The Beefsteak Raid

September 5, 1864 – Confederate cavalry commander General Wade Hampton received information that a herd of cattle that could feed the hungry Army of Northern Virginia was loosely guarded by Federals.

General Wade Hampton | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

General Wade Hampton | Image Credit: CivilWarDailyGazette.com

The Federal Army of the Potomac’s siege of Petersburg prompted creative ways to supply the weakening Confederate defenders under General Robert E. Lee. Sergeant George D. Shadburne reported to Hampton on the 5th that he had just returned from Federal headquarters at City Point, and at nearby Coggins’ Point “are 3,000 beeves, attended by 120 men, and 30 citizens without arms.”[1]

Lee approved Hampton’s plan to rustle the herd, which could feed the Confederate army for weeks. Hampton waited until Federal General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant left his headquarters on September 14, then moved out early that morning with 4,000 men in three brigades. Shadburne served as their guide as they rode southwest, then southeast, then northeast to confuse Federal scouts while riding around the Federal left.[2]

Hampton’s Confederates reached Rowanty Creek at the end of the 14th, then continued northeast and crossed the Blackwater River the next day. They stayed near the river, about four miles behind the Federal IX Corps and 10 miles from Coggins’ Point, until nightfall. Then the Confederates advanced on Federal pickets at Sycamore Church on the night of the 15th.[3]

The Confederates attacked Federals at Sycamore Church and Coggins’ Point at dawn on the 16th. They overwhelmed elements of the 1st D.C. and the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry, then surrounded the cattle before the Federals could stop them. With help from shepherd dogs they had brought, the Confederates rustled 2,468 head of cattle while losing only 18. They also made off with 11 wagons filled with supplies and 304 prisoners while suffering 10 killed and 47 wounded.[4]

Hampton delivered the cattle, consisting of nearly two million pounds of beef, to Lee’s hungry Army of Northern Virginia at a time when there was only a 15-day supply of meat left in Richmond to feed them. This greatly helped the defenders outside Petersburg, earning Hampton’s cavalry the nickname the “cowboys.”[5]

—–

[1] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 110-11; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 494

[2] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 111; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 11734-11754; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 497

[3] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 111; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 497

[4] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 115; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 497; Linedecker, Clifford L. (ed.), The Civil War A to Z (Ballantine Books, 2002), p. 37; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 569-70

[5] Davis, William C., Death in the Trenches: Grant at Petersburg (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 115; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011), Kindle Locations 11745-11755; Freeman, Douglas Southall, Lee (Scribner, Kindle Edition, 2008), Loc 7918; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 569-70

Advertisements

Tagged: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: