Visiting Richmond National Battlefield Park
The concentration of Civil War resources found in the Richmond area is unparalleled. The National Park Service manages 13 sites, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the battlefield landscapes, to hear the stories of the combatants and civilian residents, and to understand the complex reasons why Richmond came to symbolize the heart and soul of the Confederacy.
This is a partial list of park regulations. Site is open sunrise to sunset. Report suspicious activities to any park employee or call 804-795-5018. In emergencies call 911.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
All natural and cultural resources are protected by law.
Relic hunting is prohibited. Possession of a metal detector in the park is illegal.
Hunting, trapping, feeding, or otherwise disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
Weapons are prohibited inside all park buildings.
Pets must be on a leash.
Recreation activities like kite-flying, ball-playing, and frisbee throwing are prohibited.
Motor vehicles and bicycles must remain on established roads.
Drewry's Bluff 1862
As capital of the Confederate States of America, Richmond, Virginia, became the constant target of Northern armies. It was vulnerable by water as well as by land. Gunboats could navigate the James River all the way to Richmond.
Drewry's Bluff, named for local landowner Captain Augustus H. Drewry, rose 90 feet above the water and commanded a sharp bend in the James River, making it a logical site for defensive fortifications. By May 1862, workers had constructed earthworks, dug artillery emplacements, and mounted three large seacoast guns inside the fort.
On May 10-11, 1862, retreating Confederates abandoned Norfolk and destroyed their only ironclad, the CSS Virginia. The James River was now open to the U.S. Navy. Five well-armed ships, including the ironclads Galena and Monitor, ascended the James River under Commander John Rodgers. Their mission: shell Richmond into submission. The city's fate rested with 300 or 400 Southern troops manning the large cannon at this small earthen fort, just seven miles south of the capital. The stage was set for the first epic battles for control of Richmond.
Two forts guarded a narrow part of the James River, but the Confederate retreat up the peninsula made them untenable. Rodgers stopped off at Jamestown Island and investigated. The route upriver toward Richmond seemed to be clear.
The five-ship Union squadron anchored off City Point, where the James and Appomattox rivers join. Some 30 miles of the twisty and narrow James River lay between the warships and Richmond. So did the Confederate strongpoint at Drewry's Bluff.
The Union Army approached White House Landing as it continued its march on Richmond. General Joseph E. Johnston ordered the Confederate army to fall back across the Chickahominy River.
Drewry's Bluff Trail
Along this trail the first shots were fired in a series of campaigns designed to capture Richmond, which lasted from 1862 to 1865.
This one-mile trail takes you to the Confederate stronghold named Fort Drewry by Southerners and Fort Darling by Northerners. The well-preserved earthen fortification still survives; remains of its walls, bombproofs, and artillery emplacements still stand. An 8-inch Columbiad cannon, cast at the Bellona Aresenal just upriver from Richmond in Chesterfield County, is on exhibit inside the fort.
"Drewry's Bluff, a most commanding point, where the James River is narrowest, about 7 miles below Richmond, has been selected as the best point for a battery, coupled with obstructions."
Alfred L. Rives, Confederate engineer
"The Monitor and Stevens are both up the James River at this moment with orders to go to Richmond and shell the place into a surrender."
Louis M. Goldsborough, Commander, North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, U.S. Navy