|From the beginning of the
war, Confederate engineers worked to build permanent defenses around
Richmond. By 1864, they had created a
system anchored south of the capital on the James River at Chaffin’s Farm.
This outer line was supported by an intermediate and inner system of
fortifications much closer to the capital.
|The strength of these lines
remained untested until September 1864 when General Ulysses S. Grant
tried to capture Richmond or Petersburg by attacking simultaneously north and
south of the James.
|The attack north of the
river occurred on September 29th. Troops under Federal General Benjamin
Butler launched attacks on two fronts. The Union X Corps advanced against
New Market Heights north of Deep Bottom, while the XVIII Corps attacked Fort
|Maj. Gen. David B. Birney
moved the X Corps north from the Deep Bottom bridgehead toward the
Confederate works atop New Market Heights manned by Brig. Gen. John
Gregg. A brigade of U.S. Colored Troops attacked the heights but was
repulsed. Christian Fleetwood’s actions In this attack earned him the Medal
of Honor. Birney reinforced the assault force and stormed the heights
again. Alfred Terry’s division managed to turn the Confederate left
flank, thus turning the tide of the battle. Word of Union success against
Fort Harrison then reached Gregg, compelling him to pull
Confederate troops back to Forts Gregg, Gilmer and Johnson.
|Once Birney's troops
had taken New Market Heights, the X Corps turned to the northwest along the
New Market Road and moved against a secondary line of works guarding Richmond
north of Fort Harrison. Brig. Gen. Robert S. Foster's X Corps division
assaulted a small salient known as . David Birney's brother, Brig. Gen. William
Birney, led a brigade of U.S. Colored Troops against south of Fort Gilmer. These attacks were
marked by heroism among the Colored Troops but were ultimately repulsed.