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Full text of "Personal recollections of cavalryman with Custer's Michigan cavalry brigade in the civil war"

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COPYRIGHT DEPOSIT. 




THE AUTHOR 



PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS 

OF A 

CAVALRYMAN 

WITH CUSTER'S MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE 
IN THE CIVIL WAR 



By J. H. KIDD 

FORMERLY COLONEL SIXTH MICHIGAN CAVALRY AND BREVET 
BRIGADIER GENERAL OF VOLUNTEERS 



IONIA, MICHIGAN 

SENTINEL Printing Company 
1908 



V\ ^ 



JUS 



LIBRARY of C0r.0n£SS| 
Two CoDics Received 

JAN H \m 



Copyrighted 1908 
By JAMES H. KIDD 

(All rights reserved) 



The Sentinel Press 
Ionia, Michigan 



4 



TO MY WIFE AND SON 

AND 

TO MY COMRADES OF THE MICHIGAN 
CAVALRY BRIGADE 

THIS VOLUME 

IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED 



PREFACE 

In preparing this book it has not been the purpose 
of the author to write a complete historical sketch of 
the Michigan cavalry brigade. Such a history would 
require a volume as large for the record of each regi- 
ment; and, even then, it would fall short of doing jus- 
tice to the patriotic services of that superb organiza- 
tion. The narrative contained in the following pages 
is a story of the personal recollections of one of the 
troopers who rode with Custer, and played a part — 
small it is true, but still a part — in the tragedy of the 
civil war. As such it is modestly put forth, with the 
hope that it may prove to be "an interesting story" to 
those who read it. The author also trusts that it 
may contribute something, albeit but a little, toward 
giving Custer's Michigan cavalrymen the place in the 
history of their country which they so richly earned 
on many fields. 

Doubtless many things have been omitted that 
ought to have been included and some things written 
in that it might have been better to leave out. These 
are matters of personal judgment and taste, and no 

V 



vi PREFACE 

man's judgment is infallible. The chapters have been 
written in intervals of leisure during a period of more 
than twenty years. The one on Cedar Creek appeared 
first in 1886; the Gettysburg campaign in 1889; 
Brandy Station, Kilpatrick's Richmond expedition, the 
Yellow Tavern campaign, Buckland Mills, Hanover- 
town and Haw's Shop, The Trevilian Raid and some 
other portions have been prepared during the current 
year — 1908. While memory has been the principal 
guide, the strict historical truth has been sought and, 
when there appeared to be a reasonable doubt, the offi- 
cial records have been consulted, and the writings of 
others freely drawn upon to verify these "recollec- 
tions." 

The Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan and H. B. McClel- 
lan's Campaigns of Stuart's Cavalry have been of espec- 
ial value in this respect ; the latter helping to give both 
sides of the picture, particularly in the accounts of the 
battles of Buckland Mills and Yellow Tavern. Wade 
Hampton's official reports were put to similar use in 
describing the battle of Trevilian Station. 

So far as mention is made of individual officers and 
men there is no pretense that the list is complete. 
Those whose names appear in the text were selected as 
types. Hundreds of others were equally deserving. 
The same remark applies to the portraits. These are 
representative faces. The list could be extended in- 
definitely. 

It was intended to include in an appendix a full 



PREFACE vii 

roster of all the men who served in the Sixth Michigan 
cavalry and in the other regiments as well; but this 
would have made the book too bulky. By applying to 
the adjutant general of Michigan the books published 
by the state giving the record of every man who served 
in either of the regim.ents in the brigade can be ob- 
tained. 

The Roil of Honor — a list oi all those who were killed 
in action, or who died of wounds received in action — is 
as complete as it was possible to make it from the offi- 
cial records. In a very few cases, men who were re- 
ported "missing in action," and of whom no further 
record could be found, were assumed to have belonged 
in the list, but these are not numerous enough to 
materially affect the totals. 

For the rest, the author cannot claim that he has 
done justice to either of these organizations, but he 
has made an honest effort to be fair and impartial, to 
tell the truth as he saw it, without prejudice. How 
well he has succeeded is not for him to say. "It is an 
interesting story," said an officer who served with dis- 
tmction in the Fifth Michigan cavalry. If that shall 
be the verdict of all the comrades who read it, the 
writer will be satisfied. 



CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I A National Awakening 1 

II An Eventful Winter 12 

III Recruiting in Michigan 23 

IV The Summer of 1862 29 

V Joining the Cavalry 35 

VI In the Regimental Rendezvous 46 

VII The Departure for Washington 69 

VIII The Arrival in Washington 72 

IX The Stay in Washington 79 

X Field Service in Virginia 87 

XI In the Gettysburg Campaign 113 

XII From Gettysburg to Falling Waters.. 161 

XIII From Falling Waters to Buckland 

Mills 191 

XIV The Battle of Buckland Mills 212 

XV Winter Quarters in Stevensburg 227 

XVI The Wilderness Campaign 261 

XVII The Yellow Tavern Campaign 278 

XVIII Yellow Tavern to Chesterfield Sta- 
tion 307 

XIX Hanovertown and Haw's Shop 318 

XX The Trevilian Raid 337 

XXI In the Shenandoah Valley 373 

XXII The Battle of Cedar Creek 403 

XXIII A Mysterious Witness 434 

XXIV A Meeting With Mosey 444 

ix 



LIST OF MAPS 

Route of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade in 
THE Gettysburg Campaign ..... . . , = 

Opposite Page 113 

Battlefield of Trevilian Station June 11- 

12, 1864 Opposite Page 337 

Battlefield of Winchester September 19, 

1864 Opposite Page 385 



XI 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Portrait of Author Frontispiece 

" Austin Blair Opposite Page 18 

" " Thornton F. Brodhead " " 24 

" James H. Kidd (m i864) " " 37 

" Jacob O. Probasco " " 41 

" George Gray " " 51 

" Russell A. Alger (in i862) " " 54 

" George A. Custer (in i863) " " 129 

" George A. Custer (in i864) " " 132 

" David McMutrie Gregg " " 139 

" William D. Mann.... " " 148 

" George G. Briggs " " 150 

" " Luther S. Trowbridge " " 153 

" Charles H. Town " " 156 

" JUDSON Kilpatrick ... " " 165 

" Aaron Cone Jewett.. " " 175 

" Peter A. Weber " " 187 

" Charles E. Storrs " "201 

" George A. Custer (about 1872)" " 211 

" Don G. Lovell " "219 

" Wesley Merritt " "237 

" " Levant W. Barnhart 

" and William Hull " " 253 

xiii 



XIV 



ILLUSTRATIONS 








A. C. Litchfield 


<( 


<( 


258 


Angelo E. Tower 




<< 


291 


Philip H. Sheridan. . . 




<< 


297 


FiTZHUGH Lee and 








Staff (in Cuba) 




<( 


313 


M. C. Butler 




<< 


323 


Thomas W. Hill 




n 


334 


Wade Hampton 




<( 


345 


Manning D. Birge 




<( 


357 


Sergeant Avery 




<( 


362 


Melvin Brewer 




<( 


395 


Charles R. Lowell... 




<< 


411 


Thomas C. Devin 




<< 


428 



WITH CUSTER'S MICHIGAN 
CAVALRY BRIGADE 



PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS 



OF A 

CAVALRYMAN 

CHAPTER I 

A NATIONAL AWAKENING 

rpHE war cloud that burst upon the country in 1861 
-*" was no surprise to sagacious observers. For many- 
years it had been visible, at times a mere speck in the 
sky, again growing larger and more angry in appear- 
ance. It would disappear, sanguine patriots hoped for- 
ever, only to come again, full of dire portent and evil 
menacings. All men who were not blind saw it, but 
most of them trusted, many believed, that it would pass 
over and do no harm. Some of those high in author- 
ity blindly pinned their faith to luck and shut their 
eyes to the peril. Danger signals were set, but the 
mariners who were trying to steer the Ship of State, 



2 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

let her drift, making slight, if any, efforts to put her 
up against the wind and keep her off the rocks. 

It is likely, however, that the Civil War was one of 
those things that had to be; that it was a means 
used by destiny to shape our ends; that it was needed 
to bring out those fine traits of National character 
which, up to that time, were not known to exist. 
Southern blood was hot and Northern blood was cold. 
Though citizens of one country, the people of the 
North and the people of the South were separated by 
a wide gulf in their interests and in their feelings. 
Doubt had been freely thrown upon the courage of 
the men who lived north of Mason and Dixon's line. 
The haughty slave owners and slave dealers affected 
to believe, many of them did believe, that one south- 
ern man could whip five "yankees." It took four 
years of war to teach them a different lesson. 

It was the old story of highland and lowland feud, 
of the white rose and the red rose, of roundhead and 
cavalier, of foemen worthy of each other's steel fight- 
ing to weld "discordant and belligerent elements" 
into a homogeneous whole. 

But war is not always an unmixed evil. Sometimes 
it is a positive good, and the Nation emerged from 
its great struggle more united than ever. The sec- 
tions had learned to respect each other's prowess and 
to know each other's virtues. The cement that bound 
the union of states was no longer like wax to be melted 
by the fervent heat of political strifes. It had been 



THE POINT OF VIEW 3 

tested and tempered in the fiery furnace of civil war. 
The history of that war often has been written. 
Much has been written that is not history. But 
whether fact or fiction, the story is read with undi- 
minished interest as the years rush by. 

One story there is that has not been told, at least 
not all of it ; nor will it be until the last of those who 
took part in that great drama shall have gone over to 
the silent majority. It is the story of the individual 
experiences of the men who stood in the ranks, or of 
the officers who held no high rank ; who knew little of 
plans and strategy, but bore their part of the burden 
and obeyed orders. There was no army, no corps, no 
division, brigade, or regiment, scarcely a battery, 
troop, or company, which went through that struggle, 
or a soldier who served in the field *'for three years or 
during the war," whose experiences did not differ from 
any other, whose history would not contain many fea- 
tures peculiar to itself or himself. Two regiments in 
the same command, two soldiers in the same regiment, 
might get entirely different impressions of the battle 
in which both participated. Two equally truthful ac- 
counts might vary greatly in their details. What one 
saw, another might not see, and each could judge cor- 
rectly only of what he, himself, witnessed. This fact 
accounts, in part, for the many contradictions, which 
are not contradictions, in the "annals of the war." 
The witnesses did not occupy the same standpoint. 
They were looking at different parts of the same 



4 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

panorama. Oftentimes they are like the two knights 
who slew each other in a quarrel about the color of a 
shield. One said it was red, the other declared it was 
green. Both were right, for it was red on one side and 
green on the other. 

On such flimsy pretexts do men and nations wage 
war. Why then wonder if historians differ also? In 
the "Wilderness," each man's view was bounded by a 
very, narrow horizon and few knew what was going on 
outside their range of vision. What was true of the 
"Wilderness" was true of nearly every battle fought 
between the union and confederate forces. No picture 
of a battle, whether it be painted in words or in colors, 
can bring into the perspective more than a glimpse of 
the actual field. No man could possibly have been 
stationed where he could see it all. Hence it came to 
pass that many a private soldier knew things which the 
corps commander did not know; and saw things which 
others did not see. The official reports, for the most 
part, furnish but a bare outline and are often mislead- 
ing. The details may be put in by an infinite number 
of hands, and those features that seen separately ap- 
pear incongruous, when blended will form a perfect 
picture. But it must be seen, like a panorama, in parts, 
for no single eye could take in, at once, all the details 
in a picture of a battle. 

In the winter of 1855-56, while engaged as assistant 
factotum in a general lumbering and mercantile busi- 
ness in the pine woods of Northern Michigan, one of 



THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN 5 

my functions was that of assistant postmaster, which 
led to getting up a "club" for the New York WeeKiy 
Tribune, the premium for which was an extra copy for 
myself. The result was that in due time my mind was 
imbued with the principles of Horace Greeley. 

The boys who read the Tribune in the fifties were 
being unconsciously molded into the men, who, a few 
years later, rushed to the rescue of their country's flag. 
The seed sown by Horace Greeley, and others like him, 
brought forth a rich crop of loyalty, of devotion and 
self-sacrifice that was garnered in the war. 

In the latter part of the year 1860, the air was full of 
threatenings. The country was clearly on the verge of 
civil war, and the feeling almost as intense as it was in 
the following April, after the flash of Edmund Ruffin's 
gun had fired the Northern heart. 

In October, I came a freshman 'into the University of 
Michigan, in Ann Arbor, That noble institution was, 
even then, the pride of the Peninsula state, A superb 
corps of instructors, headed by Henry P. Tappan, the 
noblest Roman of them all, smoothed the pathway to 
learning which a thousand young men were trying to 
tread. These boys were full of life, vigor, ambition and 
energy. They were from various parts of the country, 
though but few were] from the Southern States. The 
atmosphere of the place was wholesome, and calculated 
to develop a robust, courageous manhood. The students 
were led to study the best antique models, and to emu- 
late the heroic traits of character in the great men of 



6 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

modern times. It may be said that nowhere in the 
land did the fires of patriotism burn with more fervent 
heat, during the eventful and exciting period that 
preceded by a few months the inauguration of Abra- 
ham Lincoln. 

The young men took a deep interest in the political 
campaign of that year, and watched with eager faces 
for every item of news that pertained to it. 

The nomination of Abraham Lincoln was a bitter 
disappointment to the young Republicans of Michigan. 
Seward was their idol and their ideal, and when the 
news came of his defeat in the Chicago convention, 
many men shed tears, who later learned to love the 
very ground on which the Illinois ".Railsplitter " 
stood; and who today cherish his memory with the 
same reverential respect which they feel for that of 
Washington. 

During that memorable campaign, Seward spoke in 
Detroit and scores of students went from Ann Arbor to 
hear him. He did not impress one as a great orator. 
He was of slight frame, but of a noble and intellectual 
cast of countenance. His arguments were convincing, 
his language well-chosen, but he was somewhat lacking 
in the physical attributes so essential to perfect success 
as a public speaker. His features were very marked, 
with a big nose, a firm jaw, a lofty forehead, and a 
skin almost colorless. He had been the choice of 
Michigan for president and was received with the warm- 
est demonstrations of respect and enthusiasm. Every 



FOUR GREAT STATESMEN 7 

word that fell from his lips was eagerly caught up by 
the great multitude. It was a proud day for him, and 
his heart must have been touched by the abounding 
evidences of affection. 

Seward was looked upon as the embodiment of 
sagacious statesmanship and political prescience, but 
how far he fell short of comprehending the real magni- 
tude of the crisis then impending, was shown by his 
prediction that the war would last but ninety days. 
His famous dictum about the "irrepressible conflict" 
did him more credit. 

That same year, Salmon P. Chase also spoke in 
Michigan. There were giants in those days. Chase 
was not at all like Seward in his appearance. Tall and 
of commanding figure, he was a man of perfect phy- 
sique. He had an expressive face and an excellent 
voice, well adapted to out-door speaking. In manner, 
he appeared somewhat pompous, and the impression he 
left on the mind of the listener was not so agreeable as 
that retained of the great New Yorker. 

At some time during the summer of 1860, Stephen A. 
Douglas passed through Michigan over the Central 
Railroad. His train stopped at all stations and hun- 
dreds of students flocked to see and hear him. He came 
off the car to a temporary platform, and for twenty 
minutes, that sea of faces gazing at him with rapt 
attention, talked with great rapidity, but with such 
earnestness and force as to enchain the minds of his 
hearers. His remarks were in part stereotyped, and he 



8 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

made much of his well-worn argument about the right 
of the territories to "regulate their own domestic 
institutions in their own way, subject only to the 
constitution." In manner, he was easy and graceful, 
in appearance, striking. He spoke with no apparent 
effort. Of massive frame, though short in stature, 
after the manner of General Sheridan, his head was 
large and set off by a luxuriant growth of hair that 
served to enhance its apparent size. His face was 
smooth, full and florid, the hue rather suggestive. His 
countenance and bearing indicated force, courage and 
tenacity of purpose. I was not surprised when he 
announced that he was on the side of the Union, and 
believe that, had he lived, he would have been, like 
Logan, a great soldier and a loyal supporter of Lincoln. 
He was a patriot of the purest type and one of the 
ablest men of his time. 

A significant incident of the winter of 1860-61, seems 
worth recalling. That period was one of the most 
intense excitement. What with the secession of the 
Southern States, the resignation of Senators and Mem- 
bers of Congress, and the vacillating course of the 
Buchanan administration, the outlook was gloomy in 
the extreme. There were in the University a number 
of students from the South, and they kept their trunks 
packed ready to leave at a moment's notice. Party 
feeling ran high, and the tension was painful. William 
Lloyd Garrison came to Ann Arbor to speak and could 
not get a hall, but finally succeeded in securing a 



PRINCE OF WALES IN MICHIGAN 9 

building used for a school-house, in the lower part of 
the town. Here he was set upon by a lot of roughs, 
who interrupted him with cat-calls and hisses, and 
made demonstrations so threatening, that, to avoid 
bodily injury, he was compelled to make his exit 
through a window. The affair was laid to the students, 
and some of them were engaged in it, to their discredit, 
be it said. It was not safe for an "Abolitionist" to 
free his mind even in the "Athens" of Michigan. 
Harper's Weekly published an illustrative cut of the 
scene, and Ann Arbor achieved an unenviable notoriety. 
One day all hands went to the train to see the Prince 
of Wales, who was to pass through, on his way to 
Chicago. There was much curiosity to see the queen's 
son. He had been treated with distinguished con- 
sideration in the East and was going to take a look at 
the Western metropolis. There was a big crowd at the 
station, but his royal highness did not deign to notice 
us, much less to come out and make a speech, as 
Douglas did, who was a much greater man. But the 
"Little Giant" was neither a prince nor the son of a 
prince, though a "sovereign" in his own right, as is 
every American citizen. Through the open window, 
however, we had a glimpse of the scion of royalty, and 
saw a rather unpretentious looking young person, in the 
garb of a gentleman. The Duke of Newcastle stood on 
the platform, where he could be seen, and looked and 
acted much like an ordinary mortal. The boys agreed 
that he might make a very fair governor or congress- 



10 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

man, if he were to turn Democrat and become a citizen 
of the land of the free and the home of the brave. 

The faculty in the University of Michigan, in 1860, 
was a brilliant one, including the names of many who 
have had a world-wide reputation as scholars and 
savants. Andrew D. White, since President of Cornell 
University and distinguished in the diplomatic service 
of his country, was professor of history. Henry P. 
Tappan, President of the University, or "Chancellor," 
as he was fond of being styled, after the manner of the 
Germans, was a magnificent specimen of manhood, 
intellectually and physically. Tall and majestic in 
appearance, he had a massive head and noble counte- 
nance, an intellect profound and brilliant. No wonder 
that he was worshiped, for he was god-like in form and 
in mind. Like many another great man, however, it 
was his fate to incur the enmity of certain others too 
narrow and mean to appreciate either his ability or his 
nobility of character. Being on the Board of Regents 
they had the power, and used it relentlessly, to drive 
him out of the seat of learning which he had done more 
than all others to build up and to honor. The University 
was his pride and glory and when he was thus smitten 
in the house of his friends he shook the dust from his 
feet and went away, never to return. It is a sad story. 
He died abroad, after having been for many years an 
exile from his native land. The feeling against these 
men was bitter in the extreme. The students hung 
one of them in effigy and marched in a body to the 



CHANCELLOR TAPPAN 11 

house of the other and assailed it with stones and 
missiles, meantime filling the air with execrations on 
his head. Both long since ceased to be remembered, 
even by name, but the memory of Tappan remains as 
one of the choicest traditions of the University, and 
it will be as enduring as the life of the institution 
itself. 



CHAPTER II 

AN EVENTFUL WINTER 

TT was an eventful winter that preceded the breaking 
-■- out of the war between the states. The saHent fea- 
ture of the time, apart from the excitement, was the 
uncertainty. War seemed inevitable, yet the tempo- 
rizing continued. The South went on seizing forts and 
plundering arsenals, terrorizing union sentiment, and 
threatening the federal government. The arming of 
troops proceeded without check, and hostile cannon 
were defiantly pointed at federal forts. Every friend 
of his country felt his cheek burn with shame, and 
longed for one day of Andrew Jackson to stifle the con- 
spiracy while it was in its infancy. One by one the 
states went out, boldly proclaiming that they owed no 
allegiance to the government ; but the leaders in the 
North clung to the delusion that the bridges were not 
all burned and that the erring ones might be coaxed or 
cajoled into returning. Concessions were offered, point 
after point was yielded, even to the verge of dishonor, 
in an idle attempt to patch up a peace that, from the 
nature of the case, could have been but temporary, if 
obtained on such terms. The people of the Northern 
States had set their faces resolutely against secession 



AN EVENTFUL WINTER 13 

and, led by Lincoln, had crossed the Rubicon and taken 
up the gage of battle, which had been thrown down by 
the South. 

There was, then, no alternative but to fight. All 
other schemes were illusive. The supreme crisis of the 
Nation had come, and there was no other way than for 
the loyalty of the country to assert itself. The courage 
of the people had to be put to the proof, to see whether 
they were worthy of the heritage of freedom that had 
been earned by the blood of the fathers. For fifty 
years there had been no war in this country, except the 
affair with Mexico, so far away that distance lent 
enchantment to the view. The Northern people had 
not been bred to arms. The martial spirit was well- 
nigh extinct. Men knew little of military exercises, 
except such ideas as had been derived from the old 
militia system, that in many states was treated 
by the people rather with derision than respect, and in 
most of them was, in the impending emergency, a rather 
poor reliance for the national defense. Southerners, 
trained in the use of firearms and to the duello, did not 
attempt to conceal their contempt for their Northern 
brethren, and feigned to believe that north of Mason 
and Dixon's line lived a race of cowards. 

It did not take long to demonstrate that the descen- 
dants of the Green Mountain Boys and of the western 
pioneers were foes worthy of the mettle of the men 
who came from the states of Sumter and Marion, and 
"Light Horse Harry Lee." The blood of their heroic 



14 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ancestry ran in ^their veins, and they were ready and 
willing to do or die when once convinced that their 
country was in deadly peril. The people, indeed, were 
ready long before their leaders were. Some of the 
ablest men the North had produced were awed by their 
fear of the South— not physical fear, for Webster and 
Douglas and Cass were incapable of such a thing— but 
fear that the weight of Southern political influence 
might be thrown against them. Many of the party 
leaders of the North had come to be known as "dough- 
faces," a term of reproach, referring to the supposed 
ease with which they might be kneaded into any form 
required for Southern use. They might have been styled 
very appropriately " wax-nosed politicians, " after the 
English custom, from the way they were nosed around 
by arrogant champions of the cause of slavery. 

Conciliation was tried, but every effort in that direc- 
tion failed. A tempest of discussion arose over the 
"Crittenden compromise resolutions," the last overture 
for peace on the part of the North. It was generally 
conceded that it would be better to have war than to 
give up all for which the North had been contending 
for so many years. There was a feeling of profound 
indignation and disgust at Buchanan's message to 
Congress, in which he virtually conceded the right of 
secession and denied the power of the federal govern- 
ment to coerce a state. The course of General Cass in 
resigning from the Cabinet, rather than be a party to 
the feeble policy of the President, was applauded by all 



LEWIS CASS AND AUSTIN BLAIR 15 

parties in Michigan, and the venerable statesman 
resumed his old-time place in the affections of the 
people of the Peninsula state. Governor Blair voiced 
the sentiments of Democrats and Republicans alike, 
when he practically tendered the whole power of the 
state to sustain the federal government in its determi- 
nation to maintain the Union. All the utterances of 
the "War Governor" during that trying period 
breathed a spirit of devoted patriotism and lofty 
courage. The people were with him and long before 
the call to arms was sounded by President Lincoln, the 
"Wolverines" were ready to do their part in the 
coming struggle. 

In the evening of the day when Fort Sumter was 
fired upon, the students marched in a body to the house 
of Chancellor Tappan and called him out. His remarks 
were an exhortation to duty, an appeal to patriotism. 
He advised against haste, saying that the chances were 
that the country would be more in need of men in a 
year from that time than it was then. The University 
would put no hindrance in the way of such students as 
might feel impelled by a sense of duty to respond to the 
call for troops, but, on the contrary, would bid them 
Grod speed and watch their careers with pride and 
solicitude. The speech was calm but filled with the 
loftiest sentiments. 

Professor Andrew D. White was also visited and 
made a most memorable and significant speech. Stand- 
ing on the porch of his house, in the presence of several 



16 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

hundred young men, he declared his opinion that one of 
the greatest wars of history was upon us, which he 
beheved would not end in a day, but would be a 
protracted and bloody struggle. ' ' I shall not be sur- 
prised, " said he, "if it turns out to be another 'Thirty 
Years War, ' and no prophet can predict what momen- 
tous consequences may result from it, before a Gustavus 
Adolphus shall arise to lead the armies of the Union to 
victory." He made a rousing union speech that Was 
loudly cheered by the throng of young men who heard 
it. Dr. Tappan also addressed an immense mass 
meeting, and all things worked together, to arouse the 
entire people to a high pitch of enthusiastic ardor for 
the cause of the Union. 

At once, the town took on a military air. The state 
militia companies made haste to respond to the first call 
for three months' service and were assigned to the First 
regiment of Michigan infantry, stationed in Detroit. 
The ranks were filled to the maximum, in an incredibly 
short space of time. Indeed, there were more men 
than munitions for the service, and it was more difficult 
to equip the troops than to enlist them. The * ' posi- 
tion " of private in the ranks was much sought. As an 
illustration of this: On the afternoon before the First 
regiment of Michigan three-months men was to leave 
Detroit to march to Washington, my room-mate, 
William Channing Moore, a member of the Freshman 
class, came hurriedly into the room and, aglow with 



PATRIOTISM IN ANN ARBOR 17 

excitement, threw down his books, and extending his 
hand, said: 

"Good-by, old boy; there is a vacant position in the 
Adrian company. I have accepted it and am off for 
the war. I leave on the first train for Detroit and shall 
join the company tomorrow morning." 

"What is the position?" I asked. 

"High private in the rear rank," he laughingly 
replied. 

Moore was in the Bull Run battle, where he was 
shot through the arm and taken prisoner. He was 
exchanged and discharged and came back to his class 
in 1862. His sense of duty was not satisfied, however, 
for he enlisted again in the Eighteenth Michigan 
infantry, in which regiment he rose to be a captain. 
He survived the war and returned to civil life, only to 
be drowned several years later while fording a river in 
the South. 

"Billy" Moore, as he was affectionately called, was 
a young man of superb physique, an athlete, a fine 
student, and as innocent of guile as a child. He is 
mentioned here as a typical student volunteer, one of 
many, as the record of the Michigan University in the 
war amply proves. 

Two other University men, worthy to be named in 
the list with Moore, were Henry B. Landon and Allen 
A. Zacharias. Landon was graduated from the literary 
department in 1861. He immediately entered service 
as adjutant of the Seventh Michigan infantry— the 



18 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

regiment which led the advance of Burnside's army 
across the river in the battle of Fredericksburg. He 
was shot through the body in the battle of Fair Oaks, 
the bullet, it was said, passing through both lungs. 
This wound led to his discharge for disability. Landon 
returned to Ann Arbor and took a course in the medical 
department of the University, after which he reentered 
service as assistant surgeon of his old regiment. He 
survived the war, and became a physician and surgeon 
of repute, a pillar in the Episcopal church, and an 
excellent citizen. Landon was a prince of good fel- 
lows, always bubbling over with fun, drollery, and wit; 
and, withal, a fine vocalist, with a rich bass voice. In 
the winter of 1863-64, he often came to see me in my 
camp on the Rapidan, near Stevensburg, Virginia, and 
there was no man in the army whose visits were more 
welcome. 

Zacharias was graduated in 1860. He went to Mis- 
sissippi and became principal of a military institute. 
Military schools were numerous in the South. It will 
be remembered that General W. T. Sherman was 
engaged in similar work in Louisiana. ''Stonewall" 
Jackson was professor of military science in Virginia. 
The South had its full share of cadets in West Point, so 
that the opening of hostilities found the two sections by 
no means on an equality, in the matter of educated 
officers. Zacharias came north, and v/ent out in the 
Seventh Michigan infantry, in which he was promoted 
to captain. He was mortally wounded in the battle of 




AUSTIN BLAIR 



PATRIOTISM IN ANN ARBOR 19 

Antietam. When his body was recovered on the field, 
after the battle, a letter addressed to his father was 
found clasped in his hand. It read as follows: 

" I am wounded, mortally, I think. The fight rages around me. I have done my 
duty; this is my consolation. I hope to meet you all again. I left not the line until 
nearlf all had fallen and the colors gone. I am weak. My arms are free, but below 
my chest all is numb. The enemy is trottine over me. The numbness up to my 
heart. Good-by to all. ALLA.N."* 

The reference, in a previous paragraph, to General 
Cass, recalls the name of Norval E. Welch, a student of 
law, who was remarkable for his handsome face and 
figure. It is related of him that on an occasion when 
he was in Detroit, he happened to walk past the resi- 
dence of General Cass, who was then, I believe, one of 
the United States senators from Michigan. The latter 
was so much impressed with the appearance of Welch, 
that he called him back and inquired his name, which 
was readily given. After a few moments' conversa- 
tion, Cass asked Welch how he would like to be his 
private secretary, and, receiving a favorable response, 
tendered him the appointment on the spot. Welch 
served in that capacity until Cass went into the Cabinet 
of President Buchanan, when he came to Ann Arbor 
and took up the study of the law. When the Sixteenth 
Michigan infantry was organized, he was commissioned 
major, and was killed when leaping, sword in hand, 

* Quoted from " Michigan in the War." 



20 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

over the confederate breastworks at Peebles's Farm, 
September 30, 1864. He had, in the meantime, been 
promoted to the colonelcy of his regiment. 

Morris B. Wells was a graduate of the law depart- 
ment. He went into the war as an officer of the same 
regiment with Welch, but was subsequently promoted 
to be lieutenant colonel of the Twenty-first Michigan 
infantry. He was killed at Chickamauga. 

No two men could be less alike in appearance than 
Norval Welch and Morris Wells. One was the embodi- 
ment of physical beauty, ruddy with health, overflowing 
with animal spirits, ready for a frolic, apt with the foils, 
dumb-bells or boxing gloves, but not particularly a 
student; the other, tall, rather slender, with an intel- 
lectual cast of countenance, frank and manly in his bear- 
ing, but somewhat reserved in manner and undemon- 
strative. Both were conspicuous for their gallantry, 
but the one impelled by that exuberant physical courage 
which is distinctive of the leonine type; the other an 
exemplar of that moral heroism which leads men to 
brave danger for a principle. They gave everything— 
even their lives— for their country. 

The list might be indefinitely extended, but more is 
not needed to illustrate the spirit of the college boys of 
1861-62. . 

But the students did not all go. Many remained 
then, only to go later. The prospect of danger, hard- 
ship, privation, was the least of the deterrent forces 



THE TAPPAN GUARD 21 

that held them back. To go meant much in most cases. 
It was to give up cherished plans and ambitions; to 
abandon their studies and turn aside from the paths 
that had been marked out for their future lives. Some 
had just entered that year upon the prescribed course of 
study; others were half way through; and others still, 
were soon to be graduated. It seemed hard to give it 
all up. But even these sacrifices were slight compared 
to those made by older men and heads of families. 

And there was no need to depopulate the University 
at once. The first call filled, those who were left 
behind began to prepare for whatever might come. 
The students organized into military companies. 
Hardee's tactics became the leading text-book. There 
were three companies or more. These formed a battal- 
ion and there was a major to command it. One company 
was stjded "TheTappan Guard," after the venerable 
President, and it was made up of as fine a body of 
young men as ever formed in line. Most of them found 
their way into the federal army and held good positions. 
The captain was Isaac H. Elliott, of Illinois, the athlete, 
par excellence, of the University, a tall, handsome man 
and a senior. "Tom" Wier, a junior, was first lieu- 
tenant and the writer second lieutenant. Elliott vv^ent 
to the war as colonel of an Illinois regiment of infantry 
and was afterwards, for many years, adjutant general 
of that state. Wier went out in the Third Michigan 
cavalry and became its lieutenant colonel. At the close 



22 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

of the war he was given a commission as second 
lieutenant in the Seventh United States cavalry, 
Custer's regiment, was brevetted twice for gallantry, 
and after escaping massacre with his chief at Little 
Big Horn, died of disease in New York City in 1876. 



CHAPTER III 

RECRUITING IN MICHIGAN 

A NN ARBOR was not the only town where the fires of 
-^^ patriotism were kept burning. It was one of many. 
"From one learn all." The state was one vast recruit- 
ing station. There was scarcely a town of importance 
which had not a company forming for some one or 
other of the various regiments that were organizing 
all through the year. Before the close of the year, 
aside from the three months men, three regiments of 
cavalry, eleven regiments of infantry, and five batteries 
were sent out, all for three years. There was little 
difficulty in getting recruits to fill these organizations 
to their maximum standard. No bounties were paid, 
no draft was resorted to. And, yet, the pay for 
enlisted men was but thirteen dollars a month. The 
calls of the President, after the first one for seventy- 
five thousand, were generally anticipated by the gov- 
ernor, and the troops would be in camp before they were 
called for, if not before they were needed. The per- 
sonnel was excellent, and at first great pains were 
taken to select experienced and competent officers. 
Alpheus S. Williams, Orlando B. Wilcox, Israel B. 
Richardson, John C. Robinson, Orlando M. Poe, Thorn- 



24 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ton F. Brodhead, Gordon Granger, Phillip H. 
Sheridan and R. H. G. Minty were some of the names 
that appeared early in the history of Michigan in the 
war. Under their able leadership, hundreds of young 
men were instructed in the art of war and taught the 
principles of tactics, so that they were qualified to take 
responsible positions in the regiments that were put in 
the field the following year. 

I remember going to see a dress parade of the First 
Michigan cavalry at Detroit in August. It was formed 
on foot, horses not having yet been furnished. It was 
a fine body of men, and Colonel Thornton F. Brodhead 
impressed me greatly because of his tall, commanding 
figure and military bearing. He distinguished himself 
and was killed at Second Bull Run. 

Among the other officers was a spare, frail looking 
man named Town. He was at that time major and 
succeeded to the colonelcy after the death of Brod- 
head. He always sought death on the battle field, but 
never found it, and came home to die of consumption 
after the war was over. He was a modern Chevalier 
Bayard, and led his regiment at Gettysburg in the 
grandest cavalry charge of the war. I have no doubt 
that Meade's right was saved, July 3, 1863, by the 
superb courage of Charles H. Town and his brave 
followers. History is beginning to give the cavalry 
tardy justice for the part it played in that, one of the 
few great, decisive battles. 

One of the most interested spectators of the parade 




THORNTON F. BRODHEAD 



A HISTORICAL CHARACTER 25 

was the venerable statesman and Democratic leader, 
Lewis Cass. He was then seventy-nine years of age, 
and few men had occupied a more conspicuous place in 
State and Nation. He was not without military experi- 
ence, having been prominent in the frontier war of 
1811, and in the war of 1812 he served as an aid to 
General Harrison. Soon thereafter, he was appointed 
brigadier general in the United States army, and was 
Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Jackson. 
He also served as Territorial governor of Michigan, 
under the administrations of Madison, Monroe and John 
Quincy Adams. The fact of his resignation from the 
Cabinet of James Buchanan has already been referred 
to. I confess that I was, for the time being, more 
interested in that quiet man, standing there under the 
shadow of a tree, looking on at the parade, than in the 
tactical movements of the embryotic soldiers. There 
Was, indeed, much about him to excite the curiosity 
and inflame the imagination of a j^oungster only just 
turned twenty-one. 

Obtaining a position near v/here he stood, I studied 
him closely. He was not an imposing figure, though of 
large frame, being fat and puffy, with a heavy look 
about the eyes, and a general appearance of senility. 
He wore a wig. The remarks he made have gone from 
my memory. They were not of such a character as to 
leave much of an impression, and consisted mostly of a 
sort of perfunctory exhortation to the troops to do their 
duty as patriots. 



26 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

It was with something of veneration that I looked at 
this man (standing on the verge of the grave he 
appeared to be), and, yet, he outlived many of the 
young men who stood before him in the bloom of youth. 
He did not seem to belong to the present so much as to 
the past. Fifty years before I was born, he had been a 
living witness of the inauguration of George Washing- 
ton as first President of the United States. He had 
watched the growth of the American Union from the 
time of the adoption of the Constitution. He had been 
a contemporary of Jefferson, Madison, the Adamses, 
Burr and Hamilton. He had sate in the Cabinets of 
two different Presidents, at widely separated periods. 
He had represented the government in the diplomatic 
service abroad, and had served with distinction against 
the enemies of his country. He had seen the begin- 
ning of political parties in the United States and had 
been a prominent actor through all the changes. He 
was a youth of twelve when the Reign of Terror in 
France was in full blast, and thirty-three years of age 
when Napoleon Bonaparte was on the Island of St. 
Helena. He had witnessed the downfall of Pitt and 
the partition of Poland. He was, indeed, a part of the 
dead past. His work was done, and it seemed as 
if a portrait by one of the great masters had stepped 
down from the canvas to mingle with living persons. 

When the young men from the South, who were in 
the University felt compelled to return to their homes, 
to cast in their lots with their respective states, the 



STOPwY OF A PALMETTO TREE 27 

students in a body escorted them to their trains, and 
bade them good-by with a sincere wish for good luck to 
attend them wherever they might go, even though it 
were into the confederate miUtary service. The parting 
was rather with a f eehng of melancholy regret that the 
fates cruelly made our paths diverge, than one of 
bitterness on account of their belief in the right of 
states to secede. 

There was a humorous, as well as a pathetic side to 
the war. Soldiers or students, young men were quick 
to see this. The penchant which boys have to trifle 
with subjects the most grave, gave rise to a funny 
incident in Ypsilanti (Michigan). There were two 
rival schools in that town— the "State Normal" and 
the "Union Seminary." The young men in these two 
flourishing institutions were never entirely at ease 
except when playing practical jokes upon each other. 
Soon after the secession of South Carolina, some of the 
Seminary boys conceived the idea of compelling the 
Normal people to show their colors. The first-named 
had put up the stars and stripes, a thing that the latter 
had neglected to do. One morning when the citizens 
of the town arose and cast their eyes toward the build- 
ing dedicated to the education and training of teachers, 
they were astonished to see, flying from the lightning 
rod on the highest peak of the cupola, a flag of white, 
whereon was painted a Palmetto tree, beneath the 
shade of which was represented a rattle snake in act to 
strike. How it came there no one could conjecture, but 



28 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

there it was, floating impudently in the breeze, and 
how to get it down was the question. 

I believe that the authorities of the school never 
learned who it was that performed this daring feat, but 
it will be violating no confidence, at this late day, to say 
that the two heroes of this daring boyish escapade, 
which was at the time a nine-days' wonder, served in 
the war, one of them in what was known as the ' ' Nor- 
mal" company, and are now gray-haired veterans, 
marching serenely down the western slope, toward the 
sunset of their well-spent lives. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE SUMMER OF 1862 

npHE summer of 1862 was one of the darkest periods 
of the war. Though more than a year had elapsed 
since the beginning of hostiUties, things were appar- 
ently going from bad to worse. There was visible 
nowhere a single ray of light to illumine the gloom 
that had settled down upon the land. All the brilliant 
promise of McClellan's campaign had come to naught, 
and the splendid army of Potomac veterans, after 
having come within sight of the spires of Richmond, 
was in full retreat to the James. The end seemed 
farther away than in the beginning. Grant's success- 
ful campaign against Forts Henry and Donelson had 
been succeeded by a condition of lethargy in all the 
Western armies. Notwithstanding the successes at 
Pittsburg Landing and at Corinth, and the death of 
Albert Sidney Johnston, who had been regarded as the 
ablest of all the officers of the old army who had taken 
service with the confederates, there had been a total 
absence of decisive results. McClellan had disappointed 
the hopes of the people; Grant was accused of blunder- 
ing and of a fondness for drink; the great ability of 
Sherman was not fully recognized; and the country did 



30 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

not yet suspect that in Sheridan it had another Marl- 
borough. Stonewall Jackson was in full tilt in Virginia, 
and Robert E. Lee had given evidence that he could 
easily overmatch any leader who might be pitted 
against him. With more of hope than of confidence, 
the eyes of the Nation were turned towards Halleck, 
Buell, and Pope. 

It was a dismal outlook. Union commanders were 
clamoring for more men and the Union cause was weak, 
because of the lack of confidence which Union generals 
had in each other. The patriotism of the volunteers, 
under these most trying and discouraging circum- 
stances, was still the only reliance. Big bounties had 
not been offered and the draft had not yet been thought 
of, much less resorted to. War meetings were being 
held all over the state, literally in every school house, 
and recruiting went on vigorously. During the year 
1862, Michigan equipped three regiments of cavalry, 
four batteries, two companies of sharp-shooters, and 
fifteen regiments of infantry, which were mustered 
into the service of the United States. 

About the time that the college year closed. President 
Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 more. This call was 
dated July 2, 1862, the last previous one having been 
made on July 25, 1861— almost a year before. Under 
this call, Congressman Francis W. Kellogg, of the then 
Fourth congressional district of Michigan, came home 
from Washington with authority to raise two more 
regiments of cavalry. This authority was direct from 



THE MOUNTED RIFLEMEN 31 

Secretary Stanton, with whom, for some reason, Mr. 
Kellogg had much influence, and from whom he 
received favors such as were granted to but few. He 
looked like Mr. Stanton. Perhaps that fact may have 
accounted, in part at least, for the strong bond of 
friendship between him and the great War Secretary. 
Under similar authority he had been instrumental, 
during the year 1861, in putting into the field the Sec- 
ond and Third regiments of Michigan cavalry. They 
had made an excellent record and that, likewise, may 
have counted to his credit with the War Department. 
Be that as it may, Mr. Kellogg went at this work with 
his accustomed vigor and, in a very short space of 
time, the Sixth and Seventh regiments were ready for 
muster, though the latter did not leave the state until 
January, 1863. The Fourth and Fifth regiments had 
been recruited under a previous call. 

To show how little things often change the course of 
men's lives, an incident of personal experience is here 
related. The Fifth Michigan cavalry was recruited 
under the title of "Copeland's Mounted Riflemen." 
One of the most picturesque figures in America before 
the war was John C. Fremont, known as "The Path- 
finder," whose "Narrative," in the fifties, was read by 
boys with the same avidity that they displayed in the 
perusal of the "Arabian Nights." Fremont had a 
regiment of "Mounted Riflemen" in the Mexican war, 
though it served in California, and the youthful imagi- 
nation of those days idealized it into a corps d' elite, as 



32 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

it idealized the Mexican war veterans, Marion's men, 
or the Old Guard of Napoleon Bonaparte. The name 
had a certain fascination which entwined it around the 
memory, and when flaming posters appeared on the 
walls, announcing that Captain Gardner, of the village 
of Muir, was raising a company of "Mounted Rifle- 
men" for Copeland's regiment, four young men, 
myself being one of them, hired a livery team and 
drove to that modest country four-corners to enlist. 
The "captain" handed us a telegram from Detroit 
saying that the regiment was full and his company 
could not be accepted. The boys drove back with 
heavy hearts at the lost opportunity. That is how it 
happened that I was not a private in the Fifth Michi- 
gan cavalry instead of a captain in the Sixth when I 
went out, for, in a few days from that time, Mr. 
Kellogg authorized me to raise a troop, a commission 
as captain being conditional on my being in camp with 
a minimum number of men, within fifteen days from 
the date of the appointment. 

The conditions were complied with. Two of the other 
boys became captains in the Sixth Michigan cavalry; 
the other went out as sergeant-major of the Twenty- 
first Michigan infantry and arose in good time to be a 
captain in his regiment. 

The government, during the earlier period of the war, 
was slow to recognize the importance of the cavalry 
arm of the service. It was expensive to maintain, and 
the policy of General Scott and his successors was to 



CAVALRY IN THE NORTH AND SOUTH 33 

get along with as small a force of mounted men as pos- 
sible, and these to be used mostly for escort duty and 
for orderlies around the various infantry headquarters. 
There was, consequently, in the cavalry very little of 
what is known as "esprit de corps." In the South, 
the opposite policy prevailed. At the First Bull Run, 
the very name of the "Black Horse cavalry" struck 
terror into the hearts of the Northern army, though it 
must be confessed that it was rather moral influence 
than physical force that the somewhat mythical horse- 
men exerted. Southern men were accustomed to the 
saddle, and were as a rule better riders than their 
Northern brethren. They took naturally to the 
mounted service, which was wisely fostered and 
encouraged by the Southern leaders, and, under the 
bold generalship of such riders as Ashby, Stuart, 
Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, Rosser, Mosby, and others, 
the cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia surpassed 
that of the army of the Potomac both in numbers and 
in efficiency. McClellan says in his book that he often 
thought he made a mistake in not putting "Phil" 
Kearney in command of the cavalry. There is no doubt 
about it. Kearney had just the right sort of dash. If 
he had been given a corps of horse, with free rein, as 
Sheridan had it later on, ' * Phil ' ' Kearney might have 
anticipated by at least two years the brilliant achieve- 
ments of " Cavalry Phil " Sheridan. But the dashing 
one-armed hero was fated to be killed prematurely, and 
it was not until 1863, that Pleasanton, Buf ord, Gregg, 



34 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Kilpatrick, and Custer began to make the Union 
troopers an important factor in the war; and Sheridan 
did not take command of the cavalry corps, to handle it 
as such, until the spring of 1864. Even then, as we 
shall see later, he had to quarrel with the commander 
of the army in order to compel recognition of its value 
as a tactical unit upon the field of battle. It was to 
Hooker, and not to Meade, that credit was due for 
bringing the cavalry into its proper relation to the 
work of the Northern army. 

Under the able leadership of such officers as those 
mentioned, the Federal cavalry took a leading part in 
the Gettysburg campaign and those which succeeded 
it, and was able to meet the flower of the South on 
equal terms and on its own ground. There will be no 
more honorable page in the history of our country 
than that on which will be written the record of the 
cavalry of the armies of the Potomac and of the 
Shenandoah. 



CHAPTER V 

JOINING THE CAVALRY 

T FINISHED my sophomore year in June, 1862, and 
•^ returned to my home full of military spirit and de- 
termined to embrace the first favorable opportunity to 
enter the volunteer service. As second lieutenant of 
the " Tappan Guard," I had acquired a pretty thorough 
knowledge of Hardee's tactics and a familiarity with the 
"school of the soldier" and "school of the company" 
which proved very useful. Most of the summer was 
given up to drilling the officers and men in one of the 
companies of the Twenty-first Michigan infantry, 
which was in camp near the town, fitting for the field. 
The officers were new to the business, without training 
or experience, as volunteer officers were apt to be, and 
gladly availed themselves of my help, which was freely 
given. I was offered a commission as first lieutenant 
in that regiment, but my ambition was to go in the 
cavalry and it was soon to be gratified. 

Late in the month of August my father, coming home 
from Grand Rapids, met an old friend on the train who 
told him of Congressman Kellogg's arrival in that place 
and what his mission was. I wanted to be a second 
lieutenant and told my father that I preferred that to 



36 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

higher rank in the infantry. So, the next day, he 
went down to see the Congressman. His application 
for my appointment was heartily seconded by a number 
of influential men in the "Valley City," who knew 
nothing of me, but did it through their friendship for 
my father, whom they had known for many years as 
one of the most energetic and honorable business men 
in the Grand River valley. From 1848, he had been a 
familiar figure in lumbering circles and during that 
period there had been no year when, from May 1 till 
snow flew, his fleets of rafts of pine lumber were not 
running over the dam at Grand Rapids. With the bus- 
iness men along the river his relations had been close 
and friendly. They were, therefore, not reluctant to 
do him a favor. Among these I will mention but two, 
though there were many others who were equally zeal- 
ous in the matter. 

Wilder D. Foster and Amos Rathbun were two of the 
best known men in the metropolis of western Michigan. 
Mr. Foster was a hardware merchant who had built up 
a splendid business from small beginnings in the pio- 
neer days. He succeeded Thomas White Ferry in the 
United States Congress, after Mr. Ferry had been 
elected to the Senate. Mr. Rathbun, "Uncle Amos'* 
he was called, was a capitalist who had much to do 
with the development of the gypsum or "plaster" in- 
dustry in his section of the state. Their influence with 
Mr. Kellogg was potent, and my father obtained more 



APPOINTED A CAPTAIN 37 

than he asked for. He came home with a conditional 
appointment which ran thus: 

" Headquarters 6th Regt. of Mich. Cavalry, ) 
Grand Rapids, Aug. 28, 1862. f 

" To Captain James H. Kidd: 

" You are hereby authorized to raise a company of mounted ri.lemen for this regi- 
ment on condition that you raise them within fifteen days from this date, and re- 
port with them at the rendezvous in this city. 

" F. W. Kellogg, Colonel Commanding." 

My surprise and gratification can better be imagined 
than described. To say that I was delighted would be 
putting it mildly. 

But the document with the Congressman's signature 
attached to it was not very much of itself. I was a 
captain in name only. There was no " company " and 
would not be unless a mininum of seventy-eight men 
were recruited, and at the end of fifteen days the ap- 
pointment would expire by limitation. On the original 
document which has been carefully preserved appears 
the following endorsement in Mr. Kellogg' s hand- 
writing: 

" The time is extended for raising this company until Tuesday of next week.' 

The fifteen days expired on Saturday and Mr. Kel- 
logg kindly gave us four days extra time to get into 
camp. 

It was, however, no easy task to get the requisite 
number of men in the time allowed, after so many men 



38 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

had been recruited for other regiments. The territory 
which we could draw upon for volunteers had been very 
thoroughly canvassed, in an effort to fill the quota of 
the state under Lincoln's last call. But it was less dif- 
ficult to raise men for cavaliT than for infantry and I 
was hopeful of succeeding. I soon learned that three 
others had received appointments for commissions in 
the same troop— one first, one second, and one super- 
numerary second lieutenant. The same conditions were 
imposed upon them. Thus, there were four of us 
whose commissions hinged upon getting a minimum 
number of men into camp within fifteen days. 

The man designated for first lieutenant was Edward 
L. Craw. Some of Craw's friends thought he ought to 
be the captain, as he was a much older man than my- 
self, though he had no knowledge of tactics and was in 
every sense a novice in military affairs. In a few 
days word came that Mr. Kellogg wanted to see me. 
He had been told that I was a "beardless boy " and he 
professed to want men for his captains. My friends 
advised me not to go— to be too busy recruiting, in fact 
—and I followed their advice. Had I gone, the 
"colonel" would, doubtless, have persuaded me to 
change with Craw, since I would have been more than 
satisfied to take second place, not having too high an 
opinion of my deserts. 

But there was no time to waste and recruiting was 
strenuously pushed. Kellogg must have been stuffed 
pretty full of prejudice, for I never came to town that 



FRIENDS IN CIVIL LIFE 39 

I did not hear something about it. My friends seemed 
beset with misgivings. One of them called me into his 
private office and inquired if I could not manage to 
raise a beard somehow. I am not sure that he did not 
suggest a false mustache as a temporary expedient. I 
told him that it would have to be with a smooth face or 
not at all. It would be out of the question to make a 
decent show in a year's time and with careful nursing. 
Finally, ''Uncle Amos " Rathbun heard of it and told 
Kellogg to give himself no concern about "the boy," 
that he would stand sponsor for him. "Uncle " Amos, 
though long ago gathered to his fathers, is alive yet in 
the memory of hundreds of Union soldiers whom he 
never failed to help as he had opportunity. And he did 
not wait for the opportunity to come to him. He 
sought it. He had a big heart and an open hand, and 
no man ever had a better friend. As for myself, I re- 
call his name and memory with a heart full of grati- 
tude for, from the moment I entered the service, he 
was always ready with the needed word of encourage- 
ment; prompt with proffers of aid; jealous of my good 
name; liberal with praise when praise was deserved; 
appreciative and watchful of my record till the end. 
If he had faults they were overshadowed by his kind- 
ness of heart and his unaffected virtues. When the 
record is made up, it will be found with "Uncle 
Amos" as it was with " Uncle Toby," when he uttered 
that famous and pardonable oath: "The accusing 
angel flew to heaven with the oath, blushed as he 



40 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

handed it in. The recording angel, as he wrote it 
down, dropped a tear upon it and blotted it out for- 
ever." 

I was the first man to enlist in the embryotic troop 
and take the oath. The first recruit was Angelo E. 
Tower, a life long friend, who entered service as first 
sergeant and left it as captain, passing through the in- 
termediate grades. His name will receive further men- 
tion in the course of this narrative. 

The method of obtaining enlistments was to hold war 
meetings in schoolhouses. The recruiting officer ac- 
companied by a good speaker would attend an evening 
meeting which had been duly advertised. The latter 
did the talking, the former was ready with blanks to 
obtain signatures and administer the oath. These 
meetings were generally well attended but sometimes 
it was difficult to induce anybody to volunteer. Once, 
two of us drove sixteen miles and after a fine, patriotic 
address of an hour, were about to return without re- 
sults, when one stalwart young man arose and an- 
nounced his willingness to "jine the cavalry." His 
name was Solomon Mangus and he proved to be a most 
excellent soldier. 

On one of my trips, having halted at a wayside inn 
for lunch, I was accosted by a young man not more 
than seventeen or eighteen years of age, who said he 
had enlisted for my troop and, if found worthy, he 
would be much pleased if he could receive the appoint- 
ment of "eighth corporal. " I was amused at the mod- 




JACOB 0. PROBASCO 



A PRAYING WARRIOR 41 

esty of the request, which was that he be placed on the 
lowest rung of the ladder of rank. The request did not 
appear unreasonable, and when the enrolment of troop 
"E" Sixth Michigan cavalry was completed, he ap- 
peared on the list as second corporal. From this rank 
he rose by successive steps to that of captain, winning 
his way by merit alone. For a time he served on the' 
brigade staff, but, whether as corporal, sergeant, lieu- 
tenant, captain or staff officer, he acquitted himself 
with honor and had the confidence of those under 
whom he served as well as of those whom he com- 
manded. His name was Jacob 0. Probasco. 

In the western part of the county our meetings col- 
lided with those of " Captain " Pratt, who had an ap- 
pointment similar to mine and for the same regiment. 
Pratt was a big man— a giant almost— full of zeal and 
enthusiasm. He was a Methodist preacher— a revival- 
ist—and did his own exhorting. He was very fatherly 
and patronizing and declared that he would not inter- 
fere with my work; that he had plenty of men pledged 
—more than he needed— and would cheerfully aid in 
filling my quota, in addition to his own. His promise 
was taken with a grain of salt and, in the end, I mus- 
tered more men than he did, and he had none to spare. 
Both troops were accepted, however, and both of us re- 
ceived our commissions in due time, as the sequel will 
show. 

There was that about "Dominie" Pratt that im- 
pressed people with the idea that he would be a great 



42 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

"fighting parson." He was so big, burly and bearded, 
fierce looking as a dragoon, and with an air of intense 
earnestness. He was very pious and used to hold 
prayer meetings in his tent, conducted after the man- 
ner of the services at a camp meeting. His confidence 
in himself, real or assumed, was unlimited. Several of 
the officers who had seen no service in the field, were 
talking it over one evening in the colonel's tent, and 
conjecturing how they would feel and act when under 
fire. Most of them were in anything but a 'boastful 
mood, contenting themselves with modestly expressing 
the belief that when the ordeal came and they were put 
to the proof, they would stand up to the work and do 
their duty like officers and gentlemen. Captain Pratt 
said little, but, as we were walking away after the con- 
ference had broken up, he placed his arm around my 
waist, in his favorite, affectionate way ( he had known 
me from boyhood) and in his most impressive pulpit man- 
ner, said: " Jimmie, " ( he always addressed me thus ) 
* ' Jimmie, let others do as they may, I want to say to 
you, that the men who follow me on the field of battle 
go where death reigneth. ' ' As he neared the climax of 
this dire prediction, he unwound the arm with which 
he held me to his side and, raising it, emphasized his 
words with a fierce gesture. I confess that I drew 
back a step, and felt a certain sensation af awe and re- 
spect, as I beheld in him the incarnation of courage 
and carnage. 
It may or may not be pertinent to mention that the 



A CAVALRY TROOP 43 

intrepid captain never led his troop to slaughter; never 
welcomed the enemy ' ' with bloody hands to hospitable 
graves." On account of ill health, he was compelled to 
resign in February, 1863, before the regiment marched 
from Washington into Virginia. I have always re- 
gretted that necessity, because, notwithstanding his 
apparent bravado, the captain was really a brave man, 
and there was such a fine opportunity in the ''Old 
Dominion," in those days, for one who really hungered 
for gore to distinguish himself. It would have been a 
glorious sight to see the gigantic captain, full ®f the 
fiery spirit that animated Peter the Hermit when ex- 
horting his followers to the rescue of the holy sepul- 
cher, charging gallantly at the head of his men into the 
place " where death reigneth." There were several of 
those places in the southern country. 

At the period of the civil war the word "company " 
was applied indiscriminately to cavalry or infantry. 
The unit of formation was the company. At the pres- 
ent time there is a distinction, A captain of cavalry 
commands a "troop." A captain of infantry com- 
mands a "company." A troop of cavalry corresponds 
to a company of infantry. For the sake of convenience 
and clearness this classification will henceforth be ob- 
served in the course of this narrative. 

The troop, then, the raising of which has been thus 
briefly sketched, was ready on Tuesday, September 16, 
1862, to begin its career as a military unit in the great 
army of union volunteers. It is known in the his- 



44 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

tory of the civil war as Troop E, Sixth Michigan cav- 
alry (volunteers). It was originally constituted as 
follows: 

James H. Kidd, captain: Edward L. Craw, first lieutenant: Franklin P. Nichols^ 
second lieutenant; Ambrose L. Soule. supernumerary second lieutenant, 

Angelo E. Tower, first sergeant; James L. Manning, quartermaster sergeant; 
Amos T. Ayers. commissary sergeant; William H. Robinson, William Willett. Schuy- 
ler C. Triphagen, Marvin K. Avery. Solon H. Finney, sergeants. 

Amos W. Stevens, Jacob O. Probasco, Isaac R. Hart, Benjamin B. Tucker. George 
I. Henry. David Welch, Marvin A. Filkins, James W. Brown, corporals. 

Simon E. Allen. William Almy, Eber Blanchard. Heman S. Brown. Shuman Beld- 
ing, Lester A. Berry. George Bennett, George Brown. John Cryderman. Edward H. 
Cook, William B. Clark. James H. Corwin, Eugene C. Croff. William W. Croff, Ran- 
dall S, Compton, Manley Conkrite, William H. Compton, Seth Carey, Marion Case. 
Amaron Decker, Daniel Draper. Rinehart Dikeman, Thomas Dickinson, Orrin W. 
Daniels, Matthias Easter, Francis N. Friend. Ira Green, James Gray. George I. 
Goodale. Eli Halladay, Luther Hart, Elias Hogle, George E. Halladay. Robert Hemp- 
stead, Edmond R. Hallock, Henry M. Harrison. Warren Hopkins. John J. Hammel. 
Miles E. Hutchinson, Luther Johnson. Searight C. Koutz. Louis Kepfort, Archibald 
Lamberton. Martin Lerg. David Minthorn, Solomon Mangus, Andrew J. Miller, 
Jedediah D. Osborn, Timothy J. Mosher. Gershom W. Mattoon, Moses C. Nestell, 
George W. Marchant. Edwin Olds, Walter E. Pratt, Albert M. Parker, George W. 
Rail, Frederick Smith, Jesse Stewart, Josiah R. Stevens, David S. Starks, Orlando 
v. R. Showerman, David Stowell, James O. Sliter, Jonathan C. Smith, Meverick 
Smith. Samuel J. Smith, Josiah Thompson, William Toynton, John Tunks, Mortimer 
Trim. Albert Truax, Oliver L. VanTassel, Byron A. Vosburg, John Van Wagoner. 
Sidney Van Wagoner, Erastus J. Wall, Charles Wyman, Harvey C. Wilder. Israel 
Wall, Lewis H. Yeoman.* 

The troop that thus started on its career was a typi- 
cal organization for that time— that is it had the char- 
acteristics common to the volunteers of the early period 
of the civil war. When mustered into the service it 

•The original roster of the regiment may be found in appendix "A" to this 
volume. 



THREE VETERAN OFFICERS 45 

numbered one hundred and five officers and men. 
Though for the most part older than the men who went 
out later, the average age was but twenty-eight years. 
Nineteen were twenty or under; twenty-nine were 
thirty or under; eighteen were thirty-one or under. 
Only nine were over forty. For personnel and patriot- 
ism, for fortitude and endurance, they were never ex- 
celled. But they were not professional soldiers. At 
first, they were not soldiers at all. They were farmers, 
mechanics, merchants, laboring men, students, who 
enlisted from love of country rather than from love of 
arms, and were absolutely ignorant of any knowledge 
of the technical part of a soldier's "business." The 
militia had been mostly absorbed by the first calls in 
1861 and the men of 1862 came from the plow, the 
shop, the schoolroom, the counting room or the office. 
With few exceptions, they were not accustomed to the 
use of arms and had everything to learn. The officers 
of this particular organization had no advantage over 
the others in this respect, for, save myself, not one of 
them knew even the rudiments of tactics. Indeed, at 
the date of muster, there were but three officers in the 
entire regiment who had seen service. These were 
Lieutenant Colonel Russell A. Alger, Captain Peter A. 
Weber and Lieutenant Don G. Lovell. 



CHAPTER VI 

IN THE REGIMENTAL RENDEZVOUS 

IT was a raw, rainy day when we took up the march 
from the railroad station to the ground whereon 
had been estabUshed the rendezvous for the regiment. 
It was a motley collection of soldiers, considering the 
record they v/ere to make during the coming years of 
active service in the field. All were in citizens' clothes, 
and equipped with neither uniforms nor arms. As- 
sembled in haste for the journey, there had been no op- 
portunity even to form in line or learn to keep step. 
No two of them were dressed alike. They were hun- 
gry and wet. Few had overcoats, none ponchos or 
blankets. Quarters were provided for the night in 
a vacant store where the men were sheltered from 
the rain, but had to sleep on the bare floor without cots 
or comforts of any kind. But, notwithstanding the 
gloomy conditions that attended this introduction to 
the volunteer service, they, in the main, kept up their 
good spirits, though some were visibly depressed and 
looked as if they were sorry they had come. In less 
than a year from that time, they had learned to endure 
a hundred-fold greater deprivations and hardships with 
equal minds. 



IN THE REGIMENTAL RENDEZVOUS 47 

The next morning, breakfast was served in an im- 
provised dining-hall on the bank of the river which ran 
hard by. Then there was another march to "camp," 
the captain reported for duty to the ''commandant," 
and a sort of routine of military exercises was entered 
upon. The officer in command and his adjutant were 
also new to the business and haste was made very 
slowly while they felt their way along. After a few 
days the camp was removed to better ground, which 
was high and dry, and overlooked the town. Here the 
real work of equipping, organizing and training began. 

There were twelve troops, each composed of about 
one hundred officers and men. The officers were quar- 
tered in "wall" tents, but there were not tents 
enough, so wooden barracks were built for the men. 
A hospital was established in a house near by. This 
was pretty well patronized, at first, the exposure mak- 
ing many men ill. There was a guardhouse, also, but 
not much use for it. A large portion of each day was 
given up to drill. The rivalry among the captains was 
spirited, for they had been called together soon after 
reporting for duty, and informed that they would be 
given their respective places in line, by letter, from 
"A" to "M," consecutively, according to proficiency 
in drill upon a certain date, the two highest places 
barred, the assignments having been made previously. 
As the relative rank of these officers depended upon 
the letter given, it may be imagined that they spared 
no effort of which they were severally capable. They 



48 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

became immediate students, both in theory and in 
practice, of Philip St. George Cooke's cavalry tactics 
wherein the formation in single rank was prescribed. 

Soon after going into this camp, uniforms were is- 
sued and horses also. The uniform for the enlisted 
men, at that time, consisted of a cavalry jacket, rein- 
forced trousers, forage cap, and boots which came to 
the knee. Arms, except sabers, Were not supplied un- 
til after leaving the state. The horses were purchased 
in Michigan, and great care was taken through a 
system of thorough inspection to see that they were 
sound and suitable for the mounted service. In the 
end, the regiment had a most excellent mount, both the 
horses and horse equipments being of the best that 
could be procured. The horses were sorted according 
to color, the intention being that each unit should have 
but one color, as near as practicable. Thus, as I re- 
member it, troop "A" had bays; ''B" browns; "C" 
greys; "D" blacks; and so on. This arrangement did 
not last long. A few months' service sufficed to do 
away with it and horses thereafter were issued indis- 
criminately. The effect, however, so long as the dis- 
tinction could be kept up, was fine. It was a grand 
sight when the twelve hundred horses were in line, 
formed for parade or drill in single rank, each troop 
distinguishable from the others by the color of the 
horses. 

When the Fifth Michigan cavalry was mustered into 
the United States service at Detroit there was one 



THE SIXTH MICHIGAN CAVALRY 49 

supernumerary troop. This was transferred to the 
Sixth Michigan, then forming in Grand Rapids, and 
given the letter "A" without competition. This en- 
titled it to the position on the right flank in battalion 
formations, and made its commanding oflicer the senior 
captain of the regiment. The officers were, captain, 
Henry E. Thompson; first lieutenant. Manning D. 
Birge; second lieutenant, Stephen H. Ballard; super- 
numerary second lieutenant, Joel S. Sheldon. Before 
they left the service, Thompson was lieutenant colonel; 
Birge, major; Ballard, captain; and Sheldon, regimental 
commissary. This troop attracted a great deal of at- 
tention from the time of its arrival in camp for, having 
been organized some two or three months, it was fairly 
well drilled and disciplined, fully uniformed, and the 
officers were as gay as gaudy dress and feathers could 
make them. They wore black hats with ostrich 
plumes, and presented a very showy as well as a sol- 
dierly appearance. The plumes, like the color arrange, 
ment of horses, did not last long. Indeed, few if any 
of the officers outside of "A" troop, bought them, 
though they were a part of the uniform prescribed in 
the books. Two officers who came to the regiment 
from the Second Michigan cavalry, and who had had 
over a year's experience in the field, gave the cue that 
feathers were not a necessary part of the equipment for 
real service and served no useful purpose. 

One of these two officers I met on the day of my 
arrival in the temporary camp. It was that wet, driz- 



50 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

zly day, when I was sitting in the tent of the ' ' com- 
mandant" awaiting orders. With a brisk step and a 
mihtary air a young man of about my own age entered, 
whose appearance and manner were prepossessing. He 
looked younger than his years, was not large, but had a 
well-knit, compact frame of medium height. He was 
alert in look and movement, his face was ruddy with 
health, his eyes bright and piercing, his head crowned 
with a thick growth of brown hair cut rather short. 
He wore a forage cap, a gum coat over his uniform, top 
boots, and appeared every inch the soldier. He saluted 
and gave the colonel a hearty greeting and was intro- 
duced to me as Captain Weber. 

Peter A. Weber was clerking in a store when the war 
broke out and entered service as a corporal in the Third 
Michigan infantry. When the Second Michigan cavalry 
was organized he was commissioned battalion adjutant 
and had been called home to take a captaincy in the 
Sixth. By reason of his experience, he was given the 
second place, "B". Weber was a rare and natural 
soldier, the embodiment of courage and, had not death 
interrupted his career, must have come near the head 
of the list of cavalry officers. The battle in which he 
distinguished himself and lost his life will be the theme 
of a future chapter. 

In troop "F", commanded by Captain William Hyser, 
was Second Lieutenant Don G. Lovell, one of the three 
veteran ojfficers. He went out as corporal in the Third 
Michigan infantry, was wounded at Fair Oaks, and 




GEORGE GRAY 



A BOY STAFF OFFICER 51 

again at Trevillian Station while serving in the cavalry. 
He was one of the bravest of the brave. 

Along in September, before the date of muster, I re- 
ceived a letter from a classmate in Ann Arbor asking if 
there was an opening for him to enlist. I wrote him to 
come and, soon after joining, he was appointed troop 
commissary sergeant. At that time, Levant W. Barn- 
hart was but nineteen years of age and a boy of re- 
markable gifts. He was one of the prize takers in 
scholarship when he entered the University in 1860, in 
the class of 1864. His rise in the volunteers was rapid. 
Passing successively through the grades of first ser- 
geant, second and first lieutenant, he in 1863 was 
detailed as acting adjutant. While serving in this 
position he attracted the notice of General Custer who 
secured his appointment by the War Department as as- 
sistant adjutant general with the rank of captain. He 
served on the staff of General Custer till the war closed 
—succeeding Jacob L. Greene. For one of his age his 
record as scholar and soldier was of exceptional bril- 
liancy. He was barely twenty-one when he went on 
Custer's staff, who was himself not much more than 
a boy in years. (Custer was but twenty-six when Lee 
surrendered at Appomattox. ) 

George Gray, "lieutenant colonel commanding," was 
a lawyer of brilliant parts, a good type of the witty, 
educated Irishman, a leader at the bar of Western 
Michigan who had no equal before a jury. He had 
much reputation as an after-dinner speaker, and his 



52 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

polished sentences and keen sallies of wit were greatly 
enjoyed on occasions where such gifts were in request. 
Though generally one of the most suave of men, he had 
an irascible temper at times. The flavor of his wit was 
tart and sometimes not altogether palatable to those 
who had to take it. In discipline he was something of 
a martinet. He established a school of instruction in his 
tent, where the officers assembled nightly to recite 
tactics, and no mercy was shown the luckless one who 
failed in his "lessons." Many a young fellow went 
away from the "school" smarting under the irony of 
the impatient colonel. Some of his remarks had a 
piquant humor, others were characterized by the most 
biting sarcasm. 

' ' Mr. , ' ' said he one morning when the officers 

were grouped in front of his tent in response to 'of- 
ficers' call, ' "Mr. , have you gloves, sir?" 

"Yes, sir," rephed the lieutenant, who had been 
standing with hands in his trousers pockets. 

"Well, then, you had better put them on and save 
your pockets. " 

It is needless to say that the young officer thereafter 
stood in position of the soldier when in presence of his 
commander. 

Nothing was so offensive to Colonel Gray as untidy 
dress or shabby habiliments on a member of the guard 
detail. One morning in making his usual inspection, 
he came upon a soldier who was particularly slovenly. 
Ordering the man to step out of the ranks, the colonel 



COLONEL GEORGE GRAY 53 

surveyed him from head to foot, then, spurning him 
with his foot, remarked: "That is a — pretty looking 
thing for a soldier; go to your quarters, sir." 

Once or twice I felt the sting of his tongue, myself, 
but on the whole he was very kind and courteous, and 
we managed to get along together very well. 

For a time it was supposed that the colonelcy would 
go to an army officer, and it may be recalled as an inter- 
esting fact that George A. Custer was at that very time 
a lieutenant on McClellan's staff and would have jumped 
at the chance to be colonel of a Michigan cavalry regi- 
ment. As has been shown, Philip H. Sheridan, Gordon 
Granger, 0. B. Wilcox, L B. Richardson, and other 
regulars, began their careers as officers in the volun- 
teer service by accepting commissions from Governor 
Blair. Custer was never a colonel. He was advanced 
from captain in the Fifth United States cavalry to full 
brigadier general of volunteers and his first command 
was four Michigan regiments, constituting what was 
known as "Custer's Michigan cavalry brigade"— the 
only cavalry brigade in the service made up entirely of 
regiments from a single state. A petition was circu- 
lated among the officers, asking the governor to appoint 
Gray colonel. We all signed it, though the feeling was 
general that it would be better for him to retain the 
second place and have an officer of the army, or at least 
one who had seen service, for our commander. The 
petition was forwarded, however, and Gray was com- 
missioned colonel. 



54 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Soon thereafter, it was announced, greatly to the 
satisfaction of all concerned, that the vacancy caused 
by Gray's promotion was to be filled by an ofncer of 
experience. Major Russell A. Alger of the Second Mich- 
igan cavalry, who had seen much service in the south- 
west, was made lieutenant colonel. Major Alger had 
gone out in 1881 as captain of troop " C", of the Second 
Michigan and had earned his majority fighting under 
Granger and Sheridan. In April, 1861, he was engaged 
in the lumbering business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to 
which place he had removed from Cleveland, Ohio. 
He had been admitted to the bar in Cleveland but, even 
at that early day, his tastes and inclinations led him in 
the direction of business pursuits. He, therefore, came 
to Grand river and embarked in lumbering v/hen but 
just past his majority and unmarried. The panic of 1857 
depressed the lumber industry, in common with all 
other kinds of business, and the young Buckeye met 
with financial reverses, as did nearly everybody in those 
days, though it is agreed that he showed indications of 
the dash and self-reliance that were marked features of 
his subsequent career both in the army and in civil life. 
Doubtless, had not the war come on he would have 
achieved success in his business ventures then, as he did 
afterwards. 

When Lieutenant Colonel Alger reported to Colonel 
Gray for duty he appeared the ideal soldier. Tall, 
erect, handsome, he was an expert and graceful horse- 
man. He rode a superb and spirited bay charger which 




RUSSELL A. ALGER (ix 1862) 



RELIGIOUS SERVICES IN CAMP 55 

took fences and ditches like a deer. Though not fop- 
pish, he was scrupulous to a degree about his dress. 
His clothes fitted, and not a speck of dust could be 
found on his person, his horse, or his equipments. The 
details of drill fell largely to him— Colonel Gray attend- 
ing to the general executive management. As a bat- 
talion commander Colonel Alger had few equals and no 
superiors. He was always cool and self-poised, and his 
clear, resonant voice had a peculiar, agreeable quality. 
Twelve hundred horsemen formed in single rank make 
a long line but, long as it was, every man c®uld hear 
distinctly the commands that were given by him. 

