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Full text of "Some personal reminiscences of service in the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac"




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SOME 



PERSONAL REMINISCENCES 



OF 



SERVICE m THE CAVALRY 



OF THE 



ARMY OF THE POTOMAC. 



BY 

COLONEL HAMPTON S. THOMAS. 



REPRINTED FROM "THE UNITED SERVICE," JANUARY, 1889. 



PHILADELPHIA: 

L. R. HAMERSLY & CO. 

188 9. 






61503 
'05 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF SER- 
VICE IN THE CAVALRY OF THE ARMY 
OF THE POTOMAC. . 



At the earnest solicitation of my many military friends, I have thrown 
together some reminiscences of ray personal experience as a cavalry- 
man during the late War of the Rebellion. Though my four years 
of campaigning began with a three mouths' tour of tramping with 
the "dough-boys" under General Patterson in the spring and e^rly 
summer of 1861, the latter was only a prolonged picnic. Two days 
before I was mustered out of the Ninth Pennsylvania Infanjtry I 
enrolled myself in the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, and soon dis- 
covered that I was more fitted for riding a horse than for trudging 
through the slush and mud with a heavy " Harper's Ferry" musket 
on my shoulder. 

I will pass over the tedious instructions of the school of the trooper, 
mounted and dismounted, and begin ray reminiscences as a full-fledged 
Yankee cavalryman. 

The First Pennsylvania Cavalry, which originally belonged to the 
Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, began its experience as a fighting regi- 
ment in a skirmish and charge near Dranesville, Virginia, on November 
26, 1861, and, strange to" relate, the first man killed was our assist- 
ant surgeon. Dr. Alexander. The regiment's first experience of heavy 
firing was in the battle of Dranesville, on December 20. This en- 
gagement was fought by a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, 
coraraanded by General E. O. C. Ord, ray regiment supporting East- 
man's battery. The enemy had the same number of regiments and 
guns that we had, and their commanding oflScer was General J. E. E. 



2 SOME PERSONAL REMISISCENCF^. 

Stuart, but Ord outgeneraled him and gave us the victory, the rebels 
retreating from the field. 

The campai<,'n of the spring of 1S62 showed what some, at least, 
of the cavalrv did before General Hooker offered his liberal reward for 
a " dead cavalryman." ' Those who served in the Army of the Po- 
tomac will remember- that from the fall of 1861 to tiie summer of 
1862 the cavalry were for the most part scattered about and used as 
escorts, strikers, dog-robbers, and orderlies for all the generals and 
their numerous staff officers from the highest in rank down to the 
second lieutenants. The cavalry force under General George D. Bay- 
ard, then colonel of ray regiment, consisting of the First New Jersey, 
Second New York, and First Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiments, was 
the first brigade organized in that branch of the service in the United 
States army. The campaign began with easy marches to Catlett's 
Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and scouting to War- 
renton and Rappahannock Station. 

On the morning of the 17th of April we left Catlett's Station 
and moved in the direction of Falmouth. In this movement we 
were supported by a brigade of infantry commanded by General 
Augur. On the morning of the 18th, about three o'clock, we 
charged upon the heights of Falmouth, drove the enemy from their 
position, and captured tiie quaint old town, but we were unable to 
save the bridge spanning the river, as the enemy had set fire to the 
end on the Fredericksburg side. This was my first experience in 
a mounted charge of any consequence. In this engagement I was 
acting as assistant adjutant-general for Bayard, with the rank of first 
lieutenant. The success of our cavalry engagement gave Bayard his 
star and promoted me to the rank of captain and the command of a 
squadron. 

After a tour of scouting and picketing along the Rappahan- 
nock River south of Fredericksburg, we were assigned to General 
McDowell's corps of observation, which was composed of three 
divisions of infantry,— MoCall's, Shields's, and King's. The opera- 
tions of this corps were intended to serve either as a protection to 
the citv of Washington or as a reinforcement to McClellan on the 
Peninsula. 

About June 1 the cavalry took the advance on the telegraph road 
leading towards Richmond, and reached the forks of a road near Ilan- 

• In this connection it may be well to quote the following extract from an arti- 
cle in the Century MagaziM of May, 1888, by Colonel William F. Fox, entitled 
"The Chances of being hit in Battle": "The mmtor-ouf rolls of the various 
mounted commands show that there were ten thousand Bve hundred and ninety- 
six ' dead cavalrymen' who were killed in action during the war, of whom six 
hundred and seventy-one were officers, the proportionate loss of officers being 
greater than in the infantry." 



HOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 3 

over Court-Hoiise, to which place McClellan's patrols c:ime. While 
we who were in tiie advaiice-gnanl were congratulating ourselves upon 
getting under the right wing of" McClellan's army without a fight, our 
hopes were suddenly blasted by the following order sent to " Capt. 
Hamp. Thomas, Commanding Advance-Guard : Sir, — You will return 
with your command as rapidly as possible. Don't blow your horses if 
you can help it. Cross over to Falmouth and receive further instruc- 
tions. (Signed) G. D. B., B. G." 

When we reached Fredericksburg we noticed considerable excite- 
ment. General Shields's division had gone, tiie First New Jersey and 
First Pennsylvania Cavalry and four companies of the "Bucktails" 
were on the march northward, and the balance of our brigade of 
cavalry was left with King's and McCall's divisions. Upon report- 
ing to General Bayard, we learned the cause of all this rapid march- 
ing. The authorities at Washington had become frightened at Stone- 
wall Jackson's movement against General Banks, who was in the 
Shenandoah A^alley. This scattering of General McDowell's strong 
corps was fatal to General McClellan's plans while he was on the 
Peninsula. 

Then commenced one of the wildest marches I ever experienced. 
Day and night we marched through heavy I'ain-storms, over the moun- 
tains and swimming swollen streams. The last ten miles were made 
in one hour and twenty minutes, and we lost several horses foundered 
after crossing the Shenandoah River. We reached Strasburg, in the 
valley, on June 7, just in time to cut off the rear of Jackson's army. 
We had a running figiit all the way up the valley until we reached 
Harrisonburg, where we had a very severe engagement, — our two regi- 
ments of cavalry and the four companies of "Bucktails" against a di- 
vision of rebel infantry. The First New Jersey Cavalry lost its colonel 
and several officers captured, and the " Bucktails," Colonel Kane and 
Captain Fred. Taylor captured. The rebels lost heavily in killed and 
wounded, among the former being General Turner Ashby. General 
Fremont's command, which had crossed over from the Kanawha Val- 
ley, joined us at Harrisonburg the next day, when we moved towards 
Port Republic. Here Fremont's men had a very sharp engagement at 
Cross Keys on June 8. Our cavalry were only lookers-on in this 
fight, but Jackson succeeded in checking our forces with his rear-guard, 
while the head of his column crossed the bridge at Port llepublic, 
driving away Shields's advance, which had passed up the Luray Valley 
expecting to cut him off. They were too late, however, in reaching 
that point, for Jackson had slipped away and moved his men down to 
Richmond by rail, taking the same position which we were to have 
taken on McClellan's right flank. The result was the change of base, 
with all its hard fighting, hard marching, and heavy losses, to the 
James River at Harrison's Landing. 



4 SOME PERSONAL REMINlSCENCE'i. 

We then began a long and weary march down the valley, over 
rivers and monntains, to the vicinity of Cul|)e()er Court-House. On 
onr arrival there came the order for General Bayard's cavalry to 
re|Kirt to the head-quarters of the Array of Northern Virginia, J. 
Pope commanding, witii head-qnarters in the saddle. It took twenty 
wagons to haul that saddle ! We were assigned to picket and scouting 
duty, our linos stretching from Raccoon Ford to Burnett's Ford, on 
the Rapidan, a distance of fifteen miles. On the night of August 8 
our pickets were driven in a short distance from the river, and on the 
morning of tiie 9th commenced what is known as the battle of Cedar 
Mountain. In that engagement General Bayard showed the finest 
order of generalship. With four regiments of cavalry he held Jack- 
son's whole command of eighteen thousand men at bay from 4 a.m. 
until 4 P.M. This movement of Bayard's was made in echelons of 
squadrons, single-rank formation, and gave the idea to the enemy that 
we had about ten thousand nien in his front. The men of Crawford's 
and Hartsuff's brigades will bear witne.ss to the tenacity with which 
our cavalry held on until they came to our relief. 

