Three members of the Stevens family last week spent two hours touring significant Bermuda Hundred Civil War battle locations, not because they are Civil War battle buffs, but because they are descendants of Major General Benjamin F. Butler, Union Commander of the Army of the James that occupied much of the Bermuda peninsula, bounded by the James and Appomattox rivers with 35,000 soldiers. It was May 5, 1864 and the Civil War had landed in Chesterfield.
General Butler was the great grandfather of George Stevens Sr. and the great-great grandfather of George Stevens Jr. and Amy Stevens. George Fickett, Chesterfield County’s official historian, led the family’s excursion visiting sites such as Point of Rocks, where Clara Barton worked as a nurse.
Abraham Lincoln, his wife and entourage visited the Point shortly before being assassinated. Lincoln sat on the point where there were no trees and you could see Petersburg; a major Union target.
The Stevens entourage, which included Jim Daniels, owner of Longest and Daniels Real Estate, and Amy’s friend, Joe Svetina, in addition to Fickett, also visited area batteries and the location of the signal tower the Federals captured soon after landing at Bermuda Hundred.
“My father and I were here visiting my sister Amy, who lives near Fort Pocahontas and Charles City. We thought we’d visit some of the historical sites,” George Jr., said. George Jr. lives in Andover, Massachusetts and George Sr. lives in Baltimore.
George Sr. said that after the war Gen. Butler got into the textile business. “He started the U.S. Bunting Company; they made flags,” he said.
“They were all made from U.S. material,” George Sr. added. “The legislature said that all U.S. flags were to be made out of U.S. material.”
Butler built a rather impressive granite home in Gloucester, Massachusetts where George Sr.’s sister lives today. “The estate was 67 acres,” Amy said. “When he first bought the property he lived in a tent saying ‘this is the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.’”
Amy said she lived on the estate while growing up and remembers that the steel fence surrounding the house was actually installed by Butler.
Butler wanted to establish a residence in Gloucester so he could run for the state legislature. “He had a friend in the next district and didn’t want to run against him.” George Jr. said.
Butler was to study law and pass the bar practicing in Lowell, Massachusetts before entering politics. History tells us he was a colorful and controversial politician.
The three Stevens came by their name through marriage, with another Civil War hero in between.
“Lieutenant Adelbert Ames of the 5th U.S. Artillery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for fighting at Manassas,” Fisher said. “I believe he also served under General Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.”
But Adelbert Ames lived to become a scientist and sire a number of children. His daughter, Edith Ames married a Stevens and through marriage made the connection between the Union General and members of the Stevens family that stood looking over the Appomattox River from the top of Point of Rocks. Other members of Butler’s descendents include his granddaughter; Blanche Ames, a women’ rights activist and artist; Butler Ames and George Plimpton, famous for writing about participating in various sports, sparring with Sugar Ray Robinson and authoring Paper Lion.
While the house that stands at Point of Rocks was part of the headquarters and hospital for the Union, Fickett said it isn’t known whether or not Butler stayed in the house. He did, however, use the Halfway House on Jefferson Davis Highway for his headquarters for several days as Butler’s army tried to take the fort at Drewry’s Bluff.
The Stevens visited the Halfway House after a tour of Point of Rocks ending with the story of how part of the actual point was blasted away so the stone could be used for a monument at City Point in Hopewell. Butler commissioned the monument project, which marks the location of Federal troops killed during the Bermuda Campaign. The dead troops were moved from simple graves at Point of Rocks to the City Point National Cemetery.
The Stevens’ tour ended at the Halfway House where proprietor Rick Young explained what part the Halfway House played in the war. Butler had stayed at the house from May 14 through 16, which acted as his headquarters, hospital and medical supply depot as the Federals advanced on Drewry’s.
The Stevens family absorbed the history of their ancestor who played a major part in the Civil War as it touch Chesterfield and after lunch left for home.