Weber's voice had the same penetrating and musical 
quality that made it easy to hear him when he was 
making no apparent effort to be heard. At that time it 
was the custom to give the commands with the voice 
and not by bugle calls. 

Under such competent handling the regiment soon 
became a very well drilled organization. The evolutions 
were at first on foot, then on horseback, and long before 
the time when it was ready to depart for the front, the 
officers and men had attained the utmost familiarity 
with the movements necessary to maneuver a regiment 
on the field. 

On Sundays it was customary to hold religious services 
in the camp, and many hundreds of the ' ' beauty and 
the chivalry ' ' of the tov/n came to see the soldiers and 
hear the chaplain preach. The regiment v/ould be 
formed in a hollow square, arms and brasses shining, 



56 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

clothes brushed, and boots polished. The chaplain was 
a good speaker and his sermons were always well 
worth listening to. 

Chaplain Stephen S. N. Greeley was a unique charac- 
ter. Before enlisting he had been pastor of the leading 
Congregational church of the city. He was a powerful 
pulpit orator, a kind-hearted, simple-minded gentleman 
of the old school, not at all fitted for the hardships and 
exposure that he had to undergo while following the 
fortunes of General Custer's troopers in Virginia. 
Army life was too much for him to endure, and it was 
as much as he could do to look after his own physical 
well-being, and the spiritual condition of his flock was 
apt to be sadly neglected. He stayed with the regi- 
ment till the end but, in the field he was more like a 
child than a seasoned soldier and needed the watchful 
care of all his friends to keep him from perishing with 
hunger, fatigue, and exposure. I always forgot my own 
discomforts in commiseration of those of the honest 
chaplain. When in camp, and the weather suitable, I 
always endeavored to assemble the command for Sun- 
day services, so pleased was he to talk to his ' ' boys. ' ' 
I believe every surviving Sixth Michigan cavalryman has 
in his heart a warm corner for Chaplain Greeley who 
returned to Gilmartin, New Hampshire, the place where 
he began his 'ministerial work, and died there many 
years ago. 

While noting in this cursory way the personnel of the 



A MAJOR'S HAPPY THOUGHT 57 

regiment it may be proper to mention the other mem- 
bers of the field and staff. 

Cavalry regiments were divided into three battalions, 
each consisting of four troops and commanded by a 
major. Two troops were denominated a squadron. 
Thus there were two troops in a squadron, two squad- 
ron in a battalion, three battalions in a regiment. The 
first major was Thaddeus Foote, a Grand Rapids lawyer. 
He served with the Sixth about a year and was then 
promoted to be colonel of the Tenth Michigan cavalry. 
Under President Grant he held the position of pension 
agent for Western Michigan. Elijah D. Waters com- 
manded the Second battalion. He resigned for disa- 
bility and died of consumption in 1866. He did not 
serve in the field at all Simeon B. Brown, of the Third 
battalion was called to the command of the Eleventh 
Michigan cavalry, in 1863. The Tenth and Eleventh 
were raised by Congressman Kellogg in that year in 
the same manner in which he had organized the Second 
and Third in 1861, and the Sixth and Seventh in 1862. 

Speaking of Major Waters, recalls how little things 
sometimes lead on to fortune. After leaving the ser- 
vice he and his brother started a "box factory," on the 
canal in Grand Rapids. In the winter of 1865-66 he 
took me over to see it. It was a small affair run by 
water power. The ' ' boxes ' ' which they manufactured 
were measures of the old-fasliioned kind like the half- 
bushel and peck measures made of wood fifty years ago. 
They were of all sizes from a half-bushel down to a 



58 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

quart and used for "dry measure." Before the top 
rim was added and the bottom put in it was customary 
to pile the cylindrical shells one on top of another in 
the shop. Looking at these piles one day Waters saw 
that three of them, properly hooped, would make a bar- 
rel. Why not put hoops on and make them into barrels? 
No sooner said than done. A patent \ta3 secured, a 
stock company organized and the sequel proved that 
there were ''millions in it." The major did not live to 
enjoy the fruits of his invention but it made of his 
brother and partner a millionaire. The latter is today 
one of the wealthiest men in Michigan— all from that 
lucky beginning. 

The first adjutant of the regiment was Lyman E. 
Patten, who resigned to become a sutler and was suc- 
ceeded by Hiram F. Hale who. in turn, left the cavalry 
to become a paymaster. 

Sutlers were an unnecessary evil; at least, so it seems 
to me. They were in some cases evil personified. 
Many of them went into the business solely "for the 
money there was in it," and did not hesitate to trade on 
the necessities of the ' ' boys in blue, ' ' so that as a rule 
there was no love lost, and enlisted men would raid a 
sutler with as little compunction as the sutler would 
practice extortion on them. The sutler's tent was too 
often the army saloon where "S. T.— 1860— X bit- 
ters" and kindred drinks were sold at inflated prices. 
There were exceptions to the rule, however, and Mr. 
Patten was one of these. The whole sutler business 



THE ARMY SURGEON 59 

was a mistake. The government should have arranged 
for an issue, or sale at cost through the commissary 
and quartermaster departments, of such articles as were 
not regularly furnished and were needed by the officers 
and men. Sutlers sold a thousand and one things that 
were not needed and that the men would have been 
better without. Spirits and tobacco could have been 
issued as a field or garrison ration, under proper restric- 
tions. This was done at times but, whether a good 
thing or a bad thing, depends altogether upon the point 
of view. To take up the discussion would be to enter 
into the controversy as to the army canteen, which is 
not my purpose. 

The medical department of the regiment was in good 
hands. No officer or enlisted man of the Sixth Mich- 
igan ever wanted for kind and sympathetic care when 
ill or wounded. The position of army surgeon in the 
field was no sinecure. He had to endure the same 
privations as the other officers. He was not supposed 
to be on the fighting line, to be sure, but had to be 
close at hand to assist in the care of those who were, 
and oftentimes got into the thickest of it whether he 
would or not. To the credit of the profession, be it 
said, no soldier was ever sick or wounded who did not, 
unless a prisoner of war, find some one of the green- 
sashed officers ready to minister to his needs. And it 
often happened that army surgeons permitted them- 
selves to fall into the enemy's hands rather than to 
desert those who were under their care and treatment. 



60 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRl 

The surgeon was Daniel G. Weare, who gave up a 
lucrative practice to put on the uniform of a major in 
the medical department of the volunteer army. He 
was an elderly man with iron grey hair and beard 
which became towards the last almost as white as snow. 
This gave him a venerable look, though this evidence 
of apparent age was singularly at variance with his 
fresh countenance, as ruddy as that of youth. He 
looked like a preacher, though he would swear like a 
pirate. Indeed, it would almost congeal the blood in 
one's veins to hear the oaths that came hissing from 
between the set teeth of that pious looking old 
gentleman, from whom you would look for an exhorta- 
tion rather than such expletives as he dealt in. But it 
was only on suitable provocation that he gave vent to 
these outbursts, as he was kind of heart, a good friend, 
and a capable physician and surgeon. The assistant 
was David C. Spaulding who remained with us but a 
short time when he was made surgeon of the Tenth 
Michigan cavalry— that is to say, in 1863. Weare staid 
till the war closed and settled in Fairport, New York, 
where he died. 

Spaulding was surgeon in charge of the regimental 
hospital in Grand Rapids, and on one occasion came to 
my aid with some very scientific practice. It happened 
in this way: It came to my knowledge that a man who 
had enlisted with one of the lieutenants and mustered 
in with the troop, was not in the service for the first 
time; that he had enlisted twice before and then sue- 



AN EPISODE OF THE HOSPITAL 61 

ceeded in getting discharged for disability. The in- 
formant intimated that the fellow had no intention of 
doing duty, would shirk and sham illness and probably 
get into the hospital, where the chances were he would 
succeed in imposing on the surgeons and in getting dis- 
charged again; that it was pay he was after which he 
did not propose to earn; least of all would he expose 
his precious life, if by any possibility he could avoid it. 

A close watch was put upon the man, and sure 
enough, just before the regiment v/as to leave the state, 
he demurred to doing duty, pleading illness as an ex- 
cuse. I sent him to the hospital but gave Dr. Spaulding 
a hint as to the probable nature of the man's illness, and 
he promised to give his best endeavors to the case. 
About a week, thereafter, the man came back, and 
whatever might have been his real condition when he 
went away, he was unmistakably ill. His pale face and 
weak voice were symptoms that could not be gainsaid. 

"Well," said I, "have you recovered and are you 
ready for duty?" 

No, I am worse than ever. ' ' 

"Why do you leave the hospital, then?" 

"My God, captain," whined the man, "they will 
kill me, if I stay there. ' ' 

"But if you are sick you need treatment." 

"I cannot enter that place again." 
You prefer to perform your duties as a good soldier, 
then?" 

"I will do anything rather than go there." 



62 WITB. THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

He was directed to go about his business and, soon 
thereafter, I inquired about the case. Dr. Spaulding 
said : "I discovered there was nothing the matter with 
the man, only that he was playing off, and when he 
described his alleged symptoms, I began a course of 
heroic treatment. He was purged, cupped, blistered, 
given emetics, until life really became a burden and he 
ran avvay from the "treatment." 

This man never went to the regimental hospital 
again, but he made no end of trouble. He was a chronic 
shirk. He would not work, and there were not men 
enough in the regiment to get him into a fight. Soon 
after the campaign of 1863 opened in Virginia he was 
missing, and the next thing heard from him was that 
he had been discharged from some hospital for disabili- 
ty. He never smelt powder, and years after the war, 
he was to all appearance an able-bodied man. I believe 
the Sixth was the third regiment which he had gone 
into in the same way. ¥/hen he enlisted, the surgeon 
who examined him pronounced him a sound man, and it 
was a mystery how he could be physically sound or 
physically unsound, at will, and so as to deceive the 
medical examiners in either event. He died long ago 
and his widow drew a pension after his death as he did 
before it, but he never did a day's honest military duty 
in his life. Peace to his ashes! He may be playing 
some useful part in the other world, for all that I know. 
At all events, I am glad that his widow gets a pension, 
though as a soldier he was never deserving of anything 



TYPE OF A HERO "FROM THE RANKS" 63 

but contempt, for he would desert his comrades when 
they needed aid and never exposed his precious carcass 
to danger for his country or for a friend. 

That is not an attractive picture which I have drav/n. 
I will paint another, the more pleasing by reason of the 
contrast which the two present. 

One day a party of sixteen men came into camp and 
applied for enlistment. A condition of the contract 
under which they were secured for my troop was that 
one of their number be appointed sergeant. They were 
to name the man and the choice, made by ballot, fell 
upon Marvin E. Avery. At first blush, he was not a 
promising candidate for a non-commissioned office. 
Somewhat ungainly in figure, awkward in manners, and 
immature in mind and body, he appeared to be; while 
he seemed neither ambitious to excel nor quick to learn. 
He certainly did not evince a craving for preferment. 
In the end it was found that these were surface indica- 
tions, and that there were inherent in him a strength 
of character and a robust manliness that only awaited 
the opportunity to assert themselves. 

He was appointed sergeant but, at first, manifested 
so little aptitude for the work, that it was feared he 
would never become proficient in his duties, or acquire 
a sufficient familiarity with tactics to drill a squad. No 
one could have been more willing, obedient, or anxious 
to learn. He was a plodder who worked his way along 
by sheer force of will and innate self-reliance, and 
governed in all that he did by a high sense of duty. 



64 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

He never attained first rank as a sergeant while in 
camp, but in the field, he sprang to the front like a 
thorough-bred. From the moment when he first scented 
battle, he was the most valuable man in the troop, from 
the captain down. In this, I am sure, there is no dis- 
paragement of the scores of fearless soldiers who fol- 
lowed the guidon of that troop from Gettysburg to 
Appomattox. 

Avery was a hero. In the presence of danger he 
knew no fear. The more imminent the peril, the more 
cool he was. He would grasp the situation as if by 
intuition and I often wondered why fate did not make 
him colonel instead of myself, and honestly believe 
that he would have filled the position admirably, though 
he reached no higher rank than that of sergeant. He 
had, however, made of himself the trusted assistant 
and adviser of the commanding officer of his regiment 
and would have received a commission, had he lived but 
a few days longer. From the day of his enlistment to 
the day of his death he was not off duty for a single 
day; and the command to which he belonged, was in no 
battle when he was not at the front, in the place of 
greatest risk and responsibility, from the beginning to 
the end. He was killed by a shell which struck him in 
the head, in the battle of Trevillian Station, June 12, 
1864. A braver or a truer soldier never fell on the 
field of battle. 

Another excellent soldier was Solon H. Finney, who 
entered service as sergeant. He rose to be second 



KILLED IN ACTION 65 

lieutenant and was killed at Beaver Mills, Virginia, 
April 4, 1865, just five days before Lee surrendered. 
Finney was a modest, earnest, faithful man, attentive 
to his duties, not self-seeking, but contented Math his 
lot and ambitious only to do a man's part. It seemed 
hard for him to go through so near to the end only to 
be stricken just as the haven of peace was in sight; but 
his friends have the satisfaction of knowing that Solon 
Finney never failed to do that which was right and, 
though he gave his life, it was surrendered cheerfully 
in the cause of his country and its flag. He was one of 
those who would have given a hundred lives rather 
than have his country destroyed— a genuine patriot and 
a noble man. 

With the Washtenaw contingent of troop " F " came 
Aaron C. Jewett, of Ann Arbor. Jewett was a leading 
spirit in University circles. His parents were wealthy, 
he an only son to whom nothing was denied that a do- 
ting father could Supply. Reared in luxury, he was 
handsome as a girl and as lovable in disposition. It 
was current rumor that one of the most amiable young 
women in the college town— a daughter of one of the 
professors— was his betrothed. He was graduated 
with the senior class of that year and immediately en- 
listed. Notwithstanding his antecedents and his sta- 
tion in life he performed his humble duties in the ranks 
without a murmur, thus furnishing one more illustra- 
tion of the patriotism that animated the best type of 
young men of that day. Ah ! He was a comely sol- 



66 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

dier, with his round, ruddy face, his fresh complexion, 
his bright black eyes, and curling hair the color of the 
raven— his uniform brushed and boots polished to the 
pink of neatness. 

These things together with his modest mien and 
close attention to his duties made of him a marked 
man and, in a short time, regimental headquarters had 
need of him. He was detailed as clerk, then as acting 
sergeant major and, when early in the year 1863, 
it was announced that Hiram F. Hale was to be ap- 
pointed army paymaster, Jewett was chosen to suc- 
ceed him as adjutant, but had not received his 
commission when death overtook him at Williamsport, 
Maryland, July 6. There was grief in the Sixth of 
Michigan on that fateful night when it was known that 
Aaron Jewett lay within the enemy's lines smitten by 
a fragment of a shell while faithfully delivering the 
orders of his colonel to the troops of the regiment as 
they successively came into line under a heavy fire of 
artillery. Weber and myself with our men tried to re- 
cover the body, but were unable to do so, a force of 
confederates having gained possession of the ground. 
In a week from that time, Weber himself lay cold in 
death, only five miles distant, with a bullet through his 
brain. That was in Maryland, however, north of the 
Potomac and, after we had crossed into Virginia, 
Jewett' s father succeeded in finding the body of his 
son and performed the sad duty of giving it proper 
sepulture. 



THE ARMY QUARTERMASTER 67 

All the members of the field and staff of the regi- 
ment have been mentioned, except Quartermaster 
Charles H. Patten and Commissary Jacob Chapman. 
The latter soon resigned. Patten stuck to it till there 
was no more clothing to issue. He was a good quar- 
termaster, honest, energetic and capable, and that is 
saying a good deal for him. There has been much un- 
called for satirical comment at the expense of the 
quartermasters. They were really among the most 
useful of officers— indispensable in fact. The man who 
handled the transportation for a cavalry command had 
a position requiring tact, nerve, energy, endurance and 
ability of a high order. Mr. Patten was such a man. 
His wagon trains never failed to reach the front with 
needed supplies when it was possible to get them there. 
The white canvas of the army wagon was a pleasant 
sight to the soldier worn out with marching and fight- 
ing; and the quartermaster could always count on a 
cordial welcome when he appeared. 

October 11, 1862, the regiment was mustered into 
the United States service. The mustering officer was 
General J. R. Smith of the regular army, a veteran of 
the Mexican war, in which he received a wound in one 
arm, disabling it. He had a slit in his sleeve tied with 
ribbons— a way he had, it was thought, of calling at- 
tention to his disability, and sort of a standing apology 
for being back in Michigan while his associates of the 
army were fighting at the front. It was an amiable 
and pardonable weakness, if such it may be called, and 
everybody had a liking for the old Mexican war officer. 



68 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

One of my first acts after reaching the rendezvous 
had been to call on Colonel Kellogg, who was in his 
room, up to his eyes in papers and correspondence. He 
greeted me cordially, congratulated me on my success, 
and assured me that he was my friend, which he 
proved to be. 

" Order your uniform at once," said he, "and go to 
work without delay." 

The result of this interview was that a tailor took 
my measure for a suit and, in due time, I was arrayed 
in Union blue, with shining brass buttons, bright yel- 
low facings, and the shoulder straps of a captain of 
cavalry. No boy in his first trousers ever felt happier 
or prouder. 

Before the brasses had become tarnished or the 
trimmings soiled I took a run to Ann Arbor to say 
good-by to the boys. They were glad to see me, and 
the welcome I had was something to remember. They 
were like a band of brothers and showed the same in- 
terest as if we had been of one family. 

I think the students felt a sort of clannish pride 
when one of their number enlisted and thought that 
the alma mater was doing the correct and patriotic 
thing in sending her sons into the army. It was plain- 
ly to be seen that many of them were holding back un- 
willingly. Indeed, it was not long till some of them 
dropped their studies abruptly and followed the ex- 
ample of those who had already gone. Everybody gave 
me an affectionate Godspeed and I was surprised at the 
number of my friends. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE DEPARTURE FOR WASHINGTON 

IT was on a bright moonlight night in December, 
1862, that the Sixth cavalry of Michigan left its ren- 
dezvous in Grand Rapids and marched to the station to 
take the cars for Washington. It was like tearing 
asunder the ties of years, for those whose lines had 
been cast even for a brief time only, in the ' 'Valley 
City."* The hospitality of the people had been un- 
bounded. Many of the officers and men had their 
homes there. Those who had not, took short leaves 
and made flying visits to their families to say good-by 
and arrange their affairs for what might be a final 
farewell. The scenes of our sojourn for a few months, 
where we had engaged in daily drills and parades, in 
the pomp and circumstance of mimic warfare, were to 
know us no longer. The time for rehearsal had passed. 
We were about to enter upon the real stage of action, 
and do our part in the mighty tragedy then enacting. 

The camp was broken. Tents were struck. Prep- 
arations for departure were made. Adieus were said. 

* Grand Rapids, Michigan, so named on account of its location in the heart of 
the valley of Grand river. Also known as ths "Furniture City," referring to its 
chief industry. 



70 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Horses were sent away in charge of a detail. The 
quartermaster took possession of the equipments. The 
regiment was not yet armed, but was to be supplied 
with all the needed munitions on arrival in the Capital 
City. 

For some reason, it was deemed best to make a night 
march to the station. No notice of this was given to 
the citizens. The result was that when we left camp, 
at 2 a. m. , the streets were deserted. The town was 
wrapped in slumber. No sound was heard, except the 
tramp, tramp of the soldiers, and the roar of the river 
as it plunged over the dam, which only served to in- 
tensify the stillness. 

Through Michigan was a memorable trip. The same 
scenes with but slight variation, were enacted at each 
station. Officers and men ahke, were warmed by the 
hearty and affectionate greetings, the memory of which 
followed them through all the days, and months, and 
years of their service. 

On to Detroit, Toledo, Pittsburg, Harrisburg, Balti- 
more, quickly whirled. Flowers, music, words of 
cheer, everywhere. "God bless you, boys," was the 
common form of salutation. "Three cheers for the old 
flag," and "Three cheers for 'Abe Lincoln,'" were 
sentiments offered amidst the wildest enthusiasm, to 
which the twelve hundred Michigan throats responded 
with an energy that bespoke their sincerity. Baltimore 
was reached in the night, and when marching through 
the streets, from one station to the other, the strains of 



SOMETHING TO REMEMBER 71 

"John Brown's body lies mouldering in the ground, " 
awoke the echoes in the city that had mobbed a Massa- 
chusetts regiment, and through which Abraham Lincoln 
on the way to his inauguration had to pass in disguise 
to escape assassination. "We'll hang Jeff. Davis on a 
sour apple tree," was a refrain in which all joined, and 
there was a heartiness about it that none can under- 
stand who did not pass through those troublous times. 

But Baltimore was as peaceful as Pittsburg, and no 
mob gathered to contest the right of Michigan men to 
invade southern soil. It was quiet. There was no 
demonstration of any kind. The passage of troops had 
become a familiar story to the citizens of the Monu- 
mental city. 

It was the thunder of Burnside's guns at Fredericks- 
burg that welcomed us to the army of the east. The 
same sun that saw us bivouac beneath the dome of the 
Capitol, shone down upon the Army of the Potomac, 
lying once again beaten and dispirited, on the plains of 
Falmouth. Burnside had run his course, and * * Fight- 
ing 'Joe' Hooker" was in command. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE ARRIVAL IN WASHINGTON 

npHERE was little about Washington in 1862 to indi- 
•*- cate that a great war was raging. The reference 
in the previous chapter to the "thunder of Burnside's 
guns" was figurative only. No guns were heard. It 
was Sunday morning. Church bells pealed out the call 
for divine worship and streams of well-dressed people 
were wending their way to the sanctuaries. The pres- 
ence of uniformed troops in such a scene appeared 
incongruous, and was the only thing that spoke of war, 
if we except the white tents and hospital buildings 
that abounded on every side. 

Rest was welcomed after the long jaunt by rail, and 
the day was given up to it, except for the necessary work 
of drawing and issuing rations. It was historic ground, 
made doubly so by the events then transpiring. Few 
realized, however, that we actually were engaged in 
making the history of the most eventful epoch in the ca- 
reer of the Republic, and the chief interest of the place 
seemed to lie in its associations with the past. The 
Capitol, with its great unfinished dome, towered above 
us. The White House, the Treasury building, the Pat- 
ent office, Arlington, the former home of the Lees, 



ON MERIDIAN HILL 73 

Long bridge, Pennsylvania avenue, the Smithsonian 
institute, the tree where Sickles killed Key. These and 
other points of interest were quickly seen or visited. 

And the Washington of 1862 was a very different city 
to the Washington of recent years. Where now are 
broad avenues of concrete pavement, were then wide 
streets of mud, through which teams of army mules, 
hauling heavy wagons, tugged and floundered. A dirty 
canal, full of foul smells, traversed the city where now 
are paved streets and fine buildings. Where then were 
waste places, now are lovely parks, adorned with stat- 
ues. Rows of stately trees fringe the avenues, and 
green lawns dot the landscape, where in 1862 was a 
vast military camp, full of hospitals and squalid in ap- 
pearance. The man who saw Washington then and 
returns to it for the first time, would be as much as- 
tonished as was Aladdin at the creations of his wonder- 
ful lamp. Certain salient features remain, but there 
has been on the whole a magical change. 

Camp was pitched on Meridian Hill, well out on 
Fourteenth street, near Columbia college, then used for 
a hospital, and preparations were made to spend the 
winter there. The Fifth Michigan, which had reached 
Washington before us, was located on "Capitol Hill," 
at the opposite end of the city. We had a fine camp- 
ground, stretching from Fourteenth street through to 
Seventh, well adapted to drill and parade purposes. 

A few days after their arrival in Washington, the 
officers of the Sixth, under the escort of Congressman 



74 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Kellogg, went in a body to pay their respects to Presi- 
dent Lincoln, several members of the cabinet and the 
general of the army. Full dress was the proper 
"caper," they were told, and accordingly they were 
arrayed in their finest. The uniforms were new and 
there is no doubt that they were a gorgeous looking 
party as they marched up Pennsylvania avenue wearing 
shining brasses, bright red sashes, buff gauntlets, and 
sabres glittering in their scabbards. Mr. Kellogg pro- 
nounced the "Open Sesame" which caused the doors of 
the White House to open and secured admission to the 
presence of the President. 

After being ushered into the "Blue Parlor" we were 
kept waiting for some time. Expectancy was on tip- 
toe, for few if any of the officers had seen Mr. Lincoln. 
But no introduction was needed when the door opened 
and the President stood before us. That was to me a 
memorable moment, for it was the first and last time 
that I saw Abraham Lincoln. There was no mistaking 
the tall, gaunt figure, the thin, care-worn face, the 
slovenly gait, as he entered the room. In appearance 
he was almost as unique as his place in history is unex- 
ampled. But spare, haggard and bent as he looked, he 
was yet a strikingly handsome man, for there was on 
his brow the stamp of greatness. We saw him as in a 
halo, and looked beyond the plain lineaments and habil- 
iments of the man to the ideal figure of the statesman 
and president, struggling for the freedom of his coun- 
try and the unity of his race, whom we all saw in the 



ABRAHAM LINCOLN 75 

"Rail-splitter" from Illinois; and he seemed, in his 
absent-minded way, to be looking beyond those present 
to the infinite realm of responsibility and care in which 
he dwelt. 

It is the misfortune of Lincoln that his portraits have 
not been idealized like those of Julius Caesar, Napoleon 
Bonaparte, and Washington. It remains for some great 
artist, inspired by the nobility of his subject, to make 
those homely features so transparent that his reverent 
and grateful countrymen may look through them and 
see a presentment of the great soul and beautiful char- 
acter that irradiated and glorified them in his life, and 
which will grow brighter and more lovely as the fugi- 
tive ages glide away. 

The officers were introduced, one by one, and Mr. 
Lincoln gave each hand a shake as he uttered a per- 
functory, but kindly, "How do you do?" and then 
turned quickly toward the door, as though his mind was 
still on the work which he had left in order to grant the 
interview, which must have trenched sadly upon his 
time. 

But he was not to escape so easily, for the Congress- 
man, rising to the occasion, said: 

"Mr. President, these are the officers of a regiment 
of cavalry who have just come from my state of Mich- 
igan. They are ' Wolverines ' and are on the track of 
' Jeb ' Stuart, whom they propose to pursue and cap- 
ture if there is any virtue in a name." 

"Gentlemen," said the President, with a twinkle of 



76 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the eye, and the first and only indication of humor that 
he gave, ' ' I can assure you that it would give me much 
greater pleasure to see * Jeb Stuart ' in captivity than 
it has given me to see you," and with a bow and smile 
he vanished. 

Although we remained in Washington for about two 
months, I did not see him again. He never saw ' ' Jeb 
Stuart" in captivity, but it was in a fight with the 
Michigan cavalry brigade that the dashing raider was 
killed. So the remark of the Congressman was not 
such an idle boast, after all. 

When the Seventh Michigan arrived it was put in 
camp on the Seventh street side. Colonel J. T. Cope- 
land, of the Fifth Michigan, was promoted to brigadier 
general of volunteers and assigned to the command of 
the three regiments. The brigade was attached to the 
division of General Silas Casey, all under General 
S. P. Heintzelman, who was in charge of the Department 
of Washington, with headquarters in the city. Free- 
man Norvell succeeded Copeland as colonel of the Fifth. 
The department extended out into Virginia as far as 
Fairfax Court House, and there was a cordon of troops 
entirely around the city. 

The prospect was that the brigade would see little, if 
any fighting, for a time, as it was not to be sent on to 
the army at Falmouth. The work of drilling and disci- 
plining went on without relaxation throughout the win- 
ter months, and when arms were issued, it was found, to 



THE SPENCER CARBINE 77 

the delight of all concerned, that we were to have re- 
peating rifles. 

The muskets or rifles issued to the United States in- 
fantry, during the civil war, were inferior weapons, and 
a brigade of Michigan militia of the present period 
would make short work of a military force of equal 
numbers so armed. It is one of the strange things 
about that war that the ordnance department did not 
anticipate the Austrians, Germans and French, in the 
employment of the fire-arm loaded at the breech which 
was so effective in the Franco-Prussian conflict and, if 
I am not mistaken, in the war between Prussia and 
Austria in 1866, also. This made of the individual 
soldier a host in himself. The old muzzle-loader, with 
its ramrod and dilatory "motions," ought to have been 
obsolete long before Grant left the West to lead the 
Army of the Potomac from the Wilderness to Appo- 
mattox. The Michigan cavalry brigade, armed as it 
was with repeating carbines, was never whipped when 
it had a chance to use them. In arming the infantry 
the government was fifty years behind the times. 

Possibly the same thing might be said truthfully 
of the artillery also, though the union artillerists, not- 
withstanding the handicap, did such effective work as 
would have delighted the '' Little Corporal, " himself . 

The "Spencer " rifle was an invention brought to the 
notice of the Ordnance Department about that time. 
Among the numerous "charges" brought against 
James G. Blaine was one that he was interested in the 



78 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

manufacture of this arm and in the contract for fur- 
nishing it to the government. How much truth there 
may have been in the assertion I do not know, but if 
Mr. Blaine was instrumental in bringing about the 
adoption of the "Spencer" for the use of the Federal 
cavalry, he ought to have had a vote of thanks by Con- 
gress, for a better gun had never been issued, and if 
the entire army had been supplied with it the war could 
not have lasted ninety days and Mr. Seward would have 
been a prophet. 

The "Spencer" was a magazine gun carrying eight 
cartridges, all of which could be discharged without 
taking the arm from the shoulder. It was loaded at 
the breech and the act of throwing out an empty shell 
replaced it with a fresh cartridge. Against such arms 
the old-fashioned muzzle-loaders, with which the infan- 
try was equipped, were ineffective. The Michigan men 
were fortunate in being among the very first to receive 
these repeating rifles which, after the first year in the 
field, were exchanged for the carbine of the same make, 
a lighter arm and better adapted for the use of cavalry. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE STAY IN WASHINGTON 

THE stay in Washington though brief, was monoto- 
nous. Time hung heavily on our hands. And yet, 
it was not devoid of incident. There is, perhaps, little 
of this that is worth recounting, of those things, at 
least, that appeared on the surface. Had one been able 
to reach the penetralia— the inmost recesses— of official 
and military life, he might have brought away with him 
reminiscences that would make racy reading. But 
this privilege was vouchsafed to but few, and they the 
elect. The logic of war is, learn to obey and ask no 
questions. 

One thing happened which came very near breaking 
up my troop, and threatened to destroy the regiment 
itself. It was at that time difficult to get recruits for 
the regulars. Citizen-soldiers preferred the volunteers. 
But it was considered important to keep the regiments 
in the regular army recruited up to the minimum, at 
least, and an order was issued from the War Depart- 
ment permitting regular officers to recruit from the 
ranks of the volunteers. It was a bad order, and, as 
soon as tested, was rescinded. I had the misfortune 
first to experience its effects, and the good fortune 
to secure its abrogation. 



80 • WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

There was in the troop a man who fancied he was 
shghted when the non-commissioned officers were ap- 
pointed and, always thereafter, nursed his wrath to 
keep it warm. He was well-educated, but of a surly- 
disposition and insubordinate. He was made a corporal, 
but thought his merits entitled him to something better 
and never got over the feeling. Had he gone on and 
done his duty, like General Grant, in the station to 
which he was assigned, he might have risen much 
higher. As it was, he never did. This man made the 
discovery of the War Department order, and soon there 
was a cabal which was constantly giving out that they 
were independent of my authority and could shake 
themselves free at any moment. At first, we did not 
know what this meant, but it soon leaked out, though 
they intended to keep it secret. It was ascertained, 
not only that they had the right to go, but that while 
down town on passes, eleven men actually had enlisted 
in the regular army. The recruiting officer had ordered 
them to report to him on a certain day which they ar- 
ranged to do, thinking that they would be sent to New 
York harbor, to garrison forts and escape duty in the 
field. 

When this became known, there was no time to be 
lost, and Colonel Gray drew up a paper setting forth 
that if these men were allowed to go it would be the 
end of all disciphne in his command and asking that 
they be ordered to report back for duty. He well un- 
derstood the art of putting things and the petition was 



ENLISTING IN THE REGULARS 81 

brief, pointed and convincing. It was addressed to the 
adjutant general of the army, but had to go through 
the reg-ular channels and, to save time, he gave me a 
letter directing that I take it up in person. In two days, 
it had been approved by Generals Copeland, Casey and 
Heintzelman, —and there was a delay of one day at that, 
—due to a staff officer, who acted as a buffer at Heint- 
zelman' s headquarters. Proceeding then at once to the 
adjutant general's office, I was referred to Major Wil- 
liams, * assistant adjutant general, one of the most 
polished and courteous gentlemen it was ever my fortune 
to meet. He was most gracious and kind, assured me 
that the request would be granted at once, and told me 
to go back and dismiss all further uneasiness about the 
matter. The next day, the order was rescinded, once and 
for all. The eleven men were ordered to report back for 
duty, and the regulars did no more recruiting in the 
volunteers. 

The men were ignorant of what had been done, and 
on the morning when they were to leave, they called on 
me in a body to say good-by. One of the number, act- 
ing as spokesman, assured me that it was on account of 
no ill-will toward captain or troop that they had taken 
the step. It was done because they believed it would 
be better for them and, as the act was authorized, 
begged that I would not think hard of it, at the same 
time assuring me of their lasting friendship. The 
speaker doubtless voiced the honest sentiments of all, 

* Robert Williams, a Virginian, grandson of James Williams, of the Virginia 
line in the Revelution. He married the widow of Stephen A. Douglas. 



82 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

for it is probable that they themselves had begun to 
suspect that they were making a mistake. In reply, 
they were assured that no ill-will was harbored, unless 
it would be in the "harbor " to which they were going, 
and they were urged to write and let us know how they 
liked New York Harbor, as we would always feel a 
warm interest in their welfare. 

Then they started, but were halted at the "sally- 
port, " and when they exhibited to the officer-of-the- 
day their passes from the regular army lieutenant, he 
presented to them the order from the adjutant general. 
They came back, looking crest-fallen enough. Thinking 
that they had been punished sufficiently, I assured them 
that if they would do their duty like men, the matter 
would be forgotten. 

It was a good lesson and, from that time on, no officer 
ever had the honor to command men braver, more 
faithful, or more loyal, than were the regular army 
contingent of Troop "E" Sixth Michigan cavalry. 
They never had reason to regret the fate that kept 
them in the volunteers. Several of them are still living 
and among my most devoted friends. 

At some time during that winter, the Michigan men 
in Washington had a banquet in one of the rooms or 
long hall-ways in the Capitol. It was a fine affair. 
There were long tables loaded with viands and decorated 
with flowers. The Michigan Senators— Chandler and 
J. M. Howard— and the Members of Congress were 
present, and there was speech-making and music. 



A WAR-TIME BANQUET 83 

Among those who responded to toasts was Schuyler 
Colfax, afterwards vice-president, then, I believe, 
Speaker of the House. Colfax's remarks, alone, left 
much of an impression, but I wondered why he was re- 
garded as a great man. He had a pleasant, smiling 
face and very white teeth, but his speech did not strike 
one as brilliant in any way. 

The singing was led by Doctor Willard Bliss, surgeon- 
in-charge of Armory Square hospital, located on Four- 
teenth street, opposite the then unfinished Washing- 
ton monument. Bliss went out as surgeon of the "Old 
Third, " * had already made a place for himself as one of 
the leading army surgeons, and his hospital was a 
model of good management. He was at Bull Run with 
his regiment and it was said that he sent a telegram 
from Washington to a relative in Michigan, sajdng: 
"A great battle fought; 'Zene' (meaning his brother) 
* Zene ' and I are safe. " The wags were accustomed to 
figure out what extraordinary time he must have made 
in order to reach Washington in time to send that tele- 
gram. But it was the fashion to guy everybody who 
was in that battle, unless he was either wounded or 
taken prisoner. Bliss, as most men are apt to do, 
"went with the crowd." He remained in Washington 
after the war, making much money and spending it 
freely, and achieved notoriety, if not fame, through his 
connection with the case of President Garfield, after he 
was shot by the assassin, Guiteau. 

* Third Michigan infantry. It served three years, and was then reorganized 
as the " New Third." 



84 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The camp on Meridian Hill was a pleasant one, and 
enlivened at times by the presence of several ladies, 
among whom were Mrs. Gray, Mrs. Alger, and Mrs. Shel- 
don, wives of the colonel, lieutenant colonel and commis- 
sary, respectively. These ladies spent much time in 
camp, and when the weather was pleasant lived in tents, 
which always were delightfully homelike, and often 
crowded with visitors. 'Twas but a year or two since 
Mrs. Alger's soldier-husband led her to the altar as a 
bride and they were a handsome couple, not less popu- 
lar than handsome. She was a decided favorite in 
camp, winning the affections of all by her gracious 
manners and kind heart, as she has done since, when 
presiding over her hospitable home in Detroit or the 
mansion of the War Secretary in Washington. Mrs. 
Sheldon, who was a niece of Dr. Willard Bliss, followed 
her husband to the field and was a ministering angel to 
many a sick or wounded soldier in hospital and in camp. 

One day a man came to me and wanted to enlist. 
He said his home was in the State of New York, but 
he liked the Michigan men and desired to join them. 
He was a bright-looking, active young man and, as the 
numbers of the troop had been somewhat reduced by 
sickness and death, he was accepted and mustered in 
as a private. He remained with us until the morning 
of the third day at Gettysburg, when, about daylight, 
he gathered up a lot of canteens and went, ostensibly, 
to get them filled. We never saw him again, and many 
times when thinking of the circumstances, I wondered 



GENERAL SHERIDAN AND THE SPIES 85 

if he was a confederate spy. He was a good soldier 
and did not leave to shirk danger, for he had been 
under fire and demonstrated his courage. He could 
hardly have disappeared so completely unless he went 
into the enemy's lines, and, if he did that, must have 
done it purposely.* 

There is no doubt that in the early years of the war 
the enemy's means of getting information were far su- 
perior to ours and there is still less doubt that not only 
the army, but Washington, and even the War Depart- 
ment were filled with spies. Probably no union gen- 
eral ever succeeded in outwitting these confederate 
emissaries so completely as did General Sheridan. He 
told me in Petersburg, after the fall of Richmond, that 
he had Early's spies at his headquarters in Winchester 
all through the winter of 1864-65 -they having come to 
him under the pretense of being deserters— knowing 
them to be such, but pretending that he did not distrust 
them, and in the spring, before the grand forward 
movement, he sent them off on a false scent, with 
wrong information for their chief —Early. With two of 
these, in order to keep up the deception, he was ob- 
liged to send one genuine union scout, who was ar- 
rested as a spy, in Lynchburg, and would have been 
hung, if the sudden closing of hostilities had not sus- 
pended sentence. This man's name was M. B. Medes, 

* Since the above was written I have become satisfied that this man was really 
taken prisoner and that he died as such in the Confederate prison at Andersonville. 
His name appears on one of the markers in the national cemetery there. 



86 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

a trooper of the Sixth Michigan cavalry, then on de- 
tached service as a scout at Sheridan's headquarters, 
and never, since his miraculous escape, has he been 
able to talk about the experiences of that last scout 
without a fit of nervous prostration. In a letter written 
to me several years ago, he said: 

" I don't know why it is, but I can never talk of my adventures and narrow es- 
capes while acting as scout and spy, that I do not break down completely and 
shake as though I had a hard chill," 



CHAPTER X 

FIELD SERVICE IN VIRGINIA 

TT was toward the last of February, 1863, that the first 
■*■ order to move came. I had been down to the city 
and, returning about ten o'clock in the evening, not 
dreaming of any change from the usual order of things, 
was surprised to find all bustle and confusion, where a 
few hours before it had been quiet and serene. The 
regiment was to march at two o'clock in the morning, and 
preparations for departure were well under way. Three 
days' cooked rations and forty rounds of ammunition to 
the man were to be taken, the sick men and unservice- 
able horses to remain in camp, and the tents to remain 
standing as they were until our return. By this it ap- 
peared that it was to be a raid or reconnoissance, not a 
permanent change of station. Everyone was busy get- 
ting ready for the march. Rations were issued, cooked 
and put in the haversacks; ammunition was distributed 
and placed in the cartridge boxes; a small bag of oats 
was strapped to each saddle; horses were fed and the 
men took a midnight lunch. As for myself, I had the 
foresight to have a tin cup tied to the cantle of my sad- 
dle and, in addition to the cooked meat and hard bread, 
put into the saddle-bags some sugar, and a sack of 



88 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

coffee that my good mother had sent from home and 
which was received only a few days before. It was 
about as large as a medium-sized shot bag, and the cof- 
fee was browned and ground ready for use. I also took 
a supply of matches. These things were of inestimable 
value during the next few days. 

Promptly at the appointed hour, two o'clock a. m., 
"boots and saddles" and ''to horse" were sounded; 
twelve troops led their horses into line; twelve first 
sergeants called the roll, to which every man not ex- 
cused from duty responded; and twelve troop command- 
ers gave the order to mount; when the regiment, 
responsive to the bugle call, "forward," broke into 
column of fours, moved out into Fourteenth street and 
headed for Long Bridge. The night was dark and dis- 
mal. The rain began to fall. It was cold and raw, the 
air surcharged with moisture, chilling one to the mar- 
row. But as the troopers wore gum coats or "poncho" 
blankets and top boots, they were measurably sheltered 
from the storm at the same time that they were ex- 
posed to it. 

Down through the silent, slumbering city the multi- 
tudinous tread of the iron-shod horses awoke strange 
echoes, while the splashing rain-drops and lowering 
clouds did not serve to raise the spirits. It was an 
inauspicious beginning of active service, and typical of 
the many long and weary weeks of wet discomfort that 
the Sixth of Michigan was destined to experience before 
the summer solstice had fairly passed. The points of in- 



A RIDE IN THE RAIN 89 

terest,— the public buildings, the white house, the 
massive Greek architecture of the Treasury building, 
the monument, all these as they glided like phan- 
toms, through the mist, attracted scarcely a casual 
glance. Indeed, it is probable that few in that long 
column took note that these had passed at all, so deeply 
were they absorbed in the reflections that the time and 
circumstances produced. 

Thus on to the Long Bridge that spans the great 
water highway between the Nation's Capital and the 
"Old Dominion." The tread of a thousand cavalry 
horses did not serve to shake its mile of solid super- 
structure. It seemed a long journey from one end to 
the other. Above, the scurrying clouds, below, the 
angry river, all around, the drizzling storm, it was a 
sorry scene; and a sullen welcome to the soil of Virginia, 
that was then as often before and afterwards, a slip- 
pery, sticky mud. 

Halting at daylight, the column was reinforced a few 
miles out, by the Fifth Michigan cavalry. Resuming 
the march, the two regiments passed through Alexan- 
dria, looking with interest, of course, at the spot where 
the chivalric Ellsworth was shot the year before. What 
a dilapidated town, its whole face marred and scarred 
by the ravages of war ! 

It took till dusk to reach Centerville, and the rain 
never stopped long enough to catch its breath, but kept 
at it, all day long. Such a first night out as that was ! 
The men slept, or rather stood in the rain all night for 



90 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

sleep was out of the question. No wood could be pro- 
cured, so no fires were built and there was no hot coffee. 
It was a unique experience for cavalrymen and they 
had not yet learned how to forage. I wandered around 
in the rain and finally stumbled upon the quarters of 
some infantry officers who were stationed near and had 
a tent and a fire. They kindly permitted me to stay 
with them till morning. But for this, it seemed to me 
that I should have perished, though the sequel proved 
that it was possible to get through a worse night with- 
out food or shelter. 

In the morning at six o'clock, three more regiments, 
the Fifth New York, the First Virginia, and the 
Eighteenth Pennsylvania, joined, and the force, thus 
augmented to about two thousand men, pushed on 
towards Warrenton, Sir Percy Wyndham in command. 
This oflficer was an Englishman, an alleged lord. But 
lord or son of a lord, his capacity as a cavalry officer 
was not great. He had been entrusted with one or two 
independent commands and was regarded as a dashing 
oflficer. He had no sooner assumed command of our 
force than he started off at a rapid pace through that 
part of Virginia that was between Washington and Fal- 
mouth— that is, in rear of Hooker's army, and where 
there was no enemy, unless it might have been small 
bands of guerrillas. During the day he charged through 
the town of Warrenton and a few confederate scouts 
coolly watched the column from the neighboring hills. 
They were well mounted and evidently did not fear 



FIRST NIGHT ON PICKET 91 

capture. Indeed, no attempt was made to capture 
them, but away rode Wyndham, as if riding- for a 
wager, or to beat the record of John Gilpin. He seemed 
bent on killing as many horses as possible, not to men- 
tion the men. The fact was the newspapers were in 
the habit of reporting that Colonel or General so-and-so 
had made a forced march of so many miles in so many 
hours, and it is probable that "Sir Percy" was in 
search of some more of that kind of cheap renown. It 
was a safe pastime, harmless to the enemy and not 
dangerous to himself, though hurtful to horse-flesh. 

That night we camped beyond Warrenton and had 
the first taste of picket duty. My troop was sent out 
about a mile beyond the camp and kept on picket until 
morning. A line of videttes was posted along the 
front, and so keenly did the officers feel the responsi- 
bility, that they made no attempt to sleep but were in 
the saddle constantly. It would have been a smart 
confederate who could have surprised the Michiganders 
that night. Every faculty was on the alert. Often 
we fancied that an enemy was approaching the line; a 
foe lurked behind every tree and bush; each sound had 
an ominous meaning and the videttes were visited at 
frequent intervals to see if they had discovered any- 
thing. In that way the night passed. In the morning 
everybody was exhausted and, to make matters worse, 
many of the men ran short of provisions. Some of them 
had neglected to bring the amount ordered; others had 
been improvident and wasted their rations. So to the 



92 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

discomforts of cold and wet, were added the pangs of 
hunger. The Uttle bag of coffee had proven a precious 
boon. Whenever the column would halt for a few 
minutes, and it was possible to find anything that would 
burn, a handful of the coffee was put into a tin cup of 
water and boiled. It was surprising how quickly this 
could be done, and the beverage thus brewed was 
"nectar fit for the gods." When the flavor of that 
coffee, as it tasted on that trip more than forty years ago, 
is recalled, it is with a smack of the lips. The bare 
remembrance is more grateful to the palate than is 
the actual enjoyment of the most delicate product of 
the culinary art today. 

There were times early in the war when spirits were 
issued to the soldiers as an army ration. Though 
personally I never took a drop of liquor when on duty 
during the entire of my army service, yet I am confident 
that there were times when a reasonable amount of 
stimulant was a good thing. Indeed, there were times 
when a man was a fool if he did not take it, assuming 
that he could get it. Coffee was, however, a very good 
substitute, and to the credit of the government be it 
said the coffee issued to the Union troops was almost 
invariably of excellent quality. They always had it and 
plenty of it. Such a solace as it was ! , There was noth- 
ing like it. On the march, when there was a temporary 
halt, a thousand fires would quickly blaze alongside the 
weary column, and a thousand tin cups would soon be 
steaming with the fragi-ant and delicious beverage. 



A CUP OF COFFEE 93 

Veterans could build a fire and make a cup of coffee 
almost as quickly, and under as discouraging environ- 
ments, as the traditional Irishman can light his pipe. It 
seemed to be done by magic, and there was no time and 
no place where the cup of coffee was not welcome and 
appreciated. 

There is a song, much affected by members of the 
Grand Army of the Republic. It is styled "The Army 
Bean." I could never quite make out whether it was 
not intended as a burlesque. There may be enough of 
sentiment attached to the army bean to entitle it to the 
honor of being immortalized in song, but to me it was 
an abomination, less poetic in name and association 
than the proverbial "sow-belly" bacon, so dear to the 
heart of the soldier. 

Why does not some poet, filled with the divine afflatus, 
sing the praise of the army tin cup and its precious 
contents— the fragrant coffee of the camp, and march, 
and bivouac ? Ambrosial nectar fit for the gods. The 
everyday and grateful beverage of heroes. Here is a 
theme for some modern Horace, as inspiring as the 
fruity and fragrant wine of which his ancient namesake 
so eloquently sang. I doubt if the red wine of the 
Horatian odes was more exhilarating to the Roman 
legionary than the aroma from his tin cup to the soldier 
of the Union. 

Oh, brimming, steaming, fragrant cup ! Never-fail- 
ing friend of the volunteer ! His solace in fatigue, and 
his strength in battle. To thee, I sing. 



94 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

To resume the story at the point at which this digres- 
sion left it: On the day following the night tour of 
picket duty, after having ridden from one o'clock in the 
morning till after eight o'clock in the evening, and the 
march not yet ended, I became so famished that a piece 
of raw fat pork was devoured with more relish than 
ever before I had eaten an orange. Our valiant com- 
mander, finding that morning that rations and forage 
were both exhausted, started for Falmouth, the nearest 
point at which supplies could be obtained. Late that 
Saturday night we bivouaced with the camp fires of 
Hooker's army all around. But no forethought had 
been taken; no rations were drawn or issued; no wood 
was supplied; and after three days' ride through the 
rain, many not having had a morsel of food for twenty- 
four hours, the entire command was forced to lie on the 
ground, in pools of water, in the midst of a drenching 
rain without food, or fire, or shelter of any kind what- 
ever. It was dreadful, and the experiences of that 
night are recalled even now with a shudder. It was 
like lying down in the middle of a river. There was no 
place big enough to spread a blanket, where there was 
not a puddle of water, and, all the time, the rain fell 
pitilessly, in torrents. The solace of hot coffee was 
denied, for there was no fuel. Food was gone. The 
minutes were hours. While hunger gnawed at the 
vitals, a clammy chilliness seized upon one, making 
him feel as if every vital organ was in a state of 
congestion. How daylight was longed for, and soon 



A BREAKFAST IN FALMOUTH 95 

after the first streaks of dawn began to appear, I 
deserted my watery couch and made straight across 
the country toward some infantry camps, and actually 
hugged every fragment of an ember that could be 
found. After a while I found some soldiers cooking 
coffee. One of them was taking a cup off the fire for 
his breakfast. I asked him for a drink which he sur- 
lily refused. 

"How much will you take for all there is in the cup?" 
said I, 

He did not want to sell it, but when I took out a half 
dollar and offered it to him, he took it and gave up the 
coffee, looking on with astonishment, while I swallowed 
it almost boiling hot and without taking breath. This 
revived me, and soon after, I found a place where a meal 
consisting of ham, eggs, bread and coffee, was served 
for a big price and took about a dollar's worth for 
breakfast. 

By eight o'clock, rations and forage were drawn and 
issued and men and horses were supplied with the much 
needed food. All of Sunday was spent in Falmouth 
and the "fresh" cavalrymen took a good many obser- 
vations as to how real soldiers conducted and took care 
of themselves. 

Monday morning Sir Percy started by the nearest 
route, via Acquia Creek, Stafford Court House and Fair- 
fax, for Washington, arriving there at eight o'clock 
Tuesday evening, having been absent just six days, 
accomplishing nothing. It was a big raid on govern- 



96 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ment horses, ruining a large number. Beside that, it 
made many men ill. It was a good thing though, after 
all. The men had learned what campaigning meant and, 
thereafter, knew how to provide themselves for a march, 
and how important to husband their rations so as to 
prevent waste at first and make them last as long as 
possible. 

Some idea of the damage done to horses by such raids 
as that of Sir Percy Wyndham, may be gained from 
the morning reports of officers on the day after the 
return to camp in Washington. I find that out of eigh- 
ty horses in my troop only twenty were fit for duty, 
part of which had been left in camp and did not ac- 
company the expedition. However, they quickly 
recuperated, and on the eleventh of March following, 
we were off into Virginia once more, this time bringing 
up at Fairfax Court House, where we remained a week, 
encamping by the side of the First Michigan, Fifth 
New York, and several other veteran regiments, from 
whom by observation and personal contact, much in- 
formation was gained that proved of great value during 
the following months. 

In the meantime, the camps in Washington were 
broken up and all the regiments were sent across the 
Potomac. A division of cavalry was organized, con- 
sisting of two brigades. Wyndham was sent to Hooker 
and Julius Stahel, a brigadier general who had been 
serving in Blenker's division, of Sigel's corps, in the 
army of the Potomac, was assigned to command of 



HUNGARIANS IN THE SADDLE 97 

all the cavalry in the Department of Washington, with 
headquarters at Fairfax Court House. 

Stahel was a Hungarian, and it was said had been on 
the staff of Kossuth in the Hungarian army. He was 
a " dapper little Dutchman," as everybody called him. 
His appearance was that of a natty staff officer, and 
did not fill one's ideal of a major general, or even a 
brigadier general by brevet. He affected the foreign 
style of seat on horseback, and it was ' ' as good as a 
show " to see him dash along the flank of the column 
at a rattling pace, rising in his stirrups as he rode, I 
have always believed that had he remained with the 
Third Cavalry division long enough to get into a real 
charge, like the one at Gettysburg, h« would have been 
glad enough to put aside all those "frills " and use his 
thighs to retain his seat in the saddle while he handled 
his arms. He took great pride in his messing arrange- 
ments and gave elegant "spreads " to invited guests at 
his headquarters. I was privileged to be present at one 
of these dinners and must say that he entertained in 
princely style. His staff were all foreigners, and would 
have been "dudes," only there were no "dudes" in 
those days. Dudes were types of the genus homo 
evolved at a later period. They were dandies and no 
mistake, but in that respect had no advantage over him, 
for he could vie in style with the best of them. One 
member of his staff was a Hungarian who answered to 
the name of Figglemezzy, and only the other day I read 
a notice of his death recently in New York. Stahel is 



98 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

still living— one of the very few surviving major gen- 
erals of the civil war. * 

It is a pity we did not have a chance to see Stahel in 
a fight, for I have an idea he was brave, and it takes 
away in an instant any feeling of prejudice you may 
have against a man on account of his being fussy in 
dress, when you see him face death or danger without 
flinching. Fine clothes seem to fit such a man, but 
upon one who cannot stand fire they become a proper 
subject for ridicule. Custer with flashing eye and 
flowing hair, charging at the head of his men, was a 
grand and picturesque figure, the more so by reason 
of his fantastic uniform, which made him a conspicuous 
mark for the enemy's bullets, but a coward in Custer's 
uniform would have become the laughing stock of the 
army. So Stahel might, perhaps, have won his way to 
confidence, had he remained with the cavalry division 
which afterwards achieved fame under Kilpatrick and 
Custer but, at the first moment when there was serious 
work ahead for his command, he was relieved, and an- 
other wore the spurs and received the laurels that might 
have been his. 

Leaving Washington at daylight, we went into camp 
about five miles out, expecting to remain there for a 
time, but had just time to prepare breakfast when an 
order came to report to Lieutenant Colonel Alger who, 
with the four largest troops in the regiment, was going 

* September. 1907. 



THE AIR FULL OF RUMORS 99 

off on an independent expedition. That evening we 
reached Vienna, a little town on the Loudoun railroad, 
where we found a small force, including two troops of 
the First Vermont cavalry, already on duty. This was 
our first acquaintance with the Green Mountain boys, 
and the friendship thus begun was destined to last as 
long as there was an enemy in arms against the Union. 
The First Vermont was sometimes referred to as the 
"Eighth Michigan," so close were the ties which bound 
it to the Michigan brigade. And they always seemed 
to be rather proud of the designation. 

Assuming command of all the forces there, Colonel 
Alger informed us that General Stahel had information 
that the place was to be attacked that night and that 
we were there to defend it. Selecting a strong posi- 
tion on a hill, a camp was started, but no fires were 
allowed after dark. Vigilance was not relaxed, but no 
enemy appeared, and on the following day we went on 
a scout through all the region roundabout without en- 
countering a single armed confederate. The air was 
full of rumors. Nobody could tell their origin. Fitz- 
hugh Lee was a few miles away, coming with a big 
force. "Stonewall" Jackson had started on another 
raid, and any moment might see his gray " foot-caval- 
ry" swarming into the vicinity. Such stories were 
poured into our ears at Vienna, but a couple of days' 
duty there demonstrated their falsity and we were hur- 
ried back to Fairfax Court House and sent off on a day 
and night march through the Loudoun Valley to Aldie, 



100 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Middleburg and Ashby's Gap in the Blue Ridge moun- 
tains. Two entire regiments, the Fifth Michigan under 
Colonel Alger and the Sixth under Colonel Gray, went 
on this expedition, reaching Aldie at midnight, in a 
blinding snow-storm. Remaining out in it all night 
without shelter or fire, the next day we made a gallant 
* ' charge ' ' through Middleburg, finding no enemy there 
but a few of Mosby's men who fled at our approach. 
During the day some of them were captured and one 
man of troop "C," Sixth was killed. It was evident 
that Lee's army, no portion of it, had begun a move- 
ment northward, and the two regiments returned to 
Fairfax, making a night march while the snow con- 
tinued to fall and mud and slush made the going as bad 
as it could be. At two o'clock in the morning the column 
halted and an attempt was made to build camp-fires, 
but the logs and rails were so wet that they would not 
burn, and all hands stood around in the snow, stamping 
their feet and swinging their arms, in a futile effort to 
keep warm. The march was resumed at daylight. We 
were more comfortable when in the saddle, on the 
march, than during that early morning bivouac. It 
was possible to sleep, when snugly settled in the capa- 
cious McClellan saddles, but when dismounted, sleep 
was out of the question. There was no place to lie 
down and to stand in the snow only aggravated the dis- 
comfort. But when mounted, the men would pull the 
capes of their overcoats over their heads, drop their 
chins upon their breasts and sleep. The horses plodded 



ON CAMP-MEETING HILL 101 

along and doubtless were asleep too, doing their work 
as a somnambulist might, walking while they slept. 

Soon thereafter, Colonel Alger with five troops (troop 
"B," commanded by Captain Peter A. Weber, having 
been added to the four that were with him at Vienna) 
was sent to a place called "Camp Meeting Hill," where 
a camp was established that proved to be a permanent 
one. At least, we remained there until Hooker's army 
moved northward. This was a delightful place. The 
tents were pitched in a grove of large timber on a piece 
of ground that was high and dry, sloping off in every 
direction. It was by the side of the pike running south 
from Vienna, two miles from that place, close to the 
Leesburg pike and the Loudoun railroad. A semi-circu- 
lar line of pickets was established in front of Wash- 
ington, the right and left resting on the Potomac, 
above and below the city respectively. Our detach- 
ment guarded the extreme right of the line. Colonel 
Gray was five miles to the left, with the remainder of 
the Sixth, and the Fifth still farther away in that 
direction. About two miles in front of our camp ran 
the "Diflficult" Creek, a small, deep stream with 
difficult banks, that rises somewhere in the Bull Run 
country, and empties into the Potomac near the Great 
Falls above Washington. A line of videttes was 
posted along this creek. An enemy could not easily 
surprise them, as the stream was in their front. Well 
out toward this line from the main camp, two reserves 
were established, commanded by captains, and still 



102 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

farther out smaller reserves, under charge of the lieu- 
tenants and sergeants. Each troop had a tour of this 
duty, twenty-four hours on and forty-eight off. The 
"off" days were given to reading, writing and explor- 
ing the country oil horseback. 

It was a charming region, not much desolated by the 
war, being rather out of the beaten track of the armies. 
Parties of officers often used to take a run across country 
to Gray's camp, clearing fences and ditches as they 
went. In these expeditions, Colonel Alger was always 
the leader with Captain Weber a close second. On one 
of these gallopades, he and Weber, who were riding in 
advance, cleared a stream full of water and about eight 
or nine feet wide, but when I tried to follow, my horse 
jumped into instead of across the ditch, the water 
coming up to the saddle-girths. The two lucky horse- 
men on the other side halted and had a good laugh at 
my expense while steed and I were scrambling out the 
best way we could. My horse was a noble fellow and 
jumped with all his might when called upon, but lacked 
judgment, and would leap twice as high as was neces- 
sary, while falling short of making his distance. He 
rarely failed at a fence, but ditches were a source of 
dread to horse and man. 

The Difficult Creek duty was a sort of romantic epi- 
sode in our military experience— a delightful green 
oasis in the dry desert of hard work, exposure, danger 
and privation. Many pleasant acquaintances were 
made and time passed merrily. Just across the pike 



VIRGINIA HOSPITALITY 103 

was a spacious farm house, occupied by a family who 
were staunch unionists, and who had been made to pay 
well for their loyalty when the confederates were in 
the neighborhood. It was said that Lord Fairfax, the 
friend of Washington, had at one time lived there. The 
place had about it an air of generous hospitality that 
would have become Colonial days. The officers were 
always welcomed, and it was a favorite resort for them 
when off duty, partly because the people v/ere union- 
ists, and partly for the reason that there were several 
very agreeable young ladies there. One of these, who 
lived in Connecticut, was the fiancee of a captain in the 
First Vermont cavalry, whose command was stationed 
there. Another was at home and it may be surmised 
that these ladies received the assiduous attentions of 
half a score, more or less, of the young fellows, who 
proved themselves thorough cavaliers in gallantry as 
well as in arms. There was no day when the two 
ladies might not be seen under the escort of half a 
dozen cavalrymen, exploring the country on horseback. 
On all these excursions Weber, handsome as he was 
brave, was a leading spirit, and succeeded in captivat- 
ing the ladies with the charm of his manners, his good 
looks, his splendid horsemanship and his pleasing ad- 
dress. It was enough to make one forget the mission 
that brought him into the South to see him with two or 
more ladies by his side galloping gaily over the mag- 
nificent roads for which that part of Virginia was 
remarkable. Then there were picnics, lunches, dancing 



104 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

parties and other diversions to fill in the time. Once 
one of these parties ventured across the Difficult Creek 
and rode '' betv/een the lines, " going as far as Draines- 
ville— eight miles distant— in Mosby's own territory. 
When the lieutenant colonel commanding learned of 
this, he reprimanded the officers concerned for what he 
was pleased to term an act of ' * f oolhardiness, " 

While stationed at this place one of the young officers 
was taken ill with fever, and our friends across the 
way had him brought to the house, where everything 
that good nursing and kind attention could suggest was 
done for him. He was reported very ill and the surgeon 
said that he was threatened with typhoid fever. A day 
or two after his removal to the house, I called upon him 
expecting to find him very low. What was my surprise, 
on being ushered into a spacious, well-furnished apart- 
ment, to find him propped up on a bed, with a wealth 
of snowy pillows and an unmistakable look of conva- 
lescence, while two good-looking ladies sat, one on either 
side of his couch, each holding one of his hands in 
hers, while he was submitting to the ' ' treatment ' * 
with an air of undisguised resignation. It may be 
noted that this was before the days of ' ' Christian 
Science." I felt no anxiety about him after that, and 
returning immediately to camp, wrote to his father 
stating that if he should hear any rumors that his son 
was not doing well, to place no reliance upon them, for 
he was doing very well indeed. This young officer had 
the good fortune to survive the war, and is still living. 



VISITED BY THE GOVERNOR 105 

During the sojourn at Difficult Creek Governor Blair 
visited the camp. He rode over in the morning on 
horseback and made an odd-looking appearance in his 
citizen's suit and well-worn silk hat. He remained all 
day, made a speech to the soldiers and after supper 
took an ambulance and was escorted by Colonel Alger 
and myself back to Washington, fourteen miles away. 
It was a very enjoyable and memorable ride. The war 
governor was full of anecdote and a good talker and 
his companions listened with the liveliest interest to 
what he had to say about Michigan, her people and her 
soldiers. He was very solicitous about the welfare of 
the troops, and impressed one as an able, patriotic man, 
who was doing all he possibly could to hold up the hands 
of the government and to provide for the Michigan men 
in the field. We left him at the National hotel and 
early the next morning returned to our posts of duty. 

About this time, rumors were rife of a projected move- 
ment of Lee's aiTny northward. Washington and Alex- 
andria alternated in spasms of fear. Twice, what 
seemed like well-authenticated reports came from the 
former place that Stuart had passed through our lines. 
Chain Bridge was torn up and all the negroes in Alexan- 
dria were out digging rifle-pits. Our force was captured 
repeatedly (without our knowledge) and awful dangers 
threatened us, according to Washington authority. 
These, and many other equally false reports filled the air. 
They were probably the result of logical inferences 
from the actual situation. The time had arrived when 



106 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

active hostilities must soon begin, and what more nat- 
ural than to suppose that Lee would inaugurate the fray 
by another invasion of the North? Among the letters 
that I wrote to my parents about that time one or two 
were preserved, and under date of June 1, 1863, 1 wrote 
to my mother a note, the following extract from which 
will serve to show that there was in our minds a sort of 
prophetic intuition of what was going to happen. Re- 
ferring to the false rumors that were not only coming 
to our ears from these various sources, but even appear- 
ing in the Northern papers, I said: 

"That Lee will attempt to raid into the North, after the man- 
ner of * Stonewall ' Jackson, is possible, perhaps probable, but 
when he comes we shall hear of it before he wakes up President 
Lincoln to demand that the keys to the White House be turned 
over to 'Jeff ' Davis. Besides having an efficient and perfect line 
of pickets, scouts are out daily in our front, so that the idea of the 
rebel army reaching Washington without our knowledge is prepos- 
terous. Lee may make a rapid march through the Shenandoah 
Valley, and thence into Pennsylvania and Maryland, but nothing 
would please the Union army more than to have him make the at- 
tempt." 

Three weeks after the date of that letter. Hooker's 
army was in motion to head off Lee, who had started 
to do the very thing thus hinted at, and there was not a 
soldier in the federal army of Virginia who did not feel, 
if he gave the matter any thought, that the confederate 
chief had made a fatal mistake, and rejoice at the op- 
portunity to meet him, since meet him we must, outside 



MAJOR NOAH H. FERRY 107 

his intrenchments and the jungles of Virginia. That 
Stahel's men were wilHng to do their part was proven 
by their conduct in the campaign that followed. 

Early in June a thing happened that brought a feel- 
ing of gloom into the little camp. Colonel Norvell of 
the Fifth having resigned, the officers of that regiment 
united in a petition to the governor to appoint an out- 
sider to the vacancy. Governor Blair selected Lieuten- 
ant Colonel Alger. Indeed, that was probably part of 
his business on the occasion of his recent visit. Col- 
onel Alger was ordered to report immediately for duty 
with his new command, and left, taking with him the 
hearty congratulations and good wishes of all his com- 
rades of the Sixth. But their regret at losing him was 
profound. They did not know how to spare him. It 
gave him more rank and a larger field of usefulness. 
Major Thaddeus Foote assumed command of the de- 
tachment. 

This reference to the Fifth reminds me of Noah H. 
Ferry and a night ride in his company, about the time 
of Colonel Alger's promotion. I had been over to Col- 
onel Gray's camp with some message to him from 
Colonel Alger, and meeting Major Ferry, who was field 
officer of the day, he said he was to start that night 
and inspect the entire picket line of the brigade, about 
fourteen or fifteen miles long and invited me to accom- 
pany him. He would reach the Difficult outpost in the 
morning, making an all night ride. I gladly accepted 
the invitation, both for the ride and to see the country. 



108 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Major Ferry then in his prime, was a strong, vigorous, 
wholesome-looking man, with a ruddy complexion and 
bright eye, a man of excellent habits and correct 
principles. He told me that night what sacrifices he 
had made to go into the army. His business had 
cleared that year, $70,000, and with the right sort of 
management ought to go on prosperously. His leav- 
ing it had thrown the entire burden, his work as well as 
their own, upon the shoulders of his brothers. He had 
everything to make life desirable,— wealth, social posi- 
tion, youth, health, —there was nothing to be desired, 
yet he felt it to be his duty to give it all up to enter the 
service of his country. He talked very freely of his 
affairs, and seemed to be weighing in the balances his 
duty to himself and family. His patriotic feelings 
gained the mastery, however, every time, and he talked 
earnestly of the matter, —protesting that our duty to 
the government in its sore strait ought to outweigh all 
other considerations. It was clear that a struggle had 
been going on in his mind, and that he had resolutely 
determined to go on and meet his fate, whatever it 
might be, and when he was killed a few weeks after- 
wards at Gettysburg, I recalled the conversation of that 
night and wondered if he had not a presentiment of his 
coming fate, for he seemed so grave and preoccupied, 
and profoundly impressed with a sense of the great 
sacrifice he was making, A soldier neither by profes- 
sion nor from choice, he wore the uniform of the Union 
because he could not conscientiously shirk the duty he 



THE MARCH INTO MARYLAND 109 

felt that he owed the government, and rehnquished 
fortune, home, ambition, hfe itself, for the cause of the 
Union. 

Some time about the middle of June, the picket line 
was taken up. Major Foote's detachment was ordered 
to report to Colonel Gray, and Stahel's division was 
concentrated at Fairfax Court House. The rumors of 
the movements of armies had become realities. Lee 
was in motion. The army of Northern Virginia was 
trying to steal a march on its great adversary. Long 
columns of gray were stealthily passing through the 
Shenandoah Valley to invade the North, and to be on 
hand to help the farmers of Pennsylvania and Mary- 
land reap their golden harvests. 

But the alert federal commander, gallant ' ' Fighting 
'Joe' Hooker," was not caught napping. Lee did 
not escape from Fredericksburg unobserved. The 
army of the Potomac cavalry was sent to guard the 
passes in the mountains and see to it that Jackson's 
and Longstreet's maneuvers of the previous summer 
were not repeated, while six corps of infantry marched 
leisurely toward the fords of the Potomac, ready to 
cross into Maryland as soon as it should appear that 
Lee was actually bent on invasion of Northern soil. 
Hooker's opportunity had come and he saw it. For 
Lee to venture into Pennsylvania, was to court destruc- 
tion. All felt that, and it was with elastic step and 
buoyant spirits, that the veterans of Williamsburg and 
Fair Oaks, of Antietam and Chancellorsville, kept step 



110 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to the music of the Union, as they moved toward the 
land where the flag was still honored, and where they 
would be among friends. All the troops in the Depart- 
ment of Washington were set in motion by Hooker 
as soon as he arrived where they were. His plan 
was to concentrate everything in front of Lee, believing 
that the best way to protect Washington was to destroy 
the confederate army. Stahel was ordered to report to 
General Reynolds, who commanded the left grand 
division of Hooker's army, and who was to have the 
post of honor, the advance, and to lose his life while 
leading the vanguard of the federal army in the very 
beginning of the battle of Gettysburg. Thus it hap- 
pened that we were at last, part and parcel of that 
historic army whose fame will last as long as the 
history of heroic deeds and patriotic endeavor. 

Hooker's policy did not coincide with the views of 
the slow and cautious Halleck, and so the former 
resigned, thus cutting short a career of extraordinary 
brilliancy just on the eve of his greatest success. It 
was a fatal mistake for Hooker. I have always 
beUeved that, had he remained in command, the battle 
of Gettysburg would have been the Appomattox of the 
Civil War. Such an opportunity as was there pre- 
sented, he had never had before. Even in the 
wilderness around Chancellorsville, where his well laid 
plans miscarried through no fault of his own, he was 
stopped only by a series of accidents from crushing his 
formidable adversary. The dense woods prevented the 



' ' FIGHTING JOE ' ' HOOKER 111 

cooperation of the various corps; the audacity of Jack- 
son turned defeat for Lee into temporary victory; and 
to crown this chapter of accidents, Hooker himself was 
injured so as to be incapacitated for command, at the 
very moment when quick action was indispensable. 

Now the conditions were changed. Jackson, the 
ablest of all the confederate generals, was dead, and 
the army of the Potomac, greatly reinforced, was to 
meet the army of Northern Virginia, materially weak- 
ened, where they could have an open field and a fair 
fight. Every step that Hooker had taken, from the 
time when he broke camp in Falmouth until he, in a fit 
of disgust at Halleck's obstinacy, tendered his resigna- 
tion at Frederick, Maryland, had shown a comprehen- 
sive grasp of the situation that inspired the whole army 
with confidence. The moment that Lee decided to fight 
the army of the Potomac on grounds of its own 
choosing, and to fight an offensive battle, he was 
foredoomed to defeat, no matter who commanded the 
federal army. Hooker possessed the very qualifications 
that Meade lacked — the same fierce energy that 
characterized Sheridan — the ability to follow up and 
take advantage of a beaten enemy. With Hooker in 
command, Gettysburg would have been Lee's Waterloo. 

Sunday, June 21, heavy cannonading in the direc- 
tion of the passes in the Blue Ridge mountains, 
proclaimed that the battle was raging. Pleasanton's 
cavalry had encountered Stuart and Fitzhugh Lee at 
Middleburg and a fierce engagement resulted. Our 



112 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

division left Fairfax at an early hour, and all supposed 
that it would go towards the sound of battle. Not so, 
however. Stahel, with as fine a body of horse as was 
ever brought together, marched to Warrenton, thence 
to Fredericksburg, scouting over the entire intermedi- 
ate country, encountering no enemy, and all the time 
the boom of cannon was heard, showing plainly where 
the enemy was. We were out three days on this scout, 
going to Kelly's Ford, Gainesville, Bealton Station, and 
traversing the ground where Pope's battle of the 
Second Bull Run was fought, returning by the most 
direct route to the right of Warrenton. The march was 
so rapid that the trains were left behind and a good 
portion of the time we were without forage or food. 
The horses were fed but once on the trip. Rains had 
fallen, laying the dust, the weather was charming and 
it was very enjoyable. One road over which we passed 
was lined with old cherry trees of the * * Black Tarta- 
rian" and "Morello" varieties, and they were bowing 
beneath their loads of ripe and luscious fruit with 
which the men supplied themselves by breaking off the 
limbs. We passed over much historic ground and were 
greatly interested in the points where the armies had 
contended at different times. 



