Bethesda Church

May 30, 1864

    As the Union VI and II Corps faced the Confederate position on Totopotomoy Creek, the IX and V Corps crossed downstream and advanced south.  Lee had two of his three corps facing these men.  Ordered by Lee to attack the Union southern flank, Jubal Early, the new commander of the Second Corps, contacted Richard Anderson commanding the First Corps to coordinate an attack on the Union V Corps under Gouverneur Warren, the southernmost infantry unit of the Army of the Potomac.  Early wanted Anderson to assault the Union line frontally while Early attacked its southern flank.


Map of May 30th Action Showing Battle at Bethesda and Matadequin Creek

Intersection Near Bethesda Church Looking NW to N

    Hardin's brigade of Pennsylvania Bucktails was the southernmost unit of Warren's corps, and therefore of the Union army.  Hardin held a position just east of this intersection along Old Church Road, now Rt. 360, in an area somewhere to the left of the modern 7-11.  Early's attack quickly routed the brigade, and the Confederate Second Corps moved on to the intersection.  Early sent Rodes' division further down Old Church Road, left Gordon's at the intersection, and sent Ramsuer's north along the road and into the Union flank.  This is the road which goes from bottom left to right and through the stoplight.  No longer standing, Bethesda Church was in the near corner of the intersection behind the cameraman and a modern elementary school.  

    Kitching's brigade had been parallel, and to the left, of this road.  Kitching tried to redeploy his brigade to face the advancing Confederates and made a brief stand on a ridge, probably this one.  He could not hope to stop the Confederates, but he bought time for Warren to create a line along Shady Grove Road further north. 

Shady Grove Road Looking South

    Warren's line was an arc roughly paralleling the Shady Grove Road, visible on the left and far right, and faced south toward the advancing Confederates.  In a Grant-like attack/recon, Willis' brigade of Ramsuer's division attacked the position with heavy losses and no gains.  Union guns near the T intersection on the right of the picture were heavily involved.

     Early had expected Anderson to support his attack with an advance from the west along this very road - in the area beyond the far right of the picture.  Anderson did not attack, and he and Early feuded.  Early withdrew to a position along the Old Church Road near where he launched his original advance. 

    By June 3rd, the Union army had shifted so far south that the Bethesda Church area was now its northern flank.  Early's Second Corps now occupied Warren's old Shady Grove Road position.  As a part of the June 3rd fighting, Burnside's IX Corps attacked the formidable position with similar results.


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