Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Harrison (VA)

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
Fort Harrison is located on the south side of Richmond, Virginia near the James River. This fort was a large earthern fortification built as part of the defenses of Richmond. Construction first began on this large fort in 1862 and was completed in 1863. The orginal earthworks ranged from 15-25 feet high and 15-20 feet wide protected by a dry ditch. The fort was named after Lt. William Harrison of the Confederate Army.
fort harrison 1.jpg

The fort was orginally garrisoned by large numbers of Confederate troops tasked with defending the capitol of Richmond however by 1864 because of the redeployment of troops during the ongoing Siege of Petersburg Fort Harrison's garrison had fallen to around only 200 troops.

The Union Army recognizing the weaknesses in the Confederate line launched an attack on September 29, 1864 in what would later become known as the Battle of Chaffin's Farm. During the attack the small Confederate garrison under Major Richard Taylor was quickly overrun and Union troops took command of the fort. The following day Confederate forces launched a counterattack however it proved unsuccessful.
800px-Fort_Harrison_-_18.jpg

Union forces quickly began constructing more fortifications at Fort Harrison this time facing the Confederate capitol of Richmond. Northern forces also renamed the fortification Fort Burnham after Brig. General Hiram Burnham who was killed on the September 29th assault on the fort. Following the actions of September 30th the Confederate troops recognized that another assualt would be futile established new lines which brought that portion of the line around Richmond to a stalemate. Fort Burnham would remain in Union hands for the remainder of the war.
800px-Fort_Harrison_Cannon.jpg

In 1865 following the war troops abandoned the fort which over time remained, for the most part, untouched. Today the fort, once again named Fort Harrison, serves as part of the Richmond National Battlefield Park and is under the charge of the National Park Service. Visitors can tour Fort Harrison's earthworks and view various pieces of artillery along with the ruins of various magazines and "bombproofs" built for the protection of troops under bombardment. There is also a visitor center on site that is open during the summer months. (Picture Below)
Fort_HarrisonVisitor_Ctr_-_2.jpg


http://www.nps.gov/rich/historyculture/fort-harrison.htm
http://www.fortwiki.com/Fort_Harrison_(4)

Also be sure to check out all other "forgotten forts" in the Forgotten Forts Series Index (Link Below)
http://www.civilwartalk.com/threads/forgotten-forts-series-index.80901/
 

NFB22

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jun 21, 2012
Location
Louisville, KY
I'm not taking shots but I'm saying Ft. Harrison is in very good shape and is well cared for. It's not forgotten.

Most people however unless familiar with Richmond and the park or that part of the war have no idea its there though. Thats what I'm trying to get across. I see you're from Virginia and obviously interested in the ACW if you're on this site so therefore I'm sure you would know about it. Just as I know plenty of sites in Indiana.
 

VMIKeydet

Private
Joined
Nov 6, 2020
Most people however unless familiar with Richmond and the park or that part of the war have no idea its there though. Thats what I'm trying to get across. I see you're from Virginia and obviously interested in the ACW if you're on this site so therefore I'm sure you would know about it. Just as I know plenty of sites in Indiana.
This was one of my duty spots while a Ranger. Over the course of three summers, 90% of my days there saw less than 10 visitors. A handful saw none at all. Definitely a forgotten fort, and it's a shame in light of the action that took place there.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
The orginal earthworks ranged from 15-25 feet high and 15-20 feet wide protected by a dry ditch.

Yes, I was noticing that some of these earthworks look better-preserved than I would expect. Makes me wonder whether there might have been some efforts at reconstruction, although I'm not sure what NPS policies are around that.

Roy B.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Looks like it was probably thoroughly eroded and the NPS attempted a restoration from the photos here.

I'm not bashing the effort, in my mind more forts on battlefields that are little more than a small line of mounded dirt ought to be restored. It'd be better for teaching and giving folks an idea of what they looked like. Heck throw in first class reenactors doing a Living History once or twice a year it could really bring in the tourists and hopefully more income to the parks.

I know several forts that would make good candidates. Like several in Vicksburg. The ones there just had dirt built up where the originals had been.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
I'm not bashing the effort, in my mind more forts on battlefields that are little more than a small line of mounded dirt ought to be restored. It'd be better for teaching and giving folks an idea of what they looked like. Heck throw in first class reenactors doing a Living History once or twice a year it could really bring in the tourists and hopefully more income to the parks.

I've thought about something like that for the Civil War earthworks here in Raleigh, NC. They were an 8-mile circle during the war, and nothing has ever been done to preserve them. All that's left now are like you said, lines of earth mounds and irregularities on the ground. The city is getting ready to develop some former state-owned land into a park, and over 3/4 mile of earthworks ran right across it. I've though it could be cool to do a combination of archaeology, preservation, and reconstruction along part of the line. There was an artillery emplacement on a high spot there. Could make an interesting setting for a mini-park, with markers and interpretive displays, along with living-history events at certain times. I've been trying to communicate with the park planners about this, and I've seen some interest.

Roy B.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
Now if you want truly forgotten forts in the area, there are several around Harrison that are truly forgotten, and are partially or fully saved, but get very little visitorship. Brady, Gilmer, etc
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
I've thought about something like that for the Civil War earthworks here in Raleigh, NC. They were an 8-mile circle during the war, and nothing has ever been done to preserve them. All that's left now are like you said, lines of earth mounds and irregularities on the ground. The city is getting ready to develop some former state-owned land into a park, and over 3/4 mile of earthworks ran right across it. I've though it could be cool to do a combination of archaeology, preservation, and reconstruction along part of the line. There was an artillery emplacement on a high spot there. Could make an interesting setting for a mini-park, with markers and interpretive displays, along with living-history events at certain times. I've been trying to communicate with the park planners about this, and I've seen some interest.

Roy B.

Sounds like an idea. Its dirt, but a lot of folks will go completely bonkers at the notion, never mind the benefits in bringing in the dollars that come with tourists, and putting history into perspective for its students.

Vicksburg in my mind is the best candidate for reconstruction. Almost every earthwork there is circa-1920's or 1930's replica. Even places like Fort Hill. The CCC just mounded up dirt to look like old eroded earthworks whereas literally almost, (but not all) every work was filled in or destroyed by war's end or shortly thereafter. I've had folks argue with me till they were blue in the face about Fort Hill even though there's photographic evidence to prove what's there is a replica. Yet still folks go bonkers at the notion to rebuild it to its wartime appearance.
 

A. Roy

Sergeant Major
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Its dirt, but a lot of folks will go completely bonkers at the notion, never mind the benefits in bringing in the dollars that come with tourists, and putting history into perspective for its students.

In the park I'm talking about, there's almost nothing still existing above ground, so there's not much to go bonkers over. Archaeology these days can identify remnants below ground, so that would probably be the approach at Dix Park. As far as tourist dollars, that could be an incentive for Raleigh planners, as this city tends to give priority to stuff that brings in money...

Roy B.
 
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