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Title: Civil War Experiences - under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and - Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864
Author: Meyer, Henry C. (Henry Coddington), 1844-1935
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Yours Truly

Henry C. Meyer]




  1862, 1863, 1864










During December, 1895, I received a letter from General Walter C.
Newberry, of Chicago, who during the Civil War commanded the 24th New
York Cavalry. In this the General wrote:


     "You will remember how urgent the boys were last summer for a
     history of the Regiment to be prepared. I resolved then to gratify
     them and am engaged on it now. I want you to aid me to the extent
     of giving me a detailed account of yourself--nativity, date of
     birth, former service, engagements that you were in that led up to
     your promotion, your service with us, your wounding and incidents
     accompanying it, your period of treatment in the Hospital, your
     civil record since, and be kind enough not to be at all modest in
     setting it all forth. I shall not use your language, neither shall
     I give you credit for the biography, and you may drop all modesty
     with me and give it to me in full. You may have kept something of a
     diary or there may be some old letters that you have written which
     will give me some record by dates of the Regiment's service. I want
     it all."

In 1896 I complied with this request to the extent of giving a brief
account of my service in the Army. Since then, members of my family and
a few personal friends have asked me to incorporate in this account
incidents that I recalled, some of which they had heard me relate,
asserting that they would be of interest to my grandchildren.

The following story is my attempt to accede to these requests. I am
naturally proud of having had the privilege of serving under the
Generals I have mentioned, and the story recited in the following pages
is in accordance with my recollection of events that occurred over
forty-five years ago.

  NEW YORK, May, 1911.



  CHAPTER I                                   1

  Enlistment; Journey to Regiment; First Picket
  Duty; Raid to Fredericks Hall.

  CHAPTER II                                  8

  Night after Battle of Cedar Mountain; Death of
  Captain Walters at Rapidan; Retreat from
  Rapidan; Battle at Brandy Station.

  CHAPTER III                                13

  Second Battle at Bull Run; Destruction of Seymour's
  Squadron; Death of Compton; A
  Wounded Soldier's Heroism; Fitz-John Porter's
  Message to Kilpatrick; Longstreet's Assault
  on Left of Pope's Army; To Alexandria to

  CHAPTER IV                                 20

  Refitting at Ball's Cross Roads; Skirmishing
  around Centerville; Advance after Antietam;
  Soldier's Opinion on McClellan's being Superseded;
  Battle of Fredericksburg; Death of

  CHAPTER V                                  23

  Detailed at General Gregg's Headquarters; The
  Stoneman Raid.

  CHAPTER VI                                 27

  Gettysburg Campaign; Battle at Brandy Station;
  Wounded at Stuart's Headquarters.

  CHAPTER VII                                33

  Battles at Aldie, Middleburg, and Upperville.

  CHAPTER VIII                               42

  Crossing the Potomac; Scenes in Frederick and
  Liberty; Girls' Boarding School at New Windsor;
  March to Gettysburg.

  CHAPTER IX                                 47

  Second and Third Days of Battle at Gettysburg;
  Gregg's Cavalry Engagement on the Right;
  Repulse of Stuart.

  CHAPTER X                                  54

  Day Following the Battle at Gettysburg; Compelling
  Citizens to Assist in Burying the Dead;
  Scenes in Gettysburg; Nick Finding John
  Burns; Following up Lee's Army; Wounded
  Confederates Left Behind.

  CHAPTER XI                                 58

  Return to Virginia; Crossing at Harper's Ferry;
  Battle at Shepherdstown; Confederate Prisoner
  Reporting the Condition of a Cousin in Confederate
  Army; Advance from Sulphur Springs
  to the Rapidan.

  CHAPTER XII                                62

  Transferred to General Kilpatrick's Headquarters;
  Battle on Retreat from Culpeper;
  Battle at Buckland's Mills; Granted
  a Furlough; Recommended for a Commission;
  Appointed a Second Lieutenant; Leaving General

  CHAPTER XIII                               71

  Joined 24th New York Cavalry at Auburn,
  N. Y.; Trip to Washington; At Camp Stoneman;
  March to Join Army of the Potomac;
  Experience at Battle of the Wilderness; First
  Sight of General Grant.

  CHAPTER XIV                                78

  At Spottsylvania; Finding Confederate Dead in
  Breastworks; Selected to Guide a Division to
  a Position for Night Assault; Sent to Washington
  for Ammunition.

  CHAPTER XV                                 86

  Experience at North Anna and Cold Harbor;
  General Grant and Confederate Prisoner;
  Crossing the James; Assault on Works at
  Petersburg; Wounded; At Field Hospital;
  Journey to City Point and Seminary Hospital
  at Georgetown, D. C.; Removal to Dobbs
  Ferry; Convalescence.

  CHAPTER XVI                                96

  General D. McM. Gregg, General Kilpatrick,
  Colonel Henry C. Weir, General Walter C.
  Newberry, Colonel William C. Raulston, General
  L. G. Estes, General E. W. Whitaker,
  Captain Theodore F. Northrop.

  APPENDIX A                                103

  APPENDIX B                                109



  HENRY C. MEYER         _Frontispiece_

  CORPORAL HENRY E. JOHNS            6


  COLONEL HENRY C. WEIR             24

  GENERAL D. MCM. GREGG             34


  GENERAL E. W. WHITAKER            62


  GENERAL L. G. ESTES               70

  COLONEL W. C. RAULSTON            72


Civil War Experiences


On the day Fort Sumter surrendered I was seventeen years old, having
been born April 14, 1844. Like other boys, I proposed enlisting, but my
father refused consent; and at that time youths under eighteen years
would not be accepted without the consent of parents. In July of the
following year, when the news of McClellan's retreat on the Peninsula
was published, I was satisfied that the Government would need more men,
and having carefully considered the matter, and being then eighteen
years of age, I decided to go without my father's consent. Seeing a
newspaper item to the effect that Captain Mallory, of the Harris Light
Cavalry, had arrived in New York, and proposed to enlist some men for
that regiment, I called upon him at the Metropolitan Hotel and made
known my desire. He informed me that his recruiting office was not then
arranged, though he had engaged a room a little farther up Broadway, and
his sergeant was preparing to open it. He seemed reluctant to take me,
and talked to me as though I were too young to go, and as if I did not
realize what I was about to undertake. I assured him that I had
considered the matter well, and that I was physically strong; and that
if he would not accept me I would try to enlist in Duryea's Zouaves, who
were, at that time, enlisting men. He then told me to go up and see his
sergeant and that he would come up later. I found the room, but the
sergeant, however, had not yet unpacked the papers. On getting them
opened he said he was unable to make them out, whereupon I asked him to
let me examine them, and proceeded to make out my own enlistment papers,
the sergeant watching me. While I was thus engaged, a man with his arm
off came in. He had just that day been discharged from the hospital, and
inquired what steps he should take to get a pension, having been
attracted by the flag hanging out of the office window. I noticed the
sergeant was particularly anxious to get him out of the room, evidently
not considering him a desirable acquisition to facilitate recruiting. I
explained to the man what he should do. The sergeant, when he saw me
make out my enlistment papers, remarked, "They won't keep you long in
the ranks, because they can get better work for you to do," or words to
that effect. I did not then comprehend what he meant, but my subsequent
experience explained it. I was then sent to the examining physician,
examined, passed, and sworn in for three years' service.

That night I went to my home, at Dobb's Ferry, on the Hudson River, and
reported what I had done, intending to leave for Washington the next
morning, when I was promised transportation. This interview with my
parents was quite unpleasant, as my father was very angry and my mother
in great distress. At that time both my father and his friends regarded
my action as worse than foolish and almost as bad as though I had done
something disreputable. Indeed, as I was afterwards informed, one
gentleman remarked, "Well, that is too bad; that boy has gone to the
devil, too."

The following morning I bade my parents good-bye, feeling that if I were
wounded or crippled I should not care to return home for them to take
care of me. Subsequent letters from home, however, removed that feeling.
The following night, having received transportation, I sailed as the
only passenger on a freight transport from a pier near the Battery to
South Amboy. I well remember my feelings as I watched New York receding
in the distance, there being no excitement or hand-shaking or waving of
flags such as accompanied the departure of the first troops that left
New York for thirty days' service the year before. From Amboy I went on
a coal train to Philadelphia.

On landing at Walnut Street wharf I went into the soldiers' refreshment
room, maintained by the citizens of Philadelphia, which was open night
and day, and at which all soldiers passing through the city were fed
free of charge. It was about two o'clock in the morning, very hot, and I
was tired and depressed. Hence, when invited to partake of some
refreshments, I was unable to do so but contented myself with eating a
few pickles.

I then walked across the city to the Baltimore depot, which was then at
the corner of Broad and Pine Streets, and took a passenger train for
Baltimore, which I reached about seven o'clock in the morning, sitting
up, as there were no sleeping-cars in those days. On arriving in
Baltimore I walked to another part of the city to take the train for
Washington. Meanwhile I wanted some breakfast. Going into a place which
I supposed was a restaurant, I found that the only thing they could
offer me was ice-cream. I thereupon ate some, and soon after took the
train for Washington. In a few moments the Philadelphia pickles, the hot
night, and the Baltimore ice-cream produced most severe cramps, and I
was in a very distressed state of mind, fearing that I would never be
able to reach the front, but would have to submit to the mortification
of being returned home.

Arriving in Washington, I went to Willard's Hotel, and, after a good
sleep, was able to take my dinner that evening. I had on citizen's
clothes and was not recognized as a private soldier in the United States
Army, so the head-waiter assigned me to a seat at a table where General
Halleck, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, sat opposite.

That evening, my uncle, E. V. Price, who was in Washington, met me at
the hotel and took me to General Pope's room. The latter had just
arrived in Washington to take command of the Army of the Potomac. My
uncle procured a pass from him to enable me to go through the lines and
join my regiment, the Second New York Cavalry (Harris Light). It was
stationed at Falmouth, Virginia. J. Mansfield Davies was the colonel at
that time, and Judson Kilpatrick the lieutenant-colonel. My uncle, who
knew Colonel Davies, introduced me to him that evening at the hotel. The
following morning I accompanied him on the boat to Aquia Creek and
reached the regiment on the evening of that day.

In two or three days I received my uniform and a horse was given to me.
The fact that I had been seen coming into camp with the Colonel led some
of the non-commissioned officers and men of my company to assume that I
did not intend to serve in the ranks, but would likely be commissioned
shortly and probably be jumped over them, who had already been out some
time, though they had not been in any battle, their previous service
being confined to drilling and a skirmish or two. This made it very
unpleasant for me, and for a short time I was subjected to some little

As I wore to the front the best suit of citizen's clothes I had, a man
in our company by the name of Rufus West proposed to buy them and agreed
to pay me eleven dollars for them. That night he deserted and joined
Mosby's command, having made the remark before leaving that he did not
"propose to fight to free niggers." He owes me the eleven dollars yet.

In a day or two I was assigned to picket duty with a man of my company,
on the Rappahannock River, with instructions to keep a sharp lookout, as
they said a female spy was expected to cross at that point. My comrade
was Henry E. Johns, who enlisted from Hartford, Connecticut. He appeared
to take pity on me, and that evening we discussed our families and our
affairs; and at that time a warm attachment was formed, which lasted
throughout the war, and since. As we were to remain on guard all night,
he suggested that we should take turns, each being on watch, two hours
on, and two hours off. Before morning I found it extremely difficult to
keep my eyes open, and several times walked to the river and washed my
face in order to do so. Just before daylight it was my turn to go to
sleep; when I awoke and looked around, I found no one on watch. Looking
beside me I found my comrade, also asleep. The place at which we were
posted was inaccessible in the night from our lines, because it was
at the foot of a deep ravine. I don't imagine any female spy crossed at
that point. If we had been caught asleep, however, it would have been an
embarrassing position for both of us to have been placed in.


A few days later the Harris Light Cavalry made a raid in the
neighborhood of Fredericks Hall, Virginia, in which movement the command
marched some ninety miles in thirty hours. This was hard on the men, and
many of them were confined to their tents on their return to camp, from
saddle boils and lameness, for a day or two. I found it difficult to
keep awake on the march and picket, yet I was able to do duty without

On this raid the regiment destroyed considerable property, and many of
the men carried away all sorts of things for which they had no use.
Indeed, I heard Colonel Kilpatrick laughingly remark that one fellow, in
his zeal to have something, actually had a grindstone on his saddle in
front of him. After carrying it about a mile he concluded, however, that
he had no further use for it, and dropped it in the road.


A few days afterwards the regiment marched through Culpeper and reached
the battlefield of Cedar Mountain late on the day on which that
engagement was fought. We approached the battlefield through what would
be called the rear, where we first saw the horrible sights accompanying
a battle, which are always dead horses, broken caissons, bodies lying on
the ground, and the wounded. On the front line these sights are not so

The regiment was pushed to the front and placed on picket duty, I being
posted on the edge of a piece of woods overlooking a valley, on the
opposite side of which was Slaughter Mountain, where Stonewall Jackson's
army was supposed to be.

While at my post on picket that night, an incident occurred which made a
deep impression upon me, doubtless due to the time and place and the
incidents of the preceding two weeks. Before leaving home, I had
promised my mother that I would read at least one verse in my Testament
each day. Not having done so that day was due to the fact that we had
been marching and to the excitement attending the reaching of the
battlefield and being put in position. I then took out my pocket
Testament and went to a picket fire near where I was, leaning over to
read a verse or two by its light, when I heard a rustle in the bushes.
Immediately I grasped my weapons and was on the alert, when a colored
man crawled through the bushes and said to me, "What's that you got
there, a Testament?" On admitting it, he said, "Do you know the chapter
General Washington always used to read before he went into a fight?" I
told him I did not, whereupon he said, "You turn to the Ninety-first
Psalm." "Now," he said, "you read it." I then read aloud:

     "Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from
     the noisome pestilence.

     "He shall cover thee with His feathers and under His wings shalt
     thou trust; His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

     "Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night nor for the arrow
     that flieth by day.

     "Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the
     destruction that wasteth at noon day.

     "A thousand shall fall at thy side and ten thousand at thy right
     hand; but it shall not come nigh thee."

At the reading of each of these verses he exclaimed, "You see, he didn't
get hit." The contraband evidently was perfectly sincere in the belief
that if I read this verse before a battle I would never get hurt. He
then went away. This incident, coupled with the facts that I had only
been about ten days away from home, that I had seen the horrible sights
of the battlefield the previous afternoon, that I could see the enemy's
camp-fires across the valley, and that I was wondering what fate was in
store for me the following day,--all tended to impress this incident
upon my mind.

The next morning the regiment advanced to the Rapidan River, presumably
with the object of searching for the flank of Jackson's army. Just above
the ford, which I think was Robertson's, was the residence of the
Confederate General Taliaferro. Our picket line was between the house
and the river. Captain Walters of my regiment had arranged with Mrs.
Taliaferro to have breakfast at her house. She and her niece were
engaged in a good-natured altercation with some of the men of my
company, she repeatedly remarking, "I want you men to understand that I
am the granddaughter of Chief-Justice Marshall of the United States."
When she had said this several times an Irishman of my company remarked,
"And who the divil is he anyhow?" The disgust on her face may well be
imagined. I had been polite in my remarks to her when she turned upon me
and asked, "Aren't you from New Orleans?" I told her, "No," that I was
from New York, when she shook her head sadly and said, "Well, I'm
surprised that apparently such a nice young man as you should be
engaged in such a wicked cause as this." The laughter of my comrades
which greeted this remark was followed by their teasing me the rest of
the campaign, calling me, "The nice young man and the wicked cause."

