1861 June 10th

June 10 1861 Monday

Battle of Big Bethel, VA (CWSAC Limited Battle – Confederate Victory)

Chesapeake Bay Blockade

McClellan’s West Virginia Campaign

France. Napoleon III proclaimed French neutrality in regard to the American Civil War.

CSA. Lieutenant John Mercer Brooke CSN was ordered to design and build an ironclad warship on the hull of the burned USS Merrimack which was salvaged at the Norfolk Navy Yard. The resulting vessel was to be named the CSS Virginia.

Georgia. USS Union, Commander J R Goldsborough, captured the brig Hallie Jackson off Savannah with a cargo of molasses.

Maryland. Expedition to Rockville began. Union Colonel Charles Pomeroy Stone (14th US Infantry), led a force from Washington, DC, to Edwards’ Ferry on the Potomac River. The expedition ended on 7 July after establishing Union control of the northern bank of the Potomac and identifying possible crossing points and enemy positions.,

Missouri. Union Brigadier-General Nathaniel Lyon met pro-Confederate Governor Claiborne Jackson and Missouri State Guard Major General Sterling Price at St Louis’ Planter’s House hotel in a last attempt to resolve conflicting claims for state and Federal sovereignty. The conference proved futile and after four hours, Lyon abruptly ended the meeting. Jackson and Price retreated to Jefferson City, ordering the railroad bridges to be burned behind them. Lyon moved elements of his St Louis garrison up the Missouri River by steamer to capture the state capital at Jefferson City.

Texas. Governor Harris authorised the raising of troops for the Confederate army.

Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia, also known as Bethel Church or Great Bethel. This was the first substantial land battle in Virginia. Confederate defences had been built at Little Bethel Church and at Big Bethel Church a short distance further north, along a tributary of Back Creek called Marsh Creek. Confederate Colonel John Bankhead Magruder’s force of 1,200 to 1,400 men included Colonel Daniel Harvey Hill’s 1st North Carolina , Lieutenant-Colonel William D Stuart’s 3rd Virginia Infantry, a cavalry battalion under Major E B Montague, and the Richmond Howitzers artillery under Major George Wythe Randolph (later Confederate Secretary of War). Union Major-General Benjamin Franklin Butler at Fortress Monroe ordered State Brigadier-General Ebenezer Weaver Pierce to lead an attack from Fortress Monroe with 3,400 men in seven regiments against Big Bethel Church to prevent the continuous harassment by Confederate scouts. At 1 am the 7th New York Infantry (Colonel John E Bendix) moved to occupy New Market Bridge on the road from Hampton to Big Bethel. An hour later six more regiments (1st New York Infantry, 2nd New York Infantry, 3rd New York Infantry, 5th New York Infantry (Colonel Abram Duryée’s Zouaves), 1st Vermont Infantry, 4th Massachusetts Infantry, and a battery of the 2nd US Artillery) advanced by two columns to rendezvous at a road junction about a mile and a half south of Little Bethel. They were to make a surprise attack on Big Bethel, three miles distant on the Yorktown Road. The two converging columns encountered each other on the way and there was a mistaken discharge of a volley by the 7th New York on the grey-clad 3rd New York, resulting in two killed and 19 wounded. The Confederate 1st North Carolina was alerted and abandoned Little Bethel. They fell back to their entrenchments behind Brick Kiln Creek near Big Bethel Church. Pierce pursued and, after a poorly managed frontal attack along the road, was repulsed. Crossing further downstream, the 5th New York Zouaves attempted to turn the Confederate left flank but were also repulsed. Union Major Theodore Winthrop (7th New York serving on Pierce’s staff) led a detachment of troops from the 5th New York, 1st Vermont, and 4th Massachusetts in an attempt to turn the Confederate left flank. Attempting to cross downstream, this attack was also repelled and only the 1st Vermont under Lieutenant-Colonel Peter T Washburn managed to cross the creek. Winthrop, described as a brilliant young author, was killed in the attack. The disorganised Union forces retired, returning to Hampton and Newport News. Captain Hugh Judson Kilpatrick was the first Regular Army officer to be wounded in the Civil War; he was eventually promoted to Major-General of US Volunteers. The Union forces retired in poor order to Hampton and Newport News. Within hours of the battle, Magruder withdrew his forces to Yorktown where he had established a defensive line protected by the Warwick River. The Confederates reported one man killed and seven wounded. The Union reported 76 to 79 casualties. Although only a minor skirmish, it was proclaimed by the Southern press as a significant victory. (CWSAC Limited Battle – Confederate Victory).

Virginia. Confederate Brigadier-General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was placed in command of forces in Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties, opposing the Union army gathering on the south bank of the Potomac River. This extended his authority from the region immediately facing Washington, DC, further up the southern shore of the Potomac River.

