Back to Start

The Battle of Yellow Tavern took place on May 11, 1864.  It was a side battle of the larger Overland Campaign where Union General Ulysses S. Grant was trying to defeat Confederate General Robert E. Lee by coming between him and Richmond.  Early in the days of this campaign, Grant and Lee were fighting in northern Virginia at Spotsylvania Courthouse (May 8-21, 1864).  The leader of the Union calvary (the horse-mounted troops) was General Philip Sheridan.  He said he could “whip” the Confederate calvary leader, General JEB Stuart in a separate battle of his own.  He also wanted to raid Richmond and cut off the Confederate supply lines.  Grant gave him permission to go on this side mission, even though it meant he would be fighting at Spotsylvania Courthouse without his important calvary.  Excited by the idea of defeating his enemy, Sheridan headed towards Richmond. His 10,000 mounted calvary rode in a line that stretched for 13 miles down Telegraph Road.  They arrived at the Beaver Dam railroad station just as 300 Union prisoners were being loaded on a train bound for Richmond.  They had been captured in the first battle of the Overland Campaign, the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7).  Sheridan’s calvary set the Union captives free, destroyed several trains, tore up the railroad, severed telegraph lines, and burned the train station.  Just as Sheridan planned, this got JEB Stuart’s attention who was fighting  up in Spotsylvania.  He moved his calvary down south to intercept Sheridan.  He took a side road called Mountain Road, hoping to catch up with the Union calvary before they reached Richmond.  The two armies met at the intersection of Telegraph Road and Mountain Road which merges into Brook Road heading towards Richmond.  About a half mile south of this intersection on Brook Road was an abandoned stagecoach inn called Yellow Tavern, after which the battle was named.  When the battle broke out, the odds were against the Confederates.  JEB Stuart’s calvary was outnumbered and exhausted from riding hard to catch up with Sheridan.  Plus it was raining off and on all that day.  Throughout the battle, brave JEB Stuart rode on the front lines shouting encouragement to his troops.  Then, late in the afternoon, a Union sharpshooter named John Huff spotted JEB Stuart from 30 yards away and shot him in his right side under his ribs. He was taken off the field and rushed to Richmond, where he died the next day.  Sheridan and his calvary won the battle and moved on towards Richmond.

Updated 9/4/2011