History of the First Reg't Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry

Battle of Bull Run

During the 28th day of August, we were acting as flankers and skirmishers to McDowell's army and received the enemy's first fire, near Gainesville. The next day attached to General Reynold's Division, we spent the whole day on the extreme left of the army, being under fire most of the time and occupied the same comparative position next day, till called on to form part of the column of cavalry, preparing for a grand charge. When the left wing of the army was forced back, we, with the other cavalry-were detailed to arrest the stampede and were engaged in this until night-fall covered the bloody scenes of that ill-fated field.

With picket and skirmish daily, we, as part of the rear guard, closed up the remainder of that memorable retreat, and then with little more than one hundred horses and two hundred available men, commenced a new picket line outside of Washington.

Extract from an Account of the Battle

"The First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry claims the honor of drawing the first fire and of receiving the last, in the ever-memorable battle of the Second Bull Run. On the morning of the 28th day of August, 1862, one squadron, Companies I and M, got between Jackson and Longstreet on the Thoroughfare Gap pike, and captured and brought out ninety-seven prisoners. The next morning Colonel Owen Jones made a reconnaissance toward Centreville, and was opened upon by a light battery of the enemy, this being the first shot fired on either side.

"On the evening of the 30th, Sergeant (now First Lieutenant) F.S. Morgan with ten men held a road leading to Centreville until all the wounded were removed from the buildings in his rear. The rebels brought up a battery of four guns and attempted to drive the little squad, but without avail, until their task was completely accomplished, and this was the last fire of the engagement."

Camp South of Washington

Establishing camp, September 1st, near Munson's Hill, on the outskirts of the defences of Washington, picketing the approaches of the city, where we remained some six weeks refitting for the field.

About the middle of September, five companies, G, H, I, K and L, under command of Major R.J. Falls, were sent to do duty with General Siegel at Centreville, and were employed in picketing the line of Bull Run and scouting the plains of Manassas.

On the 12th of October, a scout was made to Warrenton consisting of this detachment from our regiment, and one of about the same strength from the First New Jersey Cavalry, all under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Karze (First New Jersey), which after a brief skirmish drove a body of the enemy's cavalry from the place, entered the town and captured and paroled upwards of fourteen hundred sick and wounded soldiers, who had been brought here by the enemy, from the battle-field of Bull Run.

On the 10th of October, the balance of the regiment in camp led the advance and covered the return of the division in a four days' scout from Bailey's Cross Roads to the Rappahannock.

Second Advance from the Potomac of 1862

On the morning of the 27th day of October, in the face of the pelting torrents of rain and sweeping gusts of a fierce equinoctial, we again took up our line to march southward.

Our column consisted of some dozen regiments of cavalry, with the necessary train and transportation, and we consequently moved very slowly. More than half the day was spent before we were fairly on the road, and night came on before we had gotten a dozen miles from camp.

The next day we marched to the plains of Chantilly and establishing that place as a centre, immediately engaged in scouting the country beyond, as far as the Bull Run mountains on the west, and the Rappahannock on the south.

On the thirty-first with a force consisting of the First New Jersey, our own regiment and four pieces of artillery, we were attacked by an equal force of the enemy, at the village of Aldie, situated on the Middleburg and Upperville pike, and in a Gap of the Bull Run mountains. After a spirited action of some two hours, the enemy were repulsed and we remained master of the field.

On the 4th of November, we marched to join forces with General McClellan's advance, which was moving southward from the Potomac, along the east side of the Blue Ridge. Halted for the night a short distance beyond Middleburg, and resuming march next morning, reached Upperville late in the afternoon; and, a few hours after, General Pleasanton had driven the enemy from the place.

Early on the morning of the 6th, we resumed the march, and after traveling a circuitous route of twenty miles, reached the Waterloo pike, some three miles southwest of Warrenton. Here we met the enemy, who immediately opened a battery on the head of our column.

Captain H.S. Thomas' squadron, companies L and M, was at once ordered forward as skirmishers, supported by companies I and K. Captain D. Gardner, with company G, was sent down the pike toward Waterloo, while Colonel Owen Jones, with the balance of the regiment, pushed across the country with the deed of intercepting the enemy on the Sulphur Spring pike. But only waiting to give us a few shell, he limbered up before our guns could be gotten in position, and made off with such speed as to baffle all attempts to overtake him. Our artillery, however, paid its compliments to the support of his battery, (which consisted of about a regiment of cavalry,) in the shape of a shower of shot and shell, as they dashed over the hill in their endeavors to elude our cavalry.

After the pursuit was discontinued, and the different detachments had rejoined the command, we resumed the march, passing through Warrenton and halting for the night a few miles out on the Fayetteville road.

Next morning, the 7th, we started in a heavy snow storm for Fayetteville, and reaching it about noon, remained there until nearly dark, when we again moved forward in the direction of Rappahannock station. Arriving in the vicinity of the bridge, at nine P.M., Colonel Jones was ordered to charge the fording with the First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry, and save the bridge, if possible; which movement he accomplished with such skill and dash, as to completely surprise the enemy and drive him off before he could reach the bridge; or do any injury to it.

