"Apple Jack" Raid
Just west of you is the railbed of the original Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, a major supply line to the Confederate army in Petersburg and Richmond. Because of its importance, the Union army made an effort to destroy the line here at Hicksford (now Emporia). The episode would become known as the "Apple Jack" Raid.
On December 7, 1864, Union Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, with a force of 26,200 infantry and cavalrymen, moved from Petersburg to destroy the rail line, striking it below Stony Creek.
Confederate forces, led by Gen. Wade Hampton, were soon organized to resist the advancing Union column. A decision was made to establish the main line of defense along the Meherrin River at the railroad crossing and around the villages of Belfield (north bank) and Hicksford (south bank). Southern officers, including Gen. W.H.F. "Rooney" Lee, met in this house, Village View, to discuss their plans.
At midday, December 9, Union cavalry appeared at Belfield and attempted to reach the railroad bridge but were stopped by entrenched Confederate cavalry. These defenders, in order to prevent the Federals from crossing the river, burned the nearby wagon bridge. Later that evening Warren ended his attack.
Early the next morning, Union forces began their retreat to Petersburg and were pursued from some distance by Confederate cavalry. As they retreated through Sussex County, Union soldiers committed depredations on the local population and paid the ultimate price for these indiscretions. Many times they acted under the influence of apple brandy or "apple jack," as it was known locally.
About 16 miles of track were destroyed in the raid. This initially was a serious blow to Lee's supply line. By early March 1865, the line was reopened as far as Stony Creek, where supplies could be sent into Confederate lines by wagon.
(sidebar)Warren's Weldon Raid
December 7-12, 1864
1. December 7, 1884.
22,000 Union infantry (V Corps and a division of II Corps) with 4,200 cavalry, all-under the command of General Gouverneur K. Warren, move south from Petersburg over the Jerusalem Plank Road.2. December 7-8, evening.
Troops bivouac around Sussex Court House.3. December 8.
Troops strike Weldon Railroad south of Stony Creek and begin destroying rails and cross ties. Night of December 8-9, troops suffer as bitter cold moves in with snow and sleet.4. December 8.
General A.P. Hill moves south from Dinwiddie Court House to intercept Warren's column.5. December 8.
General R.E. Lee requests reinforcements from North Carolina to be concentrated at Hicksford. General Wade Hampton eventually joined Col. John J. Garnett's infantry and is assigned to the overall defense.6. December 9.
After a brief action at Belfield, General Warren is unwilling to sustain losses necessary to force a crossing of the Meherrin River and orders his troops to return to Petersburg.7. December 10.
General A.P. Hill's column reaches Jarratt Station but misses Warren as he returns through Sussex Court House. The Union general orders all buildings in the area burned in retaliation for deaths inflicted upon Federal soldiers.8. December 11.
Warren recrosses Nottoway River north of Sussex Court House and returns to his lines.