12th Pennsylvania Cavalry
On the 5th of November, 1861, William Frishmuth, a citizen of Philadelphia,received authority from President Lincoln, confirmed by GovernorCurtin, to raise a cavalry regiment. The camp of rendezvous, designatedCamp M'Reynolds, was near the junction of Ridge Road and Columbia Avenue,in the city of Philadelphia. The original men were principally from thecounties of Crawford, Warren, Erie, Northampton, Lancaster, Juniata, Mifflin,Dauphin, Blair, Cambria, and the city of Philadelphia, though it embracedbefore the close of its term of service, members from nearly half of thecounties of the Commonwealth. The regiment was organized in November,by the choice of the following field officers: William Frishmuth, ColonelLewis B. Pierce, of Bradford county, Lieutenant Colonel; Jacob Kohler, ofPhiladelphia, Darius Titus, of Warren, and James A. Congdon, of Harrisburg,Majors.
On the 20th of April, 1862, and before leaving camp for the field,Colonel Frishmuth resigned; whereupon, Lieutenant Colonel Pierce was madeColonel, Major Kohler, Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain William Bell, ofJuniata county, Major. Soon afterwards, the regiment proceeded to Washington, where it received arms, and remained in camp until the 20th of June, when it was ordered to Manassas Junction, and was employed in guarding the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. It was past the middle of July before the command was mounted, and little progress had been made in training and discipline, before active operations commenced.
At mid-day, of12th of August,Colonel Pierce received a telegram from General Sturgis, at Alexandria, actingunder the direction of General Pope, then in command of the Union army innorthern Virginia, directing him to proceed to White Plains, and ascertainthe strength and position of the enemy in that locality. Colonel Pierce, whowas in a feeble state of health, and in the absence of Lieutenant ColonelKohler, placed the regiment under command of Major Titus. The regimentwas scattered along the road, a distance of twelve miles, on guard, and it wassix o'clock before the forces could be assembled, and in readiness to start.Darkness soon came on, and being without reliable guides, and having a distance of twenty miles to traverse, in an enemys country, some difficulty was experienced in keeping the direct route. Company G, was left at Pope's Run,and a battery of two pieces, at Manassas. In the neighborhood of Gainesville,a rebel picket was captured, who disclosed the fact that half the rebel armywas in its immediate front, Jackson having turned the right of Pope's Army his advance guard having already reached Manassas Junction.
Soon, firingheard at Manassas, and a great light, showed but too plainly that the enemywas already in possession. Without stopping for rest, the column retiredtowards Bristoe; but as it approached the town, found it already in possessionof Jackson, with his artillery and infantry in commanding positions. Toescape the enemy's clutches, seemed impossible; but determined to cut hisway through, or sell his command at severe rebel cost, Major Titus turnedtoward Manassas. Discovering his designs, the enemy opened with hisartillery and infantry, and closing in upon it, inflicted a loss of two hundredand sixty, in killed, wounded, and prisoners--Major Titus being among thelatter.
The command now devolved on Major Congdon, who withdrew hisshattered column to Centreville. He was immediately ordered to retire toAlexandria, where he reported to General M'Clellan, in person, giving the firstreliable intelligence of the presence of Jackson, at Manassas.
On the following day, the regiment was ordered to cross the Potomac, and patrol and picketthe north bank of the river, from Chain Bridge, to Edwards' Ferry, in whichduty it continued until the enemy crossed above, to enter upon the Antietamcampaign. In the meantime, drill and discipline were studiously prosecuted.
Upon the advance of the Union army into Maryland, Major Congdon joinedthe cavalry division under General Pleasanton, and took the advance. In theengagement at South Mountain, the regiment was assigned to duty withthe corps of General Sumner, and was held in reserve. On the eveningprevious to the battle of Antietam, two squadrons, under command of CaptainsHartman and Linton, were ordered to scour the country in the direction ofHagerstown. At a point two miles beyond Boonsboro, a party of the enemy was met, and some prisoners were taken.
