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150 Years Ago Today: Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid: September 14, 1864

September 14, 1864: Hampton Sets Out to Rustle Some Cattle

Note: Here is the best map I could find of Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid.  There are surprisingly few of these out there.

Brief Summary: One hundred and fifty years ago today, on September 14, 1864, Wade Hampton set out with approximately 3,500 men of his Cavalry Corps from camps southwest of Petersburg on the Boydton Plank Road.  His goal was to capture almost 3,000 head of cattle located on the plantation of fire eater Edmund Ruffin southwest of Coggin’s Point, a spot on the James River southeast of the massive Federal supply center at City Point.

Scout Shadburne of the Jeff Davis Legion had sent Hampton a detailed report of the area, the cattle, and the Union defenses arrayed to protect them on September 5.  Hampton read the report and planned an operation to extricate the cattle and bring them back to Confederate lines, which he presented to Robert E. Lee in a letter on September 8.  Lee’s reply on the 9th gave Hampton the go ahead, but questioned how Hampton would be able to return if “embarrassed” with wagons and cattle.  He cautioned Hampton to take a circuitous route, watch the Jerusalem Plank Road for the enemy on his return, and keep his flank guards well out to give ample advanced warning.

Now that Hampton had decided on a plan, he needed to select a force to execute it.  He took W. H. F. “Rooney” Lee’s entire two brigade division consisting of Rufus Barringer’s North Carolinians and Col. Lucius Davis’ Virginians.  In addition, Rosser’s Brigade from Butler’s Division and the indpependt brigade of James Dearing were also selected to go in their entirety.  Hampton padded out the expedition with 100 picked men from the brigades of Young and Dunovant from Butler’s Division.


Hampton set out on the Boydton Plank Road southwest of Petersburg early on the morning of September 14, 1864, collecting men as their camps were passed.  Some men didn’t join the moving column until after the sun was up.  Hampton turned slightly left onto the Quaker Road and headed south.  Once the column reached Rowanty Creek, it moved quickly southeast roughly parallel with that body of water.  They crossed Weldon Railroad well to the south of Ream’s Station, almost at Stony Creek, before reaching the Rowanty itself and Wilkinson’s Bridge.  Here the Confederates settled in for the night.  Day one of the raid was a complete success.  Hampton had made his destination without alarming any Federals about what his column intended.

The raid would continue on September 15…

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