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Title: Some Personal Reminiscences of Service in the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac
Author: Thomas, Hampton Sidney
Language: English
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SERVICE IN THE CAVALRY OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC***


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SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF SERVICE IN THE CAVALRY
OF THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC.

by

COLONEL HAMPTON S. THOMAS.



Reprinted from "The United Service," January, 1889.

Philadelphia:
L. R. Hamersly & Co.
1889.



_SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES OF SERVICE IN THE CAVALRY OF THE ARMY OF
THE POTOMAC._


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

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

The First Pennsylvania Cavalry, which originally belonged to the
Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, began its experience as a fighting regiment
in a skirmish and charge near Dranesville, Virginia, on November 26,
1861, and, strange to relate, the first man killed was our assistant
surgeon, Dr. Alexander. The regiment's first experience of heavy firing
was in the battle of Dranesville, on December 20. This engagement was
fought by a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, commanded by
General E. O. C. Ord, my regiment supporting Eastman's battery. The
enemy had the same number of regiments and guns that we had, and their
commanding officer was General J. E. B. Stuart, but Ord outgeneraled
him and gave us the victory, the rebels retreating from the field.

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

      [1] In this connection it may be well to quote the following
      extract from an article in the _Century Magazine_ of May, 1888,
      by Colonel William F. Fox, entitled "The Chances of being hit in
      Battle": "The muster-out rolls of the various mounted commands
      show that there were ten thousand five hundred and ninety-six
      'dead cavalrymen' who were killed in action during the war, of
      whom six hundred and seventy-one were officers, the proportionate
      loss of officers being greater than in the infantry."

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

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

About June 1 the cavalry took the advance on the telegraph road leading
towards Richmond, and reached the forks of a road near Hanover
Court-House, to which place McClellan's patrols came. While we who were
in the advance-guard were congratulating ourselves upon getting under
the right wing of McClellan's army without a fight, our hopes were
suddenly blasted by the following order sent to "Capt. Hamp. Thomas,
Commanding Advance-Guard: Sir,--You will return with your command as
rapidly as possible. Don't blow your horses if you can help it. Cross
over to Falmouth and receive further instructions. (Signed) G. D. B.,
B. G."

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

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

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

To relate an incident of what cavalrymen could do before a reward was
offered for a dead one: During the afternoon a battery of four guns
belonging to General Banks's command was left in a very exposed
position. In front of these guns was an open field, and on the other
side some woods in which a brigade of rebel infantry had formed in
regimental front, four lines deep, and was moving out to capture the
battery. General Banks asked General Bayard if the guns could be saved.
Bayard, taking in the situation, ordered Major Falls, of the First
Pennsylvania Cavalry, to charge his battalion upon the enemy's
infantry. The charge was made, but only one company succeeded in
reaching the enemy. Some men of the company passed through the lines
and returned, while the balance of the battalion was repulsed before
reaching the open field. The captain of the company was wounded in five
places, the second lieutenant killed,--in fact, the company came near
being wiped out of existence; and when the first lieutenant, Warren L.
Holbrook, came to rally the remnant of his company he found but a
corporal's guard. Knowing the modesty of that gallant officer, I take
the liberty of mentioning his name. Eighty-eight horses were left dead
on the field. The celebrated charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry
at Chancellorsville is familiar to all; but this charge of the First
Pennsylvania Cavalry even excelled that in boldness, for when the
Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry made its charge it was in column of fours
and in the woods, and it came upon the enemy unexpectedly. But the
First Pennsylvania cavalrymen at Cedar Mountain saw what was in their
front: a clear, open field and death staring them in the face,--cannon
in front of them and cannon to the left of them,--and theirs was a feat
at arms not unlike the charge of the Earl of Cardigan and his six
hundred, made immortal by Tennyson.[2]

      [2] The charge of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry was made
      historical by General Pleasonton's official report after the
      battle of Chancellorsville. Reports like that sometimes cover up
      a multitude of blunders and give credit only to those who are
      killed. They also sometimes make great newspaper generals of
      their authors, and the millions who read the newspapers at home
      thus get their impressions as to who are the great fighters at
      the front.

