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Chesterfield County Tourism and Leisure

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Civil War

In 1861, Chesterfield County was assured a prominent role in the Civil War. Its geographic proximity to Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, combined with various railroads and the James and Appomattox rivers, made it an obvious target for the Union army and navy. In the spring of 1862, a Union naval fleet, led by the famous ironclad Monitor, steamed up the James River. All that stood in their way was the unfinished fort at Drewry¹s Bluff, just eight miles below Richmond. On May 15, Confederate guns in the fort fired on the Union ships. When the smoke cleared, the heavily damaged Union fleet was forced to retreat. Casualties were slight on both sides, and Chesterfield County would have a two-year reprieve before seeing action, again. Ulysses S. Grant took command of the Union army early in 1864, and in May, he planned strikes toward Richmond from several directions. The main Union army would approach from the north, while a smaller force, the Army of the James, would attack from the south by moving through Chesterfield County. On May 5, 1864, the Union army landed at Bermuda Hundred in eastern Chesterfield County and pushed inland. A series of battles took place at Port Walthall Junction, Swift Creek and Chester Station as Confederate troops desperately tried to block the approaches to Richmond. The climax of this campaign occurred on May 16, when the Confederates unexpectedly launched an attack that staggered the Union army and forced it to retreat back to Bermuda Hundred. This became known as the Second Battle of Drewry¹s Bluff. Combined casualties numbered about 6,200 during this campaign. In April 1865, the Petersburg front collapsed, forcing Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to move his army westward toward Appomattox Court House, where he surrendered.



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