Chester in Chesterfield County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
USCTs At Dutch Gap
U.S. Colored Troops Construct the Canal
—Bermuda Hundred —
Early in 1864, Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, commander of all Federal armies, ordered advances throughout the Confederacy in the spring. On May 5, Union Gen. Benjamin F. Butler landed his Army of the James on Bermuda Hundred to operate against Richmond, Petersburg, and Confederate lines of supply. Confederate Gen. PG.T. Beauregard countered Union advances against the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, Drewry’s Bluff, and Petersburg. In June 1864, he effectively “bottled up” Butler’s army behind Confederate and Federal fortifications across the Bermuda Hundred peninsula for the rest of the war.
In August 1864, Gen. Benjamin F. Butler, commander of the Army of the James, ordered that a ditch or canal be dug across the narrow neck of land here to enable Union gunboats to evade Confederate batteries on the James River. Under brutal conditions and occasional Confederate sniper and artillery fire, Union soldiers—mostly United States Colored Troops—completed the canal on December 31, 1864, except for a slender piece of land or bulkhead between the ditch and the river. On January 1, 1865, 12,000 pounds of powder were exploded to demolish the bulkhead. The blast, however, sent much of the earth into the canal and collapsed part of its walls. The canal was not completed until April, too late
Butler commanded more African American soldiers than any other general and advocated their use in combat, not merely as workmen and guards. In May 1864, his USCT regiments had seized strategic points on the James River at Wilson’s Wharf, Fort Powhatan, and City Point. USCTs were among the troops assaulting the Petersburg defenses on June 9 and June 15, and took part in the Battle of the Crater on July 20. On September 29, two USCT brigades spearheaded a successful attack at New Market Heights and took part in the assault on Fort Harrison on the north side of the James River. Fourteen black soldiers and two white officers were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions there. USCT regiments were among the first to enter Richmond on April 3, 1865.
Lt. Walter Thorn, Co. G, 116th USCT, received the Medal of Honor for his actions here on January 1, 1865, when the bulk-head was blown up. Learning that the picket guard had not been withdrawn, he mounted the bulkhead and at great personal peril warned the guard of danger. The medal was awarded on December 8, 1898. (caption) The Army version of the Medal of Honor
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Medal of Honor Recipients marker series.
Location. Click for map. Located in Henricus Historical Park 300 yards north of the parking lot. Marker is at or near this postal address: 251 Henricus Park Road, Chester VA 23836, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Dutch Gap Canal (here, next to this marker); The Bermuda Hundred Campaign (here, next to this marker); The James River...Floating Through The Centuries (a few steps from this marker); Dutch Gap (a few steps from this marker); The Tides (within shouting distance of this marker); Mount Malady (within shouting distance of this marker); The Lightkeeper’s House (within shouting distance of this marker); Henricopolis (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Chester.
Also see . . . Henricus Historical Park. (Submitted on June 27, 2013.)
Categories. • African Americans • War, US Civil •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 404 times since then and 75 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.