On May 20, 1864, the Confederates set fire to the forest and from behind a smoke screen attacked the Union line marching toward Richmond near Ware Bottom Church and drove them back to Bermuda Hundred. The Confederate victory here enabled the detachment of badly needed reinforcements to Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Cold Harbor. The remaining Confederates constructed the 'Howlett Line' that extended from the Appomattox River to the James River and effectively pinned the Union army at Bermuda Hundred preventing further attempts on Richmond.

The three-mile long Howlett Line was 30 feet wide and consisted of a seven-foot deep moat in the front with a rifle trench in the back and a sloped dirt parapet between them. Attacking Union soldiers would need to contend with first crossing the moat, then climbing the parapet, and finally dodging rifle fire.

Confederate soldiers may have also constructed 'bomb-proof churches' in the Howlett Line where they could meet for services. The original church at Ware Bottom was destroyed by the Confederates after the battle to prevent its use as a vantage point by Federal sharpshooters. The bomb-proof churches would have been dug four to five feet into the ground with earth piled on all sides and tree branches on top as a covering.

Visiting Ware Bottom Church Battlefield

Your best bet to tour the Battle of Ware Bottom Church is to begin at the Ware Bottom Church Battlefield Park. Here there is a splendid hiking trail through a forest that follows impressive, well-preserved Confederate fortifications along the Howlett Line. The loop trail is less than a mile round trip along a level dirt path and features bridges for crossing and observing nearly a quarter mile of well-preserved fortifications that rival those at Cold Harbor. The trail passes by what may be the remnants of a bomb-proof church built into the line. Along the trail there are benches for sitting and relaxing and enjoying the quiet peace of the battlefield today.

In addition, Ware Bottom Church Battlefield Park is located about 2-1/2 miles north of the site of an earlier action in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, the Battle of Port Walthall Junction. This battle is interpreted at scenic R Garland Dodd Park with interpretive signs and hiking trails.

Visit Richmond Battlefields Association and Chesterfield Historical Society for battle details and information about the preservation of this battlefield.

Pictured at the top: A scenic loop trail winds through Ware Bottom Church Battlefield Park in Chesterfield.

ware bottom church battlefield bridge

Footbridges in the battlefield park protect impressive, well-preserved Confederate entrenchments and provide an opportunity for up close viewing.

ware bottom church battlefield entrance

Ware Bottom Church Battlefield Park was made possible by a land donation from a local company.

Historical Photo

bermuda hundred federal earthworks

Bermuda Hundred, Va. Federal earthworks on left of the line, near Point of Rocks , 1864 (Library of Congress)