The Blackwater Line

The Blackwater Line (HMBW1)

Location: Franklin, VA 23851
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Country: United States of America
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N 36° 40.46', W 76° 55.164'

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"That little stream has ... saved us"

To protect Richmond from a Union attack from Suffolk, Confederate authorities fortified the Blackwater River in 1862. You are standing on the Blackwater Line. The intermittent earthworks stretched fifty miles from north of Zuni to the North Carolina border. Up to 9,000 troops were stationed along the Blackwater Line during the next two years. Despite occasional shelling and skirmishing, the Federals failed to cross the river.

In 1863, Union Gen. John J. Peck, in Suffolk, sent Col. Samuel P. Spear of the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry to test the defenses here. Near Carrsville at Hebron Church on the morning of March 17, Spear engaged Confederate pickets who fled to the new earthworks a mile from Franklin. Spear charged twice, then fought an artillery duel before retiring toward Suffolk.

Early in April, three of Gen. James Longstreet's divisions marched through Franklin to besiege Suffolk, while supplies flowed west from here to Richmond. Once the siege ended and the Confederates left in May, the Blackwater Line declined in importance. In 1864, however, Union Gen. August V. Kautz diverted his planned cavalry raid from Southampton County because, from the poor results "of two years past of expeditions directed against [the Petersburg Railroad], [he] reasoned that Blackwater River was an impassable barrier." Elliott Story, a Franklin resident, had written of the river in 1863, "That little stream has thus far saved us thousands of dollars worth of property as well as the alarm and distress that would other wise fallen to our lot."

As Gen. Ulysses S. Grant besieged Petersburg, some local African Americans liberated themselves from slavery and slipped through the Union lines to join the 38th U.S. Colored Troops. By 1865, constant foraging and skirmishing had wearied Southampton County citizens, ravaged the economy, and devastated once-prosperous farms.
HM NumberHMBW1
Series This marker is part of the Virginia Civil War Trails series
Placed ByVirginia Civil War Trails
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 at 1:59pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18S E 328484 N 4060462
Decimal Degrees36.67433333, -76.91940000
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 36° 40.46', W 76° 55.164'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds36° 40' 27.60" N, 76° 55' 9.84" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)757
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 398 US-258, Franklin VA 23851, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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