Chaffin's Bluff on the James River
Original Author: Possibly Sergeant John A. Bland, Company A, 34th Virginia Infantry
Created: ca. 1864
Medium: Ink and pencil sketch
Publisher: Museum of the Confederacy

Chaffin’s Bluff on the James River

A soldier's sketch gives a view of Confederate fortifications at Chaffin's Bluff on the James River, about a mile downriver from Drewry's Bluff. Chaffin's Bluff represented the forward outpost of the James River Squadron's defense of the Confederate capital at Richmond, and this drawing, possibly the work of Sergeant John A. Bland of the 34th Virginia Infantry, shows a wooden gunboat, artillery emplacements, and, overlooking it all, the Confederate Second National Flag. The James River Squadron faced Union forces in this winding section of the river for the last year of the war in a standoff that mirrored the one between Union general Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate general Robert E. Lee at Petersburg.

During the night of April 2, 1865, when Confederate rear admiral Raphael Semmes was informed of Richmond's imminent evacuation, he ordered the James River Squadron to withdraw from Chaffin's Bluff to Drewry's Bluff, where the gunboats were blown up. "I was wakened suddenly by four terrific explosions, one after the other, making the windows of my garret shake," Richmond resident Constance Cary wrote. "It was … the signal for an all-day carnival of thundering noise and flames."