Near Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Defending the James River
— 1862 Peninsula Campaign —
In April 1862, Union forces under Gen. George B. McClellan began a major campaign to capture Richmond, marching west from Fort Monroe up the Peninsula between the York and James Rivers toward the Confederate capital. A Confederate army half their size opposed them. Slowly but inevitably, the Federal juggernaut overcame three Southern defensive lines and soon camped in Richmond’s eastern suburbs. New commander Robert E. Lee, however, led a Confederate offensive that drove the Union army away during the Seven Days’ Battles, June 25-July 1.
In 1861, Confederate engineer Col. Andrew Talcott surveyed several defensive sites on the James River to protect Richmond, including Harden’s Bluff and nearby Fort Boykin. The site at Harden’s Bluff was named Fort Huger for Gen. Benjamin Huger, who commanded the Department of Norfolk. Slaves and free blacks constructed the fort under direction of the Confederate Engineer Bureau, and detachments of Lt. Col. Fletcher Archer’s 5th Virginia infantry Battalion were posted here. By August 1861, several guns were ready to defend the channel. In March 1862, the fort’s 13 guns included
Union Cmdr. John Rodgers led a gunboat squadron up the James River on May 8, 1862. After shelling Fort Boykin, USS Galena, USS Aroostook, and USS Port Royal steamed toward Fort Huger and attacked at 11:20 A.M. Aroostook and Port Royal took position downstream and shelled the bluffs. Galena passed Fort Huger seven times, firing to suppress the Confederate guns, which failed to damage the Union squadron. Rodgers finally stopped Galena near Fort Huger and pounded the Confederate ramparts while the other gunboats steamed past.
On May 12, to protect the Union supply line, the ironclads USS Monitor and USS Naugatuck ascended the James River. The Confederate gunners at both forts fired, but the ships steamed by undamaged. Five days later, U.S. marines and sailors occupied both forts without resistance. They found Fort Huger abandoned with the guns spiked, the carriages burnt, and the magazines destroyed.
Erected 2010 by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Forts and Castles • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels. A significant historical month for this entry is March 1862.
Location. 37° Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Smithfield VA 23430, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A different marker also named Fort Huger (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Fort Huger (approx. 2.7 miles away); Surry County / Isle of Wight County (approx. 3.1 miles away); Mulberry Point & Sir Thomas West (approx. 3.1 miles away); Poole’s Funeral Home (approx. 3.3 miles away); Lawne’s Creek Church (approx. 3.6 miles away); Felker Army Airfield (approx. 3.8 miles away); Bacon’s Castle (approx. 3.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Smithfield.
More about this marker. On the lower left is a map of Fort Huger.
On the upper right is a sketch of "USS Galena, by Oscar Parkes".
On the lower right are portraits of "Gen. Benjamin Huger Courtesy Library of Congress" and "Col. Andrew Talcott Courtesy Smithsonian Institution".
Also see . . .
1. Historic Fort Huger. Smithfield & Isle of Wight Convention & Visitors Bureau (Submitted on September 19, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.)
2. Fort Huger (pdf file). National Register of Historic Places (Submitted on September 20, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.)
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on September 19, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,396 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on September 19, 2010, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.