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The Battle of Bloody Bridge

July 6-9, 1864 in Johns Island, South Carolina

Union Forces Commanded by:
Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch
Forces Killed Wounded Captured
8,000 - - -

Confederate Forces Commanded by:
Forces Killed Wounded Captured
- - - -

*Killed, Wounded and Captured
Conclusion: Confederate Victory


This 3-day battle was the largest battle on Johns Island during the Civil War. In July, the Confederates still defending Charleston had control of James Island and Johns Island. The barrier islands, Folly and Morris, were under Union control. The Union forces were planning an all out attack on Charleston. Attacks were planned at 5 different locations around the Charleston area.
At this time, the Union would start its third major bombardment of Fort Sumter, and to keep the citizens of Charleston from becoming complacent, an intense fire would be directed against the city. The Union command figured that they outnumbered the Confederates and hoped that somewhere their attacks would break through the defenders on James or Johns Islands, and thus flanked, Charleston would fall.
On July 2, Brig. Gen. John P. Hatch with his troops landed on Seabrook Island from the North Edisto. More Union troops landed at Legareville and Rockville. The troops joining Hatch's command were Brig. Gen. Rufus Saxton and his 9th and 26th U.S. Colored Troops, the 56th New York, the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry, Wildt's Battery of the 3rd New York, and the 104th Pennsylvania Regiment. Also, the New York Engineers landed and were prepared to destroy the track of the Charleston and Savannah Line at Rantowles and blow up the bridges in a very short time. The Union force total was about 8,000 men. Hatch's idea was to march up and take Johns Island, then move across the Stono River and take James Island. The Union troops marched about 4 miles across Seabrook to Haulover Cut, which separated Seabrook Island from Johns Island, only to find out the bridge had been burned. After a new bridge was completed, they crossed the bridge and camped for the night. The march up Johns Island continued on July 3. The intense heat caused the troops to move only a few miles a day.
On July 6, the Confederates opened fire on the Union camps from James Island in the morning. The Union troops had marched up on the Stono side of Johns Island. They were just opposite Confederate Battery Pringle on James Island, and had occupied a strong position on Burden's Causeway at a small bridge on the main road that crossed the marsh. That small bridge would be forever known as "Bloody Bridge." The Confederates in the meantime had positioned themselves on the higher ground at the Waterloo Plantation, which was just up the road from the Union position on Johns Island. Confederate forces consisted of the 1st Georgia Regulars, the Stono Scouts and the Washington Artillery. They were soon reinforced by 2 companies of South Carolina Cavalry and the Marion Artillery from Charleston.
On July 7, the Union sharpshooters opened fire from some small houses on the left, but the Confederate artillery quickly routed them. All was quiet until about 4:00 P.M. when Saxon and the 26th U.S. Colored Troops, about 1,000 strong, attacked the Confederate rifle-pits. They advanced under cover of woods until they were about 200 yards from the Confederate line, where they entered the open field, charging and taking the works, killing and wounding a number of Confederates.
The 26th U.S. Colored Troops carried the works, still advancing pouring volley after volley into the scattering Confederate lines. When all was thought lost, reinforcements of the 32nd Georgia Regiment were moving at double-quick, passing the broken lines and with the "Rebel Yell", charged to the front. The 26th U.S. Colored Troops stopped still. Their lines begin to break and they ran in retreat. The fighting was heavy. The Confederates soon recaptured their works, driving the Federals over them. The Confederates won the day.
On July 8, the guns at Battery Pringle opened fire on the Union camps in the morning. Hatch reported "no casualties" from the shelling and there was no fighting this day. That night, the Union received more reinforcements. Hatch then felt he had an overwhelming superiority over the Confederate forces. However, the Confederates were also reinforced. All troops were on Johns Island and ready to fight at a moments notice.
On July 9, at about 5:45 A.M., the Confederates formed their battle lines. A skirmish line was deployed in front of the Confederate works and the line of battle was in the works. The skirmish line was then ordered forward, advancing in the cover of darkness. The advancing skirmish line drove the Union pickets back and the battle lines advanced over the works into the open field. The Confederates attacked the Union line with great spirit and force, only to be repulsed in about 15 minutes. The Confederates reformed and attacked again. Their advance was bloodily contested and they had over 100 casualties. There was not any wind that morning and the dense smoke from the Union lines firing artillery and rifles made it very hard to see. When the Union forces began to be pushed back from the open field, some of the Georgia reserve troops were sent into action. The Union artillery had no effect on the Confederate line.
The Confederates forced the Union troops to fall back over the bridge to their entrenchments on the other side. Orders were given not to continue the assault, but to hold the ground they had already taken.
On July 10, Confederate scouts discovered that the Union had evacuated the island during the night, going aboard their transports and burning a large quantity of commissary stores. And as a last ditch effort by the Union, that night they sent 3 fire-rafts up the Stono with the tide for the purpose of destroying the unfinished bridge across the river intending to connect James and Johns Island. Lt. W.G. Dozier swam out, boarded the rafts, and brought them to shore. This stopped them from doing any more destruction.

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