CHAPTER XI 

IN THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN 

A FTER one day of rest from the fatigues of the re- 
-*^ connoissance referred to in the previous chapter, 
at two o'clock Thursday morning, June 25, the bugles 
sounded ''To Horse," and we bade a final adieu to the 
places which had known us in that part of the theater 
of war. The division moved out at daylight. The 
head of column turned toward Edwards Ferry, on 
the Potomac river, where Baker fell in 1861. The Sixth 
was detailed as rear guard. The march was slow, the 
roads being blocked v/ith wagons, artillery, ambulances, 
and the other usual impedimenta of a body of troops in 
actual service, for it was then apparent that the whole 
army was moving swiftly into Maryland. 

At Vienna the regiment stopped to feed, not being 
able to move while "waiting for the wagon ; " in other 
words, until all other troops had cleared the way for the 
rear guard. Vienna was not far from Camp-meeting 
Hill, so Captain Weber and I obtained permission to 
ride over and call on our friends in that neighborhood, 
intending to overtake the regiment at noon. This ride 
took us two or three miles off the road on which the 
various commands were marching. 



114 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Camp-meetin.? Hill looked like a deserted village, 
with no soldiers near and no sign of war. We found 
our friends rather blue at the thought of being aban- 
doned and, as good-by was said, it was with a feeling 
that we might never meet again. Weber, gallant as 
ever, waved his hand to the ladies as he rode away, 
calling back in a cheery voice that he would come again, 
"when this cruel war is over." Resuming our journey, 
a little apprehensive of encountering some of Mosby's 
men, we were fortunate enough to meet ten troopers of 
the First Michigan going across the country to join the 
division. Hurrying on through Dranesville, at a little 
before noon we overtook the Fifth Michigan cavalry, 
from whom we learned that we were up with the ad- 
vance and that our own regiment was far in rear. 
Selecting a comfortable place, we unsaddled our horses 
and lighting our pipes, threw ourselves down on the 
green grass, and for hours sat waiting while mile after 
mile of army wagons and artillery passed. Most of the 
infantry had gone on the day before, but I remember 
distinctly seeing a portion of the Twelfth corps, en 
route. I recall especially General A. S. ("Pap") Wil- 
liams and General Geary, both of whom commanded 
divisions in that corps. At six o'clock in the evening 
we went to a farm house and had a supper prepared 
but had not had time to pay our respects to it when by 
the aid of my field glass I saw the advance of the regi- 
ment coming. It was the rear guard of a column that 
was seven hours passing a given point. 



FORDING THE POTOMAC RIVER 115 

It was after dark when the regiment reached the ford 
at Edwards Ferry. The night was cloudy and there 
was no moon. The river was nearly, if not quite, a 
mile wide, the water deep and the current strong. The 
only guide to the proper course was to follow those in 
advance; but, as horse succeeded horse, they were grad- 
ually borne farther and farther down the stream, away 
from the ford and into deeper water. By the time the 
Sixth reached the river the water was nearly to the tops 
of the saddles. Marching thus through the inky dark- 
ness, guided mostly by the sound of plashing hoofs in 
front, there was imminent danger of being swept away 
and few, except the most reckless, drew a long breath 
until the distance had been traversed and our steeds 
were straining up the slippery bank upon the opposite 
shore. 

Safely across the river, the column did not halt for 
rest or food, but pushed on into Maryland. To add to 
the discomfort, a drizzling rain set in. The guide lost 
his way, and it was two o'clock in the morning when 
the rear guard halted for a brief bivouac in a piece of 
woods, near Pooiesville. Wet, weary, hungry and 
chilled, as they were, it was enough to dispirit the brav- 
est men. But there was no murmuring, and at day- 
light, the march was resumed. 

That day (26) we passed the First army corps, com- 
manded by the lamented Reynolds, and reached the 
village of Frederick as the sun was setting. The clouds 
had cleared away, and a more enchanting vision never 



116 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALPwY 

met human eye than that which appeared before us as 
we debouched from the narrow defile up which the road 
from lower Maryland ran, on the commanding heights 
that overlooked the valley. The town was in the center 
of a most charming and fertile country, and around it 
thousands of acres of golden grain were waving in the 
sunlight. The rain of the early morning had left in 
the atmosphere a mellow haze of vapor which reflected 
the sun's rays in tints that softly blended with the 
summer colorings of the landscape. An exclamation 
of surprise ran along the column as each succeeding 
trooper came in sight of this picture of Nature's own 
painting. 

But more pleasing still, were the evidences of loyalty 
which greeted us on every hand, as we entered the 
village. The stars and stripes floated above many 
buildings, while from porch and window, from old and 
young, came manifestations of welcome. The men 
received us with cheers, the women with smiles and 
waving of handkerchiefs. That night we were per- 
mitted to go into camp and enjoy a good rest, in the 
midst of plenty and among friends. 

On Saturday morning (27) much refreshed, with 
horses well fed and groomed and haversacks replenished, 
the Fifth and Sixth moved on toward Emmittsburg, the 
Seventh having gone through the Catoctin Valley by 
another road. The march was through the camps of 
thousands of infantry just starting in the same direc- 
tion. Among the distinguished generals who were 



AMONG THE PENNSYLVANIA "DUTCH" 117 

leading the advance, I remember, particularly, Reynolds 
and Doubleday. During the day it was a constant 
succession of fertile fields and leafy woods. Commodious 
farm-houses on every hand and evidences of plenty 
everywhere, we reveled in the richness and overflowing 
abundance of the land. There were "oceans" of 
apple-butter and great loaves of snow-white bread that 
"took the cake" over anything that came within the 
range of my experience. These loaves were baked in 
brick ovens, out of doors, and some of them looked as 
big as peck measures. A slice cut from one of them 
and smeared thick with that delicious apple-butter, 
was a feast fit for gods or men. And then the milk, 
and the oats for the horses, and everything that hungry 
man or beast could wish for. Those were fat days and 
that was a fat country, such as the Iraelitish scouts 
who went over into the land of Canaan never looked 
upon or dreamed of. 

To be sure we had to pay for what we had. Especial- 
ly after we crossed over into Pennsylvania among the 
frugal Dutch was this the case. But their charges were 
not exhorbitant, and so long as we had a dollar, it was 
cheerfully parted with for their food. But it seemed a 
little hard for the Michiganders to be there defending 
the homes of those opulent farmers, while they, so far 
from taking up the musket to aid in driving out the 
army that was invading their soil, were seemingly un- 
willing to contribute a cent, though I may have mis- 
judged them. 



118 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

It looked odd, too, to see so many able-bodied men at 
home, pursuing their ordinary avocations, with no 
thought of enlisting, while a hostle army was at their 
very doors. It looked so to the soldiers who had been 
serving in Virginia, and who knew that in the South, 
every man able to bear arms was compelled to do so, 
and that within the lines of the confederacy, the cradle 
and the grave were robbed to fill the ranks. Lee, with 
a hundred thousand men was somewhere in that region, 
we knew and they knew. We were searching for him 
and the time was close at hand when the two armies 
must come into contact, and oceans of blood would flow, 
before the confederates could be driven from Northern 
soil. The government was calling loudly for reinforce- 
ments of short time men to serve for the immediate 
emergency. Yet, these selfish farmers would drive as 
sharp a bargain, and figure as closely on the weight and 
price of an article supplied to the federal troops, as 
though they had never heard of war. Indeed, I believe 
many of them knew little about what was going on. 
Their world was the little Eden in which they passed 
their daily lives— the neighborhood in which they lived. 
They were a happy and bucolic people, contented to exist 
and accumulate, with no ambition beyond that; and 
while loyal to the government, in the sense that 
they obeyed its laws and would have scorned to enter 
into a conspiracy to destroy it, yet they possesssed 
little of that patriotism which inspires men to serve 
and make sacrifices for their country. 



SUNDAY BEFORE THE BATTLE 119 

On Sunday morning, June 28, 1863, the two regi- 
ments, having passed the night in camp near the 
Pennsylvania Hne, resumed the march and passed 
through the town of Emmittsburg. It was a httle 
place, with scarce more than a thousand inhabitants, 
but with several churches, an academy, an institute for 
girls, and a little to the northeast Mount St. Mary's 
college, a Catholic institution, founded in 1808. Like 
everything else, thereabouts, it had a solid, substantial 
appearance. 

So quiet was it, that it seemed like sacrilege to dis- 
turb the serenity of that Sabbath day. The sanctuaries 
stood invitingly in the way, and one could in fancy, 
almost hear the peal of the organ, as the choir chanted, 
"Gloria in excelsis"— Glory be to God on high and on 
earth peace, good will to men— and the voice of the 
preacher, as he read: ''And they shall beat their 
swords into plowshares and their spears into prun- 
ing-Iiooks. " 

But our mission was, if possible, to find out v/hat Lee 
and Longstreet, Ewell and Stuart were doing on that 
holy day. It required no prophet to predict that it 
would not be to them a day of rest, but that they 
would be more than ever active to carry out the schemes 
that for the federal army meant great hurt and mis- 
chief. Little that was positive was knov/n of Lee's 
movements, but it was reported that he had pushed on 
north with his whole army, and was now in dangerous 
proximity to Harrisburg. His line of march had been 



120 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to the west of Hooker's and as he was so far north, 
it was evident that we were making directly for his 
communications, in rear of his army. A tyro in the art 
of war could see that much of the strategy that was go- 
ing on. Would Lee allow that and go on to Baltimore, 
or turn and meet the army that Hooker was massing 
against him? That was the question. 

Taking the Emmittsburg pike, Copeland with the two 
regiments pushed on to Gettysburg. Thus it was, that 
the Fifth and Sixth Michigan regiments of cavalry had 
the honor of being the first Union troops to enter the 
place that was destined so soon to give its name to one 
of the great battles of history. The road from Em- 
mittsburg to Gettysburg ran between Seminary 
Ridge on the left and Cemetery Ridge and Round Top 
on the right. It was a turnpike, and as we marched 
over it one could not help noticing the strategic im- 
portance of the commanding heights on either side. I 
remember well the impression made on my mind at the 
time by the rough country off to the right. This was 
Round Top and Little Round Top where such desperate 
fighting was done three days later. We passed close to 
the .historic "Peach Orchard" and over the fish-hook 
shaped Cemetery Hill at the bend; then descended 
into the town which nestled at the foot of these rocky 
eminences. 

Before we reached the town it was apparent that 
something unusual was going on. It was a gala day. 
The people were out in force, and in their Sunday 



FIFTH AND SIXTH IN GETTYSBURG 121 

attire to welcome the troopers in blue. The church 
bells rang out a joyous peal, and dense masses of 
beaming faces filled the streets, as the narrow col- 
umn of fours threaded its way through their 
midst. Lines of men stood on either side, with 
pails of water or apple-butter, and passed a "sand- 
wich" to each soldier as he passed. At intervals of a 
few feet, were bevies of women and girls, who handed 
up bouquets and wreaths of flowers. By the time the 
center of the town was reached, every man had a bunch 
of flowers in his hand, or a wreath around his neck. 
Some even had their horses decorated, and the one who 
did not get a share was a very modest trooper, indeed. 
The people were overjoyed, and received us with an 
enthusiasm and a hospitality born of full hearts. They 
had seen enough of the gray to be anxious to welcome 
the blue. Their throats grew hoarse with the cheers 
that they sent up in honor of the coming of the 
Michigan cavalrymen. The freedom of the city was 
extended. Every door stood open, or the latch-string 
hung invitingly out. 

Turning to the right, the command went into camp a 
little outside the town, in a field where the horses were 
up to their knees in clover, and it made the poor, 
famished animals fairly laugh. That night a squadron 
was sent out about two miles to picket on each diverg- 
ing road. It was my duty with two troops (" E " and 
" H ") to guard the " Cashtown " pike, and a very vivid 
remembrance is yet retained of the "vigil long" of 



122 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

that July night, during which I did not once leave the 
saddle, dividing the time between the reserve post and 
the line of videttes. No enemy appeared, however, 
and on Monday (June 29) the Michigan regiments 
returned to Emmittsburg, the first cavalry division 
coming up to take their place in Gettysburg. In this 
way it came to pass that heroic John Buford, instead of 
the Fifth and Sixth Michigan, had the honor of meet- 
ing the confederate advance on July first. 

Before leaving Gettysburg it was learned that many 
changes had taken place.* Hooker had been succeeded 
in command of the army by Meade, one of the best and 
most favorably known of the more prominent generals. 
It looked like "swapping horses when crossing a 
stream." Something that touched us more closely, 
however, was the tidings that Stahel and Copeland had 
been relieved and that Judson Kilpatrick, colonel of the 
Second New York (Harris Light) cavalry had been 
promoted to brigadier general and assigned to command 
of the Third division, by which designation it was 
thenceforth to be known. He was a West Pointer, had 
the reputation of being a hard fighter, and was known 
as "The hero of Middleburg." Captain Custer of 
Pleasanton's staff had also received a star and was to 
command the Michigan brigade, to be designated as 
the Second brigade. Third division, cavalry corps, army 
of the Potomac. Of him we knew but little except that 

* Official Records, Series 1. Vol. XXVII. Part III. page 276. 



THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE 123 

he hailed from Monroe, Michigan, was a graduate of 
West Point, had served with much credit on the staffs 
of McClellan and Pleasanton, and that he, too, was a 
"fighter." None of us had ever seen either of them. 
General Copeland turned the two regiments over to 
Colonel Gray and went away with his staff. I never 
saw him afterwards. 

The Michigan brigade* had been strengthened by 
adding the First Michigan cavalry, a veteran regiment 
that had seen much service in the Shenandoah valley 
under Banks, and the Second Bull Run campaign with 
Pope. It was organized in 1861, and went out under 
Colonel T. F. Brodhead, a veteran of the Mexican war, 
who was brevetted for gallantry at Contreras and 
Cherubusco, while serving as lieutenant in the Fifteenth 

* The Michigan cavalry brigade was the outgrowth of the reorganization of 
the Federal cavalry that followed Lee's invasion of the North and Hooker's conse- 
quent movement into Maryland. It consisted originally, as has been shown, of 
three regiments— the Fifth. Sixth and Seventh. They were all organized in 1862, 
spent the winter of 1862-53 in camp on Meridian and Capitol Hills. Washington, D. 
C, and during the spring months of the latter year, were engaged in doing outpost 
duty in Fairfax County, Va., within the defenses of Washington. They were, 
therefore, in the language of another. " fresh from pastures green" when General 
Hooker, en route to Maryland in June, 1863. picked them up in passing and made 
them a part of that grand Army of the Potomac which, on the battle-field of Get- 
tysburg, wo'i a renown as lasting as history itself. 

The commanding officer was Brigadier General J. T. Copeland, a Michigan 
man. promoted from the colonelcy of the Fifth. The battalion commanders were, 
respectively. Colonels Russell A. Alger, George Gray and William D. Mann. The 
first had seen service in the Second Michigan as captain and major, under Colonels 
Gordon Granger and P. H. Sheridan; the last in the First Michigan, under Brod- 
head and Town. Colonel Gray was appointed from civil life, and was having his 
first experience of " war's"rude alarums." 



124 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

United States infantry. He was mortally wounded 
August 30, 1862, at Bull Run. His successor was C. H. 
Town, then colonel of the regiment. He also was 
severely wounded in the same charge wherein Brod- 
head lost his life. There had also been added to the 
brigade light battery "M", Second United States 
artillery, consisting of six rifled pieces, and commanded 
by Lieutenant A. C. M. Pennington. 

The Third division was now ordered to concentrate in 
the vicinity of Littlestown, to head off Stuart, who, 
having made a detour around the rear of the army of 
the Potomac, crossed the river below Edwards Ferry on 
Sunday night, June 28, and with three brigades under 
Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee and Chambliss, and a train of 
captured wagons, was moving northward, looking for 
the army of Northern Virginia, between which and 
himself was Meade's entire army. On Monday night 
he was in camp between Union Mills and Westminster, 
on the Emmittsburg and Baltimore pike, about equi- 
distant from Emmittsburg and Gettysburg. Kilpatrick 
at Littlestown would be directly on Stuart's path, the 
direction of the latter' s march indicating that he also 
was making for Littlestown, which place is on a direct 
line from Union Mills to Gettysburg. 

All day of Monday, June 29, the two regiments (Fifth 
and Sixth Michigan) were scouting south and east of 
Gettysburg. Nor did the march end with the day. All 
night we were plodding our weary way along, sleeping 
in the saddle or, when the column in front would halt, 



THE THIRD CAVALRY DIVISION 125 

every trooper dismounting, and thrusting his arm 
through the bridle rein, would lie down directly in front 
of his horse, in the road, and fall into a profound slum- 
ber. The horses too would stand with drooping heads, 
noses almost touching their riders' faces, eyes closed, 
nodding, but otherwise giving no sign, and careful not 
to step on or injure the motionless figures at their feet. 
The sound of horses' hoofs moving in front served to 
arouse the riders when they would successively remount 
and move on again. 

On the morning of June 30, Kilpatrick's command 
was badly scattered. A part of it, including the First 
and Seventh Michigan and Pennington's battery, was 
at Abbottstown a few miles north of Hanover; Farns- 
worth's brigade at Littlestown, seven miles southwest 
of Hanover. The Fifth and Sixth Michigan arrived at 
Littlestown at daylight. 

The early morning hours were consumed in scouring 
the country in all directions, and information soon came 
in to the effect that Stuart was moving toward Hanover. 
Farnsworth with the First brigade left Littlestown for 
that place at about nine or ten o'clock in the forenoon. 
The portion of the division that was in the vicinity of 
Abbottstown was also ordered to Hanover. The Fifth 
and Sixth Michigan were left, for a time, in Littlestown, 
troop "A" of the Sixth, under Captain Thompson, 
going on a reconnoissance toward Westminster, and 
Colonel Alger with the Fifth on a separate road. 
The Sixth remained in the town until a citizen came 



126 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

running in, about noon, reporting a large force of the 
enemy, about five miles out toward Hanover. This was 
Fitzhugh Lee's brigade, and to understand the situa- 
tion, it will be necessary briefly to describe how 
Stuart was marching. When he turned off the Balti- 
more pike, some seven miles southeast of Littlestown, 
he had ten miles due north to travel before reaching 
Hanover. From Littlestown to Hanover is seven 
miles, the road running northeasterly, making the 
third side of a right-angled triangle. Thus, Stuart had 
the longer distance to go, and Kilpatrick had no dif- 
ficulty in reaching Hanover first. Stuart marched 
with Chambliss leading, Hampton in rear, the trains 
sandwiched between the two brigades, and Fitzhugh 
Lee well out on the left flank to protect them. 

Farnsworth marched through Hanover, followed by 
the pack trains of the two regiments that had been 
left in Littlestown. The head of Stuart's column ar- 
rived just in time to strike the rear of Farnsworth, 
which was thrown into confusion by a charge of the 
leading confederate regiment. The pack trains were 
cut off and captured. Farnsworth, however, dashing 
back from the head of the column, faced the Fifth New 
York cavalry to the rear, and by a counter charge, re- 
pulsed the North Carolinians and put a stop to Stuart's 
further progress for that day. 

In the meantime, when the citizen came in with the 
news of Fitzhugh Lee's appearance, "To Horse" was 
sounded and Colonel Gray led the Sixth Michigan on 



RENCOUNTER WITH FITZHUGH LEE 127 

the Hanover road toward the point indicated. Several 
citizens, with shot guns in their hands, were seen 
going on foot on the flank of the column, trying to 
keep pace with the cavalry, and apparently eager to 
participate in the expected battle. When within a 
mile of Hanover, the regiment turned off into a wheat- 
field and, mounting a crest beyond, came upon Fitz- 
hugh Lee's brigade, with a section of artillery in posi- 
tion, which opened upon the head of the regiment 
(then moving in column of fours) with shell, wound- 
ing several men and horses. Lieutenant Potter, of 
troop "C " had his horse shot under him. Had Gray 
attacked vigorously he would have been roughly 
handled, probably, as Fitzhugh Lee was on the field in 
person with his choice brigade of Virginians. I have 
always believed, however, that a larger force with the 
same opportunity might have made bad work for Lee. 
Colonel Gray, seeing that the force in front of him 
were preparing to charge, and aware that one raw 
regiment would be no match for a brigade of veteran 
troops, made a detour to the left, and sought by a rapid 
movement to unite with the command in Hanover, 
Major Weber with troops "B" and "F" being en- 
trusted with the important duty of holding the enemy 
in check while the others effected their retreat. Right 
gallantly was this duty performed. Three charges upon 
the little band were as often repulsed by the heroic 
Weber, and with such determination did he hold to 
the work, that he was cut off and did not succeed in 



128 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

rejoining the regiment until about three o'clock the 
next morning. Colonel Alger with the Fifth and troop 
" A " of the Sixth, under Captain H. E. Thompson, 
also had a smart encounter with the same force, 
holding their own against much superior numbers by 
the use of the Spencer repeating rifles with which 
they were armed. 

By noon, or soon after, the entire division united in 
the village of Hanover. The First, Fifth, Sixth and 
Seventh Michigan regiments and Pennington's battery 
were all on the ground near the railroad station. The 
confederate line of battle could be distinctly seen on 
the hills to the south of the town. The command to 
dismount to fight on foot was given. The number 
one, two and three men dismounted and formed in 
line to the right facing the enemy. The number four 
men remained with the horses which were taken 
away a short distance to the rear. 

It was here that the brigade first saw Custer. As 
the men of the Sixth, armed with their Spencer rifles, 
were deploying forward across the railroad into a wheat- 
field beyond, I heard a voice new to me, directly in rear 
of the portion of the line where I was, giving directions 
for the movement, in clear, resonant tones, and in a 
calm, confident manner, at once resolute and reassuring. 
Looking back to see whence it came, my eyes were 
instantly riveted upon a figure only a few feet distant, 
whose appearance amazed if it did not for the mo- 
ment amuse me. It was he who was giving the orders. 




GEORGE A. CUSTER (in 1863) 



OUR PICTURESQUE LEADER 129 

At first, I thought he might be a staff officer, con- 
veying the commands of his chief. But it was at 
once apparent that he was giving orders, not deliver- 
ing them, and that he was in command of the line. 

Looking at him closely, this is what I saw: An 
officer superbly mounted who sat his charger as if to 
the manor born. Tall, lithe, active, muscular, straight 
as an Indian and as quick in his movements, he had 
the fair complexion of a school girl. He was clad in 
a suit of black velvet, elaborately trimmed with gold 
lace, which ran down the outer seams of his trousers, 
and almost covered the sleeves of his cavalry jacket. 
The wide collar of a blue navy shirt was turned down 
over the collar of his velvet jacket, and a necktie of 
brilliant crimson was tied in a graceful knot at the 
throat, the long ends falling carelessly in front. The 
double rows of buttons on his breast were arranged in 
groups of twos, indicating the rank of brigadier gen- 
eral. A soft, black hat with wide brim adorned with 
a gilt cord, and rosette encircling a silver star, was 
worn turned down on one side giving him a rakish air. 
His golden hair fell in graceful luxuriance nearly or 
quite to his shoulders, and his upper lip was garnished 
with a blonde mustache. A sword and belt, gilt spurs 
and top boots completed his unique outfit. 

A keen eye would have been slow to detect in that 
rider with the flowing locks and gaudy tie, in his dress 
of velvet and of gold, the master spirit that he proved 
to be. That garb, fantastic as at first sight it appeared 



130 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to be, was to be the distinguishing mark which, during 
all the remaining years of that war, like the white 
plume of Henry of Navarre, was to show us where, in 
the thickest of the fight, we were to seek our leader— 
for, where danger was, where swords were to cross, 
where Greek met Greek, there was he, always. Brave 
but not reckless; self-confident, yet modest; ambitious, 
but regulating his conduct at all times by a high 
sense of honor and duty; eager for laurels, but scorn- 
ing to wear them unworthily; ready and willing to act, 
but regardful of human life; quick in emergencies, 
cool and self-possessed, his courage was of the highest 
moral type, his perceptions were intuitions. Showy 
like Murat, fiery like Farnsworth, yet calm and self- 
reliant like Sheridan, he was the most brilliant and 
successful cavalry officer of his time. Such a man had 
appeared upon the scene, and soon we learned to utter 
with pride the name of— Custer. 

George A. Custer was, as all agree, the most pictur- 
esque figure of the civil war. Yet his ability and ser- 
vices were never rightly judged by the American 
people. It is doubtful if more than one of his superior 
officers— if we except McClellan, who knew him only as 
a staff subaltern— estimated him at his true value. 
Sheridan knew Custer for what he was. So did the 
Michigan brigade and the Third cavalry division. 
But, except by these, he was regarded as a brave, 
dashing, but reckless officer who needed a guiding 
hand. Among regular army officers as a class he can- 



A TALE THAT WAS NEVER TOLD 131 

not be said to have been a favorite. The meteoric 
rapidity of his rise to the zenith of his fame and 
success, when so many of the youngsters of his years 
were moving in the comparative obscurity of their own 
orbits, irritated them. Stars of the first magnitude 
did not appear often in the galaxy of military heroes. 
Custer was one of the few. 

The popular idea of Custer is a misconception. He 
was not a reckless commander. He was not regardless 
of human life. No man could have been more careful 
of the comfort and lives of his men. His heart was 
tender as that of a woman. He was kind to his sub- 
ordinates, tolerant of their weaknesses, always ready 
to help and encourage them. He was brave as a lion, 
fought as few men fought, but it was from no love of it. 
Fighting was his business; and he knew that by that 
means alone could peace be conquered. He was brave, 
alert, untiring, a hero in battle, relentless in the pur- 
suit of a beaten enemy, stubborn and full of resources 
on the retreat. His tragic death at the Little Big Horn 
crowned his career with a tragic interest that will not 
wane while history or tradition endure. Hundreds of 
brave men shed tears when they heard of it— men who 
had served under and learned to love him in the trying 
times of civil war. 

I have always believed that some of the real facts of 
the battle of the Little Big Horn were unknown. 
Probably the true version of the massacre will remain 
a sealed book until the dead are called upon to give up 



132 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

their secrets, though there are those who profess to 
believe that one man at least is still living who knows 
the real story and that some day he will tell it. 

Certain it is that Custer never would have rushed 
deliberately on destruction. If, for any reason, he 
had desired to end his own life, and that is inconceiva- 
ble, he would not have involved his friends and those 
whose lives had been entrusted to his care in the final 
and terrible catastrophe. He was not a reckless com- 
mander or one who would plunge into battle with his 
eyes shut. He was cautious and wary, accustomed to 
reconnoiter carefully and measure the strength of an 
enemy as accurately as possible before attacking. 
More than once the Michigan brigade was saved from 
disaster by Custer's caution. This may seem to many 
a novel — to some an erroneous estimate of Custer's 
characteristics as a military man. But it is a true 
one. It is an opinion formed by one who had good 
opportunity to judge of him correctly. In one sense 
only is it a prejudiced view. It is the judgment of 
a friend and a loyal one; it is not that of an enemy 
or a rival. As such it is appreciative and it is just. 

Under his skilful hand the four regiments were 
soon welded into a coherent unit, acting so like one 
man that the history of one is oftentimes apt to be 
the history of the other, and it is difficult to draw 
the line where the credit that is due to one leaves off 
and that which should be given to another begins. 

The result of the day at Hanover was that Stuart 




GEORGE A. CUSTER (in 1864) 



THE EVE OF THE BATTLE 133 

was driven still farther away from a junction with 
Lee. He was obliged to turn to the east, making 
a wide detour by the way of Jefferson and Dover 
Kilpatrick, meanwhile, maintaining his threatening 
attitude on the inside of the circle which the redoubt- 
able confederate was traversing, and forcing the latter 
to swing clear around to the north as far as Carlisle, 
where he received the first reliable information as to 
the whereabouts of Lee. It was the evening of July 
2, when he finally reached the main army. The battle 
then had been going on for two days, and the issue was 
still in doubt. During that day (2) both Stuart and 
Kilpatrick were hastening to rejoin their respective 
armies, it having been decided that the great battle 
would be fought out around Gettysburg. Gregg's divi- 
sion had been guarding the right flank of Meade's 
army, but at nightfall it was withdrawn to a position 
on the Baltimore pike near the reserve artillery. 

Kilpatrick reached the inside of the union lines, in 
the vicinity of Gettysburg, late in the afternoon, at 
about the same hour that Hampton, with Stuart's lead- 
ing brigade, arrived at Hunterstown, a few miles 
northeast of Gettysburg. It was about five o'clock in 
the afternoon when the Third division, moving in col- 
umn of fours, was halted temporarily, awaiting orders 
where to go in, and listening to the artillery firing close 
in front, when a staff officer rode rapidly along the 
column, crying out: "Little Mac is in command and 
we are whipping them." It was a futile attempt to 



134 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

evoke enthusiasm and conjure victory with the magic 
of McClellan's name. There was scarcely a faint at- 
tempt to cheer. There was no longer any potency in a 
name. 

Soon thereafter, receiving orders to move out on the 
road to Abbottstown, Kilpatrick started in that direc- 
tion, Custer's brigade leading, with the Sixth Michigan 
in advance. When nearing the village of Hunterstown, 
on a road flanked by fences, the advance encountered a 
heavy force of confederate cavalry. A mounted line 
was formed across the road, while there were dis- 
mounted skirmishers behind the fences on either side. 
The leading squadron of the Sixth, led by Captain 
H. E. Thompson, boldly charged down the road, and at 
the same time, three troops were dismounted and de- 
ployed on the ridge to the right, Pennington's battery 
going into position in their rear. The mounted charge 
was a most gallant one, but Thompson, encountering 
an overwhelmingly superior force in front, and exposed 
to a galling fire on both flanks, as he charged past the 
confederates behind the fences, was driven back, but 
not before he himself had been severely wounded, 
while his first lieutenant, S. H. Ballard, had his horse 
shot under him and was left behind a prisoner. As 
Thompson's squadron was retiring, the enemy at- 
tempted a charge in pursuit, but the dismounted men 
on the right of the road kept up such a fusillade with 
their Spencer carbines, aided by the rapid discharges 
from Pennington's battery, that he was driven back in 



THE FIGHT AT HUNTERSTOWN 135 

grreat confusion. General Kilpatrick, speaking in his 
official report of this engagement, says: 

"I was attacked by Stuart, Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee near 
Hunterstown. After a spirited affair of nearly two hours, the 
enemy was driven from this point with great loss. The Second 
brigade fought most handsomely. It lost in killed and wounded 
and missing, 32. The conduct of the Sixth Michigan cavalry and 
Pennington's battery is deserving of the highest praise." 

On the other hand. General Hampton states that he 
received information of Kilpatrick 's advance upon 
Hunterstown and was directed by Stuart to go and 
meet it. He says : 

"After some skirmishing, the enemy attempted a charge, 
which was met in front by the Cobb legion, and on either flank by 
the Phillips legion and the Second South Carolina cavalry." 

The position at Hunterstown was held until near 
midnight when Kilpatrick received orders to move to 
Two Taverns, on the Baltimore turnpike, about five 
miles southeast of Gettysburg, and some three miles 
due south from the Rummel farm, on the Hanover 
road, east of Gettysburg, where the great cavalry fight 
between Gregg and Stuart was to take place on the 
next day. It was three o'clock in the morning (Kil- 
patrick says "daylight" ) when Custer's brigade went 
into bivouac at Two Taverns. 

The Second cavalry division, commanded by General 
D. McM. Gregg, as has been seen, held the position on 
the Rummel farm on the second but was withdrawn in 



136 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the evening to the Baltimore pike "to be available for 
whatever duty they might be called upon to perform on 
the morrow." On the morning of the third, Gregg 
was ordered to resume his position of the day before, 
but states in his report that the First and Third brig- 
ades (Mcintosh and Irvin Gregg) were posted on the 
right of the infantry, about three-fourths of a mile 
nearer the Baltimore and Gettysburg pike, because he 
learned that the Second brigade (Custer's) of the Third 
division was occupying his position of the day before. 
General Kilpatrick, in his report says : 

** At 11 p. m. (July 2) received orders to move (from Hunters- 
town) to Two Taverns, which point we reached at daylight. At 8 
a. m. (July 3) received orders from headquarters cavalry corps to 
move to the left of our line and attack the enemy's right and rear 
with my whole command and the reserve brigade. By some mis- 
take, General Custer's brigade was ordered to report to General 
Gregg and he (Custer) did not rejoin me during the day." 

General Custer, in his report, gives the following, 
which is without doubt, the true explanation of the 
' ' mistake. ' ' He says : 

"At an early hour on the morning of the third, 1 received an 
order through a staff officer of the brigadier general commanding 
the division (Kilpatrick), to move at once my command and follow 
the First brigade (Farnsworth) on the road leading from Two 
Taverns to Gettysburg. Agreeably to the above instructions, my 
column was formed and moved out on the road designated, when a 
staff officer of lirigadier General Gregg, commanding the Second 
division, ordered me to take my command and place it in position 



GENERAL GREGG'S PRESCIENCE 137 

on the pike leading from York* (Hanover) to Gettysburg, which 
position formed the extreme right of our line of battle on that 
day." 

Thus it is made plain that there was no "mistake" 
about it. It was Gregg's prescience. He saw the risk 
of attempting to guard the right flank with only the 
two decimated brigades of his own division. Seeing 
with him was to act. He took the responsibility to in- 
tercept Kilpatrick's rear and largest brigade, turn it off 
the Baltimore pike, to the right, instead of allowing it 
to go to the left, as it had been ordered to do, and thus, 
doubtless, a serious disaster was averted. It makes 
one tremble to think what might have been, of what 
inevitably must have happened, had Gregg, with only 
the two little brigades of Mcintosh and Irvin Gregg 
and Randol's battery, tried to cope single-handed with 
the. four brigades and three batteries, comprising the 
very flower of the confederate cavalry and artillery, 
which those brave knights— Stuart, Hampton and Fitz- 
hugh Lee— were marshaling in person on Cress's ridge. 
If Custer's presence on the field was, as often has been 
said, ''providential," it is General D. McM. Gregg to 
whom, under Providence, the credit for bringing him 
there was due. Gregg was a great and a modest sol- 
dier and it will be proper, before entering upon a 
description of the battle in which he played so promi- 
nent a part, to pause a moment and pay to him the 

* Custer in his report mistook the York for the Hanover road. 



138 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

merited tribute of our admiration. In the light of all 
the official reports, put together link by link, so as to 
make one connected chain of evidence, we can see that 
the engagement which he fought on the right at Get- 
tysburg, on July 3, 1863, was from first to last, a well 
planned battle, in which the different commands were 
maneuvered vnth the same sagacity displayed by a 
skilful chess player in moving the pawns upon a chess- 
board; in which every detail was the fruit of the brain 
of one man who, from the time when he turned Custer 
to the northward, until he sent the First Michigan 
thundering against the brigades of Hampton and Fitz- 
hugh Lee, made not a single false move; who was 
distinguished not less for his intuitive foresight than 
for his quick perceptions at critical moments. 

That man was General David McMutrie Gregg. 

This conclusion has been reached by a mind not — 
certainly not — predisposed in that direction, after a 
careful study and review of all the information within 
reach bearing upon that eventful day. If, at Gettys- 
burg, the Michigan cavalry brigade won honors that 
will not perish, it was to Gregg that it owed the oppor- 
tunity, and his guiding hand it was that made its blows 
effective. It will be seen how, later in the day, he 
again boldly took responsibility at a critical moment 
and held Custer to his work on the right, even after the 
latter had been ordered by higher authority than him- 
self (Gregg) to rejoin Kilpatrick and after Custer had 
begun the movement. 




DAVID McMUTRIE GREGG 



FROM CUSTER'S OWN STORY 139 

Now, having admitted, if not demonstrated that 
Gregg did the planning, it will be shown how gallantly 
Custer and his Michigan brigade did their part of the 
fighting. Up to a certain point, it will be best to let 
General Custer tell his own story : 

"Upon arriving at the point designated. I immediately placed 
my command in a position facing toward Gettysburg. A.t the 
same time I caused reconnoissances to be made on my front, right 
and rear, but failed to discover any considerable force of the 
enemy. Everything remained quiet until 10 a. m., when the 
enemy appeared on my right flank and opened upon me with a bat- 
tery of six guns. Leaving two guns and a regiment to hold my 
first position and cover the road leading to Gettysburg, I shifted 
the remaining portion of my command forming a new line of bat- 
tle at right angles with my former position. The enemy had ob- 
tained correct range of my new position, and was pouring solid 
shot and shell into my command with great accuracy. Placing two 
sections of battery ''M," Second regular artillery, in position, I 
ordered them to silence the enemy's battery, which order, notwith- 
standing the superiority of the enemy's position, was done in a 
very short space of time. My line as it then existed, was shaped 
like the letter "L." The shorter branch, supported by one section 
of battery "M" (Clark's), supported by four squadrons of the 
Sixth Michigan cavalry, faced toward Gettysburg, covering the 
pike; the long branch, composed of the two remaining sections of 
battery "M," supported by a portion of the Sixth Michigan cav- 
alry on the left, and the First Michigan cavalry on the right — 
with the Seventh Michigan cavalry still further to the right and in 
advance — was held in readiness to repel any attack on the Oxford 
(Low Dutch) road.* The Fifth Michigan was dismounted and 
ordered to take position in front of my center and left. The First 

'General Custer mistook the Low Dutch for the Oxford road. 



140 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Michigan was held in column of squadrons to observe the move- 
ments of the enemy. I ordered fifty men to be sent one mile and 
a half on the Oxford (Low Dutch) road, and a detachment of equal 
size on the York (Hanover) road, both detachments being under 
the command of the gallant Major Weber (of the Sixth) who, 
from time to time, kept me so well informed of the movements of 
the enemy, that I was enabled to make my dispositions with com- 
plete success." 

General Custer says further, that at twelve o'clock 
he received an order directing him, on being relieved by 
a brigade of the Second division, to move to the left and 
form a junction with Kilpatrick; that on the arrival of 
Colonel Mcintosh's brigade he prepared to execute 
the order; but, to quote his own language : 

" Before I had left my position, Brigadier General Greg^-, com- 
manding the Second division, arrived with his entire command. 
Learning the true condition of affairs, and rightly conjecturing the 
enemy was making his dispositions for vigorously attacking our 
position. Brigadier General Gregg ordered me to remain in the 
position I then occupied." 

So much space has been given to these quotations be- 
cause they cover a controverted point. It has been 
claimed, and General Gregg seems to countenance that 
view, that Custer was withdrawn and that Mcintosh, 
who was put in his place, opened the fight, after which 
Gregg brought Custer back to reinforce Mcintosh. So 
far from this being true, it is quite the reverse of the 
truth. Custer did not leave his position. The battle 
opened before the proposed change had taken place, 



BEGINNING OF THE CAVALRY FIGHT 141 

and Mcintosh was hurried in on the right of Custer. 
The latter was reluctant to leave his post — knew he 
ought not to leave it. He had already been attacked 
by a fire from the artillery in position beyond the Rum- 
mel buildings. Major Weber, who was out on the 
cross-road leading northwest from the Low Dutch road 
had observed the movement of Stuart's column, headed 
by Chambliss and Jenkins, past the Stallsmith farm, to 
the wooded crest behind Rummel's, and had reported 
it to Custer. Custer did, indeed, begin the movement. 
A portion of the Sixth Michigan and, possibly, of the 
Seventh, also, had begun to withdraw when Custer met 
Gregg coming on the field and explained to him the 
situation — that the enemy was "all around" and pre- 
paring to "push things." Gregg told him to remain 
where he was and that portion of the brigade which 
was moving away halted, countermarched, and reoccu- 
pied its former position. The Fifth Michigan had not 
been withdrawn from the line in front, and Penning- 
ton's guns had never ceased to thunder their responses 
to the confederate challenge. * 

Custer says that the enemy opened upon him with a 
battery of six guns at ten a. m. Stuart on the con- 
trary, claims to have left Gettysburg about noon. It is 
diflficult to reconcile these two statements. A good deal 
of latitude may be given the word "about," but it is 

• A letter from General Gregg to the writer says: " There is no conflict be- 
tween your recollection and mine as to the events of that day." — J. H. K. 



142 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

probable that the one puts the hour too early, while the 
other does not give it early enough; for, of course, 
before Custer could be attacked, some portion of 
Stuart's command must have been upon the field. 

Official reports are often meagre, if not sometimes 
misleading, and must needs be reinforced by the mem- 
oranda and recollections of actual participants, before 
the exact truth can be known. 

Major Charles E. Storrs, of the Sixth Michigan, who 
commanded a squadron, was sent out to the left and 
front of Custer's position, soon after the brigade ar- 
rived upon the ground. He remained there several 
hours and was recalled about noon — he is positive it 
was later than twelve m. — to take position with the 
troops on the left of the battery. He states that the 
first shot was not fired until sometime after his recall, 
and he is sure it was not earlier than two o'clock. * 

When Stuart left Gettysburg, as he says about noon, 
he took with him Chambliss's and Jenkins's brigades 
of cavalry and Griffin's battery. Hampton and Fits- 
hugh Lee were to follow; also Breathed's and Mc- 
Gregor's batteries, as soon as the latter had replenished 
their ammunition chests. Stuart moved two and a half 
miles out on the York turnpike, when he turned to the 
right by a country road that runs southeasterly past 
the Stallsmith farm. (This road intersects the Low 

* A possible solution of this difficulty has come to my mind. It is this. That 
Custer originally wrote " 1 o'clock " and that in copying the " 1 " and the " " were 
mistaken for "10," and o'clock added — J. H. K. 



STUART FIRES THE FIRST GUN 143 

Dutch road, about three-fourths of a mile from where 
the latter crosses the Hanover pike. ) Turning off from 
this road to the right, Stuart posted the brigades of 
Jenkins and Chambliss and Griffin's battery on the 
commanding Cress's ridge, beyond Rummel's and more 
than a mile from the position accupied by Custer. This 
movement was noticed by Major Weber, who with his 
detachment of the Sixth Michigan cavalry, was 
stationed in the woods northeast of Rummel's, where 
he could look out on the open country beyond, and he 
promptly reported the fact to Custer. 

The first shot that was fired came from near the 
wood beyond Rummel's. According to Major McClellan, 
who was assistant adjutant general on Stuart's staff, 
this was from a section of Griffin's Battery, and was 
aimed by Stuart himself, he not knowing whether 
there was anything in his front or not. Several shots 
were fired in this way. 

Major McClellan is doubtless right in this, that these 
shots were fired as feelers; but it is inconceivable that 
Stuart was totally unav/are of the presence of any 
federal force in his immediate front; that he did not 
know that there was stationed on the opposite ridge a 
brigade of cavalry and a battery. Gregg had been 
there the day before, and Stuart at least must have sus- 
pected, if he did not know, that he would find him 
there again. It is probable that he fired the shots in 
the hope of drawing out and developing the force he 
knew was there, to ascertain how formidable it might 



144 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

be, and how great the obstacle in the way of his far- 
ther progress toward the rear of the union lines. 

The information he sought was quickly furnished. 

It was then that Custer put Pennington's battery in 
position, and the three sections of rifled cannon opened 
with a fire so fast and accurate that Griffin was speed- 
ily silenced and compelled to leave the field. 

Then there was a lull. I cannot say how long it 
lasted but, during its continuance, General Gregg 
arrived and took command in person. About this time, 
also, it is safe to say that Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee 
came up and took position on the left of Chambliss and 
Jenkins. The confederate line then extended clear 
across the federal front, and was screened by the two 
patches of woods between Rummel's and the Stallsmith 
farm. 

A battalion of the Sixth Michigan cavalry, of which 
mine was the leading troop, was placed in support and 
on the left of Pennington's battery. This formed, at 
first, the short line of the "L." referred to in Custer's 
report, but it was subsequently removed farther to the 
right and faced in the same general direction as the 
rest of the line, where it remained until the battle 
ended. Its duty there was to repel any attempt that 
might be made to capture the battery. 

The ground upon which these squadrons were sta- 
tioned overlooked the plain, and the slightest demon- 
stration in the open ground from either side was 
immediately discernible. From this vantage ground it 



THE RIGHT FLANK AT GETTYSBURG 145 

was possible to see every phase of the magnificent 
contest that followed. It was like a spectacle arranged 
for us to see. We were in the position of spectators at 
joust or tournament where the knights, advancing from 
their respective sides, charge full tilt upon each other 
in the middle of the field. 

The lull referred to was like the calm that precedes 
the storm. The troopers were dismounted, standing 
"in place rest " in front of their horses, when sudden- 
ly there burst upon the air the sound of that terrific 
cannonading that preceded Pickett's charge. The 
earth quaked. The tremendous volume of sound vol- 
leyed and rolled across the intervening hills like 
reverberating thunder in a storm. 

It was then between one and two o'clock. (Major 
Storrs says after two.) It was not long thereafter, 
when General Custer directed Colonel Alger to advance 
and engage the enemy. The Fifth Michigan, its flanks 
protected by a portion of the Sixth Michigan on the 
left, by Mcintosh's brigade on the right, moved briskly 
forward towards the wooded screen behind which the 
enemy was known to be concealed. In this movement 
the right of regiment was swung well forward, the left 
somewhat "refused, " so that Colonel Alger's Hne was 
very nearly at right angles with the left of Stuart's 
position. 

As the Fifth Michigan advanced from field to field 
and fence to fence, a line of gray came out from be- 
hind the Rummel buildings and the woods beyond. A 



146 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

stubborn and spirited contest ensued. The opposing 
batteries filled the air with shot and shrieking shell. 
Amazing marksmanship was shown by Pennington's 
battery, and such accurate artillery firing was never 
seen on any other field. Alger's men with their eight- 
shotted carbines, forced their adversaries slowly but 
surely back, the gray line fighting well and superior in 
numbers, but unable to withstand the storm of bullets. 
It made a final stand behind the strong line of fences, 
in front of Rummel's and a few hundred yards out 
from the foot of the slope whereon, concealed by the 
woods, Stuart's reserves were posted. 

While the fight was raging on the plain, Weber with 
his outpost was driven in. His two troops were added 
to the four already stationed on the left of Penning- 
ton's battery. Weber, who had been promoted to 
major but a few days before, was ordered by Colonel 
Gray to assume command of the battalion. As he took 
his place by my side in front of the leading troop, he 
said : 

"1 have seen thousands of them over there," point- 
ing to the front. "The country yonder, is full of the 
enemy." 

He had observed all of Stuart's movements, and it 
was he who gave Custer the first important information 
as to what the enemy was doing; which information 
was transmitted to Gregg, and probably had a deter- 
mining influence in keeping Custer on the field. 

Weber was a born soldier, fitted by nature and ac- 



WEBER A BORN SOLDIER 147 

quirements for much higher rank than any he held. 
Although but 23 years of age, he had seen much 
service. A private in the Third Michigan infantry in 

1861, he was next battalion adjutant of the Second 
Michigan cavalry, served on the staff of General 
Elliott, in the southwest, and came home with Alger in 

1862, to take a troop in the Sixth Michigan cavalry. 
The valuable service rendered by him at Gettysburg 
was fitly recognized by Custer in his official report. 
He was killed ten days later at Falling Waters, while 
leading his squadron in a charge which was described 
by Kilpatrick as "the most gallant ever made." An- 
ticipating a spirited fight, he was eager to have a part 
in it. "Bob," he said to me a few days before, while 
marching through Maryland, "I want a chance to make 
one saber charge." He thought the time had come. 
His eye flashed and his face flushed as he watched the 
progress of the fight, fretting and chafing to be held in 
reserve when the bugle was summoning others to the 
charge. 

The Fifth Michigan, holding the most advanced posi- 
tion, suffered greatly, Hampton having reinforced the 
confederate line. Among those killed at this stage of 
the battle was Major Noah H. Ferry, of the Fifth. 
Repeating rifles are not only effective but wasteful 
weapons as well, and Colonel Alger, finding that his 
ammunition had given out, felt compelled to retire his 
regiment and seek his horses. Seeing this, the enemy 
sprang forward with a yell. The union line was seen 



148 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to yield. The puffs of smoke from the muzzles of their 
guns had almost ceased. It was plain the Michigan 
men were out of ammunition and unable to maintain 
the contest longer. On from field to field, the line of 
gray followed in exultant pursuit. Breathed and Mc- 
Gregor opened with redoubled violence. Shells dropped 
and exploded among the skirmishers, while thicker 
and faster they fell around the position of the reserves. 
Pennington replied with astonishing effect, for every 
shot hit the mark, and the opposing artillerists were 
unable to silence a single union gun. But still they 
came, until it seemed that nothing could stop their vic- 
torious career. "Men, be ready," said Weber. "We 
will have to charge that line." But the course of the 
pursuit took it toward the right, in the direction of 
Randol's battery where Chester was serving out canis- 
ter with the same liberal hand displayed by Penning- 
ton's lieutenants, Clark, Woodruff and Hamilton. 

Just then, a column of mounted men was seen ad- 
vancing from the right and rear of the union line. 
Squadron succeeded squadron until an entire regiment 
came into view, with sabers gleaming and colors gaily 
fluttering in the breeze. It was the Seventh Michigan, 
commanded by Colonel Mann. Gregg seeing the 
necessity for prompt action, had given the order for it 
to charge. As the regiment moved forward, and 
cleared the battery, Custer drew his saber, placed him- 
self in front and shouted: "Come on you Wolver- 
ines! " The Seventh dashed into the open field and 




WILLIAM D. MANN 



PENNINGTON'S ARTILLERY PRACTICE 149 

rode straight at the dismounted line which, staggered 
by the appearance of this new foe, broke to the rear 
and ran for its reserves. Custer led the charge half 
way across the plain, then turned to the left; but the 
gallant regiment swept on under its own leaders, riding 
down and capturing many prisoners. 

There was no check to the charge. The squadrons 
kept on in good form. Every man yelled at the top of 
his voice until the regiment had gone, perhaps, five or 
six hundred yards straight towards the confederate 
batteries, when the head of column was deflected to 
the left, making a quarter turn, and the regiment was 
hurled headlong against a post-and-rail fence that ran 
obliquely in front of the Rummel buildings. This 
proved for the time an impassable barrier. The squad- 
rons coming up successively at a charge, rushed pell 
mell on each other and were thrown into a state of in- 
describable confusion, though the rear troops, without 
order or orders, formed left and right front into line 
along the fence, and pluckily began firing across it into 
the faces of the confederates who, when they saw the 
impetuous onset of the Seventh thus abruptly checked, 
rallied and began to collect in swarms upon the opposite 
side. Some of the officers leaped from their saddles 
and called upon the men to assist in making an open- 
ing. Among these were Colonel George G. Briggs, 
then adjutant, and Captain H. N. Moore. The task 
was a difficult and hazardous one, the posts and rails 
being so firmly united that it could be accomplished 



150 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

only by lifting the posts, which were deeply set, and 
removing several lengths at once. This was finally 
done, however, though the regiment was exposed not 
only to a fire from the force in front, but to a flanking 
fire from a strong skirmish line along a fence to the 
right and running nearly at right angles with the one 
through which it was trying to pass. 

While this was going on, Briggs's horse was shot 
and he found himself on foot, with three confederate 
prisoners on his hands. With these he started to the 
rear, having no remount. Before he could reach a 
place of safety, the rush of charging squadrons from 
either side had intercepted his retreat. In the melee 
that followed, two of his men ran away, the other 
undertook the duty of escorting his captor back to 
the confederate lines. The experiment cost him his 
life, but the plucky adjutant, although he did not 
"runaway," lived to fight again on many "another 
day." 

In the meantime, through the passage-way thus 
effected, the Seventh moved forward, the center 
squadron leading, and resumed the charge. The con- 
federates once more fell back before it. The charge 
was continued across a plowed field to the front and 
right, up to and past Rummel's, to a point within 
200 or 300 yards of the confederate battery. There 
another fence was encountered, the last one in the 
way of reaching the battery, the guns of which were 
pouring canister into the charging column as fast as 




GEORGE G. BRIGGS 



CHARGE OF THE SEVENTH MICHIGAN 151 

they could fire. Two men, privates Powers and In- 
glede, of Captain Moore's troop, leaped this fence and 
passed several rods beyond. Powers came back with- 
out a scratch, but Inglede was severely wounded. 
These two men were, certainly, within 200 yards of 
the confederate cannon. 

But, seeing that the enemy to the right had thrown 
down the fences, and was forming a column for a 
charge, the scattered portions of the Seventh began 
to fall back through the opening in the fence. Cap- 
tain Moore, in whose squadron sixteen horses had 
been killed, retired slowly, endeavoring to cover the 
retreat of the dismounted men but, taking the wrong 
direction, came to the fence about 100 yards above 
the opening, just as the enemy's charging column 
struck him. Glancing over his shoulder, he caught 
the gleam of a saber thrust from the arm of a sturdy 
confederate. He ducked to avoid the blow, but re- 
ceived the point in the back of his head. At the 
same time, a pistol ball crashed through his charger's 
brain and the horse went down, Moore's leg under 
him. An instant later, Moore avenged his steed with 
the last shot in his revolver, and the confederate fell 
dead at his side. Some dismounted men of the Thir- 
teenth Virginia cavalry took Moore prisoner and es- 
corted him back to the rear of their battery, from 
which position, during the excitement that followed, he 
made his escape. 

But now Alger who, when his ammunition gave out, 



152 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

hastened to his horses, had succeeded in mounting one 
battahon, commanded by Major L. S. Trowbridge, and 
when the Ninth and Thirteenth Virginia struck the 
flank of the Seventh Michigan, he ordered that officer 
to charge and meet this new danger. Trowbridge and 
his men dashed forward with a cheer, and the enemy 
in their turn were put to flight. Past the Runimel 
buildings, through the fields, almost to the fence where 
the most advanced of the Seventh Michigan had halted, 
Trowbridge kept on. But he, too, was obliged to retire 
before the destructive fire of the confederate cannon, 
which did not cease to belch forth destruction upon 
every detachment of the union cavalry that approached 
near enough to threaten them. The major's horse was 
killed, but his orderly was close at hand with another 
and he escaped. When his battalion was retiring it, 
also, was assailed in flank by a mounted charge of the 
First Virginia cavalry, which was met and driven back 
by the other battalion of the Fifth Michigan led by 
Colonel Alger. 

Then, as it seemed, the tv/o belligerent forces paused 
to get their second breath. Up to that time, the battle 
had raged with varying fortune. Victory, that ap- 
peared about to perch first on one banner, and then on 
the other, held aloof, as if disdaining to favor either. 
The odds, indeed, had been rather with the confeder- 
ates than against them, for Stuart managed to out- 
number his adversary at every critical point, though 
Gregg forced the fighting, putting Stuart on his 




LUTHER S. TROWBRIDGE 



STUART'S SUPREME EFFORT 153 

defense, and checkmating his plan to fight an offensive 
battle. But the wily confederate had kept his two 
choicest brigades in reserve for the supreme moment, 
intending then to throw them into the contest and 
sweep the field with one grand, resistless charge. 

All felt that the time for this effort had come, when 
a body of mounted men began to emerge from the 
woods on the left of the confederate line, northeast of 
the Rummel buildings, and form column to the right as 
they debouched into the open field. Squadron after 
squadron, regiment after regiment, orderly as if on 
parade, came into view, and successively took their 
places. 

Then Pennington opened with all his guns. Six 
rifled pieces, as fast as they could fire, rained shot and 
shell into that fated column. The effect was deadly. 
Great gaps were torn in that mass of mounted men, 
but the rents were quickly closed. Then, they were 
ready. Confederate chroniclers tell us there were two 
brigades— eight regiments— under their own favorite 
leaders. In the van, floated a stand of colors. It was 
the battle-flag of Wade Hampton, who with Fitzhugh 
Lee was leading the assaulting column. In superb 
form, with sabers glistening, they advanced. The men 
on foot gave way to let them pass. It was an inspir- 
ing and an imposing spectacle, that brought a thrill to 
the hearts of the spectators on the opposite slope. 
Pennington double-shotted his guns with canister, and 
the head of the- column staggered under each murder- 



154 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ous discharge. But still it advanced, led on by an 
imperturbable spirit, that no storm of war could cow. 

Meantime, the Fifth Michigan had drawn aside a 
little to the left, making ready to spring. Mcintosh's 
squadrons were in the edge of the opposite woods. 
The Seventh was sullenly retiring with faces to the 
foe. Weber and his battalion and the other troops of 
the Sixth were on edge for the fray, should the assault 
take the direction of Pennington's battery which they 
were supporting. 

On and on, nearer and nearer, came the assaulting 
column, charging straight for Randol's battery. The 
storm of canister caused them to waver a little, but 
that was all. A few moments would bring them among 
Chester's guns who, like Pennington's lieutenants, was 
still firing with frightful regularity, as fast as he 
could load. Then Gregg rode over to the First Michi- 
gan, and directed Town to charge. Custer dashed up 
with similar instructions, and as Town ordered sabers 
to be drawn, placed himself by his side, in front of the 
leading squadron. 

With ranks well closed, with guidons flying and 
bugles sounding, the grand old regiment of veterans, 
led by Town and Custer, moved forward to meet that 
host, outnumbering it three to one. First at a trot, 
then the command to charge rang out, and with gleam- 
ing saber and flashing pistol, Town and his heroes were 
hurled right in the teeth of Hampton and Fitzhugh 
Lee. Alger, who with the Fifth had been waiting for 



TOWN'S GRAPPLE WITH HAMPTON 155 

the right moment, charged in on the right flank of the 
column as it passed, as did some of Mcintosh's squad- 
rons, on the left. One troop of the Seventh, led by 
Lieutenant Dan. Littlefield, also joined in the charge. 

Then it was steel to steel. For minutes— and for 
minutes that seemed like years— the gray column stood 
and staggered before the blow; then yielded and fled. 
Alger and Mcintosh had pierced its flanks, but Town's 
impetuous charge in front went through it like a 
wedge, splitting it in twain, and scattering the con- 
federate horsemen in disorderly rout back to the woods 
from whence they came. 

During the last melee, the brazen lips of the cannon 
were dumb. It was a hand-to-hand encounter between 
the Michigan men and the flower of the southern cava- 
liers, led by their favorite commanders. 

Stuart retreated to his stronghold, leaving the union 
forces in possession of the field. 

The rally sounded, the Hnes were reformed, the 
wounded were cared for, and everything was made 
ready for a renewal of the conflict. But the charge of 
the First Michigan ended the cavalry fighting on the 
right at Gettysburg. Military critics have pronounced 
it the finest cavalry charge made during that war. 

Custer's brigade lost one ofl^icer (Major Ferry) and 
28 men killed; 11 oflncers and 112 men wounded; 67 men 
missing; total loss, 219. Gregg's division lost one man 
killed; 7 officers and 19 men wounded; 8 men missing; 
total, 35. In other words, while Gregg's division, two 



156 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

brigades, lost 35, Custer's single brigade suffered a loss 
of 219. These figures apply to the fight on July 3, only. 
The official figures show that the brigade, during the 
three days, July 1, 2 and 3, lost 1 officer and 31 men 
killed; 13 officers and 134 men wounded; 78 men miss- 
ing; total, 257. * 

For more than twenty years after the close of the 
civil war, the part played by Gregg, Custer and Mc- 
intosh and their brave followers in the battle of 
Gettysburg received but scant recognition. Even the 
maps prepared by the corps of engineers stopped short 
of Cress's Ridge and Rummel's fields. "History " was 
practically silent upon the subject, and had not the 
survivors of those commands taken up the matter, 
there might have been no record of the invaluable ser- 
vices which the Second cavalry division and Custer's 
Michigan brigade rendered at the very moment when a 
slight thing would have turned the tide of victory the 
other way. In other words, the decisive charge of 
Colonel Town and his Michiganders coincided in point 

• In this connection it may be stated that Colonel Fox's history of the casual- 
ties in the war shows that there were 260 cavabry regiments in the service of the 
Union. Of these, the First Michigan lost the largest number of men killed in 
action of all save one— the First Maine. In percentage of killed, in proportion to 
numbers the Fifth and Sixth Michigan rank all the rest, not excepting the two 
first named, and it must be remembered that the Fifth and Sixth went out Jn 1862 
and did their first fighting in the Gettysburg campaign. They stand third and 
fourth in the number killed, being ranked in that respect by the First Maine and 
First Michigan alone. The four regiments in the Michigan brigade during their 
terms of service lost twenty-three officers and 328 men killed; eight officers and 111 
men died of wounds; nine officers and 991 men died of disease— a grand total of 1470 
officers and men who gave up their lives during those four years of war. — J. H. K. 




CHARLES H. TOWN 



TOWN'S CHARGE DECIDES THE BATTLE 157 

of time with the failure of Pickett's assault upon the 
center, and was a contributing cause in bringing about 
the latter result. 

About the year 1884, a monument was dedicated on 
the Rummel farm which was intended to mark as near- 
ly as possible the exact spot where Gregg and Custer 
crossed swords with Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee in the 
final clash of the cavalry fight. This monument was 
paid for by voluntary contributions of the survivors of 
the men who fought with Gregg and Custer. Colonel 
George Gray of the Sixth Michigan alone contributed 
four hundred dollars. Many others were equally liberal. 
On that day Colonel Brooke-Rawle, of Philadelphia, who 
served in the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, of Gregg's 
division, delivered an address upon the "Cavalry Fight 
on the Right Flank, at Gettysburg." It was an elo- 
quent tribute to Gregg and his Second division and to 
the Michigan brigade though, like a loyal knight, he 
claimed the lion's share of the glory for his own, and 
placed chaplets of laurel upon the brow of his ideal 
hero of Pennsylvania rather than upon that of "Lance- 
lot, or another." In other words, he did not estimate 
Custer's part at its full value, an omission for which he 
subsequently made graceful and honorable acknowledg- 
ment. In this affair there were honors enough to go 
around. 

Subsequently General Luther S. Trowbridge, of De- 
troit, who was an officer in the Fifth Michigan cavalry, 
who like Colonel Brooke-Rawle fought most creditably 



158 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

in the cavalry fight on the right, wrote a paper on the 
same subject which was read before the Michigan com- 
mandery of the Loyal Legion. This very fitly supple- 
mented Colonel Brooke-Rawle's polished oration. In 
the year 1889, another monument erected by the state 
of Michigan on the Rummel farm, and but a hundred 
yards or such a matter from the other, was dedicated. 
The writer of these ' ' Recollections ' ' was the orator of 
the occasion, and the points of his address are con- 
tained in the narrative which constitutes this chapter. 
Those three papers and others written since that time, 
notably one by General George B. Davis, judge advo- 
cate general, U. S. A., and one by Captain Miller, of 
the Third Pennsylvania cavalry, have brought the cav- 
alry fight at Gettysburg into the limelight, so that there 
is no longer any pretext for the historian or student of 
the history of the civil war to profess ignorance of the 
events of that day which reflect so much luster on the 
cavalry arm of the service. 

To illustrate the point made in these concluding par- 
agraphs that the part taken by the cavalry on the right 
is at last understood and acknowledged, the following 
extract from an address given before the students of 
the Orchard Lake military academy by General Charles 
King the gifted author of "The Colonel's Daughter," 
and many other writings, is herein quoted. General 
King is himself a cavalry officer with a brilliant record 
in the army of the United States. In that address to 
the students on "The Battle of Gettysburg," he said : 



CHARLES KING'S TRIBUTE TO MICHIGAN 159 

"And so, just as Gettysburg was the turning point of the 
great war, so, to my thinking, was the grapple with and overthrow 
of Stuart on the fields of the Rummel farm the turning point of 
Gettysburg. Had he triumphed there; had he cut his way through 
or over that glorious brigade of Wolverines and come sweeping all 
before him down among the reserve batteries and ammunition 
trains, charging furiously at the rear of our worn and exhausted 
infantry even as Pickett's devoted Virginians assailed their front, 
no man can say what scenes of rout and disaster might not have 
occurred. Pickett's charge was the grand and dramatic climax of 
the fight because it was seen of all men. Stuart's dash upon the 
Second division far out on the right flank was hardly heard of for 
years after. It would have rung the world over but for the Michi- 
gan men. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, New York and the little 
contingent of Marylanders had been fighting for days, were scat- 
tered, dismounted and exhausted when the plumes of Stuart came 
floating out from the woods of the Stallsmith farm, Hampton and 
Fitzhugh Lee at his back. It was Custer and the Wolverines who 
flew like bull dogs straight at the throat of the foes; who blocked 
his headlong charge; who pinned him to the ground while like 
wolves their comrade troops rushed upon his flanks, 

"It may be, perhaps an out-cropping of the old trooper spirit 
now but, as I look back upon the momentous four years' struggle, 
with all its lessons of skill and fortitude and valor incomparable, 
it seems to me that, could I have served in only one of its great 
combats, drawn saber in just one supreme crisis on whose doubtful 
issue hung trembling the fate of the whole union, I would beg to 
live that day over again and to ride with Gregg and Mcintosh and 
Custer; to share in the wild, fierce charge of the Michigan men; 
to have my name go down to posterity with those of Alger and 
Kidd, Town and Trowbridge, Briggs and gallant Ferry, whose 
dead hand gripped the saber hilt and the very grave. To have it 
said that I fought with the old Second division of the cavalry 
corps that day when it went and grappled and overwhelmed the 



160 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

foe in the full tide of his career, at the very climax of the strug- 
gle, and hurled him back to the banks of the Rubicon of the 
rebellion, to cross it then and there for the last time, to look his 
last upon the green hills of Maryland— nevermore to vex our soil 
until, casting away the sword, he could come with outstretched 
hand and be hailed as friend and brother. " 



CHAPTER XII 

FROM GETTYSBURG TO FALLING WATERS 

WHEN the battle of Gettysburg was ended and the 
shadows of night began to gather upon the 
Rummel fields, the troopers of the Michigan cavalry- 
brigade had a right to feel that they had acted well 
their parts, and contributed their full share to the glory 
and success of the Union arms. They had richly 
earned a rest, but were destined not to obtain it until 
after many days of such toil and hardship as to sur- 
pass even the previous experiences of the campaign. 

After a brief bivouac on the battle field, the brigade 
was moved to the Baltimore pike whence, at daybreak, 
it marched to the vicinity of Emmittsburg. There, on 
the morning of July 4, the two brigades of the Third 
division reunited. The First brigade, under the 
lamented Farnsworth, it will be remembered had been 
engaged the previous day upon the left flank near 
"Round Top," under the eye of the division com- 
mander. 

Farnsworth, the gallant young officer who had been 
a brigadier general but four days, had been killed while 
leading a charge against infantry behind stone walls. 
His brigade was compelled to face infantry because all 



162 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

of the confederate cavalry had been massed under 
Stuart against Meade's right. It was intended that 
Custer should report to Kilpatrick on the left flank but, 
as we have seen, he was providentially where he was 
most needed, and where his presence was effective in 
preventing disaster. The charge in which Farnsworth 
lost his life was ordered by Kilpatrick and was unques- 
tionably against the former's judgment. But he was 
too brave a man and too conscientious to do anything 
else than obey orders to the letter. His courage had 
been put to the proof in more than a score of battles. 
As an officer in the Eighth Illinois cavalry and as an aid 
on the staff of General Pleasonton, chief of cavalry, 
he had won such deserved distinction that he, like Cus- 
ter, was promoted from captain to brigadier general on 
June 28 and assigned to command of the First brigade 
of Kilpatrick 's division when Custer took the Second. 
This was done in spite of the fact that he was not a 
graduate of the military academy or even an officer of 
the regular army. I knew him before the v/ar when 
he was a student in the University of Michigan, and a 
more intrepid spirit than he possessed never resided 
within the breast of man. It was but a day, it might 
be said, that he had worn his new honors. He was 
proud, ambitious, spirited, loyal, brave, true as steel to 
his country and his convictions of duty, and to his 
own manhood. 

He did not hesitate for one moment. Drawing his 
saber and placing himself at the head of his command, 



DEATH OF ELON J. FARNSWORTH 163 

he led his men to the inevitable slaughter and boldly 
went to his own death. It was a pity to sacrifice 
such an officer and such men as followed him inside the 
confederate lines. The charge was one of the most 
gallant ever made, though barren of results. The little 
force came back shattered to pieces and without their 
leader. The cavalry corps had lost an officer whose 
place was hard to fill. Had he lived, the brave young 
Illinoisan might have been another Custer. He had all 
the qualities needed to make a great career — youth, 
health, a noble physique, courage, patriotism, ambition, 
ability and rank. He was poised, like Custer, and had 
discretion as well as dash. They were a noble pair, 
and nobly did they justify the confidence reposed in 
them. One lived to court death on scores of battle 
fields, winning imperishable laurels in them all; the 
other was cut down in the very beginning of his 
brilliant career, but his name will forever be asso- 
ciated with what is destined to be in history the 
most memorable battle of the war, and the one from 
which is dated the beginning of the downfall of the 
confederate cause, and the complete restoration of 
the union. Farnsworth will not be forgotten as long 
as a grateful people remember the name and the glory 
of Gettysburg. 

Although General Judson Kilpatrick had been in 
command of the division since the 30th of June, at 
Hanover, many of the Michigan men had never set 
eyes upon him until that morning, and there was much 



164 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

curiosity to get a sight of the already famous cavalry- 
man. He had begun to be a terror to foes, and there 
was a well-grounded fear that he m,ight become a 
menace to friends as well. He was brave to rashness, 
capricious, ambitious, reckless in rushing into scrapes, 
and generally full of expedients in getting out, though 
at times he seemed to lose his head entirely when beset 
by perils which he, himself, had invited. He was 
prodigal of human life, though to do him justice he 
rarely spared himself. While he was not especially 
refined in manners and in conversation, he had an in- 
tellect that would at times emit flashes so brilliant as 
to blind those who knew him best to his faults. He 
was the very type of one of the wayward cavaliers 
who survived the death of Charles the First, to shine 
in the court of Charles the Second. He was a ready 
and fluent speaker — an orator, in fact — and had the 
gift of charming an audience with his insinuating 
tongue. 

As closely as I can from memory, I will draw a pen- 
sketch of him as he appeared at that time: Not an 
imposing figure as he sat with a jaunty air upon his 
superb chestnut horse, for he was of slight build 
though supple and agile as an athlete; a small, though 
well-knit form, dressed in a close-fitting and natty suit 
of blue; a blouse with the buttons and shoulder straps 
of a brigadier-general; the conventional boots and 
spurs and saber; a black hat with the brim turned down 
on one side, up on the other, in a way affected by him- 




JUDSON KILPATRICK 



PEN-SKETCH OF KILPATRICK 165 

self, which gave to the style his own name. This 
completed his uniform — not a striking or picturesque 
one in any respect. Save for the peculiar style of hat, 
there was nothing about it to distinguish him from 
others of like rank. But his face was a marked one, 
showing his individuality in every line. A prominent 
nose, a wide mouth, a firm jaw, thin cheeks set off by 
side whiskers rather light in color, and eyes that were 
cold and lusterless, but searching — these were the 
salient characteristics of a countenance that once seen, 
was never forgotten. His voice had a peculiar, pierc- 
ing quality, though it was not unmusical in sound. In 
giving commands he spoke in brusque tones and in an 
imperious manner. It was not long till every man in 
the division had seen him and knew him well. In a 
few days he had fairly earned the soubriquet "Kill 
Cavalry," which clung to him till he left for the west. 
This was not because men were killed while under his 
command, for that was their business and every 
trooper knew that death was liable to come soon or late, 
while he was in the line of duty, but for the reason 
that so many lives were sacrificed by him for no good 
purpose whatever. 

Well, on the morning of the Fourth, General Kil- 
patrick sent an order to regimental commanders to 
draw three days' rations and be prepared for a pro- 
tracted absence from the army, as we were to go to the 
right and rear of Lee to try and intercept his trains, 
and in every way to harass his retreating columns as 



166 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

much as possible. We were all proud of our new com- 
manders, for it was evident that they were fighting 
men, and that while they would lead us into danger, 
if we survived it there would be left the conscious- 
ness of having done our duty, and the credit of ac- 
complishing something for the cause. 

It must also be said that a strong feeling of ' ' pride 
in the corps" had taken root. Men were proud that 
they belonged to Kilpatrick's division and to Custer's 
brigade, for it must not be supposed that the above 
estimate of the former is based upon what we knew 
of him at that time. We were under him for a long 
time after that. This was the first day that we felt 
the influence of his immediate presence. 

When it was known that Kilpatrick was to lead a 
movement to the enemy's rear all felt that the chances 
were excellent for the country to hear a good deal 
about our exploits within the next few days, and no- 
body regretted it. 

But before the start it began to rain in torrents. 
It has been said that a great battle always produces 
rain. My recollection is not clear as to the other 
battles, but I know that the day after Gettysburg the 
flood-gates of heaven were opened, and as the column 
of cavalry took its way towards Emmittsburg it was 
deluged. It seemed as if the firmament were an im- 
mense tank, the contents of which were spilled all at 
once. Such a drenching as we had! Even heavy 
gum coats and horsehide boots were hardly proof 



FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS 167 

against it. It poured and poured, the water running 
in streams off the horses' backs, making of every 
rivulet a river and of every river and mountain stream 
a raging flood. 

