June 11, 1864: Battle of Trevilian Station


The largest all cavalry battle of the War, the battle of Trevilian Station occurred during a raid by Major General Philip Sheridan leading 9000 Union troopers.  Grant ordered the raid with a two-fold purpose:  first to draw off Confederate cavalry as he prepared to disengage from Cold Harbor and cross over the James River to attack the Confederate rail road hub at Petersburg south of Richmond, and, second for Sheridan to tear up as much as he could of the Virginia Central railroad that connected the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond.

The second goal was reached as Major General Wade Hampton, now commander of the Army of Northern Virginia Cavalry Corps after the death of Major General Jeb Stuart, set off in pursuit of Stuart with 6,000 Confederate cavalry, with Hampton traveling west south of the North Anna river, while Sheridan traveled west north of the North Anna.

Sheridan planned to destroy the railway station at Trevilian Station.  Both forces converged on Trevilian on June 10, with the fighting raging on for two days from June 11-12.  Although Sheridan claimed a victory, the outnumbered Confederates actually inflicted more casualties on the Union force than they sustained, 1000 to 800, and Sheridan only damaged six miles of the Virginia Central railroad.  Sheridan had made certain however that when Grant crossed the James, General Lee had very little cavalry to determine what Grant was up to, and Lee was operating blind for a precious few days. (more…)