Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

MIssion:   to collect, preserve, interpret and promote the county‚Äôs  past  for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations

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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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