(left panel)Fort Gilmer
Visiting Richmond National Battlefield Park
The concentration of Civil War resources found in the Richmond area is unparalleled. The National Park Service manages 13 sites, giving visitors an opportunity to examine the battlefield landscapes, to hear the stories of the combatants and civilian residents, and to understand the complex reasons why Richmond came to symbolize the heart and soul of the Confederacy.
This is a partial list of park regulations. Site is open sunrise to sunset. Report suspicious activities to any park employee or call 804-795-5018. In emergencies call 911.
Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
All natural and cultural resources are protected by law.
Relic hunting is prohibited. Possession of a metal detector in the park is illegal.
Hunting, trapping, feeding, or otherwise disturbing wildlife is prohibited.
Weapons are prohibited inside all park buildings.
Pets must be on a leash.
Recreation activities like kite-flying, ball-playing, and frisbee throwing are prohibited.
Motor vehicles and bicycles must remain on established roads.
(center panel)Richmond-Petersburg Campaign
September 29, 1864
After the Battle of Cold Harbor in June 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant's Union army crossed the James River, struck Petersburg's outer defenses unsuccessfully, and then settled in for a siege against Petersburg. In response, General Robert E. Lee stretched his Confederate forces nearly to the breaking point in order to protect both Richmond and Petersburg on a line that extended nearly 35 miles.
Throughout the summer of 1864 the Federals coordinated several unsuccessful assaults against the Confederate defenses north and south of the James. Offensives against Richmond's outer defenses always paralleled attacks against the Petersburg lines. Then in early September Atlanta fell to Union forces just before a significant victory at Winchester in the Shenandoah Valley. On September 29, encouraged by the successes, Grant ordered another wave of assaults against Richmond and Petersburg. His targets included Fort Harrison and the fortifications at New Market Heights.
Chaffin's Farm/Fort Harrison
One Union force advanced across the James River on a military bridge just after dawn and successfully stormed Fort Harrison, the largest fortification in Richmond's exterior line of defenses. Having captured their primary objectives, the Union soldiers proved unable to take the next step. Confederate troops successfully defended Fort Gilmer, Fort Gregg, Fort Hoke, and Fort Johnson. Victories there allowed the Confederates to reshape their line and block the direct road to Richmond. A stalemate followed for the final six months of the war.
New Market Heights
The high ground was one of two Confederate strong points blocking the southern approaches to Richmond. Union leaders entrusted its capture to several regiments of United States Colored Troops, who took possession of the hill after a bloody morning attack. This action marked the first time in the Virginia campaigns that African American troops independently mounted a major assault.
Peebles' Farm September
The battles at Fort Harrison and New Market Heights on September 29 created opportunities for the Union army south of the James River, too. Grant launched offensive operations west of Petersburg to capitalize on the absence of Confederate defenders who had been sent across the river toward Richmond as reenforcements. Preliminary movements and skirmishing on the 29th led to heavy fighting in the Peebles' Farm vicinity on the following days. The battles consolidated the Union army's foothold there and provided a base from which to expand still farther to the west toward the transportation arteries that supplied Lee's army.
(right panel)Fort Gilmer
During 1862 and 1863 Confederate soldiers and impressed slaves labored to construct dozens of forts and connecting infantry trenches, transforming Richmond into the most heavily fortified city in the South. The position in front of you, named Fort Gilmer for the Confederacy's senior engineer, General Jeremy F. Gilmer, was constructed in 1863.
The fort became a critical point in the Union army's determined efforts to smash its way into Richmond in September 1864. The action here was one of several separate episodes connected with the Battle of Chaffin's Farm.