Cdr. John Rodgers, USN
Cdr. E. Farrand, CSN, Brig. Gen. William Mahone, CSA, Capt. S. S. Lee, and
Lt. John Taylor Wood, CSN
5 US warships tackled one Confederate fort.
There were 41 total casualties.
With the fall of Yorktown, the Confederate ironclad Virginia at Norfolk was scuttled to prevent her capture. This opened the James River to Federal gunboats. However, Augustus Drewry, a Chesterfield landowner and now a captain, had begun fortifications (with his Southside Heavy Artillery Company and other men) in mid-March. By the time the Federal vessels arrived a fort on the bluffs was complete, and supported by infantry and light artillery that would prevent a landing that could outflank the fort.
On May 15, five gunboats, including the ironclads Monitor and Galena, steamed up the James to test the Richmond defenses. They encountered submerged obstacles and deadly accurate fire from the fort at Drewry's Bluff, about 100 feet above the river, which inflicted severe damage on the Galena. It took a bit over three hours, but the US Navy was turned back; McClellan had to find an overland route to Richmond.
The upper reaches of the James would stay in Confederate hands until the fading days of the war, and the Confederate Naval Academy would be set up at Drewry's Bluff.