— 1862 Peninsula Campaign —
In May 1862, Union Gen. George B. McClellan led the Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula to the gates of Richmond. Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee assumed command of the Army of Northern Virginia in June and began planning a counterattack. On June 12, Gen. J.E.B. Stuart led 1,200 cavalrymen on a daring 3-day reconnaissance and discovered that the Union right was unsecured. Stuart's "Ride around McClellan" gave Lee the vital information he needed to launch the offensive known as the Seven Days' Battles on June 26.
To your left is Immanuel Episcopal Church. On June 13, 1862, after running clashes with Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalrymen between Haw's Shop and Linney's Corner, the 5th U.S. Cavalry retreated here to Old Church, where it had camped. Stuart was close on its heels. Confederate Col. Fitzhugh Lee, who had served in the regiment before the war, commanded the 1st Virginia Cavalry. When he learned that his former unit was here, he asked Stuart for the privilege of leading the attack. Lee quickly drove off the 5th and captured the wrecked camp with its abundant supplies and a few stragglers. Lee joked with the prisoners, many of whom recognized their former comrade. One observer noted that "It was difficult to believe that the Union prisoners and the dashing young colonel represented opposing armies mustered to slaughter each other."
As Stuart and the rest of the column arrived at Old Church, residents emerged from their houses with food and drink for the grateful troopers. Stuart decided to continue east rather than retrace his steps back toward Hanover Court House, assuming that Federal reinforcements probably blocked that route. Just seven miles ahead was also the tempting target of Tunstall's Station astride Union Gen. George B. McClellan's supply line to White House Landing. Behind Stuart, his father-in-law, Union cavalry commander Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, was left literally in the dust as his forces pursued the Confederates.
The house across the street, somewhat altered from its appearance in this 1912 photograph, was called Wicker's Hotel and Tavern during the war. Owners Bentley and Elizabeth Wicker lost two sons in the conflict, and Bentley Wicker drowned himself in despair in May 1865.
Immanuel Episcopal Church was founded on the Pamunkey River in 1684. A new building constructed here in 1853 replaced the "old church" (ca. 1718) for which the community is named. The new church was remodeled in 1881 in the Gothic Revival style.
Gen. Philip St. George Cooke was a West Point graduate and Stuart's commanding officer on the frontier in pre-war Kansas. It was there that Stuart met and married Cooke's daughter Flora. Stuart much admired his father-in-law, and the young couple named their first-born son Phillip in his honor. When Cooke, a native Virginian, remained loyal to the Union against the wishes of the rest of the family, Stuart in disgust changed his son's name to J.E.B. Stuart, Jr.