On the day of the battle, the regiment was deployed in rear of the right and centre of the army, and was active in bringing up stragglers, and in checking disorder. On the day following thebattle, the regiment was ordered to move by the right of the rebel army, on areconnoissance. Though suffering from fatigue and privation, it moved without a murmur. At Harper's Ferry, a few paroled prisoners were met, from Colonel Miles' command, and the fact ascertained that the enemy was retreating. Hastily retracing his steps, Major Congdon arrived at headquarters, at eleven A. M., and reported the withdrawal to General Pleasanton, who at once conveyed the intelligence to the commanding general.
On the 25th of September, the regiment was brigaded with the First NewYork Cavalry, under command of Colonel Andrew T. M'Reynolds, and assigned toduty on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, with headquarters atSir John's Run, and at Bath. It participated in the raid made by GeneralElliott to Moorefield, in which some prisoners were taken, and upon its return,joined the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, under Colonel Galligher, in an expedition to Woodstock, encountering the enemy at Fisher's Hill, and sustaining considerable loss. With the aid of a portion of the Eighty-seventh infantry, the enemy was driven, and the dead and wounded in the encounter were brought off.
So stealthily did Lee move from his camps on the Rapidan, in his march toPennsylvania, in 1863, that he reached the Shenandoah Valley, and approachedthe front of Milroy, in command at Winchester, without being discovered, or hisapproach being suspected.
On Friday, the 12th of June, two reconnoitringparties were sent out, the one on the Strasburg, the other on the Front RoyalRoad, to discover if there was any augmentation of force beyond the usualcavalry strength. That on the Front Royal Road was headed by the TwelfthCavalry, four hundred strong, under command of Lieutenant Colonel JosephL. Moss, who had succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Kohler. At Cedarville, apoint twelve miles out from Winchester, Colonel Moss encountered a heavyforce of the enemy, composed of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, He immediately returned, and reported the facts at headquarters, which were discredited.
"The report was discredited, says General Milroy, in his official report, "bymyself and by General Elliott, my second in command. I deemed it impossiblethat Lee's Army, with its immense artillery and baggage trains, could haveescaped from the Army of the Potomac, and crossed the Blue Ridge." "Thisdelusion was soon dissipated, and the correctness of the report made apparent,by the advance of Lee's Army on all the roads leading from the south.
Soon afterward, a force under Colonel Ely, consisting of the Twelfth PennsylvaniaCavalry, the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, Eighteenth Connecticut, and FifthMaryland Infantry, and a section of Battery L, Fifth Artillery, was againsent forward on the Strasburg Road, and a mile out encountered the enemywith a battery posted in a wood to the right of the Front Royal Road, where alight artillery skirmish ensued. Retiring to the junction of the two roads, toprevent being flanked, Colonel Ely took position, where he remained unmolestedduring the day, with the exception of the occasional advance of detachmentsof rebel cavalry, which was easily repulsed.
At evening, Colonel Ely retiredhis forces behind the Creek and Race, which cross the Strasburg and FrontRoyal Roads, and which afforded some protection. The enemy followed in twolines, as if to attack, but was thrown into confusion by a rapid fire of artilleryopened upon him from Carlin's Battery, stationed on the southern extremityof Apple-pie Ridge. The enemy's skirmishers now advanced, and a brisk firewas opened on Ely's front, which was kept up during the following day. Forthree days, Lee's Army was held in check by this small force of less than twelvethousand men. The enemy refused to assault, but gradually gathered in aroundthe town, until nearly every way of escape was cut off.
At a council of war,held on the night of Sunday, the 14th, it was decided that an attempt shouldbe made by the command to cut its way out, and push for the Potomac. Undercover of darkness, the brigades moved at a little after midnight, in the order oftheir numbers. Four miles out, on the Martinsburg Road, the enemy wasencountered in strong force, and a heavy night engagement took place, in whichthe Twelfth participated, sustaining considerable loss. Lieutenant Colonel Moss had his horse shot under him, and was disabled by the fall, the command devolving on Major Titus. Taking advantage of the noise of the contest, the column separated, one part moving towards Harper's Ferry,the other by way of Bath, and Hancock, to Bloody Run. The Twelfth waswith the latter.
