Chesapeake, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Village of Great Bridge
A Vital Link
The Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal was built as a commercial rival of the Dismal Swamp Canal. The six-mile long canal cut through the flat Tidewater countryside to connect the South Branch of the Elizabeth River at Great Bridge with the North Landing River, Virginia, which empties into Currituck Sound. When the canal opened for business on January 6, 1859, it featured the biggest lock chamber in America at Great Bridge.
On the eve of the Civil War, the village of Great Bridge contained only a handful of houses. Most of the residents were associated with the operations of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. According to the Census of 1860, George Lowe was the landlord of a hotel that housed some Irish and English canal laborers. Solomon Smith was a physician and Cary Woodward was the constable. Norman Cartwright, a native of New York, was a superintendent of the canal. James Lyons, one of the canalís general superintendents and Cornelius Mahoney, its engineer, lived in the same house with Cartwright. In another house outside Great Bridge lived Miles Boyles, another canal
During the early stages of the war the Confederacy benefitted greatly through the control of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. The Canal was the focus of Union efforts to block this link to North Carolina. On February 12, 1862, Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough, USN, issued orders to Federal naval forces operating in the Albemarle Sound to obstruct the cut connecting with Currituck Sound. Lt. William N. Jeffers was dispatched on this mission in the USS Underwriter. When he arrived, Jeffers found that the Confederates had already blocked the canal themselves.
Once Norfolk was captured in May 1862, the canal came under Union control. The Federals quickly cleared out the canal of debris left by the Confederates to disrupt its use. Nonetheless, Confederate guerrillas constantly disputed the Union use of the canal. Numerous skirmishes took place around Great Bridge and on May 15, 1863, the local Confederates were able to capture and destroy two small steamers operating in the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal.
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails marker series.
Location. 36° 43.393′ N, 76° 14.723′ W. Marker is in Chesapeake, Virginia. Marker is on Locks Road 0.3 miles west of North Battlefield Boulevard (Virginia Route 168), on the left when traveling west. Touch for map. Located in Great Bridge Lock Park. Marker is in this post office area: Chesapeake VA 23320, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Battle of Great Bridge (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Welcome (about 400 feet away); Bridging the Past with the Present (about 400 feet away); What is a Lock? (about 500 feet away); Why Build a Canal Here? (about 500 feet away); The Iron Titans Tame the Marsh? (about 500 feet away); Liquid Highways (about 500 feet away); Under Two Flags (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chesapeake.
More about this marker. On the bottom center is a photo of the "Chesapeake & Albemarle Canal entrance at Great Bridge, c. 1890." On the upper right is a photo of "Great Bridge, c. 1890."
Also see . . . Albemarle & Chesapeake Canal Historic District (pdf file). National Register of Historic Places (Submitted on October 30, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Categories. • War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on October 29, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 921 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 29, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.