On the following morning we went into camp near the station and remained for twelve days, picketing the various fords above and below this point.

On the night of the 19th we were again in column of route, slowly plodding our way through mud and rain and intense darkness, toward Falmouth. After eight hours' wearisome travel we reached Morrisville, seven miles distant, and halted until morning. Again on the road, we reached Hartwood church, drenched with rain and covered with mud; and the next day, after a wearisome march, made through mud knee-deep to our horses, we made Brook's station, and established camp.

Picketing and scouting in the direction of the Occoquan river and Dumfries, made up the duties of the regiment for the four weeks we remained here.

Battle of Fredericksburg

At early dawn, on the morning of the 10th of December, we received orders to break camp and be ready to move at once; this was not done without some regret, as the men had already prepared neat and comfortable winter quarters.

The line of march was commenced an hour or two before night, in the direction of Falmouth. The roads being completely covered with ice, and darkness setting in it became very difficult to advance over the hilly and uneven road, and we soon halted for the night. In the saddles again at six the next morning and reached Falmouth about noon. Forming a mile to the rear of the town, we remained in that position until evening, when, retiring to a wood just in our rear, picketed our horses, and building huge fires, were soon bivouacked for the night, all except companies I and K, Captains J.M. Gaston and J.H. Williams, which were sent to the river at dark to cross on the lower pontoon, and picket on the other side between the enemy's outposts and the pontoon bridge.

The night was intensely cold, and little sleep was had by the regiment, but the morning dawned clear and beautiful on the heights, where, soon after daylight, we stood formed ready for the advance; though the river and the lowlands, which, at this place, skirt its banks on the north side for half a mile, and on the south for full a mile back from the water's edge, were shrouded in thick clouds of mist.

The regiment, with the brigade, reached the river bank about nine A.M., and in half an hour had passed over the pontoons and taken position on the hostile shore. Here we were joined by the squadron sent forward the night previous to picket, and the regiment having been detailed as advance skirmishers, with orders to proceed until we found the enemy, our line was at once formed, stretching for a mile across the plains, and the advance commenced.

We found the enemy about a mile from the river, just beyond the railroad, in force, and reported his position.

General Bayard having visited the front, ordered the regiment to fall back across the railroad; this movement was instantly followed by the enemy's skirmishers, and his battle line moving forward at the same time opened hotly upon us. Our carbineers replied coolly and rapidly, holding the position for fully an hour against these odds, and until the infantry skirmishers of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps relieved us.

The next day we were again deployed as skirmishers, our line stretching across the field the entire breadth of our left wing, and through the dreadful length of that disastrous day, we were compelled to sit, a target for the enemy's artillery, (which poured from the adjacent heights a continuous stream of iron death on the plain below,) living an age in an hour, and every moment dragged out to an agonizing length by the oppressive suspense, produced by the grand and appalling surroundings, still the regiment remained where it had been placed, not a man swerving from his post, until the shades of night began to settle down upon that plain, now smoking with the warm life's blood of fifteen thousand Union soldiers, when we were relieved and withdrawn to the river bank.

Death of General Bayard

About three o'clock in the afternoon of the 13th, when the storm of battle raged the fiercest, and flying shot and shell were crashing through our ranks and ploughing up the earth around us, the sad tidings of the fall of our beloved general reached us. It fell like a thunderbolt upon the regiment; men forgot themselves in danger in their anxious solicitude for their general, and plainly, for a while, could be discerned along that unwavering line of brave men, the stern and rigid lineaments battle stamps upon the features, softening into gentler lines beneath the melting influence of sympathy and sorrow, and then again growing doubly frigid and unrelenting, as revenge brought back to mind who dealt the murderous blow.

No one, among the many heroes who have fallen in this war, possessed more fully and unfeignedly the love and esteem of those whom he honored as their leader, than did General Bayard of his command, and especially of his own regiment the First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry.

To this brilliant and lamentable soldier and unsurpassed cavalry officer, the regiment owes the completeness of its organization, the rapidity of its training, the skill and steadiness of movement which have rendered it so successful in its maneuvers and evolutions in the face of the enemy, the careful training in picket duty, which have spared it the mortification of surprise, and enables it thus far, to exhibit a record in this respect few regiments can equal, and to his training and example the steadiness and quiet courage which rendered its actions so conspicuous on this bloody field, and drew from General Reynolds the highest encomiums as it stood unwavering under the whole weight of fire from Jackson's line, holding its position until relieved.

It is not unworthy of note here, that the First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry was the only cavalry regiment actively engaged in this ill-advised and sanguinary battle, the balance of the brigade, which crossed the river with us, having been massed under cover of the river bank, where it remained during the whole engagement.

Extract of Report of Colonel Owen Jones, Containing Additional Particulars of Operations of the Regiment, from October 27th to December 14th, 1862

"As Colonel of The First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry, I have the honor to report to you the service performed by this regiment since the commencement of this present campaign:

"On the 27th of October, I left Bailew's cross roads, and marched to Chantilly, and a few days after was ordered with Bayard's brigade to report to General McClellan.

