Look for your ancestors in this PA genealogy database of American Civil War soldiers
Start your Family Tree
|PA Civil War > Regiments > 44th > History|
PA Civil War Volunteer Soldiers
Forty-fourth Regiment, First Cavalry
44th PA Regiment Regimental History
The First Pennsylvania Cavalry was recruited as follows: Company A - Juniata County, Company B - Montgomery County, Company C - Mifflin County, Company D - Cameron and Clinton , Company E - Centre Clinton and Clearfield Counties, Company F - Greene County, Company G - Blair County , Company H - Fayette County , Company I - Washington County , Company K - Allegheny and Washington Counties , Company L - Berks, Lebanon and Lancaster Counties, Company M - Berks County.
The first seven companies rendezvoused at Camp Curtin, where they were mustered into the State service during the months of July and August, 1861, and thence moved to Camp Jones, near Washington. Three companies H, I and K, rendezvoused at Camp Wilkins, at Pittsburg, where they were mustered into the State service during the month of August, and soon after joined the other companies at Washington. Company L was mustered into the United States service as an independent company, on the 30th of July, and was stationed in the city of Baltimore, where it remained five months. Company M was mustered into the United States service, also, as an independent company, on the 5th of August, and was stationed in Baltimore from the 6th of August, until the 3d of October, when it was ordered to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where, in conjunction with the Fourth Wisconsin Infantry, and Kim's Battery, all under command of Major General Lockwood, it was engaged in scouting and picketing. Numerous excursions were made down the bay, in which smugglers were overhauled, and large quantities of contraband goods seized. On a scout made to Pontateague Landing, the company captured seven cannons, caissons, and harness; and again at Eastville, a cannon and about fifteen hundred stands of small arms.
The men were, for the most part, from the rural districts, well formed and hardy, good riders, and accustomed to the use and care of horses. Few were dismounted by accident or awkwardness while on drill. Some had belonged to militia, cavalry companies, and a few of both officers and men were experienced soldiers; but most were unaccustomed to arms. The five companies which first assembled in Camp Curtin, had effected an organization by the choice of Captain Hastings, of the regular army, Colonel, and Captain Owen Jones, Major; but failing to secure a sufficient number of companies for a regiment, the officers elected declined the command. The three companies from camp at Pittsburg, also had a partial organization, under the title of the Sixth Cavalry; but failing to perfect it, they were attached to the First. In the early days of the war little countenance was given to the cavalry arm of the service ,and these companies were suffered to remain some time in camp in an unorganized state, the company officers having little knowledge of cavalry tactics, and the command making little or no progress in drill.
Finally, on the first of September, through the kind offices of General Stoneman, Chief of Cavalry, and the influence of Governor Curtin, Lieutenant George D. Bayard, of the Fourth Regular Cavalry, a young officer of great promise, and of considerable experience in Indian warfare, was selected to command, and the organization was completed by the choice of Jacob Higgins, Captain of company G, Lieutenant Colonel, and Owen Jones, Captain of company B, Major. Drill was now commenced in earnest, and prosecuted with a zeal characteristic of its enterprising commander. The line officers were daily instructed by him, and they in turn instructed their subordinates, and put their lessons in practice on the field, under his immediate supervision. The men were at first armed with sabre and pistol, and ten carbines to each company, which number was subsequently increased until each man was supplied with one.
A part of the horses were selected by the company officers, and were chosen with special reference to cavalry service. The remainder were selected by Colonel Bayard himself from the government corral at Washington. Under good care and training these horses became notable for excellence, and many of them remained the best after several lots of fresh animals had been worn out. This regiment was organized as the Fifteenth of the Reserve Corps, the law authorizing the organization of the corps requiring "one regiment of cavalry." It joined the division at its camp at Tenallytown, where it remained until the 10th of October, when it moved to Camp Pierpont, Virginia. Here details of one officer and thirty men were daily sent during the winter on picket, and frequent expeditions were made into the country.
On the 27th of November, Colonel Bayard was ordered to scout the country beyond Difficult Creek, a small stream crossing the pike about six miles from camp, and make a descent on Dranesville, a village seven miles further on. Marching all night and arriving at the village just before daylight, several houses were quickly surrounded, and a search for guerrillas, reported to harbor there, commenced. Several suspicious persons were arrested, and after a half hour's halt, he took up the march for camp. Two miles from town, the head of the column was fired on by guerrillas concealed in the pine thickets by the roadside. Detachments were immediately dismounted and pushed into the woods, and in a few minutes had killed or captured the whole party. Assistant Surgeon Samuel Alexander, and private Joseph Hughling, company D, were killed, and two men were severely wounded. Colonel Bayard was slightly wounded, and had his horse killed under him.
