
9. J. Locaman, C, 110th Pa., abdomen
10. F. Crowell, A, 110th Pa., throat
11. Corp. J.W. Buchanan, N, 1st Mass. Art., face
12. G.W. Baird, C, 110th Pa., face
12. J. Menlinger, C, 110th Pa., chest
13. S. Smith, C, 110th Pa., leg
14. H. Schmidt, L, 73rd NY
15. Sgt. C. Eckley, A, 110th Pa., face
16. Corporal A. Cullen, F, 110th Pa., arm
17. Lt. A.J. Miller, B, 110th Pa., thigh and leg
18. Corporal G.. Maxwell, C, 110th Pa., dead
19. C. Winner, H, 99th Pa., thigh
20. Adjutant A.L. Chamberlain, 74th NY, neck
21. Captain C. Copelin, C, 110th Pa.,, thigh
22. Corporal Wm. Little, A, 110th Pa., reported dead.
23. J. Irwin, C, 110th Pa., arm and chest
24. D. Beauman, C, 110th Pa., thigh
25. J.M. Davis, C, 110th Pa., thigh
26. Corporal A.A. Miles, 110th Pa., wrist
27. Sergt. R. McGraw, A, 99th Pa., legs, dead
28. H. Fuller, A, 110th Pa., thigh
29. W. Springer, H, 63rd Pa., hip
30. George Wright, A, 110th Pa., back
1. J.A. Barnes, A, 110th Pa.
2. J. Parson, A, 110th Pa.
3. Sergt. N.H. Alger, B, 110th Pa.
4. Sergt. T.A. Ruggles, B, 110th Pa.
5. Sergt. M.W. McCarthy, B, 110th Pa.
6. Sergt. A.R. Taylor, C, 110th Pa.1
- New York World, July 30, 1864, p. 1, col. 2-3 ↩