Key facts about the Battle of Big Bethel, which many historians consider to be the first major land engagement of the American Civil War.
- June 10, 1861
- Southern end of the Virginia Peninsula
- Blockade of the Chesapeake Bay
Principal Union commander:
- Brigadier General Ebenezer W. Peirce
Principal Confederate commander:
- Colonel John B. Magruder
Union forces engaged:
- Pierce’s Brigade (Fort Monroe garrison)
Confederate forces engaged:
- Hills’ Command (Hampton Division)
Number of Union soldiers engaged:
- Roughly 3,500
Number of Confederate soldiers engaged
- Roughly 1,400
Estimated Union Casualties:
- 76 (18 killed, 53 wounded, and 5 missing)
Estimated Confederate Casualties:
- 8 (1 killed and 7 wounded)
- Confederate victory
- The lone Confederate soldier killed at the Battle of Big Bethel was Private Henry Lawson Wyatt, of North Carolina, who has the unenviable distinction of being the first Confederate enlisted man to be killed during the Civil War.
- Congress criticized Brigadier General Benjamin F. Butler for not personally leading the Union forces at the Battle of Big Bethel, nearly costing him Senate confirmation of his pending appointment to major general.
- Despite the defeat at the Battle of Big Bethel, the Union maintained its foothold at Fort Monroe, which was destined to be the only U.S. military installation in Virginia to remain in federal control throughout the Civil War.
- First major land engagement in Virginia.
- Many historians consider the Battle of Big Bethel to be the first major land engagement of the Civil War.