[of the Ashland Hotel and Mineral Water Company] and the command was given, ‘Prepare to fight on foot; Dismount.’ The brigade dismounted, marched through the woods, perhaps three hundred yards and charged that ballroom which was filled with ‘Yankee’ soldiers. The ‘Yankees’ bounded out of the front windows and doors as we bounded in the rear windows and doors. A sharp fight took place in the lawn. The enemy retreated rapidly from the lawn into the street where we followed them. A body of enemy’s cavalry, which had been cut off from their main force, charged us while we were on foot in the street. We poured a volley into them and repulsed them. I saw a northern soldier shot off his horse just at the corner of Uncle Saint’s yard. [304 S Center Street was the home of Male Academy headmaster St. George Tucker] My boyhood playground had become a field of battle.” 2
Who won the Battle of Ashland? The Union did succeed in destroying the 2 railroad bridges and tracks in Ashland as well, but they paid a price in heavy casualties. The Confederates did not capture McIntosh’s brigade, but they did cause heavy casualties, chased the Union out of Ashland, and captured valuable Union horses and supplies as well. And within days, the Confederates had rebuilt the tracks and bridges. Both sides thought they had won. In the end, the Battle of Ashland was not an important strategic battle. Gordon Rhea writes in his Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, “The battle at Ashland, like most Civil War cavalry engagements, was stirring to participants but represented little more than a sideshow.” The important battle at Old Cold Harbor, according to Rhea, was to be decided by the Infantry, not the dashing Cavalry that fought at the Battle of Ashland.3
For additional reading on the battles of Ashland and Cold Harbor, see Gordon C Rhea’s Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, especially the chapter starting page 195 entitled “June 1, Grant and Lee Jockey for Position.” Mr. Rhea included in Appendixes I and II listings of the Union and Confederate forces and their leaders from which the list of units involved in this engagement is taken.
See also John M. Gabbert’s Military Operations in Hanover County Virginia 1861-1865, pages 88-89, available at Bell Book & Candle, 106 1/2 South Railroad Avenue, Ashland, VA 23005-2076, (804) 798-9047.
See also William N. McDonald’s A History of the Laurel Brigade, Chapter IX.
And see Ashland, Ashland: the story of a turn-of-the-century railroad town, published by Brunswick Publishing in 1994. Available at the Ashland Museum and at Bell, Book & Candle in Ashland, VA.
A side note: The Richmond Dispatch, reporting on the Battle of Ashland the next day, described the Union troops as “mostly negro troops.” I have not found another account making that claim, but in the interest of including information on African-American participation in the Civil War, I include this quote.4
(The foregoing was summarized from Gordon C Rhea’s Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee and from Rosanne Groat Shalf’s Ashland Ashland and other research)
THE UNITS AND INDIVIDUAL COMMANDERS INVOLVED IN THE BATTLE OF ASHLAND
Federal Cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan
- 3rdDivision under Brig. Gen. James H. Wilson
- 1stBrigade under Col. John B. McIntosh
- 1st Connecticut Cavalry
- 3rd New Jersey Cavalry
- 2nd New York Cavalry
- 5th New York Cavalry
- 2nd Ohio Cavalry
- 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry
- 2ndBrigade under Col. George H. Chapman
- 3rd Indiana Cavalry
- 8th New York Cavalry
- 1st Vermont Cavalry
Confederate Cavalry corps under Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton
- Hampton’s Division
- Young’s Brigade under Col. Gilbert J. Wright
- Rosser’s Brigade under Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Rosser
- 7th Virginia Cavalry
- 11th Virginia Cavalry
- 12th Virginia Cavalry
- William H. F. “Rooney” Lee’s Division (see Endnote #2)
- Chambliss’s Brigade under Brig. Gen. John R. Chambliss
- 9th Virginia Cavalry
- 10th Virginia Cavalry
- Gordon’s Brigade under Col. John A. Baker
- 3rd North Carolina Cavalry
- 5th North Carolina Cavalry
- Horse Artillery
- South Carolina Battery under Maj. James F. Hart
- Breckenridge’s Division
- Maryland Line under Col. Bradley T. Johnson
- Baltimore Light Artillery
1 Dispatch, Richmond, VA,
2Brooke, St. George Tucker, Memoirs, Virginia Historical Society, Mss2 B7906a1, p. 16. A note of explanation here: Major Gen. W.H.F. Lee, known as Rooney Lee, was Robert E. Lee’s son. Fitzhugh Lee was Robert E. Lee’s nephew. Fitz and Rooney were cousins. The two were frequently confused when participants recounted their experiences in battle. That’s why they went by nicknames Fitz and Rooney. It may be that St. George Tucker Brooke, who mentions Fitz Lee, meant Rooney Lee instead.
3Rhea, Gordon C, Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26 – June 3, 1864, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2002, pp 195 to 223.
4 Richmond Dispatch, June 2, 1864.