The Bermuda Hundred Campaign

Trent's Reach Naval Battle

On Jan. 23, 1865, the ironclads Virginia II, Richmond, and Fredericksburg, with five smaller vessels, descended the James River in an effort to attack the Union supply depot at City Point. A reliable report indicated that recent floods had washed away the Union obstructions at Trent's Reach. Also, most of the Union vessels that had steamed up the river in May 1864 had been pulled to North Carolina to participate in the attack against Fort Fisher near Wilmington. With the obstructions washed out, only the monitor U.S.S. Onondaga and a handful of wooden vessels protected City Point. The Confederate ships were able to slip past Union guns upriver at Fort Brady. Firing from that fort, however, alerted Union batteries downriver to the movement. By 10:30 P.M. the Confederate flotilla had reached the obstructions at Trent's Reach. The Fredericksburg and gunboat Hampton managed to pass through the southern side of the barrier. The Virginia II, however, ran aground in the treacherous channel. During the night the torpedo boat Scorpion and the armed tender Drewry also ran aground. The Fredericksburg and Hampton were recalled upriver to protect the other ships. As the sun rose, Union cannon in Battery Parsons opened fire on the Drewry. The third shot caused the Drewry to explode with such force that it was heard by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at City Point, 18 miles downriver. The shock from the blast dislodged the Scorpion and sent her drifting downstream into Union hands. The Union shore batteries then began to pound the Richmond and Virginia II. By 10:45 A.M., the Virginia II floated free as the double-turreted U.S.S. Onondaga came upriver. From a half mile the ship's 15-inch guns broke through the four inch armor of the Virginia II before the ironclad could get out of range. The Confederates sought shelter in a bend of the river just opposite Battery Dantzler The next day, they retired upriver to Chaffin's Bluff. The threat to Grant's supply base was over. 

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  

Trent's Reach Intrepretive Sign at Dantzler Park


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