Two-Fisted Tales
Mrs. Bixby, Confederate sympathizer

This week in the Civil War - May 13, 1862

Waterhouse 29-4-512-CPL John Mackie, USMC, MOH

"Corporal John Mackie, United States Marine Corps" painted by Col Charles Waterhouse, USMCR illustrates Cpl Mackie fighting aboard the USS Galena during the Battle of Drewry's Bluff. On 10 July 1863, Cpl Mackie became the first Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor Battle of Drewry's Bluff, Va.

A Union warship fleet steaming up Virginia's James River opens fire early on May 15, 1862, against Confederate fortifications on a 90-foot-high bluff several miles from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va. A union ironclad, the Galena, is the first to fire. Confederates entrenched behind strong earthworks and gun emplacements respond with searing artillery fire from Drewry's Bluff.

Confederate snipers on the riverbank also rain down shot and shell on the Union squadron. After about four hours of blistering fire both ways, the Union force calls a halt to the offensive. Reports indicate federal forces tallied some 14 dead and a similar number of wounded, while the Confederates had 7 dead and several wounded. The Confederate fortification holds firm. In the ensuing months, secessionist leaders alarmed by the attack on Drewry's Bluff would go on to further strengthen the crucial defensive site, making it a veritable fort. Also this week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the North is rife with speculation about the movements of the massive Union force arming off southeast Virginia — tens of thousands of troops in all.

The Associated Press reported in a May 15, 1862, dispatch from Baltimore that passengers arriving in eastern Maryland by ship had seen several steamers loaded with newly freed Union prisoners from Richmond traveling to Washington, D.C., up the Chesapeake Bay. The AP also discuss the speculation. "This city is this morning filled with a variety of rumors, stating that the city of Richmond has been taken by the Union forces," The AP said without comment. In fact, Union forces — after their early battles and skirmishes — are still just ramping up a Virginia Peninsula Campaign that eventually approach Richmond, but never overrun that city.

From the Associated Press

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