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

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

On the morning of August 28 my regiment took position between Bull Run
bridge and Groveton. Being in the advance with my squadron, I was
ordered to deploy as skirmishers and develop the enemy, who were soon
found, for they opened a battery upon me, and this was, I think, the
beginning of the great battle of Second Bull Run. My squadron remained
in this position all that day, with instructions to keep a sharp
lookout on Jackson's right and report results to General Reynolds. My
squadron at this time numbered ninety-five men, all armed with
carbines, revolvers, and sabres.

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

On the afternoon of the last day of the battle of Second Bull Run I
observed that the enemy were massing a large body of troops in front of
our extreme left, and I sent several verbal messages to that effect by
trustworthy non-commissioned officers to General Bayard, who was near
General Pope. I began sending these messages between three and four
o'clock, and my last one was to inform him that the enemy had placed
four batteries of artillery in position, that I had counted
twenty-eight sets of colors, that more troops were moving into
position, and that if the enemy made an attack, they would strike the
Pennsylvania Reserves on the left and rear. When the sergeant who
carried this message returned, he told me that General Pope remarked to
General Bayard, "Oh, that officer don't know his business. He don't
know what he is talking about. Tell the fool that those people he sees
are General Porter's men forming on the right of the enemy." I felt
very much annoyed at this, and I don't deny that I used some very
strong language about my superior officer, though most of it was done
mentally. However, I rode rapidly over to General Reynolds, informed
him of the fact, and persuaded him to come and see for himself. One
glance was sufficient for him. He dashed back to his division and
changed front to the left to meet the attack. Those who were in the
Pennsylvania Reserves at that time can testify that the movement to the
left was hardly finished when the heavy column I had again and again
reported burst upon them, crushing their left back upon and through our
artillery, leaving the guns in the hands of the enemy. I have often
wondered _who_ was the fool,--the general or the captain.

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

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

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

After the battle our cavalry brigade retired to the defenses of
Washington, and remained there for six weeks, when we again took up the
line of march, joining McClellan's army (which had recrossed the
Potomac after Antietam) between the Bull Run Mountains and the Blue
Ridge. We continued on in the advance, skirmishing and charging daily,
and never halted until we arrived at Rappahannock Station, on a cold,
stormy night in November, my squadron capturing a large picket post of
the enemy and saving the railroad bridge. Here we received the news
that McClellan had been relieved and Burnside placed in command of the
Army of the Potomac. Soon we again took up the line of march and moved
rapidly towards Fredericksburg.

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

In all my experience, from my baptism of fire at Falling Waters on July
1, 1861, down to Jetersville, April 5, 1865, I never was under such a
terrific fire of shot, shell, and musketry as in this movement in
General Franklin's front. The shot and shell seemed to make the
atmosphere blue. Our loss in men was very small, but in horses large.
Poor Martin was wounded and made a cripple for life.

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

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

Early in the year 1863 the cavalry was organized into a corps under the
command of General Stoneman, the First Division under General
Pleasonton, the Second under General Averell, and the Third under
General Gregg. Our duties during the winter were not very arduous. On
April 1 an order came from the War Department detailing me for duty as
inspector-general on the staff of General Gregg.

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

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

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

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

General Gregg was so unfortunate as to lose three guns of the Sixth New
York Light Battery through the recklessness of Colonel Percy Wyndham,
who commanded my brigade. The latter had ordered the battery to follow
the First New Jersey Cavalry in a charge, and go into position on the
crest of Fleetwood Hill, to the left of the Barbour house. Just as the
guns were swung into position and unlimbered the enemy made a
countercharge, driving back a broken squadron of the First New Jersey
and a detachment of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, both of which
passed through the battery to the rear. The men in charge of the
limbers were swept back in the confusion. The dust was so thick it was
almost impossible to tell a Reb from a Yank. I sent my orderly to the
rear to find the limbers and have the guns taken back to their original
position, in the open field, to the right of Brandy Station. In a few
moments two squadrons of the First Maryland Cavalry came trotting
through the dust, and I asked the commanding officer where he was
going. He replied that he was ordered forward to support the battery. I
told him to follow me at a gallop, or there would not be any battery to
support. As we emerged from the dust we could see the cannoneers
dragging the guns by hand down the hill, followed by a large body of
the enemy firing their revolvers. We at once charged the enemy,
clearing the crest of the hill, and driving them back through their own
battery. By this time there was but a small squad left of the First
Maryland, for they had drifted in all directions through the heavy
clouds of dust. I took back at a gallop the few of us who kept
together, and began searching for the guns. I found the pieces, but
lost the Marylanders. After keeping me waiting a long time my orderly
came back, stating that he could not find the limbers, and reported
that Colonel Wyndham was wounded, that he could not find the brigade,
and could not tell who was in command of it. I was so chagrined about
the predicament in which the battery was placed that I gave vent to my
feeling so forcibly as to be noticed by the brave cannoneers, who gave
three cheers, and said they would remain and be captured along with
their guns. I said, "No, men, none of that kind of medicine for me. I
will try and find help for you." The guns had been drawn down to the
base of the hill, and while I was trying to collect some men together
for the purpose of having them hauled away, a heavy column of rebel
cavalry came charging around the corner of the house, with their
battle-flag in advance. One of the guns happened to have a round of
canister in it. The sergeant in command of the piece pointed it towards
the charging column, fired, and repulsed them, within forty yards of
us. The head of this column was badly cut up, leaving a number of
horses and men, and the battle-flag, on the slope of the hill. The
sergeant ran up the hill to pick up the rebel colors, and was within a
few yards of them, when the head of the First Maine Cavalry came
dashing past the spot in pursuit of the enemy. One of the men wheeled
his horse, dismounted, picked up the colors, and rode off, the sergeant
of the gun losing his prize. Seeing General Kilpatrick near the First
Maine (that regiment being in his brigade), I rode over to him and
begged him to rescue the abandoned guns. His answer was, "To hell with
them! Let Gregg look out for his own guns." I implored him not to be so
selfish, but to come on and help us out of our scrape, but his reply
was, "No! damned if I will." I then rode back and told the few
cannoneers that were left to save themselves by crossing the railroad,
and to go over to the woods, where they would find some of our
infantry. I remained with the guns, in hopes of our command returning
for them, until another column of rebel cavalry came trotting down the
hill towards me, capturing the pieces without a struggle. Not wishing
to be on too intimate terms with my Southern friends, I politely raised
my cap to them and rapidly rode away.

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

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

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

At Aldie, near a gap in the Bull Run Mountains, on June 17, the corps,
with Gregg in the advance, met the rebel cavalry again, and drove them
back in the direction of Middleburg, and again on the 19th drove them
beyond it. In these engagements we lost heavily, for the rebels fought
behind stone fences, dismounted, while we attacked them mounted.
Nevertheless the "tailors and shoemakers" were too much for the
"chivalry," and they were compelled to fall back to Upperville. Here,
on the 21st, Gregg and Buford made a combined attack, charging over
stone walls and ditches, capturing many prisoners, and driving the
rebel cavalry through Ashby's Gap into the Shenandoah Valley, shutting
them out from a view of the movements of our army. We held these people
back until the main body of the Army of the Potomac had crossed the
Potomac into Maryland. Then we moved back to Aldie, through the Bull
Bun Mountains and northward to Edwards Ferry, on the Potomac, which we
crossed on the afternoon of June 27, and marched direct to Frederick
city, Maryland. While there, on June 28, a new division (the Third) was
formed out of General Stahl's cavalry, and General Kilpatrick placed in
command of it, with Custer and Farnsworth, just commissioned as
brigadier-generals, in command of brigades. Poor Farnsworth only lived
a few days to enjoy his star, falling at the head of his brigade at
Gettysburg.[3]

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

We spent the next day near Frederick scouting in all directions. During
the night of June 29 we resumed the march towards Westminster. At
daybreak next morning we charged the town, struck Stuart's rear-guard,
and took a number of rebel prisoners. We continued on to Manchester and
Hanover Junction, from which latter place Huey's brigade was sent back
to guard the wagon-train. Thence we marched towards Hanover and
Gettysburg. These movements of ours forced the rebel cavalry to keep
well off to our right, and prevented them from knowing what our
infantry were doing or where their own army was.

