Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
Confederate Cattle Raid Brought Beef To Soldiers
Daring Exploit by General Hampton Which Had a Most Happy Issue for the Confederates.
(Maj. H. A. London, in the Chatham Record.)
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of one of the most notable and novel events of the War Between the States. On the 16th of September, 1864, Gen Wade Hampton, who then commanded all the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, captured and carried off nearly 2,500 cattle or beeves, which were fattening to feed the Union army near Petersburg and Richmond. These cattle had been collected by the commissary department of General Grant’s army and were grazing near Coggins’ Point on the James River. At that time the Confederate soldiers rarely tasted fresh beef, and so it was determined to make an effort to give them a taste of these cattle. Such an undertaking seemed almost foolhardy because the Confederates had to pass to the rear of the Union Army and force their way through its lines. This of itself was sufficiently dangerous and difficult, but it seemed impossible to drive the cattle out of the Union lines even if the Confederates succeeded in reaching them.
Notwithstanding so dangerous and difficult an undertaking, [?]ed, yet General Hampton determined to make the attempt, and so successful was he that out of 2,486 cattle captured 2,468 were brought into the Confederate lines and afforded fresh beef to thousands of soldiers, who had not tasted such a luxury in a long time. No such cattle raid was ever made in any war. The loss of so much beef to the Federal troops was not missed much by them because they had a plenty without beef, but it was a perfect godsend to the half-starved Confederates.
Of course only cavalry were engaged in this expedition, for success depended upon celerity of movement. The troops selected by Hampton for this expedition were the division of William H. F. Lee and the brigades of Generals Rosser and [D]earing, and with them he started on the 14th of September, 1864, and determined to force the enemy’s lines at Sycamore Church, in Prince George County. The next day [September 15, 1864] the Confederates were detained some time in constructing a bridge over the Blackwater River, and did not begin their attack on the enemy until shortly before day-dawn on the 16th of September. They met with quite a stubborn resistance, but finally defeated the enemy, driving them some distance, and then detaining a sufficient force to hold back the Federals if they should rally, the remainder of Hampton’s command captured the cattle and drove them back into the Confederate lines, as above stated.
In addition to capturing the cattle three camps of the enemy were burned, after securing from them valuable stores and supplies, including a large quantity of blankets. Besides destroying a number of army wagons the Confederates brought back with them 11 wagons and 301 prisoners. They were absent from their quarters three days on this expedition and during that time had marched about 100 miles and defeated the enemy in two engagements, and our loss was 10 killed, 47 wounded and four missing.
Wonder how many of our readers ever before heard of this famous cattle raid?1
- “Confederate Cattle Raid Brought Beef to Soldiers.” Charlotte Observer. September 20, 1914, p. 17 col. 5-6 ↩