About this time the pickets began firing, when Captain Walters remarked,
"I will go down and see what the matter is." He mounted his horse,
started down the hill toward the ford, and in a moment or two was
brought back dead, their sharpshooters having shot him through the heart
immediately after he left the house. This was the first time I had heard
bullets whistle.

That night Stonewall Jackson's movement to the flank and rear of Pope's
army resulted in the recall of the cavalry and a night march through
Culpeper to Brandy Station. We bivouacked for the night, but did not
unsaddle. About daybreak we were attacked. Although I heard bullets
whistle at the Rapidan River, where Captain Walters was killed, this was
the first real engagement I was in. In the early part of it we were
supporting the skirmish line. Later in the day the battalion in which my
company was made a charge, led by Major Henry E. Davies, in which a
number were killed and wounded, and some confusion ensued by reason of a
railroad cut, into which the command rode, its existence not being known
when the charge was ordered. Prior to this, in the retreating movements
of that morning, my horse, which had become blind from the hard marching
of the night before, fell in a ditch with me. He struggled out, and I
was able to remount him, though we were quite hard pressed by the
advancing enemy.

The Harris Light Cavalry was one of the regiments of General George D.
Bayard's brigade, which for sixteen successive days was under fire and
engaged in most arduous service in covering the retreat of Pope's army
and watching the fords on the Rappahannock River to detect the crossing
of General Lee's troops. This continuous service terminated with the
second battle of Bull Run, where Lieutenant Compton, the only remaining
officer with my company, was killed. This occurred the evening before
the last day of the battle.


There had been some very severe fighting on the part of King's division.
We approached the field from Manassas Junction, arriving about nine
o'clock. As we were riding through this division, the men called out,
"What regiment is that?" When we told them they arose and cheered us,
for we had been with them on a former occasion. Then, as we were
approaching the Centerville pike, Kilpatrick rode down the column
calling out, "General MacDowell wants the Harris Light to take a
battery." "Draw sabres." We drew sabres, put our cap bands under our
chins, and turned into the pike, then to the left, moving a short
distance, and then into a field, also on the left, forming in column of
squadrons. It was then too dark to see any distance ahead. My position
was within one or two of the flank of my company, where I heard
Kilpatrick order my squadron to go out into the road to charge this
battery, which we could not see. As we were not the last squadron in the
column, which happened to be Captain Seymour's, he said, "Never mind,
take the last one," which was fortunate for us. In a moment or two we
heard the clatter of the horses' hoofs on the pike, and then saw a
sheet of fire from the enemy's lines some distance ahead, which I
understood was on the edge of a piece of woods. This fire was also doing
damage to our columns exposed to it, when the order was given for us to
"wheel and retire," where we could get under cover.

From this unfortunate charge only eleven men came back that night. It
was said that they were subjected to not only the fire of the enemy but
also from our infantry on the right of the road, who, hearing the
clatter of the horses' hoofs, and unable to see what caused it, assumed
it to be a charge of the enemy's cavalry, when they also opened fire. It
was felt at the time that the ordering of this charge was a blunder, and
yet it was one of the many blunders from which our volunteer army
constantly suffered in the early years of the war. Kilpatrick was
severely criticised in the regiment for it that night and the next day;
little, however, was ever said about it in the reports. Whether
Kilpatrick acted under superior orders or on his own initiative, I never

A few minutes after the regiment had retired a short distance, Sergeant
Griswold came up and reported to Kilpatrick in my hearing that the enemy
were advancing their lines, that our wounded were being captured, and
that Lieutenant Compton of my company had been killed, and he showed
where a bullet had passed through the collar of his coat as he wheeled
when asked to surrender. Kilpatrick called for somebody to go with him
as an orderly, as he wanted to find General Bayard and General McDowell.
This I did, holding his horse while he was in conference with these
generals that night.

The next morning we recovered the body of Lieutenant Compton, of whom we
were very fond, and we succeeded in making a coffin out of three
cracker-boxes from which we took out the ends; wrapping him in a blanket
we buried him in this cracker-box coffin at the corner of the old stone
house on the Centerville Pike. His friends subsequently recovered his
remains. We all felt rather blue over the loss of comrades in the affair
of the night before, which had seemed to us so needless.

Among the pathetic incidents of that morning was one which indicated the
unselfish heroism of a young soldier. Early in the day some of our men
were looking over the battlefield of the night before for missing
comrades, and one, I remember, spoke of having found a young boy,
apparently not over eighteen years of age, lying with his shattered leg
in a pool of blood. My comrade spoke to him saying, "I will go and get
somebody to help carry you off," whereupon, the wounded boy faintly
remarked: "I do not think you can do me any good, but during the night I
heard groans coming from over the hill yonder, and I think if you go
there you may be able to save some one; but if you will give me a drink
of water I will be much obliged." The man gave his canteen to the
wounded boy and started off for help. On his return he found the boy,
with the canteen clasped in his hands, dead.

During the morning the armies were getting in position for the final
struggle of the afternoon of that day, which, I think, was the
thirty-first of August. Our regiment was lying in column of fours
awaiting orders. That afternoon, with a view to saving our horses from
the effect of shells dropping near us, Kilpatrick got permission to move
the column to the right a little, so as to be out of range. While we
were making this movement he happened to be riding alongside of me, I
being in the ranks, when a staff-officer approached and greeted him,
evidently some friend that he had known at West Point or in the regular
army. This officer leaned forward and said in an earnest manner, "Whose
cavalry is this?" Kilpatrick told him it was his. I then heard him say,
"General Porter," meaning Fitz-John Porter, "is fearful that there is
going to be a break. I wish you would deploy your cavalry in the rear of
our lines and do not allow a man to pass through unless he is wounded."
Whereupon Kilpatrick gave the order "By fours, left about wheel," and
moved the regiment left in front and then into line, with the men at
intervals in close skirmishing order. We no sooner had gotten into
line and advanced toward the woods in which Fitz-John Porter's corps
was, on the left of our army, than I heard the most terrific crashes of
artillery and then the rattle of musketry. This was Longstreet's corps
opening on us. In a few moments Porter's men came swarming out of the
woods. After them came the Confederates, with their batteries close up
with their infantry. Several times I saw our regiments rally, but they
were completely overpowered and swept away, resistance being apparently
impossible. It was this attack of Longstreet's with a superior force
which Porter had predicted and which General Pope had refused to believe
possible, which resulted in the crushing of the left of our army, and
the defeat of General Pope at the second battle of Bull Run.


Having overheard the anxious message of General Porter's staff-officer to
Colonel Kilpatrick, I assumed that it was my duty to carry out
instructions literally, that is, I tried to stop every man I could from
passing to the rear. When all our guns at that part of the field had
limbered up, except those of one regular battery, I met a squad of men
with a major making for the rear. I rode up and told them to go and lie
down beside this battery until I could get more men to act as a support.
He demurred, stating that it was no use, and at my remonstrating with
him, one of his men, an Irishman, spoke up and said, "Who the divil are
you to be talking that way to our officer?" However, the major and his
squad went with me and lay down alongside the battery, when I started
for another squad. I had gone but a few rods when the major got up and
went over the hill with his men. In the light of what I learned
afterwards, the major and those who had seen fighting on the Peninsula
had a better idea of the proper thing to do than I did with my boyish
inexperience; for that was no place for them to remain at that time.

I then discovered that my regiment had withdrawn. When I rode up to the
commander of this battery, as he was limbering up his guns to retire,
the enemy being almost up to him, and told him that I had been
instructed to keep back stragglers, and asked him what I had better do,
he smiled and replied, "The best thing you can do is to get out of
here." I then proposed to stay with him until I found General Bayard.
Pretty soon I met General Pope with his staff, and subsequently General
Bayard, who commanded our brigade. Riding up to the latter I asked him
if he knew where my regiment was. He turned and inquired where certain
members of his staff and orderlies were, and on being told that some had
had their horses shot, and reasons being given for the absence of
others, he said, "You stay with me." I then rode with him over to the
right, to the railroad cut, where Sigel's men had been fighting. I well
recall how angry General Bayard was, talking to himself and shaking his
fist, evidently in a rage at the bad management which had resulted in
the defeat of our army. About ten o'clock that night Major Henry E.
Davies of my regiment reported to General Bayard where the regiment was,
and asked for instructions. It was back somewhere on the Centerville
pike. I then asked the General if I might go back with Major Davies, as
my little gray horse had only one shoe on, to which he consented.

The next day the regiment marched to Alexandria and reached the hills
behind that town at night during a terrific rainstorm. I succeeded in
getting into a barn, where I slept soundly in my wet clothes until the
sun was up the following morning. I well remember the sensation when I
awoke and saw the dome of the Capitol at Washington in the distance.

Going into the town I got weighed in front of a sutler's tent, and, to
my surprise, I had gained five pounds since I had enlisted six weeks


At this time the regiment had one hundred and fifty-two men, as I recall
it, present for duty; there were eleven men and no officers in my
company. We were ordered to Ball's Cross Road to refit, where we got new
clothing and horses; a number of recruits were sent to us, and some of
our sick and wounded men returned to duty. We were then sent out in the
neighborhood of Centerville, where we were engaged in scouting and
skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry while the Army of the Potomac was
in Maryland during the Antietam campaign.

On the return of Lee's army to Virginia, my regiment in Bayard's brigade
was engaged in the various movements on the advance to Fredericksburg.
The incident I most readily recall during this movement was the
relieving of General McClellan from the command of the army and
superseding him by General Burnside. At that time the army idolized
McClellan. I went to a stream for water one night, where I met an
infantryman. He looked so badly that I asked him what the matter was,
when he replied, "Haven't you heard the news?" I said, "No." He then
told me that General McClellan had been removed, whereupon he began to
cry. I went back to our bivouac, as we were on the march, and reported
this. I recall that we sat up in groups till well into the night
discussing this, and our conclusion was that we were being used as an
examining board to try candidates for the next presidency. Of course, in
writing of our impressions from our limited point of view at that time,
I do not wish to convey the idea that I now think McClellan should not
have been superseded. The only mistake was in selecting the man that
superseded him.

In due time the captain of my company, J. F. B. Mitchell, finding out
that I had some clerical ability, as the sergeant who was present when I
made out my enlistment papers prophesied, detailed me to make out the
company's pay-rolls and do whatever company writing there was to do, in
consideration of which I was, for the time being, relieved from doing
guard duty. This fact was known to the members of my company who were
then very friendly to me.

The night before the battle of Fredericksburg I was on picket on the
river's bank opposite the town, where I heard the enemy's artillery
being put in position and men making speeches to the troops. During the
battle, the regiment was on the field in reserve, occasionally under
fire from shells but otherwise not actively engaged. General Bayard, our
brigade commander, was mortally wounded by a shell, dying the next day,
the date set for his wedding, he having requested a postponement of his
leave of absence when he learned there was to be a battle. When our
regiment recrossed the Rappahannock I had no idea the army had been
defeated; indeed, until we saw the New York papers we were ignorant of
the fact.


Shortly after the battle of Fredericksburg, Captain Henry C. Weir, the
adjutant-general of the division to which General D. McM. Gregg had then
been assigned, asked an orderly who happened to be a member of my
company, and who was then engaged carrying a despatch to his
headquarters, if he could suggest a man in his regiment whom he could
detail to act as clerk to make out returns and reports, his former clerk
having gone home with the body of General Bayard. The man suggested me,
and was told to request me to report to division headquarters. I
remember being quite startled at this order, and, anxious to look as
presentable as possible, I stripped and bathed in a brook, on the edges
of which the ice had formed, before calling on Captain Weir. He
questioned me as to my occupation before entering the army, which had
been that of a clerk in my uncle's firm, T. B. Coddington & Co., metal
importers, whom he knew by reputation. He also stated that he knew of my
father's home on the Hudson River. Indeed, he manifested an interest in
me, and, after giving me a copy of a tri-monthly report to look at,
asked me if I thought I could consolidate the several regimental
reports, copies of which he showed me. I made the attempt and succeeded,
whereupon he said he would ask General Gregg to have me detailed at his
headquarters. That detail was made out in December, 1862. Though my rank
was still that of a private, my position was much improved and my
surroundings much more pleasant. I was treated with great consideration
by Captain Weir, and was thereafter busily engaged while in winter
quarters in performing the duties of an adjutant-general's clerk, which
included such writing as General Gregg required of me.

At the time of the battle of Chancellorsville, Gregg's division went on
what was known as the Stoneman raid to Richmond. On this movement and
subsequently on the march, and in all engagements as long as I was with
the General, I was sent with messages and orders the same as a


On this raid I attracted the attention of General Gregg and the
headquarters staff by my ability to sleep on horseback when on the
march. Captain Weir had given me a fine horse, which happened to be a
very fast walker. It was General Gregg's custom to ride alone at the
head of his staff, occasionally inviting Dr. Phillips, the medical
director of the division, to ride alongside of him. As soon as I would
fall asleep, the bridle reins would naturally slacken and the horse
begin to forge ahead. My position in the column was in rear of the
officers of the staff, and with the General's orderly and bugler.
Instead of restraining the horse, my comrades and the staff officers
would open the way and urge him along while I, sitting upright but fast
asleep, would ride alongside of our dignified General and sometimes
ahead of him before he noticed me, when invariably he would wake me up,
grabbing me by the arm and saying, "Meyer, wake up." Chagrined I would
return to my place, the staff officers and orderlies greatly amused.
This incident occurred so frequently on this Stoneman raid that it
evidently made an impression on the General, because, meeting him some
twenty years after the war at a reunion in Philadelphia he, on greeting
me, introduced me to a group of officers and immediately recalled the
fact of my so often being asleep on horseback. One day my horse strayed
from the road and followed a fence up a bank until he came to a point
where the slope reached the fence and he could go no farther, when the
General called out, "Wake him up, he will break his neck." The jolt of
the horse, however, sliding down the slope into the road awakened me,
though I did not fall off. The only penalty I suffered from sleeping on
horseback was the occasional loss of a cap and the scratching of my face
by the branches of trees, but it undoubtedly had much to do with my
being able to withstand the fatigue incident to our campaigns, since
the fact is that I never was off duty for a single hour, by reason of
sickness, during my whole term of service.


On the 9th of June, 1863, occurred the battle of Brandy Station, in
which more cavalry were engaged than in any battle of the Civil War.
General Buford's division had crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly
Ford early in the morning. General Gregg's division crossed at Kelly's
Ford, and General Duffie farther down the river, the latter being under
General Gregg's command and supposed to accompany him. As we were
approaching Brandy Station we heard the heavy cannonading of Buford's
attack, when General Gregg, with the brigades of Colonel Windham and
Colonel Kilpatrick, hurried to the battlefield. Around the station and
between Culpeper and the Rappahannock the country was open and favorable
for cavalry engagements. Indeed, there was one there at every advance
and retreat of the army during 1862 and 1863, I being present at three
of them.

