Honor the Civil War’s First Land Battle this June at Two Hampton, Virginia Events

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On June 10 and 11, the Hampton Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, Hampton History Museum, and the Bethel Chapter 185 United Daughters of the Confederacy will present two events that commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Big Bethel, the Civil War’s first land battle.

On June 10 and 11, the Hampton Civil War Sesquicentennial Committee, Hampton History Museum, and the Bethel Chapter 185 United Daughters of the Confederacy will present two events that commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Big Bethel, the Civil War’s first land battle.

The Hampton History Museum (120 Old Hampton Lane) hosts Hampton City Historian John V. Quarstein at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, June 10 for a lecture featuring excerpts from his new book, Big Bethel: The First Battle. A book signing will be held following the lecture, with all proceeds benefitting the museum. Admission is free for museum members and $3.00 for non-members.

On June 11, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., usher in Big Bethel Battlefield Park (1701 Big Bethel Road) at a dedication ceremony presenting, and preserving, a section of this historic battlefield. A brand new Vermont Monument honoring Union soldiers will be dedicated. The concept began The Vermont Hemlocks, a re-enactment group, who wished to honor the 1st Vermont Regiment that fought at Big Bethel. In addition, there will be a wreath placement at the memorial honoring Private Henry Lawson Wyatt, 1st North Carolina Volunteers, CSA. The City of Hampton is currently working with the Air Force to have Big Bethel Battlefield Park officially open to the public by June 10, 2012.

For further information on the Battle of Big Bethel events, please contact John V. Quarstein at 757-879-3420.

The June 10 Battle of Big Bethel was the first time during the Civil War that Union and Confederate soldiers engaged in open combat. While later considered a skirmish in comparison to the bloody battles to come later in the war, the engagement caused some of the Civil War’s firsts: first friendly fire incident, death of the first Union soldier in combat, the first battlefield amputation, the first West Point graduate killed in action, and the mortal wounding of the first Confederate infantryman.

The Confederate use of field fortifications during the battle enabled their 1400 defenders to repel the piecemeal attacks of the Federal 4,400-strong strike force. Despite this defeat, the Union was able to retain control of the very tip of the Peninsula below the northwest branch of the Back River. This situation allowed the North to use Fort Monroe as a base for the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, as well as for all of its major amphibious operations. In turn, the Confederate victory at Big Bethel raised enthusiasm for the war and reinforced the myth that one Southerner could defeat at least four or five Northerners. Big Bethel allowed the Confederacy to control most of Hampton Roads (with its agricultural and shipbuilding resources) until May 1862.

Partially bordered by the Hampton Roads harbor and Chesapeake Bay, Hampton, with the 344,000 sq. ft. Hampton Roads Convention Center, is located in the center of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Hampton is the site of America's first continuous English-speaking settlement and is home to such visitor attractions as the Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside IMAX ® Theater, Hampton History Museum, harbor tours and cruises, Hampton University Museum, Fort Monroe, award-winning Hampton Coliseum, The American Theatre, among others.

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