May 30, 1864
Old Church Tavern (later Sheridan's Headquarters)
Sheridan's cavalry was supposed to be covering the left of Warren's V Corps, which was attacked at Bethesda Church. The two were feuding and perhaps because of this Sheridan's cavalry did not directly link up with the infantry line but were to their rear. Communication problems and misunderstandings led to the cavalry fight that day, and Devin took part of his brigade from its camp near Old Church Tavern south, not west, to a more defensible position at Matadequin Creek and posted a squadron further south at the intersection with the road to Cold Harbor.
This is the view looking north up the road to Matadequin Creek and Old Church. The road leading to the middle-left of the picture heads to Cold Harbor. A squadron of the 17th Pa Cavalry was posted near this intersection in front of the main position at the creek. Knowing the importance of the vital Cold Harbor intersection, Robert E Lee sent Butler's brigade of 2,000 cavalrymen, mostly from South Carolina, northeast from Cold Harbor to determine whether or not Grant's army was threatening it.
In the early afternoon, Butler's men began to reach the intersection, and they pushed back the lone squadron. The Pennsylvanians sent in two more squadrons and retook their position, but when most of the Confederate brigade arrived in mid-afternoon they pushed the Yankees back to the creek. The Liggan farm is visible as a white building on the right of the picture, and newly arrived Union cavalrymen counterattacked and posted themselves in the farm. Bypassing the farm, the Confederates continued.
Matadequin Creek Looking East to South
Devin ordered up the rest of his brigade to Matadequin Creek, and divisional commander Torbert ordered the whole division to the creek. The defensive position off the picture to the left held, and with fresh troopers the Yankees attacked the Confederate left (on the ridge on right of the picture) and pushed into the fields beyond.
Battlefield South of the Creek
As the road on the left of the picture extends into the distance beyond the house it begins to descend down to the creek. To the left of the road, the 4th South Carolina cracked under the pressure of the Union attack and fled. The 6th NY Cavalry advanced into the fields in pursuit. The Charleston Light Dragoons, dismounted beyond the Liggan farm on the right of the picture, were flanked by the Yankee cavalry and attacked in front by the men in the farm. They fled, and what remained of the Confederate line at the creek fled as well.
The 7th SC Cavalry near the intersection attacked dismounted to give their comrades time and took heavy casualties from the Union repeating rifles. The 20th Ga Bn was also arriving, but nothing could be done to retrieve the situation. The Confederates fled toward Cold Harbor and the Yankees pursued.
Although Lee learned that Union infantry was probably not yet threatening Cold Harbor, it had been a humiliating defeat with the loss of 188 men to Union losses of 90.
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