Cavalry Action at Haw’s Shop
The following account of the cavalry action at Haw’s Shop on May 28, 1864 was taken from the book “3rd Virginia Cavalry” by Thomas P. Nanzig. I have added the paragraph headings.
The Confederate forces move to prevent the Federal forces from crossing the Pamunkey River near Haw’s Shop, just north of Richmond:
The ride back to Hanover was long and sullen. When the regiment arrived at Atlee's Station, orders were waiting for Fitz Lee to detach Wickham's Brigade and send it with Gen. Wade Hampton. The South Carolinian was riding to the Pamunkey River crossings to watch for the Union army.
The Federal forces had already crossed the river and the Confederate Cavalry came upon them suddenly:
Unknown to Hampton, the Federal cavalry had already crossed and were scouting the countryside between Hanovertown and a crossroads called Haw's Shop. The morning of May 28 found Hampton's Division riding due east from Atlee's Station. Passing through Polly Hundley's Corners, Virginians from Wickham's and Rosser's brigades pressed ahead listening for indications of enemy activity soon after passing Aenon Church, a simple country meetinghouse on the left of the road, the Confederates spotted riders coming down the road.
The action begins with a Rebel Yell and Charge:
Yankees! The Southern troopers let out a yell and rushed toward a squadron of startled New Yorkers. The race had just started when the 1st Pennsylvania came up to support their fleeing comrades. A volley stopped the pursuing Virginians in their tracks, dropping several of them between rail fences that bordered the lane. Hand-to-hand fighting forced the Confederates back upon their supports and soon skirmishers from both forces were developing battlelines.
The Confederate forces had a bad time:
Hampton placed Wickham's regiments in the center of a line that used Aenon Church as a rallying point. Federal attacks were quickly developed but the Southern line pushed even harder. New troops were brought in to hold Hampton back. Horse artillery rolled forward and sent shells crashing through the trees. Casualties mounted at a rapid pace. Men who had fought in all of the cavalry battles of the war could not remember a more deadly or concentrated fire. The 3rd Virginians used their carbines and Belgian rifles to good effect. Then Custer's Brigade added its weight to the Union attack and tipped the balance. After six hours of furious fighting, Hampton pulled his men back to withdraw. Wickham's men were mounting when a Federal attack caught them and drove them hard. In the confusion, two regiments of inexperienced South Carolinians were badly mauled.
The Union could rely on a seemingly inexhaustible supply of new men to be sent into battle against the limited numbers of the Confederacy:
Twenty-seven men from the 3rd Virginia fell during the day –seven killed and twenty wounded. Among the losses were four sergeants, two lieutenants, and one captain. The war of attribution was bleeding the regiment of its officers as well as depleting the ranks of enlisted men.
Great grandfather Ben Waller was wounded in the battle. His pension application notes that he was wounded at Haw’s Shop “…on or about May 28, 1864.” The story that I heard is that he always had the ball in his thigh, causing him to be partially disabled. The unit roster records the service of Ben and his brother Thomas H. and cousins Christopher Columbus Waller and John W. Waller. I don’t know the relation of the other three Waller names. However, my Aunt Vivian Waller Smith gives a note in her research that she knew an Elwood Waller who was a member of her church.
WALLER, BENJAMIN: Company H, enlist. 3/1/62, Catawba, Private. W. 5/64, right thigh; pres. 8/64, nfr.
WALLER, C. H.: Company E, Private. Hosp. 7-8/64; pres. 9/64, nfr.
WALLER, CHRISTOPHER C.: Age 21, farmer. Company H, enlist. 5/25/61, Barksdale's Store, Private. Pres. 8/64, nfr.
WALLER, ELWOOD: Company H, enlist. 3/1/62, Halifax, Private. Died 7/63, no date available.
WALLER, ISAAC: Age 47, farmer. Company B, enlist. 5/14/61, Hampton, Private; Sgt. 8/61; Private, 3/62. Disch. 9/27/62, overage.
WALLER, JOHN W.: Company H, enlist. 5/25/61, Barksdaie's Store, Private. Pres. 8/64.
WALLER, THOMAS H.: Company H, enlist. 3/1/62, Catawba, Private. Det. 9-10/63, hosp. steward; c. 8/18/64, Fr. Royal; POW 8/64, Old Cap., 8/64-2/85, Elmira; exch. 2/20/65, nfr.