Purchase Preserves Civil War Fortifications at New Market Heights Battlefield

RICHMOND, VA – A nearly 800-foot segment of original earthen fortifications known as the New Market Line, a military defensive that was constructed between Fort Harrison and New Market Heights, has been protected. Capital Region Land Conservancy (“CRLC”) has closed on the purchase of more than 49 acres containing this excellent stretch of Civil War earthworks that was captured by Union soldiers on September 29, 1864 during the Battle of New Market Heights. Funding for the acquisition has been made possible through a $600,000 grant from the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation. This grant will be used to match a National Park Services’ American Battlefield Protection Program Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant that CRLC has applied for through the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Both grants require that the Virginia Department of Historic Resources hold a conservation easement on the property to preserve the cultural landscape of the battlefield.

The Battle of New Market Heights marked the greatest victory of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War. For their valor on the battlefield that day, fourteen U.S.C.T. soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. This single battle accounts for more than three-quarters of all African American recipients of the United States Armed Forces highest military honor awarded during the Civil War. Major General Benjamin Butler, who commanded the Army of the James and Union troops at New Market Heights, later commissioned and personally paid for the Butler Medal to be issued to nearly two hundred African American soldiers to recognize meritorious or acts of bravery performed during the Battle of New Market Heights.

Approximately 870 casualties (140 killed and 730 wounded) were inflicted on the U.S.C.T. during the morning fighting at New Market Heights. That equals a loss of about 1 out of 3 men. Modern opinions place the U.S.C.T.’s primary attack wedge 600 to 1,100 yards to the east of the property that CRLC has purchased. Most authorities agree, however, that the 22nd U.S.C.T. regiment of Col. John H. Holman’s brigade eventually swung west onto the property, moving more or less up the Confederate entrenchments, and skirmished with Hood’s Texas Brigade and whatever defenders remained in that vicinity.  The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies notes the 22nd U.S.C.T. incurred 78 casualties including the death of six, wounding of 65, and capture of four enlisted men during the Battle of New Market Heights. The 22nd U.S.C.T. were among the first foot soldiers to enter Richmond in April 1865.

“Saving this hallowed ground is important to the descendants of U.S.C.T. members who fought at New Market Heights” said Damon Radcliffe, great- great- grandson of Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Major Edward Ratcliff (1835-1915). “Being able to visit and walk the land where my ancestor and thousands of Black men fought for their freedom is a powerful experience.”

“Preserving this core battlefield land at New Market Heights will protect the land, water and history of this site, including the heroic actions of the ‘Forgotten 14’ USCT Medal of Honor recipients who were instrumental to the Union victory at New Market Heights” said Virginia State Senator Jennifer McClellan.

Located immediately east of Interstate I-295 and south of Route 5 New Market Road, the property CRLC has purchased had been owned for 85 years by the family of Frederic Albert Dabney (1882-1961) who purchased it in 1937 and descendants of his daughter Florence Dabney Haskins (1930-2014). It ranks in ConserveVirginia 3.0 among the Top 10 Percent of land in the Commonwealth of Virginia to protect for in the categories of cultural and historic resources preservation, scenic preservation, and water quality improvement as it borders an unnamed tributary of Four Mile Creek.

The property lies within a total of five battlefields as identified by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. Most notably it is entirely within the core and study area for the Chaffin’s Farm and New Market Heights Battlefield. It lies partially within core and study area for Deep Bottom I Battlefield and Deep Bottom II Battlefield as well as partially within the study area of Darbytown & New Market Road Battlefield and Glendale Battlefield.

“This portion of New Market Heights Battlefield is part of a remarkable historic landscape. We are proud to honor the history of this land and preserve this land for public access and interpretation” said L. Preston Bryant, Board President of Capital Region Land Conservancy.

Preservation Virginia listed New Market Heights Battlefield among Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places in 2021. Though CRLC, Henrico County, and American Battlefield Trust own more than 300 acres of the approximately 2,000 acres of core battlefield, the National Park Service has had plans for a New Market Heights unit of the Richmond National Battlefield Park since 1995 but has yet secured land to provide meaningful public access and interpretation of the site of the U.S.C.T.’s greatest victory of the Civil War. The protection of these 49 acres will add to the larger conserved landscape of Henrico County’s future New Market Park immediately to the east. Further to the east of the county-owned land is 28 acres at Four Mile Creek Farm that were gifted to Capital Region Land Conservancy in 2022.

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About Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC):  Incorporated in March 2005 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, CRLC seeks to conserve and protect the natural and historic land and water resources of Virginia’s Capital Region for the benefit of current and future generations. Visit www.capitalregionland.org  to learn more about CRLC’s land conservation programs.

For more information, contact Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director at parker@capitalregionland.org and 202-302-0153