Remembering Harris Farm, 150 Years Later

The monument to the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery sits on the far edge of a plot owned by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust.

Not much remains of the Harris Farm today. A high-end, low-density development has grown up in Clement Harris’s fields. His original house, Bloomsbury, still stands atop the highest knoll—the farmhouse is up for sale at the moment—with the newer, beautiful houses, all with their sprawling yards, occupying the ridges and swales around.

Not far from the knoll where Bloomsbury stands is a 1.7-acre parcel of cedar-lined land owned by the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust—part of a total of 4.87 acres CVBT has preserved on the site through preservation and easements. At the far end of the parcel, a squat blocky monument stands testament to the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery. Of the 1,600 men in the regiment, twenty-five percent of them fell as casualties during the fight at Harris Farm.

In 1901, survivors of the regiment dedicated the monument on the thirty-seventh anniversary of the unit’s action on the property. Leading up to the event, the Massachusetts men traveled to Petersburg, Richmond, and then Fredericksburg, where they received a warm welcome from former Confederates. At Harris Farm, the Bay State veterans strolled the grounds. At noon, to signal the start of the dedication, a bugle call summoned them to assemble: It was the same bugle the company had used during the battle.

Also on the site, there’s also a small marker tucked away beneath a nearby shrub. The marker is dedicated to Pvt. James V. Branscomb of the 3rd Alabama of Cullen Battle’s Brigade; Branscomb was killed on May 19 at the battle of Harris Farm.

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