Sheridan’s Richmond Raid, including the Battles of Yellow Tavern and Meadow Bridge
At the moment of Stuart’s mortal wounding…
Virginia, Henrico County,
May 11, 1864
During the battle of Spotsylvania Court House, US Major General Philip H. Sheridan launched a major cavalry raid against Richmond. Since the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid on February 28– March 3, the Union cavalry had only provided flank protection for the Army of the Potomac, and Sheridan disputed the role that US General Meade had assigned to his horsemen. He won permission from US General Grant to cut loose from the army, disrupt CS General Lee’s road and rail communications, and draw the Confederate cavalry into a fight. Grant also saw the raid as a means to separate the disputants.
Sheridan’s three divisions, 12,000 troopers, set out on May 9. They circled to the east of the Confederate lines at Spotsylvania, rode southwest, severed the Virginia Central Railroad, and destroyed the depot at Beaver Dam Station. They continued southward toward Richmond, riding slowly enough to permit the Confederate cavalry to engage them in battle. CS Major General J. E. B. Stuart’s 5,000 cavalrymen galloped for two days to intercept Sheridan north of the Richmond defenses.
They met at Yellow Tavern, six miles north of Richmond at noon on May 11 in a series of Federal frontal assaults that were repulsed with losses on both sides. At 4:00 p.m. US Brigadier General George A. Custer’s brigade broke the Confederate center. Stuart rode up with part of the 1st Virginia Cavalry to repair the breach, and as his cavalry counterattacked, he was mortally wounded. Stuart died the next day in Richmond.
The Federals rode south to threaten the Richmond defenses and reached Haxall’s Landing and Shirley Plantation on the James River on May 14. After communicating with US Major General Benjamin F. Butler at Bermuda Hundred and refitting his command, Sheridan rejoined the Army of the Potomac on the North Anna River on May 24.
Estimated Casualties: 800 total