- Jul 19, 2016
- Spotsylvania Virginia
Photo by the author 6/28/21
The Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad built a station about 30 miles northwest of Richmond at Beaverdam in northern Hanover County between 1836 and 1840. The westward route was intended for shipping farm produce from Louisa and Hanover counties to Aquia landing on the Potomac River (about 20 miles north of Fredericksburg) and south to Richmond. The Virginia government eventually helped finance the rail-line westward expansion to the Blue Ridge Mountains, into Covington and Allegheny Counties. In 1850 the railroad line’s name was changed to the Virginia Central Railroad.
Library of Congress map of Hanover County (Beaverdam is in the upper left).
During the civil war the station at Beaverdam was used to transport troops and as a military supply depot. It became a strategic point for most of the war for both armies. The original depot changed hands several times and was destroyed at least three times.
On July 20, 1862, while waiting for a train, Major John Mosby was captured by Union soldiers commanded by General Rufus King.(1)
Mosby Library of Congress
One account documents Mosby trying to get information to General Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, while another, states he was taking leave toward his parent’s home in Lynchburg when captured. Never-the-less, Mosby was not held in captivity long, and became one of first to be a part of the war’s prisoner exchange policy. Following Mosby’s capture, the station was burnt, supplies were destroyed and the telegraph lines were cut.
Hugh (Judson) Kilpatrick gained the attention of the President Lincoln with his (“bold”) plan to raid Richmond, free Union POWs at Libby prison and kidnap President Davis. The plan called for a series of events to distract the enemy while executing the daring ride behind enemy lines. On February 29, 1864, Kilpatrick’s troops paid a call on Beaverdam, again setting torch to buildings, destroying southern supplies, bending rail and cutting telegraph communications. (2)
Custer Library of Congress
Acting as the vanguard on Phil Sheridan’s Richmond Raid, George Custer’s cavalry division with support elements of Thomas Davis’ brigade moved into Beaverdam Station on the evening of May 9th. 1864. They found and freed 300 POWs who were captured only days earlier. While at Beaverdam, Custer’s troopers destroyed rails, cut telegraph lines, burned the make-shift station that was build following Kilpatrick’s raid and feasted on food intended for Lee’s army. (3)
Photo by the author 6/28/21
Beaverdam Station is one of Virginia’s earliest surviving railroad stations, the Beaverdam Depot in Hanover County was built in 1866 to replace a makeshift depot destroyed twice by Union forces in 1864. The original ca. 1840 depot was likewise destroyed in a Union raid on Beaverdam on July 20, 1862. The present depot was one of several rebuilt by the Virginia Central Railroad on the sites of depots lost to war. Not long after completion of this brick facility, the Virginia Central Railroad Co. was purchased by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which emerged in the 1880s as one of the state’s dominant lines. Although no longer in use, Beaverdam’s depot is remarkably well preserved. Both of its waiting rooms (one for “White Only” the other “Colored Only”) have beaded-board walls and ceilings. The office retains shelving and switching mechanisms. The long, low structure also has baggage and freight rooms.
Note 1: King was an original organizer of what became known as the Irion Brigade. He was promoted on March 13, ’62 to a division commander which included the Irion Brigade.
Note 2: This raid was a complicated affair, one which the Union army traditionally failed. I plan to post a series dedicated to Kilpatrick’s Raid later this year under Soldiers Who Fought On Horseback: Cavalry forum
Note 3: See my February 1 2021 post under Soldiers Who Fought on Horseback, Cavalry forum – Phil Sheridan’s Raid on Richmond; A Prelude to Yellow Tavern. Beaverda