Five companies, under Lieutenant Colonel Higgins, participated in the battle of Dranesville. At the opening of the engagement, the cavalry was ordered to push forward, and compel the enemy to unmask his position. Colonel Higgins sent two companies, H and I, under Captain Streck, forward on the road north of the. town, while companies C, D and E, under Captain Taylor, charged directly through it, and pushed on until the enemy, opening on their flank and rear, compelled them to withdraw. The infantry now became engaged, and the cavalry was ordered to the support of Easton's Battery, where it remained until the close of the action, which resulted in the total route of the enemy.
On the 3d of January, 1862, Lieutenant Colonel Higgins resigned, and Major Jones was promoted to succeed him. Adjutant S. D. Barrows, who had previously been commissioned Second Major, was now promoted to First Major, and Richard J. Falls was commissioned Second Major.
On the 7th of January, the two independent companies, L and M, which had been stationed in Baltimore, joined the regiment. Upon the opening of the spring campaign it moved with the army towards Manassas, and after ten days of most exhausting service, exposed to pelting rain, sleet, and snow, it returned to Falls Church, where it remained until the advance of McDowell upon the Rappahannock. Starting on the 9th of April, it marched to Catlett's Station, where it performed scouting and picket duty until the middle of the month. On the 17th two battalions, supported by the Second New York Cavalry, skirmished with the enemy, driving him towards Falmouth, and late at night the men slept a few hours at the feet of their horses. At two o'clock the march was resumed, squadron L and M leading. The morning was cloudy and intensely dark, and as the command was moving quietly along, it was suddenly brought to a halt by a barricade across the road, from which a heavy fire of musketry was poured into the very faces of the men. They were immediately withdrawn, and the command was deployed to attack the enemy upon his flanks.
At daylight he fell back, and Colonel Bayard occupied Falmouth. Encamping a short distance from the town, the regiment was engaged in picket duty along the Rappahannock, and had frequent skirmishes with the enemy across the river. On the night of the 13th of May, a party of the enemy attacked and attempted to re-capture a schooner in charge of men from the First New Jersey Cavalry. Five companies, F, G,, L and M, turned out, and after a brief but sharp skirmish drove off the enemy, brought the schooner in, and rescued the men on board, several of whom were wounded.
Colonel Bayard having been appointed a Brigadier General, Lieutenant Colonel Jones was elected Colonel, and First Major Barrows, Lieutenant Colonel. On the 25th of May, when McDowell commenced his advance overland to join McCellan, the regiment crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, and marching rapidly towards Richmond, reached on the evening of the 27th a point on the Pamunky River, within fifteen miles of McClellan's right wing, the enemy falling back as it advanced, and the whole route showing evidences of a hasty retreat. At this juncture, when all were jubilant over the prospect of soon joining the grand army, orders were received to return immediately to Fredericksburg. Stonewall Jackson, cutting loose from the rebel army, was in the Shenandoah Valley with a heavy force, and McDowell was ordered to the support of Banks and Fremont, concentrating in Jackson's front. Re-crossing the river on the 28th, it marched with the brigade, via Catlett's Station and Thoroughfare Gap to Front Royal, which was reached on the 1st of June. With but an hour's rest, the command proceeded at full gallop towards Strasburg, and when near the town crossed the Shenandoah River, where it came up with Jackson and skirmished with his rear until dark. General McDowell not having arrived upon the ground, the brigade, consisting of a battalion of the Bucktails, the Second Maine Battery, the First New Jersey Cavalry, and the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, proceeded alone, and driving the enemy's rearguard out of Strasburg, were soon after joined by the advance of Fremont's army, entering from another direction. A gallop of six miles brought the command again upon the enemy's batteries,* and after three attacks, drove them beyond Woodstock.
