“Go in, Wolverines, give them hell!”

New Bridge, May 24, 1862

What happened?

At the end of May 1862, advance elements of the Army of the Potomac reached the Chickahominy River. On the southern side, Confederates occupied fieldworks defending Richmond. The Confederate commander, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, had ordered his troops to burn the bridges and guard the crossings over the river. While the Army of the Potomac’s left wing crossed the river at Bottom’s Bridge, the right wing under Gen. Smith drove the Rebels out of Mechanicsville and established a position on the northern banks. Smith needed information on the Confederate’s disposition and on possible places to cross the swollen river. On May 24, he launched several probing attacks. [1]

One of those took place at New Bridge, seven miles below Mechanicsville. [2] The reconnaissance in force was conducted by the 4th Michigan Infantry and a squadron of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry and was commanded by Lt. Nicholas Bowden of the Corps of Topographical Engineers. It was accompanied by a bevy of officers, one of them Lt. George Armstrong Custer, at that time an aide to Gen. Hancock.

Bowden and Custer took a detachment of the 4th Michigan half a mile up the river from the destroyed bridge. There, Custer with about 30 men of Company A forded the Chickahominy and formed a skirmish line perpendicular to the river, slowly advancing downstream toward New Bridge. The rest of Company A moved downstreams on the northern bank.

The skirmishers soon hit upon pickets from the 5th Louisiana Infantry, which had been ordered to guard the destroyed bridge. A lively firefight developed, in the course of which the Confederate pickets were initially driven back. However, the Rebels soon rallied and received reinforcements, so Bowden decided to send the rest of Company A across. Custer personally waded through the river and led the troop to the attack, shouting: “Go in, Wolverines, give them hell!”. With rifles and cartridge belts held above their heads, the men plunged across. At the same time, Company B of the 4th Michigan was ordered to cross at the destroyed bridge to attack the 5th Louisiana’s camp located there.

The combined effort drove back the rebels about 400 yards. The chaotic fighting got even more intense when the Confederates were reinforced by elements from the 10th Georgia Infantry. However, it seems that the superior Union muskets as well as the position of the flanking force, which had found cover behind a fence running along a drainage ditch, made it impossible for the Rebels to throw the Union troops back across the river.

The fight finally ended when the Confederates brought up an artillery piece. The 4th Michigan conducted an orderly retreat to the northern bank of the river, Lt. Custer being one of the last to cross.

The rebel casualties were at least 78 men, 37 of them prisoners. The 4th Michigan lost only 2 killed and several wounded.

Who fought?

Col. Dwight A. Woodbury (1825-1862): Born in upstate New York, Woodbury grew up in Michigan and Ohio. As a young man, he went to California during the Gold Rush and later worked as a conductor on the Michigan Southern Railroad. After marrying, he ran a hotel in Adrian. He also was a colonel in the local militia. When the war broke out, he offered his services to the state and was commissioned to raise a regiment of volunteers, the 4th Michigan Infantry. Little more than a month after the skirmish at New Bridge, Woodbury was killed at the battle of Malvern Hill while rallying his regiment. [3]

Lt. George A. Custer (1839-1876): Born in Ohio, he attended West Point and graduated in 1862 as the last of his class. After entering the army, he worked on McClellan’s staff and caught the eyes of his superior by his initiative and courage. A meteoric rise followed, with Custer being brevetted brigadier general of volunteers in 1863 and ending the war commanding a division as a Brevet Major General in the regular army. After the war, he stayed in the army as a lieutenant colonel, commanding cavalry on the frontier. He was killed on June 25, 1876 at the Battle of Little Bighorn. [4]

Col. Theodore G. Hunt (1805-1893): Born in 1805, Hunt worked as an attorney and was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives before the war. In 1861, he was elected colonel of the 5th Louisiana Volunteers. He resigned from the Confederate Army in August 1862 and became Adjutant General of Union New Orleans in 1864. He died in 1893. [5]

2nd Lt. Adolph Steinmark (or Steinwachs) (1819-1871): A clerk before the war, he enlisted in the 5th Louisiana Infantry in June 1861at New Orleans. He was quickly promoted to sergeant and, in October 1861, to 2nd Lt. During the fighting at New Bridge, he was shot through the chest. He survived this grievous wound but stayed in hospital until April 1863, when he was transfered to private quarters. He did not return to the regiment and was discharged from the army. [6]

Why did it matter?

The fighting at New Bridge made Custer’s name known to the press and the higher echelons of command. It also established the reputation of the 4th Michigan, who emerged from its first fight with self-confidence: Not only had they pushed back the Confederates – none less than the famed Lousiana Tigers! -, they had also conducted an orderly withdraw in the face of artillery fire.

As part of a series of reconnaissance operations, the skirmish at New Bridge showed that the Confederates had no real desire to defend the line along the Chickahominy. However, the destroyed bridges posed some difficulties and delayed the movement of the army’s right wing. On May 31, the Confederates attacked the left wing of the Federal army, which was already across the river, at the Battle of Seven Pines, halting McClellan’s advance.

The Scenario


The river counts as a wide obstacle, the ditch as a major obstacle. The ditch also provides light cover for troops positioned within.

The lightly wooded area along the river banks blocks LOS. Troops standing within, however, can shoot out and and can be shot at (getting light cover).

The Confederate Deployment point is located at the picket’s camp in the southeastern corner of the table. The Union Primary Deployment Point is located at the road in the northeastern corner. The Union Secondary Deployment Point is in the northwestern corner of the table. If playing with an umpire, keep the existence of a second Union deployment point secret from the Confederate player.

Victory Conditions

The Union has to capture the Confederate Deployment Point to gain a major victory. If the Union reduces the Confederate Force Morale to zero, it achieves a minor victory. The Confederates have to reduce the Union Force Morale to zero to win.

Special Rules

Artillery Support: The Confederates will receive artillery support some time after the fighting starts. Beginning with the turn during which the first shots were fired by Union troops, roll 1D6 each Tiffin and add the numbers. As soon as the sum reaches 30, the Confederate player may use 2 Command Cards to activate off-table artillery. The artillery may fire at any enemy unit within 30cm and LOS of the Confederate Deployment Point. It counts as a medium gun firing solid shot with 12 dice and hitting on a 5+.

Custer takes the initiative: As aide-de-camp to Gen. Hancock, Custer may rally or give orders to any Union unit, regardless of other command hierarchies.


As always, stats are given for TooFatLardies’ Sharp Practice.

Confederates: 3x 5th Louisiana (Leader 1), 2x 5th Louisiana (Leader 2), 1x Skirmishers (Leader 3)

Union: 6x 4th Michigan, 1x Skirmishers (allocate to Leaders 1-4 at will)

Unit Rosters

[1] Sears, Stephen W.: To the Gates of Richmond. The Peninsula Campaign. New York: Ticknor & Fields 1992, p. 110.

[2] OR I:11:1, pp. 652-654 and 664-666; Barrett, Orvey S.: Reminiscences, incidents, battles, marches and camp life of the old 4th Michigan Infantry in War of Rebellion, 1861 to 1864. Detroit, Mich.: W.S. Ostler 1888, pp. 12-14; Bertera, Martin N. & Crawford, Kim: 4th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press 2010, pp. 63-67.

[3] Bertera & Crawford: 4th Michigan Infantry, p. 1f.

[4] Wert, Jeffry D.: Custer. The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer. New York: Touchstone 1996.

[5] Jones, Terry L.: Lee’s Tigers. The Louisiana Infantry in the Army of Northern Virginia. Louisiana State University Press: Baton Rouge 1987, p. 237.

[6] Service records, accessed via fold3.com.