Battle of Staunton River Bridge

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Staunton River Bridge, Virginia

Other Names: Blacks and Whites, Old Men and Young Boys

Location: Halifax County and Charlotte

Campaign: Siege of Petersburg (June 1864-March 1865); Richmond-Petersburg Campaign (June 1864-March 1865)

Date(s): June 25, 1864

Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. James Wilson and Brig. Gen. August Kautz [US]; Maj. Gen. William H. F. “Rooney”  Lee [CS]

Forces Engaged: Divisions (4,000 total)

Estimated Casualties: 150 total

Civil War Battle of Staunton Bridge
Civil War Battle of Staunton Bridge.jpg
Historical Marker

Result(s): Confederate victory

Description: On June 22, the cavalry divisions of Brig. Gen. James Wilson and Brig. Gen. August Kautz were dispatched from the Petersburg lines to disrupt Confederate rail communications.  Riding via Dinwiddie Court House, the raiders cut the South Side Railroad near Ford’s Station that evening, destroying tracks, railroad buildings, and two supply trains. 

On June 23, Wilson proceeded to the junction of the Richmond & Danville Railroad at Burke Station, where he encountered elements of William H.F. Lee’s cavalry between Nottoway Court House and Blacks and Whites (modern-day Blackstone). Wilson followed Kautz along the South Side Railroad, destroying about thirty miles of track as he advanced. 

On June 24, while Kautz remained skirmishing around Burkeville, Wilson crossed over to Meherrin Station on the Richmond & Danville and began destroying track. 

On June 25, Wilson and Kautz continued tearing up track south to the Staunton River Bridge, where they were delayed by Home Guards, who prevented destruction of the bridge. Lee’s cavalry division closed on the Federals from the northeast, forcing them to abandon their attempts to capture and destroy the bridge. By this time, the raiders were nearly 100 miles from Union lines.

Wilson - Kautz Raid Battle Map, June 22 - July 1
Virginia Civil War Wilson Kautz Raid Map.jpg
Civil War Virginia: Wilson - Kautz Raid Map of Battles

The Staunton River Bridge, 600 feet long, crosses the Staunton River and was part of the Richmond & Danville railroad supply route from the west and south for Confederate troops during the Civil War. In 1864, it was successfully defended by 'Old Men and Young Boys' during the Wilson-Kautz raid.

Today it is part of the walking trail between the Clover Visitor Center and the Roanoke Vistor Center. This trail is 0.8 mile long and follows the old railroad bed allowing visitors access to the park from either side of the river.

Sources: National Park Service; stauntonriverbattlefield.org

Recommended Reading: To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign, by Stephen W. Sears. From Kirkus Reviews: In George B. McClellan (1988) and his work editing the papers of the Union general, Sears established himself as the critical but indispensable authority on flawed "Little Mac." Now, in a stirring prequel to Landscape Turned Red (1983), his superb account of the Battle of Antietam, the author reaffirms his mastery of historical narrative. In March 1862, the egotistical but timorous McClellan was prodded by Lincoln into finally launching the first major offensive by the Army of the Potomac. Continued below…

Instead of marching directly overland from Washington, McClellan used Federal sea power to advance on Richmond by way of the peninsula between the York and James Rivers. The "Grand Campaign," however, soon belied its creator's Napoleonic pretensions by becoming a three-and-a-half-month nightmare of feints and pitched battles, ultimately engaging up to a combined quarter-million men on both sides and leaving one of every four men dead, wounded, or missing. Using hundreds of eyewitness accounts, Sears demonstrates how the most creative use of military technology (ironclad warships, 200-pounder rifled cannon, battlefield telegraph, and aerial reconnaissance) existed side by side with the most appalling mismanagement (Stonewall Jackson's uncharacteristic lethargy; McClellan's mistaken belief that the numerically inferior rebels possessed a two-to-one manpower advantage; out-of-sync attacks by both Confederate and Union generals). Above all, though, Sears casts the campaign as a clash of wits and wills between McClellan’s courage to command" - and Robert E. Lee - who, upon succeeding the wounded Joseph E. Johnson as head of the Army of Northern Virginia, seized the initiative, repulsed the assault in the series of "Seven Days" battles, and began his long journey into legend. An authoritative, ironic, and stirring addition to Civil War annals.

