12th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Pennsylvania Volunteers

 

On the 5th of November, 1861, William Frishmuth, a citizen of Philadelphia, received authority from President Lincoln, confirmed by Governor Curtin, to raise a cavalry regiment. The camp of rendezvous, designated Camp M'Reynolds, was near the junction of Ridge Road and Columbia Avenue, in the city of Philadelphia. The original men were principally from the counties of Crawford, Warren, Erie, Northampton, Lancaster, Juniata, Mifflin, Dauphin, Blair, Cambria, and the city of Philadelphia, though it embraced before the close of its term of service, members from nearly half of the counties of the Commonwealth. The regiment was organized in November, by the choice of the following field officers: William Frishmuth, Colonel Lewis B. Pierce, of Bradford county, Lieutenant Colonel; Jacob Kohler, of Philadelphia, Darius Titus, of Warren, and James A. Congdon, of Harrisburg, Majors.

1862

On the 20th of April, 1862, and before leaving camp for the field, Colonel Frishmuth resigned; whereupon, Lieutenant Colonel Pierce was made Colonel, Major Kohler, Lieutenant Colonel, and Captain William Bell, of Juniata 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, of 12th of August, Colonel Pierce received a telegram from General Sturgis, at Alexandria, acting under the direction of General Pope, then in command of the Union army in northern Virginia, directing him to proceed to White Plains, and ascertain the strength and position of the enemy in that locality. Colonel Pierce, who was in a feeble state of health, and in the absence of Lieutenant Colonel Kohler, placed the regiment under command of Major Titus. The regiment was scattered along the road, a distance of twelve miles, on guard, and it was six 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 army was in its immediate front, Jackson having turned the right of Pope's Army his advance guard having already reached Manassas Junction.

Soon, firing heard at Manassas, and a great light, showed but too plainly that the enemy was already in possession. Without stopping for rest, the column retired towards Bristoe; but as it approached the town, found it already in possession of Jackson, with his artillery and infantry in commanding positions. To escape the enemy's clutches, seemed impossible; but determined to cut his way through, or sell his command at severe rebel cost, Major Titus turned toward Manassas. Discovering his designs, the enemy opened with his artillery and infantry, and closing in upon it, inflicted a loss of two hundred and sixty, in killed, wounded, and prisoners--Major Titus being among the latter.

The command now devolved on Major Congdon, who withdrew his shattered column to Centreville. He was immediately ordered to retire to Alexandria, where he reported to General M'Clellan, in person, giving the first reliable intelligence of the presence of Jackson, at Manassas.

On the following day, the regiment was ordered to cross the Potomac, and patrol and picket the north bank of the river, from Chain Bridge, to Edwards' Ferry, in which duty it continued until the enemy crossed above, to enter upon the Antietam campaign. In the meantime, drill and discipline were studiously prosecuted.

Upon the advance of the Union army into Maryland, Major Congdon joined the cavalry division under General Pleasanton, and took the advance. In the engagement at South Mountain, the regiment was assigned to duty with the corps of General Sumner, and was held in reserve. On the evening previous to the battle of Antietam, two squadrons, under command of Captains Hartman and Linton, were ordered to scour the country in the direction of Hagerstown. 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 the battle, the regiment was ordered to move by the right of the rebel army, on a reconnoissance. 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 New York Cavalry, under command of Colonel Andrew T. M'Reynolds, and assigned to duty on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, with headquarters at Sir John's Run, and at Bath. It participated in the raid made by General Elliott 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.

1863

So stealthily did Lee move from his camps on the Rapidan, in his march to Pennsylvania, in 1863, that he reached the Shenandoah Valley, and approached the front of Milroy, in command at Winchester, without being discovered, or his approach being suspected.

On Friday, the 12th of June, two reconnoitring parties were sent out, the one on the Strasburg, the other on the Front Royal Road, to discover if there was any augmentation of force beyond the usual cavalry strength. That on the Front Royal Road was headed by the Twelfth Cavalry, four hundred strong, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Moss, who had succeeded Lieutenant Colonel Kohler. At Cedarville, a point twelve miles out from Winchester, Colonel Moss encountered a heavy force 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, "by myself and by General Elliott, my second in command. I deemed it impossible that Lee's Army, with its immense artillery and baggage trains, could have escaped from the Army of the Potomac, and crossed the Blue Ridge." "This delusion 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 Pennsylvania Cavalry, the Eighty-seventh Pennsylvania, Eighteenth Connecticut, and Fifth Maryland Infantry, and a section of Battery L, Fifth Artillery, was again sent forward on the Strasburg Road, and a mile out encountered the enemy with a battery posted in a wood to the right of the Front Royal Road, where a light artillery skirmish ensued. Retiring to the junction of the two roads, to prevent being flanked, Colonel Ely took position, where he remained unmolested during the day, with the exception of the occasional advance of detachments of rebel cavalry, which was easily repulsed.