"On the 31st had a small skirmish with a cavalry force of the enemy, supported by a battery, at Aldie.

"On the 6th of November, companies L and M, Captain H.S. Thomas and Lieutenant H.S. Gaul being in advance, the brigade moving on Warrenton, were attacked by the Seventh Virginia Cavalry, with an artillery support. The engagement was short and decisive. The enemy were soon driven from their positions with loss of killed and captured.

"Immediately after I entered Warrenton with a portion of my regiment, and was shortly after joined by the other regiments connected with the Pennsylvania Reserves, and the remainder of General Bayard's brigade, in the afternoon of that day. During a violent snowstorm, I was ordered forward with two battalions of the regiment, and a section of artillery, to seize and save the bridge, at Rappahannock station. My cavalry cut off and captured the picket stationed at the north side of the river for the protection of the bridge. A regiment of infantry encamped on the opposite side, was shelled and driven from their camp, leaving behind them their tents and material, including the luggage and mess chests of the officers, which were subsequently taken possession of by my men. Thus successfully carrying out the objects of the expedition. I held the bridge for about forty-eight hours until relieved by a brigade of infantry.

"From that time until the 19th, the regiment was engaged in guarding the various fords above and below the bridge, during which time various detachments had several slight skirmishes with the enemy. On the evening of the 19th, the regiment moved for Brooks Station, where it arrived on the 22nd, and there remained until the 10th day of December, doing picket and scouting duty.

"Arrived opposite Fredericksburg on the 11th of December, early on the morning of the 12th, the regiment was ordered to take the advance of the brigade, crossed the Rappahannock where we were joined by two companies that had passed the river the evening previous to do picket duty.

"By order of General Bayard, the regiment was then deployed as skirmishers in front of the brigade, and advanced cautiously through a thick fog, meeting and driving before them the advance post of the enemy, and holding their position until relieved by the advance of the infantry. In doing this duty a very severe skirmish occurred, in which a number of men and horses were killed and wounded.

"The companies deployed as skirmishers, were under the command of Captain William T. McEwen, M.L. French, H.C. Beamer, H.S. Thomas and Lieutenant H.S. Gaul.

"I cannot speak in too high terms of the officers and men engaged in this affair. All did their duty nobly. This regiment was the only one actually engaged in the fight of that day and bivouacked for the night on the field.

"The day following I was ordered with my regiment to report to General Reynolds, for duty, and by him was directed to watch the motions of the enemy on the left of the army during the entire day, exposed to a storm of shot and shell, seldom, if ever equaled. That duty was performed, and I have reason to believe, to the full and entire satisfaction of the officers in command, no other cavalry being in that portion of the field.

"The men remained during the night in the position held by them during the battle: our loss having been heavy in horses, although, fortunately few of the men were hurt. The day following we were ordered to recross the river and picket the north bank of the Rappahannock for a distance of some ten miles below Fredericksburg, which duty is now being performed.

"It gives me great pleasure to be able to say that during the entire time, none of my men have been captured."

Winter Quarters at Bell Plain Landing, Va.

The regiment continued thus employed until the 29th of December, when it moved to within a short distance of Bell Plain Landing, on the Potomac side of the neck and prepared winter quarters.

The industry and constructive genius of our men soon changed the appearance of a wooded hillside, the site for our camp, from a primeval forest, to a neat and comfortable village of seven or eight hundred soldiers. The place of tents was supplied by huts half dug in the hillside, with natural chimneys drilled through the bank on the upper side, and the portion of the hut above ground, finished by logs and clap boards made from lumber felled at the door.

These quarters were all the men wished, had they been permitted to enjoy them, but the "exigencies of the service" directed otherwise, and in little more than a month the regiment was moved to other ground about a mile distant, and its skill again tested, in constructing quarters. Here, fortunately, it was permitted to have a nominal home until we broke camp in April, but not to enjoy uninterruptedly its log ribbed and mud-plastered palaces, as each alternate ten days during the whole winter was spent on picket along the Rappahannock, in the vicinity of King George Court House.

Incidents of the Winter

On the 19th day of January, the regiment with the army, turned out to make another attempt at dislodging the enemy from his formidable position around Fredericksburg, by crossing the river at "United States Ford," some miles above that place, and assailing his flank. But a heavy rain storm setting in, the roads became impassable, the artillery and trains swamping in the mud, a few miles from their camps, and after three days splashing and floundering, the movement was abandoned and the troops drenched, bespattered and half frozen returned to their camps.

Shortly after this move, Colonel Owen Jones resigning, Lieutenant-Colonel J.P. Taylor was chosen Colonel of the regiment, and on the 10th of February following, Major D. Gardner, Lieutenant-Colonel.

While on picket at King George C.H., on the 17th of March a detachment consisting of Companies F, G, L and M, under command of Major McEwen, made a scout on the neck below, destroying a number of barges and boats employed in smuggling contraband goods across the Rappahannock.

