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Richmond Ironclads at Trent's Reach

Following the Battle of Hampton Roads, March 8-9 1862, the ironclad CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) guarded the James River, the maritime highway leading 100 miles inland to the sea port of Richmond. When the Confederates later retreated from Hampton Roads, beginning May 3, 1862, the Virginia drafted too low to followso she was destroyed, leaving the James an open invitation. A U.S. Navy fleet dashed toward Richmond but was stopped some 7 miles short of the city, where Confederates scuttled ships under the guns of Drewry’s Bluff. 
   After 1862, the James remained relatively calm until May 1864, when Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant sent one army marching south to Richmond, while Union Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler ascended the James to City Point and Bermuda Hundred, creating a deepwater base less than 15 miles south of the Confederate capital of Richmond. To protect the Union's base, Butler bottled up Richmond’s fleet by blocking the river on his front line at Trent’s Reach.
   The Union army fighting north of Richmond endured some of its worst defeats, capped by Cold Harbor (May 31-June 12, 1864).  Consequently, Grant swung away from Richmond, crossed the James, and shifted his base to City Point.


Map by Dominic Bascone, DHR
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