As soon as we emerged from the woods near the station we saw the enemy
on a hill near the Barber House, which was General Stuart's
headquarters. We were approaching them practically in their rear; their
artillery, however, firing at us. General Gregg at once ordered Colonel
Windham to charge with his three regiments--the First New Jersey, the
First Pennsylvania, and the First Maryland; Kilpatrick's brigade at the
time was coming on the field to our right. Windham charged this hill in
columns of regiments, and it was a very thrilling sight to see these
troops going up the slope in the bright June sun, their sabres
glistening. As they neared the enemy General Gregg showed an enthusiasm
that I had never noticed before. He started his horse on a gallop toward
the house, swinging his gauntlets over his head and hurrahing, at the
same time telling Captain Weir to ride over and direct Kilpatrick to
charge at once. Captain Weir happened to be riding a horse that would
always refuse a fence unless another went first. At this critical moment
his horse shied twice, when mine took the fence and I started to carry
the order. As soon as my horse went over Captain Weir's immediately
followed. As he was the adjutant-general and directed to take the order,
I rode up the hill supposing that when Kilpatrick's brigade got there
the enemy would be routed and I might get a prisoner. On arriving at
Stuart's headquarters I found Windham's brigade in a hand-to-hand fight
around the house. Here I met a flanking party of the enemy, who were
driving back a portion of General Windham's command, Kilpatrick's men
not then having reached that point.

In the fight about these headquarters I saw a Confederate officer sabre
a man who I believe belonged to the Maryland regiment; and although the
man begged for quarter, I saw this officer strike him twice after he
offered to surrender. I tried to shoot him, but the ball from my pistol
missed him and struck his horse. This did not take immediate effect.
Finding that I was about to be cut off, as Windham's command had been
repulsed and Kilpatrick had not arrived, and having only one charge left
in my revolver, I had to allow the officer to ride up to strike me, so
as to be sure of my aim. As I presented the pistol, it missed fire, and
as soon as he could recover his seat in the saddle he struck at me. I
had, however, fallen down on the neck of my horse, so the point of the
sabre cut into my collar-bone, but the weight of the blow cut a
two-quart pail, that I had borrowed that morning to cook coffee in,
nearly in two. Before either of us could recover control of our horses,
I had gotten my sabre in my hand, which had been hanging by a knot from
my wrist, as was the custom. He then struck at me the second time, which
blow I parried. His horse then sank under him. I was then being crowded
in a corner, where a fence joined a building, by four of his followers,
one of whom was dismounted. The latter I saw shooting at me. Urging my
horse he jumped a fence and then a ditch beyond it. This enabled me to
escape with only the loss of my hat. I was particularly anxious not to
be captured, because before going into the action the General had
confided to me, for safe-keeping, all his despatches and instructions,
which it was my custom to carry about my person, as, wearing a private's
uniform, in the event of capture, there would be less liability of my
being searched than in the case of a staff-officer wearing the uniform
of an adjutant-general. I finally joined some of our men near the
railroad station, but could not find the General; so, for the time
being, I reported to an officer of the First New Jersey cavalry, whom I
knew, and remained with him until we were again cut off by a force of
the enemy. Later in the day I found General Gregg, who, I was told, had
been quite anxious lest I had been captured, for some one had reported
that he had seen me hard pressed by the enemy, and he supposed I was
captured, and the General knew I had his papers in my pocket.

My wound was not dangerous, though painful, and that night, after it was
plastered up by the doctor, I sat up and made out a list of the
casualties of the division during the day. When it was suggested by
Adjutant-General Weir, that I include my name, I remarked that I thought
I would not do it, as seeing it in the newspapers would needlessly alarm
my mother, and that it did not amount to anything serious, and wasn't
worth while. After the war, however, on the advice of friends, I
reported this circumstance to the War Department and had it certified by
both General Gregg and Colonel Weir,[1] who are still living, merely to
make it a part of my record there on file.

[Footnote 1: See Appendix B.]

Kilpatrick's men soon reached the house, capturing Stuart's
adjutant-general and his papers. The fighting was desperate; charges
being made, repulsed, and repeated by our men against a much larger
force, as Duffie's brigade had failed to report. Finally, the
Confederates bringing infantry from Culpeper, our commands were
withdrawn, without molestation by the enemy, across the Rappahannock,
the purpose of the movement being accomplished; which was to cripple
Stuart's cavalry, to prevent his starting on a raid to Pennsylvania
which was contemplated, and also to ascertain if Lee's army was still in
that vicinity. It was also a great benefit to our troops engaged, in
giving them experience in fighting in large bodies mounted, with sabres,
and added much to their confidence, as was demonstrated in later

After the battle, meeting the man who loaned me his tin pail which had
been destroyed by the sabre blow I described, I explained to him how it
happened, when, to my surprise, he complainingly remarked, "Well, how do
you suppose I am going to cook my coffee?" Whereupon, I remarked,
"Well, I can't help it, but I will give you a new pail as soon as I can
buy one." Evidently the loss of his coffee boiler was of more
consequence to him than my narrow escape.


In about ten days General Gregg's division marched towards Aldie, the
object being to discover the movements of Lee's army; the idea being
that our cavalry should find their cavalry, attack and drive them back
on their infantry, thus obtaining the knowledge the commander of the
army required. On this march to Aldie General Pleasanton, the corps
commander, was represented at General Gregg's headquarters by one of his
staff officers, Captain George A. Custer, afterwards General. When
Custer appeared he at once attracted the attention of the entire
command. On that day he was dressed like an ordinary enlisted man, his
trousers tucked in a pair of short-legged government boots, his horse
equipments being those of an ordinary wagonmaster. He rode with a little
rawhide riding whip stuck in his bootleg, and had long yellow curls down
to his shoulders, his face ruddy and good-natured.

While on this march we came to a stream beside the road, in which a full
battalion could water their horses at once. As the headquarters staff
and the troops following us had gone into line to permit their horses to
drink, Custer, for some reason, concluded to go in on the other side of
the stream, riding in alone to allow his horse to drink. He did not know
how deep the water was, and after his horse was satisfied, instead of
returning by the way he went in, concluded to cross the stream and come
out on our side. The water was deeper than he anticipated and his horse
nearly lost his footing. However, when he got to our side, he urged his
horse to climb out at a point where the bank was steep. In this effort
he fell over backward, Custer going out of sight in the water. In an
instant, however, he was up on his feet and the horse struggled out amid
the shouts of the spectators, when, mounting his horse, the march was
resumed. The dust at this time was so thick that one could not see more
than a set of fours ahead, and in a few minutes, when it settled on his
wet clothes and long wet hair, Custer was an object that one can better
imagine than I can describe.


In a short time, Kilpatrick, at the head of our column, met Fitzhugh
Lee's command at Aldie, and drove it through the town, where a desperate
fight occurred just beyond it, the enemy being strongly posted there
behind stone walls. As soon as the first shots were heard, General Gregg
hurried to the front and took his position on a hill just beyond and to
the right of the town, upon which Kilpatrick had posted a battery. It
was then found that Kilpatrick was outnumbered, all his command had
been charging and he had no reserves. General Gregg then directed me to
go back and bring Colonel Irwin Gregg, commanding the Second Brigade, by
a short cut back of the town, through the woods, to this part of the
field as quickly as possible. Just as I went over the ridge to carry
this order, I met the First Maine cavalry, with Colonel Doughty at its
head, coming onto the field. As I passed him, the Colonel, who knew me,
laughingly remarked, "You are going in the wrong direction." I replied:
"Yes, I know it, but I will be back in a few minutes." Very shortly I
returned to this spot with Colonel Gregg at the head of his brigade,
when I saw a man leading a horse upon which was a body, evidently dead,
as his arms were hanging on one side and the feet on the other, a man
supporting it. Inquiring, "Whom have you got there?" the man replied,
"Colonel Doughty." The Colonel, who was a most gallant man, as soon as
he arrived on the field at a moment most critical for Kilpatrick,
charged at the head of his regiment, routing a charge of the enemy that
had repulsed the Fourth New York, and then charged upon dismounted men
behind stone walls, where he received two bullets through his breast. It
was reported that night that some of the prisoners we had taken had said
that the old fellow riding at the head of his regiment seemed so brave
they hated to shoot him. This charge, however, routed the enemy, and,
Irwin Gregg having arrived with his remaining regiments, they withdrew.

That night was rather a blue time for us. Lieutenant Whitaker, a fine
officer of my regiment, was among the killed, and the First
Massachusetts cavalry had suffered severely. Our men induced a
wheelwright in the village to work that night making coffins for some of
the officers who had been killed.

On the second day after occurred the fight at Middleburg. On this
occasion Colonel Irwin Gregg's brigade had the advance. The enemy had
been forced back to a strong position on a ridge, their lines occupying
the right and left of the turnpike in the edge of woods covering the
ridge on both sides of the road. On the right, in front of the enemy,
was a cleared field, on the far side of which were also woods in which
Colonel Gregg had two of his regiments, one dismounted, and one mounted
ready to charge at a favorable moment. The Tenth New York cavalry was
down the road in reserve. The enemy's battery was posted on the left of
the pike and on our right as we faced them. Just below this battery, the
ground receding, was a large wheat field and behind a stone wall
parallel to the pike they had a line of dismounted men, their battery
firing into the woods where Colonel Gregg's two regiments were. General
Gregg was with our battery on a ridge some distance back. As the enemy
were making a determined stand General Gregg turned to me and said:
"Ride up to Colonel Gregg, present my compliments, and ask him why he
does not drive those people out of there." As I rode to deliver this
message I wondered how Colonel Gregg would receive it from me, who was
not then a commissioned officer, though he knew me as the General's

When I reached the woods in which his command was, I started to ride in,
when an orderly holding a couple of horses called out, "Here, you can't
go mounted through there." Asking him then if Colonel Gregg was in there
he replied that he was, and that he was holding his horse. Leaving my
horse with this man I walked through the woods on the edge of which was
Colonel Gregg's line. He was standing with his shoulder against a tree
at the very front of it. As I approached him he reached out, grabbed me
by the arm, saying, "Keep back, they will hit you," and drew me up
alongside of him where we were somewhat protected by the tree. He then
said, "Well, what is it?" I then repeated General Gregg's message,
expecting an irritated reply, since it seemed to imply a censure.
Instead of that, he, in the mildest manner possible, said: "I will tell
you. You see their line across this clearing?" Replying "Yes," he
continued: "You see where their guns are on the right of the road
covering this, and you also see a line of dismounted men behind that
stone wall at the wheat field. Now, if I order a charge across there it
will be subjected to an enfilading fire from those men behind the wall
and it will be very expensive of men." He then asked me if the General
had a spare regiment that he could send around in a ravine beyond the
wheat field, have them dismount and crawl through the wheat unobserved
and attack the men who were facing him from behind the stone wall. I
told him there was, and he asked me to go back and explain the matter,
saying, "If the General will send some men to get those fellows started
behind that wall I will charge." I returned and described the situation
to General Gregg, who directed a battalion of the Harris Light, I think,
to make a détour, crawl through the wheat field, and attack the men
behind the wall, who were practically right under the guns of the enemy,
which were, however, firing over their heads across the road into the
woods from which they were expecting a charge to be made. The General
then directed me to return and tell Colonel Gregg to charge as soon as
the men behind the stone wall were attacked. In due time the Harris
Light suddenly appeared only a few rods in the rear of the Confederates
behind the wall, who, without any warning, received a volley in their
backs. They were at once in confusion and at that moment the bugle
sounded the charge and the First Maine and Fourth Pennsylvania from the
woods, and the Tenth New York in column on the turnpike, charged and
took the ridge, the Confederate battery getting away just in the nick of
time. I recall seeing the body of one of their colonels lying out in the
turnpike just near where their guns had stood. This finished the fight
for that day. This incident is mentioned somewhat in detail because I
think that Colonel Gregg's coolness and solicitude for the safety of his
men, where, by the use of a little strategy a needless loss of life was
saved, deserve recognition.

The following day, which I think was Sunday, the three divisions of the
cavalry corps, including General Gregg's, drove the enemy steadily back
without much resistance on their part until we reached Upperville. There
was open country at the outskirts of the town, and to the left as we
approached it were woods. As our men attempted to charge down the main
street they were met by a murderous fire from behind a high hedge, and
at the same moment the enemy charged from the woods on the left and
drove them back. For a few minutes the situation seemed most critical,
and just then a piece of shell struck General Gregg's horse in the
stomach behind the saddle girth, grazing the General's leg. The horse
sank under him and in an instant one of his orderlies dismounted, gave
the General his horse, and took the saddle from the wounded animal. At
this moment General Gregg ordered a cavalry regiment, I think the Sixth
Regulars, who were nearby in a field, to make a counter charge, which,
after a little delay caused by the presence of a stone wall, they did.
This charge, with our men, who rallied, co-operating, resulted in
driving the enemy back into and through the town. To our surprise, the
General's wounded horse had struggled to his feet and was running beside
him with his nose against his leg, his entrails dragging on the ground.
Noticing this, he exclaimed, "For God's sake, somebody shoot him!"
Whereupon I discharged my pistol in the horse's ear, which killed him.

Just then, as we approached the entrance to the town, I heard Nick, the
General's bugler, calling me to come and help him. Looking around I
found Nick trying to ward off the blows of an infuriated German of our
army, who was trying to sabre a Confederate boy who had been wounded and
was lying down on his horse's neck. I immediately interfered, and with
my sabre parried a blow intended for the boy, when the German excitedly
exclaimed, "Vy, he's a Reb," when I replied, "Suppose he is, can't you
see he's done for?" Whereupon, after a brief altercation the German rode
on. Nick then led the boy's horse out, and the command moved on, the
enemy having broken. We soon met one of our doctors, and being anxious
to know if the boy was mortally wounded, we took him to a nearby house
where three ladies came to the gate, and, when they saw it was a
Confederate soldier, began to cry. We carried him to a room, turned a
chair up for him to recline on, when the doctor opened his shirt and
found a bullet had entered his breast. The boy turned to the women who
were standing around, pointed to little Nick, and faintly remarked,
"There's the only friend I had to-day." We then left the doctor with
him, mounted our horses, rode on, and soon joined the General.

The enemy were driven to Ashby's Gap. This battle and those of the
preceding days demonstrated the fact that Lee's army was on its way to


General Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, having been
satisfied, as a result of the cavalry engagements here described, that
General Lee intended to invade Maryland, Gregg's division, as did the
rest of the army in a few days, crossed the Potomac at Edward's Ferry at
night. It was moonlight, and I, in common with others, experienced a
strange sensation as we watched our columns crossing the pontoon
bridges, the bands playing, _Maryland, my Maryland_. We then marched for
Frederick, reaching that city before noon of the next day. As we rode
down its main street we witnessed a sight the like of which we had been
unfamiliar with, since in Virginia, being the enemy's country, the
people when we entered a town either concealed themselves, or, when
seen, showed by their demeanor that they either detested or feared us.
In Frederick, however, every house was decorated and the porches filled
with people enthusiastically waving and making every demonstration of
delight. We soon after marched through Liberty and to New Windsor. In
the former place we met our infantry passing through the town as we rode
in. Here we saw ladies with servants standing in the streets beside the
marching column, handing out cakes, milk, and lemonade to the tired and
dusty infantrymen, who were not permitted to halt, one lady remarking in
my presence, "Isn't it a shame that they won't allow them to rest."

