Friday, June 10, 2011

Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia

  • At the Battle of Big Bethel (Bethel Church), Virginia, the disorganized and undisciplined Union forces are repulsed by the aggressive Confederate troops. Gen. Benjamin Butler had yesterday ordered Massachusetts Brigadier General Ebenezer Pierce with seven regiments of 2,500 new recruits to drive off the Confederates encamped around Bethel Church and the church to be burned or blown up. Confusion and skittishness during the night, even to the point of firing on and wounding their own men, continues today as they approach the Confederate position. Despite signal shots from pickets warning the Confederate camp at Little Bethel of the Union approach, the overpowering Federal force pushes the Southerners back to entrenchments at Big Bethel. The over-confident Pierce charging the line comes under fire from the heavy Parrott artillery of Randolph's battery. Pierce's seven regiments become nearly completely disorganized when they hit Colonel John Bankhead Magruder’s entrenchments. After several assaults on the Confederate line the First Vermont alone under Lt. Colonel Peter Washburn makes it across Back Creek which is protecting the Southrons. In the battlefield confusion the 7th New York fires into the Union rear causing the Yankees, including Washburn, to withdraw to reorganize. Because of their complete disarray, they call off the attack. Union losses are 18 killed, 53 wounded. Confederates lose 1 killed, 7 wounded. Hours later, Magruder wisely withdraws to Yorktown, to set up a line protected by the Warwick River. Items dropped by fleeing Federals, or seized from captured ones, will be displayed in the shop windows of Richmond as trophies. In other action, US Colonel Charles Stone embarks on an expedition that is part of the planned defense of Washington./1861 

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