The Battle of Staunton River Bridge: June 25, 1864

   

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in Wilson-Kautz Raid

Name: The Battle of Staunton River Bridge

Other Names: Blacks and Whites, Old Men and Young Boys

Location: Halifax County and Charlotte

Campaign: Richmond-Petersburg Campaign (June 1864-March 1865)

Date(s): June 25, 1864

Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. James Wilson and Brig. Gen. August Kautz [US]; Maj. Gen. William H.F. “Rooney”  Lee [CS]

Forces Engaged: Divisions (4,000 total)

Estimated Casualties: 150 total

Description: On June 22, the cavalry divisions of Brig. Gen. James Wilson and Brig. Gen. August Kautz were dispatched from the Petersburg lines to disrupt Confederate rail communications.  Riding via Dinwiddie Court House, the raiders cut the South Side Railroad near Ford’s Station that evening, destroying tracks, railroad buildings, and two supply trains. On June 23, Wilson proceeded to the junction of the Richmond & Danville Railroad at Burke Station, where he encountered elements of William H.F. Lee’s cavalry between Nottoway Court House and Blacks and Whites (modern-day Blackstone). Wilson followed Kautz along the South Side Railroad, destroying about thirty miles of track as he advanced. On June 24, while Kautz remained skirmishing around Burkeville, Wilson crossed over to Meherrin Station on the Richmond & Danville and began destroying track. On June 25, Wilson and Kautz continued tearing up track south to the Staunton River Bridge, where they were delayed by Home Guards, who prevented destruction of the bridge. Lee’s cavalry division closed on the Federals from the northeast, forcing them to abandon their attempts to capture and destroy the bridge. By this time, the raiders were nearly 100 miles from Union lines.

Result(s): Confederate victory

Summary:

The Battle of Staunton River Bridge: June 25, 1864:

The Wilson-Kautz Raid is Turned Back

Note: I’d like to take a moment to highlight the Staunton River Battlefield State Park web site, which focuses exclusively on this little battle.  Go check it out.

Brief Summary: The Battle of Staunton River Bridge was the turning point of the Wilson-Kautz Raid.  The railroad bridge over the Staunton River just south of Roanoake Station, Virginia (modern day Randolph) was Wilson’s final objective, but he would not quite reach it.  A small Confederate Reserve battalion under Captain Benjamin Farinholt protected the bridge, only 296 men.  Farinholt sent word from reinforcements from the surrounding area when he learned of the Union cavalry’s approach, and he was rewarded with an additional 600+ men.  Farinholt had two earthworks positioned south of the river (note the map below is oriented so that the top of the map is facing south rather than north), with four guns in the larger eastern work, and two in the smaller western entrenchment.  The map below, prepared by someone on the Union side, is accurate in depicting the Confederate artillery.

Battle Of Staunton River Bridge: June25, 1864 (OR Vol. XL, P1, Pg631)

 

In mid-afternoon Kautz’s Union cavalry approached the bridge after an artillery bombardment, Spear to the east of the railroad and West to the…wait for it…west side of the tracks.  After four attacks between that point and sundown, the ad hoc Confederate force protected the bridge and prevented it from being burned, saving an important Confederate supply line from being damaged even further.  To make matters worse for Wilson and Kautz, W. H. F. Rooney Lee’s Confederate cavalry division caught up with the Yankee raiders and started to pressure their rear.  It was time to go, and from this point forward until the end of the raid, Wilson and Kautz would find themselves in some tight spots, particularly at Ream’s Station on June 29…

Note: Please see the sites listed below for more information.

Bibliography:

First Person Accounts:

    Siege of Petersburg Documents Which Mention This Battle:

    Source: CWSAC Battle Summary


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