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Friday, October 3, 2014

The Fall of Fort Harrison- Part One

NPS map of portion Richmond National Battlefield Park

The Union moves north of the James River in the early fall of 1864 led to the capture of the Confederate Fort Harrison on the 28th of September, 1864. Fort Harrison is probably know to most people in New Kent at the main component of the Richmond National Battlefield Park in eastern Henrico. The fort has another connection to New Kent than that of simple proximity however. The Pamunkey Artillery, also know as Jone's Company, Heavy Artillery as well as a few other names, was an artillery regiment raised in New Kent. Battery sized, this unit operated not field artillery, but the heavier pieces used to defend fortified positions.

What follows is a "letter to the editor" written to the Richmond Sentinel in October 1864 by a Confederate soldier describing the roles of the various artillery companies in the unsuccessful defense of the fort.

                                 CHAFFIN'S BLUFF,
                                October 8th, 1864

I have heard so much, for the last few days, about what part this battalion acted in the engagement near here, on the 29th of September last, I feel that justice should be done, if possible. For about ten days before the 29th, over one hundred and fifty of our battalion had been detailed to throw up works at "Signal Hill," about two mile below here. On the morning of the advance of the enemy, the few remaining men were ordered to proceed out to our line of fortifications between here and "Signal Hill." Very soon after the enemy appeared in front of "Fort Harrison." A small portion of the Goochland Artillery were in the fort; Capt. Allen, with a small portion of the Lunenburg Artillery, was to the right in a small redoubt; Lieut. Winder, with two small howitzers, was to his right; Capt. Jones, with a portion of the Pamunkey Artillery, to his right. When the enemy entered Fort Harrison, Captain Allen was forced with his few men, to join Lieut. Winder. They then for several hours kept the enemy in check until about ten o'clock, when Captain A. received a painful wound in the right hand. Shortly after, other troops came to their assistance. Then the enemy were completely checked. Lieut. Col. J.M. Ellerson, had left the Bluff early in the morning for Fort Harrison, where they were all taken prisoners by the rapid advance of the enemy. All testify to the bravery of Captain Allen and Lieutenant Winder, during the whole engagement. They had but a few men, until our other men joined them from Signal Hill, but they disposed them to the best advantage. I hope before long the case can be made to all, that what few men we had here should not be blamed for the fall of Fort Harrison. If our battalion had not been scattered so much, the enemy would never have occupied any of the works. I am happy to say the small portion of the works the enemy occupy does them no material service towards their "on to Richmond." Hoping some abler pen may take this matter in hand, I will say no more for the present.


-The Sentinel(Richmond), October 12, 1864

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