Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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This Saturday, don’t miss the Battle of Trent’s Reach

The USS Onondaga at Aikens Landing on the James just before her recall in 1865. Note the laundry hanging out to dry. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

The bend in the James river around Farrars Island above Dutch Gap showing the obstructions sunk by Admiral Lee. (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)

“What’s really cool and not on the schedule,” Virginia archaeologist Taft Kiser says of this Saturday’s special events at Henricus Historical Park near Richmond, is that Dr. Francis DuCoin is coming to explain the many remarkable photos of Union ironclads taken at Dutch Gap late in the Civil War.

The images were taken just  above the site of today’s Interstate 295 bridge, Kiser says. On the Confederate Navy’s side, the battle’s ironclads included the CSS Fredericksburg, Richmond and Virginia II.

Kiser created a wonderful series of annotated images of the engagement at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources website.

Here’s the full scoop from Chesterfield County about Saturday’s program, which is the first in a series of Civil War sesquicentennial that Henricus hopes to host:

Visit Henricus for “Last Fight of the Confederate Navy: Battle of Trent’s Reach, 1865” on Saturday, Jan. 21

CHESTER, Va. – Join Henricus Historical Park on Jan. 21 for an event recognizing Medal of Honor recipient 2nd Lt. Walter Thorn, 116th United States Colored Troops, for his heroic efforts in the Battle of Trent’s Reach in 1865. Thorn ran atop the bulkhead of the canal at Dutch Gap just before it exploded to rescue a sentry who was not pulled off duty.

The event will also focus on the lives of soldiers, women, children and slaves during the Civil War, including artifacts and expert accounts of the Battle of Trent’s Reach.

At 9:30 a.m., a wreath-laying ceremony will take place to recognize the fallen during the Battle of Trent’s Reach on the bluff at Henricus overlooking the James River.

At 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., Taft Kiser, an archaeologist with Cultural Resources Inc. and an expert on the Battle of Trent’s Reach, will speak and answer questions from the general public.

At 4 p.m. a 21-musket salute and a moment of silence will take place at the Trent’s Reach battle location at Dutch Gap.

Other featured activities include Union sharpshooting and artillery demonstrations, including Confederate trench warfare interpretations. Historians will bring to life the experiences of women, children and slaves during the Civil War. An exhibition will take place in the Education Center featuring Civil War artifacts found at Henricus.

An itinerary for the day and more information about the park, including a video, may be found at

“There is no better time to learn about history at Henricus Historical Park than during the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War,” said Charles Lewis Grant, the park’s acting executive director. “While Henricus is known for significant colonial milestones, the site also boasts vast Revolutionary and Civil War history.”

Admission for this event which takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free for Henricus Foundation Patrons, $8 for adults and $6 for children aged 3-12. The event rain date is Jan. 22.

Henricus Historical Park is on 32 acres along the scenic and historic James River and is surrounded by the 810-acre Dutch Gap Conservation Area. Only 20 minutes from Richmond, the park is at 251 Henricus Park Road, Chester, Virginia 23836.

Founded in 1611 by Sir Thomas Dale, the Citie of Henricus was the second successful English settlement in North America and commemorated its 400th anniversary in September 2011.