Henrico County is looking for volunteers to help staff and support a reenactment of the Battle of New Market Heights, a fight significant for the role played by African-American soldiers serving in the U.S. Colored Troops (USCT).
At least 50 volunteers are needed for the reenactment, set for Friday, Sept. 26 through Sunday, Sept. 28 at the Runnymede property near the Malvern Hill site of Richmond National Battlefield Park, 8750 Willis Church Road. Henrico’s Division of Recreation and Parks is organizing the event, which is scheduled to mark the 150th anniversary of the battle.
County officials anticipate up to 1,000 reenactors and 10,000 spectators for the weekend-long event, which will feature demonstrations and tours for school groups on Friday and a total of three battle reenactments on Saturday and Sunday. It also will offer live performances of period music, popular food and merchandise from the era and educational activities for children.
Volunteers will help guide school tour groups, provide line and crowd control, and assist children’s crafts and games, among other duties. Volunteers can work single or multiple shifts. They should be 16 or older and able to work outdoors on field terrain.
“We’re excited to commemorate this historic battle that took place on Henrico soil and bring to life an important moment in the county’s — and our nation’s — history,” said Neil Luther, director of Recreation and Parks. “We need the support of our community volunteers to help make it happen.”
The Battle of New Market Heights took place the morning of Sept. 29, 1864, as part of a broader Union assault against Confederate defenses southeast of Richmond. Several regiments from the U.S. Colored Troops, which had crossed the James River at Deep Bottom the night before, spearheaded an attack on elevated, entrenched Confederate positions along New Market Road near Four Mile Creek. At the same time, additional Union forces moved against Fort Harrison a little more than 2 miles to the west. USCT units suffered heavy casualties in the attack but dislodged Confederate forces from New Market Road; simultaneously, Union troops captured Fort Harrison.
Fourteen African-American soldiers received the Medal of Honor — the nation’s highest military honor — for their heroism in combat at New Market Heights (18 African-American soldiers received the Medal of Honor over the course of the Civil War). Their actions helped dispel the notion, widely held at the time, that African-American soldiers were unfit for combat.