Drewry's Bluff, lined with almost-hidden Confederate fortifications, rises up over the James River in this oil painting (ca. 1863) attributed to John Ross Key, the grandson of Francis Scott Key. The bluffs were located where the river abruptly bends from its short, seven–mile run almost due south from Richmond to the east again and toward the Chesapeake Bay. The Confederates fortified the west side of the river atop the ninety–foot bluffs in an effort to protect the Confederate capital.
In this painting—much like another work of Key's, the famous Bombardment of Fort Sumter (1865)—the ugly realities of war are subsumed by pastoral beauty. A closer look at the bluffs, however, reveal a slate–colored battery on the left. In the river at center floats the James River Squadron's flagship, the CSS Patrick Henry, and to the far right, beside a paddlewheel steamer, the ironclad CSS Richmond. Obstructions, including the paddlewheels of vessels the Confederates sank to block navigation, can be seen in the foreground.
Key, who was a Confederate engineer, became a landscape painter after the war. He died in 1920.