As part of General Grant's master plan for the defeat of the Confederacy in 1864, General Butler was to lead a small Federal army up the James River toward the southern approaches of Richmond. If all went well, Butler would meet Grant near the Confederate capital within ten days of the opening of the campaign. Styled the Army of the James, Butler's force numbered approximately 40,000 troops. On May 5, convoyed by the navy, Butler sailed up the James and landed at Bermuda Hundred, less than 20 miles from Richmond. Although initially he encountered no significant opposition, Butler spent several days establishing a defensive enclave before attempting major offensive operations.
Because all Confederate units available to reinforce the Virginia theater were under orders to join the Army of Northern Virginia, the south side of the James was defended by only a few troops under General Beauregard. Caught off guard by the Federal landing, which was nearer Richmond than most of his own troops, Beauregard hastily began to concentrate a strike force from the Carolinas by rail. For several days, however, he could do nothing but view Butler's activities with alarm. Fortunately for the Confederates, Butler did little more than lightly damage the Richmond 8c Petersburg Railroad before he finally began an advance toward Richmond on May 12. The week Butler spent at Bermuda Hundred permitted him to perfect a fortified base at Bermuda Hundred the City Point, but it also permitted Beauregard to gather an almost
Although he had supported the State's Rights candidate against Lincoln in 1860, Ben]amin Butler (below) quickly raised a volunteer regiment for the Union after Fort Sumter fell. An astute politician and lawyer, Butler was a failure in the military and eventually resigned his commission in November 1865
The Advance on Drewry's Bluff
May 12-14, 1864
Malvern > Hill I
Prince George C.H. y
Battle of Drewry's Bluff
May 16, 1864
Gen.. Butler's Army of the James, positioned on the Peninsula, was to take part in Gen. Grant's master plan to crush the Confederate armies and end the war before November On May 5, after steaming up the James River, Butler's forces landed midway between Petersburg and Richmond. Instead of moving quickly to cut the railroad between the two cities, and entering Richmond against the opposition, Butler first dug defensive lines then, after a week's delay, began a cautious advance on the Confederate capital. By then, however, Gen. Beauregard's meagre forces had been reinforced, and he was able to meet the Federals at Drewry's Bluff on almost equal terms (see map above).
equivalent force at Petersburg. Marching northward across Butler's front on May 11, Beauregard joined troops from the Department of Richmond and barred Butler's route to the Confederate capital. By May 15, the Army of the James had gained an outer Confederate defense line, but was unable to advance further. Seizing the initiative, Beauregard on May 16 struck Butler's army a devastating blow in the battle of Drewry's Bluff, and drove it within its Bermuda Hundred entrenchments. This action alone cost 3,004 Federal casualties and 2,966 Confederate. Although Butler and Beauregard retained some freedom of movement, the approach of the main armies soon siphoned troops from the Bermuda Hundred front, which subsided into stalemate for the remainder of the war.
(jT) The' Army of the James digs defensive lines (see map left)
(IT) May 11: Having collected reinforcements Beauregard marches north, meeting troops heading south from Richmond
(3j May 12: Butler advances toward Richmond (see map. left)
(4") May 16: Confederates advance out of early ^^^ morning mist and clash with Union right
Hoke advances against Gilmore's Union divisions. Heavy losses incurred by both sides in confused engagements
^g^ Beauregard orders Colquitt forward into ^^^ gap between Ransom and Hoke's Confederate divisions
Mer pressing forward most of the day ^^ suffering 2500 casualties and not receiving cavalry assistance expected from the south west, Beauregard orders army into night positions
Constructed upon Butler's orders the "Crows Nest" observation platform looms over an incomplete Union mortar battery (above). The tower served no useful function and pinpointed the location of the batteries at its base, thereby assisting the Confederate gunners.
Was this article helpful?