Located on a bluff overlooking one of the most scenic areas of the James River, the 32-acre living history museum transports visitors back to the days of Pocahontas, John Rolfe and the early English Settlers. A re-created Arrohateck Indian village demonstrates how native people lived before contact with the English settlers. Enter several “long houses” to learn how families cooked food, made tools and survived the Virginia weather. See demonstrations of techniques for building canoes and making clothing, leather goods and other necessities of daily life.
The center of the site is a re-creation of the original English fort, complete with examples of early “wattle and daub” homes, and demonstrations of cooking and gardening. Meet period-dressed historical interpreters and learn about the daily lives of English soldiers, their military weapons and the role that the fort played in the settlers’ lives. Walk, jog, or run along the miles of scenic & historic trails solo or with pets and the whole family.
The area outside the fort demonstrates how tobacco, corn and other crops sustained the settlement. Visit a planter’s home and tobacco barn to learn about its cultivation.And visit a re-creation of Mount Malady, the first English speaking hospital built in the New World to learn about early medical care. A re-creation of the Rev. Alexander Whitaker’s Rocke Hall home is here and Pocahontas’ story at Henricus is interpreted.
Civil War – Dutch Gap Canal
As part of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, Union Gen. Benjamin Butler devised a plan to build a canal across the neck of land known as Dutch Gap. The purpose of the canal was to bypass Battery Dantzler and other Confederate guns along the James River. Construction of the canal took place from August to December of 1864, with the majority of the work done by African-American troops who were frequently shelled upon by nearby Confederate gun positions. By the end of the year, all that was needed to complete the canal was to destruct a dam at the eastern end and the bulkhead at the western end. On January 1, 1865 six tons of black powder were placed beneath the bulkhead and detonated. The bulkhead however, was not dislodged and the canal remained blocked. Shortly thereafter, the men working on the project were pulled away to the siege of Petersburg. Later in January, Gen. Butler was relieved of command following his failure to capture Fort Fisher in North Carolina. The Henricus bluff marks the southern side of Butler’s canal. Second Lt. Walter Thorn, 116th United States Colored Troops, received a Medal of Honor for his heroic efforts in the Battle of Trent’s Reach in January of 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.
Did You Know
The Dutch Gap Canal project was abandoned until after the war. In the 1870’s, Butler, then a U.S. senator, was able to see the canal completed. The Army Corps of Engineers widened the Dutch Gap Canal to its current extent in the 1930’s.
Admission fee charged. Gift shop on-site.