- Jun 2, 2017
The naval brigade from Drewry's Bluff, under Flag Officer Tucker, joined the rear guard of the Confederate Army, and was attached to General Custis Lee's division of General Ewell's corps, with which it marched until the battle of Saylor's Creek on the 16th of April, 1865. The naval brigade held the center of the line at that battle, and easily repulsed all the assaults made upon it.
During the battle, Tucker’s Brigade was the only Confederate unit that didn’t break under the first Federal charge. After repulsing the charge, the Brigade – numbering 300 to 400 men, was then surrounded by six Union divisions. Rather than surrender, Tucker counterattacked, smashing the 37th Massachusetts Infantry into fragments and tearing into the 2nd Rhode Island in hand to hand combat.
Withdrawing to a wooded pocket, the unit repulsed several more Federal attacks. A flag of truce was sent by the Federal General commanding at that point to inform Tucker that the Confederate troops on his right and left had surrendered, and that further resistance was useless and could only end in the destruction of the sailors. Tucker, believing that the battle had only commenced, refused to surrender, and held his position until reliable information, which he could not doubt, reached him of the surrender of General Ewell and his army corps. The performance of Tucker’s Brigade was so intense and the damage they inflicted so devastating, that the Federal generals estimated the "Marine Brigade" to number some 2,000 men.
Tucker was ultimately talked into surrendering towards the end of the day. Commodore Tucker, who fought stoutly in his first land battle, did not give up until the blue lines had overrun his band from every side. He was astonished: "I never before got into a fight like this. I thought everything was going on well."
According to Brig.General Truman Seymour, commanding the Federal 3rd Div, 6th Corps, "The Confederate Marine Battalion fought with peculiar obstinacy, and our lines, somewhat disordered by crossing the creek, were repulsed in the first onset." A member of Phillip's Georgia Legion, which stood in line of battle just behind Tucker's brigade, later recalled, "Those marines fought like tigers and against odds of at least ten to one."