But Lee was in retreat and, rain or shine, it was 
our duty to reach his rear, so all day long we plod- 
ded and plashed along the muddy roads towards the 
passes in the Catoctin and South mountains. It was 
a tedious ride for men already worn out with inces- 
sant marching and the fatigues of many days. It 
hardly occurred to the tired trooper that it was the 
anniversary of the nation's natal day. There were 
no fireworks, and enthusiasm was quenched not by 
the weather only but by the knowledge that the con- 
federate army, though repulsed, was not captured. 
The news of Grant's glorious victory in the west filled 
every heart with joy, of course, but the prospect of 
going back into Virginia to fight the war over again 
was not alluring, 

But possibly that might not be our fate. Vigorous 
pursuit might intercept Lee on this side of the Poto- 
mac. Every trooper felt that he could endure wet 
and brave the storm to aid in such strategy, and all 
set their faces to the weather and rode, if not cheer- 
fully, at least patiently forward in the rain. 

I have said that on that memorable Fourth of July 
there were no fireworks. That was a mistake. The 
pyrotechnic display was postponed until a late hour, but 
it was an interesting and exciting exhibition, as all who 



168 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

witnessed it will testify. It was in the night and 
darkness lent intensity to the scene. 

Toward evening the flood subsided somewhat, though 
the sky was overcast with wet-looking clouds, and the 
swollen and muddy streams that ran along and across 
our pathway fretted and frothed like impatient coursers 
under curb and rein. Their banks could hardly hold 
them. 

During the afternoon and evening the column was 
climbing the South mountain. A big confederate 
wagon train was going through the gap ahead of us. 
If we could capture that, it would be making reprisal 
for some of Stuart's recent work in Maryland. 

Toward midnight we were nearing the top, marching 
along the narrow defile, the mountain towering to the 
right, and sloping off abruptly to the left, when the 
boom of a cannon announced that the advance guard 
had encountered the enemy. The piece of artillery was 
planted in the road, at the summit, near the Monterey 
house, and was supported by the confederate rear- 
guard, which at once opened fire with their carbines. 
It was too dark to distinguish objects at any distance, 
the enemy was across the front and no one could tell 
how large a force it might be. The First Michigan had 
been sent to the right, early in the evening, to attack a 
body of the enemy, hovering on the right flank in the 
direction of Fairfield, and had a hard fight, in which 
Captain Elliott and Lieutenant McElhenny, two brave 
officers, were killed. The Fifth and Sixth were leading 



MIDNIGHT FIGHT AT MONTEREY 169 

and at once dismounted and deployed as skirmishers. 
Generals Kilpatrick and Custer rode to the place where 
the line was forming, and superintended the movement. 
The Sixth, under Colonel Gray, was on the right of the 
line, the road to its left. At least the portion of the 
regiment to which my troop belonged was in that posi- 
tion. I think, perhaps, a part of the regiment was 
across the road. The Fifth formed on the left; the 
First and Seventh in reserve, mounted. There is a 
good deal of guess work about it, for in the darkness 
one could not tell what happened except in his immedi- 
ate neighborhood. 

The order "Forward," finally came, and the hne of 
skirmishers advanced up the slope, a column of 
mounted men following in the road, ready to charge 
when opportunity offered. Soon we encountered the 
confederate skirmishers, but could locate them only by 
the flashes of their guns. The darkness was intense 
and in a few moments we had plunged into a dense 
thicket, full of undergrowth, interlaced with vines and 
briars, so thick that it was difficult to make headway at 
all. More than once a trailing vine tripped me up, and 
I fell headlong. To keep up an alignment was out of 
the question. One had to be guided by sound and not 
by sight. The force in front did not appear to be for- 
midable in numbers, but had the advantage of position, 
and was on the defensive in a narrow mountain pass 
where numbers were of little avail. We had a large 
force, but it was strung out in a long column for miles 



170 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

back, and it was possible to bring only a few men into 
actual contact with the enemy, whatever he might be. 
This last was a matter of conjecture and Kilpatrick 
doubtless felt the necessity of moving cautiously, feel- 
ing his way until he developed what was in his front. 
To the right of the road, had it not been for the noise 
and the flashing of the enemy's fire we should have 
wandered away in the darkness and been lost. 

The confederate skirmishers were driven back across 
a swollen stream spanned by a bridge. The crossing at 
this point was contested fiercely, but portions of the 
Fifth and Sixth finally forced it and then the whole 
command crossed over. 

In the meantime the rumbling of wagon wheels could 
be heard in the road leading down the mountain. It 
was evident we were being detained by a small force 
striving to hold us there while the train made its es- 
cape. A regiment was ordered up mounted to make a 
charge. I heard the colonel giving his orders. "Men," 
he said, "use the saber only; I will cut down any man 
who fires a shot." This was to prevent shooting our 
own men in the melee, and in the darkness. Inquiring, I 
learned it was the First (West) Virginia cavalry. This 
regiment which belonged in the First brigade had been 
ordered to report to Custer. At the word, the gallant 
regiment rushed like the wind down the mountain road, 
"yelHng like troopers," as they were, and good ones 
too, capturing everything in their way. 

This charge ended the fighting for that night. It 



CHARGE OF THE FIRST VIRGINIA 171 

was one of the most exciting engagements we ever 
had, for while the actual number engaged was small, 
and the casualties were not great, the time, the place, 
the circumstances, the darkness, the uncertainty, all 
combined to make "the midnight fight at Monterey" 
one of unique interest. General Custer had his horse 
shot under him which, it was said and I have reason to 
believe, was the seventh horse killed under him in that 
campaign. The force that resisted us did its duty gal- 
lantly, though it had everything in its favor. They 
knew what they had in their front, we did not. Still, 
they failed of their object, which was to save the train. 
That we captured after all. The Michigan men brushed 
the rear guard out of the way, the First Virginia gave 
the affair the finishing touch. 

The fight over, men succumbed to fatigue and drow- 
siness. I had barely touched the saddle before I was 
fast asleep, and did not awake until daylight, and then 
looking around, could not see a man that I recognized 
as belonging to my own troop. As far as the eye could 
reach, both front and rear, was a moving mass of hor- 
ses with motionless riders all wrapped in slumber. The 
horses were moving along with drooping heads and 
eyes half-closed. Some walked faster than others and, 
as a consequence, would gradually pull away from their 
companions through the column in front; others would 
fall back. So it came to pass that few men found 
themselves in the same society in the morning with 
which they started at midnight. As for myself, I 



172 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

awoke to wonder where I was and what had become 
of my men. Not one of them could I see. My horse 
was a fast walker, and I soon satisfied myself that I 
was in advance of my troop and, when the place desig- 
nated for the division to bivouac was reached, dis- 
mounted and awaited their arrival. Some of them did 
not come up for an hour, and they were scattered about 
among other commands, in squads, a few in a place. 
It was seven o'clock before we were all together once 
more. 

Then we had breakfast, and the men had a chance to 
look the captures over and quiz the prisoners. The 
wagons were soon despoiled of their contents and such 
stuff as was not valuable or could not be transported 
was burned. Among the prisoners was Colonel Davis, 
of the Tenth Virginia cavalry, who claimed that he led 
the charge against our position on the third. He ex- 
pressed himself very freely as having had enough, and 
said, "This useless war ought to be ended at once. " 

During the day Stuart's cavalry appeared on our 
flank and we pushed on to Cavetown, thence to Boons- 
borough, harassed all the way by the enemy. We were 
now directly on Lee's path to the Potomac. At Smith- 
burg there was quite a skirmish in which the Sixth had 
the duty of supporting the battery. My troop, de- 
ployed as skirmishers along the top of a rocky ridge, 
was forgotten when the division moved away after 
dark, and we lay there for an hour within sight of the 
confederate camp until, suspecting something wrong, 



THE AFFAIR AT WILLIAMSPORT 173 

I made a reconnoissance and discovered that our com- 
mand had gone. I therefore mounted the men and 
followed the trail which led toward Boonsborough. At 
the latter place Kilpatrick turned over his prisoners and 
captured property. 

On the 6th, along in the afternoon, we arrived in the 
vicinity of Hagerstown. The road we were on enters 
the town at right angles with the pike from Hagers- 
town to Williamsport, on reaching which we turned to 
the left, the position being something like the following 
diagram: 

North 
Haserstown 




Boonsboroueb 
East 



Lee's reserve wagon trains were at Williamsport 
under General Imboden. From Hagerstown to Wil- 
liamsport was about five miles. We had Stuart's 
cavalry in our front, Lee's whole army on our right, 
and only five miles to our left the tempting prize which 
Kilpatrick was eager to seize. Besides, it was neces- 
sary for Lee to reach Williamsport in order to secure a 
crossing of the Potomac river. 



174 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The advance of his army reached Hagerstown sim- 
ultaneously with ourselves, but the skirmishers of the 
First brigade drove them back to the northward, and 
then the Michigan brigade passed through and turned 
southward on the pike toward Williamsport. The Fifth 
Michigan had the advance and the Sixth the rear. The 
latter regiment had hardly more than turned in the 
new direction when the boom of a cannon in front told 
the story that the battle had begun. 

General Kilpatrick had been attending to matters in 
Hagerstown. It was evident that there was consider- 
able force there and that it was constantly augmenting. 
The opening gun at Williamsport called his attention to 
a new danger. It looked as though he had deliberately 
walked into a trap. In a moment I saw him coming, 
dashing along the flank of the column. He was urging 
his horse to its utmost speed. In his hand he held a 
small riding whip with which he was touching the flank 
of his charger as he rode. His face was pale. His 
eyes were gazing fixedly to the front and he looked 
neither to the right nor to the left. The look of anxie- 
ty on his countenance was apparent. The sound of 
cannon grew louder and more frequent; we were 
rushed rapidly to the front. The First brigade followed 
and to the officer in command of it was assigned the 
task of holding back Lee's army while the Michigan 
brigade tried titles with Imboden. Buford, with the 
First cavalry division, was fighting Stuart's cavalry to 
the left, towards Boonsborough, and on him it depended 




AARON CONE JEWETT 



THE DEATH OF JEWETT 175 

to keep open the only avenue of escape from the posi- 
tion in which Kilpatrick found himself. 

In a little time the two brigades were fighting back 
to back, one facing north and the other south, and each 
having more than it could attend to. 

Pretty soon we arrived on the bluff overlooking Wil- 
liamsport. Imboden's artillery had the exact range 
and were pouring shell into the position where the 
brigade was trying to form. 

Just before arriving at the point where we were 
ordered to turn to the right through an opening in a 
rail fence, into a field, Aaron C. Jewett, acting adjutant 
of the regiment, rode along the column delivering the 
order from the colonel. During the Gettysburg cam- 
paign Jewett had been acting adjutant and would have 
received his commission in a short time. His mod- 
est demeanor and affable manners had won the hearts 
of all his comrades. He had made himself exceed- 
ingly popular, as well as useful, and was greatly 
beloved in the regiment. When he delivered the order 
the pallor of his countenance was noticeable. There 
was no tremor, no shrinking, no indication of fear; he 
was intent upon performing his duty; gave the order 
and, turning, galloped back to where the shells were 
flying thick and fast. When I arrived at the gap in the 
fence he was there; he led the way into the field; told 
me where to go in; there was no trepidation on his 
part but still that deathly pallor. As we passed into 
the field a shell exploded directly in front of us. It 



176 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

took a leg off a man in troop H which preceded us 
and had dismounted to fight on foot, and I saw him 
hopping around on his one remaining Hmb and heard 
him shriek with pain. A fragment of the same shell 
took a piece off the rim of Lieutenant E. L. Craw's 
hat. He was riding at my side. I believe it was the 
same shell that killed Jewett. He had left me to direct 
the next troop in order, and a fragment of one of these 
shells struck him in the throat and killed him instantly. 
As I moved rapidly forward after getting into the field 
I did not see him again, and did not know he was killed 
until after dark, when we had succeeded in making our 
escape by a very narrow chance. 

We were moved well over to the right — all the time 
under a furious fire of artillery — and kept there until 
almost dark, fighting all the time with the troops that 
were pushed out from Williamsport. In the meantime, 
the firing and yelling in rear could be heard distinctly 
and it seemed that at any moment the little force was 
to be closed in on and captured. Finally, just after 
dark, it was withdrawn. Those on the right of the 
road — the First and Sixth — the Fifth and Seventh be- 
ing to the left, were obliged to reach and cross the pike 
to make their escape. Weber stealthily withdrew the 
battalion. He was the last man to leave the field. 
When we were forming in the road, after rallying the 
skirmishers, the enemy was in plain sight only a little 
way toward Hagerstown and it seemed as if one could 
throw a stone and hit them. We expected they would 



A STEALTHY RETREAT 177 

charge us, but they did not, and probably the growing 
darkness prevented it. In fact, there was manifest a 
disposition on their part to let us alone if we would not 
molest them. 

We then marched off into a piece of woods and, the 
regiment having all reunited, learned — those who had 
not known of it before — of Jewett's death. His body 
was still where it fell. The suggestion was made to go 
and recover it. Weber and his men made an attempt 
to do so, but by that time the enemy had come up and 
taken possession of the field. This was a terrible blow 
to all, to be obliged to leave the body of a beloved com- 
rade; to be denied the privilege of aiding in placing 
him in a soldier's grave, and performing the last offices 
of affection for a fallen friend. 

The death of Jewett was a blow to the regiment the 
more severe because he was the first officer killed up to 
that time. A portion of the regiment had been roughly 
handled on the evening of July 2, at Hunterstown 
— where Thompson and Ballard were wounded — and the 
latter taken prisoner. A number of the rank and file 
were in the list of killed, wounded and missing. 
Enough had been seen of war to bring to all a realiza- 
tion of its horrors. Death was a familiar figure, yet 
Jewett's position as adjutant had brought him into 
close relations with both officers and men and his sud- 
den death was felt as a personal bereavement. It was 
like coming into the home and taking one of the best 
beloved of the household. 



178 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

After getting out of the Williamsport affair most of 
the night was taken up in marching and on the morn- 
ing of the 7th, the brigade was back in Boonsborough 
where, remaining in camp all day, it obtained a much 
needed rest, though the Fourth of July rain storm was 
repeated. Lee's army had reached the Potomac, and 
not being able to cross by reason of the high water, 
was entrenching on the north side. Meade's army was 
concentrating in the vicinity but seemed in no hurry 
about it. During the day some heavy seige guns, com- 
ing down the mountain road, passed through Boons- 
borough going to the front. A big battle was expected 
to begin at any moment, and we wondered why there 
was so much deliberation, when Lee's army was appar- 
ently in a trap with a swollen river behind it. It did 
not seem possible that he would be permitted to escape 
into Virginia without fighting a battle. To the cavalry 
of Kilpatrick's division, which had been marching and 
countermarching over all the country between the 
South mountain and the Potomac river, the delay was 
inexplicable. Every trooper believed that the Army of 
the Potomac had the confederacy by the throat, at 
last, and that vigorous and persistent effort would 
speedily crush the life out of it. 

But no battle took place and, on the morning of the 
8th, Stuart's cavalry which was now covering Lee's 
front, was attacked in front of Boonsborough by 
Buford and Kilpatrick, and a hard battle resulted. 
Most of the fighting was done dismounted, the com- 



A MYSTERIOUS ' ' ORDER ' ' 179 

mands being deployed as skirmishers. Custer's brig- 
ade occupied the extreme left of the line, and I think 
the Sixth the left of the brigade. The enemy was also 
on foot, though many mounted officers could be seen on 
their line. We had here a good opportunity to test the 
qualities of the Spencer carbines and, armed as we 
were, we proved more than a match for any force that 
was encountered. The firing was very sharp at times, 
and took on the character of skirmishing, the men 
taking advantage of every cover that presented itself. 
The confederates were behind a stone fence, we in a 
piece of woods along a rail fence, which ran along the 
edge of the timber. Between was an open field. Sev- 
eral times they attempted to come over the stone wall, 
and advance on our position, but each time were driven 
back. Once an officer jumped up on the fence and 
tried to wave his men forward. A shot from a Spencer 
brought him headlong to the ground, and after that no 
one had the temerity to expose himself in that way. 

At this stage of the battle (it must have been about 
eleven o'clock in the forenoon) a singular thing hap- 
pened. It is one of those numberless incidents that do 
not appear in official reports, and which give to indi- 
vidual reminiscences their unique interest. 

An officer, dressed in blue, with the regulation cav- 
alry hat, riding a bay horse which had the look of a 
thoroughbred, rode along in rear of our line with an 
air of authority, and with perfect coolness said, as he 
passed from right to left, ' ' General Kilpatrick orders 



180 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

that the line fall back rapidly." The order was obeyed 
promptly, though it struck us as strange that such a 
strong position should be given up without a struggle. 
We had not been under Kilpatrick long enough to rec- 
ognize all the members of his staff on sight, and it did 
not occur to any one at the time to question the fellow's 
authority or make him show his credentials. 

The line left the woods and retreated to a good de- 
fensive position on a ridge of high ground facing the 
woods, the enemy meantime advancing with a yell to 
the timber we had abandoned. Then it was learned 
that Kilpatrick had given no such order, but the ' ' staff 
officer" had disappeared and, when we came to think 
about it, nobody could describe him very closely. He 
had seemed to flit along the line, giving the order but 
stopping nowhere, and leaving no very clear idea as to 
how he looked. There is but little doubt that he was 
an audacious confederate, probably one of Stuart's 
scouts clothed in federal uniform, who made a 
thorough tour of inspection of our line, and then, after 
seeing us fall back, very likely led his own line to the 
position which he secured by this daring stratagem. 
The confederates were up to such tricks, and occa- 
sionally the yankees were smart enough to give them 
a Roland for their Oliver. 

It was presently necessary to advance and drive the 
enemy out of the woods, which was done in gallant 
style, the whole line joining. This time there was no 
stopping, but the pursuit was kept up for several miles. 



AN AFFAIR WITH SHARPSHOOTERS 181 

I can hear gallant Weber's voice now, as he shouted, 
"Forward, my men," and leaping to the front led 
them in the charge. 

The Fifth Michigan was to our right, and Colonel 
Alger who was in comm.and was wounded in the leg 
and had to leave the field. We did not see him again 
for some time, the command devolving upon Lieutenant 
Colonel Gould who, in turn, was himself wounded a 
day or two later, and Major Luther S. Trowbridge, who 
did such gallant fighting at Gettysburg, succeeded to 
the command. 

From the night of the 8th to the morning of the 11th 
there was an interval of quietude. The cavalry was 
waiting and watching for Lee or Meade to do some- 
thing and, to the credit of the union troopers, it must 
be said that they were eager for the conflict to begin 
believing, as they did, that the war ought to end in a 
day. 

July 11, early in the morning, an attack was made on 
the lines around Hagerstown, which developed a hor- 
nets' nest of sharpshooters armed with telescopic rifles, 
who could pick a man's ear off half-a-mile away. The 
bullets from their guns had a peculiar sound, something 
like the buzz of a bumble-bee, and the troopers' horses 
would stop, prick up their ears and gaze in the direc- 
tion whence the hum of those invisible messengers 
could be heard. Unable to reach them mounted, we 
finally deployed dismounted along a staked rail fence. 
The confederates were behind trees and shocks of 



182 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

grain, at least half-a-mile away. They would get the 
range so accurately that it was dangerous to stand still 
a moment. It was possible, however, to dodge the 
bullets by observing the puffs of smoke from their 
guns. The distance was so great that the puff was 
seen some seconds before the report was heard, and 
before the arrival of the leaden missile. By moving to 
the right or left the shot could be avoided, which in 
many cases was so accurately aimed as to have been 
fatal, had it been awaited. Once I was slow about 
moving. The scamp in my immediate front had evi- 
dently singled me out and was sending them in so close 
as to make it sure that he was taking deadly aim. I 
took my eye off his natural fortress for an instant, 
when he fired, and before I could jump, the ball struck 
a rail in front of me, and passing through the rail, fell 
to the ground at my feet. 

Most of the men were content to keep behind the 
fence and try and give the confederates as good as they 
sent, aiming at the points whence the puffs of smoke 
came. But there was one daring fellow, Halleck by 
name, who climbed over the fence and amused himself 
shelling and eating the wheat while he dodged the bul- 
lets. So keen an eye did he keep out for the danger, 
that he escaped without a scratch. While he was there 
a man named Mattoon, a good soldier, came up, and 
seeing Halleck, jumped over with the exclamation, 
**What are you doing here?" "Just wait a minute 
and you will see," said Halleck. Mattoon was a fat. 



I 



THE TROOPER'S REVERIE 183 

chubby fellow, and in just about "a minute" a bullet 
struck him in the face, going through the fleshy part 
of the cheek and making the blood spout. ' ' I told you 
so," said Halleck, who kept on eating wheat and defy- 
ing the sharpshooters, who were unable to hit him, 
though he was a conspicuous target. The secret of it 
was he did not stand still, but kept moving, and they 
had to hit him, if at all, like a bird on the wing which 
at the distance was a hard shot to make. 

The entire day was passed in this kind of skirmish- 
ing, and it was both dangerous and exciting. The men 
had lots of fun out of it, and only a few of them were 
shot, though there were many narrow escapes. 

On the morning of July 14, the Third cavalry division 
marched over the Hagerstown pike, into Williamsport. 
There was no enemy there. Lee had given Meade the 
slip. His army was across the Potomac, in Virginia 
once more, safe from pursuit. As he reined up his 
faithful steed upon the northern bank of the broad 
river, the union trooper looked wistfully at the country 
beyond. Well he knew that Lee had escaped, like a 
bird from the snare, and could march leisurely back to 
his strongholds. Visions of the swamps of the Chick- 
ahominy, of Bull Run, of Fredericksburg, of Chancel- 
lorsville, passed before his mind as with pensive 
thought he gazed upon the shining valley of the Shen- 
andoah, stretching away to the southward in mellow 
perspective. He wondered how long the two armies 
were to continue the work of alternately chasing each 



184 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

other back and forth across this battle-ground of the 
repubUc. The wide, majestic river, no longer vexed by 
the splashing tread of passing squadrons, v^^ith smooth 
and tranquil flow swept serenely along, the liquid notes 
of its rippling eddies seeming to mock at the disap- 
pointment of the baffled pursuer. The calm serenity 
of the scene was in sharp contrast with the stormy pas- 
sions of the men who sought to disturb it with the stern 
fatalities of war. The valley, rich with golden harvests, 
presented a charming dissolving view, melting away in 
the dim distance. On the left, the smoky summits of 
the Blue mountains marked the eastern limits of this 
"storehouse of the confederacy," the whole forming a 
picture in which beauty and grandeur were strikingly 
blended. 

But this reverie of the soldier was soon rudely dis- 
turbed. Word came that they were not all across after 
all. Five miles below, at Falling Waters, in a bend of 
the river, was a ford where a portion of Longstreet's 
corps was yet to cross on a pontoon bridge. Kilpatrick 
started off in hot haste for Falling Waters, determined 
to strike the last blow on northern soil. The Sixth 
Michigan was in advance, tv/o troops — B and F — un- 
der Major V/eber, acting as advance guard. Kilpatrick 
and Custer followed Weber; then came Colonel Gray 
with the remainder of the regiment. 

The march from Williamsport to Falling Waters was 
a wfld ride. For the whole distance the horses were 
spurred to a gallop. Kilpatrick was afraid he would 



"A CHARGE OF DARE-DEVILS" 185 

not get there in time to overtake the enemy, so he 
spared neither man nor beast. The road was soft and 
miry, and the horses sank almost to their knees in the 
sticky mud. For this reason the column straggled, and 
it was not possible to keep a single troop closed up in 
sets of fours. At such a rapid rate the column plunged 
through the muddy roads, Weber and his little force 
leading. 

On nearing Falling Waters, the column turned to the 
right through a wood, which skirted a large culti- 
vated field. To the right and front, beyond the field, 
was a high hill or knoll on which an earthwork had 
been thrown up. Behind the earthwork a considerable 
force of confederate infanty was seen in bivouac, evi- 
dently taking a rest, with arms stacked. As a matter 
of fact, for it will be as well to know what v/as there, 
though the general in command made very little note 
of it at the time, there were two brigades — an entire 
division — commanded by General Pettigrew, one of 
the men who participated in Pickett's charge at Gettys- 
burg. 

On sighting this force, Custer ordered Weber to 
dismount his men, advance a line of skirmishers toward 
the hill and ascertain what he had to encounter. Kil- 
patrick hov^/'ever ordered Weber to remount and charge 
the hill. At that time no other portion of the regiment 
had arrived so as to support the charge. 

Weber, knowing no law for a soldier except implicit 
obedience to orders, first saw his men well closed up, 



186 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

then placed himself at their head and giving the order 
"Forward," emerged from the woods into the open 
field, took the trot until near the top of the slope, close 
to the earthworks, and then with a shout the little band 
of less than a hundred men charged right into the 
midst of ten times their number of veteran troops. 
The first onset surprised and astonished the enemy, 
who had mistaken Weber's force for a squadron of 
their own cavalry. The audacity of the thing dazed 
them for a minute, and for a minute only. 

Weber, cutting right and left with his saber, and 
cheering on his men, pierced the first line, but there 
could be but one result. Recovering from their sur- 
prise, the confederate infantry rallied, and seizing their 
arms, made short work of their daring assailants. In 
a few minutes, of the three officers in the charge, two 
— Weber and Bolza — lay dead on the field, and the 
other — Crawford — had his leg shattered so it had to 
be amputated. 

The two brave troops were more than decimated, 
though a considerable number succeeded in escaping 
with their lives. 

This charge which Kilpatrick in his official report 
characterized as "the most gallant ever made," was 
described by a confederate eye-witness who was on the 
hill with Pettigrew and who wrote an account of the 
affair for a southern paper several years ago, as "a 
charge of dare-devils." 

In the meantime, just as Weber's command was re- 




PETER A. WEBER 



HORS DE COMBAT 187 

pulsed, the other squadrons of the regiment began to 
arrive, and were hurried across the field to the foot of 
the hill, and there dismounted to fight, dressing to the 
left as they successively reached the alignment and 
opening fire with their Spencers at once. But having 
disposed of the two mounted troops, the confederates 
filled the earthworks, and began to send a shower of 
bullets at those already formed or forming below. 

My troop was the fourth from the rear of the regi- 
ment, and consequently several preceded it on the line. 
When I reached the fence, along the side of the field 
next the woods, I found Lieutenant A. E. Tower, who 
since the death of Jewett had been acting adjutant, 
at the gap giving orders. He directed me to take my 
command across the field, and form on the right of that 
next preceding. I had ridden so rapidly that only a 
few men had kept up the pace, and the remainder were 
strung out for some distance back. But taking those 
that were up, and asking the adjutant to tell the others 
to follow, I dashed into the field, and soon found that 
we were the targets for the enemy on the hill, who 
made the air vibrant with the whiz of bullets. It was 
hot, but we made our way across without being hit, 
and reached the place where the regiment was trying 
to form, under fire of musketry from the hill, and get- 
ting badly cut up. Reining up my horse, I gave the 
order, "Dismount, to fight on foot" and, glancing 
back, saw my men coming in single file, reaching to 
the fence — probably an eighth of a mile — and the 



188 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

rear had not yet left the woods. The two leading sets 
of fours which alone were closed up obeyed the order 
and, dismounting to direct the alignment, I stepped in 
front of my horse, still holding the bridle rein in my 
right hand, when a minie bullet from the hill in front 
with a vicious thud went through my right foot, mak- 
ing what the surgeon in Washington afterwards said 
was the "prettiest wound I ever saw." 

I tried to stand but could not. The foot was useless. 
Private Halleck — the same who was eating wheat at 
Hagerstown a few days before — jumped to my rescue 
and helped me off the field. 

Back of our position some distance, say 500 yards, 
was a log house in an orchard. To this we directed our 
steps, I leaning on Halleck' s shoulder, and hopping 
along on the unhurt foot. The most uncomfortable ex- 
perience I had during the war I believe was during the 
passage across the open field to the orchard. Our 
backs were to the foe and the whisthng bullets which 
came thick and fast all about served to accelerate our 
speed. I expected every moment to be shot in the 
back. One poor fellow, already wounded, who was 
trying to run to the rear, was making diagonally across 
the field from the right. As he was about to pass us a 
bullet struck him and he fell dead in his tracks. Hal- 
leck succeeded in getting to the house, where he left 
me with the remark: "You are all right now, captain, 
the boys need me and I will go back on the line." And 
back he went into the thickest of it, and fought gal- 



DEATH OF GENERAL PETTIGREW 189 

lantly to the end of the engagement, as I learned by 
inquiry afterwards. 

After a little, the confederates drove our line back 
beyond the house, and it was, for perhaps an hour, on 
the neutral ground between friends and foes. Shells 
from the opposing batteries hurtled around, and I did 
not know what moment one of them would come crash- 
ing through the building. A hospital flag had been 
displayed above it, which saved it. 

Finally, sufficient force arrived to give our people the 
best of it, and the enemy was driven in confusion to 
the river, losing about 1,500 prisoners, one or two 
pieces of artilery and many small arms. General Pet- 
tigrew was killed by Weber or one of his men. Until 
the battle was over I did not know what fearful losses 
had befallen the regiment. The total casualties were 
83 killed and 56 wounded. The loss in officers was 
heavy : Major Weber, killed; Lieutenant Bolza, com- 
manding troop B, killed; Lieutenant Potter, troop C, 
wounded and prisoner; Captain Royce, troop D, killed; 
Captain Kidd, troop E, wounded; Lieutenant Crawford, 
troop F, lost a leg; Lieutenant Kellogg, troop H, 
wounded and a prisoner. 

The story of "The Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the 
Gettysburg Campaign," properly ends with the death 
of General Pettigrew and Major Weber at Falling 
Waters. No more brilliant passage at arms took place 
during the war for the union, and it is a pity that some 
more able historian could not have written the story 



190 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

and immortalized the men, both dead and living who 
had a part in it. * 

* It may be proper to state that during the Gettysburg campaign the 
Michigan brigade lost thirty officers killed and wounded, whose names are here 
given. 

BULLED 

First Michigan - Capt. W. R. Elliott. Capt. C- J Snyder, Lieut. J. S. McEl- 
henny — 3. 

Fifth Michigan — Major N. H. Ferry — 1. 

Sixth Michigan— Major P A, Weber, Capt. D. G- Royce, Lieut. C. E. Bolza, 
Acting Adjutant A. C. Jewett — 4. 

WOUNDED 

First Michigan— Capt D. W. Clemmer, Lieut. E. F. Baker, Capt. A. W. Dug- 
gan, Capt. George W. Alexander, Capr. H. E. Hascall, Capt. W. M. Heazlett, Capt. 
G. R. Maxwell, Lieut. R. N. Van Atter - 8. 

Fifth Michigan — Col. R. A. Alger. Lieut. Col. E. Gould, Lieut. T. Dean, Lieut- 
G. N. Dutcher - 4. 

Sixth Michigan— Lieut. George W. Crawford; Capt. H. E. Thompson, Capt. J. 
H. Kidd, Lieut. E. Potter, Lieut. S. Shipman— 5. 

Seventh Michigan — Lieut. J. G. Birney, Lieut. J. L. Carpenter, Lieut. E. 
Gray, Lieut. C Griffith, Capt. Ale.x. Walker — 5. 



CHAPTER XIII 

FROM FALLING WATERS TO BUCKLAND MILLS 

THE night following the battle of Falling Waters, 
July 14. 1863, was a memorable one to the Michi- 
gan cavalry brigade, especially to those who like myself 
passed it in the field hospital. The log house into 
which the wounded were taken was filled with maimed 
and dying soldiers, dressed in union blue. The entire 
medical staff of the division had its hands full caring 
for the sufferers. Many were brought in and subjected 
to surgical treatment only to die in the operation, 
or soon thereafter. Probes were thrust into gaping 
wounds in search of the deadly missiles, or to trace the 
course of the injury. Bandages and lint were applied 
to stop the flow of blood. Splintered bones were re- 
moved and shattered limbs amputated. All night long 
my ears were filled with the groans wrung from stout 
hearts by the agonies of pain, and the moans of the 
mortally hurt as their lives ebbed slowly away. One 
poor fellow, belonging to the First Michigan cavalry, 
was in the same room with me. He had a gun-shot 
wound in the bowels. It was fatal, and he knew it, 
for the surgeon had done his duty and told him the 
truth. He was a manly and robust young soldier who 



192 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

but a few hours before had been the picture of health, 
going into battle without a tremor and receiving his 
death wound like a hero. For hours, I watched and 
wondered at the fortitude with which he faced his fate. 
Not a murmur of complaint passed his lips. Racked 
with pain and conscious that but a few hours of life re- 
mained to him, he talked as placidly about his wound, 
his condition and his coming dissolution, as though 
conversing about something of common, every-day 
concern. He was more solicitous about others than 
about himself, and passed away literally like one ' ' who 
wraps the drapery of his couch about him and lies 
down to pleasant dreams. ' ' He died about three o'clock 
in the morning and I could almost feel the reality of 
the flight of his tranquil spirit. 

In striking contrast to the picture thus presented, 
was one in the room adjoining. Another trooper also 
fatally wounded, suffered so keenly from shock and 
pain that his fortitude gave way. He could not bear 
the thought of death. His nerve appeared to have 
deserted him and his anguish of mind and body, as he 
saw the relentless approach of the grim monster and 
felt his icy breath, will haunt my memory till I myself 
shall have joined the great army of union veterans who 
are beyond the reach of pain and the need of pensions. 

My own wound gave little annoyance except when 
the surgeon ran an iron called a probe into it, which 
attempt met with so vigorous a protest from his patient 
that he desisted and that form of treatment stopped 



IN THE FIELD HOSPITAL 193 

right there, so far as one cavalryman was concerned. 
The wound was well bandaged and plentiful applica- 
tions of cold water kept out the inflammation. 

Many of the officers and men came in to express 
their sympathy. Some of them entertained me with the 
usual mock congratulations on having won a "leave" 
and affected to regard me as a lucky fellow while they 
were the real objects of sympathy. 

But the circumstances were such as to repress mirth 
or anything of that semblance. The regiment was in 
mourning for its bravest and best. The Sixth, having 
been the first regiment to get into the fight, had suf- 
fered m.ore severely than any other. The losses had 
been grievous, and it seemed hard that so many bright 
lights of our little family should be so suddenly 
extinguished. 

At daylight I was still wide awake but, even amidst 
such scenes as I have described, fatigue finally over- 
came me and I sank into dreamland only to be startled, 
at first, by the fancied notes of the bugle sounding 
"to horse" or the shouts of horsemen engaged in the 
fray. At last, however, "tired nature's sweet restor- 
er ' ' came to my relief and I fell into a dreamless sleep 
that lasted for several hours. 

When I awoke it was with a delightful sense of mind 
and body rested and restored. The wounded foot had 
ceased its pain. A gentle hand was bathing my face 
with cold water from the well, while another was 
straightening out the tangled locks which, to tell the 



194 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

truth, were somewhat unkempt and overgrown from 
enforced neglect. Two ladies full of sympathy for the 
youthful soldier were thus kindly ministering to his 
comfort. As soon as fully awake to his surroundings, 
he opened his eyes and turned them with what was 
meant for a look of gratitude upon the fair friends who 
seemed like visiting angels in that place of misery and 
death. 

It was an incongruous picture that presented itself — 
a strange blending of the grewsome sights of war with 
the beautiful environments of peace. The wonted tran- 
quility of this rural household had been rudely dis- 
turbed by the sudden clangor of arms. A terrible 
storm of battle — the more terrible because unforeseen 
— had broken in upon the quietude of their home. In 
the early hours of the morning it had raged all around 
them. At the first sound of its approach the terri- 
fied inmates fled to the cellar where they remained till 
it passed. They had come forth to find their house 
turned into a hospital. 

The kindness of those ladies is something that the 
union trooper has never forgotten, for they flitted 
across his pathway, a transient vision of gentleness and 
mercy in that scene of carnage and suffering. 

It was with a melancholy interest that I gazed upon 
the pallid face of my dead comrade of the First, who 
lay, a peaceful smile upon his features which were 
bathed in a flood of golden light, as the hot rays of the 
July sun penetrated the apartment. The man in the 



WITH THE TRAIN OF AMBULANCES 195 

hall was also dead. Others of the wounded were lying 
on their improvised couches, as comfortable as they 
could be made. 

In the afternoon the ambulance train arrived. The 
wounded were loaded therein, and started for Hagers- 
town, bidding farewell to those who remained on duty, 
and who had already received marching orders which 
would take them back into ' ' Old Virginia. ' ' 

The journey to Hagerstown was by way of Williams- 
port and the same pike we had marched over on the 6th 
of the month when Jewett was killed, and on the morn- 
ing of the 14th when Weber was riding to ' ' one more 
saber charge ' ' at Falling Waters. 

Nothing is more depressing than to pass over ground 
where a battle has recently been fought. Any veteran 
will say that he prefers the advance to the retreat — 
the front to the rear of an army. The true soldier 
would rather be on the skirmish-line than in the hospi- 
tal or among the trains. Men who can face the can- 
non's mouth without flinching, shrink from the sur- 
geon's knife and the amputating-table. The ex- 
citement, the noise, the bugle's note and beat of 
drum, the roar of artillery, the shriek of shell, the 
volley of musketry, the "zip" of bullet or *'ping" of 
spent ball, the orderly movement of masses of men, 
the shouting of orders, the waving of battle-flags— 
all these things inflame the imagination, stir the blood, 
and stimulate men to heroic actions. Above all, the 
consciousness that the eyes of comrades are upon him, 



196 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

puts a man upon his mettle and upon his pride, and 
compels him oftentimes to simulate a contempt for 
danger which he does not feel. The senses are too, in 
some sort, deadened to the hazards of the scene and, in 
battle, one finds himself doing with resolute will things 
which under normal conditions would fill him with 
abhorrence. 

Men fight from mingled motives. Pride, the fear of 
disgrace, ambition, the sense of duty — all contribute 
to keep the courage up to the sticking point. Few 
fight because they like it. The bravest are those 
who, fully alive to the danger, are possessed of that 
sublime moral heroism which sustains them in emer- 
gencies that daunt weaker men. 

But, when the excitement is over, when the pomp 
and circumstance are eliminated, when the unnatural 
ardor has subsided, when the tumult and rush have 
passed, leaving behind only the dismal effects — the ruin 
and desolation, the mangled corpses of the killed, the 
saddening spectacle of the dying, the sufferings of the 
wounded — the bravest would, if he could, blot these 
things from his sight and from his memory. 

The night in the field hospital at Falling Waters did 
more to put out the fires of my military spirit and to 
quench my martial ambition than did all the experi- 
ences of Hunterstown and Gettysburg, of Boons- 
borough and Williamsport. And, as the ambulance 
train laden with wounded wound its tortuous way 
through the theater of many a bloody recent rencounter. 



THE DESOLATION OF WAR 197 

it set in motion a train of reflections which were by 
no means pleasing. The abandoned arms and accou- 
terments; the debris of broken-down army wagons; the 
wrecks of caissons and gun-carriages; the bloated 
carcasses of once proud and sleek cavalry chargers; 
the mounds showing where the earth had been hastily 
shoveled over the forms of late companions-in-arms; 
everything was suggestive of the desolation, nothing 
of the glory, of war. 

It was nearly dark when the long train of ambu- 
lances halted in the streets of Hagerstown. Some 
large buildings had been taken for hospitals and the 
wounded were being placed therein as the ambulances 
successively arrived. This consumed much time and, 
while waiting for the forward wagons to be unloaded, 
it occurred to me that it would be a nice thing to obtain 
quarters in a private house. Barnhart, first sergeant 
of the troop, who accompanied me, proposed to make 
inquiry at once, and ran up the stone steps of a com- 
fortable-looking brick house opposite the ambulance 
and rang the bell. In a moment the door opened and a 
pleasant voice inquired what was wanted. 

* ' A wounded officer in the ambulance yonder wants 
to know if you will take him in for a day or two until 
he can get ordered to Washington. He has funds to 
recompense you and does not like to go to the hospital." 

' ' Certainly, ' ' replied the voice, ' ' bring him in. ' ' 

And Barnhart, taking me in his arms, carried me 
into the house and, guided to the second floor by the 



198 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

same lady who had met him at the door, deposited his 
burden on a couch in a well furnished apartment and 
we were bidden to make ourselves at home. 

In a little while, a nice hot supper of tea, toast, eggs 
and beefsteak, enough for both, was brought to the 
room by our hospitable hostess, who seemed to take 
the greatest pleasure in serving her guests with her 
own hands. Later in the evening, she called with her 
husband and they formally introduced themselves. 
They were young married people with one child, a 
beautiful little girl of six or eight summers. He was a 
merchant and kept a store in an adjoining building. 
They spent the evening in the room, chatting of the 
stirring events of the month and, indeed, their experi- 
ences had been scarcely less exciting than our own. 
Hagerstown had been right in the whirl of the battle- 
storm which had been raging in Maryland. Both 
armies had passed through its streets and bivouacked in 
its environs. More than once the opposing forces had 
contended for possession of the town. Twice the union 
cavalry had charged in and driven the confederates out, 
and once had been forced, themselves, to vacate in a 
hurry. It was almost inside its limits that Captain 
Snyder, of the First Michigan cavalry, serving on 
Kilpatrick's staff, had with the saber fought single- 
handed five confederate horsemen and he was lying 
wounded mortally in a neighboring building. Our kind 
host and hostess entertained us until a late hour with 
interesting recitals of what they had seen from the 



HOSPITALITY IN MARYLAND 199 

inside or "between the lines." 

That night after a refreshing bath, with head pil- 
lowed in dov/n, I stowed myself away between snowy 
sheets for a dreamless sleep that lasted until the sun 
was high up in the eastern heavens. Barnhart was 
already astir and soon brought a surgeon to diagnose 
the case and decide what disposition should be made of 
the patient. Then the L— s and their little daughter 
came in with a cheery "good morning " and a steaming 
breakfast of coffee, cakes and other things fragrant 
enough and tempting enough to tickle the senses of an 
epicure. And, not content with providing the best of 
what the house afforded, Mr. L. brought in the choicest 
of cigars by the handful, insisting on my finding solace 
in the fumes of the fragrant weed. 

"Do not be afraid to smoke in your room," said the 
sunny Mrs. L. , " my husband smokes and I am not the 
least bit afraid that it will harm the furnishings." 

I glanced with a deprecatory gesture at the lace cur- 
tains and other rich furniture of the room, as much 
as to say, "Could not think of it," and in fact, before 
lighting a cigar, I took a seat by the open window 
where I sat and puffed the blue smoke into the bluer 
atmosphere, beguiling the time the while, talking with 
these good friends about the war. 

That was the very poetry of a soldier's life. For the 
better part of a week the two cavalrymen were the 
guests of that hospitable family who, at the last, de- 
clined to receive any remuneration for their kindness. 



200 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The journey to Washington was by rail. In the cars 
groups of interested citizens, and soldiers as well, 
questioned us eagerly for the latest news from the 
front, and our tongues were kept busy answering a 
steady fire of questions. No incident of the campaign 
was too trivial to find willing ears to listen when it was 
told. The operations of Kilpatrick's division seemed 
to be well known and there was much complimentary 
comment upon his energy and his dash. The name 
of Custer, ''the boy general, " was seemingly on every 
tongue and there was no disposition on our part to 
conceal the fact that we had been with them. 

Arriving- at the capital in the middle of the day, 
we were driven to the Washington house, at the cor- 
ner of Pennsylvania avenue and Four-and-one-half 
street, where a room was engaged and preparations 
were made to remain until the surgeon would say it 
was safe to start for home. 

The Washington house was a hotel of the second 
class but many nice people stopped there. Among 
the regular guests was Senator Henry Wilson, of 
Massachusetts, afterwards elected vice-president on 
the ticket with Grant. He was a very modest man, 
plain in dress and unassuming in manner. No one 
would have suspected from his bearing that he was 
a senator and from the great commonwealth of Mas- 
sachusetts. The colleague of Charles Sumner, Henry 
Wilson was at that time one of the ablest, most 
widely-known and influential statesmen of his day. 




CHARLES E. STORES 



SENATOR HENRY WILSON 201 

Conspicuous among the anti-slavery leaders of New 
England, his voice always had been heard in de- 
fense of human rights. His loyalty to the union 
was equaled only by his devotion to the interests of 
the soldiers. He lived a quiet, unostentatious life, at 
the hotel, where his well-known face and figure could 
be seen when the senate was not in session. He was 
a man of strong mentality, of sturdy frame and 
marked individuality. As chairman of the committee 
on military affairs he had been able to make him- 
self extremely useful to the government in the pros- 
ecution of the war, and the soldiers found in him 
always a fiiend. He was very agreeable and com- 
panionable, and did not hold himself aloof from the 
common herd, as smaller men in his position might 
have done. He was seen often chatting with other 
guests of the house, when they were gathered in the 
parlors, after or awaiting meals. Once, I met him at 
an impromptu dancing party, and he entered into the 
amusement with the zest of youth. 

A month in Washington, and a surgeon's certificate 
secured the necessary "leave" when, accompanied by 
Lieutenant C. E. Storrs of troop ''B," who had been 
severely wounded in one of the engagements in Vir- 
ginia, after Falling Waters, I started by the Pennsyl- 
vania line, for the old home in Michigan, stopping a 
couple of days, en route, at Altoona, to breathe the 
fresh mountain air. 

Resuming the journey, we reached Pittsburg, to be 



202 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

met at the station by a committee stationed there for 
the purpose of looking out for the comfort of all 
soldiers who passed through the city, either going or 
coming. We were conducted to a commodious dining 
hall, where a free dinner, cooked and served by the 
fair hands of the patriotic ladies of the "Smoky 
City, " was furnished. It was an experience which 
left in our minds a most grateful appreciation of the 
noble spirit that actuated the Northern women in 
war times. 

It was scarce two-thirds of a year since, as school- 
boys innocent of war, though wearing the union blue, 
we had gone forth to try our mettle as soldiers, and 
it needs not to be said that there was a warm wel- 
come home for the veterans fresh from one of the 
most memorable military campaigns in all the history 
of the world. The greetings then and there received 
were ample compensation for all that we had done 
and dared and suffered. I can never forget how 
kind the people were; how they gathered at the rail- 
road station; how cordially they grasped us by the 
hand; how solicitous they were for our comfort; how 
tenderly we were nursed back to health and strength; 
how fondly an affectionate mother hung upon every 
word as we told the story of the exploits of the boys 
in the field; how generously the neighbors dropped in 
to offer congratulations; how eagerly they inquired 
about absent friends; how earnestly they discussed 
the prospect of ultimate victory; how deep and abid- 



ON LEAVE OF ABSENCE 203 

ing was their faith in the justice of the cause and in 
the ability of the government to maintain the union; 
and how determined that nothing must be held back 
that was needed to accomplish that result. For some 
days there was a regular levee beneath my father's 
roof and the good people of the town gave the union 
soldier much cause to remember them with gratitude 
as long as he lives. 

Only in a single instance was anything said that 
seemed obnoxious to a nice sense of propriety, or 
that marred the harmony of an almost universally 
expressed sentiment of patriotic approval of what 
was doing to preserve the life of the nation — a sen- 
timent, in which partisanism or party politics cut no 
figure whatever. One caller had the bad taste to in- 
dulge in severe and unfriendly criticism of " Old Abe," 
as he called the president. That was going too far 
and I defended Mr. Lincoln against his animadver- 
sions with all the warmth, if not the eloquence, of 
the experienced advocate — certainly with the ear- 
nestness born of a sincere admiration for Abraham 
Lincoln and love of his noble traits of character, his 
single-hearted devotion to his country. I had seen 
him in Washington weighed down with a tremendous 
load of responsibility such as few men could have 
endured. I had noted as I grasped his hand the ter- 
rible strain under which he seemed to be suffering; 
the appearance of weariness which he brought with 
him to the interview; the pale, anxious cast of his 



204 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

countenance; the piteous, far-away look of his eyes; 
and by all these tokens he said, as plainly as if he 
had put it into words; "Love and solicitude for my 
country are slowly, but surely, wearing away my 
life." I saw shining through his homely features the 
spirit of one of the grandest, noblest, most lovable of 
the characters who have been brought by the exigen- 
cies of fate to the head of human affairs. The sol- 
diers loved him and they idealized him. He was to 
them the personification of the union cause. The 
day for the discussion of abstract principles had long 
gone by. Their ideal had ceased to be an impersonal 
one. All the hope, the faith, the patriotism of the 
soldiers centered around the personality of the presi- 
dent. In their eyes and thoughts, he stood for the 
idea of nationality, as Luther stood for religious lib- 
erty, Cromwell for parliamentary privilege, or Wash- 
ington for colonial independence. To blame him, was 
to censure the boys in blue and the cause for which 
they fought. No man whose heart was not wholly 
with the Northern armies in the struggle, could rise 
to an appreciation of the character of Lincoln. 

But the great heart of the North never ceased to 
beat in harmony with the music of the union. The 
exceptions to the rule were so rare as to scarcely 
merit notice. The "copperheads" and "knights of 
the golden circle" will hardly cut so much of a figure 
in history as do the tories of the Revolution. 

On the 11th day of October, 1863, after an absence 



THE RETURN TO THE ARMY 205 

of three months duration, during which time I had 
been commissioned major to fill the vacancy caused by 
the death of Weber, I took passage at Washington on a 
ramshackle train over the Orange and Alexandria rail- 
road to go to the front again. Storrs, whose wound 
had healed, joined me and we made the journey to- 
gether. 

The train reached Bealton Station, north of the Rap- 
pahannock river, a little before dark. The harbingers 
of a retreating army were beginning to troop in from 
the front. The army of the Potomac was falling back 
toward the fastnesses of Centerville, the army of 
Northern Virginia in close pursuit. Meade, who in July 
was chasing Lee across the Potomac back into Virginia, 
was himself now being hurried by Lee over the Rap- 
pahannock. The tables had been completely turned. 
The pursued had become the pursuer. 

As usual, the flanking process had been resorted to. 
Using his cavalry as a screen, Lee was attempting to 
maneuver his infantry around Meade's right and, after 
the manner of Stonewall Jackson in the Second Bull 
Run campaign of 1862, interpose between the federal 
army and Washington. 

Thanks to the vigilance of his outposts, the union 
commander detected the movement in time, and was 
able to thwart the strategy of his able adversary. 
Keeping his army well in hand, he retreated to Bull 
Run, Fairfax and Centerville. 

While this was going on, there was a series of spirit- 



206 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ed encounters between the union and confederate cav- 
alry, commanded by Pleasonton and Stuart, respectively 
— the former bringing up the rear, and covering the 
retreat, the latter bold and aggressive as was his wont. 

These affairs, which began on the 9th, culminated on 
the 11th in one of the most exciting, if not brilliant, 
engagements of the war, Kilpatrick taking a prominent 
part, second only to that performed by the heroic John 
Buford and his First cavalry division. 

When the movement began, on the evening of the 
9th, Fitzhugh Lee was left to hold the line along the 
south bank of the Rapidan river, Buford 's cavalry 
division confronting him on the north side. Stuart, 
with Hampton's division of three brigades, Hampton 
being still disabled from the wounds received at Gettys- 
burg, spent the 10th swarming on the right flank of 
the confederate army, in the country between Madison 
Court House and Woodville on the Sperryville pike. 
Kilpatrick vv^as in the vicinity of Culpeper Court House. 
Stuart succeeded not only in veiling the movements of 
the confederate army completely, but on the morning 
of the 11th, found time to concentrate his forces and 
attack Kilpatrick at Culpeper. Buford crossed the 
Rapidan to make a reconnoissance, and encountering 
Fitzhugh Lee, recrossed at Raccoon Ford, closely fol- 
lowed by the latter. The pursuit was kept up through 
Stevensburg, Buford retreating toward Brandy Station. 

When Stuart heard Fitzhugh Lee's guns, he with- 
drew from Kilpatrick' s front and started across 



THE BATTLE OF BRANDY STATION 207 

country, intending to head off the federal cavalry and 
reach Fleetwood, the high ground near the Brandy 
Station, in advance of both Buford and Kilpatrick. 
The latter, however, soon discovered what Stuart was 
trying to do, and then began a horse race of three con- 
verging columns toward Brandy Station, Stuart on the 
left, Buford followed by Fitzhugh Lee on the right, 
and Kilpatrick in the center. Buford was in first and 
took possession of Fleetwood. Rosser with one of 
Lee's brigades, formed facing Buford, so that when 
the head of Kilpatrick' s column approached, Rosser 
was across its path, but fronting in the direction oppo- 
site to that from which it was coming. Kilpatrick, 
beset on both flanks and in rear, and seeing a force of 
the enemy in front also, and ignorant of Buford's 
whereabouts, formed his leading regiments and pro- 
ceeded to charge through to where Buford was getting 
into position. This charge was led by Pleasonton, 
Custer and Kilpatrick, in person. Rosser, seeing what 
was coming, and caught between two fires, dextrously 
withdrew to one side, and when the rear of Kilpatrick' s 
division was opposite to him, charged it on one flank 
while Stuart assaulted it on the other, and there was a 
general melee, in which each side performed prodigies 
of valor and inflicted severe damage on the other. The 
First and Fifth Michigan regiments were with the ad- 
vance, while the Sixth and Seventh helped to bring up 
the rear. 
The rear of the column had the worst of it and was 



208 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

very roughly handled. The two divisions having 
united, Pleasonton took command and, bringing his 
artillery hurriedly into position, soon had Stuart whip- 
ped to a standstill. 

All the fighting in this battle was done on horseback, 
and no more daring work was done by either side, on 
any of the battle fields of the war, than was seen at 
Brandy Station. Those who were in it, describe it as 
the most stirring and picturesque scene that they ever 
witnessed; especially when the three long columns, one 
of blue and two of gray, were racing on converging 
lines toward the objective point on Fleetwood hill. 
It must have been a pretty picture: Buford hurrying 
into line to face to the rear; the federal batteries 
unlimbering and going into position to resist the 
coming attack; Rosser galloping front into line, to find 
himself attacked front and rear; Kilpatrick, with Ros- 
ser in his front, Fitzhugh Lee and Stuart on his flanks; 
detachments breaking out of the confederate columns 
to attack the flanks and rear of Kilpatrick' s flying 
division; federal regiments halting and facing toward 
the points of the compass whence these attacks came; 
then falling back to new positions, stubbornly contest- 
ing every inch of ground; the fluttering of guidons 
and battle-flags, the flash of sabers and puffs of pistol 
shots — altogether a most brilliant spectacle. 

Stuart was kept at bay until after nightfall, when 
Pleasonton withdrew in safety across the river. 

It has been claimed that Brandy Station was the 



PLEASONTON'S MILITARY SKILL 209 

greatest cavalry engagement of the war. Sheridan, 
who was then still in the west, and consequently not 
"there" awards that honor to Yellow Tavern, fought 
the following season. Doubtless he was right, for the 
latter was a well planned battle in which all the move- 
ments were controlled by a single wilL But most of 
the fighting at Yellow Tavern was done on foot, though 
Custer's mounted charge at the critical moment, won 
the day. Brandy Station was a battle in which all the 
troopers were kept in the saddle. It was, however, a 
battle with no plan, though it is conceded that Pleas- 
onton handled his command with much skill after the 
two divisions had united. His artillery was particu- 
larly effective. Captain Don G. Lovell, of the Sixth 
Michigan, the senior officer present with the regiment, 
greatly distinguished himself in the difficult duty of 
guarding the rear, meeting emergencies as they arose 
with the characteristic courage and coolness which dis- 
tinguished him on all occasions on the field of battle. 

The battle ended about the time our train reached 
Bealton, so Storrs and I missed the opportunity of tak- 
ing part in one of the most memorable contests of the 
civil war. 

After a night on the platform of the railroad station, 
we started at dawn to find the brigade. From wounded 
stragglers the salient events of the previous day were 
learned and the inference drawn from the information 
which they were able to give was that the cavalry must 
be encamped somewhere not far away. All agreed that 



210 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

it was having a lively experience. Everything, how- 
ever, was at sixes and sevens and it was only after a 
long and toilsome search, that the regimental quarter- 
master was located among the trains. My horse, 
equipments and arms had disappeared, but fortunate- 
ly Storrs found his outfit intact and, having two 
mounts, he loaned me one. Selecting from the quar- 
termaster's surplus supplies a government saber, re- 
volver and belt, thus equipped and mounted on Storrs's 
horse, I rode in search of the regiment, which we 
ascertained to be in camp in the woods, some distance 
away from the trains. 

When at last found, it proved to be a sorry looking 
regiment, but a wreck and remnant of its former self. 
With two troops ("I" and "M") absent on detached 
service in the Shenandoah valley, the Sixth Michigan 
started in the Gettysburg campaign, June 21, with be- 
tween 500 and 600 troopers in the saddle. When Storrs 
and I rode into that silvan camp, on that bright October 
morning, there were less than 100 men "present for 
duty " including not a single field officer. Many of the 
troops were commanded by lieutenants, some of them 
by sergeants, and one had neither oflficer nor non-com- 
missioned officer. They had been fighting, marching 
and countermarching for months, and had a jaded, 
dejected appearance, not pleasant to look upon, and 
very far removed indeed from the buoyant and hopeful 
air with which they entered upon the campaign. At 
one point, during the retreat of the day before, it had 




GEORCiE A. CUSTER (about 1870) 



REPORTING TO GENERAL CUSTER 211 

been necessary to leap the horses over a difficult ditch. 
Many of them fell into it, and the riders were over- 
taken by the enemy's horse before they could be ex- 
tricated. Among these was Hobart, sergeant major, 
who was taken to Libby prison, where he remained 
until the next year, when he was exchanged. 

The next thing, was to report to General Custer for 
duty. It was my first personal interview with the 
great cavalryman. He was at his headquarters, in the 
woods, taking life in as light-hearted a way as though 
he had not just come out of a fight, and did not expect 
others to come right along. He acted like a man who 
made a business of his profession; who went about the 
work of fighting battles and winning victories, as a 
railroad superintendent goes about the business of run- 
ning trains. When in action, his whole mind was 
concentrated on the duty and responsibility of the 
moment; in camp, he was genial and companionable, 
blithe as a boy. Indeed he was a boy in years, though 
a man in courage and in discretion. 

After drawing rations and forage, the march was 
resumed and, little of incident that was important in- 
tervening, on the 14th the division was encamped on 
the north side of Bull Run, near the Gainesville or War- 
renton turnpike, where we remained undisturbed until 
the evening of the 18th, when the forward movement 
began which culminated on the 19th in the battle of 
Buckland Mills, which will be the theme of the next 
chapter. 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE BATTLE OF BUCKLAND MILLS 

"pUCKLAND MILLS was, in some sort, a sequel to 
•^ Brandy Station. The latter battle was a bril- 
liant passage at arms, in which neither side obtained a 
decisive advantage. Kilpatrick was still pugnacious 
and both willing and anxious to meet Stuart again. 
That his mind was full of the subject was evinced by a 
remark he was heard to make one morning at his head- 
quarters on the Bull Run battle ground. He was 
quartered in a house, his host a Virginian too old to be 
in the army, and who remained at home to look after 
the property. It was a clear day, and when the gen- 
eral came out on the porch, the old gentleman accosted 
him with a cheery : 

"A fine day, general ! " 

"Yes, a — fine day for a fight;" was the instant reply. 

In most men this would have sounded like gasconade. 
In Kilpatrick 's case, it was not so considered. He was 
credited with plenty of pluck, and it was well under- 
stood that he was no sooner out of one action, than he 
was planning to get into another. He ran into one, a 
day or two later, which furnished him all the enter- 
tainment of that kind that he wanted, and more too. 



STRATAGEM OF STUART AND LEE 213 

Reconnoissances across Bull Run on the Gainesville 
road disclosed a considerable force of mounted confed- 
erates. When their pickets were driven in by the 
Sixth Michigan on the 15th and again by the First 
Michigan on the 16th strong reserves were revealed. 
As a matter of fact, Stuart was at Buckland Mills with 
Hampton's division, and Fitzhugh Lee was at or near 
Auburn, but a few miles away. They had their heads 
together and devised a trap for Kilpatrick, into which 
he rode with his eyes shut. 

Sunday evening, October 18, the Third division 
moved out across Bull Run, Kilpatrick in command, 
Custer's brigade leading, Davies* with the First brig- 
ade bringing up the rear. Stuart's cavalry was 
attacked and driven rapidly until dark by the First 
Vermont cavalry f under Lieutenant Colonel Addison 
W. Preston, acting as advance guard. Early on Mon- 
day morning, October 19, the march was resumed, the 
Sixth Michigan in advance. 

About midway between Bull Run and Broad Run the 
confederate rear guard, a regiment of Young's brig- 
ade of Hampton's division, was encountered which 
fell back before the advance of the Sixth Michigan 
making but slight resistance and retreating across 
Broad Run, where it was found that Stuart had taken 
up a strong position, forming the three brigades of Gor- 

• Brigadier General Henry E. Davies, formerly colonel Second New York cav- 
alry, assigned as permanent successor of Farnsworth, killed at Gettysburg. 
+ Attached to the Michigan brigade. 



214 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

don, Rosser and Young in line on the opposite side, as 
if to contest the crossing. 

The stream was deep and difficult, spanned at the 
pike by a stone bridge. Its banks were wooded. 
Stuart stationed a piece of artillery on the high ground 
so as to command the bridge and its approaches. A por- 
tion of the regiment was dismounted and advanced to 
engage the dismounted confederates across the stream. 
Captain George R. Maxwell of the First Michigan, 
whose regiment was at the time in the rear, rode up 
and asked permission to take a carbine and go on foot 
with the men of the Sixth who were in front. The 
permission was granted and, giving his horse into the 
charge of an orderly, he was in a few moments justi- 
fying his already well established reputation as a man 
of courage, by fighting like an enlisted man, on the 
skirmish line of a regiment not his own, thus volun- 
tarily exceeding any requirements of duty. 

Custer rode up with his staff and escort, and halted 
in the road, making a conspicuous group. Stuart's can- 
noneers planted a shell right in their midst, which 
caused a lively scattering, as they had no desire to be 
made targets of for that kind of artillery practice. 
Fortunately no one was killed. 

Custer then brought up his entire command and 
formed a line of battle, the Sixth Michigan in the 
center across the pike, the Fifth Michigan on the right, 
the Seventh Michigan on the left, the First Michigan 
and First Vermont in reserve, mounted. After a some- 



DAVIES TAKES THE ADVANCE 215 

what stubborn resistance, Stuart apparently reluctantly 
withdrew, permitting Custer to cross though he could 
have held the position easily against ten times his 
number whereas, as the sequel proved, he greatly 
outnumbered Kilpatrick. The Seventh crossed at a 
ford about a mile below, the other regiments at the 
bridge. Stuart retreated toward Warrenton. It was 
then about noon, perhaps a little later than that. Kil- 
patrick came up and ordered Custer to draw in his 
skirmishers and allow Davies to pass him and take the 
advance. Custer massed his command on some level 
ground, behind a hill, beyond the bridge, and adjacent 
to the stream. Davies crossed the bridge, passed the 
Michigan brigade, and took up the pursuit of Stuart. 
Kilpatrick, with his staff, followed along the pike in 
rear of Davies's brigade. As he was moving off, Kil- 
patrick directed Custer to follow the First brigade and 
bring up the rear. 

This was the very thing that Stuart was waiting for. 
It had been arranged between him and Fitzhugh Lee 
that he, with his three brigades,* was to fall back 
without resistance before the two brigades of the 
Third division, until they were drawn well away from 
the bridge, when Lee, who was coming up from Au- 
burn through the woods to the left, with the brigades 
of Lomax, Chambliss and Wickham and Breathed' s 
battery would swing in across the pike, cut Kilpatrick 

* Rosser. Young and Gordon. 



216 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

off from the bridge, and then, at the first sound of 
Lee's guns, Kilpatrick was to be attacked simultane- 
ously by Stuart in front and by Lee in rear, and thor- 
oughly whipped. 

It was a very pretty bit of strategy and came very 
near being successful. The plan was neatly frustrated 
by one of those apparent accidents of war which make 
or unmake men, according as they are favorable or 
unfavorable. 

Custer respectfully but firmly demurred to moving 
until his men could have their breakfast — rather their 
dinner, for the forenoon was already spent. Neither 
men nor horses had had anything to eat since the night 
before, and he urged that the horses should have a feed 
and the men have an opportunity to make coffee before 
they were required to go farther. 

Custer was a fighting man, through and through, but 
wary and wily as brave. There was in him an inde- 
scribable something — call it caution, call it sagacity, 
call it the real military instinct — it may have been 
genius — by whatever name entitled, it nearly always 
impelled him to do intuitively the right thing. In this 
case it seemed obstinacy, if not insubordination. It 
was characteristic of him to care studiously for the 
comfort of his men. And he did not believe in wasting 
their lives. It is more than probable that there was in 
his mind a suspicion of the true state of things. If so, 
he did not say so, even to the general commanding the 
division. He kept his own counsel and had his way. 



A MOST FORTUNATE DELAY 217 

The delay was finally sanctioned by Kilpatrick, and the 
brigade remained on the bank feeding their horses and 
making coffee, Davies meanwhile advancing cautiously 
on the Warrenton road to a point within about two or 
three miles of Warrenton. Stuart made slight if any 
attempt to resist his progress. 

The Gainesville- Warrenton pike, after crossing Broad 
Run, is bounded on both sides by cleared farm lands, 
fringed about one-third of a mile back by woods. 
From the place of Custer's halt it was not more than 
500 or 600 yards to these woods. The road runs in a 
westerly direction and the brigade was on the south 
side of it. 

There is very little of record from which to determine 
the time consumed by Custer's halt. It is a peculiar 
circumstance that not a single report of this battle 
made by a regimental commander in Custer's brigade 
appears in the official war records. A similar omission 
has been noted in the battle of Gettysburg. Custer 
made a report and so did Kilpatrick and Davies, but 
they are all deficient in details. There is no hint in 
any of them as to the duration of the delay. The 
confederate chronicles are much more complete. From 
them it would appear that the stop was made about 
noon and that the real battle began at 3:30 in the after- 
noon. Memory is at fault on this point for the reason 
that after coffee and while the horses were feeding I 
lay down upon the ground and fell asleep. Before that 
some of the men had gone into the adjacent fields in 



218 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

search of long forage. It was understood that the 
Seventh Michigan after crossing at the lower ford was 
scouting through the country toward Greenwich and 
there was no hint or suspicion that an enemy could ap- 
proach from that direction without being discovered by 
this scouting party. 

Finally Custer was ready to move. Awakened by a 
staff officer I was directed to report to the general. 

"Major," said he, "take position with your regi- 
ment about 500 yards toward those woods remain there 
until the command is in column on the pike, then fol- 
low and bring up the rear. ' ' 

The order was given with a caution to be careful, as 
the Seventh Michigan had been scouting near Green- 
wich and might be expected to come in from that direc- 
tion. Greenwich is almost due south from Buckland 
Mills, whereas Auburn, from which place Fitzhugh Lee 
was approaching, lay considerably west of south. 

The movement of the two commands began simul- 
taneously. The Fifth Michigan, Pennington's battery, 
the First Michigan and First Vermont, with Custer 
and his staff leading, were in a few moments march- 
ing briskly in column on the Warrenton pike, which 
was not very far away from the starting point. The 
Sixth Michigan meantime proceeded in column of fours 
toward the place designated by General Custer, close 
up to the woods. Nothing had been seen or heard of 
Davies for some time. Everything was quiet. Nothing 
could be heard except the tramp of the horses* feet 




DON G. LOVELL 



CAPTAIN LOVELL'S DISCOVERY 219 

and the rumble of the wheels of Pennington's gun car- 
riages, growing more and more indistinct as the dis- 
tance increased. 

The Sixth had gone about 250 or 300 yards and was 
approaching a fence which divided the farm into fields, 
when Captain Don G. Lovell, who was riding by the 
side of the commanding officer of the regiment,* sud- 
denly cried out : 

"Major, there is a mounted man in the edge of the 
woods yonder," at the same time pointing to a place 
directly in front and about 200 yards beyond the fence. 

Captain Lovell was one of the most dashing and in- 
trepid officers in the brigade. He was always cool and 
never carried away with excitement under any circum- 
stances. It is perhaps doubtful whether he could have 
maintained his customary imperturbability, if he had 
realized, at the moment, just what that lone picket 
portended. 

A glance in the direction indicated, revealed the 
truth of Captain Lovell' s declaration but, recalling 
what General Custer had said, I replied : 

"The general said we might expect some mounted 
men of the Seventh from that direction." 

"But that vidette is a rebel," retorted Lovell, "he 
is dressed in gray. " 

"It can't be possible," was the insistent reply, and 
the column kept on moving. 

* Since reporting for duty. October 12. I had been in command of the regiment. 



220 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Just then, the man in the woods began to ride his 
horse in a circle. 

"Look at that," said Lovell; "that is a rebel signal; 
our men don't do that." 

The truth of the inference was too evident to be dis- 
puted. Things were beginning to look suspicious, and 
in another instant all doubt, if any remained, was set 
at rest. The horseman, after circling about a time or 
two, brought his horse to a standstill facing in the 
direction from which we were approaching. There 
was a puff of smoke from the muzzle of his revolver 
or carbine, and a bullet whizzed by and buried itself 
in the breast of one of the horses in the first set of 
fours. 

"There, — it," exclaimed Lovell. "Now you know 
it is a rebel, don't you? " 

The information was too reliable not to be convinc- 
ing, and the regiment was promptly brought front into 
line, which had hardly been accomplished, when shots 
began to come from other points in the woods, and no 
further demonstration was needed that they were full 
of confederates. 

The fence was close at hand, and the command to 
dismount to fight on foot was given. The Sixth de- 
ployed along the fence and the Spencers began to bark. 
The horses were sent back a short distance, under 
cover of a reverse slope. The acting adjutant was dis- 
patched to overtake Custer and report to him that we 
were confronted by a large force of confederates and 



CUSTER'S FIGHT AGAINST ODDS 221 

had been attacked. Before he had started, the con- 
federates displayed a line of dismounted skirmishers 
that extended far beyond both flanks of the regiment 
and a swarm of them in front. A Michigan regiment, 
behind a fence, and armed with Spencer carbines, was 
a dangerous antagonist to grapple with by a direct 
front assault, and Fitzhugh Lee's men were not eager 
to advance across the open field, but hugged the woods, 
waiting for their friends on the right and left to get 
around our flanks, which there was imminent danger 
of their doing, before relief could come. It did not, 
however, take Custer long to act. Putting the Fifth 
Michigan in on the right of the Sixth, he brought back 
Pennington's battery, and stationed the First Vermont 
mounted to protect the left flank, holding the First 
Michigan mounted in reserve to support the battery 
and to reinforce any weak point, and proceeded to put 
up one of the gamiest fights against odds, seen in the 
war. Opposed to Custer's five regiments and one bat- 
tery, Fitzhugh Lee had twelve regiments of cavalry, 
three brigades under Lomax, Owen and Chambliss and 
as good a battery — Breathed' s — as was in the con- 
federate service. 

Before the dispositions described in the foregoing 
had been completed, Breathed' s battery, which had 
been masked in the woods to the right and front of the 
position occupied by the Sixth Michigan, opened fire 
with shell. But Pennington came into position with a 
rush, and unlimbering two pieces, in less time than it 



222 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

takes to tell it, silenced the confederate artillery, firing 
over the heads of the Sixth Michigan skirmishers. 
Fitzhugh Lee pressed forward his dismounted line, fol- 
lowing it closely with mounted cavalry, and made a 
desperate effort to cut off Custer's line of retreat by 
the bridge. This he was unable to do. The Sixth held 
on to the fence until the confederates were almost to 
it, and until ordered by Custer to retire, when they 
fell back slowly, and mounting their horses, crossed 
the bridge leisurely, without hurry or flurry, the bat- 
tery and the other regiments, except the First and 
Fifth Michigan, preceding it. The First Michigan 
brought up the rear. 

Fitzhugh Lee was completely foiled in his effort to 
get in Custer's rear, or to break up his flanks. Unfor- 
tunately, a portion of one battalion of the Fifth Michi- 
gan, about fifty men, under command of Major John 
Clark, with Captain Lee and Adjutant George Barse 
was captured. Being dismounted in the woods on the 
right, they were not able to reach their horses before 
being intercepted by the enemy's mounted men. 

Custer, on the whole, was very fortunate and had 
reason to congratulate himself on escaping with so lit- 
tle damage. Davies did not fare so well. When Kil~ 
Patrick found that Custer was attacked, he sent orders 
to Davies to retreat. But the sound of firing which 
gave this notice to Kilpatrick was also the pre-arranged 
signal for Stuart, and that officer immediately turned 
on Davies with his entire division, and Davies though 



FITZHUGH LEE'S BLUNDER 223 

he put up a stout resistance had no alternative final- 
ly but to take to the woods on the north side of the 
pike and escape, "every man for himself." Fitzhugh 
Lee was between him and the bridge, he was hemmed 
in on three sides, and in order to escape, his men had 
to plunge in and swim their horses across Broad Run. 
The Fifth Michigan, except Major Clark's command, 
escaped in the same way. The wagons, which followed 
Davies, including Custer's headquarters wagon con- 
taining all his papers, were captured. 

At first blush, it may appear that, if the vidette who 
fired the first shot, thus divulging the fact of the 
enemy's presence, had not done so, the Sixth Michigan 
would have gone on and marched right into Fitzhugh 
Lee's arms. It is not likely, however, that such would 
have been the result. Captain Lovell had already seen 
and called attention to the picket, declaring that he 
was a "rebel." The obvious course, under the cir- 
cumstances, before taking down the fence and advanc- 
ing to the woods, would have been to deploy a skirmish 
line and feel of the woods instead of blundering blindly 
into them. 

Fitzhugh Lee made a mistake in halting to dismount. 
He should have charged the Sixth Michigan. Had he 
charged at once mounted as Rosser did in the Wilder- 
ness, with his overwhelmingly superior force at the 
moment of his arrival he must certainly have inter- 
posed between Custer and the bridge. He allowed one 
regiment to detain his division until Custer could bring 



224 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

back his brigade, and get his regiments into position to 
support each other. 

