By George Fickett
At the March 26 Board of Supervisors meeting, The Civil War Trust, America’s largest Civil War nonprofit preservation organization with over 55,000 members donated to Chesterfield County 11.5 acres of additional land for Howlett Line Park. There will be a formal transfer ceremony to be announced later.
The Civil War Trust and the Military History Committee of the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia, has, for over 10 years, been working to preserve the 11.5 acres to add to Howlett Line Park. The funding came from the Civil War Trust, American Battlefield Protection Program and the Virginia Civil War Sites Preservation Fund.
The current park is about two acres and was saved in 1987 with a donation of land from B. Forace Hill of Hill Construction. This site was formerly owned by the Walthall Baptist Church. The property was purchased by then the Civil War Preservation Trust in July, 2010. In 2013 the Trust offered the property to the county. Going through all the processes and conservation easements and deeds the property is ready to be transferred.
The 11.5 acre addition of Howlett Line Park has a well preserved extension of the Confederate Howlett Line running through it and a very rare feature in the form of over 45 winter hut sites. It was on June 2, 1864, the site where the 22nd South Carolina Infantry, commanded By Col. Olin M. Dantzler started their ill-fated attack on Federal Fort Dutton in which Col. Dantzler was killed.
Shortly after the battle, the river battery on the James known as the Howlett House battery, was named after Col. Dantzler, in his honor by General P. G. T. Beauregard. Battery Dantzler is a county Civil War park and is open to the public daily.
Once the deed has been transferred the county Parks & Recreation Department will start to make improvements to the existing park and the new addition. New markers will be installed and a trail will be constructed through the park and improved parking on Howlett Line Drive. This work will start soon.
This is the 150th anniversary of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign that happened in Chesterfield County starting on May 5, 1864. For 15 days the fate of Richmond and Petersburg were in the hands of the Army of the James and General Ben Butler. In those 15 days the Confederate forces under the command of General Beauregard were able to stop Butler’s advance at Drewry’s Bluff on May 16 and “Bottle” him up on May 20 at the Battle of Ware Bottom Church.