Later in the day we stopped at New Windsor, where the General made his
headquarters at the little village hotel. Near this hotel, Johns, the
General's orderly, and I were offered refreshments by a lady who kept a
young ladies' boarding school. At this school were about fourteen
enthusiastic young girls who overwhelmed us with attentions. Indeed,
they took the ribbons from their necks and braided the manes of our
horses with them, and mine had a red, white, and blue rosette attached
to his forelock. We soon moved on, but that night the General was
ordered to return to this town. On getting this information I mentioned
it to my comrade Johns, and suggested that as soon as it got a little
dark we should ride on ahead of the column, when we might again meet the
schoolgirls, which we subsequently did. The General made his
headquarters at the little hotel beside the school-building, and we took
our horses inside the village cemetery adjoining the school-grounds and
tied them to the fence, taking off the saddles, and spreading our
blankets on the ground. As we were drawing them over our heads on
turning in for the night, we heard a call from one of the upper windows
of the school, which was filled with faces, telling us to remember our
dreams, for dreams dreamt on a strange pillow often came true. We knew
no more till about daylight, when we awakened and found it had been
raining. While we were feeding and grooming our horses, a servant came
to us with an invitation from the mistress of the school, stating that
breakfast would be ready for us in a few minutes, and that we would find
water, soap, and towels on the back porch where we "might refresh
ourselves." We soon repaired to the porch where we found two white china
basins, and fresh water, soap, and towels. This was a novelty, as
hitherto a piece of a grain bag which we carried in our saddle-pocket
was what we used when a towel was necessary. The breakfast-table was
spread on the back porch. Noticing the General's horse saddled, we
expressed a fear that he might start while we were at breakfast, when
the lady proposed to have the table removed to the front porch where we
could see the General when he came out to mount. This was done and at
this most bountiful meal we had about a dozen girls to wait on us, each
with her album for us to write our autographs in. The General soon
appeared, when, thanking the ladies for their hospitality, we moved on.
As soon as Captain Weir, the adjutant-general, saw me he began to
censure me for being absent that night as he had a lot of writing to do
which I should have done, when one of the staff-officers, noticing my
horse's mane and the rosette on his forelock, pointed them out to him.
He, evidently appreciating the situation, withheld any further comment.

Within the next day or so we marched to Westminster and to Manchester,
leaving the latter place by daylight for York, where it was reported the
Confederate cavalry were, and Gregg was sent to attack them. We reached
the hills beyond York some time that afternoon and saw their pickets.
Just at this time a despatch was received from the corps commander
stating that fighting had begun at Gettysburg and that General Gregg was
to report there with his command with all possible speed. He thereupon
started the column for Gettysburg by way of Hanover. We marched the rest
of that afternoon and through the night, reaching Hanover about two
o'clock in the morning. As in many Pennsylvania towns, this had a public
square, at one end of which was a market-house with a road on either
side of it, and the General had to awaken some of the citizens to
ascertain which was the direct road to Gettysburg. We noticed dead
horses in the streets of Hanover, and the citizens told us of the fight
Kilpatrick's division had had there the afternoon before, in which he
succeeded in driving away the Confederate cavalry that attacked him as
he was passing through the town. While the General was waiting to
ascertain the right road to Gettysburg, I fell asleep sitting on a
zinc-covered fish stall, my bridle rein in my hand. On awaking I
discovered the command had all moved on; learning the road they took, I
hurried on and soon overtook them.


General Gregg reached the battlefield of Gettysburg about noon and
reported to the commanding general, whose headquarters were not far from
the cemetery, where I noticed that the sod and the graves were much torn
up by artillery wheels. The General was ordered with his division to
take position on the right of our army. During the day a portion of the
command did some skirmishing, and our artillery occasionally fired when
the enemy appeared, but we were not heavily engaged. This was the second
of July, the day on which the fighting was so severe on the left of our
line, where Longstreet's corps made such desperate attempts to break
through in the vicinity of the Round Tops.

The weather was extremely hot and it was on this, the second day of the
battle, that the Sixth Corps made a march of about thirty-two miles to
reach the field, their exhausted and sun-struck men lying for fifteen
miles on the road. The following, the third and last day of the battle,
General Gregg's division was, at his suggestion, moved to a position
farther to the right and rear, to guard against the enemy's breaking
through to where our reserve artillery and ammunition were parked. About
noon a despatch was sent to him stating that General Howard reported
that heavy clouds of dust were seen rising above the trees on his right,
indicating that a large force of cavalry was moving in that direction.
General Custer with his brigade, which belonged to General Kilpatrick's
division but had been under General Gregg's orders, was about to return
to Kilpatrick, who was on the left of the army, when General Gregg
proposed to Custer that, in view of an attack from a strong force which
now seemed imminent, he remain with him, which Custer gladly consented
to do.


I described Custer as he appeared when, as a captain, he was with us at
Aldie about two weeks before, where, after his ducking, he voluntarily
led repeated charges of Kilpatrick's men, attracting the attention of
every one present by his conspicuous gallantry. Within that two weeks
he, with Farnsworth, Merritt, and Kilpatrick, had been made
brigadier-generals. Kilpatrick was given the command of Stahl's
division, Farnsworth one of his brigades, and Custer a brigade of four
Michigan regiments. In marked contrast with Custer's costume on the day
of the fight at Aldie, he now appeared in a uniform consisting of a
black velvet jacket and trousers, with a gold cord on the seam of his
trousers and the gilt stripes of a brigadier-general on his arm. He
wore a man-o-war's man's shirt with the wide collar out on his
shoulders, on each point of which was worked a silver star indicating
his rank of brigadier-general. The neck was open, just as a man-o'-war's
man has his, and he wore a sailor's tie. On this day he wore a small
cap. It was said at the time, that some months before, soon after he
came out of West Point, friends tried to secure for him the colonelcy of
the Fifth Michigan cavalry, at this time commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel
Russell A. Alger, but, like many volunteers of that period, the men, in
their inexperience, preferred officers from the civilians who came out
with them, and declined to have Custer. It therefore happened that the
man they refused to have as their colonel was sent to be their general,
and under his leadership the Michigan cavalry brigade became famous.

The enemy had placed some batteries on our left and front, and advanced
from the woods in our front. Colonel McIntosh's brigade met their
attacks, a part of his command being dismounted. His entire force soon
became hotly engaged, and also the Fifth and Sixth Michigan regiments.
General Gregg stationed himself near his batteries, where he could see
the field and direct the battle; one of these was Randol's and the other
commanded by A. C. M. Pennington, both famous batteries, Randol's to the
right and Pennington's to the left. In this engagement the fire of these
batteries, especially Pennington's, was remarkably accurate, compelling
the enemy at times to shift their guns, and contributed in no small
measure to our success.

After the fighting had been in progress for some little time, Custer
took off his cap, placed it in his saddle-pocket and led the Seventh
Michigan cavalry in a charge, his yellow hair flying and his uniform
making him a conspicuous object. The Seventh was a new regiment and was
armed with a Spencer rifle which carried one cartridge in the barrel and
seven in the breech; this was the first time I had seen this weapon.
This charge was over a very considerable distance, with the result that
the lines were somewhat extended so that when they came close to the
enemy behind a fence and were met by a fresh body of Confederate cavalry
charging them, they were repulsed. Being a new regiment, many of the men
rode wildly past McIntosh's command and up to and beyond our guns. I
think it was during this affair that General Custer's horse was shot. I
heard him remark after the fight that he would have been captured except
for the fact that one of his buglers caught a horse for him and held off
the man who wanted him to surrender. Meanwhile I had been sent to
Colonel McIntosh and was with him when the Seventh Michigan men came
back past his dismounted lines. He was making heroic efforts to rally
them, fairly frothing at the mouth and yelling, "For God's sake, men,
if you are ever going to stand, stand now, for you are on your free

It was just before this that we discovered Stuart's final advance, by
Hampton's and Fitz-Hugh Lee's brigades, which Hampton led past
McIntosh's dismounted men, charging right up to within about fifty yards
of our guns. Believing that, if the guns were taken, there was nothing
to prevent the enemy from getting at the reserve artillery and
ammunition trains in our rear, it seemed the crisis for us, as it was
also about the time Pickett was advancing against the centre of our
army's line of battle. I took a position between two guns, which I think
were in charge of Lieutenant Chester, who excited my admiration by his
coolness, and there awaited the expected struggle over them. The effect
of Pennington's and Randol's firing on Hampton's brigades was soon
noticeable, for the momentum of their charge seemed to be checked when
they were about one hundred and fifty yards from our guns. Our batteries
were then firing canister into them.

Two gallant charges were made into Hampton's columns as they came on.
Captain Trichel with about sixteen men of McIntosh's brigade, including
Captains Walter Newhall and Rogers, suddenly appeared and charged into
them from the right, creating some confusion. Newhall tried to make for
a color-bearer, who lowered his staff, striking him in the mouth,
knocked him from his horse, and tore his face open. Trichel, his
officers, and nearly all of his men were wounded. About the same time
Captain Miller of the Third Pennsylvania with his company charged right
through the rear part of the column from the left. Hampton had led his
men to within about fifty yards of Chester's guns, when suddenly the
First Michigan cavalry, a veteran and very fine regiment, led by Colonel
Towne, with Custer by his side, appeared. The Colonel, in the last
stages of consumption it was said, required assistance to mount his
horse. This regiment, which from my position I had not seen, struck the
enemy in front and flank, right before our guns, which only then ceased
firing. Immediately staff-officers, orderlies, and the men that a moment
before had been coming to the rear joined in a hand-to-hand fight in
front of the batteries. In a few minutes the enemy broke to the rear and
our men, joined by the First New Jersey, Third Pennsylvania, Fifth and
Sixth Michigan which had mounted, chased them nearly to the woods from
which they had emerged some three quarters of a mile in our front.

This ended General Gregg's cavalry fight at Gettysburg, the fortunate
outcome of which undoubtedly contributed greatly to the victory.
Immediately word was sent to headquarters of our success and in a short
time a brief note was received from, I think, General Butterfield,
General Meade's chief of staff, written on a slip of paper about the
size of an envelope. The words, as I recall, were: "Congratulations upon
your success; attack here repulsed. Longstreet wounded and a prisoner."
The reference to Longstreet was a mistake, Armistead was meant. Riding
along the lines I called out the contents of this note to our men, who
began cheering, for we then knew that the battle of Gettysburg had been


The following morning our burial parties were at work, when a man from a
Michigan regiment came and asked me if I would help him look for some of
his comrades in a wheat field; the wheat being about three feet high it
was not easy to notice a body in it unless one stumbled right on it. In
a few minutes he called out that he had found one and then he said he
had another. As the burial party was digging a trench on the ridge just
beyond, I suggested that he stay where he was to mark the location and I
would ride over and get some of the citizens, whom we noticed plundering
the battle-field of horse equipments, to help carry the bodies over so
they might be buried. I rode up to two or three men who had harness,
saddles, and horse equipments in their possession and told them to drop
them and come over to help me carry the bodies that we might bury them,
as we had to move on shortly. They were a type of Pennsylvania Dutchmen
that lived in that county, who seemed utterly indifferent to the war and
anything pertaining to it, beyond securing such spoils as they got on
the battle-field. They at once demurred and said they had no time,
whereupon I flew into a rage at their heartless conduct, drew my sabre,
and threatened to sabre them if they did not come at once. They then
sulkily complied. When we got back to where the bodies were I told them
to take some fence rails and carry them as though they were a stretcher.
We put the bodies across the rails, the men holding the ends of them.
When we had two bodies on this improvised stretcher I discovered a
Confederate soldier, a sergeant, with a bushy head of red hair and a red
beard. A sabre had split open the top of his head so you could put your
hand in the gash. I suggested that he be cared for too, and when we
attempted to put him on the stretcher they complained that they could
not carry the load. Then I rode after some more citizens whom I also
compelled to come over and help us. With their assistance we succeeded
in getting a number of bodies up to where the burial party was at work.
When I told my Michigan comrade of my experience with these men he
became so angry that I thought he would shoot them then and there.

The General then moved into the town of Gettysburg, where, in contrast
to the heartless conduct of these men, we found patriotic women at work
in every house pulling lint and doing what they could to alleviate the
suffering that was all around them. One lady, who, I was told, was the
wife of a physician killed on the Peninsula, came out on the front
porch and asked every soldier she saw to come in and have hot coffee and
biscuit. The men gave her coffee, which she made in a wash-boiler, but
the biscuits were made from flour she possessed, which by this time was
about exhausted. As it was likely to be several days before normal
conditions could be restored in the town, I suggested that she had
better cease baking biscuits and save the little flour she had for her
family, when she replied that she would take the chance, that as long as
she had any she was going to give it to the soldiers.

About this time Nick, the General's bugler, came to me and reported that
he had found a citizen who had fought with our troops and been wounded,
an old man, and Nick wanted a doctor to go and see him as he was in his
own house nearby. This citizen proved to be the famous John Burns, an
old man of seventy, who fought, I think with a Wisconsin regiment.
Whether anybody else had discovered Burns before Nick did I am not sure,
but my recollection is that Nick's discovery first called the attention
of our people to the fact.

General Gregg's command then moved out on the Chambersburg pike, where
for miles we saw the distressing evidences of the battle in the shape of
the Confederate wounded, who were in every barn and building and lying
beside the road. It had rained heavily the night before and the fields
in which these men lay were flooded with water. Those able to do so had
secured rails, upon which their helpless comrades were placed to keep
them out of the water. I think the division that day captured, including
the wounded, about four thousand. General Gregg sent back a report of
the condition of these poor Confederate wounded whom Lee had been
obliged to leave behind, and asked that ambulances be sent out to take
them in where they could have the attention of our surgeons, then
overworked and exhausted caring for the thousands of wounded among our
own men.

From Chambersburg we marched back to Gettysburg and thence to
Boonesborough, arriving there about the ninth. In the neighborhood of
Boonesborough we met the Seventh New York militia, whose fine band of
about sixty pieces, led by Graffula, that night serenaded General Meade.
The square in front of his headquarters was thronged with men listening
to the fine music, the like of which we never heard in the army. One
man, I think from Indiana, remarked to me: "I tell ye the bullet hain't
run that will kill a fellow when that band's a-playin'."


Within a few days General Gregg was directed to cross the Potomac at
Harper's Ferry and move out to the vicinity of the road leading from
Martinsburg to Winchester, which was General Lee's line of
communications, to do what was possible to cripple his wagon trains. We
moved through Charlestown and the next day reached Shepherdstown, where
the Confederates had large stores of provisions. The people there were
divided in sentiment, some sympathizing with the South, and a few with
the Union army. With a view of rewarding the Union sympathizers, some of
us took flour and bacon from the Confederate stores and presented it to
the families that we believed to be in sympathy with the Union, to the
disgust of those who favored the South. This proved to be an unfortunate
performance on our part for the recipients of our favors. While this was
going on the enemy attacked and drove in our pickets and advanced in
force. Fortunately the First Maine cavalry was mounted and on the road,
going out for forage. Colonel Smith, their commander, at once deployed
his regiment and checked the rapid advance of the enemy until General
Gregg could get out the rest of the command and occupy a good position.

That morning some prisoners were brought in and as they were taking a
squad to the rear I asked one of the men what regiment he belonged to.
Upon his reply that it was the Twenty-eighth Louisiana and that it was
from New Orleans, I asked him if he knew any one by the name of Sykes.
He inquired if he was one of the auctioneer's sons. On telling him he
was, he replied that they had two in his regiment and that one of them
had been wounded and left back at some place, which I do not now recall.
This Sykes was a second cousin of mine. On writing home I reported the
circumstance to my mother, whose brother, my uncle, shortly after
visited New Orleans and was thus able to give information to Sykes's
mother in New Orleans regarding her son, she up to that time having had
no word as to his whereabouts or condition. He subsequently recovered.

