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Dutch Gap Canal

Upon returning to his prepared position on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula, General Benjamin F. Butler engineered a plan to build a canal across the small portion of land known as Dutch Gap. The canal’s intended purpose was to bypass Battery Dantzler and other Confederate fortifications along theJames River. The canal construction was begun in August 1864. Under the command of Brig. General D. S. Ludlow, construction was done primarily by African-American troops and continued well into December 1864 with over 67,000 cubic yards of material removed. All that was needed to complete the canal was the destruction of a dam and western bulkhead. On January 1, 1865 six tons of black powder were detonated under the bulkhead. However the bulkhead was not dislodged and the canal remained blocked. Soon thereafter the men working on the canal were assigned to the siege of Petersburg. In a January 4, 1865 letter General Grant requested that Butler be relieved of his command. The canal project was abandoned until after the Civil War. In the 1870’s Butler, then a member of the U.S. Congress, saw the canal completed. The Army Corps of Engineers widened the Dutch Gap Canal to its current extent in the 1930’s. The bluff at Henricus Historical Park marks the southern bank of Butler’s canal.