Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Virginia 4th Cavalry Company B "Chesterfield Light Dragoons": Private William A. Vaden, my 2nd Great Grand Uncle

The 4th Virginia Cavalry by Don Troiani

The Virginia 4th Cavalry was organized at Sangster's Cross Roads in Prince William County, Virginia on September 19, 1861.  It's members were recruited from Prince William, Chesterfield, Madison, Culpeper, Powhatan, Goochland, Hanover, Fauquier, and Buckingham Counties along with the city of Richmond. 

Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia

The unit participated in every major battle and campaign which involved the Army of Northern Virginia.  Specific battles include the Battle of Williamsburg, the Seven Days' Battles, the Second Bull Run and Maryland campaigns, Fredericksburg, Kelly's Ford, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, Upperville, Gettysburg, Bristoe, Mine Run, The Wilderness, Todd's Tavern, Spotsylvania, Wilson's Wharf, Haw's Shop, and Bethesda Church. The 4th also went on to fight in the Shenandoah Valley with General Jubal Early and around Appomattox.   The unit disbanded on the Lynchburg road, never handing over it's colors nor stacking it's arms in submission. 

Major General J.E.B. Stuart

Prior to his death, the 4th served under the command of Major General James Ewell Brown Stuart, know to his comrades as simply, Jeb.  He was known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use of his cavalry in support of offensive operations.  Stuart was the epitome of a modern day chivalrous knight, often sporting a red lined gray cape, yellow sash, slouch hat cocked to the side with an ostrich plume, and a red flower on his lapel. 

The Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Virginia has an excellent exhibit that features many of Stuart's war-time personal effects. 

Full view of J.E.B. Stuart exhibit

Closer view of slouch hat, sabre, pistol, gauntlets and holster

Closer view of Stuart's cavalry boots and rifle

Stuart was more than just a cavalry leader, he was Robert E. Lee's eyes and ears in the field.  His cavalry clashed with Union General George Custer's cavalry at the epic Battle of Brandy Station.  The Battle of Brandy Station was the largest cavalry engagement in the Civil War.  Following the battle on June 9, 1863, Stuart led his troops on long ride around the Union position.  This separation from Lee's army for an extended period of time, left Lee unaware of Union troop movements and arguably contributing to the Confederate defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg.  When Stuart finally showed up to Lee's headquarters following the majority of the fighting at Gettysburg, Lee calmly stated "I needed you to help me whip those people."  Lee often referred to the enemy as "those people".

The 4th Virginia Cavalry totaled 450 effectives in April, 1862.   By July of 1863, the active number had increased to 544.  Of the 544 engaged at Gettysburg, about 3% would end up as casualties.  The Colonel in command of the 4th at the time of the Battle of Brandy Station was Colonel Willaims Carter Wickham.   Below is a copy of Wickam's report following the action. 

Reports of Col. Williams C. Wickham, Fourth Virginia Cavalry,
of engagement at Brandy Station, and action at Aldie.

June 11, 1863.
Capt.: I respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by my command on the 9th instant at Stevensburg [Brandy Station]:

Early in the morning, I was ordered to report to Gen. Stuart,and, upon reporting, was ordered by Maj. [H. B.] McClellan to proceed to Stevensburg, and support the Second South Carolina Cavalry, the colonel of which reported that there was a heavy force of the enemy approaching. I was told that a piece of artillery would follow me upon nearing Norman's Mills.

I received a message from Capt. [W. D.] Farley, of Gen. Stuart's staff, that I had better come by the road on the left of the field than to go direct to the village, as I proposed to do. Going forward at a trot, I found myself with the head of my column at the road from Stevensburg to Willis Madden's, about three-quarters of a mile from the village, in a by-road running through a thick pine copse, and on the flank of the Second South Carolina Cavalry.

Receiving a message at the moment from Col. Butler that he wanted more sharpshooters, I detached my first squadron, and sent it to him on the left, and ordered the rest of the regiment to be put in the road, with its head resting a quarter of a mile in rear of the Second South Carolina, while I galloped to the front, to see the state of affairs.

On reaching Doggett's house, I saw the enemy with a squadron formed in the road in column, and a squadron forming in line on the right, about 400 yards from me. Here I found Lieut.-Col. [Frank] Hampton, who had two very small squadrons with him, drawn up ready to meet a charge, if made. Finding no sharpshooters on the right, I dismounted a company, and threw them on the right. Before the arrangement could be completed, I found
that the enemy were charging the Second South Carolina, which, without meeting the charge, had broken, and were rushing down on the rear of my column, which was just emerging from the pines.

