Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Petersburg Photo Update

Posted in Media by Andy Hall on August 21, 2013


Recently we had a discussion about this LoC photo, taken in the “Petersburg vicinity” at the close of the war. Tuesday evening I received this update from Ben Uzel, President of the Colonial Heights Historical Society, opposite the Appomattox River from Petersburg. I’m reposting his comment here, with permission:


This photo was taken near the present-day ruins of the Peter Jones trading post at the northern end of Market Street in Petersburg, looking eastward towards the railroad bridge across the Appomattox River to the Southside Railroad shops. The SS shops were located in present-day Colonial Heights in what is today known as Appamatuck Park. The bridge crossed the western end of Flea Island, so actually there were two bridges, one between Petersburg and Flea Island, and a second from Flea Island to present-day Colonial Heights. The river channel on the Petersburg side of the island (south channel) was wider back then than the northern channel, but was clogged with silt, As a result, when the bridge was burned by the Confederates, the locomotive on it fell in the shallow water and was still visible from the Petersburg side. The northern channel, on the other hand, is about 35 feet deep. When that bridge was burned, the second locomotive fell into the deep water, hidden from view. It still sits on the river bottom today.
Most of the river shown in the photo where the locomotive sat was filled in during the early 1900′s for a flood control dike and to expand the N&W railroad yard. The building ruins in the photo are of burnt railroad buildings located on Flea Island. The railroad shops, and the north bridge are not visible in this photo.
Note that to the left of the bridge, on Flea Island, there is a stone retaining wall to protect the railroad grade across the island. That stone wall is still there today.
In the background behind the bridge pier is the western edge of the Petersburg neighborhood of Pocahontas. The shed shaped building is the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad depot at Pocahontas. A drawing of this depot appeared in the December 13, 1862 issue of Harper’s Weekly. Note that the Pocahontas depot was not the subject of this photograph. The photographer was seeking a disaster shot that would sell, thus the photo of the train in the river. There were several photos taken of the R&P RR depot in Richmond that burnt during the Confederate evacuation, but none of the one at Pocahontas that did not burn. There is a boxcar and several hopper cars visible in the photo. The hopper cars would have been used to transport coal from the WInterpock coal mines in Chesterfield to Richmond and Petersburg. In front of the buildings you can see the Manchester & Petersburg Turnpike as it enters Pocahontas from present-day Colonial Heights.
During the Civil War, Pocahontas was located on the north side of the Appomattox River. In 1904, the Corp of Engineers dug a new channel to divert the river to the north of Pocahontas. This Diversion Channel separated Pocahontas from Colonial Heights. This is why the Civil War era maps of that section of the Appomattox River are different from the present-day maps.
The Southside Railroad shops across the river from Petersburg were not destroyed during the Confederate evacuation of Petersburg. The bridges were rebuilt after the war and the shops continued to serve the railroad until the late 1880’s when the railroad was reorganized as the Norfolk & Western. The new management moved the shops west to an undeveloped area known as Big Lick, which developed into the City of Roanoke, Va.

Here’s the Harper’s Weekly image of Petersburg mentioned, via




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7 Responses

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  1. jfepperson said, on August 21, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I’m still confused about one thing: None on the maps that you posted showed the bridge going over/through an island.

  2. David Bright said, on August 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    I have one, but cannot get it to paste.

    Its great to find a local historian who know his local history. When I contacted the Raleigh historian about the Confederate Locomotive Shops that were in Raleigh, he had never heard of them.

    • Andy Hall said, on August 21, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Folks like that are out there, it’s finding them that’s difficult. Or sometimes, they find you!

  3. Reed (the genuine article, accept no substitutes!) said, on August 21, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Very nice work, Mr. Uzel. Now is there a way to share this info with the LoC and have them update their files?

  4. Andy Hall said, on August 31, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    The Library of Congress does not identify the photographer, unfortunately.

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