Major H. B. McClellan, Stuart's adjutant general, 
commenting in his book * on this battle, says that ' ' Cus- 
ter was a hard fighter, even on a retreat. " He also says: 

"Fitzhugh Lee had come up from Auburn expecting to gain, 
unopposed, the rear of Kilpatrick's division, but he found Custer's 
brigade at Broad Run ready to oppose him. A fierce fight ensued. " 

Major McClellan also quotes Major P. P. Johnston, 
who commanded a section of Breathed' s battery in the 
fight, as saying : 

"My battery was hotly engaged. The battle was of the most 
obstinate character, Fitz. Lee exerting himself to the utmost to 
push the enemy, and Custer seeming to have no thought of re- 
tiring." 

The battle was opened by Wickham's brigade of Vir- 
ginians commanded by Colonel T. H. Owen of the 
Third Virginia cavalry. It was the First, Second and 
Third Virginia that led the advance. Pennington gave 
Breathed' s battery much the worst of it. 

The truth is that Fitz. Lee did not find Custer ready 
to oppose him, though it did not take him long to get 
ready, after he was attacked. Custer with most of his 
command was well on his way to follow Kilpatrick. 
Only one regiment was left behind, and that one regi- 
ment — the Sixth Michigan cavalry — was taken entire- 

* Gampaigms of Stuart's Cavalry. 



A MILITARY GAME OF CHESS 225 

ly by surprise when fired upon by the vidette, and was 
all that Colonel Owen had in front of him when he ar- 
rived and began the attack. It is possible that igno- 
rance of what it was facing helped the Sixth Michigan 
to hold on till Custer could be notified and brought 
back. And again, it is possible that Custer was march- 
ing more slowly than the writer wots of; that he sus- 
pected the ruse which was being played by his old West 
Point instructor, * and sent the regiment out there for 
the express purpose of developing the enemy, if enemy 
there was, making a feint of moving away so as to 
deceive, but keeping an ear to windward to catch the 
first sound of danger. It has always seemed to the 
writer that General Custer must have had a motive 
which did not appear on the surface, in giving that 
order. His order was to go 500 yards. Five hundred 
yards would have brought us to the woods. If he 
suspected that there might be an enemy there, no surer 
way to find out whether his suspicions were well found- 
ed or not could have been chosen. One thing is certain. 
He was back in an incrediblv short space of time. It 
may be that he heard the sound of firing and was on 
his way when the adjutant found him. 

Fitzhugh Lee followed Custer half way to Gainesville 
and then withdrew. Near that place was found a line 
of federal infantry sent out to support the cavalry, 
but it did not advance far enough to get into the fight. 

♦ Fitzhosh Lee was Custer's instructor in West Point before the war broke out. 



226 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

That night, Kilpatrick invited all the officers of the 
division to his headquarters and made a sorry attempt 
at merry-making over the events of the day. There 
were milk-punch and music, both of very good quality, 
but the punch, palatable as it undeniably was, did not 
serve to take away the bad taste left by the affair, 
especially among the officers of the First brigade. 
Custer's men did not feel so badly. They had saved 
their bacon and their battery, and the wariness, pru- 
dence and pluck of their young commander had pre- 
vented a much more serious disaster than had actually 
happened. 

It may be of interest enough to mention that Fitz. 
Lee told the writer, in Yorktown, in 1881, that Stuart 
was at fault in stopping to fight at Buckland Mills; 
that, under the arrangement with him (Lee) Stuart 
should have fallen back very rapidly, without making 
any resistance whatever, until he had lured Kilpatrick 
with his entire division some distance beyond the 
bridge. In that event. General Lee would have found 
the opportunity he was seeking. But he did not know 
about Custer's action in insisting on stopping there. 
He was much surprised when informed of the true 
state of things, since he had felt that Stuart was blame- 
worthy in the matter. He had supposed that it was 
Stuart's resistance to the federal advance which kept 
Custer's brigade back until his arrival, and foiled his 
well planned attempt. 



CHAPTER XV 

WINTER QUARTERS IN STEVENSBURG 

TN the month of November, 1863, the army of the 
-^ Potomac recrossed the Rappahannock and the army 
of Northern Virginia retired behind the Rapidan. Gen- 
eral Meade took up the Hne through Culpeper, placing 
the Third division on the left flank with headquarters 
at Stevensburg. 

The advance into Stevensburg was stoutly contested 
by Hampton's division, and the confederate cavalry 
showed that it had not lost any of its fighting qualities, 
if its dash and spirit had been somewhat dampened by 
the sturdy resistance put up in the recent campaign by 
the federal troopers led by Pleasonton, Buford, Gregg, 
Kilpatrick and Custer. 

At the time of the "Mine Run" affair, the Michigan 
cavalry crossed the Rapidan at Morton's Ford and at- 
tacked Swell's infantry, falling back after dark to the 
old position on the north side of the river. 

After that episode, the army went into winter quar- 
ters. The three generals — Kilpatrick, Custer and 
Davies — had quarters in houses, the rest for the most 
part lived in tents or huts. The Sixth was hutted in 
temporary structures built of logs surmounted by tents. 



228 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

They were fitted with doors, chimneys and fireplaces — 
some of them with sashes and glass and were very 
comfortable. The winter was a very cold one. There 
was some snow, even in Virginia, and the first day of 
January, 1864, is still remembered as noteworthy for 
its extremely low temperature throughout the country. 

While in this camp the Michigan regiments had a 
visit from Jacob M. Howard, the colleague of Zacha- 
riah Chandler in the United States senate. He was one 
of the ablest men who ever represented the state in 
the national congress. He had served with high dis- 
tinction as attorney general of the state before being 
elected to the senate. As chairman of the senate com- 
mittee on Pacific railroads, he had much to do with 
piloting the country through the many difficulties which 
stood in the way of the accomplishment of the great 
enterprise of laying tracks for the iron horse across the 
American desert — spanning the continent with rail- 
roads — and reducing the journey from the Missouri 
river to the Pacific ocean from one of months to one of 
days — the most important of the achievements that 
followed close on the heels of the civil war. The sena- 
tor made a patriotic speech to the soldiers and was 
cordially cheered. 

The cavalry picket line was twenty-five miles long, 
and it was no child's play to serve as field officer of the 
day, when every picket post and every vidette had to 
be visited at least once each twenty- four hours. The 
outer line was along the Rapidan river. The conf eder- 



AMENITIES AMONG THE PICKETS 229 

ate pickets on the other side were infantry. The union 
pickets were mounted and the duty was very wearing 
on both men and horses. Stuart's cavalry performed 
comparatively but little picket duty, and was kept back 
in comfortable quarters, recruiting and fitting for the 
coming spring campaign. 

During the winter there was very little firing be- 
tween the pickets. There was a sort of tacit under- 
standing that they were not to molest each other. 
Indeed, officers could ride along the line without fear 
of being shot at. When on inspection duty, they at 
times rode down to the bank and conversed with the 
enemy on the other side. The pickets were suspected 
of crossing and recrossing and exchanging civilities — 
trading tobacco for papers and the like. The word of 
honor would be given to allow the federal or confed- 
erate, as the case might be, to return in safety and it 
was never violated when given. These visits were 
always in the day-time, of course, for at night vigilance 
was never relaxed, and a vidette was not supposed to 
know anybody or permit even his own officers to ap- 
proach without the proper countersign. 

Life in winter quarters was at best dull and it re- 
lieved the monotony to go on picket. The detail as 
field officer of the day was welcomed, although it neces- 
sitated a ride of forty or fifty miles and continuous 
activity for the entire of the tour of duty, both night 
and day. On these rides I made the acquaintance of 
a number of Virginia families, who lived near the river 



230 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

and within our lines. Of these I can now recall but 
two. On the banks of the Rapidan, directly in front 
of Stevensburg, lived a man named Stringfellow, who 
owned a large plantation, which had been despoiled of 
everything of value, except the house and a few out- 
buildings. Every fence was gone, and not a spear of 
anything had been permitted to grow. Mr. Stringfel- 
low was a tall man, with gray hair, and clerical in garb 
and aspect. He was, in fact, a clergyman, and the 
degree of doctor of divinity had been conferred upon 
him — a thing that in those days meant something. 
Degrees, like brevets, were not so easily obtained be- 
fore the civil war period as they have been since. 

Mr. Stringfellow was a gentleman of culture, a 
scholar and profound student of Biblical literature. He 
had written a book, a copy of which was to be seen in 
his house, in which he had demonstrated, to his own 
satisfaction, at least, that the " institution of slavery" 
was of divine origin. It was said that he was a brother 
of the Stringfellow who became so notorious during the 
Kansas troubles, as a leader of the "border ruffians," 
who tried to force slavery into that territory, before 
the breaking out of hostilities between the states. 
Living at home with this Virginia doctor of divinity, 
was a married daughter, whose husband was an officer 
in the confederate army. They were people of the old 
school, cultured, refined, and hospitable, though hard 
put to it to show any substantial evidences of their 
innate hospitality, on account of their impoverished 



THE FIELD OFFICER'S TOUR 231 

condition, which they seemed to feel keenly, but were 
too proud to mention, except when driven to it by sheer 
necessity. The federal cavalrymen were always wel- 
come in that house and the officers in many instances 
were very kind to them. Indeed, I suspect that more 
than once they were spared the pangs of hunger by 
the thoughtful kindness of officers who had found 
shelter in their home and had broken bread at their 
table, only to suspect that the family larder had been 
stripped of the last morsel, in order to keep up the 
reputation for Virginia hospitality. 

About five miles farther down the river, in a lonely 
spot, where a small tributary of the Rapidan tumbled 
down a decline, was a water-power on which was a 
rude sawmill, where a single old-fashioned "sash saw" 
chewed its way lazily through hardwood logs. The mill 
was tended by its owner who, with his wife, lived in a 
house hard by the mill, the only occupants of the dwell- 
ing and the only inhabitants of the immediate neigh- 
borhood. They led a lonely life, and when its monot- 
ony was broken by the arrival of the officer of the day 
upon his tour of duty, extended a quiet, but what 
appeared to be a not over cordial welcome. The man 
was a dwarf. He was so low in stature that when he 
stood, his head came just above the top of the dining 
room table. His diminutive stature was due to a 
strange malformation. His legs looked as if they had 
been driven up into his body, so that there was little 
left but the feet. Otherwise, he was like another, with 



232 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

well formed head and trunk. His wife was a comely- 
lady both in form and in feature, rather above than 
below medium height. Both were intelligent and well 
read, pleasant people to visit with; but when this man, 
with the head and trunk of an adult, the stature of a 
child and, to all intents and purposes, no legs at all, 
toddled across the floor the effect was queer and, taken 
in connection with his somewhat solitary environment, 
it suggested a scene from the "Black Dwarf." But 
when one was seated as a guest of these good people 
at their hospitable board his physical deformity was 
lost sight of in the zest of his conversation. 

The winter of 1863-64 was one of hard work for the 
federal cavalry. In addition to their other duties, the 
Michigan regiments were required to change their tac- 
tical formation and learn a new drill. Up to that time, 
Philip St. George Cooke's single rank cavalry tactics 
had been used. The tactical unit was the set of fours 
and all movements were executed by wheeling these 
units. There was but one rank. For some reason, it 
was decided to substitute the old United States cavalry 
tactics and form in double ranks. The utility of the 
change was, to say the least, an open question, and it 
necessitated many weeks of hard and unremitting toil 
on the part of both officers and men. There was little 
time for rest or recreation. Long and tiresome drills 
and "schools of instruction" made up the daily rou- 
tine. In one respect, however, these drills of troop, 
regiment and brigade were a good thing. Many hun- 



RECRUITS OF 1863 AND 1864 233 

dreds of new recruits were sent on from Michigan and, 
being put in with the old men, they were worked into 
good soldiers before the campaign opened, and proved 
to be as reliable and efficient as the veterans with 
whom they were associated. The Sixth Michigan re- 
ceived over two hundred of these recruits at one time. 
They were fine soldiers and on the march from the 
Wilderness to the James, no inspecting officer could 
have picked out the recruits of 1863-64 from those who 
enlisted in 1862. 

At division and brigade headquarters alone was there 
time for play. Generals Custer and Kilpatrick had a 
race course where they used to devote some time to the 
sport of horse racing. There were in the division a 
number of blooded and speedy animals, and not a little 
friendly rivalry was developed in the various commands 
when the merits of their respective favorites were to 
be tested on the turf. 

It was while at Stevensburg that General Custer ob- 
tained leave of absence and went home to Michigan to 
claim his bride. He was married in February, 1864, to 
Miss Elizabeth B. Bacon, daughter of Judge Bacon, of 
Monroe, Michigan. Mrs. Custer accompanied him when 
he came back and from that time on till the end of the 
war, whenever the exigencies of the service would 
permit, she was by his side. He was then but two 
months past twenty-four years of age, though he had 
already achieved fame as a cavalry officer and general 
of brigade. He was the youngest officer of his rank 



234 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

who won any great measure of success. Kilpatrick 
was more than three years his senior, although both 
were graduated from West Point in 1861. 

Some time after the beginning of the year 1864, there 
began to be rumors of some daring expedition that was 
on foot, to be led by the dashing general commanding 
the division. It was about the middle of February, 
when a number of statesmen of national prominence 
came to Stevensburg, and it did not take a prophet to 
tell that something of unusual importance was in the 
wind, though nothing very definite leaked out as to 
what it was. Among the visitors referred to, were 
Senators Chandler ("Zach."), of Michigan, and Wilk- 
inson, of Minnesota. During their stay, there was a 
meeting in a public hall in Culpeper at which speeches 
were made by both these gentlemen and where General 
Kilpatrick demonstrated that he was no less an orator 
than a fighter. His speech was the gem of the evening 
and stirred up no end of enthusiasm. Hints were 
thrown out of an indefinite something that was going 
to happen. It is now known, as it was soon thereafter, 
that Kilpatrick had devised a daring scheme for the 
capture of Richmond, which had been received with so 
much favor by the authorities in Washington, that he 
was then awaiting only the necessary authority from 
the war department before setting out on what proved 
to be an ill-fated expedition. 

Late in the month, permission was given and he pro- 
ceeded to organize a force of picked men and horses, 



EXPEDITION AGAINST RICHMOND 235 

selected with great care from the various regiments. 
The Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Michigan and First Ver- 
mont were represented, the Sixth furnishing about 
three hundred men. The First Michigan had just re- 
enhsted at the expiration of its three years' term of 
service and was absent on "veteran furlough," so did 
not take part, as the officers and men of that fine regi- 
ment would have been only too glad to do, had they 
been given the opportunity. It was a small division, 
divided into two brigades. General Davies led one of 
them, but General Custer was taken away and entrusted 
with the command of an important diversion designed 
to attract the attention of the enemy by an attack 
on his left flank, while Kilpatrick passed around his 
right and by a quick march reached the confederate 
capital. That portion of Custer's brigade which went 
on the raid, as it was called, was commanded by Col- 
onel Sawyer, of the First Vermont cavalry. Detach- 
ments from the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Michigan 
were commanded by Captain Hastings, Major Kidd 
and Lieutenant Colonel Litchfield respectively; the First 
Vermont by Lieutenant Colonel Preston. 

Custer's part of the work was successfully accom- 
plished. He created so much commotion in the direc- 
tion of Charlottesville, that Kilpatrick was across the 
Rapidan and well on his way before his purpose was 
either discovered or suspected. It was, however, a 
fatal mistake to leave Custer behind. There were 
others who could have made the feint which he so 



236 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

brilliantly executed, but in a movement requiring per- 
fect poise, the rarest judgment and the most undoubted 
courage, Kilpatrick could illy spare his gifted and dar- 
ing subordinate; and it is no disparagement to the 
officer who took his place to say that the Michigan 
brigade without Custer, at that time, was like the play 
of Hamlet with the melancholy Dane left out. With 
him the expedition as devised might well have been 
successful; without him it was foredoomed to failure. 

At the Culpeper meeting there was a large gathering 
of both officers and enlisted men, attracted thither 
from various arms of the service by a natural curios- 
ity to hear what the speakers had to say. There were 
also several ladies in the audience. On the platform 
sat many officers of high rank. I do not remember 
who presided, but recall distinctly the glitter of rich 
uniforms. 

After the speaking had begun, an officer wearing the 
overcoat of an enlisted man came in from the wings 
and modestly took a seat at the back of the stage. 
"Not obvious, not obtrusive, but retired," he seemed 
to shun observation. When, later, he removed his 
overcoat it was seen that he wore the dress uniform of 
a brigadier general. Inquiry disclosed that he was Wes- 
ley Merritt, commander of the Reserve brigade of the 
First cavalry division. His brigade consisted of three 
regiments of regulars — the First, Second and Fifth 
United States cavalry — and two regiments of volun- 
teers—the First New York dragoons and the Sixth 




WESLEY MERRITT 



GENERAL WESLEY MERRITT 237 

Pennsylvania cavalry. This was a crack brigade and 
after the opening of the spring campaign it was closely 
associated with the Michigan brigade for the remaining 
period of the war. 

Wesley Merritt, whom I saw then for the first time, 
was one of the "youngsters" who received their stars 
in June, 1863. He was graduated from the West Point 
military academy in 1860, at the age of twenty-four, 
and made such rapid progress in rank and reputation 
that he was a brigadier at twenty-seven. As a cavalry 
commander he was trained by John Buford. The 
latter was rightly called, "Old Reliable," not because 
of his age, but for the reason that he rarely if ever 
failed to be in the right place at the right moment — 
solid rather than showy, not spectacular but sure. His 
courage and ability were both conspicuous. He be- 
longed to the school of officers of which Thomas, 
Meade, Sedgwick and Gregg were exemplars, rather 
than to that of which Kearney, Sheridan and Custer 
were preeminent types. 

Such also was Merritt, an apt pupil of an illustrious 
teacher, the lineal successor of Buford. He came by 
natural selection to be commander of the First division, 
and at the last was chief of cavalry of the army of the 
Potomac, the capable successor of Pleasonton and Sher- 
idan, a position for which he was peculiarly fitted by 
nature, by acquirements, and by experience. Modesty 
which fitted him like a garment, charming manners, 
the demeanor of a gentleman, cool but fearless bearing 



238 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

in action, were his distinguishing characteristics. He 
was a most excellent officer, between whom and Custer 
there was, it seemed, a great deal of generous rivalry. 
But, in the association of the two in the same command 
there was strength, for each was in a sort the comple- 
ment of the other. Unlike in temperament, in appear- 
ance, and in their style of fighting, they were at one 
in the essentials that go to make a successful career. 

But, to return to the point in the narrative from 
whence this digression strayed, the force that was thus 
assembled in Stevensburg, somewhat against the pro- 
tests, but in compliance with orders from army and 
corps headquarters, was brought together with much 
show of secrecy, albeit the secret was an open one. As 
has been seen, the rumor of the projected movement 
had been for some time flying about from ear to ear, 
and from camp to camp. Its flight, however, must 
have been with heavy pinions, for it did not extend 
beyond the river, where the confederates were resting 
in fancied security, innocent of the hatching of a plot 
for sudden mischief to their capital. 

The composition of the Second brigade has already 
been given. Its numerical strength was about 1,800 
officers and men. The First brigade consisted of nine 
regiments of cavalry and one battery of artillery. 
That is to say there were detachments from that num- 
ber of regiments. These were distributed equally 
among the three divisions, as follows : From the First 
division, the Third Indiana, Fourth New York and the 



AN AUSPICIOUS START 239 

Seventeenth Pennsylvania; from the Second division, 
the First Maine, the Fourth Pennsylvania, and Six- 
teenth Pennsylvania; from the First brigade. Third 
division, Davies's own command, the Second New York, 
the Fifth New York, and Eighteenth Pennsylvania. 
Ransom's regular battery was assigned to duty with 
this brigade. The detachments from the First division 
were all consolidated under Major Hall of the Sixth 
New York; those from the Second division under Major 
Taylor of the First Maine. The aggregate strength of 
Davies's command was 1,817 officers and men, exclu- 
sive of the artillery. The total strength of Kilpat- 
rick's command was about 3,500. 

The expedition started after dark Sunday evening, 
February 28, 1864, with three days' rations. The route 
selected led toward the lower fords of the Rapidan. 
The advance guard consisted of 600 picked men from 
the various commands, all under Colonel Ulric Dahl- 
gren, an officer of Meade's staff who had established a 
reputation for extraordinary daring and dash. He had 
been especially designated from army headquarters to 
accompany the expedition. Davies followed with the 
main body of his brigade including Ransom's battery. 
To Colonel Sawyer with the Vermont and Michigan 
men fell the irksome duty of bringing up the rear of 
the column, the chief care being to keep up the pace, 
not losing sight of those in front, of which for a 
good part of the night there was much danger. 

The crossing was made a little before midnight at 



240 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Ely's Ford, Dahlgren taking the confederate picket post 
by surprise and capturing every man. No alarm was 
given. The start was thus auspicious. We were with- 
in the enemy's lines and they were not yet aware of it. 

There was no halt. The rapid march was continued 
throughout the night. It was clear and cold. The 
order for the march was "at a fast walk," but every 
experienced cavalryman knows that the letter of such 
an order can be obeyed only by those in advance. The 
rear of the column kept closed up with great difficulty. 
The sound of hoofs in front was the only guide as to 
the direction to be taken. Often it was necessary to 
take the trot, sometimes the gallop, and even then the 
leaders were at times out of sight and out of hearing. 
At such times, there was an apprehensive feeling after 
the touch, which had to be kept in order to be sure that 
we were on the right road. This was especially true of 
the heads of subdivisions — the commanders of regi- 
ments — who were charged with the responsibility of 
keeping in sight of those next in front. 

The march was not only rapid but it was continuous. 
There was an air of undue haste — a precipitancy and 
rush not all reassuring. Only the stoical were entirely 
free from disquietude. Those of us who were with the 
extreme rear, and who had not been admitted to the 
confidence of the projectors and leaders of the expedi- 
tion, began to conjecture what it all meant, where we 
were going and, if the pace were kept up, when we 
would get there, and what would be done when the 



THE COMMAND DIVIDED 241 

destination was reached. All the excitement and en- 
joyment were Dahlgren's; all the dull monotony and 
nerve-racking strain ours. 

The head of column reached Spottsylvania Court- 
house at daylight. The tail came trailing in as best it 
could, some time later. Here, in accordance with the 
prearranged plan, Dahlgren with his six hundred troop- 
ers separated from the main body, bearing to the west- 
ward and following the direct road to Frederickshall 
station on the Virginia Central railroad, his objective 
point being Goochland, about twenty miles above Rich- 
mond on the James river. The plan was for Colonel 
Dahlgren to cross the river at or near that place, move 
down on the south side, and be in position to recross by 
the main bridge into Richmond at ten o'clock, Tuesday 
morning, March 1, at the same moment when Kilpat- 
rick would enter the city from the north by way of the 
Brook turnpike.* 

But, ' ' the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang 
aft a-gley." General Sheridan pointed out that such 
combinations rarely work out as expected, and that 
when an engagement with the enemy is liable to take 
place at any moment it is better to keep the whole force 
well together.! 

In this case for Kilpatrick to divide his force was a 

* Kilpatrick's Report, Official Records, series I. vol. XXXIII. p. 133. 

+ "Unless the separate commands in an expedition of this nature are very 
prompt in movement, and each equal to overcoming at once any obstacle it may 
meet combinations rarely work out as expected."— Personal Memoirs of P. H. Sheri- 
dan, vol. I, p. 373. 



242 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

fatal error of judgment. In the light of what took 
place it is now clear, as it ought to have been at the 
time, that the entire command should have been kept 
together, on one road. General Custer made the same 
mistake when he went to his death at Little Big Horn, 
in 1876. The combination did not work out as he ex- 
pected. It may be entirely safe and proper for detach- 
ments to be sent out to make diversions for the purpose 
of deceiving the enemy. This was done when, on ap- 
proaching Ashland Station, Major Hall was despatched 
with a force of about five hundred men to drive in the 
pickets in front of that place and make a feint of 
attacking, leading the enemy to suppose that this was 
the main body, while Kilpatrick with most of his force 
proceeded without opposition on the road leading to 
Richmond. But care was taken that he could reunite 
at any moment. 

It would have been better had Dahlgren continued as 
the advance guard, going directly to Richmond by way 
of one of the bridges of the South Anna river and the 
Brook, the main column closely following. In that way, 
the general commanding might have had all the parts 
of his expeditionary force well in hand, under his own 
eye, and there need have been no halting, hesitation, or 
waiting one for the other. Dahlgren utterly failed to 
carry out to fulfilment the part of the plan prearranged 
for him to accomplish, and lost his life into the bargain. 
And the pity of it is that his life was wasted. Had he 
died leading a charge through the streets of Richmond, 



HE DESERVED A BETTER FATE 243 

compensation might have been found in the glory of 
his achievement. But he died in an ambush, laid for 
him by a small force of home guards and f urloughed 
confederate soldiers, who managed to throw themselves 
across his way when, after admitted defeat, he was 
trying to make his escape with only a small portion of 
his command. He deserved a better fate. 

The main body crossed the Po river in the morning 
of Monday, February 29, and made a halt of fifteen 
minutes to feed. Thence it pushed on, Davies's brig- 
ade still leading, by way of Newmarket, Chilesburg 
and Anderson's bridge across the South Anna river to 
Beaverdam Station on the Virginia Central railroad. 
This point was reached late in the afternoon, the rear 
guard not arriving until after dark. Here some build- 
ings and stores were burned. A train coming into the 
station, warned by the reflection of the flames in the 
cloudy sky, backed out and escaped capture. A small 
force of confederates made its appearance but was 
easily brushed away. The brushing and burning, how- 
ever, were done by Davies's men. The Michigan cav- 
alrymen coming too late for the fair, were privileged to 
hover in the background and watch the interesting per- 
formance from a safe distance, leaving it for the imagi- 
nation to picture what they would have done if they 
had had the chance. 

This night was cold, raw and rainy, the atmosphere 
full of moisture which gradually turned to an icy sleet. 
This added greatly to the discomfort of the march. 



244 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

which was resumed after tearing up the track and 
taking down the telegraph wires and poles in the neigh- 
borhood of the station. The stop at Beaverdam Station 
was not worth mentioning so far as it gave any oppor- 
tunity to men or horses for rest or refreshment. Out 
into the dark night — and it was a darkness that could 
be felt — rode those brave troopers. On and on, for 
hours and hours, facing the biting storm, feeling the 
pelting rain, staring with straining eyes into the black 
night, striving to see when nothing was visible to the 
keenest vision, listening with pricked up ears for the 
sound of the well-shod hoofs which with rhythmical 
tread signaled the way. 

The night was well advanced when at last a halt was 
ordered to make coffee for the men and give the patient 
animals the modicum of oats that had been brought, 
strapped to the cantles of the saddles. The bivouac 
was in the neighborhood of the Ground Squirrel bridge. 
Davies in his official report said that he went into camp 
at eight o'clock in the evening. That may have been. 
Davies was at the head of column and, after the small 
advance guard, the first to reach the camp ground. It 
was fully two hours later when the last of the Second 
brigade reached the place. From seven o'clock Sunday 
evening, till ten o'clock Monday night there had been 
no stop to speak of — no chance to cook coffee or feed 
the horses — save the brief halt of barely fifteen 
minutes on the south bank of the Po river. The men 
were weary, wet, cold and hungry but there was no 



ON THE BROOK TURNPIKE 245 

complaining, for they were all hardened veterans, ac- 
customed to hardship and exposure. They had been 
schooled to endure the privations of campaigning with 
cheerful fortitude. 

When, at one o'clock, Tuesday morning, March 1, 
the march was once more resumed, it was found that 
the First brigade still had the lead. As on the previous 
day Michigan and Vermont were relegated to the rear. 
By the custom of the service it was our turn to be in 
the advance. The rule was for brigades and even regi- 
ments to alternate in leading. That is because it is 
much easier to march in front than in rear. On that 
morning Sawyer's command was entitled to be in front 
and the first in the fray. That may, however, be 
looked upon as a trifling matter and not worth men- 
tioning. Veterans will not so consider it. It was but 
natural that Kilpatrick should before all others have 
confidence in his old brigade and those officers with 
whom he had personally served. Davies was a gallant 
officer and had some fine officers and regiments with 
him. There were none better. It was an inglorious 
part that was assigned to us. Still, there was as it 
turned out not much glory in the expedition for any- 
body, least of all for Kilpatrick himself. 

The march during the forenoon was along the Rich- 
mond and Potomac railroad, to and across the Chicka- 
hominy river, to the Brook turnpike. Davies advanced 
along the turnpike toward the city, driving in the pick- 
ets and capturing a few of them. He crossed the 



246 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

"Brook"* and succeeded in getting inside the outer 
entrenchments, within a mile of Richmond. From the 
high ground overlooking the intervening plain it was 
almost possible to look into the streets and count the 
spires on the churches. 

The time which it would take to make the ride from 
the Rapidan to the "Brook" had been closely calcu- 
lated. Ten o'clock, Tuesday morning, March 1, had 
been the hour set when Kilpatrick would arrive and be- 
gin the assault upon Richmond from the north, while 
Dahlgren attacked it from the south. The former was 
on time to the minute. But where was Dahlgren ? He 
made no sign. There was no way to determine whether 
he was or was not carrying out his part of the prear- 
ranged plan. Signals did not work. Kilpatrick was 
left to his own resources. A condition had developed 
in which prompt decision and action were imperatively 
demanded. There was no time for delay or careful de- 
liberation. To do or not to do, that was the question. 
And there was but one man who could settle it. The 
rationale of the raid was a hurried ride, timely arrival, 
great daring, a surprise, a sudden charge without a 
moment's hesitation — success. 

Whatever was done must needs be done quickly. It 
was not conceivable that Kilpatrick with three thous- 
and men and six pieces of artillery — Kilpatrick the 
bold, the dashing cavalryman, the hero of Middleburg 

* A small stream crossing the turnpike and after which the historical pike 
was named. 



HE WHO HESITATES IS LOST 247 

and Aldie — the conceiver of the expedition, who knew 
in advance all about the perils he must meet, the 
chances he must take — that he would permit uncer- 
tainty as to what Dahlgren with but five or six hundred 
men and no artillery was doing to influence his own 
immediate action. For all that he knew, Dahlgren was 
already in position, ready to strike, but awaiting the 
sound of battle from the north as the signal to begin. 

And yet he hesitated. The object of the expedition, 
as has been shown, was to ride into Richmond and liber- 
ate the prisoners. It was a daring enterprise. A 
courage to execute commensurate to the ability to con- 
ceive was presupposed. So far everything had gone by 
the clock. Officers and men alike knew what that 
forced march of thirty-six hours, without pause, meant, 
if it had any rational meaning. Each one had screwed 
his courage to the sticking point to follow wherever our 
gallant commander led, prepared to share with him 
success or failure, according to the event. Indeed, 
there was safety in following rather than in falling 
back. We were far afield in an enemy's country. It 
was necessary to ' ' hang together to avoid hanging sep- 
arately." The goal was in sight. By a bold and quick 
forward movement alone could it be reached. An order 
to move up into a line of squadron columns was moment- 
arily expected. That a dash into the city, or at least 
an attempt would be made nobody doubted. Anything 
short of that would be farcical, and the expedition that 
set out big with promise would be fated to return bar- 



248 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ren of results. The good beginning was worthy of a 
better ending than that. 

Well, some of Davies's advance regiments were dis- 
mounted and the men sent forward deployed as carbi- 
neers on foot to feel of the fortifications and make a 
tentative attack on their defenders. Some of Ransom's 
guns were unlimbered and opened fire at long range. 
Reply was made by the enemy's cannoneers, for some 
of the earthworks facing us were manned with artil- 
lerists. 

In the meantime. Sawyer's brigade held on the pike 
in column of fours, mounted, anxiously awaiting orders 
and developments, listened intently to the desultory 
firing of the carbineers and the occasional boom of the 
cannon in front. There was a growing feeling of un- 
easiness and incertitude which began to frame our 
minds for doubts and fears as to the outcome. 

At length, a staff officer was seen riding slowly from 
the front towards the rear. The thought that ran 
along the column was, ' ' Now the order is surely coming 
to move forward at a trot. ' ' Not so, however. He had 
been directed by General Kilpatrick to notify command- 
ing officers that in case any of their men should be 
wounded, they would be obliged to make their own 
arrangements for the transportation and care of them, 
since there were no ambulances available. 

Cheerful intelligence, surely, and well timed to put 
men and officers upon their fighting mettle! From that 
moment, the mental attitude of the bravest was one of 



STRANGE AND FATAL IRRESOLUTION 249 

apathetic indifference. Such an announcement was 
enough to dampen the ardor of men as brave as those 
who had been selected to make up the personnel of 
this expedition. 

Finally, anxious to get some idea of what was going 
on and what the outlook, I rode forward to a place 
overlooking the battle field. Away to the front, a 
thousand yards or more, was an open stretch of cleared 
fields, across which was a light line of dismounted 
cavalry skirmishers, firing away at the defenders of the 
earthworks. This defensive force did not appear to be 
formidable in numbers; nor was it particularly effective 
in its fire upon our troops. Along the union line rode 
Captain L. G. Estes, adjutant general of the division, 
his cape lined with red thrown back on one shoulder, 
making of him a conspicuous target. He was exposing 
himself in most audacious fashion, as was his wont. 
It looked like an act of pure bravado. It was not nec- 
essary for him to furnish evidence of his gallantry. 
His courage was proverbial among the cavalrymen of 
the Third division. They had seen him recklessly ex- 
pose his life on many battle fields. 

This was as near as the expedition ever came to cap- 
turing Richmond. Kilpatrick who, at the start, was 
bold and confident, at the last when quick resolution 
was indispensable, appeared to be overcome with a 
strange and fatal irresolution. Davies was recalled 
and the entire force was directed to take the road to 



250 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Meadow Bridge. It was after dark when we were 
ordered into camp somewhere between Mechanicsville 
and Atlee's Station. When I received the order I 
inquired if we were to picket our own camp but 
was informed that details for that purpose had been 
made and it would not be necessary. This quieted my 
fears somewhat but not entirely. Precautions were 
taken against possible surprise and to ensure speedy 
mounting and getting into position in the event of an 
emergency requiring it. The regiment went into biv- 
ouac in line, a little back in the shadow and away 
from the fires. Few camp fires were permitted. The 
saddle girths were loosened slightly but the saddles 
were not removed. Each trooper lay in front of his 
own horse, pulling the bridle rein over his horse's head 
and slipping his arm through it. In this way they 
were to get such sleep as they could. In case of a sud- 
den alarm they were to stand to horse and be ready 
instantly to mount. 

Thinking that in any case it could be got ready while 
the regiment was being mounted, I allowed my own 
horse to be unsaddled and hitched him by the halter to 
a sapling in front of my shelter tent which was quickly 
pitched, Barnhart, the acting adjutant, and an orderly 
pitching theirs by the side of it. Then, removing 
sword and belt but keeping on overcoat, boots and 
spurs, I crawled in with a "poncho" under me, using 
the saddle for a pillow. 

It was a raw, rainy night, and snow was falling. 



A SNOW STORM IN VIRGINIA 251 

The bad weather of the first night out was worse than 
repeated. It seemed more hke Michigan than Virginia. 
It was very dark. I do not believe that any man Hving 
could make a map of the camps which the two brigades 
occupied that night - the exact locations or even the 
relative positions of the various commands. I doubt if 
the actual participants could point them out were they 
to visit the place. I know that at the time I had not 
the slightest knowledge on the subject and could not 
have told which way to go to find any one of them or 
even brigade or division headquarters. It looked like 
a case of "wisdom consists in taking care of yourself." 
We were on the north side of the Chickahominy and, 
with the bridges guarded, it would be difficult for the 
forces with which we had been contending during the 
day to get in on our night encampment. At least they 
could not well take us by surprise. But this made the 
position all the more vulnerable from the north. It was 
idle to suppose that Stuart's cavalry was doing nothing. 
It was as certain as anything could be that his enter- 
prising horsemen were gathering on our track, urging 
their steeds to the death in an endeavor to stop the 
audacious career of the federal commander. 

During the early evening it was known throughout 
the command that the general had not given up the 
hope of capturing the city and liberating the prisoners. 
A body of five hundred men led by Lieutenant Colonel 
Addison W. Preston of the First Vermont cavalry was 
to start out from our camp by the Mechanicsville road, 



252 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

charge in, release the prisoners and bring them out, 
Kilpatrick covering the movement with his entire com- 
mand. The latter' s official report says there were two 
bodies, one to be led by Preston, the other by Major 
Taylor of the First Maine cavalry. The name of Pres- 
ton was a guarantee that the dash, if made at all, 
would be bravely led. There was no more gallant 
officer in the whole cavalry corps. 

The conditions were such as to make one wakeful and 
alert, if anything could. But the danger of yielding 
for an instant to the allurement of the drowsiness pro- 
duced by the long ride without sleep was overpowering. 
In an instant after getting under cover of the shelter 
tent I was emulating the seven sleepers. It is doubt- 
ful if the trump of Gabriel himself, had it sounded, 
could have awakened me. The assurance that we were 
protected by pickets, and the order to go into camp 
having been given unaccompanied by any warning to 
be alert and on the watch for danger, had lulled me into 
such an absolutely false sense of security that I was 
for the time dead to all the surroundings. There was 
firing among the pickets. I did not hear it. A cannon 
boomed. I did not hear it. A second piece of artillery 
added to the tumult. I did not hear it. Shells hurtled 
through the trees, over the camp and the waves of 
sound did not disturb my ear. At last partial con- 
sciousness returned. There was a vague sense of 
something out of the usual order going on. Then I 
found that Barnhart and the orderly were pulling me 




LEVANT W. BARNHART 
WILLIAM HULL 



A CASE OF FRIEND IN NEED 253 

out of the "pup" tent by the heels. That sufficed. 
I was instantly wide awake. Barnhart was ordered to 
get his horse and mount the regiment. The orderly 
to saddle my horse and his own. In a few moments all 
hands were in the saddle. The regiment was wheeled 
by fours and moved a short distance to the right, more 
in the shadow and out of range of the shells, and 
formed in line facing toward where the enemy was 
supposed to be, and held there awaiting orders. No 
orders to advance came, nor was any brigade line of 
battle formed. In a very short time a staff officer 
came riding fast and directed me to move out by fours 
on the road in rear of the alignment and follow the 
command which he said had gone and was retreating. 
He did not say what road it was nor whither it led. 
He then rode away. Wheeling into column the regi- 
ment was moved out on the road and, greatly confused 
as to the points of the compass, and not hearing or 
seeing anything of the column, turned in the wrong 
direction. The same staff officer soon overtook the 
head of the regiment and set us right. We had to 
countermarch and, as a matter of fact, were going to- 
wards the enemy instead of joining in the retreat. It 
was by mistake, however. We had gone probably an 
eighth of a mile before being stopped. 

The march then led back within sight of the camp 
which had been vacated. As we passed that point, far 
away in the distance among the trees, by the light of 
the abandoned fires, could be seen men flitting like 



254 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

specters through the places where the camps had been. 
They were presumably the enemy and apparently bent 
on plunder rather than conquest. It was a good time 
to give them a Roland for their Oliver but there did not 
seem to be a disposition to make a concerted attack or, 
in fact, any attack at all. Kilpatrick was in full retreat 
toward Old Church, abandoning his plan of a midnight 
attack on Richmond. 

The force which made the attack on the camps was 
led by Wade Hampton who, as soon as he knew of the 
expedition, set out on the trail, picking up odds and 
ends of confederate cavalry when and where he could. 
He marched that day from Hanover Courthouse and 
says he came in sight of the camp fires near Atlee's 
Station and to his right on the Telegraph or Brook road. 
He must have been deceived as to the direction, for it 
is not possible that any portion of the main body could 
have been in camp on either of those roads. The camp 
he attacked was that of the Seventh Michigan which 
bore the brunt of it. This regiment lost a number of 
prisoners including the commanding officer. Lieutenant 
Colonel Litchfield. 

We must have marched at least a mile, perhaps more, 
when the column was overtaken. It was moving at a 
walk on the road leading to Old Church. Finding my- 
self in rear with no rear guard I detached three troops 
(A, E and G) and held them with sufficient interval to 
cover the retreat. When there was a halt they were 
formed in line across the road and facing to the rear 



BRINGING UP THE REAR 255 

with carbines loaded and at a "ready" to repel any 
attack, should one be made. Once when halted the 
tread of horses could be heard approaching. 

' ' Halt ! Who comes there ? ' ' was the challenge. 

"Major Wells and a portion of the First Vermont 
cavalry," was the reply. 

He advanced and was recognized and for the re- 
mainder of the night we jointly looked after the rear 
until a camping ground was found near Old Church 
about daylight the next morning. 

An amusing thing happened after Barnhart and the 
orderly pulled me out of the tent. The orderly saddled 
my horse and after buckling on sword and belt I put 
my foot in stirrup and proceeded to mount. The saddle 
slipped off to the ground. In the excitement he had 
neglected to fasten the girths. I put the saddle on 
again and, making all tight, mounted and gave the 
horse the spur, when to my dismay he proved to be still 
tied to the tree. It was necessary to dismount, untie 
and adjust the halter. By this time it is needless to 
say I was getting ' ' rattled. ' ' But the precautions taken 
made it easy to get the regiment into shape and keep 
it well in hand. The most regrettable thing about it 
all was that Sawyer did not rush his entire brigade to 
the support of the picket line. Had that been done, it 
is more than likely that Litchfield and his men might 
have been saved from capture, though I do not know 
how Hampton found them when he stole into their 
camp. If they were scattered about and asleep it 



256 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

would have been impossible to rally them and get them 
into line for effective resistance. On the other hand, 
had Sawyer with his other regiments, or Davies with 
his brigade, or both of them together made a concerted 
attack Hampton might have been worsted. But there 
was no attempt to make a fight. Hampton's attack 
caused consternation, forced a precipitate retreat, and 
led to the final abandonment of the objects of the ex- 
pedition. 

In a previous chapter I have sought to show that 
official reports are often meager, sometimes misleading. 
There has always been a good deal of mystery about 
this affair. There is mystery still, which careful read- 
ing of the official records does not dispel. Sawyer made 
no report; or, if he did it was not published. Few if 
any of the regimental commanders submitted reports. 
The Michigan brigade suffered its usual fate in that 
regard. 

Kllpatrick's report as published says : 

"The command was moved out on the road to Old Church, and 
placed in position and after considerable hard fighting: repulsed the 
enemy and forced him back on the road to Hanover Courthouse." 

Davies in his official report said : 

"The enemy during the evening skirmished slightly with my 
pickets, and about 12 p. m., attacked the Second brigade in force. 
My command at once mounted and formed, but the Second brigade 
unassisted repulsed the attack and I moved to the vicinity of Old 
Church." 



MYTHICAL "OFFICIAL REPORTS" 257 

Davies, it is seen, did not claim to have made any 
fight. He was ready and in position, but moved away 
to Old Church. 

Wade Hampton, who led the attack, says : 

"From Hanover Courthouse I marched to Hue:hes"s Crossroads 
as I thought that would be the most lik >ly place for the enemy to 
cross. From that place I could see their camp fires in the direc- 
tion of Atlee's Station as well as to my right on the Telegraph or 
Brook road. I determined to strike at the party near Atlee's and 
with that view moved down to the station, where we met the 
pickets of the enemy. I would not allow their fire to be returned, 
but quickly dismounted 100 men and supporting them with the caval- 
ry, ordered Colonel Cheek (of the North Carolina brigade) to move 
steadily on the camp while two guns were opened on them at very 
short range. * * * Kilpatrick immediately moved his division 
away at a gallop, leaving one wagon with horses hitched to it, and 
one caisson full of ammunition. The enemy was a brigade strong 
here with two other brigades immediately in their rear." 

From these extracts it will be seen how commanding 
officers, when they write their official reports of a 
night rencounter, are apt to draw on their imaginations 
for the facts. The stout fight put up by Kilpatrick, 
and the graphic account by Hampton of how he whip- 
ped three brigades with a handful of confederates 
hastily assembled, are equally mythical. 

Davies' s report gives a very accurate description of 
the affair. From this we find that he picketed toward 
Richmond and the Meadow bridges, taking care of the 
flanks and rear. The slight skirmishing with his 



258 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

pickets, of which he speaks, must have been with small 
bodies that came out from Richmond or which followed 
him from his position of the day on the Brook pike. 
It had no relation to Hampton's attack which was from 
the opposite direction and entirely distinct. To Sawyer 
it was left, it would appear, to look out for the front 
— that is, toward Ashland and Hanover Courthouse. 
Sawyer sent the Seventh Michigan out on picket, the 
outer line advanced as far as Atlee's Station. 

When Hampton came in from Hughes's cross roads, 
he did not stop to skirmish with the videttes. He did 
not fire a shot but followed the pickets into the camp 
and opened with carbines and two pieces of artillery at 
close range. No arrangements appear to have been 
made to support the Seventh properly in the event of 
such an attack, which might have been foreseen. Saw- 
yer should have reinforced the Seventh with his entire 
brigade. And it was equally incumbent on Kilpatrick 
to support Sawyer with Davies's brigade if he needed 
support. Neither of these things was done. Kilpat- 
rick' s artillery made no response to that of Hampton. 
The only order was to retreat. Hampton was not far 
away from the facts when he said that "Kilpatrick 
immediately moved his division off at a gallop." He 
did not move it "at a gallop." He moved it at a walk. 
But he moved "immediately. " He did not stop to fight, 
and morning found him well on the way to the Pamun- 
key river. It was an unlucky event for poor Litchfield. 
He was held as a prisoner of war very nearly if not 




A. C. LITCHFIELD 



A CHIVALROUS YOUTH 259 

quite until the curtain had fallen on the final scene at 
Appomattax. I do not remember that he ever again 
had the privilege of commanding his regiment. 

Kilpatrick's strategy was better than his tactics. 
His plan was bold in conception, but faulty in execu- 
tion. It has been shown that he made a mistake in 
dividing his command; that he made another when he 
failed to order an immediate attack after his arrival 
before the city. His afterthought of sending Preston 
and Taylor, at midnight, in a snow storm, and on a 
night so dark that it would have been impossible to 
keep together, to be sure of the way, or to distinguish 
friend from foe, to do a thing which he hesitated to do 
in the daytime and with his entire force,, would have 
been a more serious blunder than either. Of course, 
if Preston had started, it would have been with the 
determination to succeed or lose his life in the adven- 
ture. That was his reputation and his character as a 
soldier. But the services and lives of such men are 
too valuable to be wasted in futile attempts. It might 
have been glorious but it would not have been war. 

To conclude this rambling description. In October, 
1907, while attending the Jamestown exposition I met 
Colonel St. George Tucker, president of the exposition 
company and a well known scion of one of the first 
families of Virginia. The conversation turned to cer- 
tain incidents of the civil war, among others some of 
those pertaining to the Kilpatrick raid. Colonel Tucker 
was at the time a boy ten years of age. Armed with a 



260 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

gun he was at a window in the second story of his 
father's house ready to do his part in repelHng the 
"vandals" should they invade the streets of the city. 
This circumstance sheds light on the real situation. 
With the schoolboys banded together to defend their 
homes, and every house garrisoned in that way, not to 
mention the regular soldiers and the men who were on 
duty, it is quite certain that Richmond would have been 
an uncomfortable place that night for Preston and his 
little band of heroes. A man's house is his citadel and 
boys and women will fight to defend it. 

From Old Church the command moved Wednesday to 
Tunstall's Station, and thence by way of New Kent 
Courthouse and Williamsburg to Yorktown. At York- 
town the various regiments took transports to Wash- 
ington and from Washington marched back to their old 
camps around Stevensburg, no event of importance 
marking the journey. They arrived on the Rapidan 
about the middle of the month, having been absent 
two weeks. The men stood the experience better than 
the horses. The animals were weakened and worn out 
and the time remaining before the opening of active 
operations was hardly sufficient for their recuperation. 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN 

TN the spring of 1864, the cavalry of the army of the 
"*" Potomac was thoroughly reorganized. Pleasonton, 
who had been rather a staff officer of the general com- 
manding the army than a real chief of cavalry, was 
retired and Sheridan took his place. Kilpatrick was 
sent to the west and James H. Wilson, an engineer 
officer, succeeded him in command of the Third divi- 
sion. Buford's old division, the First, was placed un- 
der Torbert, an infantry officer whose qualifications as 
a commander of cavalry were not remarkable. There 
were several of his subordinates who were both more 
capable and more deserving, notably Custer, Merritt 
and Thomas C. Devin. John Buford, the heroic, one 
of the ablest of all the generals of division, had suc- 
cumbed to the exposures of the previous campaign. 
His death befell in December, 1863, on the very day 
when he received his commission as major-general, a 
richly deserved reward for his splendid and patriotic 
services in the Gettysburg and other campaigns. His 
death created a void which it was hard to fill. Gregg 
was the only one of the three old and tried division 
commanders who remained with the corps. 



262 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Of the generals of brigade, Merritt and Devin re- 
mained with their old division. Davies was transferred 
from the Third to the Second, and Custer's Michigan 
brigade became the First brigade of the First division, 
the general going with it. 

Pleasonton who was sent to Rosecrans, in Missouri, 
although perhaps not, like his illustrious successor, a 
cavalry chief of the first rank, had a brilliant record, 
and in the campaign of 1863 had performed most mer- 
itorious and effective service and certainly deserves a 
high place in the list of union leaders of that period. 
In all the campaigns of the year 1863, he acquitted 
himself with the highest credit and in many of the 
battles, notably at Chancellorsville, Middleburg and 
Brandy Station, he was an equal match for Stuart and 
his able lieutenants. If, in the readjustment incident 
to the assumption by General Grant of the chief com- 
mand, Pleasonton could have been permitted to serve 
loyally under Sheridan, who was his junior in rank, it 
would, doubtless, have been better for both of them. 
He would have been obliged, to be sure, to crucify his 
ambition and waive his rank, but his name might have 
been Hnked with those of Gregg, and Merritt, and 
Custer in the record of "Little Phil's" picturesque 
marches from the Wilderness to the James; from 
Harper's Ferry to Cedar Creek; and from Winchester 
to Appomattox. He left the army in whose achieve- 
ments he had borne so honorable a part, and no oppor- 
tunities for distinction came to him afterwards. Others 



MESSAGES OF COMMENDATION 263 

wore the laurels that might have been his. 

Soon after his arrival, General Sheridan reviewed the 
cavalry corps on the open ground near Culpeper. There 
were ten thousand mounted men in line, and when they 
broke into column to pass in review before the as- 
sembled generals of the army, it was a magnificent 
spectacle. To this day the writer's blood quickens in 
his veins and a flush of pardonable pride mantles his 
face whenever he recalls the circumstance of one of 
Custer's staff coming to his quarters after the parade, 
to convey with the general's compHments the pleasant 
information that General Sheridan had personally re- 
quested him to compliment the officers and men of the 
regiment, on its excellent appearance and soldierly 
bearing on the review. Only a short time before. Gen- 
eral Kilpatrick had sent a similar message after seeing 
the regiment at brigade drill. How cheering these 
messages were; and how full of encouragement to the 
full performance of duty in the trying times that were 
close at hand! Life is not too full of such words of 
cheer, even when we do our best. It is not so much 
admiration as appreciation that one craves from his 
fellow men, especially from those who are by circum- 
stance placed over him. But envy, and malice, and 
a mean, begrudging spirit often stand at the door to 
keep it out, when it would fain enter, bringing the sun- 
shine with it. There was nothing narrow or mean 
about Sheridan. Conscious of his own greatness, he 
was too broad to begrudge recognition to others. 



264 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

When a subordinate deserved commendation and Sheri- 
dan knew it, he always gave it. 

Although the movement of the army of the Potomac, 
which initiated in Virginia the campaign of 1864 and 
resulted in the battle of the Wilderness, began on May 
3, it was the morning of May 4, when the Wolverine 
troopers left their camp near Culpeper. The Second 
and Third divisions, as has been shown, had the honor 
of leading the advance and preceded the infantry, 
crossing at Ely's and Germanna fords, respectively, on 
the day before. The First division bivouacked on the 
north side of the river during the night of May 4. At 
three o'clock on the morning of May 5, the march was 
resumed and, crossing at Ely's ford, it moved to Chan- 
cellorsville, and was encamped that night at the ' 'Fur- 
naces, ' ' south of the Orange plank road, about midway 
between Wilderness Church and Todd's Tavern, in the 
rear of the left of the union lines. 

Early on the morning of May 6, "boots and saddles" 
and "to horse " summoned the brigade to arms; and at 
two o'clock a. m., it was on the march by the Furnace 
road toward the intersection of that highway with the 
Brock turnpike. Gregg was at Todd's Tavern, at the 
junction of the Catharpin and Brock roads. Custer 
was to be the connecting link between Gregg's division 
and Hancock's corps. Devin, with the Second brigade, 
was ordered to report to Custer. Wilson had been 
out the previous day on the Orange plank road and 
pike, beyond Parker's Store, where he encountered 



GUARDING THE LEFT FLANK 265 

Stuart's cavalry and was roughly handled. While 
moving up in the darkness, we came upon the scattered 
troopers of the First Vermont cavalry, which for some 
time before the redistribution had been attached to the 
Michigan brigade, but was then in Chapman's brig- 
ade of Wilson's division. They were moving to the 
rear, and seemed much chagrined over their defeat and 
declared that they did not belong to the Third division, 
but were the " Eighth Michigan." 

"Come along with us," said their old Michigan com- 
panions-in-arms. 

' ' Wish we could, ' ' they replied. 

Arriving at his destination before daylight, Custer 
posted his troops so as to be ready to meet the expected 
attack. Two troops, one from the First Michigan the 
other from the Sixth, commanded by Captain George 
R. Maxwell and Captain Manning D. Birge, respec- 
tively, were sent well out on the Brock road to picket 
the front. The line of battle was formed in the woods, 
facing a cleared space, beyond which dense timber 
served as a screen to prevent the enemy's approach 
from being discovered. The right was held by the 
First and Sixth Michigan, formed in two lines, regi- 
mental front, the Sixth in rear, the men standing ' ' in 
place, rest" in front of their horses. It was prolonged 
to the left by the Fifth and Seventh Michigan and 
Devin's brigade, composed of the Fourth, Sixth and 
Ninth New York and Seventeenth Pennsylvania regi- 
ments of cavalry. Devin, however, did not arrive on 



266 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the ground until the battle was well under way. The 
right of the line was "in the air," so far as was at 
that time known, the infantry not being in sight. 

The open field directly in front extended some 200 
yards beyond our position, to the right, and it was, 
perhaps, 500 yards across it to the woods. The timber 
in which we formed extended from the rear clear 
around the right and across the front. In other words, 
the patch of open ground was enclosed on three sides, 
at least, by dense woods. The alignment faced in a 
westerly direction, and was back in the timber far 
enough to be hidden from the approaching foe. To the 
right and as it turned out, somewhat to the rear, lay 
the army of the Potomac, which had been battling with 
Lee all the previous day; and orders had been issued 
for the fighting to be resumed at five o'clock in the 
morning. 

Thus we stood, prepared, in a state of expectancy, 
awaiting the sounds that were to summon us to battle. 

The brigade band was posted near the left flank of 
the First Michigan. 

General Custer, alert and wary, with a portion of his 
staff and escort, was out inspecting the picket line. 

The horse artillery had not yet arrived. 

Every trooper was alert and ready for whatever 
might come. 

The field, of which mention has been made, was bi- 
sected by a ravine, nearly diagonally from left front to 
right rear, the ground sloping into it from front and 



WHEN ROSSER MET HIS MATCH 267 

rear. This ravine was to play a prominent part in the 
battle that ensued. 

Suddenly, the signal came. A picket shot was heard, 
then another, and another. Thicker and faster the 
spattering tones were borne to our ears from the woods 
in front. Then, it was the "rebel yell;" at first faint, 
but swelling in volume as it approached. A brigade of 
cavalry, led by the intrepid Rosser, was charging full 
tilt toward our position. He did not stop to skirmish 
with the pickets but, charging headlong, drove them 
pell-mell into the reserves, closely following, with in- 
tent to stampede the whole command. 

It was a bold and brilliant dash, but destined to fall 
short of complete success. 

Rosser had met his match. 

When the confederate charge was sounded, Custer 
was near his picket line and, scenting the first note of 
danger, turned his horse's head toward the point where 
he had hidden his Wolverines in ambush and, bursting 
into view from the woods beyond the field, we saw him 
riding furiously in our direction. When he neared the 
edge of the woods, circling to the front and curbing 
the course of his charger as he rode, he bade the band 
to play and, with saber arm extended, shouted to the 
command, already in the saddle : 
"Forward, by divisions !" 

As the band struck up the inspiriting strains of 
"Yankee Doodle," the First Michigan broke by sub- 
divisions from the right, the Sixth following in line, 



268 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

regimental front and the two regiments charged with a 
yell through the thick underbrush out into the open 
ground just as the confederate'^ troopers emerged from 
the woods on the opposite side. Both commands kept 
on in full career, the First and Sixth inextricably inter- 
mingled, until they reached the edge of the ravine, 
when they stopped, the confederates surprised by the 
sudden appearance and audacity of the Michigan men 
and their gallant leader; Custer well content with 
checking Rosser's vicious advance. Some of the fore- 
most of either side kept on and crossed sabers in the 
middle of the ravine. Among these was Lieutenant 
Cortez P. Pendill, of the Sixth Michigan, who was 
severely wounded among the very foremost. One 
squadron of the confederates, possibly a small regi- 
ment, charging in column of fours, went past our right 
flank, and then, like the French army that marched up 
a hill and then marched down again, turned and charged 
back, without attempting to turn their head of column 
towards the place where Custer was standing at bay, 
with his Michiganders clustered thick about him. 
Pretty soon the confederates ran a battery into the 
field and opened on us with shell. Every attempt to 
break Custer's line, however, ended in failure, the 
Spencer carbines proving too much of an obstacle to 
be overcome. 

Meanwhile, the Fifth and Seventh had been doing 
excellent service on the left, forging to the front and 
threatening the right of the confederate position. 



A FLANKING MOVEMENT 269 

But it was evident that our own right was vulnerable, 
and Custer ordered Major Kidd to take the Sixth, move 
it by the rear to the woods on the right, dismount to 
fight on foot and, to use his own words : ' * Flank that 
battery." 

The regiment had become much scattered in the 
charge, but the "rally" was sounded, and as many 
men as could be quickly assembled on the colors, were 
withdrawn from the field and, obeying the order with 
as much alacrity as possible, in a few moments they 
were in position and moving forward briskly through 
the thick woods. But, they had not proceeded far, 
when a strong line of dismounted confederates was 
encountered. Both commanders seem to have ordered 
a simultaneous movement with a similar purpose, viz : 
To flank the other and attack his rear. 

The two forces met very nearly on the prolongation 
of the line held by the mounted men of the First, Fifth 
and Seventh Michigan, east of the ravine. The con- 
federate line extended beyond the right of the Sixth 
as far as we could see, and it was at once evident that 
we were greatly outnumbered, and liable to have the 
right flank turned at any moment. The little force 
stood bravely up to their work, using the Spencers 
with deadly effect, and checking the advance of the 
confederates in their immediate front. Major Charles 
W. Deane who was helping to direct the movement, 
had his horse shot under him. Seeing that the left of 
the confederates were trying to pass around our right 



270 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

flank, the captain of the left troop was directed to hold 
on to his position and the right was "refused" to pro- 
tect the rear. At the same time an officer was dis- 
patched to General Custer with an appeal for rein- 
forcements. 

The entire of the Second brigade was now up and a 
battery which arrived on the field after the withdrawal 
of the Sixth, had been placed in position and opened 
upon the enemy. The battle was still raging in the 
field, but General Custer sent the Fifth Michigan, 
Colonel Russell A. Alger commanding, and the Seven- 
teenth Pennsylvania, Lieutenant Colonel J. Q. Ander- 
son commanding, to the relief of the Sixth Michigan. 

The reinforcements came none too soon. The con- 
federates, confident in their superior numbers, were 
pressing hard and threatening to envelop us com- 
pletely. 

In a solid line of two ranks, with Spencer carbines 
full shotted, the two magnificent regiments deployed 
into line on our right. Then moving forward, by a left 
half wheel, turned the tables on the too exultant foe, 
and he was forced slowly but surely back. By virtue 
of his rank Colonel Alger was in command of the line 
and, in response to his clear- voiced order, ' ' Steady men, 
forward," the three regiments, with a shout, swept on 
through the woods, driving everything before them. 
At the same time, the mounted men of the First and 
Seventh charged the force in their front. The enemy, 
thereupon, gave way in disorder, was routed and fled, 



WHAT WAS THE INFANTRY DOING 271 

leaving his dead and wounded in our hands. His re- 
pulse was complete and crushing and we saw no more 
of him that day. The Michigan men, with the aid of 
Devin's New York and Pennsylvania troopers, had won 
a signal victory, momentous in its consequences, for it 
saved the union left from a disaster much dreaded, the 
fear of which neutralized one-half of Hancock's corps 
during the entire day. 

No one who witnessed it, can ever forget the superb 
conduct of Colonel Alger and his men when they swung 
into line on the right of the Sixth Michigan and turned 
a threatened reverse into a magnificent victory. 

Among the wounded, besides Lieutenant Pendill, al- 
ready mentioned, were Captain Benjamin F. Rocka- 
fellow, of the Sixth Michigan, and Lieutenant Alvin 
N. Sabin, of the Fifth Michigan. All of these officers 
were severely wounded and all behaved with the most 
conspicuous gallantry. 

In the meantime, what v/as the infantry doing ? 
After Rosser was driven from the field, it was found 
that there was a line of infantry not far to the right 
and rear. Indeed, the left of the infantry line over- 
lapped the right of the cavalry. Attention was called 
to the fact when, after the fight, some of the cavalry- 
men began to straggle to the rear and returning, said 
that the Twenty-sixth Michigan infantry was only a 
little way off, and a good many of the men went over 
for a brief hand-shake with friends therein. 

The Twenty-sixth Michigan was in Barlow's divi- 



272 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

sion. They had been interested listeners to, if not 
actual witnesses of the cavalry fight. The contest be- 
tween the dismounted men of Rosser's and Custer's 
commands had been almost, if not quite, in their front 
and occasional shots had come their way. 

Why did not Barlow, or indeed, Gibbon's entire com- 
mand, move up at the time when the Sixth Michigan 
cavalry was contending alone with a superior force 
directly in their front ? 

The answer to that question is in the sealed book 
which contains the reason of Grant's failure in the 
''Wilderness." 

Let us see ! 

Grant's orders to the corps commanders — Sedgwick, 
Warren and Hancock — were to attack Lee's army at 
five o'clock a. m., May 6. Longstreet had not arrived 
but was expected up in the morning, and prisoners said 
he would attack the union left. Hancock was directed 
to look out for the left. Barlow's division was posted 
for that purpose. Hancock's corps was divided into 
two wings, the right wing under Birney consisting of 
the three divisions of Birney, Mott and Getty; the left 
wing of Gibbon's and Barlow's divisions under Gibbon. 
Barlow, as has been seen, was to look out for the left. 
"The left" was well looked after by Sheridan's caval- 
ry for, aside from Custer's two brigades which were 
directly in contact with Barlow's left flank, Gregg's 
division was posted at Todd's Tavern, still farther to 
the left. 



WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN 273 

Sedgwick and Warren attacked Ewell at the hour, 
but were unsuccessful. Hancock's assault upon Hill 
was completely successful, although Longstreet arrived 
in the nick of time to save Hill. But Hancock's attack 
was with his right wing under Birney, and Longstreet 
struck the left of Birney' s command. Where were the 
two divisions of Gibbon, posted for the very purpose of 
looking out for Longstreet? 

In General A. A. Humphrey's, "Virginia Cam- 
paigns," page 40, we read : 

" At seven a. m., General Hancock sent a staff officer to Gen- 
.ral Gibbon, informing him of the success of his right wing, and 
directing him to attack the enemy's right with Barlow's division. 
This order was only partially obeyed. Had Barlow's division ad- 
vanced as directed, he (General Hancock) felt confident that the 
enemy's force would have been defeated The cause of his failure 
was probably owing to the expected approach of Longstreet en 
his (Barlow's) left." 

Again : 

"At 8:50 a m., Hancock began an attack with Birney's wing 
and Gibbon's division of the left wmg." 

General Grant, in his memoirs, (pp. 196-197) : 

"Hancock was ready to advance, but learning that Long- 
street was threatening his left flank, sent a division of infant r\, 
commanded by General Barlow, to cover the approaches by which 
Longstreet was expected." 

General Sheridan, (memoirs, vol. I, pp. 362-363) : 



274 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

" On the sixth. General Meade became alarmed about his left 

flank and sent a dispatch, saying : ' Hancock has been heavily 

pressed and his left turned. You had better draw in your cavalry 
to protect the trains.' " 

And again : 

" On the morning of the sixth, Custer's and Devin's brigades 
had been severely engaged before I received the above note. They 
had been most successful in repulsing the enemy's attacks, and I 
felt that the line could be held. But the despatch from General 
Hancock was alarming, so I drew all the cavalry close in around 
Chancellorsville. " 

Grant's memoirs, once more : 

"The firing was hardly begun when Hancock was informed 
that the left wing was seriously threatened so as to fully occupy 
Barlow. The enemy's dismounted cavalry opened on him (sic.) 
with artillery and pressed forward his skirmish line. The rapid 
firing of Sheridan's attack helped to confirm the impression that 
this was a serious flank attack by the enemy. These repeated re- 
ports prevented Hancock from throwing his full strength into the 
attack along the plank road." 

"The rapid firing of Sheridan's attack" is good. 
Sheridan is entitled to the credit of placing Custer 
where he was. But that is all. Sheridan was not on 
the ground to direct the attack in any way; nor was the 
division commander on the ground. It was Custer's 
attack and it was Custer's victory. The only dis- 
mounted cavalry that attacked Barlow was Rosser's 
cavalry, and Custer's cavalry was between Rosser and 



IMAGINARY DANGERS 275 

Barlow. The only artillery with which the dismounted 
cavalry opened on Barlow was Rosser's battery and 
Custer and his men were between Barlow and that bat- 
tery. Had Barlow taken the trouble to ascertain what 
was really going on in his front, an easy matter, he 
would have found that, so far from this dismounted 
cavalry endangering his flank, they had been driven off 
the field in headlong flight, leaving their dead and 
wounded. There was never a moment during the en- 
tire day (May 6, 1864,) when Barlow was in the slight- 
est danger of being flanked. His failure to advance, 
enabled Longstreet to swing across his front and attack 
Birney's left, thus neutralizing Hancock's victory over 
Hill. If Barlow and Gibbon had advanced as they were 
ordered to do, they would have struck Longstreet' s 
flank and, probably, crushed it. 

All of which seems to demonstrate that, in battle, as 
in the ordinary affairs of life, imaginary dangers often 
trouble us more than those which are real. 

The fear of being flanked was an ever present terror 
to the army of the Potomac, and the apparition which 
appeared to McDowell at Manassas, to Pope at the 
Second Bull Run, to Hooker at Chancellorsville, flitted 
over the Wilderness also, and was the principal cause 
why that campaign was not successful. 

And then again, General Meade placed too low an 
estimate upon the value of cavalry as a factor in battle 
and failed utterly to appreciate the importance of the 
presence of Sheridan's troopers upon his left. Had 



276 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Meade and Hancock known Sheridan then, as they 
knew him a year later, when he intercepted the flight 
of the army of Northern Virginia at Five Forks and 
Sailor's Creek, there would have been in their minds no 
nervous apprehension that Longstreet might reenact in 
the Wilderness the part played at Chancellorsville by 
Stonewall Jackson. As it was. Grant's strategy and 
Hancock's heroism were paralyzed by these false ru- 
mors about Longstreet' s menacing the safety of the 
Potomac army by moving against its left and rear. If 
such a thing was seriously intended, it was met and 
thwarted by Custer and Gregg who, alone and unaided 
as at Gettysburg, successfully resisted every effort on 
the part of Stuart's cavalry to break through the union 
lines. The noise of the successful battle which the 
union cavalry was waging, instead of reassuring the 
federal commanders as it should have done, served only 
to increase the alarm which extended to General Han- 
cock and to army headquarters, as well. If a proper 
rating had been placed upon the services of the cavalry 
all apprehension would have been quieted. Barlow and 
Gibbon would have moved promptly to the front as di- 
rected, and Hill and Ewell might have been crushed 
before Longstreet was in position to save them. 

General Sheridan's report gives a very meager and 
inadequate account of the cavalry fight in the Wilder- 
ness. In his book he dismisses it with a paragraph. 
Major McClellan, Stuart's adjutant general, in his 
"Campaigns of Stuart's Cavalry," makes no mention 



SHERIDAN HAMPERED 277 

of it at all, though he devotes much space to Rosser's 
victory over Wilson, on the fifth. That is not strange, 
perhaps, in the case of the confederate chronicler, who 
set out in his book to write eulogiums upon his own 
hero, and not upon Sheridan or Custer. He has a 
keen eye for confederate victories and, if he has knowl- 
edge of any other, does not confess to it. As for 
Sheridan, his corps was scattered over a wide area, its 
duty to guard the left flank and all the trains, and he 
was not present in person when Custer put an abrupt 
stop to Rosser's impetuous advance. It is now known 
that he was so hampered by interference from army 
headquarters that his plans miscarried, and the rela- 
tions between himself and his immediate superior be- 
came so strained that the doughty little warrior de- 
clared that he would never give the cavalry corps 
another order. By General Grant's intervention, how- 
ever, these difficulties were so far reconciled that 
Sheridan was soon off on his memorable campaign 
which resulted in the bloody battle of Yellow Tavern 
and the death of the foremost confederate cavalier, 
General J. E. B. Stuart. 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE YELLOW TAVERN CAMPAIGN 

rpHE sequel to the false alarm about Hancock's left 
flank being turned was that all the cavalry was 
drawn in to guard the trains and protect the rear of 
the army. Custer's brigade moved back to the fur- 
naces where it remained during the night. The morn- 
ing of the seventh he was ordered to resume his position 
of the day before. Gregg's division was returned to 
Todd's Tavern. Before the arrival of Gregg's com- 
mand the First Michigan cavalry had a spirited encoun- 
ter with Fitzhugh Lee, in which Captain Brevoort, in 
command of the mounted men, particularly distin- 
guished himself. There was pretty sharp fighting dur- 
ing the entire day, mostly on foot, the nature of the 
ground practically precluding movements on horseback. 
The engagement of the cavalry on the seventh of 
May is known in history as the battle of Todd's Tavern. 
It was made necessary in order to retake the position 
surrendered by Meade's order of the sixth. Much 
blood was shed and many valuable lives were lost in re- 
trieving the error. In the events of the two days may 
be found a good illustration of the rule that an officer 
(even a great soldier like Sheridan) must obey orders, 



MOVEMENT BY THE LEFT FLANK 279 

right or wrong. Sheridan must have known that there 
was no need to withdraw his cavalry from the left of 
the army. On the contrary he knew that by all means it 
ought to remain where it was. Yet he obeyed and had 
to fight an offensive battle to regain what he was thus 
forced to give away. The conditions of the two days 
were reversed. On the morning of the sixth Sheridan 
was in possession and Stuart was trying to drive him 
out. On the morning of the seventh Stuart was in pos- 
session and Sheridan had to drive him out. The ma- 
terial difference was that Stuart failed, Sheridan suc- 
ceeded. Sheridan outgeneraled Stuart in both offensive 
and defensive tactics. The names of the respective 
chiefs are given here but, on the sixth the actual fight- 
ing of the union forces was directed by Custer and 
Gregg, of the confederates by Rosser and Fitzhugh 
Lee; on the seventh, by Gregg, Merritt and Custer 
for the federal side, by Fitzhugh Lee on the part of 
the confederates. Gregg and Custer stood together 
in the Wilderness as they had done at Gettysburg. 
At Todd's Tavern Merritt, Da vies and Devin were 
added to the combination. And it was one that neith- 
er Stuart, Fitzhugh Lee nor Hampton was ever able to 
match. 

At night the First and Second divisions were en- 
camped in the open fields east of Todd's Tavern, and 
in front of the positions held by them during the pre- 
vious two days. Mounted pickets and patrols guarded 
the front and it soon became apparent that a movement 



280 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

of both armies was in progress. From front and rear 
came significant sounds which the practiced ear had no 
difliculty in interpreting. Grant, breaking off succes- 
sively from his right, was passing by the rear to the 
left, concentrating around Todd's Tavern for a forv^^ard 
movement in the morning towards Spottsylvania Court- 
house. The principle involved was to maneuver Lee 
out of the Wilderness into more open country by threat- 
ening his communications. Once again his strategic 
plans were thwarted by the faulty manner in which the 
tactics of the movement were executed. Sheridan had 
planned to seize Spottsylvania with his cavalry and his 
orders were for all three divisions to move at daylight 
with that end in view. Wilson was to lead and be fol- 
lowed up and supported by Merritt and Gregg with the 
First and Second divisions. We shall see how Wilson 
was successful in carrying out his part of the plan, but 
how the others were stopped by orders from Meade, 
thus preventing the accomplishment of a well conceived 
enterprise and neutralizing two-thirds of the cavalry 
corps just when it was about to open the way to victory. 

By his peculiar tactical night movement Grant held 
his line of battle intact except as the various corps 
broke successively from right to rear to march to the 
left. Thus Hancock's corps, though on the extreme 
left, was the last corps to move. 

