Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

 

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Drewry's Bluff Battle

The Fort at Drewry’s Bluff was the anchor point for the main line of defenses protecting Richmond from a southerly approach. The fort, known as Fort Darling to the Union, was the only barrier protecting the water approach to Richmond in the early years of the war. The fort here was constructed in 1862 in response to the threat posed by Union general George B. McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign.  Located 8 miles below Richmond, the bluff is situated 90 feet above a sharp bend in the James River and was an ideal spot to protect Richmond from a river-borne attack.  

On May 15, 1862, a Union flotilla led by the ironclads Monitor and Galena attempted to force their way past the fort to bombard Richmond. In the battle that raged for over three hours, the Galena bore the brunt of the fighting, taking dozens of direct hits and suffering 23 crew members killed or wounded. The Monitor was unable to elevate her guns high enough to fire at Drewry’s Bluff, and retreated to safety downriver. Realizing that the river blockade could not be breached, the Union commander withdrew. Richmond was never again seriously threatened by a water-based attack.  The ground over which this battle was fought was drenched with the blood of 7000 men; Chesterfield's most deadly field of battle.  During the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, Marine Cpl. John Mackie took charge of one of the Galena’s guns after the original crew had been wounded. For his actions Cpl. Mackie became the first United States Marine to win the Congressional Medal of Honor

Soon after the river battle, Drewry’s Bluff became a naval station as well as an important training center for the Confederacy. The Marine Corps Camp of Instruction and the Confederate Naval Academy were established at the site.   Drewry’s Bluff remained a strong point on Richmond’s southern defenses until the fall of Petersburg. The last remnants of the Confederate James River Squadron met their end here when the ironclads Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Virginia II were blown up in front of Drewry’s Bluff to prevent them from falling into Union hands.  The site is now part of the Richmond National Battlefield. Drewry’s Bluff has a walking trail, interpretive signs, an artillery piece, and a platform with a magnificent view of the James River. Living history events are frequently held at the park in the Spring and Fall.  

Drewry's Bluff remained a strong point on Richmond's southern defenses until the fall of Petersburg. The last remnants of the Confederate James River Squadron met their end here when the ironclads Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Virginia II were blown up in front of Drewry's Bluff to prevent them from falling into Union hands.  After the Confederate withdrawal to Appomattox, VA., the fort was renamed "Fort Darling" as the Union forces occupied the site.  The site is now part of the Richmond National Battlefield. Drewry's Bluff has a walking trail, interpretive signs, an artillery piece, and a platform with a magnificent view of the James River. Living history events are frequently held at the park in the Spring and Fall

Road Map

Go to: Dutch Gap Canal     Drewry's Bluff Battle Animation 

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