Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Bryce Suderow and is included in a collection of articles from the Baltimore Clipper. His transcription of this article is published here with his written permission.
Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, July 29, 1864.
Our cavalry have added another triumph in their brilliant victorious career.
Yesterday morning the corps advanced from their recent camp near Deep Bottom. The First Division, commanded by General Torbert, had the advance on the march, which was made by various roads in the direction of Malvern Hill.
The Second Division, under General Gregg, pushed on almost simultaneously, both divisions marching along the roads leading to Richmond. Skirmishing commenced at an early hour between General Merritt’s brigade of regulars, of the First Division, and the enemy’s infantry. Gradually the skirmishing grew warmer until nine a.m. when the rebel infantry emerged from the timber which heretofore concealed them, and a battle at once ensued between them and the cavalry.
The forces of the rebels consisted of one brigade of infantry and several pieces of cannon at this part of the line, but it was subsequently ascertained that the greater part of Ewell’s Corps, part of A.P. Hill’s, and according to some reports, part of Beauregard’s, were engaged before the battle terminated. These troops the rebel Commander-in Chief brought up the previous day in response to the movements made by Gen. Grant on the North bank of the James. The rebel infantry soon drove in Gen. Merritt’s skirmish line and quickly compelled the portion of his brigade that was dismounted to give ground.
While this was in progress Colonel Devins’ Brigade had worked itself into a position to support the regulars. The Fourth New York had pushed in by zigzag skirmishing to within four and a half miles of Richmond. The Sixth New York, Ninth New York, and Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, between that point and the right of General Merritt’s line, and on his left the First Brigade of Gregg’s Division had also taken position.
Having repulsed the regular cavalry, as they imagined, the rebels now began to show their strength. The enemy had some guns playing upon us, but they had no favorable position for their artillery and could not use it to any effect. So much for this part of the scene.
But the rebels were not unmolested during their advance. The First New Jersey cavalry took a position on their flank, and kept up a deliberate and constant shower of bullets upon them as they advanced across the open field.
The fire from our artillery, especially Dennison’s batteries, knocked gaps through their exposed columns, which were almost instantly filled by closing up, while the First and Second Pennsylvania and First Massachusetts responded with their carbines in front. Past all these obstacles the heavy rebel column pushed its way, the cavalry fell back, one gun of Dennison’s battery fell into the enemy’s hands, and the rebels had apparently the advantage.
At this juncture, however, the Second Brigade of Torbert’s Division fell furiously upon the somewhat exposed flank of the enemy, captured three stands of colors, one hundred prisoners, and other smaller trophies.
This disaster checked the confidence of the enemy, and it was turned into discomfiture and rout by the arrival of the Second Corps, under General Hancock, on their opposite flank, where his skirmishers were already at work. The retreat of the enemy was now precipitate and over three hundred of their dead and wounded were left in our hands on the field. We captured altogether about two hundred prisoners.
The enemy’s killed and wounded probably numbered six hundred, and his proud and daring column was broken and demoralized. Our losses were wonderfully slight, for three reasons, the enemy could not use his artillery, his men were mostly intoxicated, and their firing was very bad, and we raked him on the flanks. Our whole loss will not exceed two hundred and fifty men.
The locality of the battle was beautifully interspersed with meadow and woodland, the advantages to be derived from the wood and open ground being about equally divided between the opposing forces. A creek, called Four Mile Creek, runs near where the battle was fought. Malvern Hill was not far off, and you may ether call it the battle of Four Mile Creek or Malvern Hill Number Three.
Three squadrons of the Tenth New York was at one time cut off, but they afterwards came in with a rebel wagon, a captain and several other prisoners. The Fourth NY was cut off temporarily, but turned up all right.
The losses in the cavalry regiments were from four to thirty.
- “Sheridan’s Cavalry,” Baltimore Clipper, August 4, 1864, p. 1 col. 3 ↩