Lee, quick to divine the purpose of his adversary, 
moved his army by the right flank on a parallel line. 
All night long the ears of the alert cavalrymen could 



A GALLANT REGIMENT 281 

catch the indistinct murmur of troops moving with 
their impediments which, coming from both front and 
rear, bespoke the grand tactics of both commanders 
and presaged a great battle on the morrow. The 
"pop," "pop," "pop," of the carbines along the hne 
of videttes was well nigh continuous, showing the prox- 
imity of the enem.y's prowling patrols and scouts, and 
the necessity of constant vigilance. So closely did the 
confederates approach the outposts that there was un- 
ceasing fear of an attack and neither officers nor men 
were able to obtain much rest. To sleep was out of the 
question. The First Michigan was held in readiness to 
make a mounted charge, while the other regiments 
were under orders to deploy dismounted, in case the 
attack which was looked for should be made. The 
officers of the First could be heard encouraging and in- 
structing their men, keeping them alert and prepared 
for battle. 

From the time of the organization of the Michigan 
brigade, the First regiment had been designated as dis- 
tinctively a saber regiment, the Fifth and Sixth for 
fighting on foot, as they were armed with Spencer 
rifles, and the result was that with them, dismounting 
to fight when in contact with the enemy in the early 
part of their terms of service became a sort of second 
nature. The First had a year's experience with the 
cavalry before the others went out, and it was in a 
saber charge at the Second Bull Run battle that Brod- 
head its first colonel was killed. The First Vermont, 



282 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

like the First Michigan, was a saber regiment and went 
out in 1861. When this regiment was attached to the 
brigade, Custer had three saber regiments, and it fell to 
the lot of the Fifth and Sixth Michigan to be selected 
more often than the others, perhaps, for dismounted 
duty. It often happened, however, that the entire 
brigade fought dismounted at the same time; and 
sometimes, though not often, all would charge to- 
gether mounted. Owing to the nature of the country, 
most of the fighting in Grant's campaign from the 
Wilderness to the James was done on foot. In the 
Shenandoah valley campaign in the latter part of the 
year 1864, the reverse was the case and at the battles 
of Tom's Brook, Winchester and Cedar Creek the 
troopers in the command for the most part kept to the 
saddle throughout the engagements. 

When Custer wanted to put a single regiment into a 
mounted charge he generally selected the First Michi- 
gan, because it was not only older and more experienced 
but had many officers who possessed both great personal 
daring and the rare ability to handle men in action, 
keeping them well together so as to support each other 
and accomplish results. This regiment was not ex- 
celled by any other in the army for that purpose. 
The Seventh was an under study for the First. The 
Fifth and Sixth worked well together on the skirmish 
line or dismounted line of battle and had no superiors 
in this kind of work. That they were pretty reliable 
when called upon mounted also, is shown by the con- 



A REMARKABLE DEMONSTRATION 283 

duct of the Sixth in the Wilderness and of the Fifth at 
TrevilHan Station. It is only necessary to mention the 
gallantry of the Seventh at Hanovertown and at Yel- 
low Tavern to demonstrate that it was an apt pupil of 
the First. All the officers and all the men of the Fifth, 
Sixth and Seventh took off their hats and gracefully 
yielded the palm to the First. It is doubtful if there 
was another regiment in the federal cavalry service 
which contained so many officers highly marked for 
their fearless intrepidity in action. The circumstance 
of their talking to their men before an expected en- 
gagement was characteristic. They were always ready 
to face the peril and lead their men. 

Later in the evening, away to the left where the in- 
fantry was going into bivouac a union band began to 
play a patriotic air. This was the signal for loud and 
prolonged cheering. Then a confederate band opposite 
responded with one of their southern tunes and the 
soldiers on that side cheered. Successively, from left 
to right and from right to left this was taken up, music 
and cheering alternating between federals and confed- 
erates, the sounds receding and growing fainter and 
fainter as the distance increased until they died away 
entirely. It was a most remarkable and impressive 
demonstration under the circumstances and lingered 
long in the memory of those who heard it. 

Though the fighting on the 5th, 6th and 7th had been 
for the most part favorable to the union troopers, it 
was disjointed and, therefore, neither decisive nor as 



284 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

effective as it might have been. Sheridan beheved that 
the cavalry corps should operate as a compact organiza- 
tion, a distinct entity, an integral constituent of the 
army, the same as the other corps. He looked upon his 
relation to the general in command as being precisely 
the same as that of Hancock, Sedgwick or Warren, and 
insisted that orders to the cavalry should be given 
through the cavalry corps commander just as orders to 
the Second corps were given through General Hancock. 
He could not bring himself to consent to be a mere 
staff officer dangling at the heels of General Meade, 
but conceived himself to be an actual commander, not 
in name only but in fact. 

Proceeding on this theory he issued orders to the 
various division commanders to move at daylight on the 
morning of May 8, and cooperate with each other un- 
der his personal direction in a plan which he had de- 
vised to seize Spottsylvania Courthouse in advance of 
Lee's infantry. They were to advance on converging 
roads in such a manner as to arrive successively but to 
support each other and open a way for the infantry 
columns. Wilson crossed Corbin's bridge, charged 
through the town driving out some of Fitzhugh Lee's 
cavalrymen and pursuing them several miles beyond. 
Merritt and Gregg made a good start and if they had 
been allowed to proceed would have had no difficulty in 
accomplishing what Sheridan desired to have them do. 
But without notice to Sheridan, Meade countermanded 
the orders to those two oflScers directing them to halt 



A FAMOUS INTERVIEW 285 

at the bridges and not cross. The result was that 
Wilson was isolated, Merritt's cavalry became inextric- 
ably entangled with Warren's infantry, so that neither 
one of them reached Spottsylvania, as they were both 
expected to do, Gregg was neutralized, Wilson's safety 
jeoparded, Sheridan's combinations broken up without 
his knowledge, and the way was left open for Lee's 
infantry, so that Anderson with Longstreet's corps 
took advantage of the situation and drove Wilson out 
and took possession — thus paving the way for Lee to 
form a defensive line there instead of farther south, 
probably inside the defenses of Richmond. Then it be- 
fell that a series of bloody battles had to be fought to 
regain what was thus foolishly surrendered; to regain 
what indeed might have been held with slight loss, if 
Sheridan had been let alone, and permitted to have his 
way. If he had been given a free hand, and assuming 
that Warren, Burnside, Sedgwick and Hancock would 
have carried out their part of the program with the 
same zeal and skill displayed by Sheridan, it is certain 
that the battle of Spottsylvania with its "bloody an- 
gle" would never have taken place. 

The affair was a fiasco, but for that no blame can be 
attached to either Sheridan or Grant, unless the latter 
be considered blameworthy for not directing the move- 
ments in person instead of leaving the tactics of the 
battle to be worked out by Meade. 

Once more, as in the Wilderness, the cavalry was 
drawn in. The entire corps was massed in rear of the 



286 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

infantry and rendered inert. Sheridan with his ten 
thousand troopers was held idle and inactive while 
Warren, Sedgwick and Burnside were given the task of 
defeating Lee's veteran army without Sheridan's help. 
All his plans were rendered nugatory. He became 
satisfied that his efforts were useless. About noon he 
went to Meade's headquarters and they had an inter- 
view which is one of the famous historical episodes of 
the civil war. He told Meade that, inasmuch as his 
plans were to be interfered with, his orders counter- 
manded, thus destroying the efficiency and usefulness 
of the cavalry corps, he must decline to give it further 
orders and General Meade could take it and run it him- 
self, as he evidently desired to do. He kept his poise, 
however, sufficiently to intimate that he would Hke an 
opportunity to take his corps and go out after Stuart, 
since he believed he could whip Stuart in a fair fight if 
he could have a chance. Meade reported this conver- 
sation to Grant who told Meade to let him go and try. 
Grant had confidence enough in Sheridan to believe 
that he would make his word good. 

The outcome of this was that the entire corps was 
ordered that very afternoon to concentrate at Alrich's, 
on the plank road leading to Fredericksburg, and be 
prepared to start at daylight on an expedition around 
Lee's right flank, into the enemy's country. It was to 
be a second edition, only on a much larger scale, and 
under a very different commander, of the Kilpatrick 
raid, an account of which was given in a previous 



OUT LOOKING FOR TROUBLE 287 

chapter. The route selected was very much the same. 
But, unHke Kilpatrick and others who had led cavalry- 
expeditions up to that time, and whose idea was to ride 
rapidly through the country and avoid the enemy as 
much as possible, never fighting unless forced into it 
unwillingly, Sheridan went out with the utmost delib- 
eration, looking for trouble — seeking it — and desiring 
before every other thing to find Stuart and fight him 
on his native heath. The confidence which he mani- 
fested in himself and in the prowess of his command 
was of its own kind, and a distinct revelation to the 
army of the Potomac, in which it had long been a set- 
tled article of belief that Stuart was invincible and, 
indeed, up to that time he had been well nigh so, as 
Sheridan points out in his memoirs. 

In the meantime, the battle was raging around 
Spottsylvania. Lee's army was getting into position, 
his various corps concentrating and intrenching, and 
making every preparation for a new base and a stout 
resistance. Grant's plans had all miscarried, thus 
far. Still, he had taken up his bridges and resolved 
to fight it out on that line. It was already evident that 
there was to be no more retreating. The officers and 
men of the army of the Potomac made up their minds 
that they had crossed the Rapidan and the Rappahan- 
nock for the last time and that Lee would never be per- 
mitted to make a permanent halt outside the intrench- 
ments of Richmond. 

When the long column was marching along the rear 



288 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

of the army, the sounds of the battle going on could 
be distinctly heard. Hundreds of wounded men were 
coming from the front, mostly so slightly injured that 
they were helping themselves off the field to a place of 
safety where they could receive needed treatment. It 
filled us with astonishment to see the number of them. 
The official records show that Grant lost more than ten 
thousand men in the series of battles around Spottsyl- 
vania. It seemed wicked to take ten thousand men 
well mounted and equipped away from the army at 
such a time as that. Queer ideas Meade had. And 
queerer still that Grant should have yielded to him in a 
matter of such vital importance. And the men that 
Sheridan was taking away, were the very same troops 
with whom he broke Early's flank at Winchester; and 
who stood like a stone wall in the way of Early's ad- 
vance at Cedar Creek after two corps of infantry had 
been routed, only a few months later. Just imagine 
for a moment what might have been the result if 
Sheridan had been permitted to make the same use of 
his cavalry in the Wilderness or at Spottsylvania which 
he made of it at Winchester and Cedar Creek. 

We camped at Alrich's for the night. And it was 
Sunday night. It will be remembered that the Kil- 
patrick expedition left Stevensburg on Sunday night. 
Three days' rations were drawn and issued to the men. 
There was but one-half of one day's ration of grain 
for the horses. So it was settled that our animals 
would have to depend on the country for their forage. 



COMPOSITION OF THE COMMAND 289 

The force thus assembled consisted of three divisions — 
about ten thousand troopers — under Merritt, Gregg 
and Wilson — seven brigades commanded by Custer, 
Devin, Gibbs, Davies, Irvin Gregg, Mcintosh and Chap- 
man. These were all veteran officers, often tried and 
never found wanting. Of these brigade commanders, 
two, Custer and Davies, held the rank of brigadier 
general; Devin was colonel of the Sixth New York; 
Gibbs of the First New York dragoons; Gregg of the 
Sixteenth Pennsylvania; Mcintosh of the Third Penn- 
sylvania; Chapman of the Third Indiana. 

There were six batteries of artillery, all regulars but 
one — the Sixth New York independent — Captain J. W. 
Martin. Pennington was still with the Third division, 
as was the First Vermont cavalry also. The four Mich- 
igan regiments were commanded by Lieutenant Colonel 
Peter Stagg, Colonel Russell A. Alger, Major James H. 
Kidd and Major Henry W. Granger, respectively. 

The movement began at an early hour. The start 
was made long before daylight. General Custer, who 
was to lead, ordered that the Sixth Michigan move out 
first and thus it fell to my lot to be in the van at the 
outset of that historic expedition. A guide was fur- 
nished, with directions that the route taken be by the 
plank road to Tabernacle church, thence to the Tele- 
graph road running from Fredericksburg to Richmond, 
then due south toward Thornburg. The long column 
wound its way slowly out of the wilderness on a single 
road, marching by fours, Merritt in front, Gregg in rear. 



290 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Wilson in the centre — seven brigades and six batteries 
— beyond doubt the most superb force of mounted men 
that ever had been assembled under one leader on this 
continent, and a more formidable body of horse than 
had been seen in that war on either side, up to that 
time, or was ever seen afterwards. The column when 
stretched out like a huge snake was thirteen miles in 
length, so that when the last of Gregg's regiments 
turned south on the Telegraph road, the head of 
Custer's brigade must have been nearing Chilesburg. 

The night was clear and quiet; the air was soft and 
refreshing. To the right the two great armies were 
sleeping. There was no note of bugle, no boom of 
cannon, no crack of rifle to disturb the tranquility of 
the night. As the dawn approached the baying of 
dogs in the distance gave notice that the echoes of the 
march would soon reach the ears of the enemy's out- 
posts. 

But the morning was far advanced, the head of 
column well on its way past the right flank of Lee's 
army, when the first hostile patrols were encountered. 
At a crossroad leading to the right a small force of 
cavalry made its appearance. It was put to flight by 
Captain Birge with troop A. At this point troop E, 
Captain A. E. Tower, was sent to the front as advance 
guard. Sergeant M. E. Avery with eight men going 
ahead with orders to charge any enemy that appeared 
on the road, the troop to follow him closely and the 
regiment to support the troop. General Custer with 




ANGELO E. TOWER 



A LEISURELY MARCH 291 

his staff and escort rode close up to the rear of the 
regiment, Behind him came the other Michigan regi- 
ments, Devin's and Gibbs's brigades, then Chapman, 
Mcintosh, Irvin Gregg, and Davies in succession. 
Davies was to look out for the rear. Thus the latter, 
who led the Kilpatrick expedition, found his position 
reversed on this. The responsibility was great and he 
met it with his accustomed courage and ability. Davies 
was one of the few men who early in the war found his 
niche and stuck to it. He was an ideal general of 
brigade; and he kept his place as such without a check 
until the war closed. 

To those of us who had been with Kilpatrick but a 
short two months before the contrast presented by a 
mental comparison of Sheridan's manner of conducting 
a march with that of his predecessor was most marked 
and suggestive. This movement was at a slow walk, 
deliberate and by easy stages. So leisurely was it that 
it did not tax the endurance of men or horses. There 
was a steadiness about it that calmed the nerves, 
strengthened self-reliance, and inspired confidence. It 
was a bold challenge for the confederates to come out 
and fight a duel to the finish. That they would be 
compelled to take up the gage thus thrown down there 
was no shadow of doubt. 

The advance guard was kept active in the pursuit of 
confederate scouts and pickets, small bodies of whom 
were constantly appearing in front or hovering on the 
flanks. Before reaching the point where the road lead- 



292 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ing to Beaver Dam was to be taken, the guide, either 
by ignorance or design, misled Avery and his men and 
took them to the eastward. Avery suspecting some- 
thing wrong put a halter around the guide's neck and 
started to swing him up to the limb of a tree. He 
immediately discovered his mistake and a trooper was 
sent with word to take the other road, who reached the 
intersection just as the head of column did, so there was 
not a moment's delay. Avery soon came in with a 
squad of prisoners who with the guide were turned 
over to the provost guard. After reaching Chilesburg 
we were on the same road over which we marched with 
Kilpatrick and needed no guide. The confederate 
prisoners looked with astonishment upon this big body 
of cavalry which had stolen into their territory like a 
thief in the night, unexpected and unannounced. 

During the day, as long as I had the advance. Captain 
Craig Wads worth of Sheridan's staff rode by my side 
to represent and report to his chief. No very important 
incident happened, but the weather was pleasant, the 
air was exhilarating, the companionship was congenial, 
and there was sufficient of excitement to make it inter- 
esting. Things were kept moving, and it was very 
enjoyable, as service with the advance of a marching 
column always is. 

Late in the afternoon we passed Chilesburg and the 
country began to have a familiar look. It was not yet 
dark when we crossed the North Anna river at Ander- 
son's bridge and the First division prepared to bivouac 



MAJOR BREWER'S CAPTURES 293 

on the south side. Gregg and Wilson went into camp 
for the night north of the river. 

After crossing the river, Custer was ordered to pro- 
ceed with his brigade to Beaver Dam station. Here 
the First Michigan was given the advance, Major 
Melvin Brewer with one battahon as advance guard. 
The Sixth followed the First. Otherwise the order of 
march was the same as during the day. A mile or so 
before reaching Beaver Dam, Brewer came upon several 
hundred union prisoners who were being hurried under 
the escort of confederate infantry to the station, where 
trains were waiting to convey them to Richmond. His 
appearance, of course, resulted in the release of the 
prisoners, those of their guards who did not succeed in 
escaping by running away in the woods being captured. 
The engineers began to sound their locomotive whistles, 
as a signal for the confederate escort to hurry up with 
their prisoners, and Brewer followed by the First and 
Sixth dashed into the station before the presence of the 
Michiganders was suspected, taking them by surprise 
and capturing the two locomotives with their trains. 
In a few minutes Custer with the entire brigade was on 
the ground and it was found that, besides the trains, 
he had captured an immense quantity of commissary, 
medical, and other stores belonging to Lee's supply 
departments and which included nearly all his medical 
supplies. Everything that could not be carried away 
was destroyed. While this destruction was going on 
some confederates made their appearance in the ad- 



294 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

jacent woods and opened fire but they were driven 
away without much trouble. This must have been a 
very severe loss to the confederates. 

The brigade then marched away and rejoined the 
division, every trooper having his horse loaded to the 
limit with such supplies as he thought he could use. 
General Merritt in his official report refers to this de- 
struction of property as a mistake and characterizes the 
action as "gaucherie." It is, however, quite certain 
that the only way to have saved the supplies for issue 
to the corps would have been to move the division to 
Beaver Dam that night, for Stuart was concentrating 
his force at that point and might have been able to 
reclaim a portion of them if they had not been destroyed. 
At all events, Custer was on the ground and Merritt 
was not. Custer's action must have been approved by 
his judgment. 

Early on the morning of May 10 the march was re- 
sumed by the Negrofoot road toward Groundsquirrel 
bridge across the South Anna river. It was even more 
leisurely than on the day before. Flankers were 
thrown out in both directions. The long column of 
fours thus proceeded slowly by the road while to the 
right and to the left, about 500 yards out, were parallel 
columns of flankers, marching by file, thus assuring 
that should the enemy attack either flank, it was only 
necessary to wheel by fours in that direction to be in 
line of battle with a very strong line of skirmishers 
well out in front. 



HALTING BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS 295 

But Stuart did not attack. He seems on that morn- 
ing to have begnn to comprehend Sheridan's plan which 
was no doubt then sufficiently puzzling but, as we can 
see now, very simple. In a word, a slow and steady 
march, straight toward the confederate capital, all the 
time in position to accept battle should Stuart offer it. 
If he should not, to hold to the unyielding tenor of his 
purpose, and with exasperating persistence continue to 
invite it. Stuart had turned off toward the east and 
was making a forced march with Fitzhugh Lee's divi- 
sion, consisting of the brigades of Lomax and Wickham, 
Gordan's brigade still hanging on to the rear of Sheri- 
dan's column. Our column made the march of eighteen 
miles to Groundsquirrel bridge without molestation and 
camped there that night on the south side of the river. 
Stuart after a much longer march went into camp at 
Hanover Junction. At one o'clock in the morning May 
11 he moved out toward Yellow Tavern, arriving there 
at about ten o'clock in the forenoon, before Sheridan's 
advance, which was headed in the same direction, made 
its appearance. Stuart had thus by a long and hard 
march brought his command where it could interpose 
between the Union cavalry and Richmond. He seems, 
however, to have been halting between two opinions— 
whether to form squarely across Sheridan's front or to 
hold his position on the flank until near enough to 
Richmond to be within reach of reinforcements from 
the troops that were being hurried into the city from 
the south to aid in the defense. He appears to have 



296 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

chosen the latter alternative, for he formed his command 
in a line running north and south, facing west. Wick- 
ham on the right, Lomax on the left with batteries near 
both his right and left flanks. The left of his line 
crossed the Telegraph road in front of Yellow Tavern 
where was quite an elevated piece of ground on which 
across the road was a battery well stationed and well 
manned. His men, however, must have been pretty 
well exhausted by the long march. 

Yellow Tavern, which gave its name to the battle 
that ensued, is a hamlet at the junction of the Tele- 
graph and Old, Mountain roads, about six miles north 
of Richmond, where the first named road coalesces and 
becomes the Brook Turnpike, as I understand it. The 
Old Mountain road comes down from the northwest, the 
Telegraph road from the east of north, Sheridan struck 
the former at Allen's Station on the Fredericksburg 
railroad and followed it to Yellow Tavern. The Re- 
serve brigade reached that place a little before noon 
and finding Stuart in possession immediately began 
skirmishing. Devin came up next and was put on the 
line to reinforce Gibbs. When Custer's brigade came 
up pretty sharp skirmish firing could be heard in front. 
Merritt was in charge and the battle was on. Stuart 
had dismounted his entire force and formed them in a 
very strong defensive position on a commanding ridge 
beyond the tavern. Merritt had dismounted a portion 
of Gibbs's and Devin's commands and was feeling of 
Stuart's position. Custer's regiments as they successive- 





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k. . v^^^S' .;• ■ ■ 



PHILIP H. SHERIDAN 



A GENERAL'S BATTLE FLAG 297 

ly arrived were massed mounted in column of battalions 
on the right of the road, in a field, thus clearing the 
road. The march that day had been an easy one, the 
rest the night before had been complete, and never 
were men and horses in better condition or spirits for 
battle than were Sheridan's troopers. 

Then there was an anxious pause. Glancing back I 
saw that we were at the rear of the division. Down 
the road about 100 yards a column of cavalry was ap- 
proaching very slowly. Something at the head of the 
column attracted my particular attention and in a 
moment I made out that it was a general's battle flag. 
But I did not recognize it as one that I had seen before. 
There were a good many staff officers and a pretty 
large escort. As they came opposite the regiment, the 
officer at the head looked back and saw that the flag 
was hanging limp around the staff, there not being air 
enough stirring to make It float out. He noted this 
and said to the color bearer, ' ' Shake out those colors so 
they can be seen. " The voice was mild and agreeable. 
The color-bearer did as directed and the general looked 
our way with a keen glance that was characteristic and 
took in every detail. Then instantly I knev/ who he 
was. I saluted and said, "Men, General Sheridan," 
and they gave him a cheer. 

That was the first time I had seen Sheridan except as 
I "looked toward " him when passing in review. One 
may do a good deal of service, even be in many skir- 
mishes and battles without getting a good look at the 



298 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

corps commander, much less the commander of the 
army. There was nothing about Sheridan's appearance 
at first glance to mark him as the principal figure in 
the scene. Except for the fact that he rode in front 
one night have mistaken one of the other officers for 
chief. But close inspection easily singled him out. He 
was well mounted and sat his horse like a real 
cavalryman. Though short in stature he did not ap- 
pear so on horseback. His stirrups were high up, the 
shortness being of leg and not of trunk. He wore a 
peculiar style of hat not like that of any other officer. 
He was square of shoulder and there was plenty of 
room for the display of a major general's buttons on his 
broad chest. His face was strong, with a firm jaw, a 
keen eye, and extraordinary firmness in every linea- 
ment. In his manner there was an alertness, evinced 
rather in look than in movement. Nothing escaped his 
eye, which was brilliant and searching and at the same 
time emitted flashes of kindly good nature. When riding 
among or past his troopers, he had a way of casting 
quick, comprehensive glances to the right and left and 
in all directions. He overlooked nothing. One had a 
feeling that he was under close and critical observation, 
that Sheridan had his eye on him, was mentally taking 
his measure and would remember and recognize him 
the next time. No introduction was needed. 

It would be as difficult to describe the exact physical 
traits that marked Sheridan's personality as to make a 
list of the characteristic mental attributes that distin- 



FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SHERIDAN 299 

guished him from others. There were perhaps no 
special, single, salient points. At least none were ab- 
normally developed. In making an estimate of the man 
it was the ensemble of his qualities that had to be con- 
sidered. He had to be taken "all in all. " So taken, 
he was Sheridan. He was not another, or like another. 
There was no soldier of the civil war with whom he 
fairly can be compared with justice to either. As a 
tactician on the field of battle he had no equal, with the 
possible exception of "Stonewall" Jackson. In this 
respect he to my mind more nearly resembled John 
Churchill, the great duke of Marlborough, than any 
other historical character of modern times of whom I 
have any knowledge. If he had not the spark of genius, 
he came very near to having it. This is a personal 
judgment put down here, the writer trusts, with be- 
coming modesty and with no desire to put himself 
forward as a military critic. 

Sheridan was modest as he was brave, reticent of his 
plans, not inclined to exploit his own merits, and he did 
not wear his heart or his mind upon his sleeve. His 
inmost thoughts were his own. What impressed us at 
this first sight of him was his calm, unruffled demeanor, 
his freedom from excitement, his poise, his apparently 
absolute confidence in himself and his troops, his 
masterful command of the situation. He rode away 
toward the front as quietly as he had come from the 
rear, with no blare of bugles, no brandishing of swords, 
no shouting of orders, no galloping of horses. In his 



300 WITH THE MICHIGA^T CAVALRY 

bearing was the assurance that he was going to ac- 
complish what he had pledged himself to do. He had 
found Stuart and was leisurely going forward to see for 
himself, to make an analysis of his adversary's position, 
and, so far as necessary, to give personal direction to 
the coming conflict. But he was in no hurry about it 
and there was in his face and manner no hint of doubt 
or inquietude. The outcome was to him a foregone 
conclusion. 

Such was our chief and such was the beginning of 
the battle from which dates his fame as a cavalry 
leader and independent commander of the first rank. 

Merritt and Custer were already at the front. Ex- 
perience taught us that sharp work was at hand. It 
was not long delayed. The order came from General 
Custer for the Fifth and Sixth to dismount to fight on 
foot. The First and Seventh were held in reserve 
mounted. Not having visited this battle field since that 
day I am unable to give a very accurate description of 
its topographical features and shall not attempt to do 
so. The published maps do not throw a very clear light 
upon the matter, neither do the official reports. I am in 
doubt as to whether the Telegraph road and Brook 
turnpike are synonymous terms after passing Yellow 
Tavern or whether the former lies east of the latter. 
As I have shown, Stuart's line ran along the Telegraph 
road, the right north of Half Sink, the left on a hill 
near Yellow Tavern. My authority for this is McClel- 
lan. Lomax held the left and had two pieces of 



THE BATTLE FIELD 301 

artillery posted " immediately in the road;" one piece 
behind them " on a hill on the left. " This would make 
his line extend due north and south and our approach 
to attack it must have been from the west. Devin in 
his report says Stuart was driven off the Brook pike to 
a position 500 yards east of it. Whether that was at 
the beginning or near the close of the engagement is 
not quite clear. If the former, then the line referred 
to by Major McClellan could not have been on the 
Brook turnpike. I shall have to deal in general terms, 
therefore, and not be as specific and lucid as I would 
like to be in describing Custer's part in the battle. 

Just where the Michigan regiments were posted at 
the time they were ordered into the fight I cannot say. 
They came down toward Yellow Tavern on the Old 
Mountain road and I have no recollection of crossing 
the pike. It seems to me that they must have been 
west of it. We were moved across the road, from where 
stationed when Sheridan came up, and deployed in the 
woods, the Sixth on the right of the Fifth. The line 
advanced and presently reached a fence in front of 
which was a field. Beyond the field, and to the left of 
it were woods. In the woods beyond the field were the 
dismounted confederate cavalry. Skirmishing began 
immediately across the field, each line behind a fence. 
After a little. Captain Bayles of Custer's staff came 
from the right with an order to move the Sixth by the 
left flank and take position on the left of the Fifth. 
Just as he was giving this order a great shout arose to 



302 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the left and, looking in that direction, we saw that the 
entire of the Fifth cavalry was climbing the fence and 
starting for a charge across the field. The Sixth 
instantly caught the infection and, before I could say 
"aye, yes or no, " both regiments were yelling and fir- 
ing and advancing on the enemy in the opposite 
woods. "You can't stop them," said Bayles. I agreed 
and in a moment had joined my brave men who were 
leading me instead of my leading them. 

The wisdom and necessity of Custer's order was, 
however, immediately apparent. Some confederates 
lurking in the woods to the left, opened fire into the 
flank of the Fifth Michigan, which for the moment 
threatened serious consequences. The line halted and 
there was temporary confusion. Quicker than it takes 
to tell it, Custer had appeared in the field mounted. 
One of Alger's battalions changed front and charged 
into the woods on the left and the two regiments ad- 
vanced and drove the enemy clear through and out of 
the woods in front. Barring the temporary check, it 
was a most gallant and successful affair, for which 
Custer gave the two regiments full credit in his official 
report. 

The line was then reformed with the Sixth on the left 
of the Fifth. At that time this was the extreme left 
of the First division and of the line of battle as well, 
the Third division not yet having become engaged. 

It was then found that the force with which we had 
been fighting had retreated to their main line of battle^ 



FITZHUGH LEE'S SHARPSHOOTERS 303 

along a high ridge or bluff. In front of this bluff was 
a thin skirt of timber and a fence. Here Fitzhugh 
Lee's sharpshooters were posted in a very strong posi- 
tion indeed. Between the ridge and the edge of the 
woods where our line was halted was a big field not less 
than four hundred yards across, sloping down from 
their position to ours. To attack the confederate line 
in front it would be necessary to advance across that 
field and up that slope. It looked difficult. The con- 
federate artillery was stationed to the right front on 
the extreme left of their line. We were confronted by 
Lomax's brigade. Beyond the right of the Fifth Mich- 
igan, Custer had the First Michigan, Colonel Stagg; the 
Seventh, Major Granger; and First Vermont, Lieutenant 
Colonel Preston; all mounted. They were across a road 
which ran at right angles with the line of battle, and in 
the direction of Lomax's battery. 

As soon as our line appeared in the open — indeed, 
before it left the woods the confederate artillery opened 
with shell and shrapnel; the carbineers and sharp- 
shooters joined with zest in the fray and the man who 
thinks they did not succeed in making that part of the 
neighborhood around Yellow Tavern an uncomfortably 
hot place, was not there at the time. It was necessary 
to take advantage of every chance for shelter. Every 
Wolverine who exposed himself was made a target of. 
Many men were hit by bullets. The artillerists did not 
time their fuses right and most of the damage was done 
to the trees behind us, or they were on too high ground 



304 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to get the range. The Hne gradually advanced, creep- 
ing forward Httle by Httle until it reached a partial 
shelter afforded by the contour of the ground where it 
sloped sharply into a sort of ditch that was cut through 
the field parallel with the line of battle. Here it halted 
and the battle went on in this manner for a long time, 
possibly for hours. In the meantime, Chapman's 
brigade, of Wilson's division, had come into position on 
the left of the Sixth Michigan, thus prolonging the line 
and protecting our flank which till then had been in the 
air and much exposed. Off to the left, in front of Chap- 
man, the lay of the land was more favorable. There 
were woods, the ground was more nearly level. The 
confederate position was not so difficult of approach and 
gradually his left began to swing forward and threaten 
the right flank of Lomax's position or, more accurately, 
the confederate center. 

Thus for several hours the lines faced each other 
without decisive results. At length Sheridan deter- 
mined upon an assault by mounted troops supported by 
those on foot. To Custer was assigned the important 
duty of leading this assault. It was toward four o'clock 
when Sergeant Avery who had as quick an intuitive 
perception in battle as any man I ever knew, and whose 
judgment was always excellent and his suggestions of 
great value, called my attention to what appeared to be 
preparations for a mounted charge over to the right 
where General Custer was with his colors. ' ' They are 
going to charge, major, " said Avery, "and the instant 



DEATH OF STUART AND OF GRANGER 305 

they start will be the time for us to advance. " That 
is what was done. The regiment forming for the 
charge was the First Michigan. Two squadrons under 
Major Howrigan led the vanguard. The bugles sounded, 
"forward," " trot," "charge." Heaton's battery- 
farther over was served with splendid effect. Custer's 
staff passed the word along for the entire line to ad- 
vance. There was no hesitation. The Fifth and Sixth 
and Chapman's regiments sprang forward with a shout. 
There was a gallant advance up the slope. Fitzhugh 
Lee's men held on grimly as long as they could, but 
there was no check to the charge. Howrigan kept on 
till he was among the guns sabering the cannoneers, 
capturing the two pieces in the road with their limbers 
and ammunition. In a few minutes Custer and Chap- 
man were in possession of the ridge and the entire line 
of the enemy was in full retreat. Back about 500 yards 
the enemy attempted to make a stand and the Seventh 
Michigan was ordered to charge. This charge led by 
Major Granger resulted in his death. He was killed 
just before he reached the enemy's position, causing 
a temporary repulse of the regiment, but the entire 
line came on and the enemy was put to flight in all 
directions. 

Stuart was mortally wounded while trying in person 
with a few mounted men of the First Virginia cavalry 
to stem the tide of defeat which set in when the First 
Michigan captured the battery. There is a controversy 
as to how he met his death. Colonel Alger claimed 



306 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

that Stuart was killed by a shot from one of the men 
on his dismounted line. Captain Dorsey, of the First 
Virginia, who was riding with Stuart at the time, 
quoted by Major McClellan, says that he was killed by 
a pistol shot fired by one of the men who had been un- 
horsed in the charge on the battery and who was 
running out on foot. In that case it must have been a 
First Michigan* man who, very likely, paid the penalty 
of his life for his temerity. It does not matter. One 
thing is certain. Stuart's death befell in front of 
Custer's Michigan brigade and it was a Michigan man 
who fired the fatal shot. 

Stuart was taken to Richmond, where he died, leaving 
behind him a record in which those who wore the blue 
and those who v/ore the gray take equal pride. He was 
a typical American cavalryman — one of the very fore- 
most of American cavaliers and it is a privilege for one 
of those who stood in the line in front of which he fell 
in his last fight to pay a sincere tribute to his memory 
as a soldier and a man. 

It fell to that other illustrious Virginian — Fitzhugh 
Lee — to gather up the fragments and make such re- 
sistance as he could to the further march of the union 
cavalry. 

* On pare 813, Vol. XXXVI, Series I, Part 1, of the War Records, ?n the 
report of General Merritt appears the following: "A charge made, mounted, by 
one regiment of the First brigade, (the Fifth Michigran)." The words in paren- 
thesis should be the First Michigan. It is a pity that the official records should 
thus falsify history. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

YELLOW TAVERN TO CHESTERFIELD STATION 

"pvAYLIGHT, May 12, found the entire corps con- 
-^ centrated south of the Meadow bridges, on the 
broad table-land between Richmond and the Chicka- 
hominy river. Sheridan still kept his forces well 
together. Having accomplished the main purpose of 
the expedition — the defeat of Stuart — it remained for 
him to assure the safety of his command, to husband 
its strength, to maneuver it so as to be at all times 
ready for battle, offensive or defensive as the exigency 
might demand. 

The next stage in the march of his ten thousand was 
Haxall's Landing, on the James river, where supplies 
would be awaiting him. By all the tokens, he was in a 
tight place, from which all his great dexterity and dar- 
ing were needed to escape with credit and without loss. 
His plan was to pass between the fortifications and the 
river to Fair Oaks, moving thence to his destination. 
Its futility was demonstrated when Wilson's division 
attempted to move across the Mechanicsville road. It 
was found that all the ground was completely swept by 
the heavy guns of the defenses, while a strong force of 
infantry interposed. Reinforcements had been poured 



308 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

into Richmond, where the alarm was genuine, and it 
was clear that an attempt to enter the city or to obtain 
egress in the direction of Fair Oaks would bring on a 
bloody battle of doubtful issue. Either course would 
at least, invite discomfiture. To return by the Brook 
turnpike or Telegraph road, even if that course could 
have been considered as an alternative, was alike im- 
practicable. The cavalry force which had been trailing 
the command all the way from the North Anna river 
still maintained a menacing attitude in that direction. 
The only gateway out, either to advance or retreat, was 
by the Meadow Bridge, over the Chickahominy, unless 
fords could be found. The river had to be crossed and, 
owing to the recent rains it was swollen. 

All the signs pointed to a sortie in force from the 
fortifications. The defenders emboldened by the hope, 
if not belief, that they had Sheridan in a trap; inspired 
by the feeling that they were fighting for their homes, 
their capital and their cause; and encouraged by the 
presence at the front of the president of the confederacy 
—Jefferson Davis — were very bold and defiant, and even 
the lower officers and enlisted men knew that it was a 
question of hours at most when they would march out 
in warlike array and offer battle. Sheridan decided to 
await and accept it. Indeed, he was forced to it 
whether he would or not, as the sequel proved. 

He sent for Custer and ordered him to take his 
brigade and open the way across the Chickahominy at 
the Meadow bridges. Where work was to be done that 



THE MEADOW BRIDGES 309 

had to be done, and done quickly and surely, Custer 
was apt to be called upon. The vital point of the entire 
affair was to make absolutely sure of that crossing, and 
Sheridan turned confidently to the "boy general" as 
he had done before and often would do again. 

The Michigan men were just beginning to stretch 
their limbs for a little rest — having fought all day the 
day before and ridden all night — when called upon to 
mount. They had not had time to prepare their break- 
fast or cook their coffee, but they rode cheerfully 
forward for the performance of the duty assigned to 
them, appreciating highly the honor of being chosen. 

The road leading to Meadow bridge descended to low 
ground and across the river bottoms. The wagon road 
and bridge were at the same level as the bottoms. 
Some distance below was the railroad. The grade for 
the track must have been at least twenty feet above 
the level where it reached the bridge which spanned 
the river. So the approach by the railroad was along 
the embankment. 

When Custer reached the river he found that the 
bridge was gone. The enemy had destroyed it. The 
railroad bridge alone remained. A force of dismounted 
cavalry and artillery had taken a position on the other 
side which commanded the crossing. Their position 
was not only strong but its natural strength had been 
increased by breastworks. Two pieces of artillery were 
posted on a slight hill less than half a mile back. In 
front of the hill were the breastworks; in front of the 



310 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

breastworks woods. A line of skirmishers firing from 
the edge of the woods kept the pioneers from proceed- 
ing with the work. 

But Custer could not be balked. His orders were 
imperative. He was to make a crossing and secure a 
way for the entire corps to pass "at all hazards. " He 
ordered the Fifth and Sixth Michigan to dismount, 
cross by the railroad bridge on foot and engage the 
enemy. The enemy's artillery swept the bridge, and 
as soon as it was seen that the Michigan men were 
climbing the railroad embankment to make the crossing 
they trained their pieces upon it. Yet the two regi- 
ments succeeded. The Fifth led, the Sixth followed. 
One man, or at most two or three, at a time, they tip- 
toed from tie to tie, watching the chance to make it in 
the intervals between the shells. Though these came 
perilously near to the bridge none of them hit it, at 
least while we were crossing. They went over and 
struck in the river or woods below. It looked perilous, 
and it was not'fdevoid of danger, but I do not remember 
that a single'.man was killed or wounded while crossing. 
It may have been a case of poor ammunition or poor 
marksmanship or both. The worst of it was the nature 
of the ground was such that our artillerists could not 
bring their guns to bear. 

Once over, the two regiments deployed as skirmish- 
ers and advancing with their 8-shotted Spencers, drove 
the confederate skirmishers back through the woods 
and behind their breastworks, where we held them until 



SKIRMISHING IN THE WOODS 311 

a bridge was built, which must have been for two or 
three hours. The skirmishing in the woods was fierce 
at times, but the trees made good cover. It was here 
that Lieutenant Thomas A. Edie, troop A, Sixth, was 
killed by a bullet through the head. No attempt was 
made to assault the breastworks. The confederates be- 
hind them, however, were kept so fully occupied that 
they were unable to pay any attention to the bridge 
builders, who were left unmolested to complete their 
work. This was the work which the two Michigan 
regiments were sent over to do and they accomplished 
it successfully — something for which they never re- 
ceived full credit. At one stage of this fight my 
attention was attracted to the coolness of a trooper, 
troop A, Sixth, who was having sort of a duel with a 
confederate. The latter was lying down in his works, 
the former behind a tree. When either one exposed 
any portion of his anatomy the other would shoot. 
Some of the confederate's bullets grazed the tree. The 
Michigan man would show his cap or something and 
when the other fired, step out, take deliberate aim and 
return the shot, then jump behind his natural fortress 
and repeat the maneuver. Finally the confederate 
ceased firing and there was little doubt that a Spencer 
bullet had found its mark. Making my way to the tree 
I asked my man his name. His coolness and courage 
had much impressed me. "Charles Dean," he replied. 
"Report to me when the fight is over," I said. He 
did so, and from that day until the war ended he was 



312 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

my personal orderly. A better, braver soldier, or a more 
faithful friend no man ever knew than Charles Dean, 
troop A, Sixth Michigan cavalry. 

After the completion of the bridge the entire division 
crossed over. The Seventh Michigan, two regiments 
from Devin's brigade, two from Gibbs's — which with 
the Fifth and Sixth Michigan made seven in all were 
put on the line as reinforcements and an assault ordered. 
The entire line advanced and even then it was no 
child's play. The confederates fought well but were 
finally driven out of their works and routed. Pursuit 
with dismounted men was useless. As soon as the 
horses could be brought over the First Michigan and 
two of the Reserve brigade regiments were sent in 
pursuit mounted, but were too late, most of the con- 
federates having made good their escape. 

While this was going on, Gregg had a hard fight with 
the strong force of infantry and artillery which came 
out full of confidence to crush Sheridan. By a brilliant 
ruse he took them by surprise and whipped them so 
thoroughly that they retreated within their inner forti- 
fications, completely discomfited, and Sheridan remained 
on the ground most of the day with no one to molest or 
make him afraid. Gregg's fight was characteristic of 
that fine officer who never failed to fill the full measure 
of what was required of him. Indeed, it was one of 
the most creditable actions of the war and one for 
which he never received full credit. The feeling 
throughout the First division, at the time, I know, was 




FITZlIUUll LEE AND STAFF (in Cuba) 



STORY OF TWO NEWSBOYS 313 

that the superb courage and steadiness of Gregg and 
his division had extricated Sheridan from a grave peril. 
The same Gregg who, with the help of Custer's Mich- 
igan brigade, saved the Union right at Gettysburg, 
stood in the way and stopped a threatened disaster 
before Richmond. 

After Gregg's repulse of the infantry, Custer's 
success in opening the way across Meadow bridge and 
Merritt's rout of Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, the Second 
and Third divisions remained unmolested for the rest of 
the day on the ground of the morning's operations, the 
First division going to Gaines's Mills. 

General Sheridan tells a story of two newsboys who 
came out after the fight, with Richmond papers to sell. 
They did a thriving business and when their papers 
were disposed of desired to return to the city. But 
they were so bright and intelligent that he suspected 
their visit involved other purposes than the mere selling 
of papers, and held them until the command was across 
the river and then permitted them to go. There is an 
interesting coincidence between this story and the one 
told to the writer by St. George Tucker, of Richmond, 
and which appears on page 259 of this volume. 

Late in the afternoon the entire corps moved to 
Gaines's Mills and went into camp for the night. 

The march from Gaines's Mills to the James river 
was uneventful. When the head of the column, on 
the 14th, debouched on Malvern Hill, a gunboat in the 
river, mistaking us for confederate cavalry, com- 



314 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

menced firing with one of their big guns, and as the 
huge projectiles cut the air overhead the men declared 
they were shooting "nail-kegs." The signal corps in- 
tervened and stopped this dangerous pastime. 

Three days were taken here for rest, recuperation, 
drawing and issuing forage and rations, shoeing hor- 
ses, caring for and sending away the sick and wound- 
ed, and in every way putting the command on a field 
footing again. It was a brief period of placid con- 
tentment. Satisfaction beamed from every counte- 
nance. Complacency dwelt in every mind. The sol- 
diers smoked their pipes, cooked their meals, read the 
papers, wrote letters to their homes, sang their songs 
and, around the evening camp fires, recalled incidents, 
humorous, thrilling or pathetic, of the march and bat- 
tle-field. There was not a shadow on the scene. 

On the 17th the camp was broken and we marched 
by way of Charles City Courthouse, across the Chick- 
ahominy at Long bridge to Baltimore Crossroads, ar- 
riving there on the evening of the 18th when another 
halt was made. May 19, I was sent with the Sixth 
Michigan to destroy Bottom's bridge and the rail- 
road trestle work near it. My recollection is that this 
was accomplished. 

The next morning General Custer was ordered with 
his brigade to Hanover Courthouse, the object be- 
ing to destroy the railroad bridge across the South 
Anna river, a few miles beyond. This necessitating a 
ride of more than twenty miles, an early start was 



AFFAIRS AT HANOVER STATION 315 

made. The Sixth was given the advance and it 
proved to be one of the most pleasant experiences of 
the campaign. The road led past Newcastle, Han- 
overtown and Price's; the day was clear, there was 
diversity of scenery and sufficient of incident to make 
it something worth remembering. No enemy was 
encountered until we reached the courthouse. A small 
body of cavalry was there, prepared to contest the ap- 
proach of the advance guard. The officer in com- 
mand of the advance did not charge, but stopped to 
skirmish and the column halted. Foght, Custer's 
bugler, rode up and offered to show me a way into the 
station from which the confederates could be taken 
in flank. Accepting his suggestion, I took the regi- 
ment and dashed through the fields to the left and 
captured the station, which brought us in on the left 
and rear of the force confronting the advance guard. 
Seeing this they took to flight, the advance guard pur- 
suing them for some distance. A quantity of commis- 
sary stores were captured here, some of which were 
issued to the men, the balance destroyed. The rail- 
road track was torn up and two trestles destroyed 
where the railroad crossed the creek near the station. 
Custer moved his brigade back to Hanovertown and 
encamped for the night. The next morning he re- 
turned to Hanover Courthouse and, sending the First 
and Fifth ahead, left the Sixth and Seventh to guard the 
rear. They advanced to near the South Anna river 
and found the bridge guarded by infantry, cavalry 



316 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

and artillery, which, en route from Richmond to Lee's 
army, had been stopped there for the exigency. Custer 
decided not to take the risk, as he learned that a force 
was also moving on his flank, and returned leisurely to 
Baltimore Crossroads. 

One incident of the first day seems to me worth 
narrating. The brigade bivouacked on a large plan- 
tation, where was a colonial house of generous propor- 
tions. It fronted on a spacious lawn, which sloped 
from the house to the highway and was fringed with 
handsome old spruce and Austrian pines. In front 
and rear the house had broad porches. A wide hall 
ran through the center of the house from one porch to 
the other and on either side of the hall were well fur- 
nished rooms of ample size. In rear, in an enclosure 
as broad as the house, was a well kept flower garden. 
It was a typical southern home of refinement and com- 
fort. There were several ladies. The men were, 
of course, in the army. General Custer with several 
of his officers called upon the ladies to pay his respects 
and assure them of protection. He was received with 
quiet dignity and refined courtesy and for an hour 
chatted with them about the events then transpiring. 
They knew all the confederate cavalry leaders and he 
was greatly interested in what they had to say about 
them. Before his departure he left with one of the 
ladies a piquant and chivalric message for his "friend 
Rosser," which she promised to deliver faithfully. 
Custer and Rosser, in war and in peace, were animated 



CAVALRYMEN AS BRIDGE BUILDERS 317 

by the same knightly spirit. Their friendship ante- 
dated and outlived the war. The message was re- 
ceived and provoked one of a similar tenor in reply. 
He took especial care that no harm was done to the 
place and marched away leaving it as good as he found 
it. 

Upon our return it was found that the Second and 
Reserve brigades by the most extraordinary activity 
and skill had succeeded in restoring the bridge across 
the Pamunkey at White House on which the entire corps 
crossed over May 22. May 24, Sheridan reported to 
General Meade at Chesterfield station, on the Rich- 
mond and Fredericksburg railroad, north of the North 
Anna river, opposite Hanover Station. The two days' 
march from Aylett's was hot and dusty, and marked 
by nothing worth recalling, unless it be that the road 
after the cavalry had passed over it was dotted at 
regular intervals with the bodies of dead horses, the 
order having been that when horses gave out and had 
to be abandoned they must be shot. 



CHAPTER XIX 
HANOVERTOWN AND HAW'S SHOP 

JUNE 26 the First and Second divisions, followed by 
Russell's division of the Sixth corps started down 
the north bank of the Pamunkey river to secure the 
crossings, Grant having determined on another move- 
ment by the left flank, and to throw his entire army 
across into the territory between the Pamunkey and 
Chickahominy. Feints were made that day at the 
fords near Hanover Courthouse, but after dark both 
Torbert and Gregg, leaving a small force on duty at 
each of these fords respectively, quietly withdrew and 
made a night march to Dabney's Ferry opposite Han- 
overtown, the First division leading. At daylight 
Custer in advance reached the Ferry and the First 
Michigan under Colonel Stagg gallantly forced the 
passage, driving away about one hundred cavalrymen 
who were guarding it and making a number of them 
prisoners. The entire division then crossed and 
moved forward through the town. 

General Custer directed me to take the road from 
Hanovertown and push on in advance toward Hanover 
Courthouse. We had gone but a mile or so when, in 
the midst of a dense wood, a force which proved to be 



BATTLE OF HANOVERTOWN 319 

dismounted cavalry was encountered, strongly posted 
behind temporary earthworks hastily thrown up. The 
regiment was dismounted on the right of the road, the 
First Michigan, following closely, went in on the 
left and the two regiments made a vigorous attack, 
but met with a stubborn resistance and did not suc- 
ceed in carrying the works at once. A band was 
playing in rear, indicating the presence of a brigade, 
at least. 

Noticing that a portion of the enemy's fire came 
from the right, I sent the sergeant major to the rear 
with word that the line ought to be prolonged in that 
direction. The non commissioned officer returned 
and reported that the message had been delivered to 
the brigade commander, but that it was overheard by 
the major general commanding the division, who ex- 
claimed with a good deal of impatience: "Who in 

is this who is talking about being flanked?" 1 

was mortified at this and resolved never again to ad- 
mit to a superior officer that the idea of being flanked 
had any terrors. But General Torbert, notwithstand- 
ing, did reinforce the line with a part of General De- 
vin's brigade in exact accordance with my suggestion. 

Custer, however, did not wait for this, but, taking 
the other two regiments of his brigade (the Fifth and 
Seventh Michigan) made a detour to the left by way 
of Haw's Shop, and came in on the flank and rear of 
the force which the First and Sixth, with Devin's help 
were trying to dislodge from its strong position, and 



320 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

which held on tenaciously so long as it was subjected 
to a front attack only. But, as soon as Custer made 
his appearance on the flank, the enemy, Gordon's 
brigade of North Carolinians, abandoned the earth- 
works and fled, the First and Sixth with Devin's reg- 
iments promptly joining in the pursuit. 

Custer's approach was heralded by an amusing inci- 
dent. The band that had been challenging us with its 
lips of brass stopped short in the midst of one of its 
most defiant strains, and the last note of the "Bonnie 
Blue Flag" had scarcely died on the air, when far to 
the left and front were heard the cheery strains of 
"Yankee Doodle."* No other signal was needed to 
tell of the whereabouts of our Michigan comrades, and 
it was then that the whole line moved forward, only 
to see as it emerged into the open, the Tar-heels of the 
South making swift time towards Crump's Creek, 
closely followed by Custer and his Michiganders. The 
latter had accomplished without loss by the flanking 
process what he had tried in vain to do by the more 
direct method. 

The charge of the Fifth and Seventh Michigan, com- 
m.anded by Captain Magoffin and Major Walker res- 
pectively, and led by General Custer in person, was 
most brilliant and successful, the Seventh continuing 
the pursuit for about three miles. First Sergeant 
Mortimer Rappelye of troop C, Sixth, and one of his 

*I am not positive that these were the particular tutesthe batds played. 



BUTLER'S SOUTH CAROLINIANS 321 

men were killed at the first fire. Rappelye was in 
command of the advance guard and had oeen slated 
for a commission which he would have received had 
he lived. 

That night the cavalry encamped on Crump's Creek. 
The next day the army was all over and Grant had 
taken up a new line extending from Crump's Creek to 
the Totopotomoy. Still, he was uncertain of what 
Lee was doing and it became necessary to find out. 
This led to what was one of the most sanguinary and 
courageously contested cavalry engagements of the 
entire war — the battle of Haw's Shop — in which 
Gregg and Custer with the Second division and the 
Michigan brigade, unassisted, defeated most signally, 
two divisions under the command of Wade Hampton 
in his own person. Indeed it is not certain that it 
was not even a more notable victory than that over 
Stuart on the right flank at Gettysburg. It was won 
at a greater sacrifice of life than either Brandy Sta- 
tion or Yellow Tavern. 

After the death of Stuart, though so short a time had 
elapsed, the confederate cavalry had been reorganized 
into three divisions, commanded by Wade Hampton, 
Fitzhugh Lee, and W. H. F. Lee, the first named being 
the ranking officer. His division had been largely 
reinforced, notably by a brigade of South Carolinians 
I'T^der M. C. Butler who, after the war, was the col- 
league of Hampton in the United States senate. This 
brigade consisted of seven large regiments, numbering 



322 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

in all about four thousand men. It was a brigade that 
honored the state which produced Sumter, Marion, 
the Rutledges and the Hamptons. 

All this cavalry had joined the army of Northern 
Virginia and was in position to cover the movements 
which Lee was making to confront the army of the 
Potomac. Sheridan's corps, now that it had returned 
to the army, was once more somewhat dispersed. 
Wilson was still north of the Pamunkey, covering the 
transfer of the several infantry corps and guarding 
the fords. The First division, as we have seen, led 
the crossing on the 27th and was covering the front 
and right of the infantry along Crump's Creek. 
Gregg, who had followed Torbert, was at Hanover- 
town. 

On the morning of May 28, Gregg was sent out by 
Sheridan to discover the movements of Lee, who was 
skilfully masking his designs behind his cavalry. 
Gregg had advanced but a short distance beyond 
Haw's Shop when, in a dense wood, protected by 
swamps, behind breastworks of logs and rails, and 
with batteries advantageously posted, he found the 
enemy's cavalry dismounted and disposed in order of 
battle. He promptly attacked, notwithstanding the 
disparity in numbers and in position, Davies going 
into action first, followed by Irvin Gregg, and the en- 
tire division was quickly engaged. Gregg was reso- 
lute, Hampton determined, and for hours the battle 
was waged with the most unyielding bravery on both 




M. C. BDTLKK 



THE BATTLE OF HAW'S SHOP 323 

sides. The list of hilled and wounded was unex- 
ampled in any other cavalry contest of the Civil war, 
aggregating in the Second division alone two hundred 
and fifty-six officers and men. Davies's brigade lost 
twenty-three officers. The First New Jersey cavalry 
had two officers killed and nine wounded. The 
enemy's losses were even greater. 

It was an unequal contest — one division against two, 
two brigades against four — with the odds in favor of 
the confederates. Hampton who, in the beginning, 
maintained a posture of defense, began to assume a 
more aggressive attitude and showed a disposition to 
take the offensive. In the afternoon, towards four 
o'clock, he brought up Butler's brigade to reinforce 
the center of his line. These troops were armed with 
long range rifles and many of them had not been under 
fire before. This was their first fight. They came 
on the field with the firm purpose to win or die, and 
preferred death to defeat or surrender, as the sequel 
proved. 

Then, and not till then, it began to look as though 
the hitherto invincible Gregg might have the worst of 
it. There was danger that the center of his line 
would be compelled to yield. It was in front of this 
new and va-:rcus foe that the First New Jersey suf- 
f'^red its fearful losses. The attack was such that 
only the bravest men could have withstood it. 

At this critical juncture, Sheridan ordered Custer 
to the front to reinforce Gregg. It was time. The 



324 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Michigan men were having a rest, thinking it was 
their turn for "a day off." But, as in the "Wilder- 
ness" and at Meadow Bridge, they were instantly in 
the saddle and en route. Marching by fours along a 
country road, hearing the sounds, but not yet within 
sight of the conflict, lines of federal infantry were seen 
marshaled for action, and a knot of officers of high 
rank gazing toward the front. Passing to the right 
of these, the column turned to the right into the road 
leading past Haw's Shop, and through the woods where 
the two lines were fiercely contending, and which road 
bisected the battlefield. An impressive scene came 
into view. Beyond the wood, less than a mile away, 
which extended on both sides of the road, one of Hamp- 
ton's batteries was firing shell with the utmost rapid- 
ity. These shells were exploding both in the woods 
and in a broad plain behind them and to the right of 
the column as it advanced. Hundreds of non com- 
batants were fleeing to the rear across this open space. 
I'he woods, like a screen, hid the battery from view. 
Only the screaming and exploding shells could be 
seen. When the head of the Michigan column came 
into their line of vision, the confederate cannoneers 
trained one of their guns on the road and the shells 
began to explode in our faces. A right oblique 
movement took the column out of range. 

Gregg's men had been gradually forced back to the 
very edge of the woods, and were hanging on to this 
last chance for cover with bull dog tenacity. The 



CUSTER REINFORCES GREGG 325 

enemy were pressing them hard and, apparently con- 
scious that reinforcements for them were coming, 
seemed to redouble their fire both of artillery and small 
arms. It was a fearful and awe inspiring spectacle. 

Custer lost no time. Massing the brigade close be- 
hind Gregg's line of battle he dismounted it to fight 
on foot. Every fourth man remained with the horses 
which were sent back out of danger. The line formea 
in two ranks like infantry. The Sixth was to the right, 
its left resting on the road ; the Seventh to the left, its 
right on the road. The First formed on the right of 
the Sixth, the Fifth on the left of the Seventh. The 
time for action had come. It was necessary to do one 
thing or the other. No troops in the world could 
have been held there long without going forward or 
back. 

Custer, accompanied by a single aide, rode along 
the line from left to right, encouraging the men by his 
example and his words. Passing the road he dashed 
out in front of the Sixth and taking his hat in his 
hand, waved it around his head and called for three 
cheers. The cheers were given and then the line 
rushed forward. Custer quickly changed to the 
flank but, though thus rashly exposing himself, with 
his usual luck, he escaped without a scratch. Chris- 
tiancy, his aide, had his horse shot under him and 
received two wounds, one a severe one through the 
thigh. 

Gregg's men permitted the Michigan men to pass. 



326 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

In a moment the "Wolverines and the Palmetto men 
were face to face and the lines very close. Michigan 
had Spencers. South Carolina, Enfields. Spencers 
were repeaters, Enfields were not. The din of the 
battle was deafening. It was heard distinctly back 
where the infantry was formed and where Grant, 
Meade, and Sheridan anxiously were awaiting the 
event. The Spencers were used with deadly effect. 
The South Carolinians, the most stubborn foe Michi- 
gan ever had met in battle, refused to yield and filled 
the air with lead from the muzzles of their long range 
guns as fast as they could load and fire. The sound 
of their bullets sweeping the undergrowth was like 
that of hot flames crackling through dry timber. The 
trees were riddled. Men began to fall. Miles 
Hutchinson, son of my father's foreman, who had left 
home to go to the war with me, fell dead at my side. 
"Jimmie" Brown, the handsome and brave sergeant, 
dropped his piece and falling, died instantly. Cor- 
poral Seth Carey met his fate like a soldier, his face 
to the foe. A member of troop H, shot through the 
breast, staggered toward me and exclaiming, "Oh, 
major," fell literally into my arms, leaving the stains 
of his blood upon my breast. 

This strenuous work did not last long. It may have 
been ten minutes from start to finish — from the time 
we received the South Carolinians* fire till the worst 
of it was over and they began to give way. But, in 
that brief ten minutes eighteen brave men in the ranks 



HAD NO ORDERS TO SURRENDER 327 

of the Sixth Michigan had been either killed or mortal- 
ly wounded ; and as many more were wounded but not 
fatally. The enemy suffered even more severely. The 
brigade lost forty-one killed — eighteen in the Sixth; 
thirteen in the Fifth; five in the First and five in the 
Seventh. The losses of the Fifth in officers and men 
wounded but not fatally were larger than those in the 
Sixth, the total of killed and wounded aggregating 
something like fifty in the regiment. The First, 
though it did not meet with so sturdy a resistance in 
its immediate front, was able to work around the flank 
of the enemy, thus materially aiding in breaking their 
spirit and putting them to rout. 

Some of the South Carolina men exhibited a fool- 
hardy courage never seen anywhere else so far as my 
knowledge extends. 

"Surrender," said Sergeant Avery to one of them 
who had just discharged his piece and was holding it 
still smoking in his hands. 

"I have no orders to surrender, you," returned 

the undaunted confederate. 

He surrendered, not his person, but his life. Such 
a fate befell more than one of those intrepid heroes. 
It was a pity but it was war and "war is hell." The 
enemy's line, at that time, had been driven beyond the 
woods into a clearing where was a house. While 
crossing a shallow ravine before reaching the house 
it was noticed that shots were coming from the rear. 
An officer with a troop was ordered back to investi- 



328 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

gate. It was found that at the first onset the regi- 
ment had obliqued slightly to the right, thus leaving 
an interval between the left flank and the road in con- 
sequence of v/hich about fifteen confederates had been 
passed unnoticed. Some of them had the temerity to 
begin giving us a fire in the rear. They were all made 
prisoners. 

The force in front was driven from the field, leaving 
their dead and wounded. Eighty-three dead confed- 
erates were counted by those whose duty it was to 
bury the dead and care for the wounded in the field 
and woods through which the Michigan men charged. 
Those who were killed in front of the Sixth Michigan 
were South Carolinians from Charleston and evident- 
ly of the best blood in that historic city and common- 
wealth. They were well dressed and their apparel, 
from outer garments to the white stockngs on their 
feet, was clean and of fine texture. In their pockets 
they had plenty of silver money. 

In this engagement, as well as in that at Hanover- 
town the day before, the Fifth Michigan was com- 
manded by Captain Magoffin, Colonel Alger having re- 
mained at White House for a few days on account of 
illness. Colonel Stagg and Major Alexander Walker 
led the First and Seventh, respectively. 

General Sheridan narrates that when he called upon 
Mr. Lincoln in Washington the president made a face- 
tious reference to General Hooker's alleged fling at 
the cavalry, when he asked: "Who ever saw a dead 



GENERAL HOOKER'S "WITTICISM" 329 

cavalryman?" It is perhaps doubtful whether 
Hooker uttered so pointless a saying, devoid alike of 
sense and of wit. If such a question was ever seri- 
ously propounded by him or by any one else, its suf- 
ficient answer could have been found upon the battle 
field of Haw's Shop. And not there alone. The 
First Michigan cavalry had sixteen killed including its 
colonel at the second Bull Run and twelve at Gettys- 
burg. The Fifth Michigan lost fifteen killed at Get- 
tysburg; the Sixth Michigan twenty-four at Falling 
Waters and the Seventh Michigan twenty-tvv^o at Get- 
tysburg — all of these before General Sheridan had 
that interview with Mr. Lincoln in the White House. 
This record was enough of itself, to render the cavalry 
immune to ironical disparagement. If there were 
any honest doubts as to the efficiency and fighting 
qualities of the Potomac cavalry, they were dissipated 
by the campaign of 1864. After Todd's Tavern 
Yellow Tavern, Haw's Shop, Cold Harbor and Trevil- 
ian Station no slurring remarks aimed at the cavalry 
were heard. Its prestige was acknowledged in and 
out of the army by all those who had knowledge of its 
achievements and were willing to give credit where 
credit was deserved. 

An all night march followed the battle, after the 
dead had been buried and the wounded cared for. 
The morning of May 29 found the two divisions in the 
neighborhood of Old Church and thence in the after- 
noon of May 30 Custer and Merritt marched out to- 



330 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ward Cold Harbor, the Reserve brigade in advance, 
to reinforce Devin, who was having a hot fight at 
Matadequin Creek with Butler's South Carolinans, 
posted on the opposite side in a strong position. The 
entire division became engaged, the fighting being 
mostly dismounted and the opposing force was driven 
in great confusion from the field. The Sixth Michi- 
gan was held in reserve mounted and expected to be 
ordered in for a mounted charge but for some unex- 
plained reason the order did not come. The First, 
Fifth and Seventh were in the thickest of it and ren- 
dered excellent service. The pursuit was kept up 
for several miles and the enemy retreated to Cold Har- 
bor, leaving his dead and wounded on the field, as at 
Haw's Shop. Butler's men behaved with great gal- 
lantry, but were ready to surrender when the logic of 
the situation demanded it. They made no such re- 
sistance as in the former action. 

May 31, in the afternoon, the First division ad- 
vanced on Cold Harbor, Merritt in advance, on the 
road leading from Old Church. Custer followed Mer- 
ritt. Devin was sent by another road to the left with 
the intention of having him attack in flank the force 
which the other two brigades were engaging in front. 
The Sixth Michigan moved by a country road to make 
connection between the First and Second brigades. 
Gregg's division followed Torbert as a reserve and sup- 
port but did not become engaged. 

Cold Harbor was a very important strategic point, 



FIGHTING FOR COLD HARBOR 331 

as can be seen by a glance at the map, roads radia- 
ting from it in all directions. It was strongly held by 
Hampton's and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, supported by 
a brigade of infantry. They had thrown up breast- 
works of rails and logs, and made preparations for a 
stout resistance. 

I reached the intersection of the country road with 
the left hand road before Devin appeared. My or- 
ders being to connect with him, I awaited his arrival, 
sending a few men out to keep watch in both direc- 
tions. When Devin's advance came up they saw these 
men and appeared to be suspicious of them, and did 
not advance very promptly. As soon as I could I 
gave them to understand who we were and what we 
were there for. Devin then moved along the main 
road and the Sixth deployed through the woods until 
touch with its own brigade was obtained. 

In the meantime, a hard fight was in progress. 
Torbert, not hearing from Devin, changed his plans 
and attacked the enemy's left flank with the Reserve 
brigade and the First and Fifth Michigan. This was 
most skilfully and successfully done. The flanking 
movement was led by the First and Second United 
States, and the Fifth Michigan, still under Captain 
Magoffin. The final blow was struck by Major Mel- 
vin Brewer with one battalion of the First Michigan, 
whose charge mounted at the critical moment decided 
the fate of the field. The enemy who had been putting 
up a very hard fight did not await this charge but 



332 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

threw down their arms and fled, the pursuit being fol- 
lowed up to a point a mile and a half beyond the town. 
The Sixth took little part except to fill the gap between 
Custer and Devin. The latter found the confederate 
right flank too strong to circumvent, and added one 
more to the long list of lost opportunities. 

Thus, Cold Harbor, the key to the maneuvers of the 
two armies, came into possession of the Union cavalry, 
but there was no infantry support within ten miles, 
the result having been unexpected by Meade, and Sher- 
idan decided that it would not be safe for his com- 
mand to try to hold it, unsupported. He, however, 
notified the general of the army what he had done and 
withdrew his cavalry after dark to the position of the 
night before. Grant, realizing the importance of the 
capture, directed Sheridan to return and hold Cold 
Harbor at all hazards, until the infantry could get up. 
The march was retraced and, reaching the position be- 
fore daylight, the breastworks which the enemy had 
thrown up were brought into service, strengthened as 
much as possible and the division dismounted placed 
in line behind them. Ammunition boxes were dis- 
tributed on the ground by the side of the men so they 
could load and fire with great rapidity. This was a 
strong line in single rank deployed thick along the 
barricade of rails. Behind the line only a few yards 
away were twelve pieces of artillery equally supplied 
with ammunition. The brigade was thus in readi- 
ness to make a desperate resistance to any attack that 



DEATH OF CAPTAIN BREVOORT 333 

might be made. The only mounted man on the line 
was General Custer, who rode back and forth giving 
his orders. The Sixth was lying down behind the 
rails and directly in front of the artillery, the pieces 
being so disposed as to fire over our heads. I do not 
remember any other engagement in which so many 
pieces of artillery were posted directly on a skirmish 
line with no line of battle behind it and no reserves. 
It was an expedient born of a desperate emergency. 

In front of the line was open ground. Two hun- 
dred yards to the front were woods. In the woods 
the confederate infantry was in bivouac. Kershaw's 
division was in front of the Michigan brigade. Be- 
fore the first streaks of dawn began to appear in the 
east, their bugles sounded the reveille, and there was 
immediate commotion in the confederate camps. So 
close to us were they that the commands of the officers 
could be heard distinctly. Soon after daybreak an 
attack was made on the right of the fine. As soon as 
the enemy emerged from the woods General Custer 
ordered all the twelve pieces of artillery to fire with 
shell and canister which they did most effectively. So 
furious was the fire that the confederate infantry did 
not dare to come out of the woods in front of Custer's 
left where the Sixth was, the artillery and the fire 
from the Spencers from behind the rails keeping them 
back. An attempt was made to charge the part of 
the line where the First Michigan was posted but each 
time it was repulsed. Here Captain Brevoort, one of 



334 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the bravest and best officers in the brigade, was killed. 
Captain William M. Heazlett, another fine officer, was 
wounded. They both belonged to the First Michigan. 
During the progress of the engagement, when the 
first attempt of Kershaw's infantry to come out of the 
woods had been repulsed, and there was a temporary 
suspension of the firing. General Custer riding along 
the line, in rear of the artillery, noticed that several 
of us who were lying down behind the barricade, 
were directly in front of one of the brass pieces. 
Though these pieces were firing over our heads, they 
were very nearly, if not quite, on the same level as the 
barricades. He, with characteristic thoughtfulness, 
called my attention to the danger of remaining where 
we were and I moved away from in front of the gun 
to a position in front of the interval between two of 
them, directing the others to do likewise. The three 
men who were with me were Lieutenant William 
Creevy, Corporal John Yax, and private Thomas W. 
Hill of troop C. Hill moved to the right when I 
moved to the left, but Creevy and Yax were slow about 
it. The very next time the gun was fired, there was a 
premature explosion, which killed Yax and wounded 
Creevy. Hill was a boy only seventeen years of age, 
one of the recruits of 1863-64. He survived the war 
and is now cashier of the Cleveland national bank, of 
Cleveland, Ohio, and one of the most influential and 
respected business men of that city. Another one of 
those young recruits of 1863-64 was A. V. Cole, corpo- 




THOMAS W. HILL 



SIXTH CORPS TO THE RESCUE 335 

ral in the same troop as Hill. He was badly wounded 
in the action at Haw's Shop, May 28. For many 
years he was adjutant general of the state of 
Nebraska. 

This line was successfully held, a most meritorious 
performance, by the cavalry until nearly noon, when 
the Sixth corps came on the ground and relieved it. 

Never were reinforcements more cordially wel- 
comed. Never did the uniform and arms of the in- 
fantry look better than when the advance of the Sixth 
corps made its appearance at Old Cold Harbor. In 
solid array and with quick step they marched out of 
the woods in rear of the line, and took our places. 
The tension was relaxed and for the first time since 
midnight the cavalryman drew a long breath. 

This was the beginning of the intimate association 
of the First cavalry division with the Sixth corps. So 
close a bond did it become that its hold was not released 
until the war closed. It was a bond of mutual help, 
mutual confidence and respect. The Greek cross and 
the cross sabers were found together on all the battle 
fields of the Shenandoah valley and we shall see how 
at Cedar Creek they unitedly made a mark for Amer- 
ican valor and American discipline unexcelled in all 
the annals of war. There, side by side, Wright and 
Ricketts, Getty and Wheaton stood with Merritt and 
Custer in the face of an enemy flushed with success, 
and refused to be beaten until Sheridan came on the 
field to lead them to victory. 



336 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The division then moved back near Old Church and 
went into camp. June 2 went into camp at Bottom's 
bridge, where we remained skirmishing with cavalry 
across the river. June 6 found the First and Second 
divisions in camp at Newcastle Ferry on the Pamunkey 
river, in readiness for what is known in the records 
and in history as the Trevilian raid, conducted by 
General Sheridan in person. 



CHAPTER XX 

THE TREVILIAN RAID 

npHE contents of this chapter constitute the latest 
-*■ contribution of the author to the literature of the 
events recorded in this book. Much of that which 
has gone before and all of what follows was written 
many years ago. But in this final draft, every line 
has been revised. Time and the ripeness of years 
have tem.pered and mellowed prejudice; the hasty and 
sometimes intemperate generalizations of comparative 
youth have been corrected by maturer judgment; some- 
thing of ill-advised comment and crudity has been 
eliminated. Many of his conclusions and even the ac- 
curacy of some of his statements of fact, he realizes 
fully, may not remain unchallenged; yet it has been 
his honest endeavor and purpose to give, so far as in 
him lies, a truthful and impartial recital of those sa- 
lient memories that remain to him of the stirring ex- 
periences of the youthful days when, as a boy he "fol- 
lowed the fortunes of the boy general" in the campaigns 
of 1863-64, in the great civil war. 

The outlines of the sketches herein made have been 
drawn from the official "records of the rebellion" which 
have been carefully consulted ; the details for the most 



338 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

part have been taken from the storehouse of a some- 
what retentive memory; something of color and at- 
mosphere necessarily has been left to the imagination. 
It is a picture that he would present, rather than a dry 
recital of dates and places, or a mere table of statistics. 
The importance of these things need not be lessened 
by seeking to give them an attractive form. 

The writer must confess, also to an ambition to con- 
tribute something, albeit but a little, toward giving to 
the Michigan cavalry brigade the place in history 
which it richly earned; so that it may receive in its 
due proportions the credit which it deserves for the 
patriotic and valiant services rendered on so many bat- 
tle fields. And especially does it seem to be to him a 
duty to do this for the regiment in which it was his 
privilege and good luck to serve. 

