JANUARY 1ST, 1865: On the James River, Commander William A. Parker, commanding the double-turreted monitor USS Onondaga, reported that 12,000 pounds of gunpowder had been detonated in an effort to remove the end barriers of the canal excavation at Dutch Gap, Virginia.
He reported: "The earth was thrown up into the air about 40 to 50 feet and immediately fell back into its original place. This earth will have to be removed to render the canal passable for vessels.
The canal was the brainchild of Major General Benjamin Butler who had begun the canal in 1864 with the view of passing Confederate obstructions above Trent's Reach. If the passage had been effected, General Butler's Army of the James could have bypassed key positions in Richmond's southern defense system and moved on the city in a diversionary threat aimed at reducing Lee's resistance to Grant at Petersburg.
Butler and Some More Gunpowder. --Old B-R'er