On this day, a Confederate cavalry intercepts General Phillip Sheridan’s Union cavalry as it seeks to destroy a rail line near Trevilian Station, Virginia. A two-day battle ensued in which the Confederates drove off the Yankees with minimal damage to a precious supply line.
Shortly after the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, earlier in the month, Union General Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Sheridan, his cavalry commander, to ride towards Charlottesville and cut the Virginia Central Railroad. The line was supplying Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with Grant’s Army of the Potomac around Richmond and Petersburg.
Sheridan swung north around Richmond and headed toward Charlottesville, 60 miles northwest of Richmond. General Wade Hampton, commander of the Confederate cavalry since General J.E.B. Stuart had died the previous month, heard of Sheridan’s move and set out to intercept the Yankees. On the morning of June 11, Union General George Custer’s men attacked Hampton’s supply train near Trevilian Station. Although they scored an initial success, Custer soon found himself almost completely surrounded by Rebel cavalry. Custer formed his men into a triangle and made several counterattacks before Sheridan came to his rescue in the late afternoon, taking 500 Southern prisoners in the process.
The struggle continued the next day. With his ammunition running low and his cavalry dangerously far from its supply line, Sheridan eventually withdrew his force and returned to the Army of the Potomac. The Yankees tore up about five miles of rail line, but the damage was relatively light for the high number of casualties. Sheridan lost 735 men compared with nearly 1,000 for Hampton. But the Confederates had driven off the Yankees and minimized damage to the railroad.