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Recommended Reading: Lee's Cavalrymen: A History of the Mounted Forces of the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (Hardcover). Description: A companion to his previous work, Lincoln's Cavalrymen, this volume focuses on the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia its leadership, the military life of its officers and men as revealed in their diaries and letters, the development of its tactics as the war evolved, and the influence of government policies on its operational abilities. All the major players and battles are involved, including Joseph E. Johnston, P. G. T Beauregard, and J. E. B. Stuart. As evidenced in his previous books, Longacre's painstakingly thorough research will make this volume as indispensable a reference as its predecessor.

 
Recommended Reading: Richmond Burning: The Last Days of the Confederate Capital. Description: Nelson Lankford draws upon Civil War-era diaries, letters, memoirs, and newspaper reports to vividly recapture the experiences of the men and women, both black and white, who witnessed the tumultuous fall of Richmond. In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee realized that his army must retreat from the Confederate capital and that Jefferson Davis's government must flee... As the Southern soldiers withdrew, they set the city on fire, leaving a blazing ruin to greet the entering Union troops. Continued below...

The city's fall ushered in the birth of the modern United States. Lankford's exploration of this pivotal event is at once an authoritative work of history and a stunning piece of dramatic prose. About the Author: Nelson Lankford edits the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, the quarterly journal of the Virginia Historical Society. He has written and edited several books.

 

Recommended Reading: Ashes of Glory: Richmond at War. Description: Drawing on an array of archival sources, Ashes of Glory portrays Richmond's passion through the voices of soldiers and statesmen, preachers and prostitutes, slaves and slavers. Masterfully orchestrated and finely rendered, the result is a passionate and compelling work of social history. The siege of Richmond, Virginia, is unlike anything in the history of America. For four years the Union soldiers tied an ever-tightening noose around the defiant city. That story--and the way Ernest B. Furgurson tells it--is reason enough to tackle this work. But even more fascinating is Furgurson's exploration of the minds of the residents who so passionately supported the Confederate cause. Continued below...

What twist of logic must have inspired a citizenry--many of whom never owned slaves--to plunge into one of history's bloodiest conflicts? Visit Richmond in its proudest moments, when it envisioned victory; visit Richmond in its darkest times, when it felt flames.

 

Recommended Reading: Field Armies and Fortifications in the Civil War: The Eastern Campaigns, 1861-1864 (Civil War America) (Hardcover). Description: The eastern campaigns of the Civil War involved the widespread use of field fortifications, from Big Bethel and the Peninsula to Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Charleston, and Mine Run. While many of these fortifications were meant to last only as long as the battle, Earl J. Hess argues that their history is deeply significant. The Civil War saw more use of fieldworks than did any previous conflict in Western history. Hess studies the use of fortifications by tracing the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia from April 1861 to April 1864. Continued below... 

He considers the role of field fortifications in the defense of cities, river crossings, and railroads and in numerous battles. Blending technical aspects of construction with operational history, Hess demonstrates the crucial role these earthworks played in the success or failure of field armies. He also argues that the development of trench warfare in 1864 resulted from the shock of battle and the continued presence of the enemy within striking distance, not simply from the use of the rifle-musket, as historians have previously asserted. Based on fieldwork at 300 battle sites and extensive research in official reports, letters, diaries, and archaeological studies, this book should become an indispensable reference for Civil War historians.

 

Recommended Reading: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864 (McFarland & Company). Description: A significant part of the Civil War was fought in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, especially in 1864. Books and articles have been written about the fighting that took place there, but they generally cover only a small period of time and focus on a particular battle or campaign. Continued below...

This work covers the entire year of 1864 so that readers can clearly see how one event led to another in the Shenandoah Valley and turned once-peaceful garden spots into gory battlefields. It tells the stories of the great leaders, ordinary men, innocent civilians, and armies large and small taking part in battles at New Market, Chambersburg, Winchester, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek, but it primarily tells the stories of the soldiers, Union and Confederate, who were willing to risk their lives for their beliefs. The author has made extensive use of memoirs, letters and reports written by the soldiers of both sides who fought in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.