Thus for eight days it was constantly under the fire of his guns, making his "retreat" says Cooke, "one long battle between the Confederate rear and the Federal vanguard." Bayard's Brigade was pressing hotly to strike Jackson, and delay him until General Shields reached Port Republic, there to intercept his retreat, and no efforts were spared to break through the obstinate impediment which Ashby, who commanded the rear guard presented, and force Jackson to turn and defend himself. At Harrisonburg a severe fight occurred, in which the First New Jersey first, and later the Bucktails and the First Cavalry engaged a vastly superior force of the enemy, inflicting severe loss. On the 8th, the command participated in the battle of Cross Keys, but being reserve was but slightly engaged. On the following day it led the advance of the centre column to Port Republic, where it arrived too late to arrest the flames to which the enemy had consigned the bridge across the Shenandoah.
On the 10th, the command returned down the valley, and after a halt of two days at Mount Jackson, returned through Front Royal to Manassas, which place it reached on the 23d, having been engaged thirty days in incessant and fatiguing duty, having in that time marched nearly four hundred miles, and skirmished and fought almost constantly, in the face of a powerful and vigilant foe, led by his most trusted leaders. Suffering severely in this campaign, the regiment remained at Manassas two weeks to rest and re-fit. It then marched with the advance of Pope, who had recently been placed in command of the army of Northern Virginia, to Culpepper, whence it made various marches and performed important duty. On the 1st of August, General Bayard advanced to the Rapidan, where he was engaged for eight days in guarding the fords for several miles along the river against a wily foe, and watching at all points inland for his approach from above and below. Jackson finally advanced in force, and on the night of the 7th of August, forced a crossing at several points and attempted in the darkness to capture the entire brigade; but was so skillfully led as to succeed in carrying off but two men. On the first alarm the outpost rallied upon the reserve, holding the enemy in check until the regiment withdrew to Robertson River, When within two miles of the stream, the different detachments of the brigade on picket were rapidly withdrawn, and before they were all in, the advance of Jackson's army came dashing up the road. Captain Taylor, at the time, was in conversation with General Bayard, and before they were aware of the enemy's presence, a shower of bullets came whistling by them. General Bayard cried out to the Captain, "Deploy your squadron at once, and hold the enemy in check until the brigade is safely over the ford." Men never obeyed an order more promptly nor behaved more gallantly than the did in deploying under a heavy fire of musketry; they held the enemy in check until the brigade was safely over. Its loss was two killed and two wounded.
The command slowly withdrew towards Cedar Mountain, and though under a brisk fire of artillery supported by Jackson's whole force, by skillful maneuvering, the enemy's pursuit was so completely baffled, that nearly the whole day was spent in moving the eight miles, from the point of attack on the previous evening. Here the command formed and held the position until General Banks' force arrived, keeping a determined front and slowly giving ground as the weight of the enemy's overwhelming force pushed it back. The regiment was in front on the following day as advance skirmishers, and supported Knapp's Battery. At a crisis in the battle, this battery was in imminent peril. A charge of the cavalry was ordered. The first battalion, under Major Falls, dashed upon the enemy, broke his lines of infantry, and turning, fought its way back. Of the two hundred and sixteen men who charged, only seventy one returned mounted, so severe was the enfilading fire of the enemy's infantry from right to left. The advance of the enemy was checked, and the battery saved. The third battalion, commanded by Colonel Barrows, after the battle had opened, was withdrawn from the skirmish line, and stationed in rear of the centre. The second, posted on the extreme right, was at one time entirely cutoff, but succeeded in eluding the trap prepared for it, and came in under cover of night.
Upon the retreat of Pope, on the 19th of August, Bayard's command, now increased to five regiments, formed the rear guard. Contesting the ground stubbornly until it reached the Rappahannock, the enemy suddenly attacked with great impetuosity, with the design of cutting off retreat. The First New Jersey and Second New York Cavalry, unexpectedly struck while forming were broken and thrown into confusion. The First Pennsylvania having passed on in advance, upon the first alarm, drew up in line ready to receive an attack, and stood one half in the open field and the other concealed** by a wood. As the enemy came on, the regiment charged on him from the front, and sweeping around came suddenly upon his rear. The other two regiments having now rallied and re-formed, joined in the charge, completing his utter route.
