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.
Torbert took command of the First Cavalry Division again on May 26. His and Gregg’s divisions now covered the crossing of the Army of the Potomac over the Pamunkey River. They succeeded in crossing at Hanovertown Ford and pushed rapidly ahead on May 27. The First Division, under Torbert, soon came in contact with Gordon’s brigade of the Confederate Cavalry and drove it toward Hanover Court House. Behind the screen of these two divisions the Army of the Potomac crossed the river unimpeded on May 26th. The cavalry corps was confronted at Hawe’s Shop by Hampton’s and Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry divisions and Butler’s cavalry brigade. The fight continued all day but toward evening Custer’s brigade made a breach in the Confederate works and the whole Union line then surged forward and carried the position. The fighting was desperate at this time, the Reserve Brigade alone losing over 300 officers and men in the engagement.
On May 30 Sheridan moved to Old Church, where he was attacked severely that afternoon at Matadequin Creek. The enemy was driven within one mile of Cold Harbor, where the cavalry corps went into camp that night in line of battle. With references to the fighting on this day, General Torbert says that at one time in the dismounted fight the Second Cavalry drove the enemy before them with their pistols after their carbine ammunition had given out.
In the fighting on May 31 General Merritt’s brigade, which included the Second Cavalry, drove the enemy before them for one and one-half miles until the latter took refuge behind breastworks. Custer’s and Devin’s brigades of this division then connected on the left and the Reserve Brigade (Merritt’s) moved around the enemy left, causing him to abandon his breastworks. After driving the Confederates three-quarters of a mile beyond Cold Harbor, Torbert’s division took up a position along the Bottom’s Bridge and Bethesda Church roads. The enemy infantry was beginning to realize the importance of this location and made preparations to attack the next day in force. Because the First Division was three miles from Gregg’s division and about nine miles from the main army, Sheridan issued orders for Torbert to withdraw to the position of the night before. This was almost accomplished when word was received from Meade to hold Cold Harbor at all hazards. The command was counter-marched and reoccupied the old breastworks before daylight. About 6:00 a.m. June 1, the Confederate infantry made a desperate assault on the Reserve Brigade but were handsomely repulsed by Merritt’s men. After a second unsuccessful assault, the enemy made no further attempt until the cavalry was relieved by the Sixth Corps at 10:00 a.m. Sheridan’s force then marched to Prospect Church and went into camp.