About this time General Gregg received word that Lee's army had entirely
recrossed the Potomac, so it was too late to accomplish anything with
two brigades. He also found that they were moving around to surround us,
as several couriers were captured on the way from Harper's Ferry, the
main roads leading there then being occupied by the enemy. General
Gregg, as usual under such conditions, made a splendid fight, the enemy
making repeated efforts to drive us, but were every time repulsed by
Irwin Gregg's brigade and the fire of our battery. They kept up their
attacks until dark. That night the wounded who could be moved were
started back for Harper's Ferry by a road close to the river's edge, the
only one not occupied by the enemy, the General and his staff leaving
some time after midnight, and our rearguard about daylight. Within due
time we reached Harper's Ferry with no losses other than the killed and
those so badly wounded that we were unable to move them. These were left
in a church with a surgeon and the ladies of Shepherdstown, who were
zealous in their efforts to assist in alleviating the suffering of our

During August and September, the division was kept busy watching the
movements of the enemy. Several skirmishes and engagements occurred. The
most notable that I recall was one during the advance from Sulphur
Springs to Culpeper and thence to the Rapidan, which I think was in
September. Kilpatrick's division came by way of Brandy Station while we
moved from Sulphur Springs, the two divisions meeting about midday at
Culpeper. After stopping to feed, the advance was resumed when, just
beyond that town, the enemy made a sharp counter attack, but we finally,
when our reserves were brought up, drove them back. Later in the day we
went into camp in an abandoned cornfield, when it began to rain and we
remained there in the rain for I think forty-eight hours. Indeed, my
clothing had been wet through for probably sixty hours, because on the
morning of the advance before we arrived at Culpeper we reached a bridge
which the enemy had set fire to, thus temporarily checking our advance.
As the General rode up some of our men were pulling off the plank. I
noticed that this would not save the bridge, since the combustible
material was suspended from below. Riding into the stream and under the
bridge I began pulling down the burning material thus suspended, others
following and helping me, and within a few minutes we had the fire out,
the planks restored, and, with our mounted men fording the stream, we
were able to take our artillery across, when the enemy fell back. As we
were liable at any moment to meet with a counter charge, I was afraid to
take time to get off my horse and take my long cavalry boots off to pour
the water out of them, consequently I rode with about half a pail of
water in each boot-leg for a good part of the day. This fact and the
rain coming on later was the reason why my clothing was wet for the
period mentioned. No ill results, however, followed this, for when the
sun finally came out my clothes were soon dry.


The following September General Kilpatrick, having become commander of a
division in July previous, applied to have me ordered to my regiment in
his division in order that I might be detailed for duty at his
headquarters. General Gregg wrote a letter to General Pleasanton, the
corps commander, requesting a "suspension of the order," because of the
absence, by reason of illness, of his adjutant-general, Captain Weir, in
which he stated substantially that he had no staff-officers familiar
with the adjutant-general's duties and that my services were then
"invaluable to him."[2] The order was thereupon suspended until Captain
Weir's return, when I reported to General Kilpatrick. About this time,
Captain Weir recommended me for a commission, which recommendation was
endorsed by General Gregg.[2] I was very sorry to leave General Gregg's
headquarters, for I had come to have great admiration for him and
Captain Weir, both as soldiers and high-toned, patriotic men.

[Footnote 2: See Appendix B.]


At General Kilpatrick's headquarters I performed the same duties as
at General Gregg's, acting largely in the capacity of private secretary
to him when in camp, and doing a staff-officer's duty in the field,
until the following February. I was present with him at all the
engagements the division took part in during that period; the most
important of which that I recall was on the retreat from Culpeper, and
later at Buckland's Mills near Warrenton, about October 20th. The former
was on the occasion of the retirement from Culpeper and Brandy Station.
After leaving Culpeper General Custer's brigade had the advance and
General H. E. Davies, Jr., was covering the rear. General Pleasanton,
the corps commander, and his staff and escort happened to be riding near
General Kilpatrick and his staff, and Custer with three regiments was, I
think, in column of squadrons moving on the open plain between Culpeper
and Brandy Station and to the left of the railroad. The wagons of the
two brigades were in the advance, as we were retiring. It was a bright
October afternoon and one could see for a considerable distance ahead. A
stream called Mountain Run had to be crossed and we noticed confusion at
it, though it was probably a mile ahead. Presently some one appeared and
reported that the enemy were in position directly across our line of
march on the opposite side of the run. To their left they had a battery
which had the range of the little bridge over which our entire column
must pass to cross Mountain Run. It thus seemed that we were likely to
be cut off and the only alternative was to charge right through this
force directly in our front. Kilpatrick gave orders to Custer to charge
with his entire command and we then advanced in practically five
columns. This was a fine sight and a thrilling moment. Pleasanton's
staff and escort, Kilpatrick's staff and escort, and Custer's three or
four regiments. When we arrived within a reasonable charging distance of
the enemy posted as I have described, Custer ordered his band to strike
up _Yankee Doodle_; the men on hearing this began cheering when the
bugle sounded the charge. The five columns rushed forward and the enemy
broke before we reached them, moving into the woods on their left and
our right, across the railroad. I remember one gallant Confederate
riding out in an effort to rally their men, standing in plain sight with
his battle-flag stuck in the ground, holding it off from his horse at
arm's length, but it was of no use, and he finally was obliged to

Meanwhile the enemy appeared on our left and rear, and part of our force
had to turn and meet them, Davies, who was covering our rear, being also
strongly pressed as he was retiring from Culpeper. Repeated charges were
made and the enemy held back until our wagons, ambulances, and artillery
were gotten over the little bridge previously referred to at Mountain
Run. Ultimately the entire command crossed at this point. The enemy had
such an accurate range of this crossing-place that they dropped their
shells on and in the immediate vicinity of the bridge during the
crossing of our men. Just as I passed it, the man who was riding ahead
of me, whose horse mine could touch, had his head taken off by a shell
just as though it had been severed by an axe; the remarkable fact was
that his headless body remained straight in the saddle for an instant or
two, finally toppling over. When we reached Brandy Station we made a
junction with Buford's command, which we found had been coming up in
rear of the line that was drawn up to cut us off. This doubtless had
something to do with their breaking before we reached them in the charge
I have described. We then crossed the Rappahannock and camped for the
night. This was the third engagement that I had been in at Brandy

On October 19th occurred the engagement at Buckland's Mills, near
Warrenton. In this Kilpatrick's command was defeated. In the advance
toward Warrenton there was an interval of about two miles between
General Davies's brigade, which had the advance, and General Custer's.
We had been driving the enemy during the morning toward Warrenton, and
had halted to feed when a force of the enemy came unexpectedly in
between Custer's and Davies's brigades, overwhelmed General Custer's
command, and drove it back across Broad Run; and by taking possession
of the bridge and the Warrenton pike, had cut off General Davies's
command, which was then vigorously attacked by Hampton's force, which
Davies had been pushing toward Warrenton up to this time.

Kilpatrick, when he found Custer was thus attacked, had sent one or two
staff-officers to Davies with orders for him to fall back and make a
junction with Custer. These apparently were unable to reach him, and
Kilpatrick, when he found that Custer could not hold his position,
became very anxious that word should be gotten to Davies of the real
situation and the danger that his brigade might be cut off and a large
portion of them captured. As he crossed the bridge with the rear of
Custer's command he turned to me, as I was riding near him, no
staff-officer being at the moment about, and remarked: "Meyer, somebody
must get to Davies and let him know that Custer has been driven across
Broad Run and that the enemy have got this bridge." On turning my horse
to go back, he called out: "Tell him to make his way the best he can to
Haymarket where he will find General Newton's corps."


I was unable to return across the bridge, as the enemy had the other end
of it and were moving up the stream so as to intercept Davies, whom they
knew was being driven back on them. Riding until beyond their line I saw
some of Custer's men, who had been cut off, come out of the woods at
that point and cross the stream to escape, when I took advantage of the
confusion to cross to the west side, trusting I would not be noticed and
that the woods at that point would screen me from observation. Being
familiar with the country I made my way around their flank and rear,
having the sound of Davies's firing to direct me to his whereabouts. I
soon reached him and found him hard pressed. When I reported the
situation, his men were rallied for another charge, which was led by
Captain J. F. B. Mitchell, so as to gain time to permit a withdrawal, as
directed. We then galloped across the country, the forces opposing
following on our flanks, until we crossed Broad Run farther up towards
Haymarket. Davies's artillery had meanwhile been conducted away in
safety under the guidance of Doctor Capehart, of the First West Virginia
cavalry, who knew the country well. The brigade was thus saved from
serious loss; indeed, none other than the casualties in fighting.
Custer's and Davies's brigades formed a junction when they reached the
First Corps commanded by General Newton, and the enemy withdrew.

General Kilpatrick was quite chagrined that evening over the surprise
his command had been subjected to and the defeat it met, and claimed
that he never would have separated Davies's and Custer's brigades and
given the enemy a chance to get in between them by means of the road
from Auburn through the woods, had he not supposed that this road was
being looked after by some one else, whose name I do not now recall.

Custer's command, which was feeding when attacked, made a gallant fight
under very great disadvantages. The remarkably accurate firing by
Pennington's battery, however, checked the enemy's advance and Custer's
personal efforts saved his brigade from much greater losses. Stuart, the
Confederate commander, in his report, claimed that it was "the greatest
rout that any cavalry had suffered during the war," and the Richmond
papers described the fight as the "Buckland Races." This I think is an
exaggerated statement. Of course we were defeated, but as soon as Custer
got across the stream his men were rallied and as fit to take the
offensive as they were in the morning. Davies's brigade fought gallantly
to resist Hampton's assaults, which began as soon as the firing on
Custer in the rear was heard. It was only after I gave Davies the
information that Custer had been driven across Broad Run and that the
enemy had the bridge and were in his rear, moving towards Haymarket to
intercept him, that he started his command on the gallop across the
country to that village. When he had made a junction with Custer, both
brigades were ready to take the offensive; at any rate the enemy

An amusing incident that occurred after Custer's men had gotten over
Broad Run and were being rallied was told me, to the effect that an
Irishman rode up to Kilpatrick, who was riding his horse called "Spot,"
a speckled roan with a white rump, saying: "I say, 'Kil,' stop here, and
the boys will see your horse and they will rally round you, so they
will." This the General did, resulting as the Irishman had predicted.

In December General Custer was temporarily in command of the division,
and on his recommendation I was allowed a furlough of ten days. During
that ten days I dined one evening with Admiral Hiram Paulding, then in
command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (His son had been a schoolmate and
the Admiral had known me before the war.) He questioned me as to my
position in the field, and expressed considerable surprise when I told
him I was not a commissioned officer, and quite embarrassed me, as there
were a number of prominent officers at the table, by slapping me on the
back and in a loud voice, to attract the attention of all present,
stating that he was proud to sit alongside of a private soldier of the
United States Army, and a gentleman. He then asked me to call upon him
the next morning, when he gave me a letter addressed to the Hon. John
Potts, the chief clerk of the War Department and an old friend of his,
which recommended me for a commission. I never presented this
letter,[3] however. He subsequently wrote letters[3] to Governor
Seymour, and Adjutant-General D. Townsend, U. S. A., copies of which he
gave me, and to General Kilpatrick. General Kilpatrick later gave me a
copy of the one he received.[3]

About this time, General Kilpatrick, hearing that my friends at home had
interested themselves in the matter of procuring me a commission, wrote
a letter to the Hon. George T. Cobb, an influential member of Congress
from New Jersey, a copy of which Captain L. G. Estes, his
adjutant-general, gave me.[3] In February an order from the War
Department discharging me as a private from the Harris Light Cavalry to
accept a commission in the Twenty-fourth New York cavalry was received
at General Kilpatrick's headquarters at Stevensburg. I did not care to
leave the General and went to him for advice; yet the idea of going home
on a furlough with promotion was quite attractive, and the General told
me that he thought, on the whole, promotion in a new regiment was more
apt to be rapid since there would be a good many changes during the
first campaign, and, "in any event," he remarked, "if your regiment
comes anywhere near where I am I will have you detailed on my staff."
Thanking the General and bidding him and my friends good-bye, I left his
headquarters for my new field of duty.

[Footnote 3: See Appendix B.]



I returned to New York, procured my uniform, and immediately reported at
Auburn, where the Twenty-fourth cavalry was rendezvoused. To my
surprise, I found that they were under orders to proceed at once to
Washington. When I reported to Colonel Raulston, commanding, he told me
that he proposed to assign me to Company D, as this company had no
captain, and he did not think the first lieutenant, who had recruited
most of the men, was likely to remain long in the service and was unable
to enforce the necessary discipline. Though I was a second lieutenant,
he expected to hold me responsible for the safe conduct of the men to
Washington and the drilling and care of the company. It seems that the
first lieutenant, who was a well-meaning man, was not suited for
military life; he did not realize what was required and expected of him,
was incapable of securing the confidence of the men, and totally
ignorant of the duties of a company commander; and consequently with his
concurrence and with perfect good feeling between us, I took charge of
the company, drilled them, and had practically charge of them until
compelled to leave them by reason of wounds, as will be explained

The regiment left Auburn for Washington via Elmira and Baltimore. It
rode in passenger-cars from Auburn to Elmira, and at Elmira,
notwithstanding the season of the year, February, the regiment was
placed in freight-cars and was thus transported to Baltimore. As the men
had received large bounties I was, I assume, in common with the other
company commanders, told that I would be held responsible should any of
my men desert while en route to Washington. The train made frequent
stops and was held at stations to allow other traffic to pass, and I
think we were something like forty-eight hours en route. It seemed to me
hard to keep the men cramped up in these cars in which they simply had
planks to sit on, so I told them that at each station we stopped at I
would allow a certain number to get out and take a little exercise, but
that in accepting this privilege if any of them took advantage of it to
desert I would have to suffer for it, yet I would take the chances that
they would be fair to me. This they were, since none of them deserted.


Before reaching Baltimore an amusing incident occurred that illustrates
a volunteer soldier's idea of discipline on joining the army. At one of
the stopping-places where my men were out walking on the platform,
Lieutenant-Colonel Newberry remarked that he noticed my men out at
every station, intimating that I was not holding them well in hand. I
replied that I thought it a hardship not to let them take some exercise,
the weather being cold, but that if he directed me not to allow them to
leave the cars I would carry out his instructions. At this he turned and
made no reply. A couple of Irishmen of my company overheard the
conversation, one of whom exclaimed: "I say, Lieutenant, if you say the
word we will belt hell out of him, so we will!" Ordering the men to get
in the car, I had great difficulty to refrain from laughing. If the
Colonel heard the remark he doubtless was amused at it; at any rate he
ignored it. He had a keen sense of the ludicrous, and no officer could
be more considerate of his men than he subsequently proved to be. When
the train conveying the regiment reached Baltimore, the sides of many of
the cars had been stripped of their covering, which had been used to
make fires en route. We finally reached the old Baltimore and Ohio
station in Washington at night, it being very cold. From there we
marched to Camp Stoneman, a cavalry camp of instruction across Potomac
Creek, where the regiment was drilled and put in shape for the campaign
that began in May.

Having had experience in a cavalry regiment and being familiar with
cavalry tactics, and also with the various details of camp duties, I was
able to suggest how my inexperienced men could be comfortable in camp,
as soon as we reached Camp Stoneman. The regiment was, in May, assigned
to Burnside's Ninth Corps, and joined the Army of the Potomac, after a
hard day's march, the afternoon of the second day of the battle of the
Wilderness. As soon as our regiment advanced into the woods, I was
selected to take command of a skirmish line that was to cover, as I
remember, the front of our brigade. I assumed that I was selected for
this duty, though only a second lieutenant in rank, because of the fact
of my prior service with the Harris Light Cavalry and with Generals
Gregg and Kilpatrick. Nothing serious occurred, however, to my command
that day.

