Baptists and the American Civil War: December 9, 1861

Hampton Roads Virginia Civil War MapThe “Jackson Greys” regiment of Virginia, formed on the grounds of the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, this month is transferred to Sewell’s Point on the coast. Located at the mouth of Hampton Roads, Sewell’s Point is a major strategic coastal point in the war.

On May 18-19, 1861, Federal gunboats exchanged fire with Confederate batteries at Sewell’s Point, but did not dislodge the Confederates. On March 8-9, 1862, the first battle of ironclads takes place at Hampton Roads as the USS Monitor of the Union Navy faces the CSS Virginia of the Confederate States Navy. Eventually, lacking the ability to successfully defend the coastal area, Confederate forces abandon Sewell’s Point on May 10, 1862.

The story of the Jackson Greys, currently dispatched to Sewell’s Point, is as follows:

The Jackson Greys were recruited from St. Bride’s Parish of Norfolk County and named after Mr. James W. Jackson. Jackson was the proprietor of the Marshall House in Alexandria, Virginia. He killed Col. Elmer Ellsworth of the New York Fire Zouaves when Ellsworth removed the Confederate flag from his hotel. Jackson was also killed during the melee.

The Jackson Greys were mustered into Confederate service as Co. A, 61st Virginia Volunteer Regiment and initially served at the Gosport Navy Yard. In December 1861, the company was transferred to Sewell’s Point where the unit saw action during the CSS Virginia’s (Merrimack) March 8, 1862, sortie against the USS Congress and USS Cumberland. The Greys served in the most advanced battery at Sewell’s Point and often exchanged cannon fire with Fort Wool on the Rip Raps in the middle of Hampton Roads.

When Norfolk was evacuated, the unit was stationed at Bermuda Hundred near Petersburg and traded cannon fire with Union gunboats at Port Walthall on June 26, 1862. After duty near Bristone Station, the 61st was assigned to Mahone’s Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia. The unit fought at the Battles of Salem Church, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, Wilcox Farm, the Crater, Weldon Rail Road, Burgess Mill and Hatcher’s Run. The Jackson Greys served with honor throughout the war and surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 186

Sources: Pleasant Grove Baptist Cemetery marker inscription, quoted above (link);  “Sewell’s Point” (link); Hampton Roads Civil War map (link)