, , , , ,

150 years ago today, the cavalry forces of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia collided in the largest all cavalry battle of the Civil War at Trevillian Station. For two days the forces went at each other hammer and tongs, in some of the fiercest cavalry fighting of the war.

Rather than craft yet another summary of the battle on its anniversary, I decided to focus on the official report of the battle and on identifying the casualties from the regular regiments.

The official report of Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, commanding the Reserve Brigade, covers the period from May 26th to June 25th, so I’ve chosen to excerpt only those sections relevant to the fighting at Trevillian Station.

“On the 7th the brigade marched with the division, crossing the Pamunkey on the second expedition. On the 8th, 9th and 10th of June the march was continued without event.

“On the 11th the brigade left camp at 5 a.m., moving toward Gordonsville. The Second Cavalry, forming the advance guard, soon encountered the enemy’s pickets, which were driven in and the main body of the enemy engaged. Captain Rodenbough handled his gallant regiment with great skill and unexampled valor, charging and driving the enemy mounted, and forcing him, as usual, to cover. Captain Rodenbough was here wounded, as also Lieutenant Horrigan, of the Second. Here also Lieutenant Lawless, of the same regiment, was killed. He was a fearless, honest, and eminently trustworthy soldier, “God’s truth” being the standard by which he measured all his actions. The entire brigade was soon engaged, the First on the left, and the First New York Dragoons on the extreme right. On the left of this latter was the Sixth Pennsylvania, and next the Second Cavalry, now commanded by Capt. D.S. Gordon. The Fifth Cavalry was held as a support to the battery. The enemy was driven through a thick tangled brushwood for over 2 miles to Trevilian Station, on the Virginia Central Railroad, but not without serious loss to ourselves, though we inflicted heavy punishment on the adversary in killed, wounded, and prisoners. [start pg 850] Among his wounded was General Rosser, commanding Hampton’s old division, and a colonel commanding a brigade was killed, his body, along with most of the enemy’s killed and wounded, falling into our hands. Few less than 200 prisoners, including 6 or 8n officers, were taken by the brigade. The enemy’s retreat finally became a rout, led horses, mounted men, and artillery all fled together in the wildest confusion. Williston, with his battery, took position near by, and did elegant practice with his guns, planting shells in the midst of the confused masses of the retreating enemy. Trevilian Station was thus gained. In this retreat part of the enemy went toward Gordonsville, while fragments were driven off on the road to Louisa Court-House. In their headlong career these latter came in contact with the First Brigade, which, being engaged toward its rear by the advance of Fitzhugh Lee’s division coming from Louisa Court-House, was compelled to abandon some captures it had made from the led horses and trains of the force that was engaging the rest of the First Division, as above described. This brigade soon formed a junction and took position to the left rear of the Reserve Brigade. In the meanwhile, Fitz. Lee’s division advanced on the Louisa Court-House road and took up a line on the left of the Reserve Brigade, his line being perpendicular to the last. The two parts of the line at this time formed a right angle, the Reserve Brigade occupying the right of the line, to the vortex of the angle, the second Brigade on its left, occupying part of the other line, and the First Brigade, with the Second Division, remained in echelon to the left rear, as above mentioned.

“On the night of the 11th the enemy retired from our left front and took up position on the Gordonsville front.

“About 3 p.m. on the 12th the brigade was ordered to attack the enemy’s left, while it was intended that the First Brigade should co-operate on its left, while the Second Brigade of the division was held in reserve. The brigade went in on an open field to its right and attacked the enemy’s left flank vigorously. It was slow work, however, and as the enemy was not pressed on the left he concentrated his force on the brigade, and by large numbers and fresh troops, gave the command as much as it could attend to. Still both officers and men stood up to their work, doing manfully all that their former prowess would lead the most sanguine to expect, holding everything they had gained on the left, where the line was weakest, and driving the enemy on the right before them in expectation of a general advance. In thus advancing the right of the brigade was so swung round as to be exposed to the enemy’s attack on its wing. This he was not slow to take advantage of, when a squadron of the Second Cavalry, my only remaining mounted support to the battery, was thrown in to meet the attack. Here again the Second did nobly. Coming up on the right of the Sixth Pennsylvania, which up to that time had been the extreme right regiment in line, they charged gallantly, and, though few in numbers, by the impetuosity of their onslaught, drove the enemy back and protected the right until relieved by two regiments of the Second Brigade (the Fourth and Sixth New York). After these two regiments got in position this squadron of the Second was withdrawn to again act as support to the battery, which was ordered to advance, a good position having been gained on the right. Right gallantly did the battery come up in the midst of a heavy musketry fire, we being at that time so close to the enemy that their shells all flew far over us. Planting three [start pg 851] guns of the battery in this position, where it dealt the enemy heavy blows, Lieutenant Williston moved one of his brass 12-pounders onto the skirmish line. In fact, the line was moved to the front to allow him to get an eligible position, where he remained with his gun, in the face of the strengthened enemy (who advanced to its very muzzle), dealing death and destruction in their ranks with double loads of canister. It was now dark and I was ordered to retire the brigade, which was done slowly and leisurely, the enemy not advancing. This day the loss of the brigade was heavy for the numbers engaged. The general advance was not made.” (Official Records, Vol. 36, Pt. 1, pgs 850-852)

While I was able to track down the names of almost all the casualties from the battle, I felt that listing all of the wounded made the post overly long. Only the names of those killed are listed, as well as the numbers of wounded and missing. The four officers killed in the battle will be featured separately over the course of the remainder of the month.

1st US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT John H. Nichols

1LT Frederick Ogden

Sgt E. Jackson, Co. H

Sgt William Mulcahy, Co. M

Sgt James Rathburn, Co. C

Pvt Henry Lynch, Co. D

Pvt John Normyle, Co. E

Pvt George Ott, Co. K

Pvt H.S.P. Petro, Co. D

An additional 29 enlisted men were wounded, three of them dying of wounds later in the month. Six enlisted men were listed as missing in action.

2nd US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT Michael Lawless, Co. A

Sgt Christian Fisher, Co. M

Pvt Thomas Corbett, Co. A

Pvt Edward Gorman, Co. B

Pvt James Ferris, Co. F

Pvt Ariel C. Chapin, Co. K

Pvt James Levens, Co. L

Pvt Patrick McArdle, Co. E


An additional two officers, including regimental commander Captain T. F. Rodenbough and 1st Lieutenant Patrick Horrigan, and 34 enlisted men were wounded. Captain Charles McK. Leoser and two enlisted men were listed as missing in action.


5th US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT Joseph P. Henley, Co. I

Corp Charles E. Asher, Co. G

Pvt Patrick Keeney, Co. G


An additional two enlisted men were wounded, and two more were listed as missing in action. The 5th US Cavalry’s casualties appear light in comparison to the other two regiments, but over half of the regiment did not participate in the battle.