Now for the Right Flank at Gettysburg. Histories and poems had been
written about this great battle and maps published, utterly ignoring
our services, until at last we of the cavalry had to cry "Halt." Nor
did we hear anything from our government historian, Colonel Batchelder,
except about the first and the second and the third day's fights, the
Round Tops, the Emmittsburg road, Culp's Hill, Cemetery Hill, Seminary
Ridge, and John Burns, but nothing about the cavalry.

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

The rebel general J. E. B. Stuart came upon the field early on the
morning of July 3, with about seven thousand mounted men under him.
After he had made disposition of his command on or near the Stallsmith
farm, about three miles east of Gettysburg, he caused several random
shots to be fired in various directions. This firing no doubt was
prearranged with Lee, signaling that his position was favorable and
that he was ready to move in conjunction with Pickett to strike our
infantry in rear. Colonel McIntosh, on whose brigade staff I was
serving, concluded that something was up, and, having relieved a
portion of Custer's Michigan Brigade, he ordered an advance of our line
dismounted. This movement of McIntosh's brought on the engagement
before Stuart expected, and exposed his whole design. Gregg, seeing the
situation, recalled Custer, who had previously received orders to move
over to the left flank of our army near Round Top. He then put in
position all of his artillery, under cover of a wheat-field, ordering
the guns to be double-shotted with canister and await his further
orders. Our dismounted lines were refused in the centre, in front of
the artillery, forming an inverse wedge. After we had held them back
for about an hour, heavy bodies of the rebel cavalry burst into view
over a rise of ground. They came on in magnificent style. It was
terribly grand to witness. In two parallel columns, charging in
squadron front, little knowing what was awaiting them, they came on,
yelling and looking like demons. Canister and percussion-shell were
poured into them until they reached within one hundred yards of our
guns. Then our bold Custer came dashing over the field at the head of
the First Michigan Cavalry, with his yellow locks flying and his long
sabre brandishing through the air. He looked like a fiend incarnate,
the fire of battle burning in his eyes. In the mean time the dismounted
men poured in a withering fire with their carbines upon both flanks of
the rebel columns. What a sight this was! The enemy's horses climbing
over each other, rearing and plunging, many of their men being struck
in the back by the fore feet of the horses in their rear. Then McIntosh
and his staff charged with their orderlies, sabring right and left.
Such a horrible din it was, amid the clashing of sabres and continuous
roll of the small-arms and the curses and demands to surrender. I do
not wish to be egotistical, but will quote from an account of the
fight: "For minutes, which seemed like hours, the Confederate column
stood its ground. Captain Thomas, of the staff, seeing that a little
more was needed to turn the tide, cut his way over to the woods on the
right, where he knew he could find Hart, who had remounted his squadron
of the First New Jersey. In the mêlée, near the colors, was an officer
of high rank, and the two headed the squadron for that part of the
fight. They came within reach of him with their sabres, and then it was
that Wade Hampton was wounded."

Captain William E. Miller, of the Third Pennsylvania Cavalry, and
Captain Hart, from the right of the field, charged their squadrons
through the rear portion of the columns, and the former almost reached
the rebel batteries. The desperate charging of these two squadrons
seemed to me to turn the tide of battle. In this charge of Hart's
squadron was another gallant though modest cavalryman, Lieutenant
Edward H. Parry, who as a staff officer rode side by side with me in
many severe engagements. Eventually the rebel cavalry were driven from
the field never to return except as guests of the victors, twenty-three
years after the battle, and as citizens of a country they tried to
destroy. It is not difficult to conjecture what would have been the
result had these seven thousand cavalrymen succeeded in reaching the
Baltimore pike, striking the reserve artillery and trains at the moment
when Pickett was moving up to the assault of Cemetery Ridge.

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

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

Our line of march southward was over the same ground as that traversed
by McClellan in 1862 after Antietam. Nothing much of note occurred. We
did not get a fair chance at the rebel cavalry again until we arrived,
on September 13, in the neighborhood of Culpeper Court-House. Here
Gregg made a mounted attack, driving the rebel cavalry fifteen miles.
While we of the staff were placing the regiments in position for this
mounted charge I was ordered to find a cover for the Sixth Ohio
Cavalry, and took them into a heavy piece of oak timber near the edge
of the open country. While I was reporting to General Gregg how our
lines were formed he observed the Sixth Ohio breaking and coming back
through the woods in great disorder. He at once ordered me to stop and
re-form them, but I soon became demoralized myself when I felt the
belligerent end of a hornet upon my cheek. The brave old colonel
(Steedman) of the Sixth Ohio said that they could stand all the shot
and shell the d--d rebels could give them, but not a hornets' nest.
Thus were some of the bravest of our soldiers ignominiously put to
flight.

