FORT HARRISON, VIRGINIA
09/29/64

     Fort Harrison, Va., Sept. 29-30, 1864.  10th and 18th 
Army Corps and Kautz's Cavalry Division.  Fort Harrison was a 
redoubt on the Confederate line of defenses north of the James 
river, and about a mile directly east of Chaffin's bluff.  A 
short distance north was another redoubt known as Fort Gilmer, 
both forts being connected with the works at Chaffin's bluff 
by lines of intrenchments, while an advanced line, held by the 
enemy's pickets, extended northeast from Fort Harrison.  On 
Sept. 28 Maj.-Gen. David B. Birney, commanding the 1Oth corps, 
was directed to cross the James river at the upper pontoon 
bridge at Deep Bottom (q. v.) and advance upon Richmond by the 
Newmarket and Darbytown roads.  Kautz, with his cavalry 
division, was to move on the latter road in support of 
Birney's movement, and as a diversion Maj.-Gen. E. O. C. Ord, 
with the 18th corps, was directed to cross the river by a 
pontoon 2 miles below Dutch gap and move up the Varina road 
against the Confederate works about Chaffin's bluff.  The 
movement was made secretly, and by daylight on the 29th both 
corps were north of the James.  The Confederate pickets and 
skirmishers were driven in and about 7:30 the head of Ord's 
column reached the open fields of the Chaffin farm in front of 
Fort Harrison, when the enemy immediately opened fire with 
artillery from the fort and the adjacent trenches.  Ord 
reconnoitered the ground and made dispositions to attack.  
Stannard's division was directed to push forward on the left 
of the road, advance at quick time across the open ground, and 
at the double-quick upon arriving at the foot of the hill in 
front of the fort, while Heckman's division was to move to the 
right of the road and attack in front.  Heckman went too far 
into the woods and when the time came for him to assault his 
brigades were scattered and could not be brought up in time to 
be of service.  Stannard's men, Burnham's brigade in the lead 
advanced across the open ground in the face of a severe fire, 
swept over the parapet, and after a sharp encounter carried 
the fort, capturing 16 guns and a number of prisoners.  The 
guns were turned on the works to the right and left of the 
fort and two lunettes, about 600 yards apart, with 6 more 
pieces of artillery fell into the hands of the Federals.  Ord 
then tried to form his men to swing round inside the trenches 
toward Fort Gilmer, but in the excitement and confusion, and 
owing to the heavy loss in brigade and regimental commanders, 
the attempt did not succeed.  Burnham had been killed early in 
the assault and two other officers that succeeded him in 
command of the brigade were wounded in quick succession.  
While trying to rally his men Ord was severely wounded and the 
command of the corps devolved on Gen. Heckman, who was just 
about to attack Fort Gilmer.  Ord had been instructed to 
occupy such works as he took, after which he was to push on 
with any spare force he had, and attack the works toward 
Richmond.  These instructions were imparted to Heckman when he 
assumed command, and he afterward made an attack on Fort 
Gilmer, but as that work had been strongly reinforced the 
assault was repulsed with considerable loss.

    The 1Oth corps, Foster's division in advance, moved 
forward on the Kingsland road from Deep Bottom about 6 a. m. 
and shortly after 9 o'clock met the enemy's pickets along the 
line of works at the junction of the Mill and New Market 
roads.  Part of the 142nd N. Y., under Lieut.-Col. Barney was 
deployed as skirmishers, and closely followed by the remainder 
of the 1st brigade, charged the works, driving the enemy in 
some confusion back to Laurel Hill Church where the 
Confederates had a battery of l2-pounders in position.  This 
battery was quickly dislodged and Foster formed his command 
along the New Market road, his right resting at the church, 
where he remained until about the middle of the afternoon when 
the corps was ordered to make an assault on Fort Gilmer and 
the main line of works as far as New Market road.  In this 
assault the only Union troops that reached the fort were those 
belonging to the colored brigade.  They jumped into the ditch 
and endeavored to scale the parapet by climbing upon each 
other's shoulders, but their determined efforts were finally 
defeated and the brigade driven back with severe loss.  The 
corps then fell back to Laurel hill, where it intrenched.  
During the night of the 29th and the forenoon of the 30th 
large parties of Stannard's division worked arduously to made 
Fort Harrison an enclosed work in anticipation of an attempt 
to recapture it.  Gen. Ewell, who was in command of the 
Confederate forces on the north side of the James, was joined 
by Gen. Lee soon after Stannard's successful assault on the 
fort, and steps were at once taken to recover the lost 
position.  Troops were hurried over from the south side of the 
river and by daylight on the 30th ten brigades were 
concentrated near Fort Gilmer ready for an attack on Stannard.  
About 2 p. m. the enemy opened fire with 12 pieces of 
artillery on Stannard's center and left and Anderson, now in 
command of Longstreet's corps, advanced on the right with the 
brigades of Law, Anderson, Bratton, Colquitt and Clingman.  
Stannard ordered his men to reserve their fire until the 
Confederates came out of the chaparral, when the whole line 
opened a most effective fire, which drove the enemy back to 
the cover of the underbrush.  At this unfortunate juncture it 
was discovered that the Federal supply of artillery ammunition 
was exhausted and Stannard ordered the guns to be removed by 
hand.  Two subsequent attacks were repulsed in like manner and 
the day closed with the Union troops still in possession of 
the fort.

    The Federal loss during the several engagements about Fort 
Harrison, Fort Gilmer, New Market Heights, Laurel Hill Church 
etc., was 383 killed, 2,299 wounded and 645 missing.  The 
"Medical and Surgical History of the War" gives the total 
number of Confederates killed and wounded at 2,000.  In 
addition to this list of casualties about 300 were captured, 
together with 22 pieces of artillery and a large quantity of 
ammunition, camp equipage, etc.  Although the expedition was 
not entirely a success its principal object-that of preventing 
Lee from sending reinforcements to Early in the Shenandoah 
Valley--was accomplished.  Had it not been for Heckman's 
unfortunate error in taking position and the destructive fire 
of the Confederate gunboats in the river just at the time Ord 
was trying to rally his men for an attack on Fort Gilmer, that 
work would have undoubtedly fallen into the hands of the Union 
forces, thus opening the way for an entry into Richmond.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 5