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Bermuda Hundred Campaign

Port Walthall Junction

On July 15, 1863, the United States War Department issued General Orders No. 217, merging the Department of Virginia with the Department of North Carolina to form the Department of Virginia and North Carolina. The order appointed Major General John G. Foster to command the new department. A few months later, on October 28, 1863, the War Department issued General Orders No. 350, appointing Major General Benjamin F. Butler to command the department and the 18th Army Corps. Butler arrived at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and assumed command on November 10. On April 12, 1864, Grant ordered Butler to prepare for operations south of the James River in Virginia. Butler’s forces comprised roughly 20,000 soldiers from his 18th Corps.  By May 5, 1864, (the same day that the Battle of the Wilderness began) a flotilla of naval vessels started moving the roughly 39,000 troops Butler commanded up the James River. The next day, the soldiers began disembarking at City Point and Bermuda Hundred. Instead of immediately striking toward Richmond after his army disembarked at Bermuda Hundred, Butler ordered his soldiers to entrench as he sent Brigadier General Charles Heckman’s brigade west on a reconnaissance mission.  On the same day that Butler’s army disembarked, General P. G. T. Beauregard assumed command of the Confederate defenses around Petersburg.

Near 4 p.m., on May 6, Heckman’s 2,700 soldiers encountered a force of roughly 600 Confederates defending a short section of track connecting the Petersburg & Richmond Railroad to the Appomattox River. Under the direct command of Colonel Robert Graham, the Rebels were members of Brigadier General Johnson Hagood’s South Carolina brigade, assigned to Major General Bushrod Johnson’s Division. Not knowing the small size of the Confederate force in front of him, and under orders not to start a general engagement, Heckman ordered a single regiment to probe the Confederate defense. As the Yankees advanced, Graham’s men initially gave ground before entrenching themselves along a sunken road. As the Rebels mounted a stout defense from their new position, Heckman withdrew as darkness approached.General Charles Heckman’s Federal forces of Benjamin Butlers Army of the James was initially stopped by General Haygood’s CSA forces at Port Walthall Junction in Chesterfield County, VA.   Heckman left the field and retreated back to Point of Rocks leaving eight dead and   He had sixty soldiers wounded.  Confederate reinforcements continued to arrive at Port Walthall Junction.  his attack was deemed a failure.   Two days later, General Butler was allowed to push the Confederates back to Swift Creek fortifications effectively cutting the railroad.  The 2nd Confrontation began the next day.

The Union won round one of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. The Federals suffered about 300 casualties (killed, wounded, missing/captured), compared with 200 losses for the Confederacy. Despite the victory, Butler’s army was no closer to Richmond.

To help save historic Point of Rocks Civil War site, please donate.   Bermuda Hundred  Campaign Battle Animations are available here.   Go here for Battle Animations

 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.  
Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Photographer
General Butler's Signal Tower at Point of Rocks

Discover your Chesterfield ancestors and their rich history.  Our volunteers are there to assist you if needed..  See our library page for more information.  See The New Film on the Library Committee     

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Chesterfield County Civil War Notables and Sites

Trent's Reach ViewThe Battle of Trent's Reach was one of the final major naval battles of the American Civil War. Beginning on January 23, 1865, a powerful flotilla of Confederate warships bombarded Fort Brady along the James River and engaged four Union Navy ships with the intention of breaking through the blockade to attack City Point, the base of General Ulysses S. Grant who was besieging Petersburg, Virginia. After two days of fighting the rebels withdrew back up the river without completing their objectives. Click on photograph for a larger view.

 

Col Olin DantzlerBuilt in May 1864 and first named Fort Howlett, the battery was renamed after Colonel Olin M. Dantzler who was killed June 2, 1864 in an attempt to capture Fort Dutton. Leading the 22nd South Carolina Infantry Regiment the attack failed. Battery Dantzler, a  Confederate battery, was constructed to stop Union naval forces from advancing up the James River.  By January 1865,  it was armed with two 10" columbiads, one 7" Brooke rifle and one 10" mortar. It was manned by the Johnston Artillery under Captain B.J. Epes. The battery was abandoned April 2, 1865.

Samuel MannOne Hundred and Fifty-Nine years ago and just shy of 20 years old, Samuel Ali Mann from Matoaca, Va., joined the Confederate Army.  He enlisted at the Chesterfield County historic 1749 courthouse and was hastily trained in Manchester.  He was sent to Drewry’s Bluff to help build a fort and protect Richmond from Union Gun Boats.  He was one of 200 soldiers at the fort and working day and night with a pick and shovel during a heavy rain, the fort was almost completed when reports of Union ships were sighted coming up the James River.  On May 15, 1862, the four-hour Battle of Drewry’s Bluff began. Samuel Mann, the first sergeant of his Company and a gun-pointer, manned his cannon.  The Federal ships were the Monitor, the Iron-clad Galena, and three wooden gunboats.  The Chesterfield battery had three huge Columbiad cannon, two of these were lost during the fight but the Union ships were repelled.  As they were leaving, Sergeant Mann asked his lieutenant for permission to fire “one more time”.   Samuel Mann aimed the gun and ran to his observation point and gave the order to fire.  His shot ricocheted and bounced through one of the wooden ships.  It put a hole from astern to stem in that wooden ship as big as a barrel.  Samuel Mann eventually was with Lee’s army when it surrendered at Appomattox.


Help Save Chesterfield County's Rich History

Summerseat c. 1860"C. 1860 Summerseat"  - According to tradition, this 19th century house was used by a county magistrate as the “seat” of his court during summer months due to the muddy and rutted roads which made travel to the courthouse in the center of the county almost impossible.  The lower brick portion of the house was the “jail” or “detention center, complete with bars that held prisoners or those persons awaiting trial.  It is not a large building at 18 by 16 feet.  The house is part of Virginia State University.

 

Historic Trinity Church

C. 1879 Trinity Church - The old church sits in a stand of a few trees not quite visible from Krause Road but adjacent to Ironbridge Road where it is plainly noticeable.  It offers an unobstructed view at that corner.  Not so vacant any longer and no longer a huge storage shed for odds and ends, it serves a new purpose in its longevity of survival.  It is alive with activity once again.  Presently, the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia is utilizing the building as its headquarters and library until historic Castlewood is renovated.  Historic Castlewood, ca. 1817-1819, sits nearby to the church just across Krause Road and was once the parsonage for the Methodist.

 

 

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