Report of Major E. B. Montague, commanding Virginia Battalion, on Big Bethel

On the morning of the 10th of June my command reported to Colonel Magruder at Bethel Church, according to orders. At — in the morning information was received that the enemy in force were advancing upon us. Colonel Magruder immediately ordered me to throw up a redoubt fronting toward a ravine, over which it was supposed the enemy might attempt to turn our right flank. My men worked well, and had nearly finished the redoubt when the first gun from our batteries was fired which took place at—o’clock a.m. The enemy returned the fire with spirit, and the shell and shot flew thick and fast about my command who were in a peculiarly exposed condition, my redoubt flanking towards and being nearly perpendicular to the points of attack. Fortunately for my command, however, the major part of the enemy’s shot had sufficient elevation to pass over our heads, though many shell and solid shot fell within a few feet of our redoubt. One ball passed under my horse between his force and hind feet, several others passed within a few feet of his head, and a few buried themselves in our breastwork Had the enemy’s guns been slightly depressed he must have raked my whole line with his enfilading fire. A very short time after the firing commenced I received an order to direct one of my companies, the Chatham Grays, under the command of Captain Werth, to defend a ford one mile below the bridge against the first battalion of the New York Zouave Regiment, and I saw no more of the company until after the fight.

About – minutes after the fight, and after Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart had been compelled to fall back across the ravine and occupy my redoubt, Colonel Magruder ordered me to take my command about one and a quarter miles around to aid the Wythe Rifles, under the command of Lieutenant Chisman, in guarding a marsh, where he thought the enemy were attempting to turn our left flank. I immediately carried my command around to the point indicated at the double quick, joined the rifles, and deployed my whole command as skirmishers over a line of a quarter of a mile under cover of a dense foliage. We remained in this position until late in the evening, when we were ordered back by Colonel Magruder to the church. The enemy did not attempt to cross our line, and we remained quiet and inactive during the remainder of the fight.

We had no killed or wounded. Every man in my whole command, both officers and men, was perfectly cool, calm, and collected during the whole time which we were exposed to the enfilading fire from the enemy’s battery and to diagonal fire of musketry from his left flank. I have no hesitancy in expressing my gratification at the manner in which my command, the Halifax Light Infantry, Captain Grammer; the Chatham Grays, Captain Werth; and the Old Dominion Rifles, Captain Dickerson, as well as the detachment of the North Carolina regiment, under my command, conducted themselves during the whole engagement.

Respectfully reported.

Major, Commanding Virginia Battalion.

Col. J. B. MAGRUDER, Commanding Division.


The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series I, Vol. II. With additions and corrections. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1902.