 

Recommended Reading: Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign. Description: Jubal A. Early’s disastrous battles in the Shenandoah Valley ultimately resulted in his ignominious dismissal. But Early’s lesser-known summer campaign of 1864, between his raid on Washington and Phil Sheridan’s renowned fall campaign, had a significant impact on the political and military landscape of the time. By focusing on military tactics and battle history in uncovering the facts and events of these little-understood battles, Scott C. Patchan offers a new perspective on Early’s contributions to the Confederate war effort—and to Union battle plans and politicking. Patchan details the previously unexplored battles at Rutherford’s Farm and Kernstown (a pinnacle of Confederate operations in the Shenandoah Valley) and examines the campaign’s influence on President Lincoln’s reelection efforts. Continued below…

He also provides insights into the personalities, careers, and roles in Shenandoah of Confederate General John C. Breckinridge, Union general George Crook, and Union colonel James A. Mulligan, with his “fighting Irish” brigade from Chicago. Finally, Patchan reconsiders the ever-colorful and controversial Early himself, whose importance in the Confederate military pantheon this book at last makes clear. About the Author: Scott C. Patchan, a Civil War battlefield guide and historian, is the author of Forgotten Fury: The Battle of Piedmont, Virginia, and a consultant and contributing writer for Shenandoah, 1862.

Review

"The author's descriptions of the battles are very detailed, full or regimental level actions, and individual incidents. He bases the accounts on commendable research in manuscript collections, newspapers, published memoirs and regimental histories, and secondary works. The words of the participants, quoted often by the author, give the narrative an immediacy. . . . A very creditable account of a neglected period."-Jeffry D. Wert, Civil War News (Jeffry D. Wert Civil War News 20070914)

"[Shenandoah Summer] contains excellent diagrams and maps of every battle and is recommended reading for those who have a passion for books on the Civil War."-Waterline (Waterline 20070831)

"The narrative is interesting and readable, with chapters of a digestible length covering many of the battles of the campaign."-Curled Up With a Good Book (Curled Up With a Good Book 20060815)

"Shenandoah Summer provides readers with detailed combat action, colorful character portrayals, and sound strategic analysis. Patchan''s book succeeds in reminding readers that there is still plenty to write about when it comes to the American Civil War."-John Deppen, Blue & Grey Magazine (John Deppen Blue & Grey Magazine 20060508)

"Scott C. Patchan has solidified his position as the leading authority of the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign with his outstanding campaign study, Shenandoah Summer. Mr. Patchan not only unearths this vital portion of the campaign, he has brought it back to life with a crisp and suspenseful narrative. His impeccable scholarship, confident analyses, spellbinding battle scenes, and wonderful character portraits will captivate even the most demanding readers. Shenandoah Summer is a must read for the Civil War aficionado as well as for students and scholars of American military history."-Gary Ecelbarger, author of "We Are in for It!": The First Battle of Kernstown, March 23, 1862 (Gary Ecelbarger 20060903)

"Scott Patchan has given us a definitive account of the 1864 Valley Campaign. In clear prose and vivid detail, he weaves a spellbinding narrative that bristles with detail but never loses sight of the big picture. This is a campaign narrative of the first order."-Gordon C. Rhea, author of The Battle of the Wilderness: May 5-6, 1864 (Gordon C. Rhea )

"[Scott Patchan] is a `boots-on-the-ground' historian, who works not just in archives but also in the sun and the rain and tall grass. Patchan's mastery of the topography and the battlefields of the Valley is what sets him apart and, together with his deep research, gives his analysis of the campaign an unimpeachable authority."-William J. Miller, author of Mapping for Stonewall and Great Maps of the Civil War (William J. Miller)

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: Battle of Staunton River Bridge Virginia Pictures Photographs, Detailed History Battlefield of Staunton River Bridge, Union Confederate Cavalry General Kautz, General William H F Rooney Lee Facts, Reports

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