Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, Virginia

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid, Virginia

Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid was an ambitious attempt by Union cavalrymen to assault the lightly defended Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia, and free prisoners of war. Also referred to as the Dahlgren Affair, Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick and Colonel Ulric Dahlgren led the Civil War raid. Between February 28-March 3, 1864, the troops began by riding along the Virginia Central Railroad, tearing up tracks, while advance troops were sent south along the James River.

Mantapike Hill (March 2, 1864) – Also called the Battle of Walkerton, this engagement occurred in King and Queen County. On February 28th, Union Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick left his encampment at Stevensburg with 4,000 picked men to raid Richmond. Union Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, son of Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, commanded an advance force of 500 men. While the main body under Kilpatrick rode along the Virginia Central Railroad, tearing up the track, Dahlgren rode south to the James River, hoping to cross over, penetrate Richmond’s defenses from the rear, and release Union prisoners at Belle Isle. General Kilpatrick reached Richmond’s outskirts on March 1st and skirmished before the city’s defenses, waiting for Colonel Dahlgren to rejoin the main column. However, Dahlgren was delayed, and Kilpatrick was forced to withdraw with the Confederate cavalry in pursuit. Confederate Major General Wade Hampton attacked Kilpatrick near Old Church on the 2nd. Still, the Federals found refuge with elements of Major General Benjamin Butler’s command at the New Kent Court House. In the meantime, Dahlgren’s men, unable to penetrate Richmond’s defenses, tried to escape pursuit by riding north of the city. Dahlgren’s command became separated, and on March 2nd, his detachment of about 100 men was ambushed by a detachment of the 9th Virginia Cavalry and Home Guards in King and Queen County near Walkerton. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was killed, and most of his men captured. Papers found on Dahlgren’s body ordered him to burn Richmond and assassinate President Jefferson Davis, and his cabinet caused a political furor. Southerners accused the North of initiating “a war of extermination.” Generals Meade and Kilpatrick and President Abraham Lincoln all disavowed any knowledge of the Dahlgren Papers. Union Major General George Meade had to personally assure Confederate General Robert E. Lee that the Union Army did not authorize the orders. The battle resulted in a Confederate victory, but the number of casualties is unknown.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated May 2021.

Also See:

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