Perhaps a short explanation, a history and geography lesson if you will, should suffice for the average viewer. The area of land between the James and York Rivers southeast of Richmond is referred to as the Virginia Peninsula and at the tip of this peninsula is Fort Monroe, the oldest continuously operated military installation of the United States Government. In 1861, General Butler sent a force of forty-five hundred Federal troops from Fort Monroe and engaged the Confederate enemy of fourteen hundred under Colonel John B. Magruder, and were defeated at Big Bethel. The first Confederate soldier who fell in defense of the south was Pvt. Henry Lawson Wyatt of North Carolina.

Union casualties were 18 killed, 53 wounded, and 5 missing. Confederate casualties were 1 killed and seven wounded.

union flag

the War
the States

Fortress Monroe
and Big Bethel
10th June 1861

stars and bars

fort monroe

Fort Monroe is an active Army Base but the Civil War era masonry fort may be visited unescorted and freely. There is a museum on site and the casemate where the Confederate President Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after his capture.

bethel 1

Col. D.H. Hill of North Carolina placed eight companies of the 1st N.C. Regiment north of the Back River and two companies with some artillery support south. The U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have made a reservoir where the battle of Big Bethel occurred, much of the battlefield is under water and this view looking north has changed somewhat. We are in the vicinity of the advanced portions of Col. Hill's forces (looking north) and in the area where Pvt. Wyatt fell wounded mortally.


This marker is located on the north side of the Big Bethel reservoir and commemorates the battle and the sacrifice of Pvt. Wyatt made for his home state.

First Manassas, Virginia :
the first major battle

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Frank Mazuca