Newly discovered Civil War photos show Henrico battlefield
Henrico County’s commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle of New Market Heights will take place on a grand scale later this month, but the public gained new insight into local battle sites last week.
Newly discovered historic photos showing troops at Fort Harrison and Petersburg were unveiled publicly for the first time by the National Park Service Sept. 13 at the Henrico Theatre in Highland Springs.
NPS ranger and historian Mike Gorman presented an overview of the Richmond-Petersburg campaign using the photographs, taken in 1864 and 1865. The pictures feature landscapes and panoramas around Fort Harrison and Petersburg, as well as the only known images of both Union and Confederate soldiers on the field at the same time.
“We are constrained by when the photographers were there and what they were able to see,” Gorman said. “During the Civil War, you couldn’t photograph active things – you had to wait until there were conditions of repose, and it was safe and there was a lull. Those moments actually contain some pretty amazing things and provide insight into the war, which is why these photos are so important.”
Fort Harrison played an important role from the very beginning of the war, as Confederate engineers and slave laborers constructed permanent defenses around Richmond, particularly anchored south of the capital on the James River. One of the major key elements was that from Fort Harrison, one could see all the way to the James River.
However, in 1864, the majority of the Confederate forces were in Petersburg, with numbers barely at 200; Fort Harrison was attacked by the Union and quickly taken under siege.
The recently discovered images not only bring to life elements of the war, but also have helped correct historians’ misconceptions. Fortifications that previously had been misidentified now can be correctly labeled, permitting a better understanding of the battlefield.
Some of the most unique photographs were ones that were taken consecutively, Gorman said, “because nothing is happening on the battlefield front, yet many of the images captured are of the army establishing a major supply post at City Point, which is now Hopewell. It was a major port that photographers found irresistible, and the images convey massiveness, the wait, and the inevitable conclusion of the war creating a powerful message.
“You can see wind blowing, tent flaps, boats rising and little things that bring it back to life.”
Gorman’s program, presented by Richmond National Battlefield Park and Henrico County Division of Recreation and Parks, was a precursor to the county’s Sept. 26-28 commemoration of the battle of New Market Heights, which took place on Sept. 29, 1864. The Fort Harrison battlefield is one of the 13 sites protected by Richmond National Battlefield Park where key Civil War battles took place in 1862 and 1864.
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The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
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Laxton opened Early Bird Biscuit Co. & Bakery in early July and since then biscuits have been flying out of there.
The self-taught baker draws hungry crowds in with a biscuit of the day like the Old Bay Cheddar, but the buttermilk biscuits are the staple.
“On a Saturday I generally make about 400 biscuits with my two hands,” Laxton said. “I’m constantly making biscuits all day long.” > Read more.
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Sep. 18, 2014Click here to read the print edition.
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