A Union warship fleet steaming up Virginias James River opens fire early on May 15, 1862, against Confederate fortifications on a 90-foot-high bluff several miles from the Confederate capital of Richmond, Va.
A Union ironclad, the Galena, is the first to fire. Confederates entrenched behind strong earthworks and gun emplacements respond with searing artillery fire from Drewrys Bluff. Confederate snipers on the riverbank also rain down shot and shell on the Union squadron.
After about four hours of blistering fire both ways, the Union force calls a halt to the offensive. Reports indicate federal forces tallied 14 dead and a similar number of wounded, while the Confederates had seven dead and several wounded. The Confederate fortification holds firm.
In the ensuing months, secessionist leaders alarmed by the attack on Drewrys Bluff would go on to further strengthen the crucial defensive site, making it a veritable fort.
Also this week 150 years ago in the Civil War, the North is rife with speculation about the movements of the massive Union force arming off southeast Virginia – tens of thousands of troops in all. The Associated Press reported in a May 15, 1862, dispatch from Baltimore that passengers arriving in eastern Maryland by ship had seen several steamers loaded with newly freed Union prisoners from Richmond traveling to Washington, D.C., up the Chesapeake Bay.