After crossing the river, which was effected without molestation, a detachment of four companies, under Major Ray, was sent to Beverly Ford, on picket. Upon being relieved, it was suddenly attacked while scattered, the horses having been turned loose to graze; but rallying with great steadiness, the command was withdrawn without loss. On the evening of the 28th, the regiment having the advance of Sigel's command, moved between Jackson's rear and Longstreet's advance, on the Thoroughfare Gap Pike, capturing nearly two hundred prisoners of Jackson's stragglers. The same night the regiment, with Ricketts' Division of infantry, held the Gap for six hours against the attacks of Longstreet. On the following morning, Colonel Jones made a reconnaissance toward Centreville, and received the fire of a light battery which opened the battle of Bull Run. During the two days of fighting, the regiment was posted on the extreme left of the army, and as it fell back towards Washington, was engaged with other cavalry in arresting the stampede. With a force of one hundred horses and two hundred available men, it went into camp near Munson's Hill, on the first of September, and picketed the approaches to the city, where it remained six weeks, detachments being sent out occasionally for special duty.
In September, Lieutenant Colonel Barrows resigned, and was succeeded by Captain John P. Taylor, of Company C. Upon the return of McClellan's army from the Maryland campaign, the regiment, with other cavalry, moved in advance along the Blue Ridge, occasionally skirmishing with the enemy, and arrived at Rappahannock bridge on the night of the 8th of November, in time to save it from destruction by the enemy. The regiment, now in command of Lieutenant Colonel Taylor, approached stealthily and surprised the enemy, driving him from his camp, capturing all his tents, officers' arms, clothing and camp equipments.
On the 11th of December, the regiment arrived at Falmouth, in front of Fredericksburg, and two companies, I and K, were sent across the river on one of Franklin's pontoons, to picket between the enemy's out-posts and the bridge. On the following morning, the regiment crossed and joined the squadron on picket, when it was ordered to deploy as skirmishers, and advance until the enemy was found. A mile from the river, just beyond the railroad, he was met, when General Bayard, who had rode to the front, ordered the regiment to fallback. This retrograde movement was followed by the rebel skirmishers, supported by his battle line, which at once opened fire. It was promptly replied to by the carbineers, who held their position until relieved by the infantry skirmishers of the Reserves. On the following day the regiment was deployed as skirmishers on the left wing, where it was under fire of the enemy's artillery. At three o'clock in the afternoon, when the storm of battle was raging fiercest, General Bayard, now in command of the whole cavalry force, was struck by a shell and instantly killed. The original commander of the First Cavalry, he had endeared himself to its members not less by his devotion toothier instruction and improvement, than by the heroism which he displayed in the hour of danger.
From Fredericksburg the regiment moved to Belle Plain Landing, where it went into winter quarters. Each alternate ten days during the winter was spent on picket along the Rappahannock, in the vicinity of King George Court House. On the 19th of January, 1863, the regiment turned out with the army to make another attempt to cross the river and give battle to the enemy. After three days splashing and floundering, the movement was abandoned, and the troops, drenched, bespattered and half frozen, returned to their camps. Soon afterwards Colonel Jones resigned, and Lieutenant Colonel John P. Taylor was commissioned Colonel, Major David Gardner, Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain William T. McEwen, of company C, Major. On the 17th of February, Major McEwen, with four companies, F, G, L and M, made a scout on the neck below the Court House, destroying a number of barges and boats employed in smuggling. Two nights after, companies I and K, under Major Gaston, made similar expedition to Westmoreland Court House, destroying a large boat and capturing a smuggler's wagon loaded with silks, shoes, fancy goods and imperial tea.
On the 12th of April the regiment broke camp and moved on the spring campaign. Headquarters were established at King George Court House, and it was engaged in picketing the river from Falmouth to Port Conway, On the morning of the 26th, a scouting party was sent under Lieutenant Colonel Gardner to Leedstown. At noon, Colonel Taylor, with Lieutenant Kennedy and an escort of six men, moved out to meet it. Eight miles beyond the vidette line, Colonel Taylor's party was fired on by dismounted cavalry in ambush, and at the first volley, three of the number fell dead or mortally wounded, their bodies riddled with bullets. Colonel Taylor had his cap shot from his head, and Lieutenant Kennedy his horse wounded. Both narrowly escaped capture. Colonel Gardner was apprized, by one of Colonel Taylor's men who escaped, of the enemy's position in his rear, by which he was enabled to evade and come safely in, bringing some prisoners and contraband property. On the 8th of May, abandoning the position which the regiment had held, it moved to Falmouth,, and on the 28th, to Warrenton, doing picket duty in the meantime.
