Skip to content

A Skirmish Below the Po River 10th May 1864

On the morning of the 10th May 1864 Brig Gen Francis Barlow had moved his division (1st Div, 2nd Corps) south of the Po River in hope of finding the flank or an opening in General Lees army. Realising that the division was over extended Gen Francis was commanded to conduct a withdrawal back over the Po River to his rear. However Lee had been watching the movements of the Federal Corps and had manoeuvred LT Gen Ambrose P Hills 3rd Corps to counter the threat. Thus located in an ideal position to counter Barlow’s over stretch Division was Maj Gen Henry Heth Division. At around 2:30pm that afternoon Barlow began to withdraw is division but it was too late. 

Colonel John Brooke’s 4th Brigade extent in two lines along the Shady Grove Church Road

Colonel Paul Frank 3rd Brigade positioned in two lines along the same road.

Two brigades of Barlow’s 1st Div positioned along the Shady Grove Church Road. Waite’s Shop in just in the foreground. Both Brigades are unaware of the Confederate Division massing for attack directly to their south.

Heth’s attack begins but along a very narrow front. He has placed all four brigades of his Division in depth and aims his attack at the junction between both Federal Brigades

On the left of the Confederate attack Heth massed Brig Gen Joseph Davis’s brigade with Brig Gen John Cooke in support. The right of the attack was lead by Brig Gen William Kirkland brigade and closely support by Brig Gen Henry Walker’s Brigade.

Massed Confederate brigades push rapidly forward

The Confederate point of attack between the two Union Brigades.

Col Frank’s Brigade deployed near Waite’s Shop 

Only limited artillery support from Captain Arnold’s guns was available but they had limited effect on the advancing Rebel infantry.

Rebel artillery was placed well and pinned many of the Union troops in place

Col Thomas Smyth deploys his 2nd Brigade in support of the other two brigades. But his flank attack proves too slow and he is held up by the think vegetation to his front. 

Mass rebel infantry

Shielded by skirmishers Brig Gen Kirkland’s brigade advances rapidly towards the Union lines.

Rebel troops reach the road and easily push back the overstretch Union line forcing a gap between the two brigades.

The pressure mounts at the Union centre starts to fall apart 

With the Union line broken in the centre each Union Brigade starts a desperate fight for survival as there is no longer and support from each other.

Col Franks Brigade is no cut off from the rest of the Division and is forced to withdraw

Brig Gen William Kirkland directs his brigade in an all out assault along the Shady Grove Church Road.

Caught in the dense terrain Smyth’s Brigade is too late

Rebel tropps of Heth’s victorious Division crush Barlow’s over extended line and forces the remainder to withdraw back over the Po River

Our game proved a repeat of history. But it would have been hard for any Union Commander to hold the line against the mass attack of Confederate Brigades. Only some classy dice rolling may have saved the day.


Leave a Reply