At evening, Colonel Ely retired his forces behind the Creek and Race, which cross the Strasburg and Front Royal Roads, and which afforded some protection. The enemy followed in two lines, as if to attack, but was thrown into confusion by a rapid fire of artillery opened upon him from Carlin's Battery, stationed on the southern extremity of Apple-pie Ridge. The enemy's skirmishers now advanced, and a brisk fire was opened on Ely's front, which was kept up during the following day. For three days, Lee's Army was held in check by this small force of less than twelve thousand men. The enemy refused to assault, but gradually gathered in around the 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 should be made by the command to cut its way out, and push for the Potomac. Under cover of darkness, the brigades moved at a little after midnight, in the order of their numbers. Four miles out, on the Martinsburg Road, the enemy was encountered in strong force, and a heavy night engagement took place, in which the 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 was with the latter.

At Bloody Run the regiment was rallied, Colonel Pierce resuming command, and advanced to M'Connellsburg, skirmishing lightly with parties of the enemy by the way. Here it was joined by Captain Wallace, with a company of 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, a detachment from the First New York Cavalry, and the Twelfth, came upon the enemy's trains at Cunningham Cross Roads, near the Maryland border, 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 the wounded. In a subsequent encounter near Mercersburg, sixty of the enemy were 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 exception of 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. In the meantime, the regiment had, upon the expiration of its original term of service, re-enlisted for a second term, and proceeded in a body to Philadelphia for a veteran furlough.

1864

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 in command of the Post. In July previous, Lieutenant Colonel Moss had resigned, and had been succeeded by Major Bell, who now had the active command of the regiment.

Early in July, 1864, General Hunter, in command of the main Union force in the Shenandoah Valley, having been driven from before Lynchburg, into the Kanawha Valley, General Early, with an army of twenty thousand men, advanced rapidly towards the Potomac, and driving Sigel, who was in command at Martinsburg, crossed the Potomac into Maryland, on the 3d. The First Brigade of the cavalry division under Colonel Blakely, was commanded by 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 the actions at Sblomon's Gap, Pleasant Valley, and Crampton's Gap, Colonel Bell led his brigade with gallantry, in which the Twelfth bore a prominent part.

"In Pleasant Valley, " says Blakely, " Colonel Bell held Rhodes' rebel division, until the Second Brigade was brought some three miles to his assistance. Colonel Bell and the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, behaved very gallantly upon this occasion."

Early, finding only a feeble force to oppose him, drove Wallace at the Monocacy, and approached the defences of the City of Washington. Here he was met by the veterans from the Petersburg front, and driven precipitately, retreating through Snicker's Gap to Berryville. Supposing that Early was in full retreat towards Richmond, the veterans of the Sixth and Nineteenth Corps retired to Washington, with the design of returning to Petersburg. Thereupon, Early about-faced, and again advanced towards Maryland. General Averell, in command of the Cavalry, met him at Winchester, on the 20th, and gained a signal advantage, killing and wounding three hundred, capturing two hundred prisoners, four guns, and several hundred small arms.

But, four days later, the forces of Averell and Crooks were attacked, in turn, and severely handled. In this engagement, Colonel Tibbits, who commanded the Cavalry Brigade to which the Twelfth belonged, says: "At five A. M., on the 23d, a sharp firing being heard in the direction of Kernstown, I formed the brigade in line of battle, in front of the camp ground occupied the previous night. 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 as skirmishers, 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, with orders to push forward as far as possible. Firing increasing in the front, one squadron of the Twenty-first New York Cavalry was sent forward, as an additional support to the Twelith, which then succeeded in driving the enemy's skirmishers to their supports. By order of division commander I moved the brigade through the village, formed again in line, and then advanced, keeping the right of the road, the Twelfth in front as skirmishers, and the detachment of Cole's Maryland Cavalry, with the squadron of the Twenty-first New York movinginline on the left of the road." Advancing thus about one mile, the force of the enemy was met, and some severe skirmishing ensued. At night the brigade bivouacked upon the field, but at early morn the battle was renewed, the enemy coming on in heavy force.

Colonel Tibbits brought all his disposable force 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 twenty minutes fell back. Generals Duffie 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 rear of the infantry. This was effected in good order, but the infantry was unable to hold out against the overpowering forces of the enemy, and were soon retiring in considerable disorder.

Seeing this, and knowing that the ambulance train upon the pike would be exposed, Colonel Tibbits ordered a charge by his entire brigade, and succeeded in checking the enemy's advance. In this charge, two officers of the Twelfth were severely wounded. Finding it impossible to hold the ground, the brigade fell back slowly, repeatedly facing the enemy, and holding him in check, while the army made the best of its way to Harper's Ferry. The loss in the Twelfth in this battle was heavy, Lieutenant Milton Funk being among the killed. "The commanding officers of the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Lieutenant Colonel William Bell, and the Fifteenth New York Cavalry. Lieutenant Colonel Bott," says Colonel Tibbits, in his official report, "are deserving of much credit, for the brave and efficient manner in which they commanded their regiments, especially when their commands were dismounted on the skirmish line."

Upon the accession of General Sheridan to the chief command of the Army in the Shenandoah, the Twelfth was assigned to General Torbert's Division. On the 18th of August, