The 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. 

The Building of Dutch Gap (Drawing)

Dutch Gap Conservation Area and the Battle of Trent's Reach


The loop trail along the old river channel here provides a great opportunity to interpret the naval actions on the James River. The site is surrounded by the remnant of the old channel of the James River that was cut off with the completion of the Dutch Gap Canal. Home to abundant wildlife today, this stretch of river once saw the passage of many Union and Confederate ships including the USS Monitor and the CSS Richmond. It was also the site of the Battle of Trent's Reach, one of the last navy actions of the war.

 Road Map  

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©2021 BY CHESTERFIELD HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA.