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Fort Clifton was a Confederate fortification built on the west side of the Appomattox River, close to where it intersect Swift's Creek. Built in 1864 as the Civil War was coming to a close, it was part of as series of fortifications that served as last line of defense of Petersburg and Richmond. One of the more heavily defended forts, Fort Clifton drove off three attacks from Union gunboats in 1864. Documentation does not say whether the fort was taken or not. Today, the fort is no longer there, but archaeological evidence remains. The Fort Clifton Archaeological Site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.


  • Print from the viewpoint of the Fort's occupants. Courtesy of the National Parks Service.
  • Drawing of Fort Clifton showing the view from the Mills house. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Constructed at the end of the Civil War, Fort Clifton was part of a series of fortifications protecting Petersburg and, ultimately, Richmond itself. While most of the forts were described as so poorly-made that "a horseman could ride over any portion of the defense without
difficulty,"1 Fort Clifton was considered to be one of the exceptions. The defenses around the fort consisted of an eight mile semi-circle facing the Appomattox River, with two battery emplacements (18 artillery pieces total) placed along a northwest-southeast axis.

The fort was shelled multiple times by Union gunboats in the Appomattox River in 1964: May 9th, June 10th, and June 16th. The fort's artillery was able to cripple one of the five gunboats participating in the May 9th attack. The documentation of the conflict over the fort is inconclusive when it comes to determining whether the fort was taken or held before the war's end.

Fort Clifton is long gone, leaving only archaeological remains to tell the story. The land it used to sit on is now a park and visitors can walk through the old earthworks. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.

1 National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. Virginia Department of Historic Resources. http://www.dhr.Virginia.gov/registers/Cities/Colonial_Heights/106-0005_Fort_Clifton_Archaeological_S.... 

Plan of Batteries at Fort Clifton. Gilmer Civil War Maps Collection. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/gilmer/id/114.