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Chapter 38 - Jeb Stuart's Ride around the Union Army

They drove down Confederate Avenue, a different street with the same name as the one in Hollywood Cemetery.

 

Gordon turned north, sailing past the A. P. Hill Monument in the middle of the Hermitage Road and Laburnum Avenue intersection.

 

When Gordon pulled into the Exxon at the corner of Brook Road and Azalea Avenue, Hezekiah knew exactly where they were going. On June 12, 1862, this corner was Mordecai farm, the starting point of Stuart’s ride around the Union Army of the Potomac.

 

They proceeded north on Brook Road, following Stuart’s route, but traveled less than a mile before pulling into the Brook Run Shopping Center. In the parking lot rose a fifteen-foot-high remnant of the earthworks of Richmond’s Outer Defenses, saved from development.

 

This island of dirt on the edge of a sea of asphalt was part of the third and outer ring, guarding the northern approach into the city.

 

Gordon and Hezekiah took the short path up to the top of the earthworks.

 

Gordon pointed toward the stream and told the story Hezekiah already knew.

 

Gordon and Hezekiah followed Stuart’s trail, crossing over Brook Bridge, passing through motley commercial strips,

 

and traversing the upper reaches of the Chickahominy River.

 

Continuing on Stuart’s winding course of back roads, they passed cyclists on the TransAmerica Bike Trail and

 

bumped over the railroad tracks at Elmont, known as Kilby’s Station during the war. Stuart linked
up with the last of his men at this place. Twelve hundred gray horsemen rode north on their assignment to find the right wing of the Federal Army.

 

The land opened up to fields of corn, wheat, and soybeans, much of it looking like it did in Stuart’s day.

 

Gordon turned north, then east on the country roads with an overabundance of Posted No Trespassing and Private Property signs.

 

They traveled across US 1 and went under the Virginia Central Railroad trestle. During the war, the line was a vital link to the Shenandoah Valley, “the bread basket of the Confederacy.”

 

Turning onto Hickory Hill Road, the sun flashed in their eyes. In the fields on their left, known as the Winston Farm, Stuart’s men camped after their first full day of riding.

 

Gordon and Hezekiah crossed the bridge going over Interstate 95,

 

and the roadway turned to dirt and gravel. The surface forced Gordon to slow down and creep along the vacant road, transecting forests and fields bordering the 3,200-acre Hickory Hill estate.

 

“I would like to meet you at Hanover County
Courthouse."

 

Gordon and Ballard shook hands on the large stone tile floor of the arcade.

 

When Gordon woke up, he saw the monument to the 36th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry beside the road.

 

They switched seats, and Gordon soon had them back on track, passing the Enon United Methodist Church.

 

The banner fluttered on a pole beside a small monument to the twenty-seven unknown Confederate soldiers buried in the churchyard who died in the Battle of Haw’s Shop, a battle fought mostly along the other side of the church on May 28, 1864.

 

Today, Haw’s Shop is called Studley, after the nearby plantation where Patrick Henry was born, and a mile down the road Gordon parked at the Studley General Store.

 

They kept southeast, crossing the skinny, swampy Totopotomoy Creek.

 

This rural intersection of Studley and New Bethesda Roads, now marked by a septic tank cap, was where Stuart had ordered Latané to lead a charge against a company of Federal pickets.

 

Gordon and Hezekiah, moving on, crossed the commercial strip of Mechanicsville Turnpike and found themselves in the land of the Hanover tomatoes with another two weeks to go before ripening.

 

Old Church became known as Stuart’s point of no return in his ride.

 

Riding another eight miles in their sidestep course, they came to Steel Trap Road, leading to Garlick’s Landing on the Pamunkey River.

 

But Gordon drove on until they came to the tracks at Tunstall’s Station, leading to White House Landing, McClellan’s main supply base.

 

Gordon sped up and turned onto St. Peter’s Church Road. He pulled into the drive of the colonial church, the church of Mary Custis who married George Washington in 1759.

 

“Talleysville? What are you doing in Talleysville?”

 

South of the town of Providence Forge, Gordon and Hezekiah took the bridges spanning the two channels of the Chickahominy River.

 

Surveying this landscape at the top of a fire tower, Fattah Absalom with a pair of binoculars looked for the gold Tundra he had lost going across Mayo’s Bridge yesterday.

 

Oblivious they had been detected, Gordon and Hezekiah rolled on into the hamlet of Charles City.

 

Gordon drove into Lawrence Lewis Jr. Park, fronting the James River. . . . From this landing in 1864, Grant ferried most of his infantry south across the river after failing to take Richmond because of the Cold Harbor debacle.

 

“We’re looking for Westover Church, and we’re wondering if you could give us directions?” Mary Beth feigned.

Laburnum Park Historic District

Ginter Park Historic District

Gabriel's Conspiracy

TransAmerica Bike Trail

Enon United Methodist Church

The Battle of Totopotomoy Creek

St. Peter's Episcopal Church, New Kent

Westover Episcopal Church