On June 11-12, 1864, Union and Confederate cavalries clashed near Trevilian Station, west of Louisa Court House in Central Virginia. General Philip Sheridan had headed west as the Federal armies aimed toward Petersburg; he was supposed to link forces with General David Hunter in the Shenandoah Valley. In a joint effort, Sheridan and Hunter could destroy the Virginia Central Railroad and other vital supply routes toward Petersburg and the Confederate army. Ideally, Hunter and Sheridan could then close in Richmond and Petersburg by heading east and help Grant to trap Lee and the Army of the Northern Virginia.
Sheridan started off on June 7, 1864, with the cavalry divisions commanded by Generals Alfred Torbert and David Gregg, about 9,300 men with 24 horse artillery guns and 125 wagons. The headed west along the North Anna River, heading for Trevilian Station on the Virginia Central Railroad.
Two days later—on June 9—Confederate cavalry divisions led by Generals Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee started a pursuit. With about 6,400 and 15 guns, the Confederates hurried along a shorter route of march and arrived at Trevilian Station on June 10, outpacing the Union detachment. The Confederate commanders planned to attack first and split their forces to move along two roads toward the Union camp near Clayton’s Store.
On June 11th, fighting erupted along different roads and Hampton battled Torbert, pushing him back toward the Federal camps. Meanwhile, Lee skirmished with George A. Custer’s brigade to the east. Forced to fall back, Lee opened the Confederate line and Custer moved through the gap, capturing Hampton’s wagon train near the railroad tracks and station.
With Custer in his rear, Hampton reacted quickly, sending Thomas Rosser’s brigade to attack Custer. The former West Point classmates clashed and forced Custer to give up his captured wagons and fight surrounded until Sheridan sent additional cavalry to relieve his impulsive young general. Toward the end of the day, the Confederates retreated—Hampton to the west of Trevilian Station, Lee back toward Louisa Court House.
In the night, Hampton’s men prepared a defensive angle using the wooded terrain, open ground, and the embankments of the railroad tracks. Lee joined Hampton on the morning of June 12th, strengthening the line. Sheridan’s troopers spent part of the day tearing up five miles of railroad track, then started launching attacks against the Confederate position.
The fighting raged fiercely with multiple charges against the Confederate fortifications. The troopers began to the call the place “their own Bloody Angle”—referencing back to the fierce infantry fight at Spotsylvania’s Mule Shoe Salient weeks earlier in the Overland Campaign. By the end of the day, the Confederates still held the contested ground, and Sheridan fell back, failing in his objectives to join General Hunter or complete permanent damage to the Virginia Central Railroad. The Union accounted for 735 casualties in the Battle of Trevilian Station, and historians estimate Confederate losses around 1,000.
Around 2,000 acres of Trevilian Station battlefield has been preserved, and the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation has created an excellent driving tour, partnering with Civil War Trails. (Link to the driving tour directions here.) A mapped and blazed trail system runs through a portion of the wooded battlefield land and is accessible for hikers and equestrian trail riders from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Check out the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation’s Facebook page for information about when their headquarters is open and for additional notices about the trail system.