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Battle of Drewrys Bluff
Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Battle of Drewry's Bluff

On the south bank of the James River between Chesapeake Bay and Richmond, Virginia, Drewry's Bluff rises 110 feet above the river below forming an excellent defensive position with long-distance views of the river about 7 miles southeast of Richmond. Named for Augustus Drewry, who owned the land during the Civil War, Drewry's Bluff gave the Confederates an important strategic position from which it could easily defend Richmond from a Yankee naval attack.

George McClellan knew controlling West Point on the York River would be advantageous in moving his artillery pieces including siege guns to Richmond, but it would be even better if he could move a fleet into the city center. He dispatched Admiral John Rodgers with orders to sail up the James to Richmond if possible.

The orders would have been difficult if not impossible to carry out the week before, for the Confederate ironclad Virginia (The Merrimack) had positioned itself in the James to protect Richmond from such an attack. The Merrimack, however, had too deep a draft to enter the river and Commander Josiah Tattnall decided to scuttle the ship by setting fire to her on May 11, 1862.

Atop the Bluff under the command of Ebenezer Farrand a contingent of Confederates, including some of the crew of the Merrimack and Augustus Drewry himself, prepared for the Yankee fleet that entered the mouth of the James on May 14. The river had been peppered with scuttled ships and other obstructions and was too narrow for the Yankee ships to come about. Behind the makeshift barricade sat the C. S. S. Patrick Henry.

The Battle of Drewrys Bluff wasn't much of a fight. The ironclad U. S. S. Monitor didn't contribute much because the barrel of its cannon could not raise high enough to be effective and the Rebel gunners' attacks were ineffective. They turned their attention to Commander Rodgers other ships, most notably his command vessel, the Galena. During the engagement it took 44 artillery rounds and at one point a small fire broke out. A cannon burst on another ironclad, rendering it useless.

Rodgers signaled a withdrawal and slowly the boats returned down the James. The focus of the Peninsula Campaign now turned to West Point on the York River.

Links appearing on this page:

George McClellan
May 11
May, 1862
Peninsula Campaign
Richmond, Virginia

Civil War Encyclopedia >> Battles

Battle of Drewrys Bluff was last changed on - May 17, 2007
Battle of Drewrys Bluff was added on - May 1, 2006

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