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New York vs New York

On June 10th, 1861 near Big Bethel Virginia, at the New Market Bridge, captain W. H. Werth of the Virginia Cavalry, Chatham Grays witnessed one of the most unusual battles of the Civil War. He writes...

Commanding Division..

SIR: I beg leave very respectfully to make the following report of my scout:

On Sunday afternoon, the 9th of June, 1861, I procured the corn and oats on the Back River road as ordered, and had the wagons returning to camp in two hours and a quarter from the receipt of the order. I was then joined by one company of North Carolina Infantry, one piece of the howitzer battery, and a detachment of Captain Douthatt's cavalry, as I supposed, to assist me in making observations near Hampton, on the Back River. I approached New Market Bridge at 5 o'clock p.m., planted the howitzer so as to sweep the bridge, deployed my infantry in open order on my right flank in ambush, so that they could rake the road. The cavalry I posted in the rear, and threw out vedettes on each of my flanks to avoid a surprise.

In this position I waited for the appearance of the enemy. I of course had no idea of endangering my command by engaging the enemy if in force. I was too weak. In a few moments alarm guns were fired by a chain of sentinels extending from New Market Bridge to Fort Monroe. In a few moments a force advanced from Hampton (supposed to be a battalion of infantry, but marching in detached companies), whilst at the same time one or more companies approached by the road leading from Newport News. These forces were each advancing upon New Market Bridge from opposite directions, thinking I had crossed the bridge, with my command. Upon observing their approach with a glass, I quietly retired from my position to a point in the rear three-quarters of a mile. The enemy approached the bridge, and when they suddenly came in sight of each other they (each mistaking the other for me) opened fire, and kept it up for some five minutes before they discovered their error. I was sitting on my horse near the bridge, and saw the firing plainly with my glass, but did not at the time know the cause, although I suspected it. At dusk I took up the march for Bethel Church, the enemy following me, and the next morning the fight opened."

The two regiments that fought each other that day were Colonel F. Townsend's 3rd New York Volunteers and Colonel J. E. Bendix's 7th New York Volunteers. Total casualties were 21. Two mortally, 3 dangerously, 4 officers and 12 privates. The fight was pretty fierce and according to who wrote the report lasted from several minutes to fifteen minutes. Infantry skirmish fire, volly fire and even artillery canister fire was in reported in heavy use during the engagement. It was common for units of the same side to fire into one another in the Civil War, but this account was more intense than any I've read before, and witnessed by the enemy, the object of the attack. At one point the 3rd New York was ordered to charge bayonets but the fighting stopped before they could use them.


David Upton

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New York vs New York
Go Yankees, Give 'em Hell 3rd!! *NM*