Yankees in Martinsville! How did they ever get in?
by Thomas D. Perry
General George Brown, in his Record of Service of Michigan
Volunteers in the Civil War, wrote that, "The regiment
moved at 4 a.m. and by a forced night march reached
Henry Court House about 7 a.m. of the 8th, to find it
occupied by about 500 of Wheeler's Cavalry".
Based on this description and the location of the skirmish on Jones Creek north of Martinsville, the encampment appears to have been established in the deep, steep-side valley between the railroad tracks and Commonwealth Boulevard today. Stillhouse Branch flows in this valley to empty into Jones Creek. Wheeler’s Confederate troops took refuge there after receiving an attack by Captain James H. Cummins and a battalion of the 10th Michigan Cavalry.
An account from the Tenth Michigan Cavalry states: "Captain James H. Cummins, commanding the leading battalion, immediately charged and routed the party in the town, and drove them back on the main body. The noise of the firing aroused the main body, which quickly saddled and formed, and when Cummins reached them they were in line of battle. Nothing could restrain the Tenth, however, and they attacked with vigor, and the enemy was driven out of the woods. They mainly took refuge in a deep depression so common at the South, and there, huddled together, they formed an excellent target for the Spencer carbines of Captain Dunn and his plucky boys. The casualties of the enemy were reported as 27 killed."
The result was on the Union side were five killed including a Sergeant or Lieutenant T. C. Kenyon, "a noble young man," of the 10th Michigan Cavalry and four others killed. The dead rested in the Episcopal Church Yard, now Baptists, at the corner of Church and Moss Streets in Martinsville until reburial at the National Cemetery in Danville.
Colonel James T. Wheeler wrote on April 8, twelve miles east of Henry Court House, "The enemy attacked me at 7 a.m. today after a spirited fight were repulsed with severe loss on his side. The force which attacked me was 800 strong." Jefferson Davis, in Danville, wrote on April 9 of the fight to Robert E. Lee, "The enemy cavalry reported in small force at Henry Court House yesterday. Colonel Wheeler engaged them with about half their force say with 250 men and checked them."
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