Confederate Forces Stop Union Attack at the Battle of Swift Creek

Description: On May 9, Maj.

Gen. Benjamin Butler made a thrust toward Petersburg and was met by Bushrod Johnson’s Division at Swift Creek. A premature Confederate attack at Arrowfield Church was driven back with heavy losses, but Union forces did not follow up. After skirmishing, Butler seemed content to tear up the railroad tracks and did not press the defenders. In conjunction with the advance to Swift Creek, five Federal gunboats steamed up the Appomattox River to bombard Fort Clifton, while Hincks’s U.S. Colored Troops infantry division struggled through marshy ground from the land side. The gunboats were quickly driven off, and the infantry attack was abandoned.

On the hot afternoon of Monday, May 9, 1864, the normally quiet banks along Swift Creek erupted with the crackle of musketry and the roar of artillery. The sharp fighting that followed lasted far into the night and resulted in several hundred casualties. This battle, known as "Swift Creek" or "Arrowfield Church" ended in a strategic victory for the Confederates and ensured the safety of Petersburg from Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler's Federal Army of the James, which had landed unexpectedly on Bermuda Hundred just four days before.