Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE CAVALRY FIGHT AT TREVILIAN STATION.
IN June, 1564, the armies of Northern Virginia and of the Potomac were confronting each other in front of Richmond. Grant, in command of the latter, had ventured to move upon the capital of and take it from the line of the Rapidan and Rappahannock, and every step of his march had been contested by General Lee, in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, until he finally turned the head of Grant's column toward the James River and compelled him to adopt a new line of attack. In the progress of these movements, while the splendid infantry and artillery of these two armies were struggling for the mastery around the Confederate capital, Hunter was moving up the valley at the head of a strong force toward Lynchburg to strike at the rear of Richmond. On the 5th of June Grant detached two divisions of his cavalry under Sheridan toward Gordonsville to destroy the railroad communications between Richmond and Gordonsville and Lynchburg, and possibly to form a junction with Hunter.
Rosser's and Young's brigades, tho latter under command of Colonel Wright of the Cobb Legion (General Young being absent, wounded), were in advance of my brigade, and camped higher up the road toward Gordonsville. Besides his own division Hampton had Fitzhugh Lee's, consisting of Wickham's and Lomax's brigades, and this division was in our rear, toward Louisa Court House.
On the night of the 10th my orders were to be prepared the next morning at daylight for action.
Accordingly at the dawn of ded and drawn up in column of regiments, prepared with the usual supply of ammunition, etc., for immediate action. It may be well to state just here that my brigade, about 1300 strong, was armed with long-range Enfield rifles, and was, in fact, mounted infantry, but for our sabers.
General Rosser rode down to my bivouac about sunrise and inquired if I was informed of what we were to do, to which I replied that I knew nothing except the orders above recited, to be prepared for action at daylight, and that I w as awaiting instructions. Whereupon he proposed that we ride to General Hampton's headquarters at Netherlands's house, about half a mile below Trevilian, and, if possible, ascertain his plans. General Hampton informed us he expected to form a junction with General Fitzhugh Lee at Clayton's Store, where he would engage Sheridan. Rosser returned to his command, and General Hampton and I rode from Netherlands's toward Clayton's Store ,on a road that I was picketing, for the purpose of reconnaissance.
We had advanced but a short distance from the railroad when we were met by Captain Mulligan's squadron, of the 4th South Carolina , which had been on picket, retiring before the enemy, by whom he had just been driven in. General Hampton then ordered me to bring up my brigade and attack at once, telling me that he was expecting to hear Fitzhugh Lee's guns on my right on his way up by another road from Louisa Court House. I sent in Captain Snowden's squadron of the 4th South Carolina to charge whatever he met, and develop the force in front of us. It was soon ascertained that a heavy column of Sheridan's command was moving on us, and I thereupon dismounted squadron after squadron until my entire command was on foot, except Captain John C. Calhoun's squadron of the 4th South Carolina regiment, and we were soon driving the enemy before us in the very thick woods. I heard firing on my right and expected every moment to form a junction with Fitzhugh Lee. General Hampton also informed me, when I moved in f, that he would hold Young's brigade in readiness to reenforce my line as the exigency might require.
Consequently I went ahead until the enemy had doubled on my left flank, when I sent to the rear for Young's brigade. On the arrival of the head of Colonel Wright's column dismounted I directed , him to Colonel Rutledge, whose regiment, the 4th South Carolina, was on the left, and paid little attention to my right, where Colonel Aiken was stationed with the 6th South Carolina, as I supposed it was protected by Lee's division. Colonel Wright had some difficulty in the thick undergrowth in finding his position on Rutledge's left, the enemy meantime pounding us with all his might. While we were thus struggling with a superior force in my front, and the stubborn fight had been kept up at close quarters for several hours, I received information from the rear that Custer, with a mounted column, had moved by an open road to my right, around my right flank, and had captured some of my ambulances, whereupon I received orders from General Hampton to withdraw and mount my command. This was easier said than done, for Sheridan was pressing me in front and gradually outflanking my line. I slowly withdrew by mounting one regiment at a time on such horses as we could reach, and fell back to a point not far from the railroad. On reaching a position where the doctors had established a field infirmary under a large oak-tree, I found some ambulances parked and the wounded being cared for. Meantime Rosser had thundered down the Gordonsville road, charged and scattered Custer's forces, and, together with