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

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

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

A few days after this I was severely hurt at Bristow Station and sent
to hospital for ninety days. Upon my return to the front great changes
had taken place. General Torbert was in command of the First Division,
"Old Stand-By" Gregg retaining his own, the Second, and General Wilson
in command of the Third Division, with "Cavalry Sheridan" in command of
the corps.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After being relieved by General Smith's command we mounted, moved by
the left, and were constantly engaged with the enemy until we reached
Bottoms' Bridge, where we took our stand to await all comers. After
resting a couple of days, Sheridan took two of his divisions and
commenced another long march for the relief of General Hunter, who was
supposed to be at Lynchburg, or in its vicinity. At Trevellian Station,
on the Lynchburg and Richmond Railroad, on June 11, we butted against
the rebel cavalry corps and a division of infantry. These people gave
us a good shaking up, but we captured several hundred prisoners, and
learning from them that Hunter had retreated over the mountains and
that they had been sent by rail to overtake us, Sheridan concluded that
he had better get back home. So we gathered up our slightly wounded,
and came back by the way of the Spottsylvania battle-ground, the column
marching past the famous tree that was cut down by musket-balls in the
Bloody Angle. We made a rapid and circuitous march, and arrived at the
White House Landing, on the Pamunkey River. Here we found an immense
wagon-train waiting for us to guard it over the country to the James
River. In performing this duty General Sheridan displayed great
generalship, preserving the trains and delivering them safely inside of
our lines. During the movement Gregg's cavalry division covered the
rear and flank next to the enemy. About the time Sheridan was parking
the train on the banks of the James we were attacked at Saint Mary's
Church, on June 24, by a superior force of the enemy, composed of
mounted and dismounted cavalry and one division of infantry. We came
together like two battering-rams, then backed off for vantage-ground,
and went at each other again and again. This unequal engagement
continued all day and until night spread its protecting mantle over us.
We then retired within our lines near Wilcox's Landing. This retreat
would never have happened had it not been that Sheridan and the other
division were in entire ignorance of what was going on in their rear,
for the enemy had captured all dispatches sent to him by Gregg, several
officers and men being taken prisoners while performing this messenger
duty. Our losses in killed, wounded, and captured upon the field were
very heavy. But we did well, considering that the numbers opposed to us
were three or four to one, and did not lose a single wheel, though we
were pretty severely knocked about.

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

Gregg's division remained with the Army of the Potomac, covering its
left and rear, taking the advance in all reconnoissances in force made
by the army. During one of the engagements at Ream's Station, Colonel
Chamberlain, of the First Massachusetts Cavalry, was wounded in the arm
by a "tree-frog," or sharp-shooter. I asked him why he was limping
around in such a funny manner. His reply was, "Damn it, Tommy, if you
were wounded in the arm you would limp too." We saw the fellow who
fired the shot and ran some men to the bottom of the tree. Chamberlain
gave the order to fire, when down came Mr. Tree-Frog looking like a
bundle of rags. In this same engagement Mahone's division was repulsed
three times by the First District of Columbia Cavalry, dismounted. This
regiment was composed of Maine men and was shortly afterwards
consolidated with the First Maine Cavalry. It was armed with the Henry
rifle (sixteen-shooter), and was composed of veterans who could not be
excelled for coolness and bravery. Its position at Ream's Station, on
August 25, was on the left of a new division of the Second Corps. A
German brigade in this division deliberately abandoned a new line of
intrenchments with seven guns, leaving their loaded muskets standing up
against the earthworks. Some of our dismounted cavalrymen used these
muskets as long as they could find ammunition for them. General Hancock
and General Gregg were present in person, for they were anxious to save
the guns, and the slaughter in Mahone's division must have been
terrible, as the repeating rifles wiped out line after line. No
supports coming, the cavalry was compelled to give way when Mahone made
his fourth charge, capturing the guns of the Second Corps. In the last
charge my horse was killed and I was severely injured, and was sent
home for thirty days in consequence.

