Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Michael Weeks.
FITZHUGH LEE’S CAVALRY DIVISION,
June 15, 1864.
To the Editor of the Examiner:
Since my last letter to your paper we have been continually in the saddle, but nothing of particular interest in the operations of the cavalry has transpired since the Haws’s shop fight, of which you got full accounts from the World’s correspondent, who, as you remember, was captured near the White House. Our two divisions, however, under Generals Fitz. Lee and Wade Hampton, achieved a victory on the 12th instant over Sheridan’s cavalry corps, which, for its results and extent, has no superiour in the history of this war. On the evening of the 9th information was received that a large body of their cavalry and twenty-four pieces of artillery had passed around our left and were moving up the South Anna in the direction of Gordonsville, with the evident intention of destroying our stores at Charlottesville and tap the railroad from that place to Lynchburg. General Hampton, with two divisions of cavalry and Major Breathead’s artillery, set out during the night, and by a rapid march, got ahead of them at Trevilian’s depot, four or five miles above Louisa Court House. Early on the morning of the 11th, their advance coming up, a simultaneous attack on their front and left flank was commenced by Generals Hampton and Fitz. Lee, which lasted, with terrible fury during the entire day, with a decided success on our side. During the engagement Custer’s brigade charged through Rosser’s line, but were cut off and scattered through the woods in every direction, with a loss of five hundred and forty prisoners, one piece of artillery and a great many horses. The remainder of the party, in attempting their escape, passed out of the woods near General Hampton’s trains, capturing several ordnance wagons, ambulances and a portion of Butler’s lead horses. This having been reported to General Lee, he immediately ordered the Second and Fifteenth Virginia regiments to charge them mounted, which they did, re-capturing Hampton’s train, four caissons, one hundred prisoners, and fifty horses and mules. They also captured four pieces of artillery, but the Yankees ran off with the limbers and they had no means of bringing them out, as they already had as much as they could guard safely into out lines. The main bodies on both sides being dismounted and in regular infantry line of battle, kept up a continuous fire regardless of these mounted dashed until night closed the game. During the hotest of the battle Fitz Lee’s right was forced back by an overwhelming force, and Lieutenant Colonel W. R. Carter, commanding the Third Virginia, was severely wounded in the leg and hand, and while two men of his regiment were carrying him off they too were wounded and had to leave Carter on the field, where he was captured. Everything remained quiet during the night; next morning General Hampton having sent out scouting parties found the enemy in his same position and commenced a heavy skirmish, which lasted until about four o’clock, P.M., at which time General Lee having moved around from the enemy’s flank to his front with Hampton; both divisions were dismounted, and a general and most desperate engagement ever witnessed was made along the whole line, and lasted until about eight o’clock at night. The Yankees fought with a courage and determination worthy of a better cause. They charged our line again and again, but were repulsed every time, leaving their killed and wounded in a few steps of our line. Our “Riding Infantry” – as we now call ourselves, for we have been in eight engagements during this campaign, and have fought only one on horseback – hold a line of battle as well as our veteran infantry, and Jackson’s “foot cavalry” never fought greater odds nor lost more than we have this campaign. After making desperate assaults upon our flanks without success, they abandoned their intended raid, made a hurried retreat during the night, leaving over a hundred badly wounded, together with Colonel Carter and the rest of our wounded, which they had captured the evening before, besides a large number of Sharp’s rifles, Colt’s pistols, two caissons, and everything in the way of equipments. Their dead covered the entire battle field, and in their retreat they admitted to the citizens that they were badly “used up.”
They marched rapidly down the river the way they came, and their wounded left at citizens’ houses on the road, their unburied dead, broken down ambulances and wagons and dead horses, which strew the road upon which they retreated, all mark the extent of our victory. Our loss was very heavy in wounded, but moderate in killed. From the best estimates, the Yankees must have lost more killed than we did in killed and wounded together. We left the battle field in pursuit of them, bringing over seven hundred prisoners, a large number of horses and mules, one piece of artillery, four caissons, several wagons, including Custer’s headquarters wagon and his adjutant general. Our wounded have been all well attended to and left in the ”Green Spring” neighbourhood, where there is a plenty of everything, besides the patriotic attention of the ladies, who had already crowded our hospitals with good things before we left.
GUY, Third Virginia cavalry.1
- “Sheridan’s Defeat.” Richmond Examiner. June 21, 1864, p. 2 col. 2-3 ↩