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Civil War  |  News

On 157th Anniversary, New Interpretation and National Attention for Battle of New Market Heights

Freshly installed explanatory signage for engagement for which 14 members of the United States Colored Troops receive the Medal of Honor appear in FOX News Sunday “Power Player” segment

Mary Koik, (202) 367-1861 x7231

(Richmond, Va.) — At dawn on September 29, 1864, three brigades of the United States Colored Troops assaulted Confederate positions on New Market Heights, one element of a multi-pronged offensive to threaten the Southern capital of Richmond. After fierce, the Union carried the day in this sector as the Confederates sacrificed that high ground to hold elsewhere along the line and defend the city. Fourteen USCT soldiers earned the Medal of Honor — a remarkable figure considering only 25 Black men received the nation’s highest award for valor during the entire Civil War.  

The American Battlefield Trust has protected a total of 88 acres on the New Market Heights Battlefield, including a February 2021 acquisition announcement. In preparation for the anniversary, the Trust worked with partners at Civil War Trails, Inc., to install a series of four educational signs on its property, the first step in creating a battlefield park ready to welcome visitors. The signs include information on the battle and overall campaign, as well as the Medal of Honor recipients, recognized permanently by name on the battlefield for the first time, and the battlefield preservation process.  

Two men read descriptive signage on a battlefield
Installation of interpretive signage at New Market Heights, September 2021.

Over the weekend, Damon Radcliffe, the great-great-grandson of one of those recipients appeared on the national broadcast of FOX News Sunday with host Chris Wallace as the “Power Player of the Week,” to discuss the importance of protecting New Market Heights and other sites where nearly 180,000 Black volunteers in Army units designated as U.S. Colored Troops fought for liberty, with some 34,000 giving their lives for the cause.  

“It’s a sense of bravery, a sense of courage,” Radcliffe, a lieutenant in the nearby York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office told Wallace. Through preservation, he noted, “The story will always continue on; that’s what this is about.” 

For valor at New Market Heights, the Medal of Honor was presented to: Pvt. William Barnes, Company C, 38th USCT; 1st Sgt. Powhatan Beaty, Company G, 5th USCT; 1st Sgt. James Bronson, Company D, 5th USCT; Sgt. Maj. Christian Fleetwood, 4th USCT; Pvt. James Gardiner, Company I, 36th USCT; Sgt. James H. Harris, Company B, 38th USCT; Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Hawkins, 6th USCT; Sgt. Alfred Hilton, Co. H, 4th USCT; Sgt. Maj. Milton Holland, 5th USCT; Cpl. Miles James, Company B, 36th USCT; 1st Sgt. Alexander Kelly, Company F, 6th USCT; 1st Sgt. Robert Penn, Company I, 5th USCT; 1st Sgt. Edward Ratcliff, Company C, 38th USCT; and  Pvt. Robert Veal, Company D, 4th USCT. Two white officers leading USCT units, 1st Lt. William Appleton (Company H, 4th USCT) and Lt. Nathan Edgerton (Adjutant, 6th USCT) were also recognized with that honor.   

Information on each Civil War recipient of the Medal, tied to the battlefield where he fought is available in the Trust’s Medal of Honor Database .  

The American Battlefield Trust is dedicated to preserving America’s hallowed battlegrounds and educating the public about what happened there and why it matters today.  The nonprofit, nonpartisan organization has protected more than 53,000 acres associated with the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. Learn more at www.battlefields.org