The Battle of New Market Heights by James S. Price

We are happy to welcome author James S. Price, as a guest author. James S. Price is a Civil War historian, blogger and educator who specializes in the history of African-American Union soldiers. He has worked for many Civil War sites and museums, including Petersburg National Battlefield, Pamplin Historical Park and the American Civil War Center at historic Tredegar. James’ new book, The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs By the Sword, has recently been released. The work explores the Battle of New Market Heights, where in September of 1864 fourteen African-American soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. We thank James for taking the time to post with us.

Thursday September 29, 1864 is arguably one of the most important days in American history. Without question, it is one of the most important days in African-American history. On that day, in a few short hours of bloody fighting, the Federal Army of the James broke the outer ring of defenses protecting the Confederate capital of Richmond. And at a place called New Market Heights one of the most elite units in Robert E. Lee’s vaunted Army of Northern Virginia was dislodged from its trenches by African-American Union soldiers of the United States Colored Troops.

After two nearly-suicidal attacks, approximately 1,027 of these sable warriors had become casualties. Sixteen of the survivors – fourteen black soldiers and two of their white officers – would be awarded the Medal of Honor for what one eyewitness described as “unflinching heroism” in the attack upon the Confederate position. African-American sacrifices at New Market Heights, publicized by the awarding of the Medal of Honor, along with other notable examples of heroic conduct at places such as Battery Wagner and the Crater, would help to ensure the passage of the 13th Amendment and pave the long road to citizenship and equality. For too long, this historic clash has languished in relative obscurity.

However, in my new book – The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs By The Sword – I offer a fresh examination of this battle and its effects upon the war that transformed American society. As the Sesquicentennial Commemoration of the American Civil War gets under way, it is my hope that this book will be the starting point for all who wish to further their understanding of the contributions of black troops and how that contribution was brought into stunning clarity in the trenches at New Market Heights.

To read more by James visit his blog, The Sable Arm.

Authored by James S. Price

6 Responses to The Battle of New Market Heights by James S. Price

  1. I was hoping you could have elaborated a little bit more on this battle. From what (little) I have read about the battle the North significantly outnumbered the South in troops, but the South was behind a very strong defensive line with abatis and other trench defenses, so that the victory of the North was still impressive. Once black troops showed they were the equal of their rebel opponents in battles like New Market Heights and Miliken’s Bend, those who had defended liberty (while seeking their own) could not be denied citizenship even in a society as racist as mid 19th century America, for the tree of liberty has been fertilized with the red blood of many peoples yearning to be free.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating book on a battle I know very little about. Black soldiers had been proving themselves for some time by then. On October 29, 1862, they got their first chance when the First Kansas Colored Volunteers defeated a much larger force of Confederate guerrillas at the Battle of Island Mound in Missouri.

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