When Federal gunboats rounded the distant bend in the James, they entered a shooting gallery. Confederate soldiers and Marines along the riverbanks raked the decks with musket fire. Confederate guns here in the fort opened fire. The river obstructions, consisting of sunken ships and stone cribs, worked as planned—the USS Galena could not drive through them, so it swung broadside in the channel in order to fire its guns at the bluff.
For four hours, the Galena and her crew absorbed a relentless pounding from the Confederate gunners before retreating downriver. Of the 164 officers and men aboard, 27 fell killed or wounded. Southern forces suffered 15 casualties. The first attempt to take Richmond by river failed, and never again would the U.S. Navy challenge the guns of Drewry's Bluff.
"The batteries on the Rebel side were beautifully served and put their shots through our side with great precision ? The Galena did most of the fighting—her sides look as though she had an attack of smallpox."
Commander John Rodgers, USS Galena