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Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Out of supplies for my men and animals"- Sheridan Retires Over Bottom's Bridge.

 After the Union victory at Yellow Tavern . . .


                    HEADQUARTERS CAVALRY CORPS,
                Camp at Bottoms Bridge, Va., May 14, 1864,

COMMANDING OFFICER,
    Fortress Monroe, Va.:
SIR: I am now marching from this point to Harrison's Landing to communicate with Major-General Butler. I am out of supplies for my men and animals, and have a large number of wounded. Make arrangements to supply me at once at Harrison's Landing, unless they have already been made. Forward the inclosed dispatch to Major-General Meade, through the War Department, by telegraph, without delay. There should not be a moments delay in sending me rations and forage. I have 14,000 animals and 12,000 men.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

                    P.H. SHERIDAN,
                Major-General, Commanding.


 -The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 36 (Part II)



Map by Hal Jespersen, www.cwmaps.com.


To give you some idea of what Sheridan had been up to, as well as the full scope of the movements of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac and how they intersect with this locality, I've included an itinerary of the Sixth New York Cavalry(T.C. Devin's brigade, A.T.A. Torbet's division) . . .

 May 9th- Reveille at 3 a.m. and at daylight started toward the Fredericksburg railroad and via Massaponax Church to Beaverdam Station arriving there about dusk. Had moved around by the right and rear of Lee's army occasionally stirring up his outposts, crossed the rivers Ny, Po, Ta, and Mab and arrived at Childsburg about five o'clock, capturing a few prisoners and wagons. After resting an hour we moved on, fording the North Anna River at Anderson's Bridge (which had been destroyed) to within two miles of Beaverdam Station on the Richmond & Gordonsville Railroad. About 9 p.m. the Sixth New York and Seventeenth Pennsylvania, with detachments from Custer's brigade, made a dash at the station releasing several hundred Federal troops recently captured, who were about to be transferred "on to Richmond" by rail. We overpowered the guard and turned them over to their former prisoners. As we approached the station our attention was attracted by the moving of the rebel trains Custer's brigade was sent to capture the cars and destroy the depot. Two regiments (Sixth New York and Seventeenth Pennsylvania) of Devin's brigade, under Lieutenant colonel Crocker (Sixth New York), were sent to operate north of the station, while Custer worked on the south side. We captured and destroyed three locomotives and several trains of cars, and a large quantity of provisions- flour, bacon, etc.- said to have been sufficient to supply Lee's army for three days- all of which we destroyed Also captured a number of wagons and teams. We burned the station, and cars and tore up the track for a long distance the fire from the ties, cars and buildings making a line of lurid light along the evening sky. Went into bivouac at 1 a.m. on the 10th.
May 10th- Left Beaverdam Station at daylight and marched to Negrofoot, passing through a most beautiful country, skirmishing on the way with Wade Hampton's division, who had succeeded in capturing a scouting party from the regular brigade. At sundown crossed the South Anna River on Ground Squirrel Bridge, and went into bivouac on the south bank on the Widow Cross plantation, the Seventeenth Pennsylvania holding the bridge. The command unsaddled the horses, built fires and prepared supper, although the enemy was hovering about and watching our movements We were now about twenty miles from Richmond Lee's army was on the retreat, with Meade in pursuit. We had destroyed nearly ten miles of the enemy's railroad, with depots, cars and wagon trains, and cut off his communications and supplies for some days.
 May 11th- As we were moving out at 5.30 a.m. we were attacked by a small force of the enemy, which we drove back causing but a short delay. Lieutenant colonel Anderson (Seventeenth Pennsylvania) after crossing his regiment over destroyed the bridge. Moved forward, First Division in advance, and halted at Glen Allen, destroying the Fredericksburg & Richmond Railroad. Soon after found the enemy on Brook turnpike and Ashland road- pretty strong on our left. As the column approached the enemy's position, Devin's brigade was in the advance. The Ninth New York dismounted in an open field, and other regiments of the Second, together with the Third Brigade, dismounted and formed to the right and left of the Ninth New York, extending the line over a mile supported by Custer's brigade, mounted. During this engagement at and around Yellow Tavern, the fighting was very sharp and