To relate an incidrtit of what cavalrymen could do before a reward 
was offered for a dead one : During the afternoon a battery of four 
guns belonging to General Banks's command was left in a very ex- 
posed position. In front of these guns was an open field, and on the 
other side some woo<ls in which a bri>;ade of rebel infantry had formed 
in regimental front, four lines deep, and was moving out to capture the 
battery. General Banks asked General Bayard if the guns could l)e 
saved. Bayard, taking in the situation, ordered Major Falls, of the 
First Pennsylvania Cavalry, to charge his battalion upon the enemy's 
infantry. The charge was made, but only one company succeeded in 
reaching the etiemy. Some men of the company pa&sed through the 
lines and returned, while the balance of the battalion was repulsed 
before reaching the open field. The captain of the company was 
wounded in five places, the second lieutenant killed, — in fact, the 
company came near being wi|)e<l out of existence; and when the first 
lieutenant, Warren L. Holbrook, came to rally the remnant of his 
company he found but a corporal's guard. Knowing the modesty 
of that gallant officer, I take the lilwrty of mentioning his name. 
Eighty-eight hoi-ses were left dead on the field. The celebrate<l 
charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry at Chancellorsville is 
familiar to all ; but this charge of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry 
even excelled that in Iwldness, for when the Eighth Pennsylvania 
Cavalry made its charge it was in column of fours and in the wo<kIs, 
and it came ujwn the enemy nnex|)ectetlly. But the First Pennsyl- 
vania cavalrymen at C'edar Mountain saw what was in their front : a 
clear, open field and death staring them in the face, — cannon in fnmt 
of them and cannon to the left of them, — and theirs was a feat at arms 



SOME PEBSONAL REMINISCENCES. 5 

not unlike tlie charge of the Earl of Cardigan and his six hundred, 
made immortal bv Tennyson.* 

We remained in the vicinity of the battle-ground of Cedar Moun- 
tain, taking up our old positions, until the 18th of August, when the 
great game of chess between Lee and Pope commenced, Lee tryins; to 
capture Washington before McClellan could transjiort his troops from 
the Peninsula to the defense of our capital, wliiie we were trying to 
close the gaps in the mountains. Our cavalry did some sharp fighting 
during this backward movement of Pope's. But there was no op- 
portunity for us to attack the enemy's cavalry in mass until we 
arrived, on the 20th, on the open plains to the south of Rappahannock 
Station. Here Bayard formed his squadrons for a general attack. 
The enemy advanced a brigade of cavalry upon us, and they were met 
by the First New Jersey, First Pennsylvania, First Rhode Island, and 
Second New York Cavalry Regiments, with sabres drawn. We drove 
them back to Culpeper, and this check of their cavalry caused tiieir 
infantry columns to halt and go into position, while we mo%'ed leisurely 
back, giving our infantry and trains time to cross the several fords of 
the Rappahannock River. 

A few nights afterwards there was a terrific storm of thunder, 
lightning, and rain. It was impossible to recognize a person an arm's 
length away, and yet we received orders to move rapidly up the river 
road to Sulphur Springs, and thence by way of Warrenton to Tiiorough- 
fare Gap. The storm, however, delayed us until the next morning, 
when we resumed our march, and reached Thoroughfare Gap on the 
evening of August 26, but too late by one hour, for Jackson had 
slipped through ahead of us. We captured about six hundred of 
his stragglers and a very important dispatch from Longstreet to him, 
informing him that he would be through early next morning. This 
information was .sent to head-quarters, and General Rickett's division 
was sent to our support. Bayard's cavalry kept Longstreet's corps 
back for six hours, and they were no doubt long ones to Jackson, 
who was then at Manassas. 

On the morning of August 28 my regiment took position between 
Bull Run bridge and Groveton. Being in the advance with my squad- 
ron, I was ordered to deploy as skirmishers and develop the enemy, 
who were soon found, for they opened a battery upon me, and this was, 
I think, the beginning of the great battle of Second Bull Run. My 
squadron remained in this position all that day, with instructions to 

' The charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry was made historical by Gen- 
eral Pleasonton's ofiBcial report after the battle of ChancellorsviUe. Reports like 
that sometimes cover up a multitude of blunders and give credit only to those 
who are killed. They also sometimes make great newspaper generals of their au- 
thors, and the millions who rend the newspapers at home thus get their impressions 
as to who arc the great fighters at the front. 



6 SOME PERGONAL REMINISCENCES. 

keep a sharp lookout on Jnckson's right and report results to General 
Reynolds. My squadron at this time numbered ninety-five men, all 
armed witli carljines, revolvers, and sabres. 

General Bayard received orders that evening to mas.s his cavalry on 
the open ground to the left of the Gainesville pike and prepare for a 
gran<l charge and night attack on Jackson's right flank. Bayard, 
knowing that my men were familiar with that flank, sent me orders 
to retire quietly and report to him at the Burnt Chimneys, near the 
Bull Run bridge. This having been done, we were taken along the 
flank of the brigtide to the head of the column and were told what we 
were expected to do, — to lead (he charge and strike directly for the 
enemy's artillery, destroy its usefulness, if possible, and come out at the 
point where we had been picketing during the day, while Bayard was 
to lead the brigade in person down the right and left centres of the 
main lines. The signal for this charge was to be three artillery shots 
over our heads at intervals of one minute each, and when the third 
shot was fired I wa.s to move at a walk to within a short distance of the 
rel)el skirmish line, then hurl my squadron in column of platoons upon 
the enemy, sweeping along their extreme right. Imagine the thoughts 
that passed through my mind, — home, mother, sisters, brothers, and 
sweetheart all jumbled in my head at once. The suspense was awful ! 
The men were admonished to follow their leader, and if he should 
fall to continue on and carry out his orders. The first shot was 
fired; then came a long delay. Wondering what could be the cause 
of this, I rose in my saddle, looked to the rear, and found that all 
the supports bad retired and that we had been lefl alone. Suddenly 
Bayard rode up to me and, with choked voice, said, "Thank God, you 
are saved ! The orders have been countermanded, and you can take up 
your old position over on the left." I must acknowledge that tears 
trickled down my cheeks while I was on the way to my old position. 
What would have been the result had this charge been made? Directly 
in our front, as we discovered next day, was a deep gully or washout, 
though Bayard had been a-ssuretl that it was a clear, open field. Here 
would have been another " sunken road" as at Waterloo, and perhaps 
another Victor Hugo writing of the charge, while we poor souls would 
have been hurled to death, trampled beneath the hoofs of the horses of 
those who followed us. 

On the afternoon of the last day of the battle of Second Bull Run 
I observed that the enemy were massing a large body of troops in front 
of our extreme left, and I sent several verbal messages to that effect by 
trustworthy non-commissioned offit-ers to General Bayard, who was 
near General Pope. I began sending these messages between three 
and four o'clock, and my last one was to inform hira that the enemy 
had placed four batteries of artillery in position, that I had counted 
twenty-eight sets of colors, that more troops were moving into position, 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 7 

and that if the enemy made an attack, tliey would strike the Penn- 
sylvania Reserves on the left and rear. When tiie sergeant who car- 
ried tliis message returned, lie told me that General Pope remarked 
to General Bayard, " Oh, tiiat officer don't know his business. He 
don't know what he is talking about. Tell the fool that those people 
he sees are General Porter's men forming on the right of the enemy." 
I felt very much annoyed at this, and I don't deny that I used some 
very strong language about my superior officer, though most of it was 
done mentally. However, I rode rapidly over to General Reynolds, 
informed him of the fact, and persuaded liim to come and see for 
himself. One glance was sufficient for him. He dashed back to his 
division and changed front to the left to meet the attack. Those who 
•were in the Pennsylvania Reserves at that time can testify that the 
movement to the left was hardly finished when the heavy column I 
had again and again reported burst upon them, crushing their left 
back u])on and through our artillery, leaving the guns in the hands 
of the enemy. I have often wondered who was the fool, — the general 
or the captain. 

My squadron rode along the flank of this charging column of the 
enemy, and expended nearly all of its carbine ammunition upon it. They 
paid no more attention to us, however, than if we were so many gnats 
flying in the air. In my opinion the final repulse of the enemy was 
chiefly due to a small brigade of regular infantry. It seemed to me 
tiiat every line that came in their front was wiped out. Their firing 
was done with coolness and precision ; their commanding officer had 
them well in hand. It was a scene well worthy of the pencil of an 
artist ; but we did not have that kind of people with us when such 
opportunities occurred. I crossed the Bull Run bridge with these regu- 
lars between sundown and dark. At that time the enemy seemed to 
be retiring very rapidly, as though they were retreating from the field. 
I thought at the time that we should have been pursuing them instead 
of retiring. But orders had to be obeyed. 

