On June 25, 1864, a Union cavalry division of more than 5,000 men and more than a dozen pieces of artillery headed west out of Petersburg to disrupt the Confederate South Side Railroad supply line. The Wilson-Kautz Raid, as it is known, tore up more than 60 miles of track, a couple of trains and several stations. When the Union raiders reached the Staunton River Bridge west of Blackstone - which was also scheduled for destruction - they were met by a band of only 938 Confederate Reserves - locals who were dubbed 'Old Men and Young Boys' because they were either too old or too young to serve in the Confederate Army.

Under orders from Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee to save the bridge, men and boys from surrounding counties banded together and defended the 600-foot wooden railroad bridge with only a half-dozen pieces of artillery. Their commanding officer was Captain Benjamin L. Farinholt, a veteran of Second Manassas and the Seven Days Battles. Farinholt was captured at Gettysburg and subsequently escaped Federal prison. He returned home to Virginia and took command of the reserves guarding the Staunton River Bridge and had the men build a fort and rifle trenches. The night before the battle, as Farinholt's reserves anxiously waited for the Federals' arrival, it is said that Revolutionary War patriot Patrick Henry's granddaughter played the French harp to quell their fears.

When the Union Cavalry arrived at Staunton River and opened fire, some of the small boys began to cry. Yet, the brave reserves managed to outsmart the Federals and held them off, in part, by running and empty train back and forth between the bridge and the depot to create the appearance of constantly arriving reinforcements. Eventually, Confederate Gen. Rooney Lee’s cavalry division came up and struck the Federal rear guard driving them off and saving the bridge.

Visiting Staunton River Bridge Battlefield

Your best bet to visit the Staunton River Bridge Battlefield is to begin at historic Roanoke Station adjacent to Staunton River Bridge Battlefield Park. You can park your car at the station and walk or bike the 1.2 mile Battlefield Trail to the original historic Staunton River Bridge and Battlefield Park. The trail is a wide, level gravel track suitable for bikes and all-terrain scooters. The 300-acre Staunton River Battlefield Park features a visitor center and museum, picnic areas, camping, events, a three-quarter mile wetland nature trail with wildlife observation towers, and the original Confederate Fort Hill that showcases well-preserved earthworks rivaling those at Drewrys Bluff.

Visit Historic Staunton River Foundation and Staunton River Battlefield State Park for battle details and battlefield park information.

Pictured at the top: The Staunton River Bridge was saved by a band of 'Old Men and Young Boys' from destruction by the Union Army during the Civil War.

staunton river bridge confederate fort

The Confederate Fort Hill at Staunton River Bridge Battlefield Park features impressive, well-preserved earthworks.

staunton river

The Staunton River is a favorite spot for canoeists, fishermen and bird watchers.