The Union army was determined to take Fort Harrison, near Richmond, Virginia, an important part of the Confederate defences. The 18th Army Corps, under Union Major Edward O.C Ord, was tasked with making a surprise crossing of the James River, with the intention of cutting the Confederate bridges at Chaffin’s Bluff before heading to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The 18th Corps made its crossing over a pontoon bridge comprising 67 boats on the night of 28/29 September before striking up the Varina Road towards Fort Harrison, where about 400 Confederate defenders waited. Advancing from woods to the south of the fortifications and using light artillery and supported by infantry, they moved towards the walls of the Fort. John Hughes, a Confederate guerrilla, bravely rode out in front of the fort and emptied his pistol at advancing Union forces, before calmly riding back. But by 7am Union attackers had taken the fort not before General Hiram Burnham was mortally wounded in the chest while astride the Fort parapet. (The fort was later named Fort Burnham in his honour).
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