I joined my regiment next morning near Centreville, my squadron 
having been held for picket duty that night near the bridge. 

General Bayard and I had several conversations afterwards about 
what I have stated. He always cautioned me to be careful in my 
language about what I knew, as doubtless there would be an in- 
vestigation concerning the battle, and he wanted me to corroborate 
him in case he should be called upon to testify before a court of in- 
quiry. But the brave soldier was called to a higher court before his 
testimony could be taken, and until now I have remained silent upon 
the subject. ' 

After the battle our cavalry brigade retired to the defenses of Wash- 
ington, and remained there for six weeks, when we again took up the line 
of march, joining McClellan's army (which had recrossed the Potomac 



8 SOME PERf^ONAL REmNL':<(ENCES. 

after An(ietani) between the Bull Run Mountains and the Blue»Rid£fe. 
We coiitinue<l on in the advance, skirinishinjj and chartring dailv, and 
never haltetl until we arrived at Ra|>|>aliaiinock Station, on a cold, 
stormy night in Noveml)er, my squadron capturing a large picket post 
of the enemy and saviuf^ the railroad hridge. Here we received the 
news that MeClellan had been relieved and Burnside place*! in com- 
mand of the Army of the Potomac. Soon we again took up the line of 
march and nioval rapidly towards Fredericksburg. 

In the battle of Freilericksburg the cavalry took a peculiar part. 
It is not generally known that Bayard's cavalry was used for the pur- 
pose of developing the enemy's artillery and infantry in front of Frank- 
lin's crossing, but such was the fact. An English officer who, if I 
remember rightly, was a volunteer aide on General Lee's staff, in an 
article published in Blackwood's Magazine, referred in compliment- 
ary terms to the manner in which my squadron manoeuvred across 
the railroad, and for its bold advance upon the enemy's lines. I may 
be mistaken, but I have always given to Thomas Martin, a private 
in my company {" M"), the credit of having unhorsed General Maxcy 
Gregg. Observing a general officer, as I thought, about two hundred 
yards in my front, looking at us through his field-glass, Martin and 
I dismounted, and standing l)etween our two horses, Martin rested his 
carbine on my shoulder, and the instant he fired I noticed the mounted 
officer fall from his saddle. I afterwards learned that General Gregg 
was killed on that part of the field, and about that time. 

In all my experience, from my baptism of fire at Falling Waters on 
July 1, 18fil, down to Jetersville, April 5, 18G5, I never was under 
such a terrific fire of shot, shell, and musketry as in this movement in 
General Franklin's front. The shot and shell seemed to make the 
atmosphere blue. Our loss in men was very small, but in horses large. 
Poor Martin was wounded and made a cripple for life. 

In this battle of Fredericksburg fell mortally wounded my beau- 
ideal of a cavalry general. Quick to act, brave to a fault, careful of 
his men, and dearly beloved by his whole command was General 
George D. Bayard, the Sheridan of our army in the early days of the 
war. His last words to his adjutant-general (Captain H. C. Weir) 
were, " Give my compliments to General Burnside, and say that I 
desire Colonel Dave Gregg to command my cavalry," and then he 
expired. 

A few days after this our old stand-by, General David McM. 
Gregg, assumed command of our brigade. He was well dubbed "Old 
Reliable." He proved himself to be the Stonewall of our cavalry 
corps. 

Early in the year 1863 the cavalry was organized into.a corps 
under the command of General Stoneman, the First Division under 
General Pleasonton, the Second under General Averell, and the Third 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 9 

under General Gregg. Our duties during the winter were not very 
arduous. On April 1 an order came from the War Department 
detailing me for duty as inspector-general on the staff of General 
Gregg. 

On April 29 we moved out of camp, crossed the Rappahannock 
and Rapidan Rivers, pushed boldly into the enemy's country, and soon 
came back faster than we went. As a stupid failure " Stoneman's 
Raid" was a complete success. Our only accomplishments were the 
burning of a few canal-boats on the upper James River (at Columbia), 
some bridges, hen-roosts, and tobacco-houses. 

This campaign of Stoneman's put a damper upon Bayard's old 
cavalry command. Many times have I had a quiet laugh when remem- 
bering conversations with brother officers about our new corps com- 
mander, who promised to show General Hooker a few dead cavalrymen. 
His career, however, was happily soon cut short, and he was succeeded 
by General Pleasonton, who, afterwards, at Gettysburg, according to 
his own account, offered to give General Meade a lesson as to how to 
make a great general out of himself. 

Under the new leadership came the cavalry battle of Brandy 
Station, or Fleetwood, as it is called by the rebels. This was the be- 
ginning of the Gettysburg campaign. Early in June information 
was received at head-quarters that the rebel cavalry corps, numbering 
about twelve thousand men, was to be reviewed on the 8th by General 
Robert E. Lee at Culpeper Court-House. Lee expected great achieve- 
ments from this mounted force, for it was composed of the flower and 
pick of the "Southern chivalry," the eyes and ears of the grand army 
he was about to lead into Maryland and Pennsylvania. 

Now came a good chance to pile up dead cavalrymen. On June 
9, the day after this grand review, General Buford cros.sed his di- 
vision at Beverly Ford early in the morning, intending to attack the 
enemy's cavalry in front, while Gregg's and Duffle's (formerly Averell's) 
divisions crossed farther down, at Kelly's Ford, to attack it in the rear. 
This movement was not intended to bring on a general engagement 
between the two armies, but merely to find out what was up, and at the 
same time to take the conceit out of the rebel cavalry. Whole regi- 
ments came together with tremendous shocks, we using our sabres with 
effect, while the rebels used their revolvers, crying out to us, " Put 
up your sabres ; draw your pistols and fight like gentlemen !" At 
one time the dust was so thick that we could not tell friend from foe. 
This hand-to-hand business continued on and off for about a couple of 
hours, when we retired from the field at our leisure, unfol lowed. Many 
a brave man fell that day ; some of them in, and beyond, the rebel 
batteries. The First New Jersey lost heavily ; their colonel, Percy 
Wyndham, was wounde<l, Lieutenant-Colonel Broi^lerick and Major 
Shelraire killed, and Captain Sawyer and others captured. Broderick's 



10 SOME I'ERSOXAL REMINISCENCES. 

botly was found with a sabre sticking through it, and at his side lay 
a dead rel)el witli Broderick's sal)re tiirougii his bo<ly also. • 

General Gregg was so uutbrtunate as to lose three guns of the Sixth 
New York Light Battery through the recklessness of Colonel Percy 
Wyndham, who commanded my brigade. The latter had ordered 
the battery to follow the First New Jersey Cavalry in a charge, and 
go into position on the crest of Fleetwood Hill, to the left of the 
Barbour bourse. Just a.s the guns were swung into |>osition and un- 
limbered the enemy nrnde a countercharge, driving back a broken 
squadron of the First New Jersey and a detachment of the First Penn- 
sylvania Cavalry, lioth of which passe<l through the battery to the rear. 
The men in charge of the limbers were swept back in the confusion. 
The dust was so thick it was almost impossible to tell a Keb from 
a Yank. I sent my orderly to the rear to find the limbers and have 
the guns taken back to their original jKJsition, in the open field, to the 
right of Brandy Stxition. In a few moments two squadrons of the 
First Maryland Cavalry came trotting through the dust, and I asked 
the commanding officer where he was going. He replied that he was 
ordered forward to supjwrt the battery. I told him to follow me at a 
gallop, or there would not be any battery to support. As we emerged 
from the dust we could see the cannoneers dragging the guns by hand 
down the hill, followed by a large body of the enemy firing their re- 
volvers. We at once charged the enemy, clearing the crest of the hill, 
and driving them back through their own battery. By this time there 
was but a small squad left of the First Maryland, for they had drifted 
in all directions through the heavy clouds of dust. I took hack at 
a gallop the few of us who kept together, and began searching for 
the guns. I found the pieces, but lost the Marylanders. After keep- 
ing me waiting a long time my orderly came back, stating that he 
could not find the limbers, and reported that Colonel Wyndham was 
wounded, that he could not find the i)riirade, and could not tell who 
was in commaud of it. I was so chagrined about the predicament in 
which the battery was placetl that I gave vent to my feeling so forcibly 
as to be noticed by the brave cannoneers, who gave three cheers, and 
said they would remain and be captured along with their guns. I said, 
" No, men, none of that kind of medicine for me. I will try and find 
help for you." The guns had been drawn down to the base of the 
hill, and while 1 w;i,s trying to collect some men together for the pur- 
pose of having them hauled away, a heavy column of rebel cavalry 
came charging around the corner of the house, witb their battle-flag in 
advance. One of the guns happened to have a round of canister in 
it. The sergeant in command of the piece |K)inted it towards tl»e charg- 
ing column, fired, and repulsed them, within forty yards of us. The 
head of this column was badly cut up, leaving a number of horses and 
men, and the battle-Hag, on the slope of the hill. The sergeant ran 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 11 

