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Hampton Roads in Hampton, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Battle of Big Bethel

Protecting the Peninsula

 
 
Battle of Big Bethel CWT Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 20, 2013
1. Battle of Big Bethel CWT Marker
Inscription.  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.
Battle of Big Bethel Monument & CWT Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 20, 2013
2. Battle of Big Bethel Monument & CWT Marker
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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.

(captions)
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
 
Erected 2012 by Virginia Civil War Trails. (Marker Number 1.)
 
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical date for this entry is June 6, 1861.
 
Location. 37° 5.491′ N, 76° 25.567′ W. Marker is in Hampton Roads in Hampton, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Big Bethel Road 0.1 miles north of Semple Farm Road, on the left when traveling north. Located in Bethel Park. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Hampton VA 23666, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. A different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel
Confederate Earthworks image. Click for full size.
By Bernard Fisher, July 20, 2013
3. Confederate Earthworks
(a few steps from this marker); Battle of Big Bethel Union Monument (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Battle of Big Bethel (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Hampton Roads.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 11, 2018. It was originally submitted on July 21, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 794 times since then and 16 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on July 21, 2013, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.

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Apr. 15, 2021