Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

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Bermuda Hundred Campaign

Dutch Gap

The Bermuda Hundred Campaign of 1864     Dutch Gap   Henricus Historical Park, Dutch Gap Conservation, 301 Henricus Park Rd. , Chesterfield County, VA   

In 1611 Sir Thomas Dale and his men, using a tactic developed in the Dutch Low Country, dug a ditch and erected a fence across the neck of the peninsula for the defense of Henricus.  This became known as "Dutch Gap". 
In 1864 Federal forces under General Benjamin Butler began construction of a canal on the ditch site. This canal would cut off approximately six miles of river travel and protect Federal gunboats from the fire of Confederate land batteries. Federal soldiers labored 144 days under constant fire.  Construction of the Dutch Gap canal began in August of 1864. Work on the canal was done primarily by African-American troops under the command of Brig. Gen D. S. Ludlow. Work continued through December of 1864, with over 67,000 cubic yards of material removed. Destruction of a dam at the eastern end and the bulkhead at the western end was all that was needed to complete the canal. On January 1, 1865 six tons of black powder were placed beneath the bulkhead and detonated. The bulkhead however, was not dislodged and the canal remained blocked. Shortly thereafter, the men working on the project were pulled away to the siege of Petersburg. Later in January, Gen. Butler was relieved of command following his failure to capture Fort Fisher in North Carolina. The canal project was abandoned until after the war.  In the 1870's, Butler, then a Senator, saw the canal completed. The Army Corps of Engineers widened the Dutch Gap Canal to its current extent in the 1930's.  The bluff at Henricus Historical Park marks the southern side of Butler's canal. 

Dutch Gap Drawing

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Chesterfield County contains 11 parks sites associated with the Civil War. Each of these sites has its own  unique story to tell. Collectively, these “links in a chain” tell the larger story of one of the most important military campaigns of the war but seldom told.  Click for a list of all Civil War roadside markers in Chesterfield.


Battery Dantzler

Battery Dantzzler Park CollageThis Confederate battery is the northern end of the Howlett Line that bottled up Butler’s forces on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula. The fort was named for Col. Olin Miller Dantzler, 22d South Carolina Infantry, who was killed in action near here. In January, 1865, the Battle of Trent’s Reach, one of the last naval actions of the war, took place at the foot of Battery Dantzler. During the battle, three Confederate ironclads were stopped when they tried to force their way downriver to attack Grant’s supply base at City Point. (Click on photo for a larger view)

Appomattox River at Campbell's Bridge

Appomattox River at Campbell's BridgePart of Robert E. Lee's Confederate army crossed to the north bank of the Appomattox River here the night of April 2, 1865 as he evacuated Petersburg. Lee ordered all the bridges burned following the crossing to impede Union pursuit. This portion of the Confederate army turned west, later re-crossing the Appomattox near Amelia C.H. The retreat ended at Appomattox CH April 9. Pictured are the ruins of the bridge.

Goode's Bridge

During the retreat from Petersburg, Gen. Robert E. Lee and the bulk of his army crossed the Appomattox River into Chesterfield County. Lee’s army marched through the village of Ettrick and proceeded west along River Road and Hickory Road. Lee and his army crossed the Appomattox River again as they headed west into Amelia County. That crossing took place at Goode’s Bridge, where Hull Street Road (Route 360) crosses today. Civil War Trails sign at Grange Hall Elementary School. (Click on photo for a larger view)

Civil War Commanders

Confederate OfficersPictured are some of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign Confederate officers that were active during the battles that occurred in Chesterfield County. (Click on photo for a larger view)


Preserving Civil War Sites:    The Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia is dedicated to preserving the Civil War sites in Chesterfield County.  These sites are being maintained presently by volunteers.  If you have a passion for preservation, please consider a donation to help establish historical markers and site maintenance.  An entire Conferderate fort was still in existence that was part of the Howlett Line defenses.  The fort was never used but it was built in case it was needed.  This fort was bulldozed to make way for a car repair shop.  As hard s we tried, we were unsuccessful in saving this for future generations.  Donations are welcomed.