Moving to Kelly's Ford, it crossed on the 9th of June, and was immediately engaged in the battle of Brandy Station. The Cavalry Corps was commanded by General Pleasanton. At two P. M. the First and Fourth Divisions, under Buford, moved to Beverly Ford, and the Second and Third, under Gregg, to Kelly's Ford, where they bivouacked for the night. Crossing the river early on the following morning, Gregg moved out four miles to Stevensburg, where he left Colonel Duffy with the Second Division, to protect his flank, and proceeded with the Third Division direct to Brandy Station. The Second Brigade, composed of the First Pennsylvania, First New Jersey, and the First Maryland, under command of Colonel Wyndham, took the advance, followed by the First Brigade, Colonel Kilpatrick. On arriving at Brandy Station, the enemy opened with his artillery, which was promptly answered, and the First Maryland, in two battalions, charged upon his battery. At the same time, wheeling his regiment to the right, Colonel Taylor led a desperate charge upon the left and rear of the foe, reaching the Barbour House, where were General Stuart, his staff, and body guard, surrounded by cavalry Here a desperate encounter ensued, the men using the cavalrymen's true weapon, the sabre, with terrible effect.
A number of prisoners were brought off, including Stuart's Assistant Adjutant General. At this point the enemy was heavily re-enforced and the command was obliged to withdraw, but disputing the ground manfully as it went, until it reached a new line of battle. Here it was joined by Duffy. The enemy failing to attack, Gregg moved toward Rappahannock Station, where he was again engaged, the First Pennsylvania supporting a battery. An artillery duel was kept up for nearly two hours, when Colonel Taylor was ordered to report, with his command, to General Buford, at Beverly Ford. Upon its arrival it was ordered to the extreme right, where it was hotly engaged, displaying its usual skill and gallantry. The loss in this engagement was three killed and eleven severely wounded. The enemy was grievously broken and dispirited.
After a day's rest, receiving rations forage, and ammunition, the regiment moved with the corps over the Bull Bun battle ground, to Aldie. Here, on the 21st, Stuart's whole force was again met, and after two days' desperate fighting, was forced back a distance of fourteen miles, our victorious squadrons routing and scattering his columns, and pushing him back into the gaps of the Blue Ridge. The First Pennsylvania was held in reserve, and was not engaged until the 22nd, when it was ordered to the front, and Covered the retiring forces from Upperville back to Aldie. It held the left of the pike while the First New Jersey held the right, and was several times vigorously attacked, but hurled back the charging columns in confusion. Pleasanton had given Stuart a stunning blow at Beverly Ford. At Aldie and Upperville he gave him a finishing stroke from which he never recovered. The regiment was the last to quit Aldie, acting as extreme rear guard to the army, now moving towards Pennsylvania. At nine A. M. of the 2nd of July, it reached the Gettysburg battlefield, and was detailed for duty at General Meade's headquarters, where it remained during the campaign.
Resuming the march on the 5th, the regiment acting as guard to the reserve artillery, consisting of eighteen pieces, proceeded through Taneytown to Hagerstown, a few miles east of Emmittsburg. After considerable countermarching and delay, it crossed the South Mountain on the 9th, by the old Sharpsburg road, and moved on to Boonsboro' remaining two days, and was there relieved from duty with the artillery, and re-joined the brigade. On the morning of the 14th, the regiment, with the division, crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry, and took position at Shepherdstown, where the enemy appeared in great strength. On the afternoon of the 16th he attacked with considerable show of force on the right, and soon after opened on the left with great vigor, and in large numbers. But the line, in position admirably chosen by General Gregg, and protected by a heavy stone fence, easily repelled a succession of vigorous and heavy charges.
Failing here, he again renewed his attacks on to right. The regiment, which had thus far been held in reserve, was ordered to its support, and crossing an open space of nearly a mile, in the face of the enemy's batteries, and moving along the Charlestown pike, which was also swept by his guns, it gained the position assigned, Companies I and K were dismounted and sent to the right, and companies C, H and D to the left, to reinforce the skirmish line, the rest remaining mounted with sabres drawn, ready to charge should the enemy break the advance. For two hours the battle raged with unabated fury, the enemy redoubling his efforts as night approached, repeatedly charging, at different points, with both infantry and cavalry, aided by storms of grape and canister; but the rapid and deadly volleys of the carbineers as often drove him back with great slaughter. Night put an end to the contest, and at midnight the command was withdrawn to Bolivar Heights.
