What You Should Know About The Battle of Trevilian Station (Historic Re-enactment)

If you’re a history buff or just fascinated by the Civil War, then you don’t want to miss the historic re-enactment of the Battle of Trevilian Station (June 21st & 22nd, 2014).  This year marks the 150th Anniversary of the battle, which was the largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War.  Nearly 4,000 re-enactors in period attire (and most with horses) will participate… transporting you straight back to the 19th century.  It is an experience not to be missed!

The Battle in a Nutshell…

Having been blocked (see Cold Harbor) in his efforts to directly capture Richmond, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant altered his strategy.  He would instead take Petersburg while Union Gen. David Hunter marched from Lexington to Charlottesville.  With Petersburg, Charlottesville, the railroad and the James River Canal under his control, Grant surmised that Richmond (the capital of the Confederacy) would be his for the taking.

Needing to move his Union army to the south side of the James River, where Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army was waiting, Grant devised a plan.  To occupy Lee’s cavalry (and divert his attention from Grant’s ultimate goal), Grant sent Gen. Philip Sheridan and two divisions of cavalry on a raid toward Charlottesville, with instructions to destroy as much of the Virginia Central Railroad as possible (until “every rail on the road destroyed should be so bent and twisted as to make it impossible to repair…”).  Once united with Hunter in Charlottesville, the two would move on Richmond from the west while Grant approached from the south.  Were his plan to succeed, Grant knew that Lee’s supply lines from the deep South and the Shenandoah Valley would be severed, perhaps leading to a surrender.

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On June 7, 1864, Sheridan led his two cavalry divisions (about 9,200 men) on a 60 mile march along the North Anna River, with plans to destroy the Virginia Central Railroad six miles west of the Louisa Court House at Trevilian Station, a stop on the Virginia Central Railroad.  Lee got wind of Sheridan’s move and sent the cavalry divisions (6,700 men) of Generals Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee in pursuit two days later.  Traveling by a shorter route than that used by Sheridan, Hampton reached the Trevilian area on June 10, one day ahead of the Union column.

Early on June 11th, Hampton’s cavalry division engaged Sheridan’s division near Trevilian Station while Fitzhugh Lee’s cavalry division encountered General George A. Custer’s brigade on the Louisa Court House road.  Lee’s men nearly had Custer surrounded before Sheridan arrived late in the afternoon to help.  Lee was forced to pull back, separating him from Hampton, which Custer was able to exploit.  Custer captured more than 800 horses and 3 caissons from Lee.

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On June 12th, however, the fortunes were reversed.  In what would become an all-day slugfest, Hampton and Lee dismounted their troops and drew a defensive line across the railroad and the road to Gordonsville.  From this strategic position, they fought back several intense and bloody dismounted assaults.  By nightfall, and with his ammunition quickly depleting, Sheridan withdrew his forces to rejoin the Army of the Potomac, though not before he had destroyed nearly six miles of the Virginia Central Railroad.

Hampton’s decisive victory over Sheridan at Trevilian Station was crucial, for, had he lost, General Robert E. Lee and his whole army would have been without supplies.  Lee, in fact, was able to stay in Petersburg for nearly a year longer due to Hampton’s preservation of this supply line.  A month after the Trevilians battle, Lee requested that Hampton be promoted to permanent command of the cavalry corp.

The victory came at a high cost, as both sides suffered heavy losses.  Not only was the Battle of Trevilian Station the largest all-cavalry battle of the Civil War, it was also one of the bloodiest.  Sheridan lost nearly 1,000 men, while Hampton lost more than eight hundred.  Following the battle, many of the wounded men were cared for in nearby homes.  The Exchange Hotel in Gordonsville was transformed into a Confederate receiving hospital, while the Oakland Cemetery in Louisa and the Maplewood Cemetery near Gordonsville serve as the final resting place for many of the fallen soldiers.

What Is It:

An authentic, live historic re-enactment of the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Trevilian Station.

What To Do While There:

Exciting cavalry battles and drills, infantry battles, a magnificent parade of carriages, home tours, living history demonstrations, a field hospital, and lots of entertainment.  There will be nearly 4,000 re-enactors from across the United States and more than 1,500 visitors are expected.  Absolutely appropriate for the entire family.

Dates: 

Saturday, June 21st and Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Location (less than 2 miles from Prospect Hill):

Bracketts Farm (an historic farm dating to the late 18th century and lying in the heart of the Green Springs National Historic District).

How To Get There:

From Interstate 64 near Charlottesville, take Exit 136.  Go towards Gordonsville (north) on US-15 (James Madison Highway).  Follow this road for 2.4 miles and turn right onto East Jack Jouett Road (this is a well-maintained gravel road) and go about 1 mile.  Make a sharp left turn onto Rt. 638 (Nolting Road).  Drive about ¾ mile to Brackets Farm.

Admission: 

There is a minimal admission fee (the amount is currently undecided) payable as you enter the parking lot.  Parking is plentiful (it is, after all, a farm), but be prepared to walk.

Food / Vendors:

Several vendors will offer “county fair” type food and drinks for sale.  Other vendors typically include homemade crafts, pies, jams & jellies, blacksmith demonstrations, and sutlers (selling Civil War clothing, books, etc).

Schedule:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

  • Gates open to public:  9:00 am
  • Camps open to public:  10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Cavalry Battle:  11:00 am
  • Parade of Carriages:  12:30 to 1:30pm
  • Infantry Battle:  2:00 pm
  • Evening Ball (Re-enactors & VIP’s only)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

  • Church Service (no drills during services)
  • Camps open to public:  10:00 am
  • Cavalry Battle:  1:30 pm

What Else You Should Know:

Pre-registration for re-enactors is only $20 and includes the Saturday and Sunday battles, historic trail rides (riders who arrive early can depart Bracketts Farm on Friday morning at 11:00 am and will take a 3 – 4 hour ride through the historic Green Springs area), potable water, 1 bale of hay (per horse), fixed watering sites for horses, campsites (Confederate and Union separated, of course!), veterinarian (on-call or on-site), farrier (on-call or on-site), trash receptacles, and emergency personnel on site (during battles).  Download re-enactor registration form here.

Official Website:

The official website of the Battle of Trevilian Station is here.

Where To Stay:

Now that you know the fascinating history of the Battle of Trevilian Station and the upcoming reenactment, it’s time to plan your trip.  We invite you to stay with us at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn on our authentic 1700′s plantation complex.  A most unique country inn,  we specialize secluded getaways and superb four-course fine dining (on Friday & Saturday evenings)… all just moments away from historic Charlottesville (and only 2 miles from the Trevilian re-enactment battlefield).  Secluded on a 40 acre Southern plantation essentially as it existed in 1732, our bed and breakfast cottages offer a rustic, yet refined hideaway (with air conditioning, private baths, working fireplaces, full breakfast-in-bed, and whirlpool tubs).  Children, dogs (and horses) are welcome with well-behaved adults!