On May 28, 1864, as the Army of the Potomac crossed the Pamunkey River, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan commanding the Cavalry Corps was given the assignment to protect the Yankee bridgehead and to report back on any Confederate movements. With only the division of Brig. Gen. David Gregg available for his mission, Sheridan struck out from his bivouac. The Confederates had indeed been on the move, marching southeastward from their positions along the North Anna. As the gray veterans marched across the Virginia byroads, Lee needed intelligence on the Yankee movements. While his infantry would assume a position along Totopotomoy Creek, Robert E. Lee sent his cavalry out to find the Federals. The mounted forces from each side would clash near a small settlement known as Haw’s Shop. The following is a photographic summary of the battle.
Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton. The South Carolinian, along with Maj. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee, would be in co-command of Confederate cavalry at Haw’s Shop. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Maj. Gen. Phillip Sheridan, standing in he center underneath the guidon, surrounded by his subordinates. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Established in 1829, Salem Church sat at the center of the settlement known as Haw’s Shop. As the fighting developed west of the sanctuary, the building became a hospital for wounded Union and Confederate troopers. After the fighting, Brig. Gen. George Custer established his headquarters here
Haw’s Shop was a meeting engagement, where both sides collided unexpectedly. After some initial see saw fighting, the two lines stabilized. David Gregg remembered after the battle “for some hours, the contest was maintained under a heavy and destructive fire, the lines of the contending forces being closely drawn up on each other”. A portion of the fighting Gregg described took place across this open ground.
Fighting raged across this field during the battle. On the right is Oak Grove, the home of the John Haw family which lends its name to the settlement. Mr. Haw manufactured farming equipment before the war. With the outbreak of the war. When session came, the Confederates moved the Haw equipment to nearby Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond.
The fighting would reach a climax when Sheridan received reinforcements late in the day in the form of Brig. Gen. Alfred Torbert’s division. At the height of the battle, George Custer led the 6th Michigan in a charge from the direction of the far wood line. Combined with Hampton’s belief that his line was being simultaneously flanked, the Confederates retreated and the Federals held the field.
Today, a monument stands on the battlefield near Enon United Methodist Church. Its inscription reads: In memory of 27 unknown Confederate soldiers killed at the Battle of Haw’s Shop May 28 1864 and buried in this churchyard.