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Chapter 33 - Battlefield Park Road, Fort Harrison, Fort Brady, Dutch Gap Cutoff, Citie of Henricus & Deep Bottom Park

Battlefield Park Road offered the surreal scenery of Confederate earthworks mixed in with suburban houses.

 

Gordon pushed the Delta past the Confederate forts of Gilmer and

 

Johnson.

 

“Take it easy,” Gordon said. “I’ll stop at Fort Harrison, and you can use the bathroom there. . . . Jimmy burst out of the car and darted through a breastwork entrance to a log cabin serving as a visitor center.

 

Fort Harrison, a military crest, sat on the highest point between Richmond and Norfolk.

 

A few minutes later as the reenactors still sat in the car waiting for Jimmy, they spotted the black Mercedes coming down the road.

 

As Bob pulled in beside the Delta, Lichas caught sight of the reenactors running through an opening in the bulwark.

 

But once inside the fort, there was no trace of them, just a flat, grassy compound seventy yards wide and fifty yards long with a few trees providing little shade from the sunlight, piercing the humid, windless air.

 

Blocking their line of sight on the far border was a traverse, an inner wall of dirt constructed to thwart artillery shells.

 

They paired back up, walked over to the edge of the fort and onto the top of a rampart, looking out over an eighteen-foot drop-off adjacent to a forest.

 

Raleigh shot his revolver from the woods and screamed, “Stay off the earthworks. They’re fragile.”

 

Lichas walked around to the left to access the outside of the wall while the reenactors walked in the opposite direction to slink back into the fort.

 

The reenactors leaped into the Delta, pulled out, and raced down Battlefield Park Road. They took a left at Confederate Fort Hoke and

 

followed the Federal line of earthworks paralleling the road leading to Fort Brady.

 

Gordon led them into Fort Brady, built by the Federals after they had captured Fort Harrison in 1864.

 

Once inside the circle of earthworks, the brothers discovered another traverse in the middle of the fort with a trail going between the inner mound of dirt and the outer breastworks.

 

He looked from behind the tree and through the foliage, laying his eyes on the grayish green river below. Beside the river was a long tin shed. He took a closer look. It was a marina.

 

They stepped down the other side of the earthwork and followed an unmarked trail through the brush to a twenty-foot clay cliff.

 

They followed the cliff along its edge as it trailed off to the marina parking lot and walked onto the dock.

 

Gordon guided the Monitor into Dutch Gap.

 

To the starboard was the Dutch Gap Cutoff, the canal started by General Butler’s men in 1864 to bypass the Confederate fort Battery Dantzler on the James River, holding the northern end of the Howlett Line.

 

The James River was still beautiful after centuries of abuse. This stretch of water between Richmond and Hopewell was one of the most polluted in the state, but also one of the most historic.

 

Here early Virginia history was early American history. On the high bluff to the right at the abandoned “Citie of Henricus,” Pocahontas and John Rolfe married in 1614.

 

They floated under the almost-mile-long Varina-Enon Bridge that Gordon had driven over the previous day to get to Hopewell.

 

They traveled another mile and a quarter down the river, then ported, leaving the main dredged channel of commerce into the original river’s course
around Jones Neck.

 

The neck, formed from a curve in the river, was a thumb-shaped island of swamp forest and tidal flat surrounding a marsh.

 

Once in this backwater, the quiet, flat, murky river came alive with fish jumping and pickerelweed blooming purple along its banks.

 

Great blue herons filled the sky, and a din of insects rose. They traveled to the bottom of the oxbow to the dock of Deep Bottom Park where Hiram waited for them.

Battlefield Park Road - Fort Gilmer to Fort Brady

Fort Harrison

Dutch Gap Cutoff or Canal

Henricus Historical Park

Pocahontas and John Rolfe

Deep Bottom Park