Conclusion of a series. You may read the Introduction, The First Battle of Hartwood Church, The Dumfries Raid and Raid on the Occoquon here.
The months of November and December, 1862 marked a transition in the career of Wade Hampton. For several weeks, Hampton and his brigade were thorn in the side of the Army of the Potomac. On three separate occasions, he led a handpicked force on expeditions behind the Union lines. At the behest of Robert E. Lee, Hampton crossed the Rappahannock on a scouting mission on November 27. The next day, he struck and captured a contingent of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry at Hartwood Church and confirmed that the Federals remained opposite the Confederate lines at Fredericksburg. On December 12, Hampton captured a sutler’s wagon train at Dumfries. A week later he fell on yet another supply train, this time near the village of Occoquon.
Hampton’s performance did not go unnoticed by his superiors, especially Le. At the end of February, 1863, Lee issued General Orders 29, announcing the recent successes of his cavalry to the army. Hampton’s actions were mentioned in the order. “The commanding general takes great pleasure in advertising to the promptness of the officers in striking a successful blow whenever the opportunity offered,” it read. “These deeds give assurance of vigilance, activity, and fortitude.”
By the beginning of the new year, Hampton had established himself as one of the most aggressive commanders in the Confederate mounted arm. Not surprisingly, his star would continue to rise in the coming months. Wounded on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, Hampton performed well during the Overland Campaign in the spring of 1864. After Stuart’s death in May, he became the senior Major General in the cavalry corps. His performance in stopping Philip Sheridan’s raid toward the Shenandoah Valley at Trevilian Station ultimately brought him corps command. Hampton continued to fight well during the Siege of Petersburg.
Early in 1865, he was transferred south to face Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union armies in the Carolinas. In the middle of March, Hampton turned in his finest performance. After a masterful display of reconnaissance and planning, Gen. Joseph Johnston accepted Hampton’s proposal to attack Sherman outside Bentonville, North Carolina. Johnston struck on March 19 and temporarily delayed the Federal march. On the last of the day engagement, Hampton directed and led counterattacks against a enemy force that helped secure the Confederate line of retreat. At the end of the war Hampton had compiled a record that rivaled if not surpassed that of any of his peers.