up the hill to pick up the rebel colors, and was within a few yards of 
them, wiieii the head of the First Maine Cavalry came dashing past 
the spot in piireuit of the enemy. One of the men wheeled his horse, 
dismounted, picked up the colors, and rode off, the sergeant of the gun 
losing his prize. Seeing General Kilpatrick near the First Maine (that 
regiment being in his brigade), I rode over to him and begged him 
to rescue the abandoned guns. His answer was, " To hell witli them ! 
Let Gregg look out for his own gun-s." I imjjlored him not to be so 
selfish, but to come on and help us out of our scrape, but his reply 
was, " No ! damned if I will." I then rode back and told the few 
cannoneers that were left to save themselves by crossing the railroad, 
and to go over to the woods, where they would find some of our infantry. 
I remained with the guns, in hopes of our command returning for 
thera, until another column of rebel cavalry came trotting down the 
hill towards me, capturing the pieces without a struggle. Not wishing 
to be on too intimate terms with my Southern friends, I politely raised 
ray cap to them and rapidly rode away. 

General Gregg was not aware of the loss of the guns until late in 
the day, when I told him of it, and he was very much annoyed to think 
tiiat such a thing could happen, and so unnecessarily, and he be in entire 
ignorance of the matter. 

To give an idea as to how the authorities at Richmond felt about 
this battle, on the day of the engagement I picked up the Richmond 
Inquirer, fresh from Richmond, containing an article extolling the 
Confederate cavalry, calling it the flower and chivalry of the South. 
A few days afterwards I read another article, and a very mournful one 
it was, wondering who was to blame for its broken condition, and ex- 
claiming what an outrage it was that tailors and shoemakers mounted 
on horses should be permitted to come upon their chivalry and treat 
thera in so unseeraly a manner. 

After this engagement we were kept busy scouting in all directions 
upon the rear and flank of our army, constantly watching along the 
slopes of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains. On June 13 
the cavalry corps, still under General Pleasonton, was consolidated 
into two divisions under Generals Buford (First) and Gregg (Second). 

At Aldie, near a gap in the Bull Run Mountains, on June 17, the 
corps, with Gi-egg in the advance, met the rebel cavalry again, and 
drove them back in the direction of Middleburg, and again on the 
19th drove them beyond it. In these engagements we lost heavily, for 
the rebels fought behind .stone fences, dismounted, while we attacked 
them mounted. Nevertheless the " tailors and shoemakers" were too 
much for the "chivalry," and tliey were compelled to fall back to 
Upperville. Here, on the 21st, Gregg and Buford made a combined 
attack, charging over stone walls and ditches, capturing many prisoners, 
and driving the rebel cavalry through Ashby's Gap into the Shenan- 



12 SOME PERSONAL JREMrNJSCENCES. 

floali Valley, shutting them uut from a view of the movements* of 
our army. We held these people back until the main body of tlie 
Army nf the Potomac had crossed tlie Potomac into Maryland. Then 
we moved liack to Aldie, through the Bull Run Mountains and north- 
ward to Edwanls Ferry, on the Potomac, which we crossed on the 
afternoon of .fnne 27, and marciied direct to Frederick city, Maryland. 
While there, on June 28, a new division (the Third) was formed out 
of General Stahl's cavalry, and General Kilpatrick placed in command 
of it, with Custer and Farusworth, just commissioned as brigadier-gen- 
erals, in command of brigades. Poor Farnsworth onlv lived a few days 
to enjoy his star, falling at the head of his brigade at Gettysburg.* 

We s|)ent the next day near Frederick scouting in all directions. 
During tlie night of June 29 we resumed the march towanls West- 
minster. At daybreak next morning we charged the town, struck 
Stuart's rear-guard, and took a number of rel^l prisoners. We con- 
tinued on to Manchester and Hanover Junction, from which latter 
place Iluey's brigade was sent back to guard the wagon-train. Thence 
we marched towards Hanover and Gettysburg. The.se movements of 
ours forced the rebel cavaln.' to keep well off to our right, and pre- 
vented them from knowing what our infantry were doing or where 
their own army was. 

Now for the Right Flank at Gettysburg. Histories and [weras had 
been written about this great battle and maps publishe<l, utterly 
ignoring our services, until at last we of the cavalry had to cry 
" Halt." Nor did we hear anything from our government historian, 
Colonel Batchelder, exce|)t about the first and the se«x)nd and the third 
day's fights, the Hound Tops, the EmmitLsburg road, Gulp's Hill, 
Cemetery Hill, Seminary Ridge, and John Burns, but nothing about 
the cavalry. 

And here I must return thanks to the Comte de Paris and to his 
able assistant, Colonel John P. Nicholson, who in their investigations 
went more thoroughly into the history of the battle than any previous 
historians, for it was they who were instrumental in bringing to the 
uotice of the world what we always ki;ew to be the case, that the cav- 
alry under the command of General Gregg were the means of saving 
the Army of the Potomac at the time Pickett was moving up to the 
" high-water mark" of the Rebellion. 

• It was the general opinion among us cavalrymen that Farnsworth was 
murdered through a foolish and reckless order of his division commander. 
Farnsworth 's brigade was ordered to charge mounted down a wooded hill covered 
with large round bowlders, with a stone fence at the bottom, behind which lay the 
enemy's infantry. Farnsworth, thinking there was a misuke, hesitated, when his 
superior asked if he was afraid to charge the enemy, for if so, be, the superior, 
would charge his brigade for him. Farnsworth, with a look of scorn and contempt, 
ordered his men forward, and fell dcud at the stone wall, while the portion of his 
command which be took with him was cut to pieces. 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 13 

The rebel general J. E. B. Stuart came upon the field early on the 
morning of July 3, with about seven thousaud mounted men under 
liim. After he had made disposition of his command on or near the 
Stallsmith farm, about three miles east of Gettysburg, he caused several 
random shots to be fired in various directions. Tliis firing uo doubt; 
was prearranged with Lee, signaling that his position was favorable 
and that he was ready to move in conjunction with Pickett to strike 
our infantry in rear. Colonel Mcintosh,. on whose brigade staff I 
was serving, concluded tiiat something was up, and, having relieved a 
portion of Custer's Michigan Brigade, he ordered an advance of our 
line dismounted. This movement of Mcintosh's brought on the en- 
gagement before Stuart expected, and exposed his whole design. Gregg, 
seeing the situation, recalled Custer, who had previously received orders 
to move over to the left flank of our army near Round Top. He then 
put in position all of his artillery, under cover of a wheat-fieid, order- 
ing the guns to be double-shotted with canister and await his further 
orders. Our dismounted lines were refused in the centre, in front of 
the artillery, forming an invei"se wedge. After we !iad held them back 
for about an hour, heavy bodies of the rebel cavalry burst into view 
over a rise of ground. They came on in magnificent style. It was 
terribly grand to witness. In two parallel columns, charging in squad- 
ron front, little knowing what was awaiting them, they came on, yell- 
ing and looking like demons. Canister and percussion-shell were 
poured into them until they reached within one hundred yards of our 
guns. Then our bold Custer came dashing over the field at the head 
of the First Michigan Cavalry, with his yellow locks flying and his 
long sabre brandishing through the air. He looked like a fiend incar- 
nate, the fire of battle burning in his eyes. In the mean time the dis- 
mounted men poured in a withering fire with their carbines upon both 
flanks of the rebel columns. What a sight this was! The enemy's 
horses climbing over each other, rearing and plunging, many of their 
men being struck in the back by the fore feet of the horses in their rear. 
Then Mcintosh and his staff charged with their orderlies, sabring right 
and left. Sucii a horrible din it was, amid the clashing of sabres and 
continuous roll of the small-arms and the curses and demands to sur- 
render. I do not wish to be egotistical, but will quote from an account 
of the fight: "For minutes, which seemed like hours, the Confederate 
column stood its ground. Captain Thomas, of the staff, seeing that a 
little more was needed to turn the tide, cut his way over to the woods 
on the right, where he knew he could find Hart, who had remounted 
his squadron of the First New Jersey. In the m6l6e, near the colors, 
was an officer of high rank, and tiie two headed the squadron for that 
part of the fight. They came within reach of him with their sabras, 
and then it was that Wade Hampton was wounded." 

