DHR Administers Easement Over Land Linked to Five Civil War Battles

Published September 27, 2023

Virginia Department of Historic Resources
Capital Region Land Conservancy

(dhr.virginia.gov)
For Immediate Release
September 27, 2023

Contact:
Ivy Tan
Department of Historic Resources
Marketing & Communications Manager
ivy.tan@dhr.virginia.gov
804-482-6445

Parker C. Agelasto
Capital Region Land Conservancy
Executive Director
parker@capitalregionland.org
202-302-0153

—The easement protects property in Henrico County that is associated with several battles highlighting the contributions of the United States Colored Troops in the American Civil War—

RICHMOND – The Department of Historic Resources (DHR) has executed and recorded a perpetual historic preservation easement over property in Henrico County that is associated with five different battles of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The easement, recorded on August 29, 2023, protects just over 49 acres of historic open-space land from subdivision and commercial development.

Known as the Haskins Tract, the property contains significant landscape where the Civil War battles of Glendale, Deep Bottom I and II, Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights, and Darbytown and New Market Roads took place. The Capital Region Land Conservancy (CRLC), a Richmond-based nonprofit that conserves and stewards natural and historic land and water resources in Central Virginia, owns and manages the property.

“CRLC is honored to have now protected more than 100 acres within the core of the New Market Heights Battlefield. Yet there is so much more that is needed to preserve the approximately 2,000 acres that constitute this hallowed ground where African Americans fought, died, and had their greatest military victory during the American Civil War,” said Parker C. Agelasto, Executive Director of CRLC.

The Haskins Tract falls entirely within the historic core of the site of the Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights Battle. In September 1864, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant ordered an attack on Confederate fortifications known as the “New Market Line” located southeast of Richmond, along New Market Road (present-day Virginia Route 5), to divert Confederate forces from Petersburg. Constructed during the summer of 1864, the fortifications served as Confederate troops’ primary point of resistance during the battle. On the morning of September 29, 1864, Union troops under Maj. Gen. David Birney’s X Corps crossed the James River at Aiken’s Landing and attacked Fort Harrison further to the west, while a second unit crossed at Deep Bottom and attacked the heights above New Market Road. Another unit subsequently advanced in the direction of the Haskins Tract to attack Confederate defenses south of New Market Road. Three United States Colored Troop (USCT) brigades under Brig. Gen. Charles Paine engaged in much of the fighting that occurred on or near the Haskins Tract.

Confederate forces including the Texas Brigade and Richmond Howitzers artillery defended their position at New Market Heights, but Union forces were able to capture the Confederate line along New Market Road. While the Confederates fought back in the skirmishes that followed, they were ultimately unable to retake their original position. The battle, which resulted in a stalemate with approximately 5,300 casualties, achieved Grant’s objective to force Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to withdraw his troops away from Petersburg in order to strengthen Richmond’s defenses—a move that ultimately led to the fall of Richmond in April 1865 and the end of war.

The Haskins Tract includes a well-preserved 650-foot segment of the Confederate New Market Line earthen fortifications. The property is also located near the site of the successful breakthrough made by the 5th, 36th, and 38th USCT. During the Battle of Chaffin's Farm/New Market Heights, the 22nd USCT supported the breakthrough by skirmishing and drawing Confederates troops to defend the left—an engagement that occurred on the property now protected by the easement. Three of the battles fought on the property—Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights, First Deep Bottom, and Second Deep Bottom—are associated with African American military heritage and the contributions made by the USCT during the Civil War. The Battle of Chaffin’s Farm/New Market Heights, however, stands out because of its association with 14 African American soldiers who received the Medal of Honor for their actions on the battlefield.

Located near the intersection of Virginia Route 5 and Interstate 295 in eastern Henrico County, the Haskins Tract is an irregularly shaped parcel of vacant land. It encompasses forested terrain with a gently sloping highland terrace that drops to a relatively flat area. An unnamed perennial stream, a tributary of Four Mile Creek, flows along the eastern and southern property boundaries. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation documents the property as predictive habitat for natural heritage resources.

CRLC Land Holdings, LLC acquired the Haskins Tract in 2023 through, in part, an American Battlefield Protection Program Battlefield Land Acquisition Grant and a Virginia Land Conservation Fund grant. As a requirement of the grants, CRLC donated the easement to the Virginia Board of Historic Resources (VBHR). CRLC plans to highlight the property’s historical significance by installing a publicly accessible pedestrian trail and interpretive signs and by offering tours and other educational programming.

“DHR is proud to partner with the CRLC to preserve this highly significant, multi-dimensional tract. This property stands out as a notable addition to the Commonwealth’s portfolio of protected battlefield land due to its integrity, the intensity of battle activity, and its association with the USCT,” DHR Director Julie Langan said.

As of 2023, DHR has placed under easement more than 45,000 acres of land. DHR easements are held by the VBHR, and DHR staff monitor the eased lands. The VBHR currently holds easements on approximately 15,900 acres of battlefields in Virginia.

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.

The Haskins Tract in Henrico County, Virginia
The Haskins Tract in Henrico County, Va., in August 2023.

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