The only obstacle to Union movement up the James River after the fall of Norfolk, Virginia; protecting the Confederate capital at Richmond, was Fort Darling and Drewry’s Bluff. Drewry’s Bluff is located about 7 miles from the capital on a sharp bend in the river. The confederates in the area were under the command of Navy Commander Ebenezer Farrand and Army Captain Augustus H Drewry. Fort Darling had 8 cannons along with some artillery and naval guns salvaged from the CSS Virginia. Also protecting the fort were the CSS Patrick and obstructions placed just under the water in the river.
A detachment of Union navy under Commander John Rodgers steamed up the James River on May 15th 1862 from Fort Monroe. The ships in this detachment included the USS Monitor, USS Galena, and USS Aroostook with others. The Galena got to within 600 yards of the fort, but was hit by several Confederate rounds before she could fire on the fort. The battle went on for over three hour with the Galena taking another 45 hit, unable to move. The Monitor’s heavy armor allowed her withstand the incoming ammo, but she was unable to elevate her guns enough to hit the Confederate batteries. The Union ships were force to withdraw to City Point.
Fort Darling on Drewry’s Bluff had held up to the attack with only 8 casualties.