General Wade Hampton
Biography (Written and Submitted by Mr.
Terry M. Gatch)
He was a big man who inherited a big task. After
General J.E.B. Stuart was killed in
battle in 1864, command of General Robert
E. Lee's cavalry corps was given to General Wade Hampton. Born into a
distinguished South Carolina family and descended from Revolutionary War
patriots, Hampton organized a cavalry force, Hampton's Legion, and outfitted
them at his own expense. He rose to brigadier quickly, was wounded at
Seven Pines and
Gettysburg, and was promoted to major
general in August of 1863.
A year later, after the death of Stuart,
Hampton was given command of the Army of Northern Virginia's cavalry corps.
Almost immediately, he engaged the enemy. In early June of 1864,
Philip Sheridan led 6,000 Federal cavalrymen on an expedition to destroy a
vital section of the Virginia Central Railroad. Just after daybreak on the
morning of June 11th, Hampton and 5,000 Confederate cavalrymen intercepted
Sheridan's force at Trevilian Station in Virginia. A fierce battle erupted
in dense woods, forcing the cavalrymen to fight on foot. In the heat of the
fight, however, Hampton seized the opportunity to mount a charge against the
Federals in a dusty clearing near the railroad.
"Charge them, my brave boys, charge them," he ordered, and courageously led
the attack atop his favorite mount, a big bay named "Butler." Around him,
the troops in gray and butternut surged toward the enemy through a haze of
smoke and dust. Bolstering Hampton's veterans was a force of newly arrived
South Carolinians that included the Cadet Rangers - Company F of the 6th
South Carolina Cavalry - which had been organized at the Citadel. Typically,
Hampton led with his saber - then, in hand-to-hand combat, switched to his
revolver. Saddles were emptied on both sides, and Hampton single-handedly
took down three adversaries. The battle shifted to other fields and
continued the next day. It was finally decided when a bold Confederate
counterattack shattered the Federal line. On June 13th, Sheridan and his
troops retreated without destroying the railroad. Hampton had driven back
the enemy - and had demonstrated his ability to assume
J.E.B. Stuart's mantle of leadership.
Many thanks to Mr.
Terry M. Gatch for Writing and Submitting this Biography.