Returning to the front on October 1, I was relieved from staff duty and
ordered to take command of my regiment, now composed of reenlisted
veterans who had passed through the furnace of war from 1861 to 1864.

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

A few days after this Gregg's division was ordered out to join the
Second Corps in a reconnoissance in force to the left of our army,
beyond Hatcher's Run. These reconnoissances were generally accompanied
by Generals Grant and Meade in person, and our engagements with the
enemy sometimes resulted in a heavy battle. During this particular
movement the First Pennsylvania Veteran Cavalry covered the rear of our
division, while the First Maine Cavalry was in the advance, forcing a
crossing at some creek. General Gregg was anxious to connect with
Hancock's left flank, but as he could only move his division in columns
of twos through the dense woods, the movement was very slow. During its
execution we were attacked by a brigade of rebel cavalry, commanded by
General (now Senator) Butler, of South Carolina. For a full half-hour
the enemy had a soft thing of it, throwing shot and shell into us
without our being able to reply. But Gregg could not bother with side
issues at that critical moment, so he ordered the First Pennsylvania
Cavalry "to take care of those people," as he expressed it. The attack
of this small regiment on the flank of the rebels was so sudden that
the latter were glad to escape with their guns. The officers and men of
the First Pennsylvania were highly elated over their success, and felt
proud of themselves, for they were but a handful in comparison with the
number they had attacked and driven away. The First Maine Cavalry were
just as successful in their attack in front as we were in the rear.

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

During this same month of November, General Gregg moved his cavalry
division out to Stony Creek Station, driving the enemy off and
capturing and destroying the stores which had been accumulated there in
great quantities. Among the articles was a cask filled with sorghum
molasses. Some of the men turned it up on end, drove in the head, and
began filling their canteens with its sweet contents. Most of them were
too short to reach over, when along came a tall Yankee of the First
Maine Cavalry, with half a dozen canteens, and brushed the little
fellows away as though they were so many flies. I noticed a
consultation among these little fellows, when they suddenly made a
rush, seized the big fellow by the legs, lifted him up and sent him
head-foremost into the cask and turned it over. It was as much as I
could do to save the poor fellow from being smothered to death. We
rolled him down the hill into the creek, where he washed himself off,
and when he came up, he said in his nasal tone of voice, "Warn't that
the durnedst trick you ever hearn tell of?"

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

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

During the month of January, 1865, my regiment was doing picket duty on
the left and rear of our main lines. One day, noticing a number of hogs
running loose in the woods in our front, I gave permission for some of
the men to go out and kill them. Soon afterwards one of the videttes
sent in word that two of the men were captured by the rebels. I quickly
mounted a squadron and went off at a gallop, knowing well that there
was but one place where the rebels could cross the stream below Lee's
mill, we being on the inside circuit. I pushed rapidly for that point.
Upon our arrival I noticed a few fresh tracks of horses that had
crossed towards us, but had not returned. I then made preparations for
the arrival of the squad with their prisoners. We waited perhaps half
an hour, when the squad came in view with their two prisoners, each
carrying a dead hog. The poor fellows were staggering under their heavy
loads, and their captors were twitting them about being pork butchers.
My men were entirely concealed on either side of the stream. We
remained quiet until the whole party had reached the middle between the
banks, when I gave the signal to my men to arise and cover the party
with their carbines. It was like a dramatic tableau to witness the look
of consternation upon the faces of the party, for there was no escape
for them. As for the two butchers, it was laughable to look at them.
They began looking around to ascertain if it was fun or earnest, when
they espied me, and both hogs dropped from their shoulders into the
water, and the two men fell against the bank, yelling for us to give
their captors a volley. I then ordered the rebels to advance one at a
time, dismount, and take off their arms. I asked my two men who it was
that had suggested that they should carry the hogs, and they pointed to
the sergeant and one other man. These two were ordered to pick up the
pork and move back, under charge of the two that were recaptured, to
the picket reserve. As the command was moving out for the return, some
wag in the squadron remarked to the rebel sergeant, "How do you like
that for a movement by inversion?"