Finding that my desire to put my right in front was thus frustrated, I wheeled my column by fours, and ineffectually endeavored to get my men to meet the charge, but the rush of the Second South Carolina Cavalry utterly demoralized them, and they broke and fled in confusion.

After going some third of a mile, I succeeded in stopping some men, and again attempted to charge the enemy, who, upon seeing my stand, had halted, and were forming a line; but although the line wavered at the approach of only 6 who went forward to within 20 feet of it, the others would not follow, but again fled at the approach of a squadron of the enemy; nor for the next mile could all my efforts obtain the slightest halt in my fleeing squadrons.  On reaching Barbour's gate, I turned in, and with me 3 or 4 officers and 5 or 6 men. These I immediately halted, and commenced firing at the flank of the pursuing squadron, which at once wheeled about,
and retired through the village.

The squadron sent to the left retired at Col. Butler's command in good order, crossing below the mill, and going to the support of the artillery. The fifth squadron, though fleeing at first, went toward the mill, and, not being pursued, were rallied, and retired from under the enemy's artillery fire across the mill-dam. There were four regiments of the enemy's cavalry at Stevensburg.

After much difficulty, I collected my scattered men, and, in connection with Maj. Lipscomb, then in command of the Second South Carolina Cavalry, I ascertained that the enemy had passed off to the left, and were no longer in my front.

My loss was 15 wounded and 27 missing. I took some prisoners, but not as many as I lost.

I regard the conduct of my regiment, in which I have heretofore had perfect confidence, as so disgraceful in this instance that I have been thus minute in my report, that the major-general commanding, to whom I request that this be forwarded, may have the facts before him on which to base any inquiry he may see fit to institute.

Your obedient servant,


Col. Fourth Virginia Cavalry.Capt. J. D. Ferguson,
Assistant Adjutant-Gen., Lee's Cavalry Brigade.
General J.E.B. Stuart was mortally wounded at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11, 1864.  He died the following day.  A war-time letter dated May 15, 1864 from my 2nd Great Grandfather, Private Christopher Columbus Wheeler, makes reference of Stuart's passing.

The brave Gen. Stuart was kild near the Sitty when leading a charg. He lived about a day and a night after being wounded.

Stuart is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.  Below are pictures I took on the weekend of September 29, 2012.

Grave of General J.E.B. Stuart, Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia

Closeup of Stuart's marker

It's interesting to see the parallels on different sides of my family.   I have men on both sides of my family in the Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery.   Christopher Columbus Wheeler rode alongside General Stuart with the North Carolina 5th Cavalry.  My 2nd Great Grand Uncle, Private William A. Vaden rode alongside Stuart with the Virginia 4th Cavalry.

William A. Vaden was born in 1837 in Manchester, Chesterfield, Virginia.  My Great Grandfather, also William A. Vaden, was named after him.  He enlisted as a Private in Company B also known as the "Chesterfield Light Dragoons" of the Virginia 4th Cavalry on April 21, 1862.  He was 25 years old. 

William A. Vaden's 1st Muster Roll.

It appears as though William was transferred to the Confederate Navy for a brief period of time in early 1864.

Muster Roll showing transfer to Confederate Navy

By April, he was back with the 4th Virginia Cavalry.

April 1864 Muster Roll

A copy of a letter William wrote to the Confederate States Pay Master has survived.   In this letter, William gives the authorization for his mother, Sarah A. Vaden, to collect his pay while he is away on military duty.

William's letter to the Confederate Pay Master

William A. Vaden died sometime after 1897.   Neither a death certificate nor a burial location could be found at the time of this entry.   William is listed in the 1897 Richmond City Directory as living at 907 Moore Street.  It also lists his occupation as a printer.  No mention of William can be found after 1897, leading me to believe he died sometime before the 1898 Directory.   There are several Vaden's buried in Maury Cemetery in Richmond, including William's brother, George and his nephew William A.  His niece, Virginia Eva Vaden Harding is also buried in Maury. 

Here's my relation to William:

William A. Vaden (1837 - 1897)
is your 2nd great grand uncle
Austin L. Vaden (1807 - 1860)
Father of William A.
George Patterson Vaden (1840 - 1892)
Son of Austin L.
William A. Vaden (1885 - 1916)
Son of George Patterson
Robert William Lewis (1913 - 1990)
Son of William A.
Joyce Elaine Lewis (1948 - )
Daughter of Robert William
Chip Stokes
You are the son of Joyce

1 comment:

  1. Chip, I'd be interested to hear from you, my GGG grandfather James Alexander Lipscomb also served in the 4th VA Cav Company B, and my family is also buried in Maury. Email me?