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150 Years Ago Today: Battle of Boydton Plank Road: October 27, 1864

The Battle of Boydton Plank Road: October 27, 1864:

Hancock Gets Into…and Out Of Serious Trouble

Note: Click to see maps of the Battle of Boydton Plank Road, which should help you follow along with the action.

Brief Summary:

Editor’s Note: Bryce Suderow has already penned an excellent summary of the October 27, 1864 fighting on the Boydton Plank road south of Hatcher’s Run.  The following excerpt is presented from his account along with a link to read the full article.


Believing Lee’s entrenchments ended east of Hatcher’s Run, Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant decided to send three army corps against the Confederate right to seize the Southside Railroad and\or turn the Rebel flank. He selected Hancock’s II corps (two divisions numbering between 6000 and 7000 men), Warren’s V Corps (11,000 strong), Parke’s IX Corps (about 11,000) and Maj. Gen. David McM. Gregg’s cavalry division (2000-3000 troopers). The movement involved between 30,000 and 32,000 men.

Grant’s plan called for Hancock to cross Hatcher’s Run on the Vaughan Road, move up the Boydton Plank Road to Burgess Mill and turn west there onto the White Oak Road which led to the Southside Railroad. Gregg’s cavalry would cover Hancock’s left, traveling on the Halifax Road.

Parke’s IX Corps would form in front of the Confederate works east of Hatcher’s Run, confront their extreme right flank, and attempt to turn it. Warren would form on his left in front of the open ground and attack. If Parke turned the right, Warren would assist him. If he failed, Warren help Hancock by crossing Hatcher’s Run with his entire corps and advancing up its west bank to turn the Confederate right.

Maj. Gen. Henry Heth’s reinforced division, of Lt. Gen. A.P. Hill’s III Corps, held the trenches opposite Warren and Parke. Heth commanded his own division, Lane’s and McGowan’s brigades of Wilcox’s division, Brig. Gen. James Dearing’s cavalry brigade, and 600 dismounted cavalry under Maj. Farley of Dunovant’s brigade. Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton’s cavalry corps picketed the area west of Hatcher’s Run and guarded the Confederate right and the Southside Railroad.


Gregg’s cavalry rode out along the Halifax Road at 3:30 a.m., Col. Charles H. Smith’s 3rd Brigade in advance. East of the Rowanty, a small stream west of Hatcher’s Run, Smith encountered Confederate pickets from Dunovant’s South Carolina Brigade, Brig. Gen. Matthew Butler’s Division. He drove them off and the Federals met no further resistance until they turn onto the Quaker Road and arrived at Gravelly Run. Here Hampton had posted the South Carolina Brigade at the ford, with Butler’s other brigade, Brig. Gen. Pierce Young’s, on its left, the whole supported by Hart’s battery.

The first obstacle to Hancock’s plan was placed there by the aggressive South Carolinian, Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton. To guard approaches to his rear, Hampton ordered Dearing’s mounted men to move from Heth’s line to the Vaughan Road. Hampton then planned a trap for Gregg’s cavalry: He planned to hold Gregg in place with Butler’s division while Maj. Gen. William H. F. Lee’s division took the Military Road toward Gregg’s rear and attacked him. Caught between Hampton’s two divisions, Gregg would be severely mauled.

Parke sent skirmishers forward to test the strength of Heth’s entrenchments. They seemed strongly held. Warren did the same and examined the works himself. Maj. Gen. Heth met them with Farley’s dismounted men and reinforced Farley by shifting Davis’ Brigade to the right flank. The Federals did not attack, but Meade did not order Warren to cross Hatcher’s Run to support Hancock.

Click here to continue reading Bryce’s account…

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