Two nights after, another detachment, consisting of Companies I and K, under command of Major Gaston, was sent to West Moreland C.H. on a similar expedition. On arriving at Maddox creek, some ten miles below, the party was divided: Captain Williams with K company taking the road to Maddox creek landing, while Captain T.C. McGregor, with I company proceeded on toward the Court House, and returning by way of Leedstown, destroying a large boat and captured a smuggler's wagon, loaded with silks, shoes, fancy goods and imperial tea. All that could be carried was packed on the saddles, and the balance, with the wagon, was destroyed, and the party returned next day to headquarters, having more the appearance of a travellers caravan, than a squadron of Yankee cavalry.

Opening of the Spring Campaign of 1863

At 9 A.M., April 12th, 1863, the "general," whose notes had not greeted our ears for several months, was again sounded. Tents struck and saddles packed, the regiment was soon on its way from Bell Plain landing, Va., toward the Rappahannock to do picket duty. Established picket headquarters near King, George C.H. and picket the river from Falmouth to Port Conway. Continued at this duty until May the 9th, when it was relieved and marched to Potomac Creek bridge.

At Port Conway, the terminus of our line of picket along the river, a flanking chain of videttes extended across the country at right angles with the river, for some three miles; all below this was open and unguarded and occasional scouts were made in this region, to learn what was transpiring, waylay smugglers and destroy contraband goods. On Sunday, the 26th day of April, a scouting party started, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner, to go to Leedstown, on the Northern Neck, of Va. For the purpose of capturing some rebel soldiers, reported to be across the river visiting friends. The main body of the party left the lower picket lines about 4 A.M., and proceeded down on the Rappahannock road until they reached Leedstown.

At 12.30 M. of the same day, Colonel Taylor, accompanied by an escort of one officer, (Lieutenant W.A. Kennedy, Company K,) and six men, proceeded in the direction the detachment had taken, for the purpose of intercepting it. When about eight miles below our line, they were fired upon by a large body of the Fifteenth Virginia (rebel) cavalry, dismounted and in ambush. Three of the number, Eli Leskelett, Moses Hastings, and Corporal David Ackelson, all from Company I, were riddled with bullets and fell from their horses dead, or mortally wounded. Colonel Taylor had his cap shot from his head and Lieutenant Kennedy his horse wounded, and both narrowly escaped being captured, by dashing through the guerrillas who thronged the road in front of them.

This cowardly crew was part of a detachment of about three hundred who had crossed the river in two large flat boats, after Colonel Gardner's party had passed down, with the intention of intercepting their return. Destroying the bridges and posting parties in ambush on the different roads, they would doubtlessly have succeeded in their dastardly designs of murdering more of our men, but for the alarm occasioned by the attack made on Colonel Taylor and his party, which was communicated to Colonel Gardner, by negroes who had witnessed the affair, thereby enabling him by skillful movements to evade the traps arranged for him, and bring his whole party safely into camp, having succeeded in capturing a dozen of prisoners and destroying several boats and a considerable amount of contraband property, during their absence.

The line of the river we were engaged in picketing during this time, embraced an extent of twenty-five miles, making the duty of the regiment, which numbered scarcely three hundred men for duty, very severe. But we lived in a "land flowing with milk and honey," and good cheer, in part, made up for hard work. This beautiful and fertile country, being plentifully supplied with poultry, milk and eggs, which were readily obtained in exchange for sugar, coffee and salt; and not unfrequently, as is the habit of soldiers, in sections not eminent for their loyalty, with exchange all on one side. And as the spring advanced the river swarmed with shad, herring and other choice fish, of which the Yankees soon invented means of catching more than they could use, so that when at length the order came for our exodus, we might have felt even loath to leave these fair meadows, had not the cannon's roar wafted to our ears from Marye's heights, the Wilderness and Chancellorsville, reminded us that the contest for another year had opened and we must prepare to bear our part.

At dark, on the evening of the 8th day of May, we commenced withdrawing our pickets and bidding adieu, alike to good living and the fair damsels of secessia who graced these regions with their charms, though regretting most to leave the former, as soldiers very readily learned to discriminate between the real and the visionary. We stored our haversacks with hard tack and salt junct, and about 11 P.M. were on the road to Falmouth.

Marching all night, at sunrise we found ourselves winding along over hill and hollow, through old camps and brush strewed clearings, toward Potomac creek bridge.

May the 18th, marched to U.S. Ford, and picketed along the river until the 28th, then moved to Warrenton Junction, and established camp. Here we were again engaged in picketing, but the duty was slight, and the regiment, during the eleven days of it's uninterrupted stay here, was principally engaged in refitting, recruiting its horses, and preparing for active operations, which were soon to follow.

June the 8th, marched toward the river and encamped within a mile of Kelley's ford. June the 9th we crossed the river early in the morning and participated in the Battle of Brandy Station. See annexed official report of Colonel John P. Taylor.

"Head Quarters 1st Penna. Res. Cavalry, Warrenton Junction. June 12, 1863. "Lieut. Wm. P. LLoyd, A.A. Adjt. Gen. 2nd Brig. 3d Div. C.C.

