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.
After the unsuccessful attempt upon the Confederate works at Cold Harbor, Grant decided to move again by the left flank. In order to draw off the enemy cavalry during this delicate maneuver, Sheridan received instructions June 6 to proceed with the First and Second Cavalry Divisions and break up the Virginia Central Railroad in the direction of Charlottesville.
Starting June 7, the command crossed the Pamunkey River at New Castle, marched to Pole Cat Station on the Mattapony River, thence through Young’s Mill, and crossing the North Anna River at Carpenter’s Ford camped a few miles from Trevilian Station on the 10th. Just before going into camp a small detachment of the enemy attacked the head of the column. This was the first time the corps had come into contact with the Confederates since leaving the main army.
Merritt’s brigade led the march toward Trevilian Station on June 11 and almost immediately came in contact with the enemy. Custer’s brigade of the same division took a wood road and was soon behind the Confederate divisions of Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton and in possession of Trevilian Station. Sheridan now pushed the attack with the Reserve Brigade, the Second Brigade, and one brigade of the Second Division. In this attack Captain Rodenbough, commanding the Second Cavalry, was severely wounded. He was later decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor for handling the regiment with such valor and skill. They drove Hampton’s Confederate cavalry back upon Custer, who captured many men and scattered the remainder. In the meantime, Gregg’s division was busily engaged with Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry. In this phase of the battle the Confederates were driven toward Louisa Court House. The two Rebel divisions were thus driven apart but rejoined each other that night at Gordonsville. In this fighting the Reserve Brigade captured 150 officers and men, and their own losses were eighty-five killed, wounded or captured.
On June 12 both divisions destroyed about five miles of the railroad in the vicinity of Trevilian Station. General Torbert was ordered with his division and one brigade of the Second Division to make a reconnaissance that afternoon toward Gordonsville. The enemy was found strongly entrenched about two and one-half miles to the west at Mallory’s Cross Roads. Custer’s brigade was placed on the road and the Reserve Brigade, under Merritt, was placed to the right. After a general advance of the line, the Confederates were driven back to a position behind the railroad embankment. Soon the enemy was re-enforced with infantry from Gordonsville, and Torbert was unable to drive him from his position. At night the troops rejoined the main command at Trevilian Station.
Sheridan originally intended to join Hunter to the west if circumstances permitted, but he found that commander was marching away from rather than toward him. He broke camp at midnight and started on the way back to join Grant. From White House the command escorted the trains of the Army of the Potomac to the James River, where they arrived June 25, having marched 350 miles since leaving the main army. Several fights with the enemy took place during the return march but the Second Cavalry was not engaged. The cavalry corps was ferried over the James River and joined Grant’s army south of Petersburg. Sheridan received orders to move at once with the First and Second Cavalry Divisions to the relief of Wilson who, with the Third Cavalry Division, was on a raid to destroy the South Side and Danville railroads south of Petersburg. Wilson had been routed at Ream’s Station, but before Sheridan reached him his command returned to the Federal lines. The cavalry corps was now ordered to the vicinity of Light House Point to rest. It remained here from July 2 to 26 picketing the left of the army.