Captain William E. Miller, of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, 



14 SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 

and Captain Hart, from tlie right of the field, charged tlielr squadrons 
through the rear jmrtion of the cohimns, and the fi)rmcr almost reached 
the rebel batteries. The desperate charging of tiiese two squadrons 
eeemed to me to turn the tide of battle. In this charge of Hart's 
squadron was another gallant though modest eavalrynian, Lieutenant 
Edward H. Parry, who as a staff" officer ro<le side by side with me 
in many severe engagements. Eventually the rebel cavalry were driven 
from the field never to return except as guests of the victors, twenty- 
three years after the battle, and as citizens of a country they tried to 
destroy. It is not difficult to conjecture wiiat would iiave been the 
result had these seven thousand cavalrymen succeetled in reaching the 
Baltimore pike, striking the reserve artillery and trains at the mo- 
ment when Pickett was moving up to the assault of Cemetery Ridge. 

On the night of July 4 our brigade moved over to the left of the 
army to picket in front of Round Top. I will never forget that night. 
It was raining hard and so dark that we were compelled to use lanterns 
to remove the dead and dying out of our way, fearing our horses would 
crush them under their feet. The moans of the dvin<i were horrible. 
Sometimes I imagine I can still hear their voices ringing in my ears. 
It was awful ! 

Then commenced the race after Lee's defeate<l army. For a few 
days we had with us " Be;iu" Neill's brigade of the Sixth Corps, but on 
July 12 we cut loose from them, marched to Boonsborough, where we 
rejoined General Gregg and one of the other brigades of our division, 
and, pusliing rapidly to Harper's Ferry, crossed over the Potomac on 
the 14tli, with our head-quarters' band playing " I wish I was in 
Dixie." Next day the two brigades moved out to Shepherdstown and 
encountered the rebel cavalry again, fighting dismountal behind stone 
walls and fences all day. An officer of the signal corps sent us a refx)rt 
that all of Lee's army had crossed over to our side of the river and 
that we were Ix'ing surrounded by the enemy. Consequently, when 
night came, we made a hasty retreat to Harper's Ferry. A singular 
thing alx)ut this fight was that while we did not claim any victory, and 
left all our killed and wounded behind in charge of our surgeons, when 
the latter rejoined us a few days afterwards they told us that the rebels 
had commenced their retreat even before we did, also leaving their 
killed and wounded in charge of their surgeons. That, it is believed, 
was the only drawn fight the cavalry of Ixith armies ever had — whore 
each abandoned the field to the other — during the four years' contest. 

Our line of march southward was over the same ground as that 
traversed by McClellan in 1862 after Antietam. Nothing much of 
note occurred. We did not get a fair chance at the rebel cavalry again 
until we arrived, on September 13, in the neighborhood of Culpei)er 
Court-Honse. Here Gregg made a mounted attack, driving the rJbel 
cavalry fifteen miles. While we of the staff' were placing the regi- 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 15 

ments in position for this mounted charge I was ordered to find a cover 
for the Sixth Oliio Cavalry, and took them into a heavy piece of oal< 
timber ftear the edge of the open country. While I, was reporting to 
General Gregg how our lines were formed he observed the Sixth Oiiio 
breaking and coming back through the woods in great disorder. He at 
once ordered me to stop and re-form them, but I soon became demoralized 
myself when T felt the belligerent end of a hornet upon my cheek. 
Tiie brave old colonel (Steedmau) of the Sixth Ohio said that they 
could stand all the shot and shell the d — d rebels could give them, but 
not a hornets' nest. Thus were some of the bravest of our soldiers 
ignominiously put to flight. 

And here let mo call attention to another instance of the way in 
which some of our generals gained reputation. When Gregg made bis 
dashing attack upon the enemy at Culpeper Court-House our brigade, 
being on the left of his line, made a half-wheel, swept down on the 
flank of the enemy, and drove away the cannoneers from their battery 
as well as its sujjports. While we were busy in front in pursuit of these 
people, having passed the guns, a brigadier-general commanding one 
of the other divisions, with Ws staff and orderlies, rode up and had the 
guns quietly hauled off the field. A few days after this I bought a copy 
of a New York paper, with a flaming header in large type, announcing 
the gallant and desperate charge of Kilpatrick's cavalry division, and 
how its commander liad led it in person and captured a battery from 
the rebels. General Gregg, with his usual modesty, never pirotested, 
and we who had done the capturing were the only ones who did the 
growling for him. There is nothing like newspaper glory for promo- 
tion in time of war, atld there were only too many of such newspaper 
generals among us. Gregg would never permit a newspaper corre- 
spondent about his command, and hence our division was not appreci- 
ated, outside of army circles, as it should have been. 

In the month of October ciime our retrograde movement to Centre- 
ville and Fairfax, and another great cavalry charge was witnessed 
between Culpeper Court-House and Brandy Station, where we repulsed 
a fearful onslaught of the rebel cavalry and drove them back upon 
their infantry supports. 

After we liad crossed over to the north side of the ilappahannock 
we had a severe dismounted engagement, and during the day, which 
was election day in Ohio, the troops belonging to that State voted for 
State candidates. I was detailed to personally superintend the voting 
in the Sixth Ohio Cavalry. We relieved one company at a time for 
the purpose, then sent them back to the front and retired the next, and 
60 on until the whole regiment had voted. I doubt if many of the 
"statesmen" of the present day would care to mix in "practical poli- 
tics" under similar circumstances. 

A few days after this I was severely hurt at Bristow Station and 



16 .SOME PERSOSAL REMINISCENVES. 

sent to liospital for ninety days. Upon my return to the front great 
clianges had taken place. General Torbert was in command of the 
First Division, "()ld Stand-By" Gregg retaining his own, the Sec- 
ond, and General Wilson in command of the Third Division, with 
" Cavalry Sheridan" in command of the corps. 

On May 3, 1864, Gregg's division moved out from its winter quar- 
ters at Warrenton, marched to the Rappahannock at Kelly's Ford, and 
crossed over to Ely's Ford on the Rapidau. We forced our way over 
the river, taking the advance of the Second Corps into " The Wilder- 
ness" until we came to Totld's Tavern on the Brock road. There we 
were dismounted and moved to the left and front of a division of 
the Second Corps which was hotly engaged, and we pressed back the 
right of the rel>el line. During this contest a gay-looking 6rst lieu- 
tenant of the engineer corjjs from General Meade's staff came up to 
nie, asked if I was Captain Thomas, and said that Gregg and Sheridan 
had sent him out there to me so that I might show him a cavalry charge 
if we should have one. A few moments afterwards an officer reported 
to me that General Davies, my brigade commander, on whose staff I 
was serving, and two of his officers had just been captured by the 
enemy. Learning the direction in which they had been taken, I took 
a mounted squadron of the First New Jersey, the nearest at hand, and 
said to the gay lieutenant, " Now is your chance for a charge." We 
dashed through the enemy to the rescue of our friends, the lieutenant 
far in advance of us all, and recaptured them. This offit«r afterwards 
distinguished himself as a general in the cavalry during the latter part 
of the war and on tlie Mexican frontier. The dashing Mackenzie, for 
he it was, afterwards called me his godfather for giving him his first 
baptism in a cavalry charge. 

