ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
General Grant decided to send the Second Corps, under Hancock, and the First and Second Cavalry Divisions and Kautz’s cavalry division from the Army of the James, to the north side of the James River to make a demonstration toward Richmond. The object of this expedition was to draw as much as possible of Lee’s army across the river during the time the mine was to be exploded at Petersburg.
Soon after crossing the river, July 26, 1864, the cavalry moved to the right of the Second Corps at Deep Bottom. The Second Cavalry soon found the enemy outguards in front of Ruffin’s house on the New Market road. The First Cavalry Division now occupied the high ground in front of the house and the Second Division was placed on its right. Soon thereafter the enemy attacked and pushed the Union line back beyond the crest of the hill. Sheridan than made a spirited counter-attack and regained the original position. On the 28th the Second Corps was moved back near the bridge in order to be in a position to cross the river when the mine was ready to be exploded at Petersburg. After dark on the 29th the Second Corps was hastily withdrawn to the south side of the river. This left Sheridan’s command in such a position that he might have been annihilated if the enemy had attacked. However, he crossed his corps early on the 30th without molestation and placed it on the left of the army at Petersburg. The mission was successful since Lee moved large bodies of troops to the north side of the James River to meet the attack of this force. The failure of the mine explosion precluded any use of the cavalry for the purpose intended at this time. The casualties in the three divisions of the cavalry corps under Sheridan from May 4 to July 30, 1864, were 4,883, of whom 520 were killed, 2,384 wounded, and 1,977 missing.