On the 19th, the march was resumed, and moving along the eastern base of the Blue Ridge, the command had an occasional skirmish with the enemy at the gaps, arriving at Warrenton on the 27th. The regiment was now engaged in scouting, and in picket and guard duty on either side of the Rappahannock, occasionally encountering the enemy. On the 15th of August, company H, which had been detached for special duty at the headquarters of the Sixth Army Corps, since the 2nd of February, re-joined the regiment, having in the meantime participated in the battle of Marye's Heights, May 3d, and in the battle of Gettysburg. On the night of the 6th of September, an outpost of Carter's Creek, held by a detachment of the regiment, was surprised, and Lieutenant George W. Lyon, and Corporal Barre, were killed, and four men captured. On the 13th the enemy was met at Muddy Run, where a severe skirmish ensued, which lasted till the command reached Culpepper. Here the brigade was ordered to the front, and the regiment being in advance was at once deployed as skirmishers. Company H, not being armed with carbines, remained in rear of the centre. The line being quickly formed moved forward on horseback, but soon received a scathing fire from the enemy securely posted in woods and thickets. Dismounting and re-forming, under a galling fire, the order to charge was given, and the line rushing forward as one man, drove the enemy from his cover; but retreating, he caught at every sheltered position, and made obstinate resistance. Thus for four miles, continuing through a space of three hours, the regiment fought, and only left the field when relieved, its ammunition being exhausted.
Following this action, the regiment was engaged in skirmishing daily until the enemy was driven beyond the Rapidan on the 17th. The withdrawal of Meade towards Centreville brought the enemy again north of the Rappahannock, and the cavalry pickets were attacked on the morning of the 14th of October, at Auburn. Heavy fighting commenced immediately. The First Cavalry was in the extreme rear, and the enemy soon commenced closing in on its flanks. It was only by the most heroic bravery, and cool, determined action, that it escaped utter annihilation. Skirmishing as the army withdrew and again as it advanced on the Mine Run campaign, the cavalry was brought face to face with the enemy, at New Hope Church. His force consisted of infantry, cavalry and artillery, and was the advance of Hill's and Ewell's Corps. The First Cavalry was ordered to the front and deployed for a charge on horseback, but finding the country covered with a dense wood, immediately dismounted, and upon the order to advance dashed forward, broke the enemy's lines, and sweeping around on his flank captured twenty-eight of his infantry with muskets and bayonets in hand. It then established a line and held it against every effort of the enemy break it, for two hours, and until relieved by infantry of the Fifth Corps.
The campaign of 1863 was soon ended by the failure of operations at Mine Run, and the army withdrew across the Rappahannock; but there was little rest for the cavalry. Raids into the enemy's lines, involving long and fatiguing marches, guarding of extensive and exposed lines, with prowling bands of guerrillas, bold, daring, determined, and watchful for an advantage, kept the men constantly on duty and ever vigilant. "Of scarcely four hundred men," says Lloyd, "present for duty with the regiment, it has furnished a daily aggregate, of ninety-five men for picket duty, with nearly an equal number for scouts, guards, and other details."
The regiment broke camp for the spring campaign of 1864, on the 21st of April. On the 28th, Major Falls, with seventy-five men, made a scout to Falmouth, and on the 2nd of May, Captain Davidson, with one hundred men, made another to the same place; but neither found any force of the enemy north of the river. On the 3d, the regiment crossed the Rappahannock, at Kelly's Ford, and on the 4th, the Rapidan, at Ely's Ford. On the 5th, it moved to Spottsylvania Court House, and in the afternoon was ordered to move rapidly to Todd's tavern. Here the Third Division, under General Wilson, was met retreating before a heavy body of the enemy. The First Brigade was immediately thrown forward to cover the rear of the retreating forces, and was at once sharply engaged. The enemy was checked and soon driven, and though obstinately contesting the ground, he was compelled to fall back across the river Po. At dark the regiment was placed on the skirmish line, and was occasionally engaged during the following day. On the 6th, the division retired, and on the 7th, again advanced to its position, at Todd's tavern. Shortly after arriving, the regiment was ordered out to meet the enemy advancing on the extreme left of the line. Dismounting two battalions, and joining the Sixth Ohio, a charge was made along the whole line, and the enemy, although stubbornly resisting the movement, for a time, was compelled to give way, leaving his dead and wounded and a number of prisoners in the hands of the victors. Four rebel colonels found dead, were buried on the field.