"Lieutenant: -- I have the honor to respectfully submit, in brief review, the part my regiment took in the late cavalry fight at Brandy Station, Va., June 9, 1863.

"On Monday, the 8th, the Cavalry Corps, commanded by General Pleasanton, according to orders, left this place at 2 P.M.; the first and fourth divisions commanded by General Buford, taking up a line of march leading to Beverly ford.

"The second and third divisions commanded by General Gregg, proceeded to Kelley's ford; both commands arrived at the different fords about dark, and bivouacked for the night.

"Before sunrise the following morning, the roar of cannon told us that the ball had opened at Beverly ford. General Gregg's command immediately proceeded to cross the river. Colonel Dufie, commanding the second division, taking the advance, followed by the third division, and thus proceeding to Stevensburg, about four miles from Kelley's ford. At this point, General Gregg, leaving Colonel Dufie with his command to protect his left flank and rear, proceeded with the third division on a road running parallel with the river, leading direct to Brandy Station. The Second Brigade, composed of the First Pennsylvania, First New Jersey, and First Maryland regiments, commanded by Colonel Wyndham, took the advance, followed by the First Brigade, commanded by Colonel Kilpatrick.

"No sooner had we arrived at Brandy Station, on the left and rear of the enemy, than their guns were opened upon us, at a range of one thousand yards. Our battery was immediately placed in position and engaged their guns, while Colonel Wyndham hastened to attack with his cavalry. One battalion of the First Maryland, led by Major Russel, charged upon their battery, followed by the remainder of the First Maryland, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Deemes, and the First New Jersey led by Colonel Wyndham in person. At the same time swinging my regiment around to the right.

"I led a desperate charge upon their left and rear, coming up to the Barbour House, in which was General Stuart, staff and body guard, surrounded by cavalry, with whom we spent thirty minutes in hand to hand conflict, killing and wounding and bringing away with us a number of prisoners, among whom was General Stuart's assistant adjutant-general, captured but a few feet from the renowned General Stuart himself. In this entire charge and conflict my men depended alone upon the cavalryman's true weapon, and tested the true merit and power of the sabre.

"At this stage of the fight, the enemy being heavily reinforced, we were compelled to give way, disputing every step to our new line of battle, where Colonel Dufie joined us with the Second Division. About this time Colonel Wyndham, having been wounded, was obliged to turn over his command to me, and my regiment to Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner.

"The enemy failing to attack us in our new position, the whole command moved off to the right, toward Rappahannock Station, where we again engaged the enemy with our artillery, and ordered the First Pennsylvania to support the battery, the enemy quickly replied, and a brisk artillery duel ensued, lasting nearly two hours, when I received orders from General Gregg to report immediately with my command to General Buford, at Beverly ford. With the First Pennsylvania in advance, I pushed on rapidly and reported to General Buford, who immediately ordered me to his extreme right, where we, for the third time, engaged the enemy; and the First Pennsylvania displayed its usual bravery, in unsaddling a number of the enemy, and driving them back; thus having disputed possession of the river, and night coming on, we quietly crossed to the north side of the river and bivouacked for the night.

"I cannot close this brief review, without more especially speaking of the behavior of my officers and men, for all seemed to vie with each other in deeds of daring; and I could have desired no greater effort on the part of any one.

"I would beg leave to mention the gallant conduct of all my field officers, Lieutenant-Colonel D. Gardner, Major Wm. T. McEwen, Lieutenant Charles C. Townsend, adjutant of my regiment; the latter having been on sick list for some time, and still ill, was at his post, during the entire engagement, rendering invaluable service.

"Major J.M. Gaston was not with the regiment, being at the time, on detached service, at Division headquarters."

Additional Sketch of the Battle of Brandy Station

The 7th of June was spent in the hurry and bustle of preparation. Haversacks were stored, cartridge boxes filled, horses shod, the sick sent back, and all the usual preparation for active campaigning gone through with.

Then commenced the irksome and wearying delays incident to the moving of troops. Momentarily expecting the order to move, and yet hour after hour passing, and still not off. Evening came and night passed, and "reveille" awoke us to another day's expectancy. But we were relieved at noon. The bugle at division headquarters sounded the "general," tents were soon struck, saddles packed, and the regiments of each brigade massed in close column, when, after an hour or two's more delay, awaiting our trains to get on the road, "the advance was sounded." Slowly pursuing our way through the heat and clouds of dust raised by the march of a division of cavalry over parched and arid fields, we at length reached the vicinity of the river, and at nine P.M. bivouacked for the night, about a mile from Kelley's ford.

The unusual precaution taken to prevent all unnecessary noise, betokened that we were in the neighborhood of the enemy, and might soon expect an encounter. In pursuance of previous orders, we were roused from our slumbers at three o'clock the next morning, and before we had finished our hasty breakfast, the thunder of Buford's cannon, borne on the calm morning air from Beverly ford, where he had already commenced crossing his division, brought us to the saddle, and soon we were drawn up on the river bank, around Kelley's ford, awaiting our turns to cross.

