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1864 October 22: The Battle of Darbytown and New Market Roads

October 25, 2014

The Battle of Darbytown and New Market Roads took place on October 7, 1864, in Henrico County, Virginia, as part of the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign.  The Union defensive lines along the New Market Road were commanded by Brigadier General August V. Kautz and Major General David B. Birney, although neither is mentioned here.  The initial Confederate attack was commanded by Major Generals Robert F. Hoke and Charles W. Field.  It was successful in dislodging the Union Cavalry from the Darbytown Road.  But when the Confederates attacked the New Market Road lines, the attack was repulsed and the Confederates withdrew.

The following article comes from the October 22, 1864, issue of The Prescott Journal.

The Rebel Attack on Butler.

The World’s 10th corps correspondent has the following account of the affair of Friday October 7th:

The point at which the enemy first made his appearance was near the intersection of the Darbytown and White Haven roads, and was held by two brigades of cavalry, one of which, under command of Col. West, was deployed across the Darbytown road, while the other, under command of Col. Spear, was deployed parallel to it across the Whitstone road, covering the approach from this direction.

The enemy, when first seen, was coming across the country from the Charles City road, and moving toward the right flank of Col. West.  The Colonel changed front hastily, so as to form a line parallel with the road and facing the enemy.  He had hardly effected this and sheltered his men behind a low hedge skirting the road, when the enemy, in overwhelming numbers, dashed on him and the command of Col. Spears in almost simultaneous charges.  The men fired steadily, but could not stay the rushing masses opposed to them.  It was evident they must retreat, so the command was given, and they moved off down the Darbytown road.  Suddenly they were checked in this direction by the enemy having outflanked Spears, who had possession of this avenue of retreat.  As there was one more chance across the country, they went around without organization.

The batteries of the 4th Wisconsin and 1st U. S., which fought bravely, moved on in the same direction, taking a blind wood road.  They had not gone far, however, when the forward piece was mired.  This stopped the remainder, and on this spot they were captured, eight guns in all, by the enemy who had followed closely and reached them soon after.

The enemy having driven the cavalry before them, now ceased the pursuit and turned toward the flank of the 10th Corps which was held by the invincible old 1st or Terry’s division [Alfred Terry].  The enemy, flushed with his easily gained victory, moved toward the little band with all the confidence of victors.  The brunt of his attack was directed toward Abbott’s 2d brigade.  He might better have chosen almost any other point, for half of these troops being armed with repeating rifles, made hasty records on the rebel ranks.  Moving towards them steadily, he exhibited a determination to force the position at any cost, but the unerring volcanic firearm more than equalled [sic] the same.

Onward they pushed ;  more dense grew the fire ;  still they advanced till within about 100 paces of our crouching death-dealers.  Then signs of weakness began to manifest themselves in their ranks.  They found that to advance in the face of that fire was simply marching to death, in short there was nothing for them, but to slink away as best they could, and slink away they did.  Not satisfied with the punishment he had inflicted, Terry at once prepared to follow up his advantage.  As our lines approached the enemy, it became evident that he was Richmond bound.  Although hopes of overtaking him were futile, still our advance was pressed on until darkness interfered.  Then, just as Pond’s Brigade had reached within half a mile of the Darbytown road, the order was given to return, and with our defenses.

In advance we picked up quite a number of prisoners, stragglers, and men who waited behind to desert. These, with our captures before our works, swelled our list of captures to some 200.

Gen. Lee [Robert E. Lee] commanded in person, and had determined to make a heavy impression on us.

Our loss in men has been very small, but the enemy has suffered horribly.  Their prisoners report Gen. Gregg¹ among their killed.  They brought two divisions into action, one under Gen. Field and a provisional division under Hoke.

1.  John Gregg (1828-1864) formed the 7th Texas Infantry and served as its colonel. They fought at the Battle of Fort Donelson, where they were captured with the garrison. Gregg was exchanged August 15, 1862, and promoted to brigadier general on August 29. Gregg’s Brigade served in the Department of the West, including the Battle of Raymond and the Battle of Jackson. The Brigade then served in the Army of Tennessee in Bushrod Johnson’s Division, fighting at the Battle of Chickamauga. After recovering from wounds, Gregg was given command of Hood’s Texas Brigade, which was in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, and they fought at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg.

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