Battle of Totopotomoy Creek (May 29 - 30, 1864)

Also Known As: Battle of Bethesda Church

Updated: June 04, 2011

On March 10, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. Grant brought with him, from his successes in the western theater of the war, a reputation for the doggedness Lincoln was seeking.

On March 10, 1864, President Abraham Lincoln appointed Ulysses S. Grant as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. Grant brought with him, from his successes in the western theater of the war, a reputation for the doggedness Lincoln was seeking. Unlike previous Union generals, whose leadership was marked their own timidity, Grant was tenacious. Upon his arrival in Washington, Grant drafted a plan to get the various Union armies in the field to act in concert. He also devised his Overland Campaign to invade east-central Virginia. Unlike previous campaigns into that area, Grant's focused on defeating Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, rather than capturing or occupying geographic locations. Grant instructed General George Meade, who commanded the Army of the Potomac, "Wherever Lee goes, there you will go also." Grant realized that with the superior resources he had at his disposal, Lee was destined to lose a war of attrition, as long he was persistently engaged.

On May 4, 1864, Grant launched the Overland Campaign, when the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rappahannock and Rapidan Rivers. Although Meade nominally commanded the Army of the Potomac, as General-in-Chief of the Armies, Grant chose to accompany the army in the field so that he could personally supervise overall campaign operations. 

Throughout the month of May, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia slugged it out in a series of battles including the Wilderness (May 5-7), Spotsylvania Court House (May 8-21), North Anna (May 23-26), and Totopotomoy Creek. Although the Rebels inflicted high casualties on the Federals during those battles, Grant continued his strategy of moving south and east to Lee's right, and then re-engaging. Grant's moves forced Lee to reposition his lines continually to defend Richmond.

Following the Confederate victory at the Battle of North Anna (May 23-26), Grant did not retreat. Rather, on May 27, he ordered Meade to move his army deeper into Confederate territory, southeast towards Totopotomoy Creek. On May 27, Confederate forces intercepted Union cavalrymen as they attempted to cross the Pamunkey River at Dabney’s Ferry and at Crump’s Creek. The following day, infantrymen from both the North and the South began to arrive at the scene, as cavalry forces continued to battle at Haw's Shop. Beginning on May 28, Confederate soldiers fortified the south bank of Totopotomoy Creek, and on May 29, Union forces launched several probes to establish the location of the Confederates' position. On May 30, the Union's 2nd Corps drove a portion of the Confederate soldiers from their entrenchments, gaining a foothold on the south side of Totopotomoy Creek. As the 2nd Corps advanced, Confederate soldiers, under the command of Jubal early, attacked the Union left, driving the Northerners back. The engagement ceased that evening, bringing the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek to a conclusion.

Ohio units that participated in the Battle of Totopotomoy Creek included:

Infantry units:

4th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

8th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

60th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

110th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

122nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

126th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Artillery units:

Battery H, 1st Ohio Light Artillery

Cavalry units:

2nd Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

6th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Cavalry

The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek was a technical victory for the Confederates. Southerners remained in possession of the battlefield at the engagement's end. Confederates suffered 1,100 men killed, wounded, captured, or missing, while the Northerners sustained a similar number of casualties. Despite their accomplishments, however, the Confederates did not stop Grant from continuing his advance into the heart of the Confederacy.

Cite this Entry

MLA Style

"Battle of Totopotomoy Creek," Ohio Civil War Central, 2019, Ohio Civil War Central. 22 May 2019 <http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=466>

APA Style

"Battle of Totopotomoy Creek." (2019) In Ohio Civil War Central, Retrieved May 22, 2019, from Ohio Civil War Central: http://www.ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=466

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