At Bloody Run the regiment was rallied, Colonel Pierce resuming command,and advanced to M'Connellsburg, skirmishing lightly with parties of theenemy by the way. Here it was joined by Captain Wallace, with a companyof militia having a piece of artillery, which was moved up to the mountain.
On the 5th of July, two days after the close of the battle of Gettysburg, adetachment from the First New York Cavalry, and the Twelfth, cameupon the enemy's trains at Cunningham Cross Roads, near the Marylandborder, making captives of the guard, six hundred and forty in number, and capturing five hundred and fifty horses and mules, one hundred and twenty-five wagons, and three brass twelve pounders. This success was not achieved without a struggle; Lieutenant Irwin, of company E, being among thewounded. In a subsequent encounter near Mercersburg, sixty of the enemywere captured, and twenty-four wagons taken.
At the close of the Gettysburg Campaign, the regiment marched to Sharpsburg, where it remained until the 3d of August. It then crossed the Potomac, and moved up to the neighbrohood of Martinsburg, where, with the exceptionof an occasional collision with the rebel cavalry and bushwhackers, it remained employed in the usual guard, scout, and picket duty, without serious molestation, until the opening of the campaign of 1864.Inthe meantime, the regiment had, upon the expiration of its original term of service, re-enlisted for asecond term, and proceeded in a body to Philadelphia for a veteran furlough.
On returning to the front in April, 1864, with ranks strengthened by recruits,it resumed its duties in guarding the frontier, Colonel R. S. Rogers being incommand of the Post. In July previous, Lieutenant Colonel Moss had resigned,and had been succeeded by Major Bell, who now had the active command ofthe regiment.
Early in July, 1864, General Hunter, in command of the main Union forcein the Shenandoah Valley, having been driven from before Lynchburg, intothe Kanawha Valley, General Early, with an army of twenty thousand men,advanced rapidly towards the Potomac, and driving Sigel, who was in commandat Martinsburg, crossed the Potomac into Maryland, on the 3d. The FirstBrigade of the cavalry division under Colonel Blakely, was commandedby Colonel Bell, of the Twelfth, and in opposing the advance of the enemy,and in harrassing him on every hand, was kept constantly engaged. In theactions at Sblomon's Gap, Pleasant Valley, and Crampton's Gap, Colonel Bellled his brigade with gallantry, in which the Twelfth bore a prominent part.
"InPleasant Valley, " says Blakely, " Colonel Bell held Rhodes' rebel division, untilthe Second Brigade was brought some three miles to his assistance. ColonelBell and the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, behaved very gallantly upon thisoccasion."
Early, finding only a feeble force to oppose him, drove Wallace atthe Monocacy, and approached the defences of the City of Washington. Herehe was met by the veterans from the Petersburg front, and driven precipitately,retreating through Snicker's Gap to Berryville. Supposing that Early wasin full retreat towards Richmond, the veterans of the Sixth and NineteenthCorps retired to Washington, with the design of returning to Petersburg.Thereupon, Early about-faced, and again advanced towards Maryland. GeneralAverell, in command of the Cavalry, met him at Winchester, on the 20th, andgained a signal advantage, killing and wounding three hundred, capturingtwo hundred prisoners, four guns, and several hundred small arms.
But, fourdays later, the forces of Averell and Crooks were attacked, in turn, andseverely handled. In this engagement, Colonel Tibbits, who commanded theCavalry Brigade to which the Twelfth belonged, says: "At five A. M., onthe 23d, a sharp firing being heard in the direction of Kernstown, I formedthe brigade in line of battle, in front of the camp ground occupied the previousnight. The Fifteenth New York Cavalry, by order from division headquarters,I sent to picket the Cedar Creek road. Soon, by order of the General commanding division, the brigade moved in line of battle to the northern border of the village of Kernstown. The Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, with the exception of one squadron on picket, was immediately thrown forward asskirmishers, dismounted. One squadron of the Twenty-first New York Cavalry,went to the support of our artillery, in position on a hill in rear of my brigade,and the detachment of Cole's Maryland Cavalry was sent to support the skirmish line of the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry,which was advancing, withorders to push forward as far as possible. Firing increasing in the front, onesquadron of the Twenty-first New York Cavalry was sent forward, as anadditional support to the Twelith, which then succeeded in driving the enemy'sskirmishers to their supports. By order of division commander I moved thebrigade through the village, formed again in line, and then advanced, keepingthe right of the road, the Twelfth in front as skirmishers, and the detachmentof Cole's Maryland Cavalry, with the squadron of the Twenty-first New Yorkmovinginline on the left of the road." Advancing thus about one mile, the force ofthe enemy was met, and some severe skirmishing ensued. At night the brigadebivouacked upon the field, but at early morn the battle was renewed, theenemy coming on in heavy force.
