First Battle of Deep Bottom – Part III

by Dan O'Connell on September 11, 2013 · 0 comments

July 25-26th
Kershaw responding to Lee’s call for aggressive action increased the pressure on the Union bridgehead. As a result the opposing sides conducted a series of back and forth forays for control of the batteries and road network. On the 25th a position gained and held by the 11th Maine was turned over to two regiments of Col. Leonard Currie’s Brigade. The pickets from the 162nd New York were attacked and called for reinforcement. The remainder of the regiment went up to strengthen the line but “fell into an ambuscade” and were driven back into the works surrounding the pontoon bridge. Foster was disgusted with the effort and accused Currie’s men of “shameful conduct.” Foster, at the suggestion of his staff engineer, requested sand bags and pick axes to fortify his line.

The entire compliment of Federal troops was called into the trenches in anticipation of a general attack.

When the expected attack did not materialize the Union forces decided to regain the initiative. On the 26th Colonel Harris M. Plaisted, commanding the 11th Maine, ordered his troops back across the creek supported by the 10th Connecticut. The skirmishers, under LTC Jonathan Hill advanced so “vigorously” under the supporting fire of gunboats and a battery that the Confederate pickets were driven “steadily back. “ The effort had so drained the cartridge boxes of the advancing force that Sergeant-Major Morton was sent to borrow ammunition from the First Maryland Cavalry (Dismounted). As the fighting escalated Hill’s skirmishers were reinforced by Companies A and H. The close proximity of the opposing lines created a dangerous condition. Unfortunately the perilous position led to a sad result. A short round from the gunboat U.S.S. Shokotan exploded amongst the men as they were constructing some hasty rifle pits “throwing its fragments among the men, wounding twelve, all mortally or very seriously.”

At nightfall the forward line of the 11th was relieved by troops from the 10th Connecticut. Chaplain Henry Clay Trumbull recalled:
“…picket posts were for a portion of the way within a few yards of each other, so that even a heavily drawn breath could be heard across the line.”

What was heard were preparations by the Confederates to regain the lost territory. Artillery was moved into the Confederate line, so close to the Union pickets that “a single discharge of grape from the battery could sweep them away like chaff.” Believing that they could not successfully resist the coming attack the troops were recalled to the other side of the creek. Two days of close quarters fighting cost Plaisted 23 casualties. Confederate losses were reported by Plaisted at 108.


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