10 June 1861

The Battle of Big Bethel (Tabb and Hampton) was the first land battle in Virginia and a minor confederate victory early in the American Civil War. Union forces had retained control of Fort Monroe, at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula. From Fort Monroe an expedition was planned to capture Little Bethel and Big Bethel, with the intention of expanding the area under Union control. General Ebenezer W. Pierce was the expedition’s commander leading 2,500 to 3,500 men. His opponent was Colonel John Magruder. who commanded 300 to 400 men, but with more artillery.
The Union expedition never got off on the right foot from the beginning. One regiment was not given the watchword, and sadly attacked one of their own Union regiments. When thy finally came upon the Confederates at Big Bethel, Magruder’s Union Regiment had a strong position but failed to defeat Pierce’s much larger force. The Union attempted many futile attacks on the Confederates before finally retreating. Union losses were 76 , while Confederate losses were only 8.