Drewry’s Bluff, 16 May 1864

Image above: Battery Dantzler, Drewry’s Bluff 1864 – Confederate gun commanding the river.

The 117th New York Infantry recruited in the Oneida county in the summer of 1862, rendezvoused at Rome, and was mustered into the U.S. service from August 8 to 16, for three years and left the state on August 22.

On 12 Aug 1862, Caleb Hayward, who was 5 foot 8 inches tall and my 1st cousin 4x removed enlisted in the 117th. He was baptised at Hastingleigh, Kent on 15 Sep 1839 to James Hayward and Sarah Caister. Sometime after the 1851 Census in England and before he enlisted, Caleb found himself as a farmer in Clinton, New York. Caleb was promoted to Corporal on 1 Oct 1862.

The regimental history, from “The Union Army” by Federal Publishing Company, 1908, Volume 2 goes on to state:

The 117th was stationed at Tenallytown, Maryland, until April 1863, when it was ordered to Suffolk, Virginia, in the 1st brigade, of Getty’s division, 7th corps, and subsequently participated in the Peninsular campaign of 1863. (Caleb was promoted to Sergeant on 11 Jul 1863).

It was then ordered to join the 18th corps (the 7th corps having been discontinued), Department of the South; later joined Vogdes’ division, 10th corps, on Folly Island, S. C.; and took part in the siege of Fort Wagner and the operations about Charleston harbour.

In April 1864, the regiment was ordered to Virginia, where it joined Gen. Butler’s Army of the James, being assigned to the 1st brigade, 2nd division, 10th corps. Sailing up the James River, it disembarked at Bermuda Hundred and was engaged at Swift creek, Drewry’s bluff and Bermuda Hundred, losing 20 killed, 62 wounded, and 7 missing at Drewry’s bluff.

Broadway LandingBroadway Landing on the Appomattox, where Butler’s troops crossed.
From The Photographic History of the Civil War.

A letter To the Editor of the Utica Daily Observer: Bermuda Hundreds, May 26, 1864 read:

I see that the papers make no mention of the 117th regiment in the late action of the 16th at Drury’s Bluffs; hence I infer that we must speak for ourselves if we would be noticed.

Our regiment landed at the junction of the James and Appomatox [sic] rivers, opposite City Point, at a place called “Bermuda Hundreds” the 6th of May.

From thence we skirmished in connection with the rest of the army towards Petersburg and Chester Station, where we aided in destroying the Richmond and Petersburg railroad, and in covering the retreat after the objects of the advance in this direction had been accomplished.

On the 13th we started again from our established camp, with the entrenchments, near to the point of our landing, in the direction of Fort Darling. On the afternoon of the same day we formed a line of battle in front of the outer line of rebel fortifications reaching from Fort Darling westward. While forming this line, Everet Williams of Co. B, was killed, and three others wounded.

We remained here all night, receiving an occasional shot from the enemy, and in the morning found that the rebels had evacuated these works and fallen back to a second line a half mile in their rear.

Our line was advanced to their front once more, and vigorous skirmish kept up through the day, in which our regiment took a very active part. Companies H, K, and G being sent to a point in front of and within short rifle shot of a battery of two guns. These guns they succeeded in keeping silent until after dark, when the rebels opened a murderous fire of musketry and grape and cannister, accompanied with yells which led us to suppose we were about to be charged, and preparations were made to receive them. Here Wm. Curry of Co. K was killed, and one of the skirmishers wounded.

After the firing had ceased the companies were ordered back, and again joined the regiment, behind a single embankment, within reach of the rebs, but hidden from them by a thin skirting of timber.

When we were aroused on the morning of the 16th, we found a heavy fog resting upon us and completely enveloping the enemy from our sight. The firing upon our right in the 18th Corps was commenced early and was the most vigorous of any we had heard, and we noticed at once that it was back of where it had been the previous day, and that there was much less artillery in use on our front. This was ominous, and we began to nerve ourselves for a severe contest.

The 3d N. Y. and the 142d N. Y. regiments of our brigade were early brought into action on our right. They withstood the assault of the enemy manfully until they found that every thing on their right had given way.

In the meanwhile we were marched to position in their rear, where we remained inactive until these regiments fell back, when we were wheeled into a position nearly perpendicular to the original line of battle, and placed on outside of a rebel rifle pit, in the line we had taken a day or two, before.

Until this time we had supposed that our right was protected by Hickman’s Brigade, and of course we would have been safe in our new position, but we found, too late, that our right flank was open, and the enemy occupied the position lately held by our own forces, and were in force in our rear. The rest of the brigade had fallen back, too, and we were exposed on three sides.

The enemy, of course, saw our position as soon as we did, and took advantage of it, to our cost, opening upon us from all three directions, with musketry, and turning upon us a section of artillery which but a short time before had been our own.

This position we held, giving them as good as we had to send, until we received tardy orders to retire, and form anew a few rods in the rear and almost parallel with the one we were about to leave.

Before we were fairly in our new position, by command the colors were advanced under a galling fire, that disabled three of the color guard, and left the ground strewn with the dead and the dying, to a point of high land directly in front of the enemy.

Here their fire was continued with great effect, and here, too, we had a chance to return it with equal effect. But we were only a single regiment against a host, the last on the field, and almost surrounded. We had already lost 17 in killed and 60 in wounded.

To hold this point was found impracticable, though by taking it we had checked the advance of the enemy and given time to other regiments to make good their retreat. We therefore fell back out of sight and away from the entrenched lines of the Rebels, joining the rest of the brigade, where we were not followed.

Not one of the whole command flinched from his duty; not one retired until ordered to do so. While the friends of the regiment mourn for the lost, they can exult in the bravery and good conduct of all.

Colonel White was struck on the shoulder with a ball early in the day, and the command devolved upon Lieut. Col. Daggett, who sustained himself well. Captain Brigham was shot in the abdomen, and was led from the field apparently not much hurt, but he has since died. Lieut. Castleman lingered but a short time after he received his wound. Lieut. Pease remained at his post after being wounded in the arm, and only left on being ordered to do so by his Captain.

LIST OF THE KILLED, OF THE 117TH REGIMENT N. Y. V., IN THE ACTION AT DRURY’S BLUFF, MAY 16TH, 1864.

Capt. G. W. Brigham, A; Lieut. William C Cassleman, Co D.
Co. A.—Chas. B Shaw.
Co. B.—Michael McKeever, Evert E Williams.
Co. E.—Edward Beaver, Michael Daily.
Co. F.—William H Davis, John Marringer, John McConner.
Co. G.—Francis A. Olin, John Cogswell.
Co. I.—James J Orcott.
Co. K.—Sergt Caleb Hayward, Corp Edward Murphy, William Curry, Mansfield Delaney, Rowell Turner.

 

Battle of Drewrys Bluff 16 May 1864
Map of Drewry’s Bluff 16 May 1864

117th NY Infantry Roster117th New York Infantry Roster

Caleb was buried at Hampton City, Virginia. My only known relative to have fought in the American Civil War.

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