Union Organisation

Commander in Chief: President Abraham Lincoln

Vice-President: Hannibal Hamlin

Secretary of War: Simon Cameron

Secretary of the Navy: Gideon Welles

  • Coast Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham USN
  • Gulf Blockading Squadron USN: Flag Officer William Mervine USN
  • Pacific Squadron USN: Captain John B Montgomery USN
  • Western Gunboat Flotilla USN: Commander John Rodgers USN
  • Potomac Flotilla USN: Commander James Harmon Ward USN

General–in-Chief: Winfield Scott

  • Department of Annapolis: John Adams Dix interim Nathaniel Prentiss Banks awaited
  • Department of the East: John Ellis Wool
  • Department of Florida: Harvey Brown
  • Department of Kentucky: Robert Anderson
  • Department of New Mexico: Edward Richard Sprigg Canby
  • Department of Northeastern Virginia: Irvin McDowell
  • Department of the Ohio: George Brinton McClellan
  • Department of the Pacific: Edwin Vose Sumner
    • District of Oregon: George Wright
  • Department of Pennsylvania: Robert Patterson
    • Army of the Shenandoah: Robert Patterson
  • Department of Texas: Vacant
  • Department of Utah: Philip St George Cooke
  • Department of Virginia: Benjamin Franklin Butler
  • Department of Washington: Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
  • Department of the West: Nathaniel Lyon

Confederate Organisation

CSA: The Department of the Potomac was extended to include Prince William, Fairfax, and Loudoun counties of Virginia.

CSA: Matthew Fontaine Maury promoted Commander CSN.

Maury, Matthew Fontaine / Born Spotsylvania, Virginia 14 January 1806 / Died Lexington, Virginia 1 February 1873
Midshipman USN 1825 / Superintendent US Naval Observatory 1854 / Commander USN / Resigned USN 1861 / Commander CSN 10 June 861
Chief of Seacoast River and Harbour Defences 1861 / Naval Agent in Europe 20 September 1862-April 1865

Commander in Chief: President Jefferson Finis Davis

Vice-President: Alexander Hamilton Stephens

Secretary of War: Leroy Pope Walker

Secretary of the Navy: Stephen Russell Mallory

Military Adviser to the President: Robert Edward Lee

  • Department No 1: David Emanuel Twiggs
    • “Forces in New Orleans” “Army of Louisiana”: Braxton Bragg
  • Department of Fredericksburg: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
  • Department of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
    • Army of the Potomac: Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
  • Department of Norfolk: Benjamin Huger
  • Department of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
    • Defences of North Carolina: Theophilus Hunter Holmes
  • Department of the Peninsula: Daniel Harvey Hill temporary
    • Army of the Peninsula: Daniel Harvey Hill temporary
  • Department of South Carolina: Daniel Harvey Hill
  • Department of Southwestern Virginia: William Wing Loring
  • Department of Texas: Earl Van Dorn
  • Department of West Florida: Braxton Bragg
    • “Forces in Pensacola”: Braxton Bragg
  • Defences of Savannah: Alexander Robert Lawton
  • Indian Territory: Benjamin McCulloch
  • Forces in Harper’s Ferry”: Joseph Eggleston Johnston
  • Forces in Richmond: Thomas Turner Fauntleroy
  • Army of the Kanawha: Henry Alexander Wise
  • Army of the Northwest: Robert Selden Garnett

Union Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

Major-General USA

Winfield Scott
George Brinton McClellan
John Charles Frémont

Major-General USV

John Adams Dix
Nathaniel Prentiss Banks
Benjamin Franklin Butler

Brigadier-General USA

John Ellis Wool
William Selby Harney
Edwin Vose Sumner
Joseph King Fenno Mansfield
Irvin McDowell
Robert Anderson
William Starke Rosecrans

Brigadier-General USV

Samuel Peter Heintzelman
David Hunter
Erasmus Darwin Keyes
Andrew Porter
Fitz-John Porter
William Buel Franklin
William Tecumseh Sherman
Charles Pomeroy Stone
Don Carlos Buell
Thomas West Sherman
Nathaniel Lyon
John Pope
George Archibald McCall
William Reading Montgomery
Philip Kearny
Joseph Hooker
John Wolcott Phelps
Ulysses Simpson Grant
Joseph Jones Reynolds
Samuel Ryan Curtis
Charles Smith Hamilton
Darius Nash Couch
Rufus King
Jacob Dolson Cox
Stephen Augustus Hurlbut
Franz Sigel
Robert Cumming Schenck
Benjamin Mayberry Prentiss
Frederick West Lander
Benjamin Franklin Kelley
John Alexander McClernand
Alpheus Starkey Williams
Israel Bush Richardson
James Cooper

Brigadier-General USA (Staff)

Montgomery Cunningham Meigs

Confederate Generals

Note: Italics, awaiting confirmation of the commission

General ACSA

Samuel Cooper
Albert Sidney Johnston

Major-General PACS

David Emanuel Twiggs

Brigadier-General ACSA

Robert Edward Lee
Joseph Eggleston Johnston
Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard
Braxton Bragg

Brigadier-General PACS

Alexander Robert Lawton
Milledge Lake Bonham
Benjamin McCulloch
William Wing Loring
Charles Clark
John Buchanan Floyd
William Henry Talbot Walker
Henry Rootes Jackson
Theophilus Hunter Holmes
Henry Alexander Wise
Earl Van Dorn
Robert Selden Garnett

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