he Battle Line Between Petersburg and Richmond
Many people recognize the major battles of the Civil War – Gettysburg, Manassas, Antietam, Shiloh or Cold Harbor. Yet, the smaller battles and campaigns were just as significant to the soldiers who fought and the civilians along their path. All of these engagements, big and small, tell the whole story of the Civil War, a war that was fought on the feet of men marching 15 to 40 miles a day, advancing and retreating, in victory and defeat.
In May of 1864, General Benjamin F. Butler landed 40,000 troops on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula in Chesterfield County. His goal was to set up a base of operations and then advance toward Richmond and Petersburg. Battles fought in Chesterfield during May and early June of 1864 prevented Butler from reaching his goal, and ultimately pushed his troops back into their defensive positions in Bermuda Hundred, where they would remain for the rest of the war.
Casualties on both sides for the entire Bermuda Hundred Campaign totaled approximately 6,000 killed, wounded or missing. Union and Confederate troops stationed in Chesterfield County also played important roles in battles during the Siege of Petersburg. When that city fell on April 2, 1865, the majority of the army under the command of Robert E. Lee passed through Chesterfield on the retreat to Appomattox.
7600 Fort Darling Rd.
Chesterfield VA 23297
On May 15, 1862, a Federal flotilla led by the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Galena attempted to force its way past the Confederate fort at Drewry’s Bluff. The Federals were turned back after a three-hour battle. Richmond was never again seriously threatened by a water-based attack. Drewy’s Bluff is a Richmond National Battlefield Park site.
Point of Rocks Park
201 Enon Church Rd.
Chester VA 23836
In May 1864, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler began to construct his main defensive line here shortly after landing at Bermuda Hundred. Butler’s headquarters, an army hospital and a cemetery were also established nearby. President Abraham Lincoln, his wife Mary, Gen. Ulysses Grant and other officers visited here just weeks before Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. Lincoln and Grant also visited defensive positions on the Bermuda Hundred line. The field hospital was built on property just east of the park where Red Cross founder Clara Barton served during the Siege of Petersburg.
Fort Stevens Park
8900 Pams Rd.
Chesterfield VA 23832
Fort Stevens was the main bastion of the Confederate inner defense line built in 1862 to defend the southern approach to Richmond. On May 16, it became the pivot point for a major Confederate counterattack that halted Butler’s advance, known as the Second Battle of Drewry’s Bluff.
Ft. Wead and Sgt. Engle Park
1107 Greyledge Blvd.
Chesterfield VA 23836
Fort Wead was built at the rear of the main Union defensive line to prevent Confederate forces from advancing in the event the main lines were captured. The nearby Sgt. Engle Park is named after Union Sgt. James E. Engle, of the 97th Pennsylvania Volunteers. During a skirmish on May 18, 1864, Engle volunteered to carry ammunition from this area to soldiers at the front. He remained at the front of the lines, distributing ammunition under constant fire, for the rest of the day. For his actions, he was awarded Medal of Honor.
Ware Bottom Church Battlefield Park
1600 Old Bermuda Hundred Rd.
Chester VA 23831
Ware Bottom Battlefield Park marks the center of the fighting that took place during the Battle of Ware Bottom Church on May 20, 1864. The site contains more than 1,500 feet of well-preserved trenches and artillery positions that were constructed in the months after the battle. The park contains one of the largest unbroken sections of the Howlett Line still in existence.
Howlett Line Park
14100 Howlett Line Dr.
Chester VA 23831
The park’s earthworks were part of the Howlett Line that stretched across the Bermuda Hundred peninsula. This site was one of the largest artillery positions along that line. On June 2, 1864, Col. Olin M. Dantzler led an attack from the site toward a nearby Federal position. Dantzler and 16 of his men were killed in the failed assault.
1801 Ware Bottom Spring Rd.
Chesterfield VA 23831
Parker’s Battery is a well-preserved example of the Confederate defenses known as the Howlett Line. The site was manned by Parker’s “Boy Company” comprised of men from the City of Richmond. Parker’s Battery occupied this site until the fall of Petersburg on April 2, 1865, when they joined Lee on his retreat to Appomattox.
Battery Dantzler Park
1820 Battery Dantzler Rd.
Chesterfield VA 23831
The fort here was named Battery Dantzler in honor of Col. Olin Miller Dantzler, 22d South Carolina Infantry, who was killed in action just south of the park. Battery Dantzler anchored the northern end of the Howlett Line. The Battle of Trent’s Reach, one of the last naval actions of the war, took place at the foot of Battery Dantzler in January of 1865.
The Dutch Gap Canal at Henricus Historical Park
301 Henricus Park Rd.
Chester VA 23836
Gen. Butler devised a plan to build a canal across the neck of land known as Dutch Gap. The purpose of the canal was to bypass Battery Dantzler and other Confederate guns along the James River. Construction of the canal took place from August to December of 1864, with the majority of the work done by African-American troops who were frequently shelled upon by nearby Confederate gun positions. The canal was not completed until after the war, and was widened to its current extent in the 1930’s.
Mid-Lothian Mines Park
13301 N. Woolridge Rd.
Midlothian VA 23114
Coal from the mines here was used to fire the furnaces at Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond. Tredegar was the main supplier of artillery and iron for the Confederacy. A Union cavalry raid passed through this area in May of 1864.
Did You Know?
Chesterfield County’s strategic location near the capital of the Confederacy meant it was the center of several major campaigns, both on land and in the water. If the Bermuda Hundred Campaign had been successful, it might have ended the war a year sooner.