On the evening of the last day of the battle of the Wilderness we built
a new line of breastworks, which were in close proximity to the enemy's
lines. With a view to sparing my men, who were then much exhausted, I
had the works in my front built by stragglers from other regiments, of
whom there were a large number, releasing them when the work was
finished. At dark, in order to prevent a surprise, as it was extremely
difficult to keep the men awake, we placed a line of pickets about fifty
yards outside of our works. A short time after, some one on our line
fired a shot, when immediately the whole line arose and began shooting.
Believing that it was a false alarm, I jumped up to look over the
breastworks to see if I could see any firing from the enemy's lines. At
that moment I heard our pickets outside, who were subjected to this
fire, calling out, "For God's sake stop firing, you are killing your own
men!" Running along the line giving orders to stop the firing, I had a
narrow escape from one excited fellow who fired his carbine off, the
muzzle of which was close to my ear as I was in the act of grabbing
another man who, in his excitement, was about to shoot. The line,
however, soon quieted down.

Presently a messenger came to me and speaking in a low tone directed me
to keep a sharp lookout and when I saw the troops on my right move, to
have my men follow as noiselessly as possible, and he enjoined me to see
that the men carried their canteens and tin cups in their hands in order
that no noise might be heard by the enemy whose lines were so close by.
I was soon notified, "They are moving." Quickly walking along the line I
awoke the men and cautioned them to be as quiet as possible. In this
manner we moved out and for some moments were in suspense lest the enemy
hear the movement and, by attacking, stop it. After a while we reached a
place where we could form in column of fours, and all that night we
marched through narrow roads in the woods of that region, halting every
few minutes because of obstructions due to teams and other troops in our
front. This fatiguing process continued until about daylight, when we
reached the main road where the country was open. We were all greatly
depressed, since after the three days' desperate fighting at the
Wilderness no apparent advantage had been gained, and we assumed that
the army had been unsuccessful and that it was an attempt to retreat. We
soon came to a house outside of which I saw a colored woman apparently
dressed up, since it was Sunday. I called out to her and asked what road
we were marching on. Upon hearing her reply, "The road to Spottsylvania
Court House," a thrill of satisfaction instantly passed through every
man in the column, since then we realized that we at last had a general
and that our movement was south and towards the rear of Lee's army. From
that time until the end of my service I never had any misgiving as to
Grant's capacity to lead us to final victory.

It was on this morning that I first saw General Grant. The road ahead
was blocked and our men were lying in it when some one called out, "Get
your men to one side to allow General Grant to pass." Grant, however,
gave directions not to disturb the tired men, many of whom were asleep,
and turned into a field. We were all up, however, anxious to see him. He
appeared riding a small black horse with his feet not more than two feet
from the ground. He had a couple of staff-officers with him, one of whom
was Captain Parker, an Indian, and an orderly. His unpretentious
appearance excited the comment of all, and had we not been told who he
was he would have attracted no more attention than an ordinary line


A little after noon the regiment reached a position in the vicinity of
Spottsylvania, where details of men were given me and I was instructed
to go into the woods and establish a line of skirmishers in a favorable
location. We found the underbrush in these woods on fire, so using a
portion of the men to beat out the fire I placed the remainder on a line
which we occupied until the next day, when we were moved to another part
of the field. It was so difficult to keep my men awake that, in order to
avoid a surprise, I went along the line at frequent intervals during the
night, sometimes being obliged to wake up some of them.

While in front of Spottsylvania Court House I was in command of a force
that held the line of works on the road to that town. We were under fire
most of the day until, towards evening, the enemy retired. With the
desire to have my men get a little refreshment, I suggested that some
part of the men cook coffee while the others remained in the trenches in
line. There being no firewood I suggested that some rails be pulled out
of a breastwork that ran at right angles to one that we had been
occupying. On lifting these rails a man reported that he saw the body of
a Confederate soldier in the breastworks. I then had a considerable
portion of the breastworks uncovered, and found that they had placed in
them a number of dead Confederates and piled rails and dirt on top of
them, thus forming the breastwork behind which they had fought.
Reporting this on being relieved, I saw it afterward commented on in
some of the Northern papers.

It will be remembered that the battle of Spottsylvania was a very
sanguinary one, the enemy being strongly posted behind breastworks in a
rough-wooded country, and the assaults made on these works had cost our
army a loss of nearly twenty thousand men, killed and wounded. A night
or two before the army moved from there, I was called from my place in
the line of breastworks and directed to report at division headquarters.
On arriving there I was introduced to an officer who, I was told, was a
topographical engineer from army headquarters, and that I was to go with
him. It was a dark night with a drizzling rain falling. As we mounted
our horses he told me that I was selected to conduct a division later in
the night to a position from which they were to assault the enemy's
works, the attack to be made before daylight, hoping to surprise them,
previous assaults in the daytime having proved so disastrous to our men.
He stated that he wanted to have me familiarize myself thoroughly with
the ground where the division was to be placed in position for the
charge so that I could explain it to the general in command, and thus
avoid a chance of confusion among the troops and failure of the attack.

On hearing what was expected of me I was naturally greatly impressed
with the responsibility, fearing that if I made a mistake it might be
very disastrous in its results. We soon reached a small corduroy bridge,
about wide enough for a column of fours to cross, from which a roadway
passed through a piece of woods, as I remember it, a few rods, to a
clearing. We left our horses with our orderlies at this bridge and
walked till we came to the clearing. He told me that a few rods in front
the ground began to ascend, and farther up on this slope was the line of
works the division was to attack and attempt to surprise. He then walked
with me along the clearing to the right, explaining about how many yards
it extended in that direction from the opening by which we had entered,
and told me about how many could be placed in line there. We then
returned to the opening and walked to the left of it, where he explained
about how many men could be placed there. On our return to this road, I
suggested that we had better move up the hill a little more so that I
could familiarize myself with the character of the ground over which
the assault was to be made. This was done and we lay on the ground
where we could hear sounds from the enemy's lines. We then returned to
our horses. In my anxiety not to make a mistake, I suggested that we go
all over it again and that he let me show him the way in the manner I
was expected to direct the general, to make sure that I correctly
understood what I was to do. He assented to this, and at its conclusion
expressed himself as satisfied that I understood the duty assigned to
me. On the ride back to headquarters I think nothing was said. I was
naturally thinking over what would be the result of this night attack
and wondering whether I would ever see daylight again. Reaching
headquarters, this officer, whose name I never learned and whose face I
could not even recall, as it was dark the entire time I was with him,
told me I had better lie down and get a little sleep and that I would be
called when wanted. Then taking me by the hand he said, "Good-bye and
God bless you!" and withdrew.

When I awoke the sun was up, and upon inquiry I was informed that about
two o'clock in the morning a message was received from headquarters
countermanding the order for the assault. After the war, I read in some
of General Grant's writings that after assenting to this proposed
assault he was awake in his tent thinking over the prospects of its
success and decided that the chances in the darkness were against it.
Therefore, soon after midnight, he directed that the order for it be
countermanded. I assume that the contemplated assault was to include
other troops than the division I was detailed to accompany.

One night, while with my company in the breastworks, I was sent for and
informed by Colonel Raulston that General Burnside had requested him to
recommend an officer whom he could send to Washington to bring back with
him, at the earliest possible moment, some carbine ammunition for our
regiment, it being of a different calibre from that used by the other
regiments of the division, which were infantry. Colonel Raulston told me
he had decided to detail me for this duty and directed me to report to
General Burnside. I rode to the latter's headquarters, where he gave me
a letter to the War Department and one addressed to his wife. The latter
he requested me to mail in Washington, mail communication with the army
at that time having been temporarily cut off.

I started immediately in a dense fog for Belle Plain, riding all night,
and was obliged to procure a fresh horse in the morning at
Fredericksburg. I sailed from Belle Plain for Washington, arriving the
next morning, and as soon as the War Department opened for business I
presented my letters, and was informed that the necessary ammunition
would be placed on a tug which would be ready to sail for Belle Plain
that afternoon.

I was told that a permit had been given to the late Bishop McIlvaine, of
Ohio, and George H. Stuart, the president of the Christian Commission,
to go on the boat with me, they having been granted permission to go to
the front to look into the practical working of the United States
Christian Commission. When the tug sailed, I being the only United
States officer or soldier on board, Mr. Stuart introduced himself to me,
and then presented me to the Bishop. Later he came to me and said that
it was proposed to have a brief prayer-meeting in the cabin, at which
were present the Bishop, Mr. Stuart, and one or two representatives of
the Christian Commission, and a lady, who, I was told, had a pass from
Mr. Lincoln permitting her to go to the front to see her son, who was
wounded. It impressed me as an exceedingly pathetic and remarkable
incident, and I remember that, being brought up a Presbyterian, I was a
little curious to see whether the Bishop would read his prayers from the
prayer-book or would make one extemporaneously. He, however, made what
seemed to me then one of the most affecting and beautiful extempore
prayers I ever listened to. When the little steamboat reached Belle
Plain, the Bishop's party were put into an ambulance and had an escort
of a part of a regiment to take them to Fredericksburg, as the
intervening country was raided by Mosby's men and all wagon trains
between Belle Plain and Fredericksburg had to be heavily guarded.

No transportation being provided for me to take my ammunition to the
front, I took the responsibility of taking some wagons belonging to
General Potter's division, none of my own being available. I did this
without authority, but under stress of circumstances. When I got them
loaded I found it was impossible to start that afternoon, as no escort
could be furnished until the next morning. I concluded, however, the
General would be anxious to know that the ammunition was en route, and I
decided to start on alone for Fredericksburg. Putting my pistol in my
boot-leg, I started off in a very severe thunder-storm, and, keeping a
good lookout, rode to Fredericksburg without meeting any of the enemy's
roving cavalry.

That night I spent with Captain Corson, quartermaster of General Gregg's
division at Fredericksburg, and started the next morning for the front,
where I reported to General Crittenden when he might expect the first
wagons containing the ammunition, and then rode back to Fredericksburg
to hurry them forward. When I returned with the first two wagons the
regiment was in action, and I was obliged to get details of men to break
open the boxes and carry the cartridges in blankets to supply the men
along the line. I remember being verbally complimented for getting back
some twelve hours sooner than it was thought possible, and shortly
afterwards General Crittenden detailed me on his staff, but I declined
the position, as my men expected me to stay with them and I had
intimated that I would stay with them through the campaign. It was a few
days after this that I was commissioned captain.

I might add that I understood General Potter was very angry, as he
needed his wagons to bring commissary stores for his troops, and
proposed to prefer charges against me for unwarrantably taking them. If
he did so, I never heard anything from it. I took for granted that the
necessities of the case justified my action.


From Spottsylvania, until the army reached Petersburg, some portion of
the regiment was under fire every day. During this period occurred the
engagements at the North Anna River, Pamunkey, and Cold Harbor. The most
fatiguing march that I ever experienced was that made by our brigade on
its withdrawal from the south bank of the North Anna River, in which we
had a similar experience to that during the withdrawal from the lines at
the Wilderness, the men realizing that if we were attacked then it would
be on the brink of a rapid running river we were about to recross. We
crossed the North Anna River sometime between darkness and midnight, and
then moved by a circuitous route, as the more direct lines were occupied
by other troops. We marched, without any halts other than those
occasioned by blockades ahead of us, all the next day and following
night. In order to prevent my tired men from falling out, and not having
the heart to urge them to keep up while I was riding my horse, I
dismounted and walked at the rear of the company, feeling that so long
as I was able to walk I could with propriety urge the men to do
likewise. It was reported at the time that some of our men died of
exhaustion in the middle of the night; at any rate, when the command
finally halted and stacked arms fully one half of it were not able to
answer the roll-call. During the following twenty-four hours, however,
our stragglers kept coming in.

In a day or two the battle of Cold Harbor occurred. Our regiment went
into line in an unfavorable position, it being in an abandoned
cornfield, the woods beyond being held by the enemy. As was the custom
whenever we went into line at night to throw up temporary breastworks,
we were directed to do so here. The soil was sandy, there were no timber
and no rail fences, and we had few intrenching tools, consequently it
seemed impossible with the facilities at hand to construct any sort of
temporary breastworks. Within a few rods of my company's position in the
lines stood a large house, from which the family had hastily departed.
As there was no timber, the only alternative that suggested itself to me
was to take the roof from the house and break it up for our purpose. I
therefore sent a detail of men who in a short time removed the roof from
this building, while others soon knocked down the rest of the structure.
This material was broken up, the sand piled on it, and thus were
provided the breastworks that protected us the next day. This seemed a
hardship to the occupants of this dwelling, but it was justified by the

During the battle of Cold Harbor I had a second opportunity to see
General Grant, having been sent to General Meade's headquarters where
General Grant happened to be. When I reached headquarters, I found
General Meade sprawled out on the ground with his face buried in a map,
he being very near-sighted. Staff-officers were constantly riding up and
reporting, and about fifty feet from where he lay I saw General Grant
sitting alone on a stretcher. He had nothing to say to any one and
seemed unconcerned. While waiting for my instructions, I intently
watched him. Presently an officer brought up a Confederate officer, who
was a prisoner. Looking up, General Grant quietly asked, "I assume you
have questioned him?" The officer replied, "Yes, but he does not tell
anything." Grant then remarked, "Ask him if he has a recent Richmond
paper." The Confederate officer said that he had and took one from his
haversack, giving it to the officer, who handed it to General Grant.
Grant nodded his head in acknowledgment, and remarking, "You may take
him back," opened the paper and began to read. Just then General
Sheridan rode up. Grant arose, greeted him warmly, and seemed deeply
interested as Sheridan began earnestly telling him, I assume, the
results of his recent movements. Receiving my instructions I then
returned to the regiment.

The crossing of the James River by the army on pontoon bridges, as is
known, was a memorable movement, the river being about two thousand feet
wide there. Our march from the James River to Petersburg was a very hard
one, since the roads were sandy and it seemed that at every two steps
forward we would slip one backward. However, towards evening, we reached
a position near Petersburg, when, tired as we were, it seemed to me a
favorable moment for us to advance and try to capture the town. We could
see trains of cars coming in, their infantry being hastily unloaded, and
everywhere were evidences that they were hurrying up forces to resist
us. The failure to attack that afternoon was a great disappointment to
General Grant, as one reading his _Memoirs_ can ascertain. The next day,
the 17th of June, was my last day of active service in the field.

About the 8th or 9th of June orders had been read out behind the
breastworks in which my appointment as captain was announced. Though I
had always been doing duty as a captain, I had never held the rank of a
first-lieutenant. Subsequently, Adjutant Hill having been wounded, I did
temporary duty as adjutant; and on the 17th of June was with the
regiment in the assault of the enemy's works near the Norfolk road, in
which it suffered so severely. My wound was not received in the assault
but immediately after, and under the following circumstances. The
assault had been unsuccessful because of the failure of some troops on
our right to support us properly, and the command had secured the
protection of a line of breastworks. Acting as adjutant that day I had
been carrying an order, when I noticed lying on the field Lieutenant
Randall, who was lying on his face, and about him were our killed and
wounded, among others, General Morton, General Burnside's chief
engineer. I turned back to see if Randall was alive, and found him lying
with his face buried in the dirt of a corn-hill, the field being a
succession of ridges, and the corn being about eighteen inches high. He
had a hole in his neck and was apparently dying. I brushed the dirt out
of his face so that he could breathe, propped him up on the dirt ridges,
but was unable to carry him into our lines, because I had been suffering
for some days from intermittent fever and was almost too weak to walk
when I went into the engagement. While thus stooping over and in the act
of starting for our lines, a ball struck me alongside of the spine, just
above my sabre belt, and, as afterwards turned out, ploughed up in the
neighborhood of my shoulders. Realizing that I was struck in a bad place
and not wishing to lie there in the sun during the afternoon, I started
for our breastworks, the bullets striking the ground around me as I
crawled. I asked a man who I believed belonged to the Eighteenth Corps
if he could pull me over, as I was unable to get over. He remarked, "I
will, if my partner will help me," and in a moment these two men jumped
upon the breastwork, took me by the collar of my cavalry jacket, jerked
me over, and dropped me inside. It had not occurred to me that I was in
plain sight of the enemy, and it was not until after I was lifting
Randall that I noticed the bullets were striking in the ground around me
and subsequently in the breastworks, as I lay outside of them, when I
asked the man to help me over.