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

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

The next day came the battle of Five Forks. Here Sheridan threw his
whole cavalry corps upon the enemy, with the exception of my brigade.
As for my own regiment, we had all the fighting we wanted in keeping
the enemy from getting around on Sheridan's left and rear. In this
battle whole brigades went into action mounted and dismounted, the
mounted men dashing over breastworks as though they were mere piles of
dirt, and capturing prisoners by the thousand. While in conversation
with General W. H. F. Lee, who was taken prisoner, he told me that he
was in the act of sighting a cannon to sweep along that portion of the
works where the Fifth Corps were piling over when he heard a voice
saying, "Surrender, you rebel son of a gun!" and looking up there he
saw one of our cavalrymen astride a mule, with his revolver between the
mule's ears, reaching over in the act of pulling trigger. In a few
seconds the earth-work was filled with our mounted cavalry. The
much-abused army mule, after all, was of some service besides hauling
heavy loads.

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

Let me relate an amusing incident. Between daylight and sunrise I
observed a body of rebel cavalry holding Paines' Cross-Roads. In a
house by the roadside there resided an Episcopal clergyman. The
gentleman came out, stood at his gate, and looked first at us, then at
his friends. He had a gold watch in his hand, as though looking at the
time of day. I ordered two squadrons to charge the rebels and clear the
road, and while they were performing that duty we advanced the balance
of the command, halting in front of our religious friend, when the
following conversation took place: "Good-morning." "Good-morning, sir."
"You are the first live Yankee cavalry commander I have seen since the
war commenced." My reply was, "Then you are not a pupil of General
Hooker's." He laughingly said "No," and then he asked, hearing the
firing of the small-arms of the charging squadrons, "Are you going to
have a battle here? If so, how long will it last?" My reply was, "No,
sir; we will move on." I then asked him why he kept his watch in his
hand. His reply was, "I thought I would time you to find out how soon
you would be driven off the sacred soil of the immortal Washington." I
moved away, smiling at the old rector's loyalty to the Father of his
Country, when I heard a scuffle behind me. Upon looking around I
observed my own orderly seizing the watch and saying, "We will tell you
the time when the Johnnies stop running." Then he dashed away before I
could stop him to return the stolen watch.

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

About five o'clock that afternoon, April 5, the First Pennsylvania
Cavalry were standing to horse, when Sheridan, Crook, and a number of
other general officers, both infantry and cavalry, came riding up to
examine the captured battle-flags. Among the colors was one presented
to General Fitz-Hugh Lee by his lady friends of Richmond, which, by the
way, I made a present to General Davies. The enemy, seeing these
officers around the colors, sounded the charge and came upon us with a
rush. Sheridan ordered me to mount my men and check the enemy until he
could send in more regiments to my support. Then ensued a phenomenal
display of shooting-stars by daylight, for the generals all scattered
to their various commands. We mounted and charged the enemy and
commenced a hand-to-hand fight, using pistols, sabres, and clubbed
carbines. The heaviest of the fighting was around our colors. The brave
old color-sergeant of the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, Antoine Wolf,
carrying aloft the colors of his regiment in one hand, and with his
sabre in the other cutting his way right and left, followed close at my
horse's heels. Many a good trooper fell in the track made by us that
day. That was my sixth and last charge during the engagement, and I
lost a horse killed in every charge. While lying under my horse with my
leg shattered by a carbine-ball, Colonel Janeway, at the head of the
First New Jersey, passed by at full charge, saying, "Cheer up, Tommy,
we are here with you," then instantly exclaimed, "My God!" and fell
dead from his saddle but twenty feet from me. Our brigade started that
morning with sixteen field officers, and at sundown but one was left,
the other fifteen having been either killed or wounded. After I was
wounded I turned my command over to Captain Holbrook, who led it
through several charges on the 6th, 7th, and 9th of April. He had the
satisfaction of planting the regiment across Lee's front on the
Lynchburg pike, with its colors in the middle of the road, there to
witness the surrender of the rebel army.

This ended my experience as a cavalryman.

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


COLONEL HAMPTON S. THOMAS.





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