After our division had been relieved by the Second Corps, General 
Sheridan, with his command, cut loose for a short time from the Army 
of the Potomac and went on his successful raid around Lee's army, 
destroying the latter's communication with Richmond. While on this 
raid — at Beaver Dam Station, on the Fre<lericksburg and Richmond 
Railroad — Custer captured a train of cars loaded with some of our 
infantry who had been taken prisoners a few days Ijefore in the Wilder- 
ness, and they expressed their delight by singing, " Ain't we glad to 
get out of the Wilderness?" Our division remained as rear-guard, 
while the advance were destroying trains, stores, and railroads. On 
the morning after tiie ciiptnre of Beaver Dam Station, and just as day 
was breaking, I called up one of the orderlies, who was a barber, to 
shave me. He jumped to earn his quarter, while I locket! around 
among my brother officers who were sleeping and cliuckle<l to myself 
in having stolen a march on them. The barber had taken the beard 
from off one side of my face when the enemy openetl two batteries 
upon us, the shells passing directly over our quarters. Such a scramble 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES, 17 

as we had to get to our horses, and I only half-shaved I The joke 
was turned upon me, and I did not have the balance finished until 
noou. 

We again fought the rebel cavalry at Yellow Tavern on May 11 
and gave them a severe thrashing, capturing some of their artillery and 
many prisoners. In this engagement the great rebel cavalry chieftain, 
Geneial J. E. B. Stuart, was mortally wounded while rallying his men. 
During the attack in our front my brigade was having a lively time of 
it in the rear. We were being pestered all day by a regiment of rebel 
cavalry, and General Davies sent two of his staff back to look after 
his extreme rear and watch these troublesome people, for they were 
very annoying to our column. At last our opportunity came. We 
observed them preparing for a mounted charge. Quickly dismounting 
the rear-guard, we placed them in ambush on either side of a sunken 
road. The brave fellows came boldly on, but not one of them re- 
turned. They were all killed, wounded, or captured. 

We contiuued our marching and fighting until we came into the 
defenses of Richmond on the Brook road, a broad highway leading 
into the city. Here were required skill, good generalship, and a cool 
head, but " Cavalry Sheridan" was equal to the occasion. We fought 
front, flanks, and rear against infantry and cavalry, repulsing charge 
after charge, killing two rebel generals and scores of their men. Oh, 
how we prayed for room to make a mounted charge, but could not! 
At one time our situation was critical, and some of us became a 
little nervous. For a while General Sheridan seemed at a loss what 
to do, and suggested that General Gregg mount his division and 
try to break through the enemy's lines, so as to draw off the forces 
attacking our other two divisions, and thus allow Wilson's command 
to cross the Chickahominy, and that he (Gregg) rejoin the Army of 
the Potomac the best way he could, leaving his artillery with Sheridan 
and the rest of the corps. Gregg, however, concluded to hold fast 
where he was. Then we dismounted some more regiments and 
advanced our lines on the flanks and rear. The enemy thinking we 
intended to make a general attack, concluded to anticipate it by a coun- 
tercharge, which they did, just as we wanted them to do, and they were 
repulsed all along the lines. While we held the flanks and rear, Custer, 
with his Michiganders and their Spencer carbines, drove the enemy 
from the front and built a bridge acro.ss the Chickahominy at Meadow 
Bridges, by which we succeeded in getting all of our artillery over. 
We then retired without molestation. This proved that we had given 
the reoels a severe drubbing, and in sight, too, of the spires of the 
rebel capital. We then marched on until we reached Butler's army, and 
encamped on the banks of the James River at Haxhall's Landing, re- 
maining there two days to replenish our supplies of rations, forage, and 
ammunition. 

2 



18 SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 

While at Haxhall's I got out my fishing-lines with the intention of 
having a catfish supper, for catfish were plenty in the river. During 
the excitement of catching the fish I noticed one of my lines drawn 
taut. I Ijegan pulling it up, and said to Captain Parry, who was with 
me, " I guess I have a whale this time," when behold ! a water-logged 
torpedo came to the surface with a large catfish twisted around one of 
the blocks. No one could have dropped anything quicker than I did 
that combination of catfish and torpedo, and pulled for shore. In the 
mean time Parry was having a good laugh at my expense. Out in 
front of me was a picket boat, and the ofScer hailed me to know what 
was the matter. When I told him, he passed word to the rear, and 
said, "Hold on to your line; the captain will come in his gig." I was 
curious to know how the captain could run a gig on water, and the crew 
of the boat laughetl very heartily at my ignorance. I gave the whole 
business to the captain, and shortly after received from him in return 
a nice case of the "ardent." 

We rejoined the Array of the Potomac near Spottsylvania Court- 
House on May 25, and then took the advance again until we arrived 
at Hawes' Shops. Here, on the 28th, we were attacked by cavalry and 
infantry, and fought dismounted for five hours, driving the enemy from 
the field. In this engagement I think we piled up more dead rebels 
thafi in any other of our fights during the whole war. A few days 
afterwartls General Grant made his head-quarters on our battle-ground, 
but was forced to move them on account of the stench arising from the 
dead bodies which were still unburied. 

The next day after the fight at Hawes' Shops we moved to the left 
around Bethesda Cliurch, witnessing the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps' 
hard contest with the enemy at that place. On the following day we 
arrived at Cold Harbor just in the nick of time to prevent the enemy's 
infantry from taking an old line of breastworks. We repulsed several 
of their charges, and held our ground until relieve<l by General 
" Baldy" Smith's command, which was very slow in coming to our 
relief from West Point, on the York River. 

After being relieved by General Smith's command we mounted, 
moved by the left, and were constantly engaged with the enemy until 
we reached Bottoms' Bridge, where we took our stand to await all 
comers. After resting a couple of days, Sheridan took two of his 
divisions and commenced another long march for the relief of General 
Hunter, who was supposed to be at Lynchburg, or in its vicinity. At 
Trevellian Station, on the Lynchburg and Richmond Railroad, on June 
11, we butted against the rebel cavalry corjjs and a division of 
infantry. These people gave us a good shaking up, but we captured 
several hundred prisoners, and learning from them that Hunter had 
retreatetl over the mountains and that they had been sent by rail to 
overtake us, Sheridan concluded that he had better get back home. 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 19 

So we gathered up our slightly wouuded, and came back by the way 
of the Spottsylvania battle-ground, the column marching past the 
famous tree that was cut down by rausket-balls in the Bloody lA.ngle. 
We made a rapid and circuitous march, and arrived at the White House 
Landing, on the Pamunkey River. Here we found an immense wagon- 
train waiting for us to guard it over the country to the James River. 
In performing this duty General Sheridan displayed great generalship, 
preserving the trains and delivering them safely inside of our lines. 
During the movement Gregg's cavalry division covered the rear and 
flank next to the enemy. About the time Sheridan was parking the 
train on the banks of the James we were attacked at Saint Mary's 
Church, on June 24, by a superior force of the enemy, composed of 
mounted and dismounted cavalry and one division of infantry. We 
came together like two batteriug-rams, then backed off for vantage- 
ground, and went at each other again and again. This unequal en- 
gagement continued all day and until night spread its protecting 
mantle over us. We then retired within our lines near Wilcox's Laud- 
ing. This retreat would never have happened had it not been that 
Sheridan and the other division were in entire ignorance of what was 
going on in their rear, for the enemy had captured all dispatches sent 
to him by Gregg, several officers and men being taken prisoners while 
performing this messenger duty. Our losses in killed, wounded, and 
captured upon the field were very heavy. But we did well, considering 
that the numbers opposed to us were three or four to one, and did not 
lose a single wheel, though we were pretty severely knocked about. 

The cavalry corps were, on June 28, ferried across the James River 
to the south side, and we moved up towards Petersburg, taking posi- 
tion on the left and rear of our army at that point. During the 
months of July and August, Sheridan was kept very busy marching 
his cavalry from the left of the Army of the Potomac over to the right 
of the Army of the James and back again. In every one of these 
movements we were hotly engaged dismountal, and struck some severe 
blows, invariably killing some general officer belonging to the enemy. 
On one of these occasions, after moving over to the right, Sheridan was 
ordered to embark two of his divisions upon transports, and instead of 
going up the James he went down, crossed the bay and went up the 
Potomac to Washington, and thence to the Shenandoah Valley. The 
history of his succeeding campaign is familiar to all. 

Gregg's division remained with the Army of the Potomac, covering 
its left and rear, taking ihe advance in all reconnoissances in force 
made by the army. During one of the engagements at Ream's Station, 
Colonel Chamberlain, of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, was wounded 
in the arm by a " tree-frog," or sharp-shooter. I asked him why he 
was limping around in such a funny manner. His reply was, " Damn 
it, Tommy, if you were wounded in the arm you would limp too." 



