Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ride Around McClellan – Day 2

Map of Stuart's Raid
Stuart resumed his raid on the morning of June 13th. He turned his men southeast, heading toward McClellan's flank. Scouts reported the enemy near Hanover Court House. He sent Fitz Lee with his 1st Virginia around to cut the enemy off from the rear. After waiting a time, Stuart charged with the main body. A few shots were fired, and the Confederates found that Fitz Lee had gotten stuck in a marsh and the Federals were able to make their escape. The column continued, and after several more miles of marching rounded up some Federal cavalry pickets. When they were brought past Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, they greeted him with cries of “Lieutenant!” They were from the 3rd United States Cavalry, Lee's unit before the war, and a friendly reunion was had.
Fitzhugh Lee

Stuart continued on passing the marshy Totopotmoy Creek safely. After 3 pm they hit a cavalry force guarding an intersection, and immediately charged forward. A short hand-to-hand fight occurred. The leader of the Confederate squadron, Captain William Latane, fell, hit with seven bullets, after slashing the Federal commander with his saber. The Federals fell back, leaving five guidons in the hands of the rebels. At this point, Stuart had accomplished his primary mission. He had discovered that there were no major forces guarding McClellan's right flank. Now he had to decide how to return to the Confederate lines. He decided, with perhaps a little wishful thinking, that the safest way was completely around McClellan's lines, as that would be where he would be least expected. He later wrote in his report,
The route was one of all others which I felt sure the enemy would never expect me to take. On that side of the Chickahominy infantry could not reach me before crossing, and I felt able to whip any cavalry force that could be brought against me. … Besides this, the hope of striking a serious blow at a boastful and insolent foe, which would make him tremble in his shoes, made more agreeable the alternative I chose. In a brief and frank interview with some of my officers I disclosed my views, but while none accorded a full assent, all assured me a hearty support in whatever I did. With an abiding trust in God, and with such guarantees of success as the two Lees and Martin and their devoted followers, this enterprise I regarded as most promising. ... There was something of the sublime in the implicit confidence and unquestioning trust of the rank and file in a leader guiding them straight, apparently, into the very jaws of the enemy, every step appearing to them to diminish the faintest hope of extrication.
Stuart headed on to Tunstall's Station, a station on the railroad. It was guarded by a few companies of infantry, but these were quickly driven away with a saber charge. The Confederates began tearing up the railroad and searching for supplies. However, soon they heard the sound of a train whistle. Men ran to the switch which would send it to the siding, but they could not move it. As they train approached pistol shots rang out, but it continued on its way. One trooper rode along side and shot the engineer, but the train continued and escaped with his load of Union infantry. It was now near nightfall, and Stuart decided not to continue on to White House, McClellan's supply base. An attempt on that would involve more danger than even Stuart would accept. After burning what booty they could not bring along, Stuart set his men off to ride through the night towards the crossing of the Chicahominy.


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