Fort Harrison - Part 2

September 29, 1864

Inside of Fort Gilmer

     Further north along the Confederate lines stood several defensive works, including Fort Gilmer.  At 9:30 A.M., Ripley's brigade of Ord's XVIII Corps had attacked the fort, but they soon went to ground.  Birney planned an attack with the divisions of Foster and William Birney, his brother. At 1:30 P.M., Foster's division attacked Alone.  The 200 Confederates defenders of Fort Gilmer were reinforced and threw back Foster's division.

Southern Face of Fort Gilmer

     At 2:00 P.M., as Foster was being repulsed, William Birney's division belatedly attacked.  Black troops of the 7th USCT bravely advanced into the ditch visible in the picture.  Without ladders, the men couldn't scale the walls, so they were subjected to rifle fire, grenades, and lit artillery shells.  With less than 100 men left alive, they surrendered.  Some of the men were then murdered.

     The attack on Richmond was now over.  The next day, Lee counterattacked at Fort Harrison, but the fort remained in Union hands.  Confederate engineers worked on a new defensive line closer to Richmond.  The Federals had lost over 3,000 men in the attempt to take Richmond and had inflicted about 2,000 Confederate casualties.  Most importantly, the Union's best chance to capture Richmond and end the war was lost.  With Fort Harrison captured, the Yankees constructed a fortified line anchored on the James at Fort Brady. 

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