photo of reenactors fighting


The Battle of Bloody Bridge
July 6-9, 1864

During the War Between the States, the main focus of the Federal Anaconda plan was to close all the seaports of the new Confederate nation, especially the port of Charleston. Charleston, the seat of secession had to be captured, Federal pride demanded it. After all,Charleston was the site where the United States flag was fired upon becoming the very source of the late unpleasantness.

The Federal fleet had captured Beaufort, SC thus enabling the Federals to establish a strong, secure base on the SC coast. Its purpose was to resupply the blockading fleet and to launch military expeditions into the heart of the Confederacy. However, the low countries natural obstacles hampered the Yankee operations. Heat, humidity, pluff mud,sandy soil, and gnats were almost more than the Yankee’s could endure. A determined and skilled military force further fortified these natural defenses. This Southern force was composed of a civilian militia and regular Confederate army troops. The Charleston and Savannah railroad also played a role in stopping the Federal intrusion inland. Confederate troops could quickly be transported when and where they were needed.

This three day battle, the Battle of Burdens Causeway or the Battle of Bloody Bridge, was the largest battle on Johns Island during the Civil War. In July of 1864, the Confederates still defending Charleston had control of James Island and Johns Island.

The barrier islands, Folly and Morris were under Union control. The unions forces were planning an all our attack on Charleston. Attack were planned at five different location 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 Island, and thus flanked, Charleston would fall.

On July 2nd, Brig General John P, Hatch with his troops landed on Seabrook Island from the North Edisto. More Unions troops landed at Legareville and Rockville. The troops joining Hatch's command were Brig General Rufus Saxton and his 9th and 26th U.S. Colored troops, the 56th New York, the 4th Massachusetts Calvary. 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 roughly 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 separatedSeabrook Island from Johns Island, only to find out the bridge had been burned. After a new bridge was completed, they crossed the bridge and camp for the night. The march up Johns Island continued on July 3rd. The intense heat caused the troops to move only a few miles per day.

On July 6th, 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 troops Pringle on James Island, and had occupied a strong position on Burdens Causeway at a small bridge oh 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 a the Waterloo Plantation, which was just up the road from the Union position of 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 Calvary and the Marion Artillery from Charleston.

On July 7th, the Union sharpshooters opened fire from some small houses on the left, but the Confederate artillery quickly routed them. All was quiet until about 4:00pm, when Saxon and the 26th US 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 US 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 8th, 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 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 9th, at about 5:45AM, 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 under coverage 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 no 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 theGeorgia 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 10th, Confederate scouts discovered that the Union had evacuated the island overnight, going aboard their transports and burning a large quantity of commissary stores. 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, thus stopping any more destruction.

Actual Units involved in the Battle of Burdens Causeway / Battle of Bloody Bridge - July 6 – 9, 1864

  • New York Regiments 3rd, 57th, 144th, 157th
  • 4th Massachusetts Cavalry
  • 8th and 104th Pennsylvania Regiments
  • United States Colored Troops
    • 9th Maryland
    • 26th New York
    • 2nd South Carolina
    • Co.B
    • 34th South Carolina

  • 1st Georgia Regulars
  • 4th Georgia Cavalry
  • 32nd Georgia Regiment
  • 47th Georgia Regiment
  • Bohaud’s Battalion (Georgia)
  • Stono Scouts
  • Washington Light Artillery
  • Marion Light Artillery
  • Inglis Light Artillery
  • 2nd South Carolina Calvary

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