This ambition, however, was nearly stifled, soon 
after its birth, by an experience very galling to the 
pride of a well meaning, if sensitive and fallible his- 
torian. 

It was something like twenty years ago that a paper 
on the battle of Cedar Creek, prepared with conscien- 
tious care and scrupulous fidelity to the facts as the 
writer understood them, was mailed to General Wesley 
Merritt, with the request, couched in modest and cour- 
teous phrase, that he point out after having read it any 
inaccuracies of statement that he might make a note 
of, as the article was intended for publication. 

The distinguished cavalry officer replied, in a style 



NO LONGER READ "FICTION" 339 

that was bland, that he had "long since ceased to read 
fiction ;" that he no longer read "even the Century war 
articles ;" that an officer one month would give his ver- 
sion of things which another officer in a subsequent 
number of the same magazine would stoutly contra- 
dict ; and that he was heartily tired of the whole busi- 
ness. 

General Merritt was, however, good enough to give 
in detail his reasons for dissenting from the writer's 
account of a certain episode of the battle, and his 
letter lent emphasis to the discussion in one of the 
early chapters of this volume concerning men occupy- 
ing different points of view in a battle. This particu- 
lar matter will be more fully treated in its proper place. 
One must not be too sure of what he sees with his own 
eyes and hears with his own ears, unless he is backed 
by a cloud of witnesses. 

Moreover this was notice plain as holy writ, that no 
mere amateur in the art of war may presume, without 
the fear of being discredited, to have known and ob- 
served that which did not at the time come within the 
scope of those who had a recognized status as profes- 
sional soldiers and find its way into their official re- 
ports. Indeed, a very high authority as good as told 
the writer in the war records office in Washington that 
no man's memory is as good as the published record, 
or entitled to any weight at all when not in entire har- 
mony therewith. 

It is evident that this rule, though perhaps a proper 



340 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

and necessary one, to protect the literature of the war 
against imposition and fraud, may very easily bar out 
much that is valuable and well worth wrting, if not 
indispensable to a fair and complete record, provided it 
can in some way be accredited and invested with the 
stamp of truth. 

It was quite possible for brigade and even regi- 
mental commanders, not to draw the line finer still, to 
have experiences on the battle field of which their im- 
mediate superiors were not cognizant; nor is it neces- 
sary to beg the question by arguing that all command- 
ing officers were allowed to exercise a discretion of 
their own within certain limits. 

Official reports were oftentimes but hastily and im- 
perfectly sketched amidst the hurry and bustle of 
breaking camp ; or on the eve of battle, when the mind 
might be occupied with other things of immediate and 
pressing importance. Sometimes they were pre- 
pared long afterwards, when it was as difficult to re- 
call the exact sequence and order of events as it would 
be after the lapse of years. Some of the "youngsters" 
of those days failed to realize the value their reports 
would have in after years as the basis for making his- 
tory. Others were so unfortunate as to have them 
"lost in transit" so that, although they were duly and 
truly prepared and forwarded through the official 
channels, they never found their way into the printed 
record. 

Attention already has been called to the absence of 



MISSING OFFICIAL REPORTS 341 

reports of the commanders of the Michigan cavalry 
brigade regiments for the Gettysburg campaign. 
General George B. Davis, U. S. army, when in charge 
of the war records office in Washington, told the writer 
that he had noticed this want and wondered at it. He 
could not account for it. A like misfortune befell the 
same regiments when they participated in the Kilpat- 
rick raid. Only a part of their reports covering the 
campaign of 1864, including the Trevilian raid, were 
published. In this respect the Sixth Michigan suf- 
fered more than either of the others. Not a single 
report of the operations of that regiment for that 
period, appears in the record, though they were cer- 
tainly made as required. General Custer's reports 
cover that regiment, of course, as they do the others 
in the brigade, but it is unfortunate that these are not 
supplemented by those of the regimental commander. 
Until the volumes successively appeared, he was not 
aware of this defect ; nor did he ever receive from any 
source an intimation of it, or have opportunity to sup- 
ply the deficiency. Hence, it appeals to him as a duty 
to remedy, so far as it can be done at this late day, the 
omissions in the record as published of this gallant 
regiment. 

From the beginning to the end of the campaign of 
1864, in Virginia — from the Wilderness, May 4, to 
Cedar Creek, October 19 — except for a single month 
when he was in command of the brigade, the writer 
was present with and commanded the Sixth Michigan 



342 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

cavalry. Not a single day was he absent from duty, 
nor did he miss a battle or skirmish in which the regi- 
ment was engaged. Reports were made, but as we 
have shown they did not find their way into the war 
department. No copies were retained, so there is a 
hiatus in the record. There are numerous cases of a 
similar kind. Some officers, there is reason to be- 
lieve, were smart enough to seek and were given the 
opportunity to restore the missing links. 

The Trevilian raid resulted from the seeming ne- 
cessity of drawing the confederate cavalry away from 
the front of the army of the Potomac while the move- 
ment of the latter from the Chickahominy to the James 
was in progress. Sheridan was ordered to take two 
divisions and proceed to Charlottesville, on the Virgin- 
ia Central railroad. Incidentally he was to unite 
there with the force operating under General Hunter 
in the direction of Lynchburg. He decided to take 
the First and Second divisions (Gregg and Torbert). 
Wilson with the Third division was to remain with the 
army, taking his orders directly from General Meade. 

As we have seen, the expeditionary force, before 
making the start, was at Newcastle Ferry, on the south 
bank of the Pamunkey river. Three days' rations to 
last five days were ordered to be taken in haversacks ; 
also two days' forage strapped to the pommels of the 
saddles ; one hundred rounds of ammunition — forty on 
the person, sixty in wagons; one medical wagon and 
eight ambulances; Heaton's and Pennington's batter- 



FORTY-FOUR YEARS SINCE 343 

ies ; and a pontoon train of eight boats. The brigade 
commanders were: Custer, Merritt, Devin, Davies 
and Irvin Gregg. In the Michigan brigade there had 
been some changes since Cold Harbor. Colonel Alger 
had returned and resumed command of his regiment. 
Major Melvin Brewer, of the First Michigan, had been 
promoted to lieutenant colonel and assigned to com- 
mand of the Seventh Michigan, his appointment dating 
June 6. 

There is a certain something about the events of that 
war that makes them stand out in bold relief, like 
architectural images on the facade of an edifice. They 
throw all other recollections of a lifetime into the 
shade. As I sit at my desk writing, with memory at 
elbow as a prompter, it is difficult to believe that today 
(May 7, 1908) it lacks but one short month of being 
forty-four years since those preparations were making 
on the banks of the Pamunkey river for a cavalry ex- 
pedition in some respects more strenuous, more diffi- 
cult than any which had preceded it. Yet those inci- 
dents are burned into the memory, and it seems that, 
after all, it may have been but yesterday, so deep and 
lasting were the impressions then produced. As the 
well focused optical image is transferred to a sensi- 
tized surface, reproducing the picture, so were those 
scenes fixed in the mind with photographic certainty, 
to be retained as long as memory lasts, somewhat faded 
by time, it may be, but complete in outline if not in 
details. 



344 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The campaign of the previous month had been a 
hard one for the cavalry. Aside from the fact that 
he was leaving one third of his force behind, Sheri- 
dan's corps had been decimated. A large number of 
his troopers had been killed and wounded, or rendered 
hors de combat in other ways. The horses had suf- 
fered terribly and many of them had been shot. So 
only about half the number of mounted men fit for 
duty that followed the colors of the cavalry corps out 
of the Wilderness, May 8, marched across the Pamun- 
key on the pontoon bridge, June 6. Readers who have 
followed this narrative through the preceding chapters 
will readily understand this. 

Sheridan's plan* was to move along the north bank 
of the North Anna to a point opposite Trevilian Sta- 
tion, on the Virginia Central railroad; then cross the 
North Anna by one of the bridges or fords, and by a 
rapid movement capture the station, destroy the rail- 
road from Louisa Courthouse to Gordonsville, and pro- 
ceed thence to Charlottesville, where the expected 
junction with Hunter was to be made. If this plan 
should succeed, the tv/o forces thus united were to ad- 
vance on Lynchburg and do what, as a matter of fact, 
Sheridan did not accomplish until the spring of 1865. 
Instead of marching to Charlottesville, Hunter went 
the other way, and that feature of the expedition was 
a failure. Breckinridge's corps of infantry was sent 

* Personal Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan, Vol. I: page 417. Also Records, Series I. 
Vol. XXXVI, part 1. 




WADE HAMPTON 



MARCHING TOWARD TREVILIAN 345 

to Gordonsville, the confederate cavalry succeeded in 
interposing between that place and Trevilian Station 
and Sheridan advanced no farther than the latter point. 

Sheridan's march began on the morning of June 7. 
Passing between the Pamunkey and the Mattapony 
rivers, he reached Polecat station on the Richmond 
and Potomac (Fredericksburg) railroad the evening of 
June 8, and encamped there for the night. The next 
day the march was resumed, passing through Chiles- 
burg to the North Anna, and along the bank of that 
river to Young's Mills, where the entire command biv- 
ouacked. June 10, he journeyed to Twyman's store 
and crossed the North Anna at Carpenter's Ford, near 
Miner's bridge, between Brock's bridge and New 
bridge, encamping for the night on the road leading 
past Clayton's store to Trevihan Station. 

In the meantime, as soon as Sheridan's movement 
was discovered two diviisions of confederate cavalry 
(Hampton's and Fitzhugh Lee's) under Hampton — 
the latter's division commanded by Butler — started by 
the direct road between the Annas for Gordonsville, 
for the purpose of intercepting Sheridan. Breckin- 
ridge timed his movements to make his line of march 
parallel with that of Sheridan. Hampton, having the 
shorter distance to cover, although he started two days 
later than his adversary, was able to anticipate the 
latter in arriving, and was between Gordonsville and 
Trevilian Station the night that Sheridan crossed the 
North Anna. Fitzhugh Lee at the same time was 



346 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

near Louisa Courthouse, the two confederate com- 
manders thus being separated by a distance of some 
six or seven miles on the evening of June 10. The 
federal cavalry was all together and in position favor- 
able for preventing a union of the confederate forces 
by a sudden movement in the morning. Both com- 
manders were looking for a battle on the following day 
and had made their plans accordingly. 

Hampton had with him the three brigades of Rosser, 
Butler and Young; while the other division consisted 
of the brigades of Lomax and Wickham. It will thus 
be seen that, while the federal commander had a much 
smaller force than that which followed him on the 
raid of the previous month, his opponent was able to 
meet him with nearly twice the relative strength with 
which Stuart confronted him at Yellow Tavern. In 
other words, while Stuart fought him with the three 
brigades of Lomax, Wickham and Gordon (Hampton 
not being present) the latter at Trevilian Station had 
five brigades, including the big South Carolina brigade 
which fought so gallantly at Haw's Shop. More than 
that, Breckinridge's infantry was behind the cavalry, 
ready to reinforce it, if needed. 

Sheridan's camp was in the woods north of Clay- 
ton's store, and extending eastward as far as Buck 
Chiles's farm, Gregg on his left, Torbert on the right. 
His plan was to advance on Trevilian Station, at an 
early hour on the morning of June 11, by the direct 
road from Clayton's store. It was given to Gregg to 



HAMPTON'S PLAN FOILED 347 

look out for Fitzhugh Lee, who was expected to come 
into the action from the direction of Louisa Court- 
house. 

Hampton planned to advance from Trevilian Station 
with his own division and attack Sheridan at Clayton's 
store. Lee was to take the road from Louisa Court- 
house to the same point and form on Hampton's right. 
A glance at the map will show that the two roads in- 
tersect. Still another country road runs from Louisa 
Courthouse to Trevilian Station. 

Sheridan formed his line of battle with Merritt on 
the right, Devin to Merritt's left, Custer and Gregg, en 
echelon, still farther to the left. Custer covered the 
road toward Louisa Courthouse. The Seventh Mich- 
igan picketed that road during the night. At a very 
early hour the pickets of that regiment were attacked 
by Lee's advance. The First Michigan was sent to 
reinforce the Seventh. One brigade of Gregg's di- 
vision was also sent out to meet Lee. The other one 
was formed on Devin's left. Sheridan then advanced 
and attacked Hampton instead of awaiting his attack. 

Hampton moved from Trevilian Station with the 
two brigades of Butler and Young, Butler on the left. 
Rosser was sent to guard a road farther to the left, pro- 
tecting that flank. Thus Rosser was isolated when 
the battle began and Hampton came into action with 
but two brigades on the line. Fitzhugh Lee was 
headed off by the First and Seventh Michigan and 
Gregg's brigade, so that, instead of coming to Hamp- 



348 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ton's assistance as intended, he was finally compelled 
to take the road leading directly to Trevilian Station 
instead of the one to Clayton's store. It will be seen 
later that he arrived there at an opportune moment to 
prevent the complete destruction of Hampton's divi- 
sion. 

The entire country between the North Anna river 
and the railroad was covered with timber and a dense 
undergrowth, except where there were occasional 
patches of cleared farm lands. When Torbert with 
his two brigades came into contact with Hampton, his 
line was found strongly posted in woods so dense that 
it was difficult to make headway against the defense. 
From the start, however, Sheridan was the aggressor 
and Hampton was forced to fight a defensive battle. 

In view of the rule laid down by General Sheridan 
himself (quoted in a footnote on page 241) a criticism 
might be made on the tactics of the battle. But 
whether the error, if it was an error, should be laid at 
the door of the chief of cavalry or of General Torbert 
there is no way of finding out, though there is reason to 
believe that the former left the tactics on the field to be 
worked out by the division commanders. Custer was 
ordered to take a country road and pass around the 
flank to the rear of the enemy confronting Torbert. 
The exact location of this road was unknown and Tor- 
bert states in his report that he was under a misappre- 
hension about it; that it did not come out where he 
supposed it did ; and that Custer by taking it lost touch 



THE ROAD WHICH CUSTER TOOK 349 

with the other brigades which he was not able to re- 
gain until it was too late to accomplish the best results. 

Such "combinations rarely work out as expected" 
and Custer should have been put into action on the left 
of the line of battle; should have advanced with the 
division, keeping touch to the right, all the brigades 
in position to support each other. Then, by directing 
the entire movement in person, it is probable that Sher- 
idan might have thrown his left forward, completely 
enveloping Hampton's right and crushing it before 
there was any possibility of receiving reinforcements. 
In that event, this turning movement would have been 
Custer's part of the battle, his regiments would have 
been kept together, under his eye, and well in hand for 
a combined movement at the right moment. Com- 
plete success must have followed. 

The road which Custer took leaves the North Anna 
river at New bridge, and runs to Trevilian Station. It 
crosses the Louisa Courthouse and Clayton store road 
east of Buck Chiles's farm. It intersects the direct 
road from Louisa Courthouse to Trevilian Station at a 
place designated on the map as "Netherland." 

When Custer started out in the morning the chances 
were that he would have a hard fight with Fitzhugh 
Lee at the outset. But it has been shown how, by the 
interposition of the First and Seventh Michigan and 
one of Gregg's brigades, that officer was obliged to 
abandon the plan of reaching Clayton's store and take 
the other road. So Custer, being relieved from pres- 



350 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

sure in that direction, started with the Fifth Michigan 
in advance, followed by Pennington's battery, to carry 
out his orders to get in Hampton's rear, at or near 
Trevilian Station. The advance guard was led by 
Major S. H. Hastings, one of the most daring officers 
in the brigade. At some point beyond the crossroads, 
east of Buck Chiles's farm, the exact location being a 
matter of great uncertainty, upon which the official 
reports shed no light whatever, Hastings discovered 
a train of wagons, caissons, led horses and other im- 
pedimenta, which he reported to the brigade command- 
er and received orders to charge upon it, the charge to 
be supported by the entire regiment under Colonel Al- 
ger. This charge resulted in the capture of the out- 
fit, but was continued for a long distance beyond the 
station, this being necessary in order to head off the 
train, which made a desperate effort to escape in the 
direction of Gordonsville. Custer's order to the Fifth 
did not contemplate continuing the pursuit beyond 
the station, since he was supposed to make a junction 
there with the other brigades of the First division. 
But those two brigades were still fighting with Hamp- 
ton, and the Fifth Michigan was directly in the latter's 
rear. 

When this tumult arose in his rear, Hampton im- 
mediately recalled Rosser's brigade posted to protect 
his left fiank, thereby leaving the way open for this 
foray around his right. Rosser, coming quickly upon 
the scene, not only intercepted Alger's retreat, but 



CHARGE OF THE FIFTH MICHIGAN 351 

proceeded to contest with the Fifth Michigan the pos- 
session of the captures which that regiment had made. 

But, I am outrunning my story : 

The charge of the Fifth Michigan left Custer's front 
uncovered, and a force of confederates which belonged 
to Young's brigade and had probably been looking out 
for Hampton's right flank and rear, threw itself across 
his path and boldly challenged his right to advance. 
This was not a large body of troops, probably the 
Seventh Georgia cavalry, but it made up in audacity 
what it lacked in numbers. At that time — immedi- 
ately after the charge of the Fifth Mchigan— and be- 
fore Rosser had begun his interference, Custer had 
with him only his staff and escort, and behind them 
was Pennington's battery which had no opportunity 
to come into action. Th© situation was apparently 
critical in the extreme. 

The only available regiment at the time to throw 
into the breach was the Sixth Michigan and that was 
just starting to move out of the woods where it had 
been encamped during the night. It was not sup- 
posed then that the battle was joined and, indeed, the 
expectation was that the march was to be a continua- 
tion of that of the previous day, although the picket 
firing in the early morning indicated the close prox- 
imity of the enemy. But that had been the case for 
a morning or two before. Before mounting, the of- 
ficer in command had thoughtlessly acceded to the re- 
quest of a brother officer to ride a spirited and nervous 



352 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

black horse belonging to the latter, as he expressed it, 
"To take the ginger out of him." In place of the reg- 
ulation McClellan saddle the horse was equipped with 
one of those small affairs used by jockeys in riding 
race horses. This had been picked up en route. 
Horse and saddle certainly made an attractive looking 
mount, but not such an one as a cavalry officer with a 
sound mind would select for close work on the battle 
line. The narration of these circumstances will en- 
able the reader to judge of how little the subordinate 
officers knew of the real impending situation. It can 
be stated with absolute certainty that the officers of 
the Sixth were innocent of any knowledge of the fact 
that Custer had started out for a fight, up to the 
moment when they were ordered to mount and move 
out of the woods into a road runnng along the east 
side. 

The commander of the regiment, mounted as de- 
scribed, and leading the column of files, not having yet 
formed fours, on account of the woods and brush, had 
barely reached the edge of the woods by the road, 
when a member of the brigade staff brought the order 
to, "Take the gallop and pass the battery." It is 
probable that this order was sent at the same time that 
the Fifth was sent forward to capture the train. 
Custer of course supposed that the Sixth was in column 
of fours in the road behind the battery. The com- 
manding officer of the Sixth had moved out in compli- 
ance with orders and knew nothing about the condi- 



CHARGE OF THE SIXTH MICHIGAN 353 

tions in front. The command, "Form fours, gallop, 
march" was given and a touch of the spur sent the 
black steed flying toward the front, followed as quickly 
as possible by the leading squadron of the regiment. 
A regimental staff officer remained to repeat the order 
to the other squadrons as they came into the road, 
successively. 

Approaching the crossroads, the conditions were re- 
vealed as described in a previous paragraph. Custer 
and his escort were exchanging shots with their re- 
volvers, at short range, with the confederates in their 
front. The most remarkable coolness and courage 
were being displayed on both sides. The enemy cer- 
tainly was commanded by an officer of resources who 
realized to the fullest extent the responsibility resting 
upon him to delay our further advance as long as pos- 
sible. Custer never lost his nerve under any circum- 
stances. He was, however, unmistakably excited. 
"Charge them" was his laconic command; and it was 
repeated with emphasis. 

Looking back to see that the leading squadron was 
pretty well closed up I gave the command, "Draw 
sabers" and, without waiting to form front into Hne, 
or for the remainder of the regiment, the column of 
fours charged straight at the line of confederates, the 
black horse leading. In a moment we were through 
the line. Just how it was done is to this day more 
or less of a mystery. The enemy gave way — scattered 
to the right and left — and did not await the contact. 



354 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

On down the road, one hundred, two hundred — it may 
have been five hundred — yards, but not more than that, 
at breakneck speed, the charge continued. Then it 
was seen that there was no enemy in front of us. 
Where was the enemy? 

Custer says in his report that Alger's orders were 
to stop at the station. The single word "charge" 
comprehended his order to me. Nothing was said 
about stopping. No warning was given that the Fifth 
had already charged and was ahead of us. Nor did 
I know it. The order had been obeyed to the letter. 
The enemy had apparently been dispersed. At all 
events he had disappeared from our front. At such 
times the mind acts quickly. The obvious course was 
to halt, rally, reform, see what was going on in rear, 
rejoin the brigade commander, get the regiment all 
together, for work where we were most needed. Find- 
ing that both hands were required to curb the excited 
steed v/hich, up to that moment had not allowed 
another horse to come up with him, I returned my re- 
volver to the holster and, when his speed began to 
slacken, and Captain Vinton, commander of the charg- 
ing squadron, came alongside, gave the command, 
"Halt" which was twice repeated. My horse swerved 
to the right and, when brought to a standstill, was a 
little way in the woods. The clatter of hoofs behind 
had told me that I was followed, and I supposed it was 
by my own troopers. Not so, however. Vinton 
either did not hear, or was too much "under the in- 



AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE 355 

fluence of a pardonable excitement and zeal" to heed 
the order to halt, and continued on down the road to 
and beyond the station, where he overtook the rear of 
the Fifth and proceeded to assist in the endeavor to 
bring away the captured property. He was attacked 
by Rosser who made a lot of his men prisoners. The 
detachment that went with him did not rejoin the regi- 
ment until late in the afternoon and then less the men 
who had been captured. 

The word, ''Surrender" uttered in imperious tones 
saluted my ear and, glancing over my left shoulder to 
find whence it came, I found that a well mounted and 
sturdy confederate officer had come up from my left 
rear and, addressing me in language both profane and 
apparently designed to cast reflections on my ancestry, 
declared that if I did not comply instantly with his 
polite request he would complete the front cut on my 
head. His men circling around in front with their 
carbines in the position of "ready" seemed to hint that 
they considered his demand a reasonable one and ex- 
pressed a purpose to assist in enforcing it. Now, it 
is a maxim that no cavalry officer may surrender so 
long as he is not unhorsed. But in the situation in 
which I found myself there did not seem to be an avail- 
able alternative. I surrendered, gave up the black 
horse and the jockey saddle, and never saw either of 
them afterwards. After the experience described I 
was glad to be rid of them on most any terms. Sev- 
eral others were captured at the same time and in the 



356 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

same way. One of them after being dismounted tried 
to run away but was quickly brought to a halt by a 
shot from a confederate's gun which wounded him. 

It appears that when we went through their line 
the rascally confederates rallied and, leaving Custer's 
front charged our rear. Custer says in his report 
that after "the Sixth Michigan charged the rebels 
charged that regiment in rear." When he wrote 
that report he had forgotten that it was only a portion 
— less than a third of the Sixth which charged. Two- 
thirds of the regiment was still back where he was and 
not yet in the action. There were two squadrons, one 
commanded by Captain Manning D. Birge, the other 
by Captain Don G. Lovell in reserve. In using the 
term squadron here I mean what in the civil war was 
known as a battalion (four troops). Vinton's squad- 
ron did not all take part in the charge. 

Four confederate cavalrymen undertook the duty of 
escorting myself and a young Sixth cavalryman who 
had been trapped in the same way to the rear through 
the woods. Anticipating that our attack would be 
followed up, we managed to delay our guards as much 
as possible, and had gone not more than a hundred 
yards when a yelling in the road proclaimed that the 
curtain had risen on the second scene of our little 
drama. Custer had ordered Birge to charge. Birge's 
advance put the confederates to flight, what there were 
left of them. The noise of the pursuit disconcerted 
our captors so that we took the chances and made our 




MANNING D. BIRGE 



CAPTAIN BIRGE'S CHARGE 357 

escape under cover of the thick undergrowth. They 
fired at us as we ran but did not succeed in making a 
hit. Fortunately Birge directed his course through 
the woods out of which the enemy had come and into 
which they had gone in their flight. In a minute we 
met him coming with a squad of men. He was great- 
ly rejoiced to find that he had rescued me from my 
disagreeable predicament and, looking back across the 
years, I can see and freely acknowledge that to no man 
on this earth am I under greater obligations than to 
Manning D. Birge. But for his approach it might 
not have been possible for us to successfully make our 
break for freedom. That was the only time I ever 
was a prisoner of war and then only for about ten 
minutes. Custer, referring to my capture, says that 
I was rescued by a charge of my own regiment led by 
Captain Birge. 

Bidding Birge to follow my late captors I hurried 
out to the road and thence to the crossroads from 
which we had started so short a time before. Custer 
was still there. His battery was there. Most 
of the Sixth was halted there. My recollection is 
that the First and Seventh about that time joined 
Custer, after finding that Fitzhugh Lee had 
withdrawn from their front looking toward 
Louisa Courthouse. Birge's charge had cleared 
the road of the enemy, for the time being. 
Custer ordered that a rail barricade be thrown up 
across the road leading to the right, from which direc- 



358 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

tion the attacks had been made on him. Putting the 
men of Vinton's and Birge's squadrons who were avail- 
able at work, Lovell's squadron of four troops which 
was intact and well in hand under as good an officer 
as there was in the brigade, was posted in line mount- 
ed, parallel with the road, and behind a screen of tim- 
ber, in readiness to repel any further attack. 

In a few minutes Sergeant Avery, one of the men 
who had gone with Birge in pursuit of the enemy 
from whom I had escaped, came in with a confederate 
prisoner splendidly mounted. Avery with cocked re- 
volver was making his prisoner ride ahead of him and 
thus brought him in. Receiving orders to dismount, 
the man gave the horse a caress and with something 
very like a tear in his eye said : 

"That is the best horse in the Seventh Georgia cav- 
alry." 

The horse, with Avery's consent was turned over to 
me to take the place of the captured black. He proved 
to be a prize. Handsome as a picture, kind and well 
broken, sound, spirited but tractable, with a glossy 
coat of silky luster, he was a mount that a real cav- 
alryman would become attached to and be proud of. 
I rode him and he had the best of care until he suc- 
cumbed to the cold weather and exposure near Win- 
chester in the winter following. He was a finely 
bred southern horse and could not endure the climate. 

Birge was not so fortunate. When he went after 
his prisoners he caught a Tartar, or came very near it. 



HOW BIRGE CAUGHT A TARTAR 359 

The barricade was only partially completed, when yell- 
ing in front, — that is in the road leading to the right, 
— caused every one to look in that direction. Birge 
and a few of his men were seen coming at full speed 
with what looked like a good big squadron of the enemy 
at their heels. Mounting the Seventh Georgia horse, 
I rode around the barricade and into the field where 
Lovell was with his battalion. He had been placed 
there for just such an emergency. Birge did not stop 
until he had leaped his mare over the barricade. 
When the confederate column came up, Lovell sur- 
prised them with a volley right in their teeth, which 
sent them "whirling" back into the woods out of which 
they had come. 

This was the end of the fighting at that point. Tak- 
ing with him the Seventh, under Lieutenant Colonel 
Brewer, and the battery Custer then moved on toward 
Trevilian Station, leaving the First under Lieutenant 
Colonel Stagg and the Sixth to bring up and look out 
for the rear. The affray at the crossroads had occu- 
pied less time than it takes to tell it. In giving the 
story it has been difficult to steer into the middle 
course between a seeming desire to give undue promi- 
nence to one's own part in the action, on one hand, and 
affectation of undue modesty, on the other. The only 
course appeared to be to narrate the incidents as they 
befell and leave it to the kind reader to judge the mat- 
ter on its apparent merits. 

When Custer approached the station he found Ros- 



360 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ser in his way on his front and right flank. Fitzhugh 
Lee, coming from Louisa Courthouse, also attacked 
his left flank. For a time there was a melee which 
had no parallel in the annals of cavalry fighting in the 
civil war, unless it may have been at Brandy Station or 
Buckland Mills. Custer's line was in the form of a 
circle and he was fighting an enterprising foe on either 
flank and both front and rear. Fitzhugh Lee charged 
and captured a section of Pennington's battery. The 
Seventh Michigan led by Brewer recaptured it. 
Fragments of all the regiments in the brigade rallied 
around Custer for the mounted fighting, of which there 
was plenty, while the First and Sixth dismounted took 
care of the rear. Custer was everywhere present 
giving directions to his subordinate commanders, and 
more than one mounted charge was participated in by 
him in person. 

Torbert's attack v/ith Merritt's and Devin's brigades 
was at length successful in routing Hampton, whose 
men were driven into and through Custer's lines. 
Many of them were made prisoners. An officer and 
twelve m.en belonging to the Seventh Georgia cavalry, 
making for the rear as they supposed, came into the 
arms of the Sixth Michigan skirmishers at one time. 
The officer gave up his revolver to me and it proved 
to be a very fine five shooting arm of English make. 

In the final stages of the battle, Gregg concentrated 
against Fitzhugh Lee, Torbert effected his junction 
with Custer, and the latter v/as extricated from his 



"BREAKING THE SABBATH" 361 

difficult and dangerous predicament, after performing 
prodigies of valor. The lines changed front and the 
confederates were driven across the railroad, Hampton 
towards Gordonsville, Lee to the eastward. The two 
did not succeed in coming together that night, and 
Lee was obliged to make a wide detour in order to re- 
unite with his chief on the afternoon of the next day, 
Sunday, June 12. 

The entire command encamped on the battle field in 
the neighborhood of Trevilian Station for the night. 
The next morning Gregg was set at Vv'-ork tearing up 
the railroad toward Louisa Courthouse. The First 
division was given a rest until the afternoon when, at 
about three o'clock, although it was Sunday, the order 
came for the First division to proceed in the direction 
of Gordonsville. In the meantime, the forces of 
Hampton and Lee had united and, as will be seen, had 
planned to stop Sheridan's further progress at all haz- 
ards. There is some reason to believe that a part of 
Breckinridge's infantry had come out from Gordons- 
ville to reinforce Hampton. Such was the impression 
at the time, and one at least, of Sheridan's command- 
ers, states in his report that he was confronted by 
infantry. The writer is of the opinion that the "in- 
fantry" was Butler's dismounted cavalry which, when 
in a good position as they were that day, could do as 
good fighting as any infantry in the confederate ser- 
vice. 

The Michigan brigade moved out first and the Sixth 



362 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

had the advance. The order was to proceed to a cer- 
tain point named and then halt until the division closed 
up. Memory does not recall what the place was, but 
is quite clear as to that being the specific direction giv- 
en by General Custer to the officer in command of the 
advance regiment. We had gone but a short distance, 
not more than a mile or two at most, when the advance 
guard reported the enemy entrenched across the way. 
Skirmishing began at once between our mounted men 
in front and dismounted confederates behind breast- 
works of considerable strength. A squadron was de- 
ployed and Sergeant Avery was directed to make his 
way far enough into the woods to find, if possible, what 
we had in our front. He came back in about ten 
minutes and reported that the breastworks in our im- 
mediate front were thoroughly manned, and that he 
had seen a column of at least a thousand men moving 
into the entrenchments on the enemy's right, in front 
of our left fiank. He was sent back to give Custer 
this information, and the general came up and ordered 
the entire regiment to be dismounted to fight on foot. 
The Sixth was put in on the right of the road and di- 
rectly thereafter the Seventh was sent in on the left. 
It did not take long to demonstrate that two regiments 
were not enough and the First and Fifth went into the 
action on the right of the Sixth. Then Torbert re- 
inforced the line with the Reserve brigade and a por- 
tion of the Second, all under Merritt. The entire di- 
vision became engaged. Several assaults were made 




SERGEANT AVERY 



THE SECOND DAY AT TREVILIAN 363 

upon the confederate line but without success. They 
were in each instance repulsed. Fitzhugh Lee got in 
on the right flank of the division and inflicted severe 
damage upon the Reserve brigade. We have never 
been able to understand why, if it was intended to 
break the enemy's line, Gregg's division was not 
brought into the engagement to protect that flank. 
General Merritt in his report intimates that he had to 
do more than his share of fighting; that when the Re- 
serve brigade advanced to the assault on the right it 
was supposed that the attack would be pressed on the 
left; that it was not so pressed and that his brigade 
suffered unduly on that account. This is another case 
of a man being unable to see all that is going on in a 
battle. The Michigan brigade was on the left of the 
line. It was the first brigade engaged. It began the 
fight and stayed in it till the end. Harder fighting 
has rarely been done than that which fell to the Michi- 
gan men in that battle. Several attempts were made 
to drive the enemy from their front. The First Mich- 
igan especially made a charge across an open field in 
the face of a terrible fire from behind breastworks, 
going half way across before they were repulsed. 
When the First Michigan could not stand before a 
storm of bullets, no other regiment in the cavalry corps 
need try. That is a certainty. The losses in killed 
and wounded were very severe, as will be shown in a 
table printed at the end of this chapter. 

The fighting continued till ten o'clock that night. 



364 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

when Sheridan decided to withdraw and abandon the 
expedition. It is worthy of remark that the entire 
division was unable to advance one inch beyond the 
place where the advance guard first encountered the 
enemy and where Sergeant Avery made the recon- 
noissance which revealed to General Custer the true 
situation. Poor Avery was killed while doing his duty 
as he always did in the very front of the battle in the 
place of greatest danger. Captain Lovell and Lieu- 
tenant Luther Canouse of the Sixth were wounded; 
Captain Carr, and Lieutenants Pulver and Warren of 
the First Michigan were killed, and Captain Duggan 
and Lieutenant Bullock of the same regiment wounded. 
Captains Hastings and Dodge of the Fifth were 
wounded; also Lieutenant Colonel Brewer of the 
Seventh was wounded on the eleventh. 

The casualties in the two days' fighting at Trevilian 
Station were very severe. The losses in killed and 
died from wounds received in the action aggregated in 
the brigade forty-one, as follows:* 

First Michigan — - 13 

Fifth Michigan 8 

Sixth Michigan 17 

Seventh Michigan — 3 

Total. 41 

♦Taken from the official records in the office of the adjutant general of Michigan, 
Lansing. Michigan. 



CASUALTIES AT TREVILIAN 365 

Of prisoners lost there were in all two hundred and 

forty-two, distributed as follows:* 

First Michigan 39 

Fifth Michigan... 102 

Sixth Michigan 58 

Seventh Michigan 43 

Total 242 

Of those who were captured and held as prisoners 
of war, eighty-eight died in southern prisons — most 
of them in Andersonville — as follows :* 

First Michigan 12 

Fifth Michigan 33 

Sixth Michigan 24 

Seventh Michigan 14 

Total _. 88 

The battle of Trevilian Station practically ended the 
fighting which was done by the Michigan brigade in 
the campaign from the Rapidan to the James. Sher- 
idan's retreat was skilfully conducted but was not es- 
pecially eventful. A tabulated statement of the losses 
in the command, beginning in the Wilderness, May 6, 
and ending at Trevilian Station June 12, is appended 
hereto. By losses I mean killed in action or died of 
wounds received in action. It is not possible to give 

'Taken from the ofiScial records in the office of the adjutant general of Michigan, 
Lansins:, Michigan. 



366 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

a reliable statement of the wounded, reports of regi- 
mental commanders being very deficient in that par- 
ticular. The table is compiled from the official rec- 
ords in the office of the adjutant general of Michigan 
and is believed to be approximately correct: 

First Fifth Sixth Seventh 

Michigan Michigan Michigan Michigan Total 

Wilderness 2 3 4.. 9 

Todd's Tavern— ._, 3 .. __ 1 4 

Beaver Dam Station 1 _. __ .. 1 

Yellow Tavern 14 7 3 9 33 

Meadow Bridge __ __ 2 __ 2 

Hanovertown _. .. 3 _. 3 

Haw's Shop -- 5 13 18 6 42 

Old Church 2 .. .. 1 3 

Cold Harbor 5 11 3 10 

Trevilian Station 13 8 17 3 41 

Total— - 45 32 48 23 148 

Recapitulation — Killed and died of wounds, the 
Rapidan to the James: 

Firat Michigan 45 

Fifth Michigan _ 32 

Sixth Michigan 48 

Seventh Michigan 23 

Total 148 

In General Merritt's official report* for the period 
May 26 to June 26, he makes the following statement: 

♦Official Records. Series I, Vol. XXXVI. part I. page 851. 



INVIDIOUS COMPARISONS 367 

"The losses in killed and wounded, (in the Reserve brigade,) are 
annexed in tabular statement. As they number more th»n the 
loss of the entire rest of the command they sufficiently attest the 
severe services of the brigade. ' ' 

When General Merritt says "the entire rest of the 
command " we shall assume that he means "the entire 
rest " of the First division. We have no desire to make 
invidious comparisons, and have avoided doing so 
throughout these recollections. The Reserve brigade 
was a fine brigade and always fought well, and never 
better than at Trevilian Station and in the battles im- 
mediately preceding that engagement. To prove that 
his comparison was not warranted it is necessary only 
to refer to the official records. On page 810 of the 
same volume,* appended to the report of General Tor- 
bert, for the same period covered by General Merritt's 
report, we find: 

Reserve Brigade — 

Officers killed 6 

Officers wounded 17 

Officers killed and wounded 23 

Reserve Brigade — 

Men killed.. 57 

Men wounded . 275 

332 

Total officers and men killed and wounded.. 355 

♦Official Records, Series I, Vol. XXXVI. part I, page 810. 



368 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Second Brigade- 
Officers killed 2 

Officers wounded 15 

Officers killed and wounded 17 

Second Brigade — 

Men killed 42 

Men wounded 163 

Men killed and wounded 205 

Total officers and men killed and wounded. __ 222 

First Brigade- 
Officers killed 3 

Officers wounded 12 

Officers killed and wounded 15 

First Brigade- 
Men killed 62 

Men wounded 192 

Men killed and wounded 254 

Total officers and men killed and wounded... 269 
Total killed and wounded First and Second Brigades.. 491 
Total killed and wounded Reserve Brigade 355 

The Reserve brigade comprised five regiments, two 
of volunteers and three of regulars. The Michigan 
brigade consisted of four regiments, of course, all 
volunteers. One third of the losses in killed and 
wounded at Trevilian Station in the Reserve brigade 



RETURN MARCH TO THE ARMY 369 

were in the single regiment, the First New York 
dragoons. My authority for this is still the official 
records. See page 186 of the volume already quoted 
and referred to in the footnote. Close analysis, there- 
fore, shows that there are inconsistencies in the official 
records, and unguarded statements in the official 
reports. 

The rest of the month of June was consumed in the 
return march to the army. Owing to the necessity of 
caring for a large number of wounded and of guard- 
ing several hundred prisoners, to say nothing of an 
army of colored people of all ages and of both sexes 
who joined the procession, it was necessary to take a 
tortuous course which traversed the Spottsylvania 
battle ground, touched at Bowling Green, followed the 
north bank of the Mattapony river, reaching King and 
Queen Courthouse June 18. From this place the sick, 
wounded and prisoners were sent to West Point. On 
the 19th we marched to Dunkirk, on the Mattapony 
river, which was crossed on a pontoon bridge and 
thence to the Pamunkey, opposite White House. June 
21, the entire command crossed the Pamunkey at White 
House and marched the next day (June 22) to Jones's 
bridge on the Chickahoming. June 25 reached the 
James river and on the 28th crossed that river to 
Windmill Point. From here the First and Second di- 
visions were sent to Reams's Station to the relief of the 
Third division under Wilson which had run into a sit- 
uation similar to, if not more serious than that 



370 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

which Custer faced on the 11th at Trevilian. Find- 
ing that officer safe, we returned to Lighthouse Point 
and settled down — after having fought and marched 
for fifty-six consecutive days— for a period of rest and 
recuperation. During the entire march from Tre- 
vilian to the James, Hampton hovered on the flank of 
Sheridan's column, watching for a favorable oppor- 
tunity to inflict a blow, but avoiding a general engage- 
ment. In crossing from the Pamunkey to the James, 
Sheridan was charged with the duty of escorting a 
train of 900 wagons from the White House to Dou- 
that's Landing on the James. General Gregg was 
entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the 
right flank, which placed him in the post of danger, and 
the brunt of the fighting as well as the greater part of 
the honors of the movement fell to his share. Indeed, 
General Sheridan in his official report, written in New 
Orleans a year after the war closed, gave Gregg credit 
for saving the train. 

The time from July 2, when we returned to Light- 
house Point on the James river, to July 26 was quiet 
and uneventful. Many hundred convalescent wound- 
ed and sick men returned from hospital to duty ; many 
also who had been dismounted by the exigencies of the 
campaign returned from dismounted camps. A fine 
lot of new horses were received. During the month 
the condition of the animals was very much improved, 
good care and a plentiful supply of forage contribut- 
ing to the result. The duty performed was to picket 



ANXIETY AND SLEEPLESSNESS 371 

the left flank of the army, the Michigan regiments 
connecting with Crawford's division of the Fifth corps. 

The story of the participation of the cavalry with 
the Second corps in the movement to the north side of 
the James, which began on the forenoon of July 26, 
has been so fully and so well told by General Sheridan 
in his reports and in his memoirs that nothing is left 
to be added. In fact there is little, if anything, in the 
part taken by any portion of the force taken across by 
Sheridan and Hancock to differentiate it from that 
played by the whole. The object of the movement 
was to draw the enemy's attention away from the lines 
around Petersburg preparatory for the explosion oi 
the mine which was to take place on the 30th. In 
this it was successful. General Lee mistook the 
attack on his left for real instead of a feint, and de- 
tached enough troops to meet it to not only assure the 
success of the attack on Petersburg, if it had been 
made with determination, but to seriously menace the 
safety of the two corps engaged in the movement. 
General Sheridan truthfully says that, "The movement 
to the north side of the James for the accomplishment 
of our part of the plan connected with the mine explo- 
sion, was well executed, and every point made; but it 
was attended with such anxiety and sleeplessness as 
to prostrate almost every officer and man in the com- 
mand." 

This was the last incident of importance connected 
with the services of the First cavalry division with the 



372 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

army of the Potomac in the year 1864. August 1, 
Sheridan was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley and 
selected the First and Third cavalry divisions to go 
with him. 

Since this is in some sort a personal narrative it 
may be of interest to mention that while at Lighthouse 
Point I received my commission as colonel and, July 9, 
was mustered out of the United States service as 
major — with which rank I had been commanding the 
regiment — and was mustered in in the new grade. 
The promotion, which was unsought, was due to a re- 
quest made to the governor, signed by all the officers 
of the regiment serving in the field, and recommended 
by General Custer. On the original petition, on file 
in the adjutant general's office in Lansing, is an en- 
dorsement in the general's own handwriting.* 

* "Headquarters 1st Brig. 1st Div. Cavalry Corps. 
"June 3, 1864. 
"To His Excellency 

"Governor Blair, 
"I most cheerfully and earnestly recommend that the foregoing petition may be 
granted. Major Kidd has commanded his regiment for several months. He has 
distinguished himself in nearly all of tbe late severe engagements of the corps. 
Michigan cannot boast of a more gallant or efficient officer than Major Kidd, and I 
am confident that his appointment as colonel of the 6th would not only produce en- 
tire satisfaction in his regiment, but would serve to increase the already high but 
well earned fame of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade." 

"Very respectfully, etc., 

"G. A, CUSTER, 

"Brig. Gen'l Comdg." 



CHAPTER XXI 

IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY 

TTTHEN Grant sent Sheridan to take charge of 
^ ' things in the Shenandoah Valley, and close 
that gatewaj^ to the north, he gave him one corps of in- 
fantry (Sixth) and two divisions of cavalry (First and 
Third) from the army of the Potomac. The Michi- 
gan cavalry brigade, still commanded by General 
George A. Custer, was a part of that force. It em- 
barked on transports at City Point, Virginia, August 
3, 1864, and proceeded to Washington, D. C, thence 
by the way of Poolesville, Maryland, to Halltown, Vir- 
ginia, in front of Harper's Ferry, arriving there Au- 
gust 10, in time to join in the advance of the new army 
of the Middle Military Division,* under its new com- 
mander. 

Gregg with the Second division was left behind, 
under the immediate direction of General Meade, and 
thus, much to their regret, the Michigan men parted 
finally with that fine officer and his superb command, 
with whom they had been associated so intimately and 
honorably at Gettysburg, Haw's Shop, and in many 
other places. When they rejoined the army of the 

*The title given to the department over which Sheridan was to have supreme 
command, and which included West Virginia. 



374 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Potomac, in the spring of 1865, he had retired from 
the service. They never saw him again but, from the 
eventful days of 1863 and 1864 to the present time, 
they have never ceased to respect him as a soldier and 
a man ; and he always had their entire confidence as a 
commander of cavalry. 

Sheridan wanted Early to cross into Maryland or to 
fight him in and around Winchester, but was in the 
dark as to his adversary's intentions or movements, 
so at daylight, August 11, he started a reconnoissance 
in force. Custer led the way across the Opequon 
creek, toward Winchester, and soon ran into Early's 
infantry. A sharp fight followed which showed that 
Early w^as retreating up the valley. Ransom's reg- 
ular battery, attached to the brigade, was charged by 
confederate infantry, which was met and repulsed 
by a countercharge of one battalion of the Sixth Mich- 
igan cavalry led by Captain James Mathers, who was 
killed. Sheridan had left the gateway via the fords 
of the Potomac river open, but Early was too foxy to 
take the lure. He was getting away as fast as he 
could to a place of safety. 

The pursuit was instantly taken up and the next day 
(12th) found us up against infantry again at Fisher's 
Hill, between Cedar Creek and Strasburg, a position 
impregnable against direct assault. For three days 
we remained face to face with Early's infantry, con- 
stantly so close as to draw their fire and keep them 
in their intrenchments. 



THE BATTLE AT FRONT ROYAL 375 

On the 16th we marched to Front Royal. Sheri- 
dan had information that a force of infantry and cav- 
alry had been despatched from Richmond to reinforce 
Early and, incidentally, to strike Sheridan in flank or 
rear, if he could be caught napping. The force con- 
sisted of Kershav/'s division of infantry and Fitzhugh 
Lee's division of cavalry, all commanded by General R. 
H. Anderson. The route by which they were supposed 
to be approaching was through Chester Gap and Front 
Royal. If they could have reached the Shenandoah 
river and effected a crossing undiscovered, a short 
march would have brought them to Newtown, directly 
in rear of our army. 

Custer crossed and marched through Front Royal 
but no enemy was found. He then recrossed and took 
position on commanding ground half a mile or so back 
from the river, and ordered the horses to be unsaddled 
and fed and the men to cook their dinner. Head- 
quarters wagons were brought up, mess chests taken 
out, and we were just gathering around them to par- 
take of a hastily prepared meal, when Fitzhugh Lee's 
cavalry, which had stealthily approached the ford, 
charged across and made a dash at our pickets. Ma- 
jor H. H. Vinton, of the Sixth Michigan was in com- 
mand of the picket line and promptly rallying on his 
reserves, he courageously met Lee's attack and checked 
it. That dinner was never eaten. Custer's bugler 
sounded "to horse." As if by magic, the men were in 
the saddle. Custer dashed out vdth his staff and or- 



376 WITH TPIE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

dered the Fifth Michigan forward, to be followed by 
the other regiments. I supposed he would charge in 
the direction of the ford, where Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry- 
was still contending with the Sixth Michigan. He did 
nothing of the kind. Moving diagonally to the left, he 
reached the crest overlooking the river just in time to 
surprise Kershaw in the act of crossing. The Fifth 
Michigan deployed into line in fine style and opened 
such a hot fire with their Spencers, that the head of 
Kershaw's column was completely crushed. Every 
confederate who was across was either killed or cap- 
tured. Many of those who were in the water were 
drov/ned and those on the other side were kept there. 
Just then, Devin's brigade came up, and helped to 
drive the cavalry across the river. The prisoners, all 
infantry, numbered from three to five hundred. 

This rencounter at Front Royal was one of the most 
brilKant affairs of the vs^ar and it illustrated well the 
m.arvelous intuition with which General Custer often 
grasped the situation, in an instant of time. He did 
not anticipate Kershaw's movement or he would not 
have given the order to unsaddle. It was a surprise 
but he was alert, and equal to the emergency. He 
vv'-as as bold to act as his perceptions were keen, and the 
incident recalls the intrepidity Vvith which he met Ros- 
ser in the Wilderness under somewhat similar circum- 
stances. Had he charged the cavalry, Anderson 
would have effected a crossing, and in a very short 
time might have had the Michigan brigade at such dis- 



MOVING DOWN THE VALLEY 377 

advantage that it would have required all of Custer's 
boldness and skill to extricate it. Custer divined that 
the dash of Lee's advance was a mask for the infantry, 
and by a movement that would have done credit to 
Murat or Ney, caught Kershaw astride the river and 
trapped him completely. The behavior of the Fifth 
Michigan was never more "superb." I do not believe 
that a single regiment, on either side, at any time, dur- 
ing the entire war, performed a more brilliant deed. 
Major Vinton and his detachment also earned especial 
praise by interrupting without aid, the first onset of 
Fitzhugh Lee's advance. The First and Seventh 
Michigan supported the Fifth in a most gallant man- 
ner. General Custer had a lock of hair shot away 
from his temple and Lieutenant Granger of his staff 
was killed. Lieutenant Lucius Carver of the Seventh 
also lost his life in the engagement. 

After this fight it w^as found that Sheridan had be- 
gun a retrograde movement down the valley to take a 
defensive position in front of Halltown. The brigade 
brought up the rear, the Sixth Michigan acting as rear 
guard. 

From the 16th to the 25th of August, it was march- 
ing and countermarching, picketing, reconnoitering 
and skirmishing, continually. Both armies were ma- 
neuvering for position and advantage. Anderson's 
reinforcement had joined Early and, with the esprit 
of the Army of Northern Virginia, was constantly 
pushing close up to our lines and harassing us. The 



378 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Michigan brigade was mostly engaged with infantry 
and did not once, I believe, come into contact with the 
confederate cavalry. It was a lonesome day, indeed, 
when their mettle was not put to the proof in a skir- 
mish with either Kershaw or Breckinridge. But one 
incident occurred to break the monotony. A part of 
the Fifth Michigan sent out to destroy some buildings 
supposed to contain supplies, was surprised by Mos- 
by's command and fifteen men were killed outright. 
They were caught in a field where escape was impos- 
sible and shot without mercy. The Sixth was sent 
out to reinforce the Fifth and we searched far and near 
for the dashing partisan but did not succeed in coming 
up with him. He departed as swiftly as he came and 
made his escape to the mountains. 

Sheridan had, in his turn, been reinforced by Wil- 
son's division of cavalry (Third) and, on the 25th, 
Torbert* was sent out with Merritt's and Wilson's di- 
visions, to hunt up Fitzhugh Lee, who was reported to 
have gone in the direction of the fords leading into 
Maryland. At or near Kearneysville, a small force 
of cavalry was encountered which was driven rapidly 
along the road toward Leetown. Nearing the latter 
place, the inevitable infantry was found and it turned 
out to be Breckinridge's corps, going north along the 
Smithfield and Shepherdstown pike. Shepherdstown 

*Torbert had been created " chief of cavalry," and Merritt assigned to command 
of the First division. Colonel Charles R. Lowell, Second Massachusetts cavalry 
succeeded Merritt in command of the Reserve brigade. 



THE BATTLE OF SHEPHERDSTOWN 379 

is on the Potomac river, opposite Sharpsburg and the 
Antietam battle ground. 

It never will be known what Breckinridge was in 
tending to do, for he turned on Torbert and did not re- 
sume his journey. The collision was a complete sur- 
prise to both parties, but Early's design, whatever it 
may have been, was disarranged, the movement was 
discovered and, though the cavalry had rather the 
worst of it, the information gained was worth all it 
cost. If Early had been contemplating an invasion of 
Maryland, he relinquished the design and did not re- 
vive it. 

Torbert, finding that he had more than he could 
handle, fell back toward Halltown, leaving Custer with 
his brigade for a rear guard. Custer, coming to a 
piece of woods south of Shepherdstown, neither the 
enemy nor our own cavalry being in sight, halted and 
had his men dismount to rest, they having been in the 
saddle since early morning. We were all sitting or 
lying down with bridle reins in hand, taking our 
ease with more or less dignity, when a small body of 
confederate horse made its appearance in the direction 
of Shepherdstown. The brigade mounted and start- 
ed in pursuit but had hardly been put in motion when 
a line of infantry suddenly appeared in the woods we 
were vacating and opened fire upon us. The confed- 
erate horsemen w^ere driven away by the First and 
Seventh and, when General Custer rallied his brigade 
to confront the new danger, he found that Breckin- 



380 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

ridge had intercepted his retreat in the direction the 
rest of the cavalry had gone, and was closing in with a 
line that threatened to envelop the brigade. In a few 
moments, the enemy's right and left flanks began to 
swing in towards the river and he found himself face 
to face with two alternatives: To cut his way through, 
or fall back and take the risky chance of fording the 
river, with Breckinridge close at his heels. Of course 
there was no thought of surrender and Custer was not 
much given to showing his heels. Torbert left Custer 
to shift for himself. So far as I ever was able to 
learn, he made no effort to save his plucky subordinate 
and the report that the Michigan brigade had been cap- 
tured was generally credited, in and around Harper's 
Ferry. 

Custer, with surprising coolness, put his brigade 
into line, the Sixth on the right, the First, Fifth and 
Seventh to the left of the Sixth, the battery in the cen- 
ter, with backs to the river and faces to the enemy, 
and presented so bold a front that the infantry did not 
charge, but moved up slowly, maneuvering to get 
around and obtain possession of the ford in rear. 
Custer had the men cheer and dared them to come on. 
With characteristic audacity, he actually unlimbered 
his pieces and gave them a charge or tvv^o right in their 
teeth ; then limbering to the rear he took successive new 
positions and repeated the performance. 

While holding one of these points, a squadron of the , 
First Nev^' York dragoons, of Devin's brigade, which 



SABERS THAT WERE "LOADED" 381 

also in some way had been separated from its com- 
mand, was driven in from the right, and, riding up 
to where I was, the commanding officer, Captain Brit- 
tain, sahited and said: 

"Colonel, I am cut off from my own regiment and 
wish to report to you for duty." 

"Form your men to the right," I said. "It looks as 
if your aid would be very acceptable." 

"I have no cartridges. We have shot them all 
away." 

"You have sabers." 

"Yes, and by they are loaded," he retorted, as 

he brought his men front into line on the right. 

Captain Brittain survived the war and came to 
Michigan to live. He often has sent me kindly re- 
minders of his remembrance of the circumstances as 
narrated above. For many years he had a home in 
Wexford county, and I last heard of him as prospering 
on the Pacific coast. 

At that moment, the thing had a critical look. We 
were inside a horseshoe of infantry, the extremities of 
which very nearly reached the river. We had to go 
through that line, or through the river, or surrender. 
Breckinridge's line was in plain sight, not a half mile 
away, in the open and moving up in splendid order. 
So far as I am informed, Custer was the only man in 
the command who knew that there was a ford and that 
we v/ere making for it. The rest were screwing their 
courage up to the task of breaking through. I never 



382 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

have ceased to admire the nerve exhibited by Captain 
Brittain, when I told him it looked as if that was what 
we would have to do. He was an excellent officer and 
belonged to an excellent regiment. 

"My sabers are loaded." 

The greatest coolness was displayed by General Cus- 
ter and his entire command. There was not a hint 
of weakness or fear in any quarter. The brigade, at 
each falling back, ployed from line into column and de- 
ployed into line again, as if on parade, with Breckin- 
ridge and his corps for the spectators. Every move- 
ment was at a walk. There was no haste — no con- 
fusion. Every officer was on his mettle and every 
man a hero. 

Presently, Custer finally withdrew his battery, then 
the regiments one at a time, and slipped away into 
Maryland before the enemy realized what he was do- 
ing. 

The delicate duty of bringing up the rear was en- 
trusted to Colonel Alger with his own regiment and the 
Sixth. I was ordered to report to him. The battery 
crossed first, then the First and Seventh, the brigade 
staff and general commanding. 

The two regiments stood in line, watching the enemy 
closing in closer and closer until this was accomplished. 
Then Colonel Alger told me to go. He followed lei- 
surely and, as the Fifth and Sixth were marching up 
the Maryland bank, a line of confederates came up on 
the other side, and so astounded were they to see how 



CUSTER'S CONFIDENCE IN ALGER 383 

we had escaped from their grasp, that some of them 
actually cheered, so I have been informed. They had 
been deceived by the audacity of Custer and his men 
in the first place and by the cleverness with which they 
eluded capture in the second. 

The battle of Shepherdstown was the last in which 
Colonel Alger was engaged. While the brigade was 
lying in camp on the Maryland side awaiting orders, 
he was taken sick and was sent to hospital by order of 
the brigade surgeon. He was assigned to special 
duty by order of President Lincoln and did not rejoin. 
The esteem in which he was held by General Custer 
and the confidence which that ofl^icer reposed in him to 
the last moment of his service in the brigade is amply 
evidenced by the selection of him to lead the attack on 
Kershaw at Front Royal and to bring up the rear at 
Shepherdstown. The coolness and ability of the offi- 
cers and the intrepidity of the men in the Michigan cav- 
alry brigade were never more thoroughly tested then 
in those two battles. Custer was the hero of both and 
Alger was his right arm. At Meadow Bridge, at 
Yellow Tavern and in all the battles of that eventful 
campaign, wherever they were associated together, 
wherever the one wanted a man tried, true, trained and 
trustworthy, there he would put the other. No mis- 
understandings that arose later can alter the signifi- 
cance or break the force of these cold facts. 

In the battle of Shepherdstown Captain Frederick 
Augustus Buhl, of the First Michigan was mortally 



384 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

wounded, dying a few days later. He was a Detroit 
boy, and a classmate of mine in Ann Arbor when the 
war broke out. I was deeply grieved at his death as 
I had learned to love him like a brother. He was con- 
spicuous for his gallantry in all the engagements in 
which he participated, especially at Front Royal and 
Shepherdstown. 

For two days the brigade was lost. For a time the 
report of its capture was generally credited. That it 
escaped, no thanks were due to General Torbert, the 
chief of cavalry. It is not likely that he knew any- 
thing about what a predicament he had left Custer in. 
The latter was, as usual, equal to the emergency. 

I must pass now rapidly over a period of nearly a 
month, devoted, for the most part, to reconnoitering 
and retreating, to the eve of the battle of Winchester. 

September 18, about 8 o'clock in the evening, I went 
to headquarters to consult Dr. Wooster, brigade sur- 
geon, about the condition of my health. I was very 
feeble, unable to eat, my eyes and skin the color of cer- 
tain newspapers during the Spanish-American war. 
The doctor told me I must go home and insisted on 
making out a certificate of disability, on which I might 
obtain a "leave of absence." General Custer and 
most of his staff were present. I recall the 
circumstances very well, for a conversation in 
which the general asked me confidentially certain ques- 
tions, was incautiously repeated by some one who was 
present and returned to vex me after many years. I 



CROSSING THE OPEQUON CREEK 385 

returned to my own camp about nine or half past nine, 
much cast down over the doctor's diagnosis of my case. 
I mention all this to show how secretly the preparations 
for the eventful next day had been made. Not a 
word was dropped during my long interview with the 
general and his staff to arouse the suspicion that the 
army was about to attack Early. Yet, at midnight, 
orders were received to be ready to move at two o'clock 
in the morning. Before that hour, horses were in line 
saddled, the men ready to mount. My cook made a 
cup of tea and a slice of toast. I drank half of the 
tea but could not eat the toast. At three o'clock I 
mounted my favorite saddle horse "Billy" and by order 
of General Custer, led my regiment in advance of the 
division, toward Locke's Ford on the Opequon creek. 
Nothing was said, but every one knew that the army 
was in motion and that great things were in store for 
us. 

We neared the ford about daylight. There was a 
faint hope that the enemy might be taken by surprise 
and the ford captured without resistance, as it was a 
dii!icult crossing when bravely defended. In this, 
however, we were doomed to disappointment, for an 
alert foe was found awaiting the attack. Indeed, they 
must have known of the federal approach. Halting 
an eighth of a mile back and out of sight, Custer di- 
rected me to dismount the regiment and move in col- 
umn of fours through a ravine at right angles with the 
creek. This ravine ran out at the top, where it 



386 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

reached the edge of a plowed field. This field ex- 
tended some 100 or 150 yards to the crest overlooking 
the ford. Along the crest were fences, outbuildings, 
and the farm house. Thence, there was an abrupt 
descent to the bed of the Opequon Creek. This 
side hill slope consisted of cleared fields divided by 
fences. The hill where the house and barns were, 
also sloped off to the left. The road to the ford 
skirted the hill to the left till it reached the bank, then 
ran parallel with the creek to a point about on a line 
with the farm house, where it turned to the left and, 
crossing the stream, took a serpentine course up the 
opposite slope. This latter was wooded and dotted 
on both sides of the road with piles of rails behind 
which were posted infantry sharpshooters. 

The leading files had barely reached the summit, at 
the edge of the plowed ground, when the enemy opened 
fire on the head of the columm of fours, before the regi- 
ment had debouched. There was momentary con- 
fusion, as the sharpshooters appeared to have the ex- 
act range. The regiment deployed forward into line 
under fire, and with General Custer by my side we 
charged across the field to the crest. Custer was the 
only mounted man in the field. Reaching the houses 
and fences, the Sixth proceeded to try to make it as 
uncomfortable for the confederates as they had been 
doing for us. General Custer had gone back to direct 
the movements of the other regiments which were still 
under cover in the rear. 



THE BATTLE OF WINCHESTER 387 

The charge prostrated me. I succeeded in getting 
across the field, cheered on by the gallant Custer, who 
rode half way, but then fell down and for a minute or 
two could not stand on my feet. I suppose my pale 
face and weak condition made a very fair presentment 
of a colonel demoralized by fright. It was a case of 
complete physical exhaustion. While it is probably 
for the most part moral rather than physical courage 
that spurs men into battle, it is equally true that good 
health and a sound body are a good background for the 
display of moral courage. If any of my friends think 
that jaundice and an empty stomach are a good pre- 
paration for leading a charge across a plowed field in 
the face of an intrenched foe I hope that they never 
may be called upon to put their belief to the proof. 

Custer then sent orders to engage the enemy as 
briskly as possible and directed the Twenty-fifth New 
York* followed by the Seventh Michigan, to take the 
ford mounted. The attempt was a failure, however, 
for the head of the New York regiment after passing 
the defile around the left, when it reached the crossing, 
instead of taking it, kept on and, circling to the right, 
came back to the point from which it started ; thus, in 
effect, reversing the role of the French army which 
charged up a hill and then charged down again. The 
Seventh Michigan having received orders to follow the 
other regiment, obeyed and did not see the mistake un- 
til too late to rectify it, much to the chagrin of that 

'Attached temporarily to the Michigan brigade. 



388 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

gallant officer, Lieutenant Colonel Brewer, who com- 
manded it, and who later in the day, laid down his life. 

The First Michigan was then ordered up to make the 
attempt. That regiment moved in column down the 
road to the foot of the hill at the left and halted. Two 
squadrons, commanded by Captain George R. Maxwell, 
an officer of the most undoubted courage, were detailed 
as an advance guard to lead the charge. Some min- 
utes passed and the sharpshooters began to annoy the 
mounted men of the First. Major Howrigan, of that 
regiment, thinking that the Sixth ought to occupy the 
attention of the enemy so completely as to shield his 
men from annoyance, galloped up to where I was, and 
excitedly asked if we could not make it hotter for them. 

"They are shooting my men off their horses," he 
shouted. As he halted to deliver this message, a bul- 
let struck the saddlebag in rear of his left leg. Reach- 
ing back he unbuckled the strap, lifted the flap, and 
pulling out a cork inserted in the neck of what had been 
a glass flask, exclaimed : "Blankety blank their blank 
souls, they have broken my whisky bottle." Saying 
which, he wheeled and galloped back through a shower 
of whistling bullets. 

General Custer then sent orders by a staff officer for 
the Sixth to advance dismounted and support the 
charge of the First. The Seventh was also brought 
up mounted to charge the ford at the same time. Pre- 
parations for this final attack were just about com- 
pleted when it was discovered that the confederates 



ALONG THE MARTINSBURG PIKE 389 

were leaving their cover and falling back. Lowell 
had effected a crossing at another ford and was 
threatening the flank of the force in our front. The 
Sixth moved forward with a cheer. All the regiments 
advanced to the attack simultaneously, and the cross- 
ing of the Opequon was won. A sharp fight followed 
on the other side with Early's infantry in which a por- 
tion of the First Michigan led by the gallant Captain 
Maxwell made a most intrepid charge on infantry 
posted in the woods behind a rail fence. 

The cavalry soon had the force opposed to it fleeing 
toward Winchester, but making a stand from 
time to time, so that it took from daylight in the 
morning until nearly three o'clock in the afternoon to 
cover the distance of three or four miles between the 
crossing of the Opequon and the outskirts of the town 
after which the battle has been named, though, per- 
haps, it is more correctly styled "The battle of the 
Opequon." Breckinridge's infantry and Fitzhugh 
Lee's cavalry, the same gallant adversaries who hustled 
us over into Maryland in such lively fashion during the 
previous month, stood m the way and made vigorous 
efforts to stop our progress. It was a case of hunted 
turned hunter and the Wolverines more than balanced 
the account charged up against Breckinridge for the 
affair at Shepherdstown, August 25. To borrow an 
illustration from the Rugby game, the cavalry kept 
v/orking around the end for gains until a touchdown 
and goal were scored at five o'clock in the afternoon. 



390 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The battle was fought along the Martinsburg pike, 
the enemy being flanked or driven from one position to 
another until all the brigades of Merritt's and 
AverelFs* divisions, which had been converging to- 
ward a common point, came together about a mile out 
of Winchester. 

As that place was approached, the signs and sounds 
of a great battle became startlingly distinct. The 
roar of artillery and the rattle of small arms saluted 
the ear. Within sight of the fortifications, around 
that historic town, a duel was raging between the in- 
fantry of the two armies. The lines of blue and gray 
were in plain sight off to the left. Puffs of smoke 
and an angry roar told where the opposing batteries 
were planted. Dense masses of smoke enveloped the 
lines. From the heights to the front and right, can- 
non belched fire and destruction. 

The Union cavalrymen were now all mounted. The 
Michigan brigade was on the left of the turnpike; to 
its left, the brigades of Devin and Lowell; on the 
right, AverelFs division of two brigades — five brigades 
in all — each brigade in line of squadron columns, 
double ranks. This made a front of more than half a 
mile, three lines deep, of mounted men. That is to 
say, it was more than half a mile from Averell's right 
to Merritt's left. At almost the same moment of 
time, the entire line emerged from the woods into the 
sunlight. A more enlivening and imposing spectacle 

•Second division of cavalry from West Virginia, General W. W, Averell. 



BREAKING EARLY'S FLANK 391 

never was seen. Guidons fluttered and sabers glis- 
tened. Officers vied with their men in gallantry and 
in zeal. Even the horses seemed to catch the inspira- 
tion of the scene and emulated the martial ardor of 
their riders. Then a left half wheel began the grand 
flanking movement which broke Early's left flank and 
won the battle. 

When the Michigan brigade came out of the woods, 
it found a line of confederate horse behind a stone 
fence. This was the last stand that Fitzhugh Lee, 
who commanded Early's cavalry, attempted to make. 
Indeed, it was here, probably, that he received the 
wound which rendered him hors de combat. General 
Wickham succeeded him. In the stone fence there 
were places where the stones had fallen or had been 
thrown down, making openings through which horses 
could pass one, or at most two, at a time. The Union 
cavalrymen made for these openings, not halting or 
hesitating for an instant. The fence was taken and 
breaking through they put to flight the confederate 
cavalrymen who did not stop until they found refuge 
behind their infantry lines. 

The union line was broken up too. The country 
for a mile was full of charging columns — regiments, 
troops, squads — the pursuit taking them in every di- 
rection where a mounted enemy could be seen. The 
cavalry disposed of, the infantry was next taken in 
hand. Early's lieutenants, finding their flank turned, 
changed front and tried hard to stem the tide of defeat. 



392 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The brigade became badly scattered, Custer with 
a portion of it charged right up to a confederate bat- 
tery, but failed to get it, not having force enough at 
that point. The portion of the command with which 
I found myself followed Lee's cavalry for a long dis- 
tance when, reaching the top of a slope over which they 
had gone in their retreat, v/e found ourselves face to 
face v\'ith a strong line of infantry which had changed 
front to receive us, and gave us a volley that filled the 
air with a swarm of bullets. This stopped the onset 
for the time, in that part of the field, and the cavalry 
fell back behind the crest of the hill to reform and, to 
tell the truth, to get under cover, for the infantry fire 
was exceedingly hot. They were firing at just the 
right elevation to catch the horses, and there was dan- 
ger that our cavalrymen would find themselves dis- 
mounted, through having their mounts killed. 

As my horse swerved to the left, a bullet struck my 
right thigh and, peeling the skin off that, cut a deep 
gash through the saddle to the opening in the center. 
The saddle caused it to deflect upwards, or it would 
have gone through the other leg. At the m.oment I 
supposed it had gone through the right leg. Meeting 
General Custer I told him with some pride that I was 
wounded and needed a surgeon. Not finding one I 
investigated for myself and found that it was one of 
those narrow escapes which a pious man might set 
down to the credit of providence or a miracle. The 
wound was not serious and I proceeded to assist in 



CUSTER'S CHARGE ON INFANTRY 393 

rallying as many men of the regiment as possible to 
report to General Custer who was preparing for what 
proved to be the final charge of the battle. This was 
made upon a brigade of infantry which was still gal- 
lantly trying to make a stand toward Winchester and 
in front of a large stone house. The ground de- 
scended from Custer's position to that occupied by this 
infantry. Custer formed his men in line and, at the 
moment when the enemy began a movement to the 
rear, charged down upon them with a yell that could 
be heard above the din of the battle. In a brief time 
he was in their midst. They threw down their arms 
and surrendered. Several hundred of them had re- 
treated to the inside of the stone house. The house 
was surrounded and they were all made prisoners. 

This charge, in which the Michigan brigade cap- 
tured more prisoners than it had men engaged, was 
for perhaps an eighth of a mile within range of the 
batteries on the heights around Winchester, and until 
it became dangerous to their own men, the artillery 
enfiladed our line. 

A fragment of one of those shells struck my horse, 
"Billy," in the nose, taking out a chunk the size of my 
fist and he carried the scar till the day of his death (in 
1888). This last charge finished the battle. Early 
retreated through Winchester up the valley and no- 
thing was left but to pursue. Sheridan broke Early's 
left flank by the movement of the cavalry from his own 
right. It was the first time that proper use of this 



394 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

arm had been made in a great battle during the war. 
He was the only general of that war who knew how to 
make cavalry and infantry supplement each other in 
battle. Had the tactics of the battle been reversed, — 
that is to say, if Sheridan had moved against Early's 
right flank instead of his left, — nothing could have pre- 
vented the capture or destruction of Early's army, as 
his retreat would have been cut off. But the way to 
the south was left open, and Early escaped once more 
to Fisher's Hill, where he was found the next day with 
the remnant — a very respectable remnant — of his 
army. 

It may be of interest to some of my medical friends 
to remark here in passing, that the battle of Winches- 
ter cured my jaundice. After crossing the Opequon I 
began to be ravenously hungry, and begged and ate 
hardtack until there was some danger that the supply 
would be exhausted. The men soon saw the situation 
and when one saw me approaching he would "present 
hardtack" without awaiting the order. So I went 
into the mounted part of the engagement with a full 
stomach and in more ways than one with a "better 
stomach for a fight." 

I regret that it is impossible to give a complete list 
of casualties in the brigade. In the appendix to this 
volume may be found a roll of honor of all those who 
were either killed or died of wounds received m battle. 

Of the officers, Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Brewer 
was mortally wounded. The bullet which killed him 




.MELVIX BKEWER 



THE DEATH OF COLONEL BREWER 395 

coming from the stone house in which the confederates 
had taken refuge. Colonel Brewer went out in the 
First, of which regiment he had risen to be a major. 
With that rank he was assigned to command the 
Seventh and only in the previous June had been pro- 
moted to lieutenant colonel. He was an officer modest 
as he was brave; cool and reliable on all occasions. 
Lieutenant Albert T. Jackson, of the First, killed early 
in the action, was a young officer of much promise. 
Captain William O. North of the Fifth, who lost his 
life in the melee near Winchester, was also a most ex- 
cellent officer. Captain A. S. Matthews, of the First 
was wounded. The casualties on the whole were not 
so numerous as in some other less historic engage- 
ments, most of them befalling in the attacks on in- 
fantry-, early and late in the day. Breckinridge's in- 
fantry seems to have fired low when resisting the 
mounted cavalry, for the havoc among horses was very 
great. I find by my official report made to the ad- 
jutant general at the time, that seven officers in the 
Sixth alone had their horses shot, and there is no rea- 
son to suppose that this record exceeded that of the 
other regiments. 

Fcr the next three days, the brigade was in front of 
infantry at Fisher's Hill, so close to their lines as to 
draw their fire and keep them in their intrenchments. 

