Varina in Henrico County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
New Market Heights
A Charge For Honor
Siege of Petersburg & Richmond 1864 - 1865
For almost ten months beginning in mid-June 1864, the Army of the Potomac besieged the cities of Petersburg and Richmond from the east and south. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered the Union fortifications extended west of Petersburg and launched frequent attacks there and near Richmond, forcing Confederate Gen. Robert E Lee to stretch his thin defensive lines and move his outnumbered troops to counter the attacks. On April 3, 1865, Lee evacuated his army west after the Federal breakthrough at Petersburg, and the Union army occupied both cities.
On September 29, 1864, this ground was the scene of combat as Union Gen. Benjamin F. Butler directed a two-pronged attack on Confederate defenses here. Part of his force crossed the James River at Deep Bottom, about two miles southeast, and marched toward you. One wing attacked Fort Harrison, three miles to your right front, while the other assaulted the Confederate earthworks across the road in front of you. To slow the attack, the defenders placed abatis—felled trees with intertwined branches pointing south—between the earthworks and swampy
Col. Samuel A. Duncan's brigade of U.S. Colored Troops (USCTs), the 4th and 6th USCT, got tangled in the abatis in the initial assault and was bloodily repulsed. Gen. Charles J. Paine then led his other USCT brigades toward you. Hardened Confederate veterans defended the line on New Market Road, including Gen. John Gregg's Texas brigade, the 1st Rockbridge Artillery, and part of Gen. Martin Gary's dismounted cavalry. Additional attacks, combined with the news that Fort Harrison had fallen, compelled the Confederates here to retreat with the USCTs in pursuit.
Of 20 Medals of Honor awarded to black soldiers and sailors for Civil War service, 14 were given for bravery at New Market Heights. The battle proved that USCTs could fight and win largely on their own. Their courage inspired the African Americans who followed them. By war's end, they comprised 10 percent of the entire army.
Medal of Honor recipients include two white officers.
Rescuing either the national or regimental flags:
Lt. Nathan Edgerton Sgt. Charles Veal Sgt. Alexander Kelly Sgt. Christian Fleetwood Sgt. Alfred Hilton Sgt. Thomas Hawkins
Taking command after their officers were killed or wounded:
Sgt. Powhatan Beaty Pvt. Edward Ratcliff Pvt. James Bronson Pvt.
Gallantry, courage, and heroism:
Lt. William Appleton Sgt. James Harris Corp. Miles James Pvt. William H. Barnes Pvt. James Gardiner
Gen. Charles J. Paine U.S. Army Military Institute, Carslisle, Pa.
Gen. John Gregg Courtesy Library of Congress
Christian Fleetwood wearing Medal of Honor(center) Courtesy Library of Congress
Fleetwood Seizing the Flag at the Battle of New Market Heights — Courtesy of the County of Henrico
Erected by Virginia Civil War Trails.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Virginia Civil War Trails series list. A significant historical date for this entry is September 29, 1864.
Location. 37° 26.093′ N, 77° 19.746′ W. Marker is in Varina, Virginia, in Henrico County. Marker is at the intersection of Farmers Circle Drive and New Market Road (Virginia Route 5), on the left when traveling north on Farmers Circle Drive. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Henrico VA 23231, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Action at Osborne's (within shouting distance of this marker); Varina (within shouting distance of this marker); Proposed First University in English America (within shouting distance of this marker); Henrico History (within shouting distance of this marker); Henrico Town (within shouting distance of this marker); Pocahontas (within shouting distance of this marker); George Thorpe (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Battle of New Market Heights (approx. 0.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Varina.
Also see . . .
1. USCT Medal of Honor Recipients - Battle of New Market Heights. Richmond National Battlefield Park (Submitted on October 11, 2015.)
2. The Battle of New Market Heights. Civil War Trust (Submitted on October 11, 2015.)
Credits. This page was last revised on November 15, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 11, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 490 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on November 14, 2020, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on October 11, 2015, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.