Meeting but little opposition from the enemy, in half an hour we had passed the river, and were pressing forward into the interior. Dufie's 3rd brigade having the advance, after proceeding some miles from the river, turned off in the direction of Stevensburg, while our (Wyndham's) command, moved rapidly forward, towards Brandy Station, with orders to find the enemy, and at once engage him. These were just the orders for our gallant and dashing brigade commander. Moving forward at a brisk trot, the First New Jersey Cavalry in front, the First Pennsylvania Cavalry next, and Martin's battery, and the First Maryland Cavalry bringing up the rear. In less than an hour we had reached the vicinity of the station, and our advance guard was engaged with the enemy's skirmishers.

Hurrying our columns from the wood through which the road had led for the last two miles, Colonel Wyndham formed his brigade in columns of regiment, in the open field east of the Station, and heading the First New Jersey in person, at once ordered the whole line to charge. Our sudden appearance on the flank and rear of the enemy took him somewhat by surprise, and for some minutes the hills and plains beyond the railroad, swarmed with galloping squadrons of "graybacks," hurrying to new positions, as their line of battle was being changed to meet our attack.

The First Maryland, with squadron A and B from our regiment, were ordered to move down on the Station, while Colonel Wyndham led the New Jersey against a battery on the heights beyond the railroad, and the balance of our regiment directed its operations against the Barbour house, a large Virginia Mansion, situated on a high knoll just beyond the railroad, and about half a mile north of the Station. The field now presented a scene of grand and thrilling interest. A whole brigade of cavalry "in column of regiment" moving steadily forward to the attack on our side, while the enemy's cavalry, having completed its new formation, stood in glittering lines, awaiting the assault, and his artillery stationed on every hill, with rapid flash and continuous roar, belching forth its concentrated fire on the advancing columns.

But still, with undaunted firmness, the brigade, in sublime array, moved forward, first at a steady walk, then quickening their pace to a trot, and again as the awful space between the battle fronts, rapidly shortened, the gallop was taken, and as the crowning act of the grand but terrible drama, and when our line had closed on the enemy until scarce fifty paces intervened, the order to charge rang along our front; in an instant a thousand glittering sabres flashed in the sunlight; from a thousand brave and confident spirits arose a shout of defiance, which, as it rung from squadron to squadron, and was caught up by rank after rank, mingling formed one vast, strong, full volumed battle-cry; and every trooper, at the same time rising in his stirrups, and leaning forward to meet the shock, dashed at headlong speed upon the foe. First came the dead heavy crash of the meeting columns, and next the clash of sabre, the rattle of pistol and carbine, mingling with the frenzied imprecation, the wild shriek that follows the death blow, the demand to surrender, and the appeal for mercy, forming the horrid din of battle. For a few brief moments the enemy stood and bravely fought, and hand to hand and face to face raged the contest; but quailing at length before the resistless force of our attack, and shrinking from the savage gleamed murderous stroke of our swift-descending sabres, at length broke and fled in confusion.

Following him up, soon the whole plain for a mile in extent was covered with flying columns, engaged in a general melee, which continued, until the enemy, coming up with reinforcements, we withdrew and reformed.

When the First Pennsylvania Cavalry emerged from the woods, at the opening of the action, it was formed facing, and about half a mile from the railroad, and immediately on the left and supporting our battery. Scarcely half the regiment had gotten into position, when the enemy opened a battery, at point blank range, from the eminence of the Barbour house, hurling with great rapidity shot and shell into our ranks. When we moved forward it was to storm the position, and, if possible, capture the battery. As we marched straight forward toward the smoking cannons' mouths, they first saluted us with spherical case, and as the distance grew less, hurled grape and canister into our faces. But undaunted our line moved on, and would, doubtlessly, have taken the guns, had it not been broken in crossing an intervening ditch, which enabled the battery to move off before the regiment could be crossed. Once beyond the ditch, we formed ourselves at the foot or the base of the heights, forming under a heavy fire poured on us from the garden, yard and buildings surrounding the mansion, and half of the regiment, led by Colonel Taylor, moved on the house from the front, while the other, with Lieutenant-Colonel Gardner at its head, swung around on its left and rear, and both wings dashing impetuously forward, soon cleared the enemy from the intervening space, and held possession of the ground.

An incident may be here noted illustrative of how utterly the Southern chivalry detest and dread the rough arguments of cold steel, when wielded by the Northern mechanic's sinewy arm.

Just as we were raising the hill, in our charge, a bold and audacious rebel rode forward from their ranks and called out, "Put up your sabres, put up your sabres, draw your pistols and fight like gentlemen"; but the mechanics, farmers and laborers of Pennsylvania placed too great confidence in their tried blades and the iron nerves of their right arms, to follow his advice, and soon these kid-gloved gentry blanched and shrank from the weight of their sturdy strokes.

We here met the flower of Stuart's cavalry, composed of his own body guard, and White's celebrated battalion and though unaware at the time, had stormed and carried his headquarters; this we learned from his adjutant-general who was among the prisoners taken.