On the 22nd, Torbert was sent to Milford in the 
Luray Valley, taking Wilson's and Merritt's divisions. 
His orders were to break through one of the passes in 



396 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the Massanutten mountains and come out in rear of 
Early's army when Crook's flanking movement on the 
other side would have driven the confederates out of 
the strong position at Fisher's Hill. Crook's attack 
was completely successful and Early was soon "whirl- 
ing up the valley" again. Torbert made a fiasco of 
it. He allowed Wickham, who succeeded Fitzhugh 
Lee after the latter was wounded, with, at most, two 
small brigades, to hold him at bay and withdrew with- 
out making any fight to speak of. I remember very 
well how the Michigan brigade lay in a safe position 
in rear of the line listening to the firing and was not 
ordered in at all. If Custer or Merritt had been in 
comm.and it would have been different. When Sheri- 
dan found that Torbert had retreated, he gave him a 
very peremptory order to retrace his steps and try 
again. Custer, followed by Lowell, was sent to the 
front and in the forenoon of the 24th Wickham's 
troopers were scattered in flight and the way opened 
for Torbert to carry out his instructions. Even then 
the march was leisurely, and the two big divisions ar- 
rived in Newmarket on the 25th only to find that it 
was too late. Early had escaped again. 

On the 26th at Harrisonburg, Custer assumed com- 
mand of the Second division in place of Averell and I 
succeeded to the command of the brigade. 

On the same day, the brigade was ordered to Port 
Republic and seeing a wagon train on the other side, 
the Sixth and Seventh were sent across the south fork 



THE MILLS WILL NEVER GRIND AGAIN 397 

of the Shenandoah river to attack it. It turned out 
to be Kershaw's division, which had been shuttle- 
cocked back and forth between Lee's army and the 
valley all summer and which, once more on the wing 
to reinforce Early, was just coming from Swift Run 
Gap. The two regiments were driven back, but re- 
tired in good order and recrossed the river. Sheridan 
then withdrew to Cross Keys, hoping to lure Early to 
that point, but was unsuccessful. The next day Port 
Republic was reoccupied and the brigade established 
a picket line extended thence to Conrad's Ferry, a 
distance of twenty miles. 

While occupying this position, the discovery was 
made that there were several good grist-mills along the 
river that were also well stored with grist. There 
were plenty of men in the brigade who were practical 
millers, and putting them in charge, I had all the mills 
running very early in the morning, grinding flour and 
meal which the commissaries were proceeding to issue 
to the several regiments, according to their needs, and 
we all flattered ourselves that we were doing a fine 
stroke of business. This complacent state of mind 
was rudely disturbed when, about seven o'clock (the 
mills had been running some two hours, or more) 
General Merritt accor^panied by his staff, dashed up 
and, in an angry mood which he did not attempt to 
conceal, began to reprimand me because the mills had 
not been set on fire. 

The fiat had gone forth from General Grant himself. 



398 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

that everything in the valley that might contribute to 
the support of the army must be destroyed before the 
country was abandoned. Sheridan had already de- 
cided on another retrograde movement down the valley 
and it was his purpose to leave a trail of fire behind, 
obeying to the letter the injunction of the general in 
chief to starve out any crow that would hereafter 
have the temerity to fly over the Shenandoah valley. 
The order had gone out the day before and the work 
was to begin that morning. Custer was to take the 
west and Merritt the east side and burn all barns, 
mills, haystacks, etc., within a certain area. Merritt 
was provoked. He pointed to the west and one could 
have made a chart of Custer's trail by the columns of 
black smoke which marked it. The general was man- 
ifestly fretting lest Custer should appear to outdo him 
in zeal in obeying orders, and blamed me as his res- 
ponsible subordinate, for the delay. I told him, with 
an appearance of humility that I am sure was un- 
feigned, that those mills would never grind again, 
after what had passed. 

The wheels were not stopped but the torch was ap- 
plied and the crackling of flames intermingled with 
the rumbling of the stones made a mournful requiem 
as the old mills went up in smoke and General Mer- 
ritt's loyalty was vindicated. 

It was a disagreeable business and — we can be 
frank now — I did not relish it. One incident made a 
lasting impression on the mind of every man who was 



WHEN "WAR IS HELL" 399 

there. The mill in the little hamlet of Port Republic 
contained the means of livelihood — the food of the wo- 
men and children whom the exigencies of war had be- 
reft of their natural providers and, when they found 
that it was the intention to destroy that on which their 
very existence seemed to depend, their appeals to be 
permitted to have some of the flour before the mill was 
burned, were heartrending. Worse than all else, in 
spite of the most urgent precautions, enjoined upon 
the officers in charge, the flames extended. The mill 
stood in the midst of a group of wooden houses and 
some of them took fire. Seeing the danger, I rode 
across and ordered every man to fall In and assist in 
preventing the further spread of the flames, an effort 
which was, happily, successful. What I saw there 
is burned into my memory. Women with children in 
their arms, stood in the street and gazed frantically 
upon the threatened ruin of their homes, while the 
tears rained down their cheeks. The anguish pic- 
tured in their faces would have melted any heart not 
seared by the horrors and "necessities" of war. It 
was too much for me and at the first moment that duty 
would permit, I hurried away from the scene. Gen- 
eral Merritt did not see these things, nor did General 
Sheridan, much less General Grant. 

The army began to fall back on the 6th of October, 
the cavalry bringing up the rear, as usual, Merritt on 
the valley pike, Custer by the back road, along the east 
slope of the Little North mountain. The work of in- 



400 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

cineration was continued and clouds of smoke marked 
the passage of the federal army. Lomax with one 
division of cavalry followed Merritt, while Rosser 
with two brigades took up the pursuit of Custer on the 
back road. The pursuit was rather tame for a couple 
of days but the sight of the destruction going on must 
have exasperated the confederate troopers, many of 
whom were on their native heath, and put them in a 
fighting mood, for on the 8th they began to grow ag- 
gressive and worried the life out of our rear guard. 
The Michigan brigade had the rear. The Seventh 
was sent ahead to see that nothing escaped that came 
within the scope of Grant's order; the Fifth acted as 
rear guard ; the First and Sixth in position to support 
the Fifth if needed. The pike formed the main street 
of the little town of Woodstock, the houses coming 
close to it on either side. On nearing that place, it 
was found that a fire started in some small barns and 
haystacks in the outskirts, had caught in the adjoin- 
ing buildings and the town was in flames. Dismount- 
ing the two regiments, and sending the lead horses be- 
yond the village, orders were given to have the fires 
put out. The men went to work with a will, but 
were interrupted in their laudable purpose by Lomax, 
who charged the rear guard into the town, and there 
was some lively hustling to get to the horses in time. 
The brigade was then formed in line in a good position 
facing Woodstock and awaited, indeed invited attack 
by the confederates. Lomax, however, kept at a res- 



THE BATTLE OF TOM'S BROOK 401 

pectful distance until the march was resumed, when 
he took up the pursuit again. Thus it went, alter- 
nately halting, forming and facing to the rear, and 
falling back, until Tom's Brook was reached late in the 
afternoon. Then General Merritt directed me to send 
one regiment to reinforce Custer, who was being hard 
pressed by Rosser on the back road, and take the 
others and drive Lomax back. The Seventh was sent 
to Custer and the First, Fifth and Sixth, the Sixth 
leading, drove the cavalry that had been annoying our 
rear at a jump back to Woodstock, a distance of about 
six miles. By that time, Lomax had his entire divi- 
sion up and when we started to fall back again, gave 
us a Roland for our Oliver, following sharply, but al- 
ways declining the invitation to come on, when we 
halted and faced him. It was particularly annoying 
to the Fifth which brought up the rear and distin- 
guished itself greatly by the stubborn resistance which 
it offered to the attacks of the enemy. Captain 
Shier's squadron of the First, supported the Fifth with 
much spirit. 

On the morning of the 9th, Sheridan told Torbert to 
go out and whip the cavalry that was following us or 
get whipped himself. It was a short job and the bat- 
tle of Tom's Brook is regarded as one of the humorous 
incidents of the war. With slight loss, in a very brief 
engagement, Rosser and Lomax were both routed and 
the pursuit of the latter on the pike was continued for 
about twenty miles. The battle known in history as 



402 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

that of "Tom's Brook," was facetiously christened 
"The Woodstock Races," and the confederate cavalry 
cut little figure in Virginia afterwards. The Michi- 
gan brigade had a prominent part in the battle, being 
in the center and forming the connecting link between 
the First and Third divisions. In the opening attack 
the confederate center was pierced by the mounted 
charge of the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Michigan, as- 
sisted by the Twenty-fifth New York. The First being 
on picket during the previous night had not returned 
to the command. I believe I am right in claiming 
that the first impression made on the enemy's line of 
battle was by these regiments, though the line was 
rather thin, for the reason that the heaviest part of 
Rosser's force had been massed in front of Custer and 
on the pike, making the center an especially vulner- 
able point. When the flight began, they took to the 
roads, and the Michigan men being in the woods did 
not get very far into the "horse race," as it was called. 
The First, coming from the picket line, trailed the 
leaders along the pike and managed to get a good deal 
of sport out of it with very little danger. 

I must now pass over the few intervening days to the 
crowning glory of the campaign. The Battle of Cedar 
Creek. 



CHAPTER XXII 

THE BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK 

THE engagement which took place in the Shenandoah 
Valley of Virginia, on the nineteenth day of 
October, 1864, will take its place high up in the list of 
the decisive battles of history. Like Blenheim and 
Balaklava, Cedar Creek will be remembered while lit- 
erature lasts. One of its dramatic incidents furnished 
the theme for the poet's song, and "Sheridan's Ride," 
like Horatius, will remain until the imagination can no 
longer be thrilled by the recital of the record of heroic 
deeds. Thus doth poesy erect monuments, more en- 
during than bronze or marble, to the memory of the 
brave. 

Yet, the events of that day have been greatly mis- 
conceived.* The imagination, inflamed by the heroic 
verse of Read, and unaided by the remembrance of 
actual personal experiences in the battle, sees only the 
salient points — Gordon's stealthy march along the 
Massanutten mountain; the union troops, in fancied 
security, sleeping in their tents; the absence of their 
great leader ; the morning surprise ; the rout ; the mass 
of fleeing fugitives; the victors in exultant pursuit; 

* Written in 1886. 



404 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Sheridan's ride from Winchester; the magic influence 
of his arrival on the field, in arresting the headlong 
flight of the panic stricken mob; the rally; the reflux 
tide of enthusiasm ; the charge back into the old camps ; 
the glorious victory that succeeded humiliating defeat. 

With all due allowance for poetical license, the con- 
ception of this battle which long ago became fixed in 
the public mind, does a cruel injustice to the gallant 
men who were maimed or killed on that hard fought 
field. Enveloped in the mists of receding years; ob- 
scured by the glamour of poetry; belied by the vivid 
imagination of stragglers and camp-followers who, on 
the first note of danger, made a frantic rush for Win- 
chester, seeking to palliate their own misconduct by 
spreading exaggerated reports of disaster, the union 
army that confronted Early at Cedar Creek, for many 
years made a sorry picture, which the aureole of glory 
that surrounded its central figure made all the more 
humiliating. 

It is due to truth and justice that every detail of 
that famous fight should be told, to the end that no un- 
deserved shadow may rest upon the fame of the men 
and officers who took part in it — no unjust stain upon 
their record. 

History, so called, has been misleading. It is true 
that Sheridan's narrative sheds much new light upon 
his part in the battle, and General Merritt, one of the 
leading actors, wrote a paper upon it for the Century 
series though I doubt if it has been generally read, or 



IN THE NAME OF "HISTORY" 405 

if read, effective in modifying preconceived notions. 
An idea of that which has been written in the name 
of history may be gained from an extract taken from 
the American cyclopedia (vol. xvi) which says: 

"He (Sheridan) met the fugitives a mile and a half from town, 
(Winchester): and with a brigade which had been left in Win- 
chester, moved upon the enemy, who had begun to intrench 
themselves." 

The absurdity of such "history" ought to be self 
evident. Imagine, if you can, a brigade of infantry 
following Sheridan on his wild ride of "twenty miles" 
and then rushing to attack an army which, according 
to the tradition of which I have spoken, had just 
whipped four army corps. Of course, the statement 
is an absurd one. No brigade came from Winchester. 
No brigade could have come from Winchester ; and had 
such a thing been possible, it would have constituted 
but a slight factor in the contest. 

There were in the federal army on that eventful 
morning, seven brigades of infantry (the Sixth corps) 
seven brigades of cavalry, not to mention one division 
(Grover's) of the Nineteenth corps, (four brigades), 
making eighteen brigades in all, that were neither 
surprised in their camps, nor in the slightest degree 
demoralized at any time during the progress of the 
battle ; and which had forced Early to stop short in his 
headlong career of victory long before the famous 
black charger brought his fiery rider to the field. 



406 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The Eighth corps which was surprised was a small 
corps of only five brigades, and although after Ker- 
shaw's onset, conducted by General Early in person, it 
was practically eliminated, there was a fine army left 
which, crippled as it was, was fully equal to the task 
of retrieving the disaster, and which, as the event 
proved, needed only the guiding hand of Sheridan to 
put it in motion and lead it to victory. 

It is not, however, the purpose of this paper to give 
all the details of that great battle, but to narrate what 
a single actor in it saw; to make a note in passing of 
some things that do not appear in the official records, 
that are not a part of the written history of the war; 
some incidents that are important only as they throw 
light on that which is bathed in shadow, though having 
for one of Custer's troopers an interest in themselves; 
to do justice to the splendid courage displayed by the 
cavalry, especially the Michigan cavalry, on that oc- 
casion ; to pay a tribute of admiration to the gallantry 
and steadfastness of the old Sixth corps; and to the 
courage and capacity of the gallant Colonel Lowell, 
who was killed. 

Cedar Creek is a small stream that rises in the Blue 
Ridge, runs across the valley, at that point but four 
miles wide, and pours its waters into the Shenandoah 
near Strasburg. It is very crooked, fordable, but with 
steep banks difficult for artillery or wagons, except 
where a way has been carved out at the fords. It runs 
in a southeasterly course, so that its mouth is four miles 



■ ON THE BANK OF CEDAR CREEK 407 

or more south of a line drawn due east from the point 
where it deserts the foot-hills on the west side of the 
valley. The valley, itself, is shut in between the Blue 
mountains, on one side, and the Massanutten, a spur 
of the Great North mountain, on the other. It is 
traversed, from north to south, by a turnpike road, a 
little to the left of the center, which road crosses Cedar 
Creek between Middletown and Strasbarg. 

On the night of October 18, 1864, the federal army 
was encamped on the left bank of Cedar Creek, Crook's 
Eighth corps on the left flank, east of the pike and 
nearly in front of Middletown; Emory's Nineteenth 
corps to the right and rear of Crook and west of the 
pike; then, successively, each farther to the right and 
rear, the Sixth corps, temporarily commanded by 
General James B. Ricketts; Devin's and Lowell's bri- 
gades of Merritt's (First) cavalry division; the Mich- 
igan cavalry brigade; and last, but not least, Custer 
with the Third cavalry division. All faced toward 
the south, though posted en echelon, so that, though 
Crook was some three or four miles south of Middle- 
town, a line drawn due east from Custer's camp, in- 
tersected the pike a little north of that place. For 
this reason, Early's flanking movement, being from the 
left through the camp of Crook, could not strike the 
flank of the other corps, successively, without shifting 
the line of attack to the north, while the Sixth corps 
and the cavalry were able to confront his troops, after 
their first partial success, by simply moving to the left, 



408 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

taking the most direct route to the turnpike. The 
position which the Michigan cavalry occupied 
was somewhat isolated. Although belonging to the 
First division, it was posted nearer the camp of the 
Third. 

The brigade consisted of the four Michigan regi- 
ments and Captain Martin's Sixth New York inde- 
pendent horse battery. The First Michigan was com- 
manded by Major A. W. Duggan, a gallant officer who 
was wounded at Gettysburg ; the Fifth by Major 
S. H. Hastings; the Sixth by Major Charles W, Deane; 
the Seventh by Lieutenant Colonel George G. Briggs, 
the latter officer having only just been promoted to that 
position. The New York battery had been with us 
but a short time, but Captain Martin and his lieuten- 
ants ranked among the best artillery officers in the 
service. 

For a few days, only, I had been in command of the 
brigade. General Custer, who had led it from the 
time he was made a brigadier, in June, 1863, was pro- 
moted to the command of the Third division and, 
hastily summoning me, went away, taking his staff and 
colors with him. I was obliged while yet on the 
march, to form a staff of officers as inexperienced as 
myself. It was an unsought and an unwelcome res- 
ponsibility. 

For two or three days before the battle, our duty had 
been to guard a ford of Cedar Creek. One regiment 
was kept constantly on duty near the ford. The line 



A SERENE AND PEACEFUL NIGHT 409 

of videttes was thrown out across the stream, connect- 
ing on the left with the infantry picket line and on the 
right with Custer's cavalry pickets. The Seventh 
Michigan was on duty the night of October 18, the 
brigade camp back about a mile from the ford. 

No intimation of expected danger had been received 
— no injunction to be more than usually alert. It was 
the habit of the cavalry, which had so much outpost 
duty to perform, to be always ready, and cavalry offi- 
cers were rarely taken by surprise. Early's precau- 
tions had been carefully taken and no hint of his pur- 
pose reached the union headquarters, and no warning 
of any immediate or more than usually pressing dan- 
ger was given to the army. 

But, somehow, I had a vague feeling of uneasiness, 
that would not be shaken off. I believe now and have 
believed, for many years, that there was in my mind 
a distinct presentiment of the coming storm. I could 
not sleep and at eleven o'clock, was still walking about 
outside the tents. 

It was a perfect night, bright and clear. The moon 
was full, the air crisp and transparent. A more 
serene and peaceful scene could not be imagined. The 
spirit of tranquility seemed to have settled down, at 
last, upon the troubled Shenandoah. Far away, to 
the left, lay the army, wrapped in slumber. To the 
right, the outlines of the Blue mountains stood out 
against the sky and cast dark shadows athwart the 
valley. Three-quarters of a mile away the white tents 



410 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

of Custer's camp looked like wierd specters in the 
moonlight. Scarcely a sound was heard. A solemn 
stillness reigned, broken only by the tread of the single 
sentry, pacing his beat in front of headquarters. In- 
side, the staff and brigade escort were sleeping. Fin- 
ally, a little before midnight, I turned in, telling the 
guard to awaken me at once, should there be firing in 
front, and to so instruct the relief. 

I cannot give the exact time; it may be I did not 
know it at the time ; but it was before daylight that the 
sentinel awoke me. Not having undressed, I was out 
in an instant, and listening, heard scattering shots. 
They were not many, but enough to impel me to a quick 
resolve. Rousing the nearest staff officer, I bade him 
have the command ready to move at a moment's notice. 

In an incredibly short space of time, the order was 
executed. The tents were struck, the artillery horses 
attached to the gun carriages and caissons, and the 
cavalry horses saddled. No bugle call was sounded. 
The firing grew heavier, and from the hill where Custer 
was, rang out on the air the shrill notes of Foght's 
bugle, telling us that our old commander had taken the 
alarm. Rosser had attacked the pickets at the fords 
and was driving them in. He had done the same on 
one or two mornings before, but there was an unwonted 
vigor about this attack that boded mischief. The fed- 
eral cavalry had, however, recovered from their earli- 
er habit of being "away from home" when Rosser 
called. They were always "in" and ready and willing 




CHARLES R. LOWELL 



COLONEL CHARLES R. LOWELL 411 

to give him a warm reception. He found that morn- 
ing that both Merritt and Custer were "at home." In 
a moment, a staff officer from General Merritt dashed 
up with orders to take the entire brigade to the sup- 
port of the picket line. Moving out rapidly, we were 
soon on the ground. The Seventh Michigan had made 
a gallant stand alone, and v^^hen the brigade arrived, 
the enemy did not see fit to press the attack, but con- 
tented himself with throwing a few shells from the 
opposite bank which annoyed us so little that Martin 
did not unlimber his guns. 

A heavy fog had by this time settled down upon the 
valley. The first streaks of dawn began to appear, 
and it soon became evident that the cavalry attack 
upon the right flank was but a feint and that the real 
danger was in another quarter. Far away to the left, 
for some time, volleys of musketry had been heard. 
With the roll of musketry was intermingled, at inter- 
vals, the boom of cannon, telling to the practiced ear, 
the story of a general engagement. The sounds in- 
creased in volume and in violence, and it was no dif- 
ficult matter to see that the union forces were falling 
back for, farther and farther to the left and rear, were 
heard the ominous sounds. From the position we oc- 
cupied no infantry line of battle was to be seen. 

Soon after the Michigan brigade had taken its posi- 
tion at the front, Colonel Charles R. Lowell rode up 
at the head of the Reserve brigade. Colonel Lowell 
was a young man, not much past his majority. 



412 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

and looked like a boy. He was a relative 

of James Russell Lowell, and had won distinction as 
colonel of the Second Masachusetts cavalry. He had 
succeeded Merritt as commander of the Reserve brig- 
ade. He had a frank, open face, a manly, soldierly 
bearing, and a courage that was never called in ques- 
tion. He was a graduate of Harvard, not of West 
Point, though he had been a captain in the Sixth United 
States cavalry. 

Colonel Lowell informed me that his orders were to 
support the Michigan men if they needed support. No 
help was needed at that time. I told him so. The 
enemy had been easily checked and, at the moment, had 
become so quiet as to give rise to the suspicion that he 
had withdrawn from our front, as indeed he had. A 
great battle was raging to the left, and in response to 
the suggestion that the army seemed to be retreating, 
he replied: 

"I think so," and after a few moments reflection, 
said: 

"I shall return" and immediately began the counter- 
march. 

I said to him: "Colonel, what would you do if you 
were in my place?" 

"I think you ought to go too" he replied and, pres- 
ently, turning in his saddle, continued : "Yes, I will take 
the responsibility to give you the order," whereat, the 
two brigades took up the march toward the point 
where the battle, judging from the sound, seemed to be 



"SAUVE QUI PEUT" 413 

in progress. How little either of us realized that 
Lowell was marching to his death. It was into the 
thickest of the fight that he led the way, Michigan wil- 
lingly following.* 

A startling sight presented itself as the long cavalry 
column came out into the open country overlooking the 
battleground. Guided by the sound, a direction had 
been taken that would bring us to the pike as directly 
as possible and at the same time approach the union 
lines from the rear. This brought us out on a com- 
manding ridge north of Middletown. This ridge 
as it appears to a participant looking at it 
from memory, runs to and across the pike. 
The ground descends to the south a half mile, 
or more, then gradually rises again to another ridge 
about on a line with Middletown. The confederate 
forces were on the last named ridge, along which their 
batteries were planted, and their lines of infantry could 
be seen distinctly. Memory may have lost something 
of the details of the picture, but the outlines remain as 
vivid, now as then. The valley between was uneven, 
with spots of timber here and there and broken into 
patches by fences, some of them of stone. 

The full scope of the calamity which had befallen our 
arms burst suddenly into view. The whole battle 
field was in sight. The valley and intervening slopes, 

*Tfae only order I had received at the time was to support the picket line with 
the entire brigade. See General Merritt's report, Official records, Vol. XLIIL se- 
ries I, part I, page 449. 



414 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the fields and woods, were alive with infantry, moving 
singly and in squads. Some entire regiments were 
hurrying to the rear, while the confederate artillery 
was raining shot and shell and spherical case among 
them to accelerate their speed. Some of the enemy's 
batteries were the very ones just captured from us. 
It did not look like a frightened or panic stricken army, 
but like a disorganized mass that had simply lost the 
power of cohesion. A line of cavalry skirmishers* 
formed across the country was making ineffectual ef- 
forts to stop the stream of fugitives who had stolidly 
and stubbornly, set their faces to the rear. Dazed by 
the surprise in their camps, they acted like men who 
had forfeited their self-respect. They were chagrined, 
mortified, mad at their officers and themselves — de- 
moralized ; but, after all, more to be pitied than blamed. 
But all these thousands, hurrying from the field, 
were not the entire army. They were the Eighth 
corps and a part of the Nineteenth only, a fraction of 
the army. There, between ourselves and the enemy 
— between the fugitives and the enemy — was a long 
line of blue, facing to the front, bravely battling to 
stem the tide of defeat. How grandly they stood to 
their work. Neither shot nor shell nor volleys of 
musketry could break them. It was the old Sixth 
corps — the "ironsides" from the Potomac army, who 
learned how to fight under brave John Sedgwick. 

*The Fifth United States cavalry. General Merritt's escort. General Merritt's 
report. 



HOW THE SIXTH CORPS FOUGHT 415 

Slov/ly, in perfect order, the veterans of the Wilderness 
and Spotsylvania were falling back, contesting every 
inch of the way. One position was surrendered only 
to take another. There was no wavering, no falling 
out of ranks, except of those who were shot down. 
The next morning, one passing over the ground where 
those heroes fought, could see where they successively 
stood and breasted the storm by the dead men who lay 
in line where they had fallen. There were two or three 
lines of these dead skirmishers. The official record 
shows that the Sixth corps on that day lost 255 men 
killed and 1600 wounded. 

The two brigades had reached a point where the en- 
tire field was in view, and were in position to resume 
their relation to the line of battle, whenever the scat- 
tered fragments of the army could be assembled and 
formed for an organized resistance to the enemy. 

In the meantime it had been decided to mass all the 
cavalry on the left of the line, opposite to where it had 
been in the morning. The order came from General 
Merritt to continue the march in that direction, and 
the long column led by Lowell turned its head toward 
the left of the Sixth corps* and formed on the other 

*GeneraI Sheridan's report states that it was Getty's division of the Sixth 
corps only that was in this position when he'came up— that the other divisions 
were farther to the rear but were brought up to the alignment. 

"On arriving at the front, I found Merritt's and Custer's divisions of cavalry, 
* * * and Getty's division of the Sixth corps opposing the enemy. I suggested 
to General Wright that we would fight on Getty's line, and that the remaining 
two divisions of the Sixth corps, which were to the right and rear about two 
miles, should be ordered up, * * before the enemy attacked Getty." — Sheri- 
dan's report. Records. Vol. XLIII, part I, page 53. 



416 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

side of the pike. Moving across, parallel with the line 
which had been taken up by that corps, the cavalry 
was exposed to a galling fire of artillery. One shell 
took an entire set of fours out of the Sixth Michigan. 
Not a man left the ranks. The next set closed up the 
gap. Custer was already there, having been trans- 
ferred from right to left while the two brigades of the 
First division were out on the picket line. Crossing 
the pike, we passed in front of his division. It was 
formed in line of brigades, each brigade in column of 
regiments, mounted. It is needless to say that they 
were faced toward the enemy. Custer, himself, was 
riding along the front of his command, chafing like a 
caged lion, eager for the fray. Devin, with Taylor's 
battery had been there for some time and, under the 
personal direction of General Merritt, had been most 
gallantly resisting the advance of the victorious enemy. 
The Michigan brigade took position in front of Custer, 
Martin's battery next the pike. Lowell with the Re- 
serve brigade was stationed still farther in advance 
toward Middletown. The Sixth corps made its final 
stand on the prolongation of the cavalry alignment and 
from that moment the attacks of the enemy were feeble 
and ineffective, the battle resolving itself, for the time 
being, into an artillery duel in which Martin's battery 
took a prominent part. 

It could not have been much later than nine o'clock 
when the two brigades of cavalry arrived. Their com- 
ing was opportune. Who can say how much it had 



DEATH OF COLONEL LOWELL 417 

to do in stopping the further progress of Early's at- 
tack ? It is now known that Early dreaded a flanking 
movement by the body of horse which he saw massing 
in front of his right flank. The gallant Lowell, who 
so bravely did his duty and who exhibited in every 
stage of the battle the highest qualities of leadership, 
a few hours after his arrival on the left laid down his 
life for the cause he so valiantly served. He was 
killed by a bullet from the gun of a sharpshooter in 
Middletown. He did not live to make a report and 
the story never has been told officially of how he 
marched from right to left at Cedar Creek. 

Sheridan had not yet come up, but after his arrival, 
which he states in his memoirs was not later than ten 
o'clock, Custer was moved to the right flank, arriving 
in time to thwart a threatened flanking movement by 
Gordon and Kershaw. It is evident that every 
strategic attempt of the enemy, save the morning sur- 
prise, was checkmated by the union cavalry and, it 
must be remembered, that it was the absence of cav- 
alry on the left which rendered the morning surprise 
possible. 

The First division was now all together with Gen- 
eral Merritt personally in command. A part of 
Lowell's brigade, dismounted, vv^as posted well to the 
front, the Michigan brigade, mounted, in its rear. 
While in this position, having occasion to ride up into 
the battery to speak to Captain Martin, a sharpshooter 
in Middletown took a shot at us. The bullet narrowly 



418 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

missed the captain and buried itself in my horse's 
shoulder. Unlike the shell at Winchester, this wound 
disabled the old fellow, so that he had to go to the rear 
and give way to a temporary remount, — furnished by 
the commanding officer of the First Michigan, — much 
to the regret of the old hero, for he vv^as a horse who 
loved the excitement of battle and relished its dangers. 

Thus, for perhaps an hour (it may have been more) 
we stood in line inviting attack. But the enemy, 
strongly posted behind fences and piles of logs, with 
tw^o ravines and fences separating us, seemed anxious 
to "let v/ell enough alone." Then Merritt rearranged 
his line. Devin's brigade was posted next the pike, 
Lowell in the center, the Michigan brigade on the ex- 
treme left. Martin's battery took position in an 
orchard, on a rising point, Vv^hich commanded the entire 
front and sloped off to the rear, so that only the muzzles 
of the pieces were exposed to the enemy's fire. Direct- 
ly in front was a section of a battery which Martin sev- 
eral times silenced but which had an aggravating way 
of coming into action again and making it extremely 
uncomfortable for us. The First, Sixth and Seventh 
were formed in line of squadron columns, the Fifth a 
little to the rear as a reserve and support. A strong 
line of mounted skirmishers held the front. The left 
was thrown somewhat forward, menacing the confed- 
erate right. 

Soon after the formation was complete and probably 
not far from eleven o'clock. General Merritt with his 



GENERAL MERRITT'S PREDICTION 419 

staff came along inspecting the line, and halting near 
Martin's battery, he expressed the most hearty approv- 
al of the dispositions that had been made. While he 
was still talking, a round shot from one of the enemy's 
guns ricochetted and nearly struck his horse. He 
was very cool and gave his view of the situation in a 
few encouraging words. 

"The enemy," said he, "is almost as much surprised 
as we are and does not know what to make of his 
morning's work and in my opinion, does not intend to 
press his advantage, but will retreat as soon as a vig- 
orous assault is made upon his line." 

These are, I am sure, almost the precise words ut- 
tered to me by General Merritt before Sheridan came 
up. At least, if he was with the army at the time, 
certainly General Merritt did not know it. They 
show what was the feeling in that portion of the army 
which was not surprised, and which did not fail, from 
the moment when the first shot was fired in the early 
morning, to the last charge at dusk, to keep its face to 
the foe. General Merritt also suggested, though he 
did not order it, that I send a regiment to feel of the 
confederate right flank. He had an impression that 
it might be turned. The Seventh Michigan was sent 
with instructions to pass by the rear to the left, thence 
to the front, and attempt to get beyond the flank of the 
enemy, and, if successful, to attack. After an absence 
of about an hour, it returned and the commanding offi- 
cer reported that he found a line of infantry as far 



420 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

as he deemed it prudent to go. The force 
in front of the cavalry was Wharton's (Breck- 
inridge's) corps, reinforced by one brigade of 
Kershaw's division. Early's fear of being flanked 
by the union cavalry caused him to strengthen and pro- 
long his right. Rosser's cavalry, for some reason, did 
not put in an appearance after the dash in the morning. 
There was a lull. After the lapse of so many years, 
it would be idle to try to recall the hours, where they 
went and how they sped. There was no thought of 
retreat, slight fear of being attacked. All were won- 
dering what would be done, when cheering and a great 
commotion arose toward the right. "Sheridan has 
come ; Sheridan has come ; and there is to be an advance 
all along the line," sped from right to left, as if an 
electric battery had sent the message, so quickly did it 

fly. 

Sheridan did not pass to the left of the pike where 
the cavalry was, but dashed along in front of the in- 
fantry for the purpose of letting the army know that 
he was there and give it the inspiration of his presence. 
History puts in his mouth the words : "It is all right, 
boys; we will whip them yet; we will sleep in our old 
camps tonight." I was not near enough to hear and 
do not pretend to quote from personal knowledge, but 
whatever may have been his exact words, the enthu- 
siasm which they aroused was unmistakable. The 
answer was a shout that sent a thrill across the valley 
and whose ominous meaning must have filled the hearts 



SHERIDAN ON THE FIELD 421 

of the confederates with misgivings.. This was 
the first intimation we had that Sheridan was 
on the ground, though he says in his memoirs, that 
it was then after midday and that he had been up about 
two hours. 

But the Sixth corps needed no encouragement. 
Nobly had it done its duty during the entire progress of 
the battle. Sheridan and his staff, therefore, busied 
themselves reforming and posting the Nineteenth 
corps and strengthening the right where Custer was to 
be given the post of honor in the grand flanking move- 
ment about to begin. 

An ominous silence succeeded. Even the batteries 
were still. It was the calm that precedes the storm. 
To those on the left, it seemed that the dispositions were 
a long time in making. When one has his courage 
screwed to the sticking point, the more quickly he can 
plunge in and have it over the better. The suspense 
was terrible. 

The Michigan brigade had ample time to survey the 
field in its front. First, the ground descended abrupt- 
ly into a broad ravine, or depression, through which 
ran a small creek. Beyond the top of the opposite 
ascent was a wide plateau of rather level ground, then 
another ravine and a dry ditch ; then a rise and anoth- 
er depression, from which the ground sloped up to a 
belt of timber stretching clear across the front, almost 
to the pike. In the edge of the timber was the enemy's 
main line of battle, behind piles of rails and logs. Half 



422 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

way down the slope was a strong skirmish line along 
a rail fence. Behind the fence, on a knoll, was the 
battery, which had annoyed us so much. The brigade 
was formed with the First Michigan on the right, the 
Seventh on the left, the Sixth and Fifth in the center, 
in- the order named. Each regiment was in column of 
battalions, making three lines of two ranks each. 
Martin's battery was to continue firing until the cav- 
alry came into the line of fire. 

At length, the expected order came. The bugles 
sounded, "Forward." Simultaneously, from the right 
to the left the movement began. At first, slowly, 
then faster. It was a glorious sight to see that mag- 
nificent line sweeping onward in the charge. Far, far 
away to the right it was visible. There were no re- 
serves, no plans for retreat, only one grand, absorbing 
thought — to drive them back and retake the camps. 
Heavens, what a din ! All along the confederate line, 
the cannon volleyed and thundered. The union artil- 
lery replied. The roll of musketry became incessant. 
The cavalry crossed the first ravine and moving over 
the level plateau, came into a raking fire of artillery 
and musketry. Pressing on, they crossed the second 
ravine and ditch. The slope was reached and, charg- 
ing up to the rail fence, the first line of hostile infantry 
fell back. But the cavalry had gone too fast for the 
infantry. Sheridan says faster than he intended, for 
his intention was to swing his right wing and drive the 
enemy across the pike into the arms of the left wing 



"MAJOR WE WANT THOSE GUNS" 423 

on the east side ; the too swift advance of the First cav- 
alry division frustrated the plan. The brigade next 
to the pike, exposed to a galling crossfire, wavered and 
slowly retired. The entire line then gave way and re- 
treated rapidly, but in good order, to the first ravine, 
where it halted and reformed. In a short time the 
charge was again sounded. This time the fence was 
reached. The right of the Sixth Michigan was direct- 
ly in front of the battery, as was also, the First Mich- 
igan. General Merritt, who was riding by the side of 
Major Deane, said: "Major, we want those guns." 
"Ail right, we will get them," gallantly responded the 
major, and through and over the fence rode the brave 
cavalrymen. The First Michigan made a dash for the 
battery, but it was not ours this time for, seeing that 
the Sixth corps had received a temporary check, the 
cavalry once more fell back to the nearest ravine, and 
whirling into line, without orders, was ready instantly 
for the last supreme effort, which was not long delayed. 
The charge was sounded. The infantry responded 
with a shout. This time the cavalry pressed right on 
up the slope. The enemy did not stand to meet the 
determined assault but gave way in disorder. The line 
pushed into the woods and then it was every regiment 
for itself. The First, under Major Duggan, charged 
toward the pike, but Devin, being nearer reached the 
bridge first. The Seventh, under Lieutenant Colonel 
Briggs, charging through a field, captured, seemingly, 
more prisoners than it had men. The Sixth, under 



424 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

Major Deane, who knew the country well, did not 
pause until it reached Buckton's Ford, on the Shenan- 
doah river, returning late at night with many prisoners 
and a battle flag for which Private Ulric Crocker, of 
Troop "M," received one of the medals awarded by act 
of congress. The Fifth, under Major Hastings, 
charged down a road leading to one of the fords of the 
Shenandoah, Major Philip Mothersill, with one bat- 
talion, going so far that he did not rejoin the command 
till the next day.* 

Thus ended the battle of Cedar Creek. Darkness, 
alone, saved Early's army from capture. As it was, 
most of his artillery and wagons were taken. 

It is needless to tell how Sheridan broke Early's left 
by an assault with the Nineteenth corps and Custer's 
cavalry at the same moment of the last successful 
charge upon his right. It was a famous victory^ 
though not a bloodless one. Of the gallant men who 
went into the fight that morning on the union side, 588 
never came out alive. Three thousand five hundred 
and sixteen were wounded. Early did not lose so 
many but his prestige was gone, his army destroyed 

*"The First brig-ade, in column of Reg-iments in line, moved forward like an 
immense wave, slowly at first, but gaining strength and speed as it progressed, 
overwhelmed a battery and its supports amidst a devastating shower of canis- 
ter and a deadly fire of musketry from part of Kershaw's division, at short 
range from a heavy wood to our left. Never has the mettle of the division been 
put to a severer test than at this time, and never did it stand the test better. 
The charge was made on an enemy well formed and prepared to receive it with 
guns double-shotted with canister."— General Merritt's official report. Records. 
Vol, XLIII, Part I, page 450. 



DEATH OF CAPTAIN SHIER 425 

and, from that moment, for the confederacy to continue 
the hopeless struggle was criminal folly. 

Cedar Creek was the ending of the campaign in the 
Shenandoah valley. There was some desultory 
skirmishing, but no real fighting thereafter. 

Among the wounded were Captain Charles Shier, jr. 
and Captain Darius G. Maynard, both of the First 
Michigan cavalry. Captain Shier died on the 31st of 
October. He was w^ounded in the charge on the con- 
federate battery. Captain Shier was as gallant an 
officer as any who periled his life on that famous bat- 
tle field; and not only a fine soldier but a polished 
scholar and an accomplished gentleman as well. He 
was a distinguished son of the state of Michigan and 
of the noble university which bears its name. In his 
life and in his death he honored both. Massachusetts 
remembers the nam.e and reveres the memory of 
Charles Lowell. Mothers recite to their children the 
circumstances of his heroic death, and in the halls of 
Harvard a tablet has been placed in his honor. 
Charles Shier is a name which ought to be as proudly 
remembered in Michigan and in Ann Arbor as is that 
of Charles Lowell in Massachusetts and in Cambridge. 
Cut fate, in its irony, has decreed that the nimbus 
which surrounds the brow of a nation's heroes shall 
be reserved for the few whom she selects as types, and 
these more often than otherwise idealized types chosen 
by chance or by accident. These alone may w^ear the 
laurel that catches the eye of ideality and furnishes 



426 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

the theme for the poet's praise. Others must be con- 
tent to shine in reflected light or to be forgotten. The 
best way is to follow William Winter's advice and 
neither crave admiration nor expect gratitude. After 
all, the best reward that can come to a man is that 
intimate knowledge of himself which is the sure 
foundation of self-respect. The adulation of the peo- 
ple is a fugitive dream, as Admiral Dewey knows now, 
if he did not suspect it before. 

In the original manuscript of the foregoing chapter, 
written in the year 1886, Lowell was represented as 
marching "without orders" from right to left with his 
own brigade and the Michigan brigade. In the text 
the words "without orders" have been omitted. This 
is not because my own recollection of the events of that 
day is not the same now as then, but for the reason that 
I am reluctant to invite controversy by giving as state- 
m.ents of fact things that rest upon the evidence of my 
own unsupported memory. 

After the manuscript had been prepared, it was re- 
ferred to General Merritt with a request that he point 
out any errors or inaccuracies that he might note, as 
it was intended for publication. This request elicited 
the following reply: 

"West Point, December 2, 1886. 
"GeneralJ. H. Kidd, 

"My Dear General: 
'* So much has been written as to the details of the war that L 
have stopped reading the war papers in the best magazines, even. 



' ' FICTION ' ' VERSUS ' ' HISTORY ' ' 427 

An officer writes one month what is to him a truthful account of 
events and the next month that account is contradicted by three or 
four in print with dozens of others who content themselves with 
contradicting it in talk. The account you send me of Cedar Creek 
is not more accurate than the rest. 

"The morning of the attack Lowell's brigade had been ordered 
to make a reconnoissance on the 'Middle road. ' This order was 
given by me the evening before. The picket line of the First 
brigade was attacked before the Reserve brigade moved out, and 
Lowell was ordered to hold his brigade in hand to help the First 
brigade if the attack was pressed. 

" Soon after, the fighting on the left of our army was heavy, as 
shown by the artillery fire, and stragglers commenced coming 
across towards the back road. These were stopped and formed as 
far as possible by my headquarters escort — the Fifth U. S. cav- 
alry. About this time Devin's brigade (my Second) was ordered 
to the left of our line to cover and hold the valley pike. 

"About ten o'clock, the remainder of the First division was 
moved to the left of the infantry line and disposed so as to con- 
nect with the infantry and cover the valley pike. This was soon 
done, the Second brigade (Devin's) occupying the right, the Re- 
serve brigade (Lowell's) the center, and the First brigade 
(Kidd's) the left of the division line of battle. 

" This is the account of the first part of the battle taken from 
my report written at the time. The movement of Lowell's brigade 
and your own by agreement, and without orders, was impossible. 
We had all been posted where we were as part of a line of battle, 
and any soldier who took a command without orders from one part 
of a line to another subjected himself to the penalty of being 
cashiered, as such action might jeopardize the safety of an army. 

" The principle of marchmg to the sound of battle when you are 
distant and detached and without orders that contemplate the con- 
tingency is well defined, but for a commander to leave without 
orders one part of a line of battle because there appears to be 



428 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

heavier fighting at another is al). wrong and could not be tolerated. 
" I should be glad to renew our acquaintance and talk over the 
war, though as I have intimated I am sick of the fiction written 
with reference to it. 

' ' Truly yours, 

W. Merritt." 

General Merritt in his letter omits one clause in his 
quotation from his report written at the time which 
seems to me to have an important bearing upon this 
question. The clause is as follows : 

"The First brigade was at once ordered to the support of its 
picket line." 

Or to quote the passage in its entirety : 

"About 4 a. m. on the 19th an attack was made on the pickets 
of the First brigade near Cupp's ford, which attack, coupled with 
the firing on the extreme left of the infantry line, alarmed the 
camps, and everything was got ready for immediate action. The 
First brigade was at once ordered to the support of its picket line, 
while the Reserve brigade, which had the night before received 
orders to make a reconnoissance on the Middle road, was ordered 
to halt and await further orders. This brigade had advanced in 
the execution of its reconnoissance to the picket line, and subse- 
quently acted for a short time with the First brigade in repelling 
the attack of the enemy, feebly made on that part of the field. 
Soon after moving from camp the heavy artillery firing and im- 
mense number of infantry stragglers making across the country 
to the Back road from our left, showed that it was in that direction 
the heavy force of the enemy was advancing. The Fifth U. S. 
cavalry attached to the division headquarters was deployed across 
the field and, together with the officers and orderlies of the divis- 




THOMAS C. DEVm 



TOWARD THE SOUND OF BATTLE 429 

ion staff did much toward preventing the infantry going to the 
rear. About the same time the Second brigade (General Devin) 
was ordered to move to the left of the line, cover and hold the pike, 
and at the same time deploy men in that part of the field to pre- 
vent fugitives going to the rear." 

The rule about moving toward the sound of battle is 
succinctly stated by General Merritt in his letter and 
does not admit of controversy. But I may in all fair- 
ness call attention to the conditions that existed at the 
time when it was asserted that Colonel Lowell took the 
responsibility to move his brigade from the picket line 
to the rear, if not to the left, and order the First brig- 
ade to follow. The division line of battle of which the 
three brigades had been a part had been broken up. 
There was no division line of battle. The First 
brigade had been ordered to reinforce its picket line. 
The Reserve brigade which on the night before received 
the order to make a reconnoissance in the morning was 
held to support the First brigade and had "advanced 
as far as the picket line." Devin's brigade had been 
ordered to the valley pike to hold it and "deploy men 
to prevent fugitives going to the rear." May it not 
then be said with truth that he was "distant and de- 
tached" and "without orders that contemplate the con- 
tingency?" The enemy that attacked "feebly" had 
disappeared. There was in sight no picket line either 
of the enemy's or of our own. There was visible no 
line of skirmishers or of battle. The "fighting on the 
left of our army as shown by the artillery fire" was not 



430 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

only "heavy," as described by General Merritt, but in- 
dicated clearly by the sound that the army was falling 
back. Lowell's movement was under the circum- 
stances entirely justifiable. That he moved from the 
picket line to the rear voluntarily, and that he took the 
responsibility to order the Michigan brigade to follow, 
is as certain as that when the moon passes between the 
earth and the sun it causes an eclipse. 

The march from the picket line to the pike was con- 
tinuous. There was no halting for formations of any 
kind. It is quite possible, however, that the staff offi- 
cer who conveyed the order from General Merritt found 
Lowell in motion in the right direction and delivered 
the order to him to cover the movement of both brig- 
ades. I do not remember receiving any order except 
the one from Lowell until after reaching the pike. 

One more point and this subject, which has been giv- 
en more space perhaps than it ought to, will be left to 
the reader. General Merritt's report takes up the 
matter of arranging the division line of battle with the 
formation at "about ten o'clock," with the Second brig- 
ade on the right, next to the pike, the Reserve brigade 
in the center, and the First brigade on the left. That 
was some time after the arrival of the two brigades. 
The fiirst position taken by the First brigade was next 
the pike in rear of Lowell and Devin. Martin's bat- 
tery was posted originally close to the pike and it was 
while there that my horse was shot. I still believe 
that it was not much after nine o'clock when we first 



LOSSES IN THE CAMPAIGN 431 

formed on the left of Getty's division. The subse- 
quent rearrangement of the line is referred to in the 
text and was exactly as described in General Merritt's 
report. 

The following table of killed and wounded in the 
Michigan cavalry brigade in the Shenandoah Valley 
campaign is compiled from the official records in the 
office of the adjutant general of Michigan: 

First Fifth Sixth Sevonth 

Michigan Michigan Michigan Michigan Total 

Winchester 16 8 7 8 39 

Shepherdstown 1 5 1 7 

Middletown _ 1 .. _. _. 1 

Smithfield 2 4 2 3 11 

On Picket-.. 1 .. .. .. 1 

Cedar Creek 3 5 6 2 16 

By Mosby's Men .. 18 .. .. 18 

Front Royal .. 2 .. 2 4 

Newtown ._ 4 __ ._ 4 

Tom's Brook .. ._ .. ._ 2 

Berryville __ .... 1 1 

Total... .__ 24 46 17 17 104 

Recapitulation— Killed and died of wounds, Shenan- 
doah Valley: 

First Michigan __ 24 

Fifth Michigan 46 

Sixth Michigan 17 

Seventh Michigan 17 

Total ._ ^ 104 



432 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

The following table of killed and wounded in the 
First cavalry division in the battle of Cedar Creek is 
taken from the official war records : * 

First Brigade — 

Officers and men killed 10 

Officers and men wounded 43 

Officers and men killed and wounded.. 53 
Second Brigade — 

Officers and men killed... 3 

Officers and men wounded 16 

Officers and men killed and wounded ._ 19 
Reserve Brigade — 

Officers and men killed 9 

Officers and men wounded 27 

Officers and men killed and wounded.. 36 

Total killed and wounded, First Brigade 53 

Total killed and wounded Second and 
Reserve Brigades 55 

It is thus seen that the First brigade lost in killed 
and wounded within two of as many as both the other 
brigades — almost fifty per cent of the entire losses of 
the division. 

Custer's division of two brigades lost 2 killed and 
24 wounded, 

Powell's division of two brigades lost 1 killed, 8 
wounded. 

In other words, while the entire of the Second and 

*Records, Series I. Vol. XLIII, part I, page 136. 



A COMPARISON OF LOSSES 433 

Third divisions — four brigades — lost but 35 killed and 
wounded, the Michigan brigade alone lost 53 in this 
battle. Thirty-four per cent of the entire losses killed 
and wounded in the cavalry corps were in this one 
brigade.* 

These figures give point to the statement of General 
Merritt in a communication to the adjutant general of 
the First cavalry division, dated November 4, 1864, 
that the list of killed and wounded in a battle is pre- 
sumptive evidence of the degree and kind of service 
performed.! General Merritt also gives the Michigan 
brigade credit for "overwhelming a battery, and its 
supports," in other words capturing the battery. 

♦Records, Series I, Vol. XLIII, part I. paeea 136-37. 
tRecords. Series I, VoL XLIII. part I, pa^e 463. 



CHAPTER XXIII 

A MYSTERIOUS WITNESS 

IN the latter part of the winter of 1864-65 I was 
detailed as president of a military com- 
mission, called to meet in Winchester to try 
a man charged with being a spy, a guerrilla, 
a dealer in contraband goods, and a bad and 
dangerous man. The specifications recited that 
the accused had been a member of the noto- 
rious Harry Gilmor's band of partisans; that he had 
been caught wearing citizen's clothes inside the union 
lines ; and that he was in the habit of conveying quinine 
and other medical supplies into the confederacy. He 
was a mild mannered, inoffensive appearing person 
who had been an employe of the Baltimore and Ohio 
railroad company. He appeared under guard, before 
the commission, at its daily sessions, accompanied by 
his counsel, a leading attorney of Winchester, whose 
learning and ability were not less pronounced than was 
the quality of his whisky, samples of which he, at ir- 
regular intervals, brought in for the solace, if not for the 
seduction of the court. It was no more like the article 
commonly called whisky than Mumm's extra dry is like 
the pink lemonade of circus time. It had an oily ap- 



ONE OF SHERIDAN'S "SCOUTS" 435 

pearance, an aromatic flavor, and the lawyer averred 
that there was not a headache in a barrel of it, though 
he was the only one who ever had an opportunity to 
test the truth of the statement and there is no doubt 
that he knew. 

The prisoner exhibited a surprising degree of sang 
froid considering the grave crimes with which he was 
charged, the penalty of conviction for any one of which 
was death. This attitude of the accused puzzled the 
commission not a little, for he acted like either a very 
hardened criminal, or a man who was both conscious of 
innocence and confident of acquittal, and he did not 
look like "a. very bad man." 

The case was on trial when the army moved. Gen- 
eral Sheridan seemed to lay much stress on the matter 
for he refused the request of the president of the com- 
mission to be relieved in order to rejom his regiment. 
A personal letter from General Merritt to General For- 
sythe, chief -of-staff, making the same request was neg- 
atived and an order issued directing the commission 
to remain in session until that particular case was dis- 
posed of and providing that such members as should 
then desire it, be relieved and their places filled by 
others. 

During the progress of the trial the commission was 
informed that a very important witness had been de- 
tained under guard, by order of General Sheridan, in 
order that his testimony might be taken. On the wit- 
ness's first appearance it was noticed that the guard 



436 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

detail was very careful to give him no opportunity to 
escape. He proved to be a person of most noticeable 
appearance. Rather above than under six feet, well- 
built, straight, athletic, with coal-black hair worn 
rather long, a keen, restless black eye, prominent 
features, well-dressed, and with a confident, devil-may- 
care bearing, he was altogether, a most striking figure. 
His name was Lemoss ; his testimony to the point and 
unequivocal. He acknowledged having been a guer- 
rilla, himself. He had, he said, been a member of 
Gilmor's band and of other equally notorious com- 
mands. He had deserted and tendered his services 
as a scout and they had been accepted by General Sher- 
idan. He swore that he knew the prisoner ; had seen 
him serving with Gilmor; and knew that he had been 
engaged in the practices charged. 

After this witness had given his testimony the court 
saw no more of him, but he left a very bad impression 
on the minds of the members and there was not one of 
them who did not feel, and give voice to the suspicion 
that there was something mysterious about him which 
was not disclosed at the trial. When news of the as- 
sassination of the president came to Winchester, all 
wondered if he did not have something to do with it and 
the name "Lemoss" was instantly on the lips of every 
one of us. He had, in the meantime disappeared. 

When I met General Sheridan in Petersburg, after 
the surrender, and he inquired what disposition had 
been made of that case I told him of the distrust of the 



EARLY'S SPIES AT HEADQUARTERS 437 

principal witness and that it was the unanimous opin- 
ion of the commission that the witness was a much more 
dangerous man than the prisoner. The general smiled 
and remarked, rather significantly I thought, that he 
kept Early's spies at his headquarters all winter, let- 
ting them suppose that they were deceiving him, and 
that before the army moved he had sent them off on 
false scents. The inference I drew from the conver- 
sation was that Lemoss was one of those spies and that 
the trial was a blind for the purpose of keeping him 
where he could do no harm, without letting him know 
that he was under suspicion. Nothing more was said 
about the matter, and I presume that, at the time, Gen- 
eral Sheridan did not know what had become of Le- 
moss. 

Soon after the grand review, my regiment 
was ordered to the west and, while en route to Leaven- 
worth, Kansas, I stopped over night in St. Louis. 
When reading the morning paper at the breakfast 
table, I came upon an item which was dated in some 
New England city, Hartford or New Haven, I think, 
stating that a man by the name of Lemoss, who had 
been a scout at Sheridan's headquarters in the Shenan- 
doah valley, had been arrested by the police in the city 
in question and papers found on his person tending to 
show that he had been in some way implicated in the 
plot to assassinate President Lincoln. This recalled 
to my mind the surmises in Winchester on the day of 
the event and also the hint thrown out by General Sher- 



438 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

idan in reply to my question in Petersburg. I cut the 
slip out, intending to keep it, but before my return to 
the states a long time afterwards, had both lost it and 
temporarily forgotten the circumstance. It was not 
until many years had elapsed and I began to think of 
putting my recollections of the war into form for 
preservation, that all these things came back to my 
mind. I have often told the story to comrades at reg- 
imental or army reunions. The conjectures of the 
members of the military commission ; the suggestion of 
General Sheridan that Lemoss was a confederate spy; 
and the newspaper clipping in St. Louis ; all seemed so 
coincident as to form a pretty conclusive chain of evi- 
dence connecting the Winchester witness with the con- 
spiracy. I never learned what was done with him 
after the arrest in New England. 

Recently, when consulting Sheridan's memoirs to 
verify my own remembrance of the dates of certain 
events in the Shenandoah campaign, what was my sur- 
prise to find that the purport of a passage bearing di- 
rectly upon this subject had entirely escaped my atten- 
tion on the occasion of a first reading soon after the 
book appeared. 

On page 108, volume 2, appears the following : 

" A man named Lomas, who claimed to be a Marylander, offered 
me his services as a spy, and coming highly recommended from 
Mr. Stanton, who had made use of him in that capacity, I em- 
ployed him. He made many pretensions, was more than ordi- 
narily intelligent, but my confidence in him was by no means un- 



A SCOUT NAMED "RENFREW* 439 

limited. I often found what he reported corroborated by Young's 
men, but generally, there were discrepancies in his tales which 
led me to suspect that he was employed by the enemy as well as 
by me. I felt however, that with good watching, he could do me 
very little harm and, if my suspicions were incorrect, he might be 
very useful, so I held on to him. 

" Early in February Lomas was very solicitous for me to em- 
ploy a man, who, he said, had been with Mosby, but on account of 
some quarrel had abandoned that leader. Thinking that with two 
of them I might destroy the railroad bridge east of Lynchburg, I 
concluded after the Mosby man had been brought to my head- 
quarters, by Lomas about 12 o'clock one night, to give him em- 
ployment at the same time informing Colonel Young that I sus- 
pected their fidelity and that he must test it by shadowing their 
every movement. When Lomas's companion entered my room he 
was completely disguised but on discarding the various contriv- 
ances by which his identity was concealed he proved to be a 
rather slender, dark-complexioned, handsome young man, of easy 
address and captivating manners. He gave his name as " Ren- 
frew," answered all questions satisfactorily, and went into details 
about Mosby and his men which showed an intimacy with them at 
some time. I explained the work I had laid out for them, * * 
* * * They assented and it was arranged that they should start 
the following night. Meantime Young had selected his men to 
shadow them and, two days later, they reported my spies as being 
concealed in Strasburg without making the slightest effort to con- 
tinue on their mission. On the 16th of February, they returned 
and reported their failure, telling so many lies as to remove all 
doubt as to their double-dealing. Unquestionably, they were 
spies, but it struck me that through them I might deceive Early 
as to the time of opening the spring campaign. I therefore, re- 
tained the men without even a suggestion of my knowledge of 
their true character. Young, meantime, kept close watch over all 
their doings. " 



440 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

General Sheridan then, after giving a summary of 
the scattered locations of the various portions of 
Early's army continues as follows: 

"It was my aim to get well on the road before Early could 
collect these scattered forces and as the officers had been in the 
habit of amusing themselves during the winter by fox-hunting, I 
decided to use the hunt as an expedient for stealing a march on 
the enemy and had it given out that a grand fox-chase would take 
place on the 29th of February. Knowing that Lomas and Ren- 
frew would spread the announcement south they were permitted 
to see several red foxes as well as a pack of hounds which had 
been secured for the sport and were then started on a second 
expedition to burn the bridges. Of course, they were shadowed, 
and two days later were arrested in Newtown. On the way north, 
they escaped from their guards when passing through Baltimore, 
and I never heard of thsm again, though I learned that, after the 
assassination of Mr. Lincoln, Secretary Stanton strongly sus- 
pected his friend Lomas of being associated with the conspirators 
and it then occurred to me that the good-looking Renfrew may 
have been Wilkes Booth, for he certainly bore a strong re- 
semblance to Booth's pictures. " 

There is no doubt that "Lemoss," the witness, and 
the "Lomas" of General Sheridan's narrative, were one 
and the same person. When he wrote the account 
from which the foregoing is an extract. General Sheri- 
dan had, probably, forgotten about leaving the spies in 
Winchester under guard where they remained until 
he was well on his way towards Appomattox. After 
giving his testimony, Lomas and Renfew were sent 
north under guard by General Hancock, Sheridan's suc- 
cessor as commander of the Middle Military Division, 



WAS HE WILKES BOOTH 441 

and making their escape as explained in Sheridan's 
narrative, Wilkes Booth, alias Renfrew, was able to 
carry out his part of the plot. It is, also, quite proba- 
ble that Lomas's part in the conspiracy was to assassi- 
nate either General Sheridan or Secretary Stanton, but, 
that the scheme was interrupted by the detention of 
the two spies in Winchester coupled with the unexpect- 
ed opening of the spring campaign. It is likely that 
the arrest of the two conspirators led to a postpone- 
ment of the date of the assassination and that the 
scope of the plot as originally conceived in the fertile 
brain of Booth, was very much abridged. There was 
never in my own mind a particle of doubt, from the 
moment we heard the news of the president's death, 
that the man Lomas or Lemoss had something to do 
with it. The fact that he was on terms of intimacy 
with Secretary Stanton and contrived to be stationed 
at Sheridan's headquarters, seems to point conclusively 
to the part he was to play in the tragedy. At that 
time, Sheridan was considered, perhaps, the most dan- 
generous enemy the confederacy had to fear and his 
name must have been high up in the list of those 
marked by the conspirators for assassination. 

An amusing incident occurred as this trial neared 
its close. The defense asked to have William Prescott 
Smith, master of transportation of the Baltimore and 
Ohio railroad, summoned as a witness. His residence 
was Baltimore and he was summoned by wire, the tele- 
gram bearing the name of General Hancock, command- 



442 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

er of the department. Mr. Smith did not want to 
come to Winchester and urged the commission to go to 
Baltimore. Failing to secure acquiescence in that 
proposition, he suggested as a compromise, that the 
commission meet him half-way by going to Harper's 
Ferry. This was agreed to and on the appointed day, 
the commission took passage on a special train con- 
sisting of a locomotive and one passenger coach taking 
along the prisoner and a guard. Harper's Ferry was 
reached a little after dark and a messenger from Mr. 
Smith met us with the compliments of that gentleman 
and a request that we proceed to his private car. The 
invitation was accepted and the party was received by 
the railroad magnate with every manifestation of wel- 
come and a courtesy that seemed to be entirely unaf- 
fected. It was found that the most generous and 
thoughtful provision had been made for our comfort. 
The colored chef prepared a dinner which would have 
tickled the palate of an epicure, much more those of a 
quartet of hungry officers directly from the front. 
There were champagne and cigars in abundance of a 
quality such as would have been good enough had Gen- 
eral Hancock himself been the guest. The host was 
courtesy itself, an excellent raconteur, a good fellow, 
and a gentleman. He could not have treated the pres- 
ident and his cabinet with more distinguished con- 
sideration that that with which he honored that little 
party of volunteer officers. 

Late in the evening his testimony was taken and he 



MR. SMITH'S HANDSOME "JOKE" 443 

gave the prisoner a very good character. We slept in 
his car and in the morning had a breakfast that suit- 
ably supplemented the elegant dinner. Some more 
choice cigars, and then Mr, Smith's private car was at- 
tached to an ingoing train and he departed for Balti- 
more. At the very last moment before his train start- 
ed, Mr. Smith said: 

"Pardon me, gentlemen, but it is too good a joke to 
keep and I am sure that you will appreciate it now 
better than you would have done last night. When 
you wired me to come, you know, General Hancock's 
name was signed to the telegram. I supposed I was 
to entertain him and don't mind telling you, frankly, 
that the dinner was provided with especial reference 
to his supposed partiality for the good things of life. 
I don't mean to say I would not have done the same 
thing for you. I certainly would now that I know you, 
but, all the same, please say to the general that I ex- 
pected him and regret much that he was not one of 
the party so that 1 might have had the pleasure of en- 
tertaining him as well as yourselves. And, by the 
way, he continued, when I urged you to come to Balti- 
more it had been arranged that the mayor and a large 
number of prominent citizens of the city were to meet 
you at a banquet to have been given at the Eutaw 
House in honor of General Hancock." 

The refined courtesy of the gentleman was some- 
thing that has been rarely surpassed. 

Mr. Smith was a thoroughbred. 



CHAPTER XXIV 

A MEETING WITH MOSBY 

A T the time of the surrender of Lee and the fall 
•^^ of Richmond about the only confederate force in 
the Shenandoah Valley was Mosby's band. The last 
of Early's army had been swept away by Sher- 
idan's advance, led by Custer, and for the first time 
since 1860, that beautiful valley was free from 
the movements of armed forces confronting each other 
in hostile array. The bold and dashing partisan was, 
however, capable of doing much mischief and it was 
thought best by General Hancock to treat with him and 
see if he would not consent to a cessation of hostilities 
and, possibly, take the parole. Accordingly, an agree- 
ment was made to meet him at Millwood, a little town 
a few miles distant from Winchester and near the 
mountains. General Chapman, a cavalry officer, was 
selected to conduct the negotiations and with an escort 
of two regiments left early on the morning of the day 
designated for the rendezvous agreed upon. Not yet 
having been relieved from duty there I readily obtained 
permission to acompany the expedition. I was early 
in the saddle and joining a party of staff officers, struck 
across country, arriving at about the same time as the 



IN MOSBY'S OWN TERRITORY 445 

escort which took the main road. 

The region to which we were going was one of the 
favorite haunts of Mosby and his men and it produced 
a queer sensation to thus ride peacefully through a 
country where for four long years, the life or liberty 
of the union soldier caught outside the lines had been 
worth not a rush, unless backed by force enough to hold 
its own against an enemy. There never had been a time 
since our advent into this land of the philistines (a 
land literally flowing with milk and honey) when we 
could go to Millwood without a fight, and here we were 
going without molestation, right into the lair of the 
most redoubtable of all the partisan leaders. 

But Mosby's word was law in that section. His fiat 
had gone forth that there was to be a truce, and no 
union men were to be molested until it should be de- 
clared off. There was, therefore, no one to molest or 
make us afraid. No picket challenged. Not a scout 
or vidette was seen. The country might have been 
deserted, for all the indications of life that could be 
heard or seen. The environment seemed funereal and 
the ride could hardly be described as a cheerful one. 
Each one was busy with his own thoughts. All won- 
dered if the end had really come, or was it yet afar off? 
Lee had surrounded but Johnson had not. Would 
he? 

The chief interest, for the time being, how- 
ever, centered in the coming interview with Mosby, 
under a flag of truce. If he could be prevailed upon 



446 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

to take the parole there would not be an armed confed- 
erate in that part of Virginia. 

It had been expected that he would be there first but 
he was not and his arrival was eagerly awaited. 
The escort was massed near a large farm house, the 
owner of which was very hospitable and had arranged 
to give the two commands a dinner. 

The officers were soon dispersed in easy attitudes 
about the porches and lawn or under the shade of 
friendly trees, smoking and chatting about the inter- 
esting situation. Eager glances were cast in the di- 
rection from which our old foe was expected to come, 
and there was some anxiety lest he should fail to meet 
the appointment after all. But, at length, when the 
forenoon was pretty well spent, the sound of a bugle 
was heard. All sprang to their feet. In a moment, 
the head of a column of mounted men emerged from a 
woody screen on the high ground, toward the east, as 
though coming straight out of the mountain, and pres- 
ently, the whole body of gray troopers came into view. 

It was a gallant sight, a thrilling scene, for all the 
world like a picture from one of Walter Scott's novels ; 
and to the imagination, seemed a vision of William 
Wallace or of Rob Roy. The place itself was a pictur- 
esque one — a little valley nestling beneath the foot-hills 
at the base of the mountains whose tops towered to the 
sky. Hills and wooded terraces surrounded it, shut- 
ting it in on all sides, obstructing the view and leaving 
the details of the adjacent landscape to the imagination. 



TO THE SOUND OF THE BUGLE'S NOTE 447 

Mosby evidently had arranged his arrival with a 
view to theatric effect — though it was no mimic stage 
on which he was acting — for it was to the sound of the 
bugle's note that he burst into view and, like a high- 
land chief coming to a lowland council, rode proudly 
at the head of his men. Finely uniformed and mount- 
ed on a thorough bred sorrel mare, whose feet spurned 
the ground, he pranced into our presence. Next came 
about sixty of his men, including most of the officers, 
all, like himself, dressed in their best and superbly 
mounted. It was a goodly sight to see. 

General Chapman advanced to meet the commander 
as he dismounted and the two officers shook hands cor- 
dially. There were then introductions all around and 
in a few moments, the blue and the gray were inter- 
mingling on the most friendly terms. 

It was difficult to believe that we were in the pres- 
ence of the most daring and audacious partisan leader, 
at the same time that he was one of the most intrepid 
and successuful cavalry officers in the confederate ser- 
vice. He was wary, untiring, vigilant, bold, and no 
federal trooper ever went on picket without the feeling 
that this man might be close at hand watching to take 
advantage of any moment of unwariness. He had 
been known in broad daylight, to dash right into fed- 
eral camps, where he was outnumbered a hundred to 
one, and then make his escape through the fleetness of 
his horses and his knowledge of the by-roads. On 
more than one occasion, he had charged through a 



448 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

union column, disappearing on one flank as quickly as 
he had appeared on the other. His men, in union 
garb, were often in our camps mingling unsuspected 
with our men or riding by their side when on the 
march. 

We were prepared to see a large, fierce-looking 
dragoon but, instead, beheld a small, mild-mannered 
man not at all like the ideal. But, though small, he 
was wiry, active, restless and full of fire. 

''How much do you weigh, colonel?" I asked as I 
shook his hand and looked inquiringly at his rather 
slender figure. 

"One hundred and twenty-eight pounds," said he. 

"Well, judging from your fighting reputation, I 
looked for a two hundred pounder, at least," I re- 
plied. 

His spare form was set off by a prominent nose, a 
keen eye and a sandy beard. There was nothing 
ferocious in his appearance but when in the saddle he 
was not a man whom one would care to meet single- 
handed. There was that about him which gave evi- 
dence of alertness and courage of the highest order. 

It was astonishing to see officers of Mosby's com- 
mand walk up to union officers, salute and accost them 
by name. 

"Where did I meet you ?" would be the reply. 

"There was no introduction. I met you in your 
camp, though you were not aware of it at the time." 

Major Richards, a swarthy-looking soldier, re- 



MAKING FRIENDS WITH FOES 449 

marked to me that he was once a prisoner of the Fifth 
and Sixth Michigan cavalry. He was captured near 
Aldie, in the spring of 1863, and made his escape when 
the Michigan regiments were on the march back to 
Fairfax Court House, in the night, when his guards 
were not noticing, by falling out of the column and 
boldly ordering his captors to "close up" as they were 
coming out of a narrow place in the road when the 
column of fours had to break by twos. In the dark- 
ness and confusion he was mistaken for one of our own 
officers. After he had seen the column all "closed 
up" he rode the other way. 

After awhile the farmer called us in to dinner and 
the blue and the gray were arranged around the table, 
in alternate seats. I sat between two members of the 
celebrated Smith family. One of them, R. Chilton 
Smith, was a relative of General Lee, or of his chief- 
of-staff, a young man of very refined manners, highly 
educated and well bred. He sent a package and a 
message by me to a friend in Winchester, a commission 
that was faithfully executed. The other was the son 
of Governor, better known as "Extra Billy" Smith, of 
Virginia ; a short, sturdy youth, full of life and anima- 
tion and venom. 

"Mosby would be a blanked fool to take the parole," 
said he, spitefully. "I will not, if he does." 

"But Lee has surrendered. The jig is up. Why 
try to prolong the war and cause further useless 
bloodshed?" 



450 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

"I will never give up so long as there is a man in 
arms against your yankee government," he replied. 

"But what can you do? Richmond is ours." 

"I will go and join 'Joe' Johnston." 

"It is a question of but a few days, at most, when 
Sherman will bag him." 

"Then I will go west of the Mississippi, where Kirby 
Smith still holds the fort." 

"Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Thomas will make 
short work of Kirby Smith." 

"Then, if worst comes to worst," he hotly retorted, 
"I will go to Mexico and join Maximilian. I will 
never submit to yankee rule; never." 

I greatly enjoyed the young man's fervor and loy- 
alty to his "cause" and, in spite of his bitterness, we 
took quite a liking to each other and, on parting, he was 
profuse in his expressions of regard and urged me 
cordially not to forget him should fortune take me his 
way again. 

A day or two later, I was ordered to Petersburg, and 
soon thereafter, was in Richmond, Johnston having, in 
the meantime, surrendered. In the evening of the 
day of my arrival, after having visited the points of 
interest, Libby prison, the burnt district, the state 
house, etc., I was in the office of the Spotswood hotel 
where were numbers of federal and confederate sol- 
diers chatting pleasantly together, when I was saluted 
with a hearty : 

"Hello; how are you, colonel!" and, on looking 



REQUIESCAT IN PACE 451 

around, was surprised as well as pleased to see my 
young friend of the Millwood conference. 

I was mighty glad to meet him again and told him 
so, while he seemed to reciprocate the feeling. There 
was a cordial shaking of hands and after the first 
friendly greetings had been exchanged I said : 

"But what does this mean ? How about Mexico and 
Maximilian? Where is Mosby? What has been go- 
ing on in the valley? Tell me all about it." 

"Mexico be blanked" said he. "Mosby has taken the 
parole and so have I. The war is over and I am glad 
of it. I own up. I am subjugated. " 
The next day I met him again. 

"I would be only too glad to invite you to our home 
and show you a little hospitality," said he, "but your 
military governor has taken possession of our house, 
father has run away, and mother is around among the 
neighbors." 

I assured him of my appreciation of both his good will 
and of the situation and begged him to be at ease on 
my account. He very politely accompanied me in a 
walk around the city and did all he could to make my 
stay agreeable. 

I never saw him afterwards. When in Yorktown 
in 1881, 1 made inquiry of General Fitzhugh Lee about 
young Smith and learned that he was dead. I hope 
that he rests in peace, for although a "rebel" and a 
"guerrilla," as we called them in those days, he was 
a whole-hearted, generous, and courageous foe who. 



452 WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 

though but a boy in years, was ready to fight for the 
cause he believed in and, in true chivalrous spirit, 
grasp the hand of his former adversary in genuine 
kindness and good-fellowship. 

One other incident of the Millwood interview is per- 
haps worth narrating, 

A bright eyed young scamp of Mosby's command 
mounted the sorrel mare ridden by his chief, and 
flourishing a roll of bills which they had probably con- 
fiscated on some raid into yankee territory, rode back 
and forth in front of the lawn, crying out : 

**Here are two hundred dollars in greenbacks which 
say that this little, lean, sorrel mare of Colonel Mosby's, 
can outrun any horse in the yankee cavalry." 

The bet was not taken. 



THE END 






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458 



WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 



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LIST OF KILLED IN ACTION 



459 



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460 



WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 



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LIST OF KILLED IN ACTION 



461 



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462 



WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 



a 
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LIST OF KILLED IN ACTION 



463 



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464 



WITH THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY 



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DQ 



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LIST OF KILLED IN ACTION 



465 



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473 



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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS 



013 704 993 4