Just after I was pulled over, General Walter C. Newberry, then the
lieutenant-colonel of the Twenty-fourth cavalry, who that day commanded
the regiment, came up to me. I showed him my wound and remarked that I
thought I had a "thirty-day wound." He sent two men who lifted me on my
feet, and, with my arm about their necks and their arms supporting my
body, I walked a considerable distance before I could reach an
ambulance, which took me to the field hospital. On my way to the field
hospital I noticed a corporal, Frederick Gundlach, a brave and honest
soldier, who was walking holding his hand, which seemed to be shattered.
I hailed him and he immediately ran along by the ambulance in which I
was, stayed by me, and waited on me during the afternoon and night.
During the night I was placed in a tent with five other seriously
wounded officers, including Colonel Raulston of the Twenty-fourth and
Captain Burch, the latter dying in the arms of his men as he lay
directly opposite me in the tent, During the night it was reported to us
that an officer outside had been obliged to have his clothing cut off to
get at his wounds, as he had five bullets in his body, in various
places, and a blanket was wanted to put around him. As Corporal Gundlach
had given me his blanket to lie on and my overcoat was wrapped around my
sabre hilt and pistol, so as to make a pillow for me, I gave them the
coat to wrap around this badly wounded man, who proved to be none other
than the Lieutenant Randall that I had assisted when I received my
wound. It was assumed that by brushing the dirt out of his face and
turning him over so he could breathe, he regained consciousness, and
when the enemy's position was taken in a later assault that afternoon,
he, with the other wounded, was brought in. At any rate, he lived
several years after the war, though I never met him again.[4]

[Footnote 4: After the war, a medal of honor was awarded to me on the
recommendation of General Newberry; see correspondence in Appendix A.]


The day after I was wounded I am unable to account for. I may have been
insensible; at any rate, it was the second day after, that the
ambulances and army wagons were filled with wounded and started for
City Point, whence steamboats conveyed them to Washington. I was
fortunate in being placed in an ambulance with another badly wounded
officer, as these vehicles had springs, while many of the wounded had to
ride in the army wagons that had none, hence when going down hill or
over rough roads the jolting caused great suffering. A whole day was
consumed in making the trip to City Point, delays constantly occurring
because we had to pull out beside the road to permit supply and
ammunition wagons to pass, it being the custom in war always to give the
right of way to supplies for the front. The heat and the dust settling
down on us made it a very trying day, and when the teams reached City
Point a number of the wounded were found dead.

We were placed on a large steamboat, where the cots were arranged on the
decks as near together as they could be placed and permit nurses to pass
between them. These were clean and there was an abundance of food and
drink for those able to partake of it. We were on this steamboat that
night and the following day, reaching the wharf at the foot of Sixth
Street in Washington about sundown. By this time I was suffering
considerably. Because of the nature of my wound I was the last man
removed from the boat, it then being nine o'clock. It was decided that
the best way to handle me was to carry me on the mattress, so a number
of men held it over the stair-well, as I was on the upper deck, while
others took it from below. The journey in an ambulance through the
streets of Washington, then not paved, was a painful one. I finally
reached the Seminary Hospital at Georgetown, where I was bathed and my
soiled clothing replaced by clean linen, and placed in a comfortable cot
which I occupied for nearly four months.

There were, during that period, usually six wounded officers in the room
at a time. Dr. Ducachet was the surgeon-in-chief and Dr. Finn the
assistant surgeon; the latter had charge of me. He took good care of me,
and I am doubtless greatly indebted to him for my recovery. For three
weeks repeated attempts were made to find the ball by probing, but
without success. One day a large swelling appeared on my back, and in
turning me over in bed to dress the wound a sudden discharge occurred
with great force, whereupon the surgeons were summoned and concluded
that this violent discharge must have forced the ball from its lodgment,
which had been beyond the reach of their longest probe, and it was
decided to attempt to get the ball out. After sundown, when the day was
cooler, the weather at that time being excessively hot, the operation
was successfully accomplished. The ball was flattened against my ribs;
two of them were splintered, and pieces of them occasionally worked out
through the wound during the ensuing eight months. Because of the
fracture of my ribs and the wound in my back, I was obliged to lie on
one hip, with the result that I suffered from severe bedsores, and for
weeks was able to get sleep only by taking morphine.

In October of that year the surgeons decided that it would do to remove
me to my home at Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson.

During the following winter I was confined to my bed at intervals by
abscesses forming preliminary to their discharging pieces of bone or
cloth, the last particles coming out the following March or April. The
wound healed in June, though my body was bent and one leg contracted.
Hence I was obliged to walk with a cane for nearly another year,
although I was able to perform clerical work that summer.


General D. McM. Gregg was a West Point graduate and had seen service in
the army before the war. He was dignified in manner and that winter I
was more or less in awe of him, when in his presence. One day he sent
for me and asked me if I knew of a certain special order from the War
Department bearing on a certain subject. Replying, "I think it is number
so and so," he said: "You should not think, sir, you should know. Go and
find out." To a layman this might seem needlessly severe, but it was
just the kind of training the young volunteer soldiers needed. Indeed,
my after experience demonstrated that one could not have been under a
more considerate and finer commander. His coolness whenever we were in
action and his thoughtfulness in looking out for his men, sparing them
needless risks and taking precautions to protect them from surprises,
secured for him the absolute confidence of every one in his command. He
was averse to newspaper notoriety and I do not recall an instance when
he seemed willing to give information to reporters. His idea was to
confine what he had to tell to his official reports, and let the records
testify to the character of his service. Indeed, on one occasion he
remarked to me, "Meyer, I do not propose to have a picture reputation."
As I am writing these lines he is still living, beloved by the survivors
of those who served under him and respected by the people of
Pennsylvania, the State in which he lives.

General Judson Kilpatrick, also a West Point graduate, was of slight
build, wiry, apparently incapable of fatigue, and physically just the
man for a cavalry leader. He was of a highly excitable and nervous
temperament. Whenever we reached camp and every one else seemed to think
that men and horses should have a rest, Kilpatrick was writing letters
and asking for authority from his superiors to start out on a
reconnoissance or a raid, or to give him a chance to get into a fight. I
was told that when at West Point he was noted for making speeches. With
us he would frequently harangue the men, but his good-natured dash and
personal magnetism made him popular. He had capacity for rallying his
soldiers and getting them into a charge. His usual method when meeting
the enemy was to order a charge. Sometimes this was very successful, and
at other times it was not so much so and very costly of men. It was
because of this that he secured the nickname of "Kil-Cavalry." He was
good-natured, approachable, and not inclined to be much of a

He was not disposed to punish his men if they took a horse from
citizens, which they occasionally did in 1862, unless they were caught
at it.

One day when we were in camp near Falmouth a citizen called on him to
complain that a horse of his had been stolen and to ask permission to go
through our companies' streets in search of it. The man rode into camp
and tied his horse to one of the stakes to which the General's tent was
attached. Kilpatrick courteously invited him in, listened to his story,
and gave him permission to go through camp looking for his horse. On
emerging from the tent the man found that while he was inside some one
had taken his saddle from the horse he rode in on. My recollection is
that he recovered neither the saddle nor the horse he was in search of.

Kilpatrick was energetic, brave, and patriotic, and as a cavalry leader
had a splendid record, and I understood that his services after he went
to Sherman's army were much appreciated by that commander.

Among the fine officers with whom it was my privilege to serve and whose
friendship has grown and still exists, were Colonel Henry C. Weir,
adjutant-general of General D. McM. Gregg's cavalry division and his
chief-of-staff, and General Walter C. Newberry, the lieutenant-colonel
commanding the Twenty-fourth cavalry in June. It was the former who took
me from the ranks and secured for me the position at General Gregg's
headquarters, which brought me under the eye of the General and gave me
opportunities that probably secured the promotion I ultimately obtained.

Weir was about twenty-one years of age in 1863, and with a most
attractive personality. He had a wide acquaintance among officers of the
army who had graduated from West Point, since his father was Professor
Weir, the famous artist on duty there, some of whose paintings are in
the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington. Weir was adjutant-general of
General Bayard's brigade when the latter was killed at Fredericksburg,
and then continued as such with General Gregg's division to the end of
the war. He was intensely patriotic, high-toned in character, and one of
the bravest men I ever knew. Indeed, General Gregg once remarked to me
after the war that Weir was so uniformly brave that he found it
difficult to recall a particular instance in order that he might
recommend him for a Medal of Honor. The Medal of Honor was, however,
awarded to Weir later and no man better deserved it.

General Newberry, to whose kindness and consideration I am so greatly
indebted, had been an officer in one of the New York State infantry
regiments that went out for two years' service. On returning in 1863,
he, with Colonel W. C. Raulston, raised the Twenty-fourth New York
cavalry. These officers were both fine soldiers.

General Newberry was a man of sound judgment, exceedingly cool in battle
and in emergencies, and a fine executive. He was most considerate of his
men and quick to appreciate any man or officer who tried to do his duty.
I doubt if any colonel of a regiment knew more of his men personally
than did he. He kept a record in which he described the character of
every officer's service, noting his impression of them both as men and
officers. Since the war he has been a man of affairs, holding prominent
positions, serving his city, State, and nation, yet with all his large
interests he has kept himself informed of the whereabouts of many of the
survivors of the Twenty-fourth cavalry, and I cannot imagine any
regimental commander more beloved by his men than he. During my short
term of service with the Twenty-fourth cavalry, which was from about the
latter part of February till the 17th of June, the last forty-five days
of which covered the campaign from the Wilderness to Petersburg, my
intercourse with General Newberry was mainly official, and it was not
until I received a sympathetic letter[5] while in the hospital that I
realized how good a friend I had in him. In later years this letter was
followed by a report to the Secretary of War recommending that a Medal
of Honor be awarded me, which was accordingly done.[6]

[Footnote 5: See Appendix B.]

[Footnote 6: See Appendix A.]

In October, the 24th New York cavalry was mounted and assigned to
General Gregg's division, which in the spring of 1865 was commanded by
General Crook. Except when commanding a brigade, General Newberry
commanded the regiment from June 18th, when Colonel Raulston was
wounded, until a few days before the end of the war. He was wounded
twice in the summer of 1864, but retained his command until March 31,
1865, at Dinwiddie Court House, where he was severely wounded, this
preventing further active service. Lee's surrender occurred ten days
later. He was brevetted brigadier-general for gallant and distinguished
service at Dinwiddie Court House, March 31, 1865.

I count the friendship of Newberry and Weir, begun during the war and
continuing up to the present time, one of the greatest privileges I have
ever been able to enjoy.

Colonel William C. Raulston, who commanded the Twenty-fourth cavalry
until he was given the command of a brigade, also treated me with great
courtesy and consideration. It was he who suggested that I be selected
to go to Washington for ammunition, and I assume he also recommended me
for other special duties which I was given an opportunity to perform. He
was an exceedingly gallant officer, was wounded on the day after I was,
recovered and returned to duty, and was subsequently captured. In an
unsuccessful attempt to break out of prison at Danville, in which he was
a leader, he was shot by a guard and died a few days after.

Among the many gallant men with whom I at different times served, I
remember especially Captain L. G. Estes, adjutant-general to General
Kilpatrick, and afterwards Brevet Brigadier-General, and his aides,
Captain, afterwards Brevet Brigadier-General, E. W. Whitaker and Captain
Theodore F. Northrop. No cavalry officer had braver staff-officers than
were these three men. Whitaker and Northrop repeatedly carried out
successfully missions involving unusual hazards and requiring great



  April 11, 1898.

  Secy. of War,
  Washington, D. C.


I believe there are still some Medals of Honor awaiting officers and men
of the late War who by some special act of bravery or the saving of life
or enhancing the safety of the Army have earned such a reward.

I desire to call your attention to the case of an officer of my own
Regiment, the 24th N. Y. Cavalry, who has suffered greatly, and who has
achieved most honorable position in the scientific world as a citizen
since the War. I speak of Capt. and Brevet Major Henry C. Meyer, now
Editor and Proprietor of a publication known as the _Engineering Record_
of New York City. He has two sons who were raised in the same honorable
manner and promise the very best of American citizenship to their
country that their father has, and I should very much like to see the
father's heroism and suffering rewarded as they deserve and as I believe
the Government intended by these Medals of Honor.

Meyer as a boy, against his father's desire, enlisted in '62 in what was
known as the "Harris Light" (2nd New York Cavalry). Being of good
education and writing a fine hand, he was subsequently detailed as a
clerk at Headquarters of General D. McM. Gregg of the 2nd Division of
Cavalry. On the 9th of June, '63, at Brandy Station, noticing some men
hard pressed, he rushed into the thickest of the fight and was wounded
by a sabre across the shoulder. He made light of the wound at the time
and induced Adj.-General Weir not to report his name as wounded on
account of needless alarm to his mother. Within the last few years,
however, both General Gregg and Colonel Weir reported this circumstance
to the War Department, which you will find on file under date of
November 19th, '91, addressed to the Adj.-General of the Army and
certified by those officers. Later, in an engagement at Buckland Mills,
where General Kilpatrick's Division met with a reverse, General Davies's
Brigade was imperilled by reason of the fact that General Custer's
Brigade had been driven to the north side of Broad Run, and the enemy
had gotten in between General Custer and his command, which was hard
pressed some two miles near Warrenton. General Kilpatrick expressed his
desire that somebody get to Davies that he might be made aware of the
situation. Without waiting for further orders Meyer rode up the river
and crossed the stream above the enemy and made his way around their
flank and in their rear to Davies, who was thus enabled, without serious
loss, to escape across the country to Haymarket. Meyer was recommended
by Generals Gregg and Kilpatrick for a commission, and early in '64 was
assigned to the 24th New York Cavalry, then just ready for the field.
Coming to us with a 2nd Lieut.'s commission and being familiar with
cavalry tactics he was a great addition to our effectiveness. From the
Wilderness through that entire campaign the 24th N. Y. fought
dismounted, and Lt. Meyer was most efficient from the fact of knowing
the country so well, and was frequently detailed to guide troops to
positions, especially about Spottsylvania. The Regiment being armed
with special Star Carbines used a special cartridge unobtainable except
by special requisition, and the Regiment being in constant service at
the front, the ammunition was likely to be exhausted. Gen. Burnside was
requested to send an officer to Washington for these cartridges, and he
by special letter detailed Lt. Meyer, who showed great efficiency in
bringing the ammunition to the front, seizing a wagon of Gen. Potter's
(another Division) to save time and distributing the cartridges in
blankets along the line of battle when the supply was nearly exhausted.
On the 8th of June Meyer was commissioned Captain, and on June 17th, in
that terrible assault upon the line before Petersburg, where he lost one
third of his Company, he was fearfully wounded very near the position
where Gen. Morton, the Engineer Officer of the Corps, was killed. He had
escaped wounds through the most serious part of the charge, when later
he discovered an officer, Lt. Randall, very badly wounded, Randall
having been shot in five places and lying with his face buried in the
dirt between our lines; Meyer turned back, going fifty to seventy-five
yards out of his way, and in plain sight of the enemy, turned Lt.
Randall over, brushed the sand and blood from his mouth so that he could
breathe, thus saving his life, when he himself received a most dangerous
wound. I was in sight of him, and he, after crawling in, was helped over
the works just in advance of me by two men, and as soon as I reached him
I detailed men to carry him back. For many months he lay in the Hospital
and was not able to be removed to his home until the following October,
and was a great sufferer for eleven months.