Colonel Tibbits brought all his disposableforce to the support of his skirmish line, and called loudly for reinforcements.Colonel Mulligan came up and took position on the right and rear of the dismounted skirmishers, but in less than twentyminutes fell back. GeneralsDuffie and Crook were now up, and had their artillery and infantry in position.The cavalry was, accordingly, ordered to fall back, and take position in rearof the infantry. This was effected in good order, but the infantry was unableto hold out against the overpowering forces of the enemy, and were soonretiring in considerable disorder.
Seeing this, and knowing that the ambulancetrain upon the pike would be exposed, Colonel Tibbits ordered a charge byhis entire brigade, and succeeded in checking the enemy's advance. In thischarge, two officers of the Twelfth were severely wounded. Finding itimpossible to hold the ground, the brigade fell back slowly, repeatedly facingthe enemy, and holding him in check, while the army made the best of itsway to Harper's Ferry. The loss in the Twelfth in this battle was heavy,Lieutenant Milton Funk being among the killed. "The commanding officersof the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel William Bell, andthe Fifteenth New York Cavalry. Lieutenant Colonel Bott," says ColonelTibbits, in his official report, "are deserving of much credit, for the braveand efficient manner in which they commanded their regiments, especiallywhen their commands were dismounted on the skirmish line."
Upon the accession of General Sheridan to the chief command of theArmy in the Shenandoah, the Twelfth was assigned to General Torbert'sDivision. On the 18th of August, Sheridan fell back to Berryville, to foil anattempt to flank him by a force of the enemy sent up through Front Royal,and on the 21st he was attacked near the Potomac, but held his ground. TheTwelfth suffered some loss in this engagement.
On the 8th of October,Lieutenant Colonel Bell was honorably discharged, and Major Congdon waspromoted to succeed him. The hard service of the summer months had born heavily upon the animals of the command, whereby it had become nearly dismounted. Some time was given to recruiting and re-mounting, and when ready for the field, became part of General Stevenson's Brigade.
About the 1st of November, Colonel Pierce resumed command, and regimental headquarters were established at Charlestown. In the operations in the valleyduring the fall, the regiment participated, being stationed along the BlueRidge. In an encounter with the enemy, while advancing along a narrowroad, with but two abreast, Captain M'Allister, who had the advance, chargedand carried the summit in gallant style. On the day following, the regimentreturned to camp, and resumed its routine of guard and garrison duties.
On the 15th of December, Colonel Pierce was discharged, and CaptainMarcus A. Reno, of the First Regular Cavalry, was commissioned to succeedhim. The regiment was at that time engaged in covering and guarding the railroad, from Harper's Ferry to Winchester, upon which duty it remained, having frequent skirmishes, until near the middle of March. It was then sent as part of a force under Colonel Reno, across the Blue Ridge, to break up certain guerrilla bands known to infest that region. During the march, the regiment was frequently engaged in skirmishing, and in the battle of Harmony, on the 22d, lost one officer and five men killed, and two officers and seventeen menwounded, Lieutenant Deloss Chase being among the killed. The instructions of the commanding general having been fully executed, the command returned to its former station.
At the opening of April, the regiment marched to Winchester, where it was incorporated with the cavalry division of the Army of the Shenandoah, to the command of which Colonel Reno was assigned.