20 SOME PERSONAL REMINIfiVENCES. 

We saw the fellow who fired the shot and ran some men to the bottom 
of thf tree. Chaml)erlain gave the order to fire, when down c;\me Mr. 
Tree-Frog looking like a bundle of rags. In tills sjinie engagement 
Mahone's division was repulsed three times hy the First District of 
Columbia Cavalry, disnionntod. This regiment was composed of 
Maine men and was shortly afterwards consolidate*! with the First 
Maine Cavalry. It wus armed with the Henry rifle (sixteen-shooter), 
and was composed of veterans who could not be excelled for coolness 
and bravery. Its position at Ream's Station, on August 2-'), was on 
the left of a new <livision of the Second Corps. A German brigade 
in this division deliberately ahandone<l a new line of intrenchments 
with seven guns, leaving their loatled muskets standing up against the 
earthworks. Some of our dismounted cavalrymen usetl these muskets 
as long as they could find ammunition for them. General Hancock 
and General Gregg were present in ixirson, for they were anxious to 
save the guns, and the slaughter in Mahone's division must have been 
terrible, as the repeating rifles wiped out line after line. No supports 
coming, the cavalry was compelled to give way when Mahone made his 
fourth charge, capturing the guns of the Second Corps. In the last 
charge my horse was killed and I was severely injured, and was sent 
home for thirty days in consequence. 

Returning to the front on October 1, I was relieve<l from staff duty 
and ordered to take command of my regiment, now O()n)po.-e<l of re- 
enlisted veterans who had passed through the furnace of war from 
1861 to 1864. 

In the latter part of October our brigade did some very effective 
work in the engagement at the Davis farm, on the left and rear of 
our lines at Petersburg. General Fitz-Hugh Lee threw his whole 
command upon us, compelling our brigade to change front three times, 
but we repulse<l him at every point, driving him from the field. We 
did not know what force we were engaged with until we captnreil the 
adjutant-general of Young's brigade. That handsome officer remarked 
to General Davies that it was fearfully bad weather for moving about 
and for cavalry fighting. Davies replied, " Yes, you people were not 
contented in your camps, but must come out here for a fight, and I 
guess yiiu got one." The adjutant-general, noticing the troops his 
people were fighting, asked General Davies how many brigades he had 
under him. Upon being infnrmc<l that there was but one brigade of 
five regiments, he exclaimed, "Impossible! Why, we had three bri- 
gades against you." He was then started for the rear, apparently 
much chagrinetl. 

A few days after this Gregg's division was onlered out to join the 
Second Corps in a reconnoissance in force to the left of our army, be- 
yond Halcher's Run. These reconnoissancea were generally accom- 
panied by Generals Grant and Meade in person, and our engagements 



S03[E PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 21 

with the enemy sometimes resulted in a heavy battle.. During this 
particular movement the First Pennsylvania Veteran Cavalry cov- 
ered the rear of our division, while the Fir.st Maine Cavalry was in 
the advance, forcing a crossing at some creek. General Gregg was 
anxious to connect with Hancock's left flank, but as he could only 
move his divi.sion in columns of twos through the dense woods, the 
movement was very slow. During its execution we were attacked 
by a brigade of rebel cavalry, commanded by General {now Senator) 
Butler, of South Carolina. For a full half-hour the enemy liad a 
soft thing of it, throwing shot and shell into us without our being 
able to reply. But Gregg could not bother with side issues at tliat 
• critical moment, so he ordered the First Penn.sylvania Cavalry "to 
take care of those people," as he expressed it. The attack of this small 
regiment on the flank of the rebels was so sudden that the latter 
were glad to escape with their guns. The officers and men of the 
First Pennsylvania were highly elated over their success, and felt proud 
of themselves, for they were but a handful in comparison with the 
number they had attacked and driven away. The First Maine Cavalry 
were just as successful in their attack in front as we were in the rear. 

During the month of November we made another movement to 
our left. My regiment was on picket duty when the order came to 
move to the front, but it was soon relieved and ordered to report to 
the brigade. Upon our arrival at the front, and as we were passing 
the head of General Crawford's division, General Gregg gave orders 
for his division to dismount and advance on foot. From what I could 
glean from a conversation with one of his staflP, Crawford evidently 
had order.s to close the interval between Gregg's right and the rest of 
the Fifth Corps. Those who have witnessed a division of cavalry 
dismounting and going into action on foot know what a demoralizing 
effect it has on those in the rear, for the led horses are generally sent 
back at a gallop to re-form and advance quietly, following up their vari- 
ous commands. While this retrograde movement of dismounted horses 
was being made, General Crawford yelled to one of his staff, and sent 
him off with his compliments to General Warren, to say that the 
cavalry were repulsed, and they would trample his men to death if he 
attempted to make the movement ordered. I began to expostulate with 
the general, but it was of no use, so I ordered my regiment forward 
at a gallop, dismounted, and went into action. My dismounted horses 
no doubt increased the demoralization of the "dough-boys." 

During this same month of November, General Gregg moved his 
cavalry division out to Stony Creek Station, driving the enemj' off and 
capturing and destroying the stores which had been accumulated there 
in great quantities. Among the articles was a cask filled with sor- 
ghum molassts. Some of the men turned it up on end, drove in the 
head, an<l began filling their canteens with its sweet contents. Most of 



22 !>OME PERSONAL BEMINISVENCES. 

tliem were too short to reach over, when along came a tall Yankee of 
the First Maine Cavalry, with half a dozen canteens, and brushed the 
little fellows away as though they were so many flies. I notice*! a 
consultation among these little fellows, when they suddenly made a 
rush, seized the big fellow by the legs, lifted him up and sent him 
hcad-foreraost into the cask and turned it over. It was as much as I 
could do to save the poor fellow from being smothered to death. We 
rolled him down the hill into the creek, where he washed himself off, 
and when he came up, he said in his nasal tone of voice, " Warn't 
that the durnedst trick you ever hearn tell of?" 

In the month of December, CJregg's cavalry division was ordered 
to take the advance of the Fifth Corps and cover the country while the 
infantry were tearing up and destroying the Weldon Railroad. We 
reached a jwint named the " Three Rivers," and had a very sharp brush 
with the enemy, losing several officers and men. 

Upon the return march our cavalry took a road running parallel 
with the one that our infantry were on, the enemy following us closely. 
On this homeward march, while in the advance, I witnessed the sick- 
ening sight of some of our men lying dead with their hearts and private 
parts cut out and thrust in their mouths. These atrocities were supposed 
to have been committed by citizens of the neighborhood out " bush- 
whacking." The poor fellows who met with such horrible treatment 
had become intoxicated from the large quantity of apple-jack found 
in that section of the country, and were murdered in cold blood. That 
raid was known as the " Apple-Jack Raid." 

During the month of January, 1865, my regiment was doing picket 
duty on the left and rear of our main lines. One day, noticing a 
number of hogs running loose in the woods in our front, I gave per- 
mission for some of the men to go out and kill them. Soon afterwards 
one of the videttes sent in word that two of the men were captured by 
the rebels. I quickly mounted a squadron and went off at a gallop, 
knowing well that there was but one place where the rebels could cross 
the stream below Lee's mill, we being on the inside circuit. I pushed 
rapidly for that point. Upon our arrival I noticed a few fresh tracks 
of horses that had crossed towards us, but had not returned. I then 
made preparations for the arrival of the squad with their prisoners. 
We waited perhaps half an hour, when the squad came in view with 
their two prisoners, each carrying a deatl hog. The poor fellows were 
staggering under their heavy loads, and their captors were twitting 
them about being pork butchers. My men were entirely concealed on 
either side of the stream. We remained quiet until the whole party 
had reached the middle between the banks, when I gave the signal to 
my men to arise and cover the party with their carbines. It was like 
a dramatic tableau to witness the look of consternation upon the faces 
of the party, for there was no escape for them. As for the two butchers, 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 23 

it was laughable to look at them. They began looking around to 
ascertain if it was fun or earnest, when they espied me, and both hogs 
drop^)ed from their shoulders into the water, and the two men fell 
against the bank, yelling for us to give their captors a volley. I then 
ordered the rebels to advance one at a time, dismount, and take off 
their arms. I asked my two men who it was that had suggested that 
they should carry the hogs, and they pointed to the sergeant and one 
other man. These two were ordered to pick up the pork and move 
back, under charge of the two that were recaptured, to the picket re- 
serve. As the command was moving out for the return, some wag 
in the squadron remarked to the rebel sergeant, " How do you like 
that for a movement by inversion?" 

