Battle of Walkerton

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Walkerton
partof=the American Civil War

date=March 2, 1864
place=Walkerton, King and Queen County, Virginia
result=Confederate victory
combatant2=Confederate States of America
combatant1=United States of America
commander2=Wade Hampton
commander1=Hugh Judson Kilpatrick Ulric Dahlgren

The Battle of Walkerton was an engagement of the American Civil War. It occurred March 2, 1864, in Walkerton, King and Queen County, Virginia during the campaign known as the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid or the Dahlgren Affair.

The campaign started with Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick leaving Stevensburg on February 28 with 4,000 men, intending to raid Richmond. The force rode along the Virginia Central Railroad tearing up track, while an advance force was sent south along the James River. The plan was that the advance force, led by Col. Ulric Dahlgren, son of Rear admiral John Dahlgren, should penetrate Richmond's defenses from the rear, and release prisoners at Belle Isle. Yet when Kilpatrick reached Richmond on March 1, Dahlgren had not yet arrived. Kilpatrick had to withdraw under pursuit by Confederate cavalry, led by Maj. Gen. Wade Hampton. Hampton caught up with Kilpatrick near Old Church on March 2, but the Federals were able to take refuge with elements of Butler's command at New Kent Court House.

Meanwhile, Dahlgren had found himself unable to penetrate Richmond's defenses, and tried to escape northwards. The group became separated, and on March 2, Dahlgren along with about 100 men was ambushed by a detachment of the 9th Virginia Cavalry and Home Guards in King and Queen County near Walkerton. Dahlgren was killed and most of the men were captured.

The gravest implications of the raid came as a result of papers found on the dead Dahlgren’s body. The papers allegedly contained an official Union order to burn Richmond and assassinate Jefferson Davis and his cabinet. Meade, Kilpatrick, and Lincoln all disavowed any knowledge of the Dahlgren Papers, and their authenticity has later been disputed, but at the time the affair caused a great public outcry among Southerners, accusing the North of initiating "a war of extermination."


* [ National Park Service battle description]

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