June the 10th we returned to camp at Warrenton Junction, and resumed picket duty at that place.

On the afternoon of the 13th were again on the march. Halting near Warrenton, Companies A, B and C, Captains Wm. H. Patterson, R.J. McNitt and Lieutenant R.S. Lawsha, with Captain Wm. Litzenberg in charge of the detachment, was sent forward to picket in the direction of Sulphur Springs and Waterloo, and remaining here until nine P.M. of the 15th, when the regiment quietly withdrew, and marching all night, reached Manassas Junction the next morning, where, in a few hours after, it was joined by the pickets.

Battles of 20th, 21st and 22d, from Aldie's to Ashby's Gap

The division having concentrated here, was supplied with rations, forage and ammunition, and after a day's rest, took up its line of march on the morning of the 15th, and moving westward, over the old Bull Run battle ground, struck the Centreville pike, and reached Aldie on the afternoon of the 17th. At dark on the 18th, we received orders to move down the east side of the mountains to Thoroughfare Gap, and hold it until relieved. Starting in a violent thunder storm, we groped our way through blinding darkness, over a miserable road, arriving at Hay Market at one A.M., stood "to horse" until morning, and then found the Gap. Relieved the following night, by the Second Corps, we rejoined the division on the morning of the 21st, at Aldie. Here Stuart's whole force was again met by our cavalry corps, and after two days' desperate fighting was forced back a distance of fourteen miles, and his routed and scattered columns pushed into the gaps of the Blue Ridge.

Our cavalry never displayed more determined and persistent courage than during these memorable actions. Stone fences, with which this country is covered, rocks, ravines, woods, ditches, buildings and every thing available for defence was held by the enemy, with a stubborn tenacity only excelled by the dashing bravery of our troops. As often as dislodged from one position he rallied on the next, holding it until again forced back by our resistless charges.

As our division acted as reserves, we were not engaged until the morning of the 22d, when we were ordered to the front, and covered our retiring columns from Upperville back to Aldie; the enemy following in force, pressed heavily on our brigade, the rear guard. The First Pennsylvania Reserve Cavalry held the left, and the First New Jersey the right of the pike, and although they were several times during the day attacked with great vigor and determination by the enemy, as often hurled back his charging columns in confusion.

At Brandy Station, Stuart's vaunting legions received their first lesson of the prowess of the Yankee cavalry, and here the finishing stroke, which reduced them to that point of inefficiency and worthlessness of which General Lee complained so bitterly in his official report of the invasion of Pennsylvania. The Cavalry Corps, taking position again on the heights around Aldie, the enemy made no attempt to push further.

Campaign into Pennsylvania

Remaining at Aldie until the 26th to protect the crossing of the infantry and trains at Edward's Ferry, then moved forward toward the Potomac.

The regiment, as the extreme rear guard, was the last to quit Aldie, and reached Leesburg about dark. Resuming march again next morning, we reached the river about ten A.M., at Edward's Ferry, and crossing at two P.M., drew up in close column of squadron on the Maryland shore.

This was the first time the regiment had been north of the Potomac since its first advance into Dixie, October the 10th, 1861. Its operations having been confined to an area of about seventy miles square, extending from Fredericksburg and the northern neck of Virginia on the east, to the Blue Ridge on the west, and from the Potomac on the north to the Rappahannock and Rapidann rivers and Shenandoah Valley on the south and southwest.

So often had this section of the sacred soil been traversed by the marching and counter-marching of the regiment, that every road, lane, and by-path were as familiar to us as the localities of our own homes. There was scarcely a town in the whole stretch of country around which we had not engaged the enemy, and more than once had the streets of some, as Warrenton, Aldie, Salem, and Culpepper, rung with the clatter of our charging squadrons, as we hurried the flying enemy from their vicinities; scarcely a place dignified with the name of village, which was not marked as a skirmish ground; a cross road at which we had not stood post, or a fordable point on the Rappahannock, from Port Conway, on the east, to where it dwindled to a mountain brook in Western Virginia, or on the Rapidann, from its mouth southward to Madison Court House, that we had not guarded. So that when once freed from the barren wastes and the putrid air of this war-cursed region, it was not without emotions of joy that we again, after twenty months' absence, pressed a friendly soil, and once more breathed the atmosphere of loyalty, although we had come to roll back the tide of invasion from our own homes, and protect our own hearthstone from a ruthless foe.

At dark, on the same evening, we again commenced our march northward, passing through Poolesville and Barnesville, and reaching Urbana at daylight, halted to breakfast. Resuming march again, crossed the Monocacy river at the junction, and halted about eleven, A.M., a mile east of Frederick city. Here the regiment was detailed on special service at corps headquarters, and ordered to the city to do provost duty. Leaving two companies, G and L, Captain F.P. Confer and Lieutenant H.S. Gaul, for provost duty, the regiment again moved forward on the afternoon of the 29th, reaching Middleburg at two, A.M., the 30th. Again on the road at daylight, arrived at Taneytown on the afternoon, and encamped in a strip of woods a short distance beyond.

Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

At ten o'clock P.M., July the 1st, resumed march northward, and traveling all night, reached the battlefield at nine A.M., of the 2nd, and took a position, as support for the reserve artillery of the cavalry corps, immediately in rear of the left centre, and remaining here all day, were withdrawn a mile to the rear at night.

Toward evening of this day, a fierce assault was made on the left wing of the battle line, which caused it to waver for a while before the fury of the onset; but the Fifth Corps coming up, just in time, a charge from the Pennsylvania Reserves, hurled the enemy back, retaking not only the ground lost, but pushed our line forward a half mile beyond the original position.

Returning to our former post, on the morning of the 3d. The battle opened at daylight on the right, and raged fiercely for several hours, but the centre and left remaining inactive until about two P.M., when the enemy, in his last desperate effort, hurled forward the concentrated weight of his force on our centre and left. The action opened here again with redoubled fury, and with the view of opening a way for his advancing columns through our left centre, a point just in advance of the position occupied by the regiment, he poured a converging fire of more than one hundred guns on our line.

The regiment, though not engaged, was exposed to the full force of the terrific storm, but continued in its position until withdrawn from the range of that blasting withering stream of death. Moving a short distance to the rear, we remained until the enemy's massed columns were rolled back in confusion and defeat from the fiery front of our battle-line, for the last time, and the shouts of victory, first starting from Cemetery Hill, were caught up by division after division, and echoing from line to line and corps to corps, until the hills and woods and the whole broad country, covered by our vast army, rung with one long, loud shout of triumph; a shout that filled all hearts with rejoicing, that made the wounded forget their anguish, and which, as it fell on the ear of the dying, brightened once more the glazed eye with life's sparkle, and wreathed once again the pallid countenance with the smile of joy. And well might every heart rejoice. The day was won. Victory was ours. The rebel hordes were beaten back. Pennsylvania was rescued from the foul grasp of traitors, her fair domain spared the blighting curse of sweeping armies, and our nation's Capitol saved!

At sundown we received orders to withdraw from the field, and find grazing for our horses. Retiring some two miles to the rear, we turned into a field of grass, unsaddled and turned loose our jaded and almost famished horses, had supper, the first meal we had been permitted to prepare for two days, and wrapping our blankets about us, and lying down, though pelted by a dashing rain storm, were soon enjoying an uninterrupted and refreshing night's sleep.

Still raining next morning, and continued most of the day. Though our Nation's Birthday, all was quiet, every one appearing exhausted by the straining tension, to which both mind and body had been subject for the last three thrilling and momentous days, and the severe and wearing services of the two weeks previous. Enemy still in position beyond Gettysburg, but no movement of importance in front, all seeming, with common consent, to be spending the day in resting and resuscitating their wearied and exhausted powers.

Resuming the march again on the 5th, retraced our steps through Taneytown, turned southward through Greenesville, crossed the Doublepike and Monocacy rivers, and halted for the night a few miles east of Emmetsburg, and near Creagerstown. As we passed through this section, the people assembled from all the neighboring districts "to see the army," and never did soldiers enjoy the luxuries of richly stored pantries than did the Union troops in passing through this fertile region. As we moved on, toward evening reports were brought to us that a heavy body of the enemy's cavalry was moving down the Emmetsburg pike. Halting before we reached the pike, we sent forward and soon found the rumor to be idle talk.

Next day, the 6th, we moved a mile or two forward, and within sight of Creagerstown, and as the regiment was alone, and in charge of eighteen pieces of artillery, the reserve of the cavalry corps, it was thought advisable not to move further without more support, halted and remained until next day, awaiting orders.

Marched back through Frederick city on the 7th, and halting for an hour to receive rations and forage, proceeded over the mountain to Middletown, and stopped just beyond for the night. Rained very heavily and found great difficulty in procuring camping ground for the regiment in the darkness.

On the afternoon of the 8th, moved forward to the base of South Mountain.

On the road again on the morning of the 9th, crossing South Mountain, on the old Sharpsburg road, and over the battle-ground of the year before. On the summit, a stone pillar erected, marks the spot where General Reno fell, and moving on to the outskirts of Boonsboro', bivouacked for the night. Remained here during the 10th, and on the 11th was relieved from duty with the reserve artillery, and ordered to report again to corps headquarters. Moved up to the headquarters and encamped in a wood on the bank of the Antietam creek.

Rejoined the brigade again on the 12th at Boonsboro', where we encamped and remained two days, awaiting the concentrating of the divisions.

While at Frederick city, Company A, Captain William H. Patterson, and Company B, Captain William Litzenberg, commanding the squadron, was temporarily detached as an escort for army headquarters' train, until July the 4th, when the squadron was ordered to report to Major-General Sedgwick, and formed the advance skirmish line of the Sixth Corps, in its pursuit of the enemy to the bank of the Potomac, at Williamsport, where it was relieved and rejoined the regiment at Boonsboro' on the 12th.

Submitted by: Nancy.


Last Modified Sunday, 11-Jan-2009 12:07:59 EST

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