In the month of March an oi-der came from general head-quarters 
directing me to take my regiment, with a trusted scout, and proceed to 
the head of the Blackwater Swamp, when we would find a body of 
marauders composed of deserters from both armies. These men had 
been murdering our pickets nightly for what plunder they could get 
from the dead bodies. My orders were to destroy these scoundrels. 
The orders were carried out to the very letter. 

On my return to camp, after six days and nights of hard march- 
ing, a leave of absence for ten days was sent me without appliaition 
on my part. I took advantage of the furlough and went home. Upon 
my arrival there, I found awaiting me a personal telegram from General 
Sheridan, who had rejoined the Army of the Potomac that same morn- 
ing with the other two divisions of the cavalry corps, having marched 
overland from the head of the Shenandoah Valley. This dispatch 
directed me to take the first train and come to the front as rapidly as 
possible, and upon my arrival at City Point to assume command of all 
the newly-remounted men there and join my division on the march. 
Though I had just arrived home I obeyed the order and took the first 
train for Washington, went directly to the War Department, showed 
my dispatch, and was at once sent to Annapolis on a special engine. 
I then took a dispatch-boat in company with Colonel Comstock, of 
General Grant's staff, arrived at City Point on the morning of the 
31st of March, and joined our division at Dinwiddie Court-House in 
time to take part in the engagement of that day. 

The next day came the battle of Five Forks. Here Sheridan 
threw his whole cavalry corps upon the enemy, with the exception of 
my brigade. As for my own regiment, we had all the fighting we 
wanted in keeping the enemy from getting around on Sheridan's left 
and rear. In this battle whole brigades went into action mounted and 
dismounted, the mounteil men dashing over breastworks as though 
they were mere piles of dirt, and capturing prisoners by the thousand. 
While in conversation with General W. H. F. Lee, who was taken 
prisoner, he told me that he was in the act of sighting a cannon to 



24 SOME PERSONAL REMINJSCEA'CES. 

sweep along that portion of the works where the Fifth Corps were 
piling over when he iieanl a voice saying, " Surrender, you rel>el son 
of a gun !" anil looking up there he saw one of (iura»vairynien astride 
a mule, with his revolver between the mule's ears, reaching over in the 
act of pulling trigger. In a few seconds the earth-work was fille<l with 
our mountoil cavalry. The rauch-abuse«l army mule, after nil. w:ts of 
some service besides hauling heavy loads. 

On the following day, April 2, our cavalry struck the Soutli Side 
Railroad and continued in pursuit of Lee's retreating army. Rich- 
mond and Petersburg fell on the 3d, and these gotxl tidings seemed 
to give new life to l)oth men an<l horses. On we presse<l until we reached 
Jetersville, on the Danville Railroad, on April 4. About one o'clock 
that night, as we lay to horse, the First Pennsylvania Cavalry was 
ordered to mount and report to General Sheridan at once. Under 
Sheridan's fly I found General Crook (who was now in command of 
Gregg's old division) antl General Davies looking over a map. I was 
shown the position where the enemy were supposed to be, near Amelia 
Court-House, and was instructe<] to proceed with my regiment al)out 
two or three miles in advance of our brigade, press through all small 
detachments, and attack the enemy's wagon-train at daylight. We 
reached some high ground just as the sun was rising, and below at our 
feet lay the whole rebel army in line of battle, apparently sound asleep. 
It was a beautiful sight to look upon. Here instructions were given to 
the men that when the charge was sounded by the bugles they should 
yell like demons and tell all the rebels they met, particularly the officers, 
that Sheridan and all his cavalry corjis were upon them. This regiment 
with its three hundred veterans charged through a number of outlying 
commands, destroying about three hundred wagons, cutting out twelve 
hundred head of horses and mules, capturing eight huudre<l prisoners, 
eleven rebel battle-flags, and a bright, new spick-and-span battery of 
Armstrong field-guns, which shortly before had been prtsented by the 
ladies of Liverpool to the corjwration of the city of Richmond. We 
held our ground and captures until General Davies came to our relief, 
which he did very promptly. 

Let me relate an amusing incident. Between daylight and sunrise 
I observe<l a body of rebel cavalry holding Paines' Cross-Road.s. In 
a bouse by the roadside there resided an Episcopal clergyman. The 
gentleman came out, stood at his gate, and lookeil first at us, then at his 
friends. He had a goKl watch in his hand, as though looking at the 
time of day. I ordered two squadrons to charge the rebels and clear 
the road, and while they were performing that duty we advanced the 
balance of the command, halting in front of our religious friend, when 
the following conversation took place: "Good-morning." "Good- 
morning, sir." "You are the first live Yankee cavalry commander 
I have seen since the war commenced." My reply was, "Then 



SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 25 

you are not a pupil of General Hooker's." He laughingly said 
"No," and then he asked, hearing the firing of the small-arms of 
the ciiargiiig squadrons, "Are you going to have a battle here? 
If so, how long will it last?" My reply was, "No, sir; we will move 
on." I then asked him why he kept his watch in his hand. His 
reply was, "I thought I would time you to find out how soon you 
would be driven off the sacred soil of the immortal Washington." I 
moved away, smiling at the old rector's loyalty to the Father of his 
Country, when I heard a scuffle behind me. Upon looking around I 
observed my own orderly seizing the watch and saying, " We will tell 
you the time when the Johnnies stop running." Then bedashed away 
before I could stop him to return the stolen watch. 

All of our captures from the enemy, except the battle-flags and the 
watch, were turned over, by order of General Davies, to the Tenth New 
York Cavalry, and we then proceeded as rapidly as possible to join the 
main command. Tiie First Pennsylvania Cavalrv joined the brigade 
and resumed the fighting, for the rebels were very sore over the cap- 
tures and were trying hard to retake their guns, but we succeeded in 
getting back to Jetersville safely. 

About five o'clock that afternoon, April 5, the First Pennsylvania 
Cavalry were standing to horse, when Sheridan, Crook, and a number 
of other general officers, both infantry and cavalry, came riding up to ex- 
amine the captured battle-flags. Among the colors was one presented to 
General Fitz-Hugh Lee by his lady friends of Richmond, which, by 
the way, I made a present to General Davies. The enemy, seeing 
these officers around the colore, sounded the charge and came uj»on us 
with a rush. Sheridan ordered me to mount my men and check the 
enemy until he could send in more regiments to my support. Then en- 
sued a phenomenal display of shooting-stars by daylight, for the generals 
all scattered to their various commands. We mounted and charged the 
enemy and commenced a hand-to-hand fight, using pistols, sabres, and 
clubbed carbines. The heaviest of the fighting was around our colore. 
The brave old color-sergeant of the Firet Pennsylvania Cavalry, 
Antoine Wolf, carrying aloft the colore of his regiment in one hand, 
and with his sabre iu the other cutting his way right and left, followed 
close at my horee's heels. Many a good trooper fell in the track made 
by us that day. That was my sixth and last charge during the en- 
gagement, and I lost a horse killed in every charge. While lying 
under my horse with my leg shattered by a carbine-ball. Colonel Jane- 
way, at the head of the Firet New Jereey, passed by at full charge, 
saying, " Cheer up. Tommy, we are here with you," then instantly ex- 
claimed, " My God !" and fell dead from his saddle but twenty feet 
from me. Our brigade started that morning with sixteen field officere, 
and at sundown but one was left, the other fifteen having been either 
killed or wounded. After I was wounded I turned my command over 



•26 SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES. 

to Captain Holbniok, who Ie<l it through several cliarges on the Gth, 
7th, and 9th of April. He had the satisfaction of |>iunting the regi- 
ment across Lee's front on the Lynchburg pike, with its colors in the 
middle of the road, there to witness the surrender of the rebel army. 

This ended my experience iis a cavalryman. 

And now I trust that I will be excused when I say that we cavalry- 
men soon taught the other arms of the service to respect us and stopped 
that old slurring remark, " Here comes the cavalry back ; now there is 
going to be a fight." Although we were criticised shar|)ly at the be- 
ginning of the war, yet at its close we of all the branches of the service 
proved ourselves the most efficient under the command of that prince 
among soldiers, " Cavalry Sheridan." 

Colonel HAMP'n)N S. Thomas. 



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