01 March 2008 by Published in: Union Cavalry 5 comments

We were up and on the bus at 8:00 again this morning. We headed up to Beaver Dam Station, a stop on the Virginia Central Railroad not far from the North Anna battlefield of May 1864. We heard about Kilpatrick’s demolition of the depot there, and then headed down into Richmond to address Kilpatrick’s attempt to push through the defenses of the Confederate capital. A small piece of the outer ring of defenses still exists at Brook Hill, which happens to be the spot where both Kilpatrick in March 1864 and Sheridan in May 1864 tried to push through. Bruce interpreted there, and then we headed in to where the intermediate line of defenses stood.

Kilpatrick, alone and unsupported, and with Bradley T. Johnson’s 1st Maryland Cavalry operating in his rear, for once, made the prudent decision and broke off instead of sending his mounted cavalrymen charging into the static defenses of Richmond. He then headed for Meadow Bridges, crossed the Chickahominy swamp there, and marched toward Atlee’s Station. There, a portion of Wade Hampton’s division, with Hampton in personal command, routed the 7th Michigan Cavalry and persuaded Kilpatrick to get out of Dodge. He fled toward Kent City Courthouse, where he met a relief column sent from Williamsburg by Ben Butler. Our last Kilpatrick stop was at Tunstall’s Station on the old James River Railroad, where Kilpatrick burned the station and was joined by the portion of Dahlgren’s command that broke through Johnson’s Confederates to rejoin the main body.

From there, it was on to the area of Hanovertown Ferry, where Dahlgren’s remnant of about 100 men crossed the Pamunkey, and then on into King and Queen County. We crossed the Mattaponi at Ayletts, just as Dahlgren did, and then proceeded on to the ambush site. After interpreting the ambush, Bruce and I laid out our respective theories as to who knew and approved what regarding the plan and the legitimacy of the Dahlgren Papers. Bruce believes Dahlgren cooked it all up on his own, while I believe it was cooked up by Kilpatrick and Stanton and that Dahlgren likely participated in the process.

That was the end of the tour, and we then headed the 30 miles back to Richmond. Along the way, Bruce gave some analysis of the raid and its results and consequences, and I spent most of the ride back hashing out some new thoughts/insights that I developed over the last two days as a consequence of both seeing the sites as well as having the benefit of having Bruce’s analysis and commentary. After saying our goodbyes, I headed straight back up to my hotel room and incorporated all of the new stuff into the manuscript. While I thought that the manuscript was good previously, I think that it’s even better now. I feel really good about it, and think it’s going to make for a really good conclusion chapter to my biography of Ulric Dahlgren.

I’m now sitting in my hotel room, hanging out. Pretty much everyone who attended the conference dispersed immediately after the conclusion, and I have a very early flight tomorrow. My flight home is at 7:30, and it’s nearly 20 miles to the airport. That means it’s up at 5:00 again tomorrow. I CANNOT wait until Skybus starts its second flight per day to Richmond, which will leave Columbus at 5:00 PM. No more of these ridiculously early mornings.

Tomorrow night, when I get home, I will post some photos from the weekend. For now, it’s time to just rest and try to get ready for what’s going to be another long and stressful week.

Scridb filter


  1. Valerie Protopapas
    Sat 01st Mar 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Yup! Kilpatrick and his group attacked Beaver Dam Station and did some damage. They also captured a single young Confederate cavalryman who was dozing off in the heat while waiting for the train. He had sent his horse on to camp and was waiting to take “the cars” to see his family.

    A Union officer named Glazier later wrote in his book “Three Years in the Federal Cavalry” of the capture and that the young man was sent on to Old Capitol Prison where, ten days later, he was one of those participating in the first exchange of prisoners. The young man was exchanged for a Union lieutenant but although he had identified himself to his captives as a captain, he was only a private soldier, so the Rebs got the best “rank wise” – and in many other ways – on THAT exchange.

    Furthermore, on the boat to the exchange point, the man noticed the movement of federal troops in the area and learned from the boat’s captain – who was a Confederate sympathizer – that these were the troops of General Burnside going to reinforce Pope. When he landed, the young soldier requested of Judge Ould that he be passed through quickly because he had news for General Lee. Making his way in the August heat to Lee’s headquarters over 12 miles away, he gave his information to Lee who sent word to Jackson to attack Pope before Burnside’s reinforcements could reach him which resulted in the battle of Cedar Mountain.

    The young man then returned to his position on the staff of Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart where he was Stuart’s favorite scout and intimate friend. He had been at Beaver Dam on his way to see General Jackson with a note of introduction from Stuart because he wanted a few men to try his hand at harassing Pope’s army behind his lines, attacking communications, destroying supplies and generally committing havoc. Stuart had not wished to part with any of his own men for such a dangerous scheme, but he thought that Jackson, who had suggested just such type of warfare, might be willing to provide a few infantrymen to participate in this bold and, frankly, hopeless endeavor.

    Of course, Kilpatrick prevented the young man from ever reaching Jackson except in such a way as to provide him with the information that helped precipitate the battle of Cedar Mountain. Who knows? Had Kilpatrick failed to undertake the raid, the young man might have reached Jackson, but the information would not and the matter might have ended differently.

    In a way, therefore, Kilpatrick’s raid precipitated far more than the destruction of one railroad depot. It changed the lives of many people including one Confederate cavalryman whose bold and reckless scheme was eventually given Stuart’s blessing in December of 1862 when he bestowed nine men on his friend and favorite scout to “try his hand at harassing the Yankees.”

  2. Sat 01st Mar 2008 at 10:54 pm


    While every word of that is true, you’re referring to the wrong raid. We were focusing on the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid of February-March 1864. However, old pal Horace Mewborn, who is THE authority on all things Mosby, was along and told that story.


  3. Stan O'Donnell
    Sun 02nd Mar 2008 at 11:58 pm


    You seem to make it a habit of wearing people out.

    Man!~ I’ll bet that was one whoopass rampage!

    Did you guys ever find out who got Mr. D’s prosthetic limb/appendage?

    Please tell me it wasn’t one of those Mosby knotheads!

    ???? Damn Presbyteryian limbsuckers.
    Kiddin’ Val. Wasn’t Mosby a communist?

  4. Mon 03rd Mar 2008 at 9:56 pm


    It was a first-rate trip. Boy, I was tired last night.

    The prosthetic ended up in the hands of one of Mosby’s guys, a man named Ballard. The irony is, of course, stunning.


  5. Valerie Protopapas
    Thu 06th Mar 2008 at 12:45 am

    No, Mosby wasn’t a communist. It was the Union who had its fill of socialist types and more than a few Marxists into the bargain, I believe. Remember, the South did not get anywhere near the number of European immigrants that came into the North. And from Europe came many socialists and communists, some obscure, but many less so. For instance, Union General Joseph Weydemeyer was referred to by Karl Marx as “My friend” and was a fellow member with Marx and Engels in the London Communist League. With the assistance of Marx, Weydemeyer was introduced to Charles A. Dana, who would become the Assistant Secretary of War in the Lincoln Administration; Dana was a close friend of Marx and assisted Weydemeyer in publishing various communist journals in the United States. And there were others – a LOT of others. Many “communal” organizations both religious (like the Shakers) and philosophical carried strong socialist leanings in the North but there isn’t time to go into the matter here.

    As for the raid itself, I will wait for Eric’s book to opine on that, but I always wondered why Dahlgren was one place and Kilpatrick was elsewhere. Certainly it seems that Kilpatrick had the good sense to keep the larger numbers with him. In any event, he at least survived though I cannot say that was necessarily a good thing.

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