With this force, the Colonel was ordered to make a reconnoissance as faras Lynchburg, but after a skirmish with the rebels at Edinboro, which wasmaintained on the Union side by the Twelfth, unaided, it was learned thatLee had surrendered, and had included in the surrender, all the troops inthe Valley of the Shenandoah. The command was accordingly placed incamp near Mount Jackson, and charged with stopping and paroling allsoldiers of Lee's Army returning through that part of the country.
After executing this duty, the Twelfth went into camp in the vicinity of Winchester, where it remained until the 20th of July, when it was mustered out of service, and returned in a body to Philadelphia.
Source: Bates, Samuel P.History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.
Organized at Philadelphia December, 1861, to April, 1862.
Ordered to Washington, D.C., April, 1862.
Attached to Military District of Washington, to September, 1862.
4th Brigade, Pleasanton's Cavalry Division, Army Potomac, to October, 1862.
Averill's Cavalry Command, 8th Army Corps, Middle Department, to November, 1862.
Defences Upper Potomac, 8th Corps, to February, 1863.
1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 8th Corps, to June, 1863.
Pierce's Brigade, Dept. of the Susquehanna, to July, 1863.
McReynold's Command, Dept. Susquehanna, to August, 1863.
Martinsburg, W. Va., Dept. West Virginia, to October, 1863.
3rd Brigade, 1st Division, Dept. West Virginia, to February, 1864.
Reserve Division, Dept. West Virginia, to July, 1864.
1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, West Virginia, to August, 1864.
Reserve Division, Dept. West Virginia, to January, 1865.
3rd Infantry Division, West Virginia, to April, 1865.
Cavalry, Army Shenandoah, to July, 1865.
Duty at Washington, D.C., till June 20, 1862.Source:
Moved to Manassas Junction, Va., and guard Orange & Alexandria Railroad till August.
Moved to Bristoe, thence to Alexandria, and picket north bank Potomac from Chain Bridge to Edward's Ferry till September.
Maryland Campaign September-October.
Frederick, Md., September 12.
Battle of Antietam, Md., September 16-17.
Assigned to duty on line of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Headquarters at Sir John!s Run and Bath.
Martinsburg, W. Va., November 6.
Moorefield November 9.
Newtown November 24.
Kearneysville December 26.
Bunker Hill January 1, 1863.
Near Smithfield and Charlestown February 12.
MillWood Road near Winchester April 8.
Reconnoissance from Winchester to Wardensville and Strasburg April 20.
Operations in Shenandoah Valley April 22-29.
Strasburg Road, Fisher's Hill, April 22.
Scout to Strasburg April 25-30.
Cedarville and Winchester June 12.
Winchester June 13-15.
McConnellsburg, Pa., June 24
Cunningham's Cross Roads July 5.
Greencastle, Pa., July 5 (Detachment).
Near Clear Springs, Md., July 10.
Moved to Sharpsburg, Md., thence to Martinsburg August 3, and duty there till July, 1864.
Jeffersonton, Va., October 10, 1863.
Near Winchester February 5, 1864.
Middletown February 6.
Winchester April 26.
Affair in Loudoun County June 9 (Detachment).
Charlestown and Duffield Station June 29, Bolivar Heights July 2.
Near Hillsboro July 15-16. Charlestown July 17.
Snicker's Ferry July 17-18.
Ashby's Gap and Berry's Ford July 19.
Near Kernstown July 23.
Winchester July 24.
Bunker Hill and Martinsburg July 25.
Cherry Run July 28.
Winchester July 29.
Guard and garrison duty at Charlestown, covering railroad from Harper's Ferry to Winchester till March, 1865.
Charlestown September 27, 1864.
Halltown November 12.
Mount Zion Church November 12.
Newtown November 24.
Charlestown November 29 (Detachment).
Affair at Harper's Ferry February 3, 1865 (Detachment).
Scout from Harper's Ferry into Loudoun County March 20-23.
Near Hamilton March 21.
Goose Creek March 23.
Duty at Winchester and in the Shenandoah Valley till July.
Mustered out July 20, 1865.
LossesRegiment lost during service 2 Officers and 32 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 107 Enlisted men by disease. Total 142.
Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources.Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908
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