From the beginning of the war, the Confederates had built a formidable system of defences to protect their capital, Richmond. The southernmost cornerstone of this system was Fort Harrison, backing onto a bluff over the James River and facing the open pasture of Chaffin’s Farm. Hoping to lure Confederate Commander Robert E. Lee northward, General Ulysses S. Grant ordered Benjamin Butler and the Army of the James to attack the fort. Butler succeeded in taking the fort on 29 September: a counterattack ordered by Lee the following day was repulsed. Lee then waited a week before launching a second counterattack. Launched from the vicinity of Darbytown at the Union right flank on 7 October, the aim was to force the abandonment of Fort Harrison. Initially they drove the Union forces back, but, advancing through thick undergrowth, they lost momentum. Union reinforcements began to inflict heavy casualties, compelling the Confederates to withdraw.
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