HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The National Park Service will conduct tours of a pivotal Civil War battlefield for the first time this September, marking the 158th anniversary of the battle of New Market heights.
The tours on Wednesday, Sept. 24, will focus on two battles that were part of a broader offensive during the siege of Richmond, towards the end of the Civil War.
The first, Fort Harrison, saw Union troops storm a confederate fortification, losing many senior officers but ultimately scattering the confederate forces and securing the eastern siege line.
The second, New Market Heights, saw regiments of Black troops storm difficult confederate defense after a pre-dawn river crossing — an offensive that earned 14 soldiers the medal of honor.
Together, the two battles — which were fought within hours of each other — convinced confederate general Robert E. Lee to withdraw forces from Petersburg to reinforce defenses North of the James. That decision ultimately contributed to the fall of Petersburg and, eventually, Grant’s final victory over Lee in 1865.
Fort Harrison has long been preserved and studied, with the park opening in the 1920s and operating continuously since then.
On the other hand, New Market Heights has only recently been preserved, and pieces of the battlefield are currently owned by Henrico County, the American Battlefield Trust and the Capital Region Land Conservancy. While the battlefield hasn’t received as much attention as nearby Fort Harrison, a new grant by the National Park Service will fund an archeological study of the area.
Residents interested in touring the two battlefields on Wednesday, Sept. 24, should arrive at Fort Harrison around 10 a.m., where the first tours will be given, before rangers continue on to New Market Heights later in the day. The full itinerary is included below:
|10 am||Ranger-led walking tour|
|11 am||Presentation on the early preservation of the battlefield and the Civilian Conservation Corps|
|1 pm||Car caravan tour from Fort Harrison to New Market Heights, led by the American Battlefield Trust|
|2 pm||Ranger-led walking tour|
|3 pm||Presentation on the early preservation of the battlefield and the Civilian Conservation Corps|