On the 9th of May, General Sheridan commenced his grand raid upon Richmond, and on the first day crossed the Massaponax, Ny, Po and Ta rivers. At Childsburg the enemy made a vigorous attack. The regiment was supporting the Sixth Ohio, as rear guard to the column. Finding that the pressure was becoming so strong that a stand must be made, Colonel Taylor threw his regiment into line of battle, a battalion on each side of the road, and one in reserve. It was scarcely in position, when the Sixth Ohio was broken, and came in disorder through Taylor's forming ranks, closely followed by the rebel cavalry, one of whom dashed forward, and seizing the colors, demanded the surrender of the regiment. But scarcely had he uttered the word when he fell dead. The captain of the charging column was killed by a ball from Colonel Taylor's revolver. The charge of this advance squadron, who were all killed or wounded, with the exception of two, was immediately followed by an entire regiment. The flanking battalions had not yet fired, and, as the enemy came dashing forward within range, the well-directed volleys from two hundred carbines, sent them reeling to the rear. At dark the line was withdrawn, and the march continued. Heavy skirmishing in front, and on the right flank, occurred on the following day.
At Ashland, where the brigade was sent to destroy the Station, at Hungary Station, and at Yellow Tavern, the enemy were met in considerable force, and handsomely repulsed. Marching all night, daylight found the command moving down the Brock Road, within two and-a-half miles of Richmond. At Richmond Heights, near Meadow Bridge, the enemy appeared in heavy force. His attacks were made with great skill, and with a full knowledge of the ground. But every effort to break the lines of the division proved futile, and he was driven back with heavy loss. The fighting continued from daylight until eleven A. M., when, apparently disheartened, by his repeated repulses, he withdrew, and the corps moved on through Mechanicsville, Gaines' Mill, crossed Bottom's Bridge, and reached the James River, at Haxall's Landing. Here the regiment, having the advance, was fired on by the gunboats, being mistaken for the enemy. Remaining three days, the command marched via White House, and Aylett's, and re-joined the army at Chesterfield Station, on the 25th.
It was immediately placed in advance and again crossed the Pamunky at Hanovertown. At Hawes' Shop, the regiment was ordered out on scout and soon met the enemy. The Third Battalion, under Captain Litzenburg, immediately charged, clearing the road and driving the enemy back a half mile, where the line was formed, the Third Battalion holding the road, the First on the right of it and the Second on the left. Dismounting under a heavy fire, the regiment advanced to the attack. The division soon came up and the fighting became general. For seven hours the position was held, and so rapid and constant was the firing, that during this time, the regiment, though scarcely two hundred engaged, expended upward of eighteen thousand rounds of ammunition. At half past four P. M., the division was reinforced by Custer's Brigade, and the whole line dashed forward, driving the enemy three miles, and strewing the track of his routed columns with hundreds of his dead and wounded. Occupying the centre of the line, and holding the road where the heaviest of the fighting occurred, the loss of the regiment was severe.
At Barker's Mills a battery, supported by infantry, was encountered. The regiment was ordered from the rear to the head of the column to charge and capture it. The position was found to be impregnable, but the regiment moved forward under a raking fire of artillery and infantry, and took position in close range of the enemy's works, and held it until relieved by heavy lines of infantry. The loss in men and horses was very severe.
As soon as the cavalry could be spared from its place at the front, Sheridan was again in the saddle, and his legions in motion for the Trevillian raid. Striking the Virginia Central Railroad near Trevillian Station, the command proceeded to destroy the road. While the destruction was in progress, the regiment was ordered to report to General Torbert, commanding the First Division, and was placed in support of a battery, where it was exposed to heavy shelling, but not otherwise engaged. Having accomplished the destruction of the road for many miles, the column returned to White House, where the enemy appeared in force. Crossing the river the column was dismounted and formed to receive the enemy's attack. Here the First Cavalry was sent on foot a mile on the enemy's flank to capture or compel the removal of a gun which was very troublesome to the skirmishers. In obedience to orders, but contrary to the judgment of the officers of the regiment, it was pushed rapidly forward without protection of skirmishers on either flank, along a narrow strip of cleared land, skirted on all sides by dense woods. Scarcely had the attack opened in front when the enemy advanced from the woods on either side, and opened a galling fire on flanks and rear. Fairly entrapped, the regiment was immediately formed to cut its way out, and by coolness and desperate fighting escaped from the toils into which it had been drawn; but with a loss of three officers and thirty-five men killed, wounded and prisoners. The admirable dispositions made for the withdrawal, and the cool and determined bravery exhibited by both officers and men, elicited the warmest commendations.
