resumed his movement.
Upon reaching the Confederate
camp at Little Bethel, he found it vacated, the Federal
cavalry having pressed on toward Big Bethel.
He then prepared to attempt to carry the works at Big Bethel, commencing an attack about 9:30.
In his report of the 16th, Butler
said, ‘This attack was not intended to enable us to hold Big Bethel as a post, because it was not seriously in our way on any proposed road to Yorktown
, and therefore there was never any intention of maintaining it even if captured.
The length of the road and the heat of the weather had caused great fatigue, as many of the troops, the previous night having been cool, had marched with their thickest clothing.’
From subsequent information, he was sure the force which was first at Big Bethel did not exceed a regiment, and if his order of attack had been obeyed, he had no doubt the battery would have been captured; but the officers in immediate command had an exaggerated idea of the numbers of the enemy, and believed there were 4,000 or 5,000 troops at Big Bethel.
A return, accompanying his report, shows that one Massachusetts
, one Vermont
, and five New York infantry regiments, and the Second United States artillery were actually engaged in this contest, and that the losses were 18 killed, 53 wounded, and 5 missing, an aggregate of 76.
Among the killed was Maj. Theodore Winthrop
, of Butler
From Bethel church, Col. J. Bankhead Magruder
, commanding ‘Hampton
division,’ reported on the 10th that he was attacked by about 3,500 Federal troops with several pieces of heavy artillery, that morning at 10 o'clock, and at 12:30 had routed them completely, having had 1,200 men engaged of his 1,400.
's force in the battle was: Col. D. H. Hill
's First North Carolina and Lieut.-Col. William D. Stuart
's Third Virginia infantry regiments, Maj. E. B. Montague
's Virginia carairy battalion, and Maj. George W. Randolph
's Richmond (Va.) howitzer battalion.
A Louisiana infantry regiment arrived after the battle was over, but returned to Yorktown
the same night, marching 28 miles during the day, as it was not thought prudent to leave Yorktown
exposed without troops.
Col. D. H. Hill
, with that fullness and accuracy of statement which always characterized his reports, furnished the particulars of this Big Bethel engagement.