Many students of the Civil War know about the famous Battle of the Crater, which occurred on July 30, 1864. Very few have heard of the First Battle of Deep Bottom, a prequel of sorts to the Crater. Fought from July 27-29, 1864, the First Deep Bottom operation was designed to lure Confederate troops north of the James River so they wouldn’t be in position to resist the Union onslaught on Petersburg once Henry Pleasants’ mine was sprung on July 30. Major General Winfield Scott Hancock led an expedition composed of his Union 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac as well as two divisions of cavalry from the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps. On July 27, Union skirmishers advanced in force and captured four 20lb Parrott rifles from the Confederates along New Market Road. Hancock hesitated and failed to press his advantage, the Confederates using the time to create a line of defense along Bailey’s Creek. On July 28, Hancock tried to turn the Confederate left, but a strong Confederate counterattack against Torbert’s and Gregg’s cavalry divisions stopped the advance. Although the operations did not result in a clear cut Union victory, they did succeed in removing many Confederate forces from the front around Petersburg. Only three Confederate divisions were present to defend Petersburg and the lines surrounding the town by the time the mine was sprung on July 30. Despite this success, the opportunity was squandered at the Battle of the Crater that day. Hancock’s men and the cavalry had done their part, but it was all for nothing.
For more on the First Battle of Deep Bottom, including maps and first person accounts, see my battle summary page:
Here is a list of the current articles and posts I have made available at The Siege of Petersburg Online:
Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Battle:
- 24th VA Cavalry: Account of July 27, 1864 Union Cavalry Demonstration Against Deep Bottom
- August 01, 1864 New York Tribune: The Operations of Wednesday
- August 04, 1864 Baltimore Clipper: Sheridan’s Cavalry
- August 16, 1864 Batavia (NY) Republican Advocate: “More on The First Deep Bottom Operation”
- August 16, 1864 Batavia (NY) Republican Advocate: “The First Deep Bottom Operation”
- August 27, 1864 Quincy Patriot: 24th Massachusetts Itinerary
- Deep Bottom: July 26, 1864 (36th WI Regt Hist)
- George S. Gove Letter: August 2, 1864
- July 30, 1864 New York Daily Tribune: Bermuda Hundred
- July 30, 1864 New York Herald: Mr. A. Davidson’s Dispatches
- July 30, 1864 New York Herald: Mr. Finley Anderson’s Dispatch
- July 30, 1864 New York Herald: Mr. S. Cadwallader’s Dispatch
- July 30, 1864 New York Tribune: Butler’s Headquarters
- July 30, 1864 New York World: Special Dispatch to the World
- July 30, 1864 Philadelphia Inquirer: A Battle on the James
- July 31, 1864 New York Times: In Bivouac
- October 18, 1883 National Tribune: Who Will Write Up the Deep Bottom Fights
- Review: A History of the 3rd South Carolina Regiment: Lee’s Reliables
- Review: Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg
- Review: The 13th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry C.S.A. by Mike Wadsworth
- Sketch of Defensive Works at Deep Bottom, Va. (OR Atlas 65:6)
- The First Battle of Deep Bottom CWPT Map
- The First Battle of Deep Bottom Wikipedia Map: July 27-29, 1864
- The First Battle of Deep Bottom: July 27-29, 1864
- The Petersburg Campaign: The Battle of the Crater “the Horrid Pit” June 25-August 6, 1864 by Michael Arthur Cavanaugh
***Check out the Siege of Petersburg Online for daily posts on battle accounts in newspaper articles, diary entries, letters and more!
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