Friday, March 23, 2018

Peterburg's Railroads - The City Point Railroad

The City Point Railroad, a short nine-mile line from Petersburg to the town and docks of City Point (present-day Hopewell), at the confluence of the Appomattox and James River was chartered in 1836 and completed in 1838. At the time, some Petersburg citizens viewed this line as unnecessary, as many ships could pick up commerce and crops as easily in Petersburg's eastern wharves as at City Point's. But to do so the Appomattox River near the Cockade City constantly needed dredged, an inconvenience, both in cost and effort.

In 1847, the town of Petersburg purchased the City Point Railroad and renamed it the Appomattox Railroad. In 1854, the Southside Railroad purchased the diminutive line from the city and made it the eastern section of that line. Due to its relatively short distance, this line carried far more commercial and freight business than passenger service.

During the Civil War, what was the old City Point Railroad was virtually useless as the Union army and navy took control of the lower James River early in the contest, thus Confederate friendly ships were not able to carry the goods delivered to the the City Point wharves by the railroad cars. However, it did serve for a time as a somewhat alternate route to the capital city of Richmond up the James River, until the Federal Army of the James under Gen. Benjamin Butler took control of the Bermuda Hundred peninsula. Once in Union army secured City Point in the spring of 1864, it used part of its short route for the United States Military Railroad.

It was on this part of the line that ran behind the former Confederate earthworks of the Dimmock Line, east of Petersburg, which were captured in the fighting that occurred on June 15-18. It was here that the Union forces brought up by rail the famous though short-lived 13-inch mortar known as the "Dictator."

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