Battle of Big Bethel

Battle of Big Bethel (HM19IY)

Location: Hampton, VA 23666
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Country: United States of America
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N 37° 5.491', W 76° 25.567'

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Protecting the Peninsula

This is the site of the first land battle of the Civil War in present-day Virginia. During the spring of 1861, Federal officials took steps to secure Fort Monroe, which occupied a strategically vital position at the mouths of the Chesapeake Bay and the James River. West of the fort, the river and roads provided access to Richmond, the Confederate capital. President Abraham Lincoln appointed Gen. Benjamin F. Butler to command at Fort Monroe and to control the lower Peninsula.

On June 6, 1861, Confederate Col. John B. Magruder led 1,404 men here from Yorktown, about fifteen miles southeast, to block key roads and isolate the fort. They entrenched around Big Bethel Church, now under the reservoir in front of you (then a marshy creek). They also built outlying works, one of which survives, on this side of the creek. Magruder's force included Col. Daniel H. Hill's 1st North Carolina Infantry, Lt. Col. William D. Stuart's 3rd Virginia Infantry, Maj. Edwin B. Montague's Virginia Battalion, and Maj. George W. Randolph's howitzer company.

To protect Fort Monroe, Butler decided to drive off the Confederates. At night, on June 9, Gen. Ebenezer W. Pierce led seven infantry regiments (4,400 men of the 4th Massachusetts, 1st Vermont, and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th New York) toward Big Bethel, as well as several guns of the 2nd U.S. Artillery. Two Federal columns collided in the darkness and fired at each other. At 8 A.M., the expedition clashed with Confederate pickets. The shooting alerted Magruder, who prepared for an attack.

Fort Monroe - Courtesy Library of Congress
Big Bethel, aerial view, Harper's Weekly, Apr. 26, 1862
Lower Peninsula between Big Bethel and Fort Monroe, 1862 Courtesy Library of Congress
HM NumberHM19IY
Year Placed2012
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Thursday, October 9th, 2014 at 8:14am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 373258 N 4105976
Decimal Degrees37.09151667, -76.42611667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 37° 5.491', W 76° 25.567'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds37° 5' 29.46" N, 76° 25' 34.02" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1641 Big Bethel Rd, Hampton VA 23666, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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