11 June 2008 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 1 comment

I would also be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge today as the 144th anniversary of the Battle of Trevilian Station, the largest all-cavalry battle of the war (remember that 3,000 Union infantry participated at Brandy Station). Trevilian Station had a great deal of strategic significance to the outcome of the war; it’s no stretch of the imagination to say that had Sheridan defeated Hampton at Trevilian Station, the war likely would have ended as many as six months earlier than it did, and there would have been no 1864 Valley Campaign.

Sheridan’s orders were to march along the north bank of the North Anna River, cross somewhere near Carpenter’s Ford, and then march along the route of the Virginia Central Railroad to Gordonsville. Upon arriving at Gordonsville, he was to destroy the critical junction of the Orange & Alexandria and Virginia Central Railroads and then continue west on the Virginia Central to Charlottesville, where he was to destroy the railroad junction there. Sheridan was then to meet up with the army of David Hunter and escort Hunter’s command to Petersburg, where Grant would then move on the city from three directions: The Army of the James from the north and east, the Army of the Potomac from the center, and Hunter’s army with the cavalry from the west. Robert E. Lee would either have to come out and fight on ground of Grant’s choosing, or withstand a siege, which as Lee recognized, made the surrender of his army a foregone conclusion.

Fortunately for the Confederacy, Wade Hampton conducted a magnificent battle and stymied Sheridan at Trevilian Station. Sheridan did not achieve a single one of his strategic objectives other than to draw off the Confederate cavalry to prevent it from observing the Army of the Potomac’s crossing of the James River on June 13, 1864.

I’ve been deeply involved in the preservation and interpretation of the battlefield at Trevilian Station for nearly a decade now. The folks from the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation have done a magnificent job of saving the battlefield and preserving it for future generations. I was asked to write the text of the interpretive markers placed on the battlefield by the Virginia Civil War Trails folks, and of all of the historical work that I have done, I am, unquestionably, most proud of those ten markers. When my time comes and I’m long dead and buried, those markers will still be there, educating people about what happened there. They are, without doubt, the contribution to Civil War history of which I am most proud.

Here’s to the soldiers of the North and South who fought, suffered, and died at an obscure stop on the Virginia Central Railroad in Louisa County, Virginia on June 11 and 12, 1864.

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  1. Wed 11th Jun 2008 at 8:33 pm

    You know Eric, reading this post made me realize I haven’t yet read your book on Trevilian Station. I’m going to have to get to that one soon and learn a little more about an often overlooked battle…just as soon as I get through the other ridiculous number of books straining to the top of my “to read” list! 😉


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