Union General George B McClellan began the Peninsula Campaign in the spring of 1862, moving slowly against Richmond, Virginia. On May 31st 1862 at the Battle of Seven Pines, Confederate General Joseph Johnston was wounded and replaced by General Robert E Lee.
Lee had JEB Stuart put together his cavalry on June 10th 1862 to reconnoiter the Union right flank. The ostentatious Stuart proposed a complete ride around the Union Army starting toward the Lower Peninsula near the York River, returning to the Richmond area along the James River. Lee gave Stuart an unspecific order, telling him the exercise “due caution”. At 2 am on June 12th 1862 about 1,000 of Stuart’s troopers mounted up and started north for the right flank of the Union army. He picked up another 200 cavalry outside of Richmond, including Confederate Colonel Fitzhugh Lee and Lieutenant Colonel William H F Rooney Lee.
That first day the Confederate cavalry moved as if they were going to support of General Thomas Stonewall Jackson’s approach to Richmond. They bivouacked that night on the bank of the South Anna River. The next morning they ran into the Union 6th Cavalry just west of the Hanover Court House. Stuart tried to flank them, and the Union commander Lieutenant Edward Leib withdrew down the Richmond Stage Road. The Confederates continued on, trying to stop a train a Tunstall’s Station. Stuart ran into trouble crossing the rain swelled Chickahominy River, and had to rebuild the bridge at Forge Site. They crossed the river and then re-burnt the bridge.
On June 14th 1862 Stuart left his force under the command of Fitzhugh Lee and he continued to Richmond to meet with Robert E Lee to report on his 100 mile reconnaissance. At about the same time Stuart was reporting his findings to Lee, Union General McClellan reported to Secretary of War Edwin M Stanton that, “A rebel force of cavalry and artillery, variously estimated at from 1,000 to 5,000, came around our right flank last evening, attacked and drove in a picket guard...at Old Church; they proceeded to a landing 3 miles above White House, where they burned two forage schooners and destroyed some wagons. Then they struck the railroad at Tunstall’s Station, fired into a train of cars, killing some 5 or 6. Here they met a force of infantry which I sent down to meet them, when they ran off. I have several cavalry detachments out after them and hope to punish them. No damage has been done to the railroad.”
If you’re interested in reading more about Stuart’s ride J. E. B. Stuart's Ride Around The Union Army
is a good web site.