The Union had much larger forces, moving about 14,000 men, but both sides engaged only about a division.
About 1,000 men fell in total.
On May 9, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler thrust toward Petersburg and was met by Bushrod Johnson's division at Swift Creek. Part of Butler's problem was that he had split his forces: Gilmore's X Corps moved west, while Smith's XVII Corps headed south. Each felt unsupported and achieved less than they could have.
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, trying to trap the Confederates, 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 division of US Colored Troops struggled through marshy ground from the land side. The gunboats were quickly driven off, and the infantry attack was abandoned. Swift Creek was unfordable, and the Confederates deployed a solid line on the south bank.