I should claim that this act alone of saving the life of a brother
officer, being an act beyond his regular duty, entitled him to a Medal
of Honor. His service and his honorable character as a civilian and the
high position he to-day holds in the scientific world seem to point him
out as a proper person to receive such high and distinguishing honor
from the Government. I earnestly recommend that the Medal of Honor be
conferred upon Captain and Brevet Major Henry C. Meyer of New York City.

  With continued high regard,
  I remain,
  Late Col. 24th N. Y. Vet. Cavl.
  Brevet Brig. Genl.

  E. L.
  Subject: Medal of Honor.


  File No. R. & P. 517,138.
  March 14, 1899.
  _The Engineering Record_,
  277 Pearl Street,
  New York City.


I have the honor to advise you that, by direction of the President and
under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1863, a
Congressional Medal of Honor has this day been awarded to you for
distinguished gallantry in action near Petersburg, Virginia, June 17,
1864, the following being a statement of the particular service rendered
on that occasion:

     "During an assault upon the enemy's works, this officer rendered
     heroic assistance to a helpless brother officer in the face of a
     heavy fire, thereby saving his life, and in the performance of
     this gallant act sustained a severe wound."

The Medal will be forwarded to you, by registered mail, as soon as it
shall have been properly engraved.

  Very respectfully,
  Assistant Secretary of War.


  CHICAGO, April 11, 1898.
  New York City.

Soon after the close of the War of the Rebellion, finding myself in
possession of the Descriptive List Roster of my Regiment--the 24th N. Y.
Veteran Cavalry,--and appreciating the effect of time upon my memory and
judgment, resolved to go over the list of officers and make record of my
unbiased conclusion as to their ability and character.

I have had frequent occasion to consult that record since, and knowing
how much you would appreciate this recorded opinion of your Father's
character and service I will quote my endorsement as therein written
thirty-three years ago.

     "Henry C. Meyer, 2nd Lt, Jan. 26, 1864. Promoted to Capt. June 8,

     "Assigned to Co. D. Wounded June 17, 1864.

     "Discharged Sp. Order War Dept. Oct. 13, 1864; Disability.

     "This officer was among the finest officers I have ever met. Cool,
     cautious, and brave as a soldier, he was generous, true, and
     sincere as a friend. He was fearfully wounded and was discharged
     in consequence.


May you deserve such commendation after as many years of experience.

  Sincerely yours,


[The following letters and copies of special orders are here reproduced
as having some bearing on my promotions, and to indicate the opinions of
those with whom I actively served in the Civil War of 1861-1865.--H. C.


  Dec. 29th, 1862.

  Special Order}
  No. 7.       }

Private Henry C. Meyer, of C Company, 2nd New York Cavalry, is hereby
detailed as Clerk in the Adjt. Genl's office at these Head Quarters and
will report immediately.

By command of Brig. Genl. Gregg.

  H. C. WEIR,
  Capt. and A. A. G.

  (Official Copy.)
  H. C. WEIR,
  Capt. and A. A. G.


  Sept. 5th, 1863.

  HON. GEO. T. COBB, M. C.

SIR: It gives me pleasure to recommend Private Henry C. Meyer, 2nd N.
York Cav., for a commission. He has been a faithful soldier and
excellent clerk, and is eminently qualified mentally and morally for a
commission, especially as an adjutant of a Reg't.

  I am very respectfully.
  Your ob't s'v't,
  H. C. WEIR
  A. A. G.

  Sept. 6th, 1863.

The within recommendation of Capt. H. C. Weir, A. A. G., of this
Division, is fully concurred in. I have known Private Meyer, 2nd N. Y.
Cavalry, for nearly two years and can attest his faithfulness as a
soldier, his moral, mental, and physical qualifications for the position
of Commissioned Officer.

  Brig. Gen. Vols.,
  Com'g, 2nd Div.,
  Cavalry Corps.

  September 9th, 1863.

  _A. A. A. G. Cav'y Corps._

LIEUT.: I have the honor to request the suspension of the order from the
Major Gen'l Commanding directing me to return Private H. C. Meyer, 2nd
New York Cav'y, to his Regiment. Private Meyer has been serving for a
year as clerk at the Hdqrs. of the 2nd Division, the former 3d Division,
and _Bayard's Brigade_. He is well instructed in his duties, and is
familiar with all the records of the Adjutant-General's office of this
Division. Capt. H. C. Weir, A. A. G., of this Division, is now absent
sick, and at this time the services of Private Meyer are invaluable. I
respectfully request, therefore, that I may for the present be permitted
to retain Private Meyer. Private W. H. Bubier, 2nd N. Y. Cavalry, was
taken prisoner at the battle of Brandy Station, and has not returned to
these Hdqrs.

  I am, very respectfully,
  Your ob't serv't,
  Brig.-Gen'l Vols.,
  Comdg 2nd Divsn., C. C.

  (Official copy)
  H. C. WEIR,
  Capt. A. A. G.

  Octr. 5th, 1863.

  Special Order }
  No. 38.       }

Private Henry C. Meyer, Co. C, 2nd N. York Cavalry, is hereby detailed
on special duty as Clerk in the Adjt. Genl's Office at these Head
Quarters, and will report for duty without delay.

By command of Brig.-Genl. Kilpatrick.

  L. G. ESTES,
  A. A. Genl.

  L. G. ESTES,
  A. A. G.


  December 31st, 1863.


I understand that you are about to make an effort to secure a
Lieutenancy in one of the regular Cav. Regiments for Henry C. Meyer, now
a private in Harris Light Cavalry. I hope you will be successful; he
fully merits and will fill with honor the position to which he aspires.
He was for a long time a clerk at General Gregg's Hd. Qurs., and after
I was given a Division transferred to my Head Quarters. He is energetic,
well educated, and a Gentleman, and possessing as he does a thorough
knowledge of all papers, accounts, and reports which pertain to a
regiment, brigade, or division, acquired by one or two years' service in
the field, he is better qualified to discharge the duties of a
subordinate officer than many of our West Point graduates on leaving the
Academy. If you think this letter will aid in your efforts you are at
liberty to use it.

  Very Respectfully,
  Your Obed't Serv't,
  Brig. Genl. Vols.



MY DEAR CAPT: Your commission has arrived and I have forwarded it to
your address at the Metropolitan Hotel, Washington. D. C, thinking it
would be more safe than at the Hospital, for we're not certain where you
are now. I congratulate you on the promotion and am happy to acknowledge
that you deserve it and much more than a bleeding, suffering country
like ours can ever give. These honors but illy pay a man for the
suffering endured, where horrible wounds like yours are the penalty of
bravery. Yet the consciousness of having done one's duty is much reward.

We all look for your return with much interest. Lt. Raulston is to-day
mustered to your Company. I enclose a morning report of your Co.

With many wishes for your health, I am,

  Lt-Col. Comdg.


  October 13th, 1864.

  Special Order}
  No. 345.     }


51. The following named officers are hereby honorably discharged the
Service of the United States on account of physical disability from
wounds received in action, with condition that they shall receive no
final payments until they have satisfied the Pay Department that they
are not indebted to the Government.

2nd Lt. H. C. MEYER, 24th N. Y. Cav'y.[7]

[Footnote 7: I was discharged as 2nd Lieutenant because no opportunity
occurred to permit my being mustered in as Captain before I was wounded.
Congress, however, recognized all such cases, and subsequent legislation
gave all officers the rank they were eligible to--mine being Captain.
Subsequently I received a commission as Brevet Major, stated to be for
"gallant and meritorious services."--H. C. M.]

       *       *       *       *       *

By Order of the Secretary of War.

  A. A. Gen'l.

  Hd. Qrs. 2nd Cav. Division,
  Oct. 23rd, '64.

  A. A. A. Gen'l.

  Hd. Qrs. 24th N. Y. Cavly.,
  Feb. 20th, 1865.
  (Official Copy.)   Lt. and Act. Adjt.

[The following letter was never presented.]

  Decr. 23d, 1863.


The bearer of this is Henry C. Meyer, my young friend who has gallantly
served in the field with Generals Kilpatrick and Gregg.

He is to my knowledge a gentleman by education and association, and in
every way calculated to fill the place of a First Lieutenant.

I have given a letter to the Adj't-General, and if you can speak a good
word for him you will do me a great kindness.

All his attributes are those of a gentleman.

  Your friend,

  Chief Clerk, War Department.

  Dec. 23rd, 1863.

SIR: I take leave, most respectfully, to commend to your Excellency's
consideration my young friend, Henry C. Meyer, a private in Second N. Y.
Light Cavalry. He is intelligent, of a highly interesting and
unexceptionable character, well educated, and in all his attributes of a
gentleman well calculated to fill the place of an officer.

He has been serving in the field with Genls. Kilpatrick and Gregg for
eighteen months, and his commanding officers testify to his gallantry
and his manly bearing.

In speaking thus highly of Mr. Meyer I do so from personal knowledge,
having known him from a child.

I trust your Excellency may be able to advance this young gentleman to a
position worthy of his merit, feeling assured it will be for the
interest of the public service.

With high respect, your Excellency's most ob'd't serv't,

  Rear Admiral.

  His Excellency,
  Governor of the State of New York.

  Decr. 23rd, 1863.


My young friend, Henry C. Meyer, of the 2nd N. York Light Cavalry, has
been serving in the field with Generals Kilpatrick and Gregg for
eighteen months as a private, and his gallantry and manly bearing are
well attested.

I have known him from childhood as estimable and charming in all his
attributes as a gentleman.

He is well educated, high-toned in character, and in every way a young
gentleman of great merit.

He entered the service from the love of a soldier's life and motives of

He has won advancement by his service in the field and will make an
excellent officer.

If you can give him a helping hand, I am sure you will. I have no
acquaintance with the Sec. of War or General-in-Chief, and therefore
commend the young gentleman to you as one of our fraternity when the
Rebellion commenced.

I have the honor to be, with high respect and esteem, your friend and
most obdt servt.

  Rear Admiral.

  Adjt. Genl., U. S. Army,
  (True copy.)

  WASHINGTON, Feb'y 10th, 1864.

  Special Order}
  No. 66       }


14. At the request of the Governor of New York, Private Henry C. Meyer,
2nd New York Cav'y, is hereby honorably discharged the Service of the
United States to enable him to accept an appointment in another

  By order of the Secretary of War,
  Ass't Ad'j't Gen.

  H'd Q'r's Cav'y Corps,
  Feb. 12th, 1864.


  E. B. Parsons,
  Capt. and A. A. A. G.

  Head Q'r's 3rd Div. C. C,
  Feb. 12th, 1864.
  (Official.)    L. G. ESTES,
  Capt. and A. A. G.


  Febr'y 16th, 1864.


Without a personal acquaintance, I respect and honor you for gallant
service in the field.

You have had my young friend Henry Meyer with you and have learned to
esteem him. I have known him from a boy, as an interesting youth, and as
a gentleman by education and association, and know that when he entered
the Army as a Private he was honored and beloved, and from zeal and love
of country he left a comfortable home and lucrative place.

I am very fond of him for his personal merit and have confidence in
commending him to you in every way in which he can serve you in our
sacred cause.

He is now a 2d Lieut. in a New York Regt. and will doubtless be able
soon to fill a more prominent place.

For the favor you have shown him, and for your gallant and distinguished
services to the country, I entertain the highest respect for you and
thank and honor you and beg to subscribe myself your friend and most
obd't serv't.

  Rear Admiral and Comdt.

  Army of the Potomac.


I hereby certify that Henry C. Meyer, late 2d Lieutenant 24th N. Y.
Cavalry, was severely wounded in action on the 17th day of June before
Petersburg, Va., 1864; that there was a Commission from the Governor of
New York making said Meyer a Captain in said Regiment, and that owing to
an irregularity in the mails said Commission did not arrive at the Head
Quarters of the command until about the 20th inst.; and further, that
said Meyer was acting in the capacity of Captain by authority of the
Col. commanding, and that he was absent and prevented from being
mustered by no fault of his; that said Meyer was a gallant and
meritorious officer and deserving said promotion.

  Late Col. 24th N. Y. Cavalry.
  Bvt. Brig. Gen.

  Sworn subscribed to before me   }
  this 19th day of June, 1866, at }
  this city of Petersburg, Va.    }
  CHAS. STRINGFELLEN,             }
  [SEAL]       Notary Public.     }

[The following letter is highly prized as coming from Corporal Gundlach,
of my Company, who, although wounded himself, waited on me until removed
from the field hospital.]

  October 14th, 1868.

  New York City.

DEAR SIR: A few days back I was in Buffalo and stopped at Mr. Flach's
store; I learned that you got married. Permit me, dear sir, to give you
my best and sincere congratulation.

I always must and will respect you for your honesty, bravery, and your
good moralic advices, which you used to give your subordinate. When
others did their duty, you used to do three times more than you was
obliged to do.

I would ask you for your likeness.

  Your most obt. servant,

[The following statement with its endorsements was placed on file in the
War Department.]

  NEW YORK, November 19, 1891.

DEAR SIR: At the solicitation of friends I desire to place on record the
fact, not heretofore officially reported, that I received a wound from a
sabre at the battle of Brandy Station on the 9th of June, 1863.

I was then a private in the 2nd N. Y. Cavalry, detailed as clerk in the
Adjutant-General's Department of the 2nd Division Cavalry Corps, Army of
the Potomac.

That this circumstance was not reported at the time was due to the fact
that I personally made out the list of casualties occurring in the
Division on the evening following the battle. My wound was not a severe
one, though painful.

When it was suggested that I include my name, I declined to do so on the
ground that its publication in the papers would needlessly alarm my
parents, and consequently withheld it.

I was subsequently severely wounded at Petersburg and mustered out in
consequence, which is a matter of record.

In making this request to have this circumstance go on record, I
disclaim any permanent injury or any desire or intention of claiming any
pension because of that wound.

This statement is corroborated herewith by General D. McM. Gregg,
commanding the Division, and H. C. Weir, Capt. and Asst.
Adjutant-General at the time.

  Late Capt. and Bvt. Major,
  24th New York Cavalry.

The above was endorsed as follows:

The foregoing statement is correct and worthy of record, and I heartily
recommend the same.

  Very respectfully, your ob't serv't,
  Late Bv't Lt. Col. and Major,
  Ass't Adjt. Gen'l, U. S. Vols.,
  2d Division, Cavalry Corps,
  A. O. Potomac.
  BROOKLYN, L. I., Nov. 25, '91.

  READING, PA., Dec. 5th, 1891.

I fully concur in the recommendation of Colonel Weir, as I readily
recall the fact mentioned within.

  Late Brig, and Bv't Maj. Gen'l Vols.,
  Com'd'g 2d Cav. Division, A. P.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Civil War Experiences - under Bayard, Gregg, Kilpatrick, Custer, Raulston, and - Newberry, 1862, 1863, 1864" ***

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