severe, each and every man being called upon to show the mettle of which he was made. Captured two guns and about 150 prisoners. It was here that the Confederate General, J.E.B. Stuart, was mortally wounded, and it was believed it was in front of the line of the Ninth New York Cavalry. At about 4 p.m. the Sixth New York was at Brook Bridge, three and one-half miles from Richmond, holding it against the enemy; and one squadron, Troops D and K, held the first line of the enemy's works in front of Richmond, the regiment having charged down Brook pike and carried the outer works with feeble resistance, being the first Union regiment to get so close to the Confederate Capitol. At dusk one squadron, under Major Hall, made a reconnoissance to the Virginia Central Railroad, less than two miles from Richmond, and after a slight brush captured two couriers with dispatches from General Bragg to General Stuart. The ringing of bells and whistling of the engines were plainly heard. The squadron returned in safety to the regiment. At midnight the cavalry moved noiselessly to the railroad, the heavy rain making the movement difficult and disagreeable. The men and horses were rapidly failing under the strain.
May 12th- About 3 a.m., as the command moved, forward Wilson's division in advance the horses feet came in contact with wires that exploded a number of torpedoes near the second line of works. Several horses having been killed and several men wounded by these exploding shells, the rest were removed by the aid of the prisoners who were ordered up for that purpose The owner of one of the neighboring houses having been reported by the prisoners as the principal person who had engaged in planting these shells. General Sheridan directed that some of them be placed in his cellar and arranged to explode if the enemy's column should come that way, while the man and his family were taken along as prisoners and held until after daylight. At daylight, as we advanced to cross the Chickahominy swamp at Meadow Bridge, the enemy opened upon us with artillery, keeping up a brisk fire for three or four hours while the division was repairing the bridges across the swamp. The Second Division Wilson's had been led astray before daylight by a guide to the fortifications of Richmond and was shelled most furiously. The Sixth New York was dismounted and sent forward to drive the enemy from the bridge to clear the way for crossing but was driven back in a hurry. The enemy was in a strong position with artillery to dispute our passage Several regiments were then dismounted and sent to its support and the enemy was forced back beyond the swamp. At ten o'clock the brigade crossed the bridge and drove the enemy back for some distance, a drenching rain setting in during the engagement. Two small newsboys with commendable enterprise came through the lines well supplied with the Richmond papers and did a thriving business. They were so intelligent and observing and their mission evidently involving other purposes than the sale of newspapers they were held until the cavalry crossed the Chickahominy and were then released. Halted at Mechanicsville and got dinner. Then moved on via Brandy Branch meeting the same force we had been fighting in the morning. The First Division in the advance attacked them and captured a number and then moved to Gaines Mills which still retained many ghastly signs of the former strife halted unsaddled our weary horses and bivouacked for the night.
May 13th- Marched to near Bottom's Bridge without annoyance and bivouacked for the night, with plenty of rain and no rations
May 14th- Marched via Dispatch Station to Bottom's Bridge, which we crossed at noon, and thence on to Malvern Hill arriving about 4 pm, where we received a warm welcome from our gunboats, which, from their position about two miles off Haxall's Landing threw a few shells among us before we could make ourselves known to them. Here we halted for rest and supplies, rations and forage having given out on the 11th and men and horses were HUNGRY. Foraging parties were immediately sent out and man and beast were soon well provided for. Here good news reached us from the Army of the Potomac. Many prisoners and guns had been taken, and Lee was retreating, with Meade in close pursuit.
May 15th- A small supply of rations and forage reached the command by transports. About daylight the camp was aroused by the booming of heavy guns, which proved to be General Butler's attack on Fort Darling.

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-History of the Sixth New York Cavalry: (Second Ira Harris Guard) Second Brigade -- First Division -- Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, 1861-1865
 Compiled by Hillman Allyn Hall, William B. Besley, Gilbert Guion Wood
 Blanchard Press, 1908       

 

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