June 9, 1863
After Lee's stunning victory at Chancellorsville, he planned an invasion of the North. Lee kept A.P. Hill's corps at Fredericksburg to protect the river crossing while Longstreet's and Ewell's corps moved to Culpeper. Stuart's cavalry protected this troop concentration by defending the Rappahannock River crossings near Culpeper.
Joseph Hooker, commander of the army of the Potomac, believed Stuart's cavalry was planning a raid into his rear areas and he needed information on Lee's troop movements. Hooker had built the Union cavalry into a respectable fighting force, and now he ordered it to move toward Culpeper to determine Lee's intentions. Pleasonton commanded the cavalry corps, and he divided his command into two columns. Buford's cavalry division supported by Ames' infantry brigade would cross at Beverly Ford. The second column, composed of the cavalry divisions of Gregg and Duffie with Russell's infantry brigade in support, would cross at Kelly's Ford, six miles to the east.
"Grimes" Davis Killed
At the dark predawn hour of 4 A.M., Buford's division successfully crossed the Rappahannock at Beverly Ford. The Confederate brigade of "Grumble" Jones awoke to firing on the picket line. The 6th Va. Cav. flanked and pushed back the 8th NY Cav. the first regiment of the brigade of Col. Grimes Davis, a Mississippi Unionist. Davis went to the front to rally the regiment and came upon a Rebel picket. Davis swung his sabre at the man, but the Rebel fired the last round in his revolver at him, mortally wounding him. This is a photograph from the Confederate side of the road along which Davis advanced, and the area to the left of the picture was wooded and was where the picket fired the fatal shot at Davis.
Maj. Flournoy of the 6th Va. Cav. killed the commander of the 8th Ill. Cav in an arranged duel. Jones' men delayed the Federals in a melee that gave the Confederates time to save the 16 guns of Beckham's battery and organize a battle line near St. James' Church.
Beckham's Confederate Guns
This picture was taken from the ridge near St. James' Church. Beckham's 16 guns were spread over 200 yards on this ridge, and the 35th Va. Cav. and the 11th Va. Cav. defended the fence visible on the left of the picture. Off the picture on the right, Hampton's brigade continued the battle line. Buford ordered three regiments of his division to attack this position, but only the 6th Pa. Cav. did so, attacking toward Beckham's guns from off the picture to the right. Despite heavy fire, the 6th PA. Cav. penetrated through the Confederate line. The 35th Va. Cav. and the 11th Va. Cav. along the fence counterattacked, and the Yankees withdrew, leaving 170 of their 350 men as casualties. This essentially ended the fighting in this sector. Incidentally, the area beyond the fence was used as an encampment by Jackson before Second Manassas and by Federals in the winter of 1863-64.
This is the view from the position of the 35th and 11th Va. Cav. which counterattacked the Federal troopers of the 6th Pa. Cav. who had charged Beckham's artillery on the ridge in the background.
With the repulse of the 6th Pa. Cav., Buford shifted most of his men north to attack the main Rebel line from the woods on the right of the picture. The main Confederate line extended off the picture on the left and was protected by a stone wall, but the rebel cavalry was nevertheless pushed back to the northern end of Fleetwood Hill, which they successfully defended.
Stuart had mounted a reasonably successful defense so far, but he was soon informed that Federal cavalry was in his rear at Fleetwood Hill.
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