At Saint Mary's Church the enemy's cavalry was again met in full force, supported by a column of infantry. After a severe engagement, in which our line fell back, fighting as it went, and successfully withdrawing all its artillery and trains, a position was finally taken, which was successfully held, and the enemy gave up the contest. The column now advanced to the James River, and encamped at Wyandott's Landing. Here closed General Sheridan's second grand raid, the corps having been absent from the army nineteen days, and engaged in either marching, or fighting, during the entire period, without a single day's respite. "Of the sixty-one days which had elapsed since the commencement of Grant's grand campaign against Richmond, fifty-four had been spent by the cavalry in either marching, scouting, picketing, or fighting. Being much of the time in the immediate presence of the enemy, we were subject to that unceasing vigilance which keeps every energy to its utmost tension, and wears away the spirits and the strength more rapidly than the heavy toils of steady and constant labor; such as the slow, cautious, and wearisome march, now halting, now marching again, now forming, dismounting and standing to horse, then re-mounting, changing position and forming again; aroused at night and hurried into line, to spend the drowsy hours until morning, in the saddle, hungry and jaded; a whole day without an opportunity of' cooking coffee, and then when a moment's leisure is had, and the tempting and grateful beverage is almost prepared, hurried away from the untasted meal to hours more of the fatiguing duty."**
On the 27th of August the command crossed the James and rested; but only for a brief period. The bugle again sounded for the march, and the corps was soon on its way to the left of our lines, now posted in front of Petersburg. At Ream's Station, on the 12th of July, the enemy's lines were encountered, and after a spirited contest, lasting several hours, which fully developed his strength and position, the command was withdrawn, and returned to its former camp. On the 26th, crossing the Appomattox, near Point of Rocks, it proceeded to the James, and in conjunction with the Second Corps, moved over on a pontoon bridge near Bermuda Hundred. At Malvern Hill a severe engagement ensued, in which the First Cavalry, dismounted, met the enemy's infantry, and was compelled by superior numbers to retire with a loss of three men killed and fifteen wounded. Upon being relieved by the infantry, the cavalry again returned to its old position in front of Petersburg. On the 30th of July the command again took up the line of march, and met the enemy strongly posted at Lee's Mills.
After a sharp fight he was dislodged and precipitately retreated. Returning the regiment was again north of the James. In the absence of Colonel Taylor and Lieutenant Colonel Gardner, occasioned by sickness, it was under command of Captain Newman. A week's hard service of picketing and scouting, and the engagement at Gravel Hill, "twin sister to Malvern Hill," ensued. Returning to the south side of the James, it again marched towards the Weldon Railroad, where the regiment participated in its last encounter with the enemy, near Ream's Station. On the 29th of August, a camp was established on the Jerusalem Plank Road, near the left of the army. The term of service of the regiment having now expired, an order for its relief from duty was received on the 30th. The veterans and recruits, four hundred and one in number, organized in a battalion of four companies, were left in command of Major Falls, and were subsequently consolidated with the veterans of the Sixth and Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, forming the Second Provisional Cavalry. Withdrawing from the front on the 1st of September, the regiment proceeded to Philadelphia, where, on the 9th, it was mustered out of service.
*"Near Woodstock another attack was made on the rear guard. The extreme rear was held by Caskie's Battery, supported by about two hundred men from Patton's command, as sharpshooters. This was regarded by Ashby as sufficient to hold the enemy in check; and his cavalry was quietly pursuing its way, in advance of the artillery, when the enemy's horsemen gallantly charged through the sharp-shooters on the guns, captured some of the cannoneers and nearly succeeded in cutting off the retreat of a rifled piece. It was withdrawn, however, in safety, a portion of the enemy rapidly following, and, before they were aware of the intended attack on them, the Confederate cavalry was thrown into disorder. The men retreated in confusion, and ran into the rear of the Forty-eighth Virginia, then passing along a narrow causeway the ravine on one side and a steep embankment on the other, and so sudden was the appearance of the disorganized cavalry in the midst of the infantry, that a number of men were knocked down before they could get out of the way." Stonewall Jackson, J, Eaton Cooke,(Rebel,) p. 164,128
**( First Pennsylvania Cavalry, Lloyd, page 105.)
Source: Bates, Samuel P. (Samuel Penniman), 1827-1902.: History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5; prepared in compliance with acts of the legislature, by Samuel P. Bates.
Search PA Civil War
Copyright © Pennsylvania Civil War Volunteers 1997-2015 All rights reserved.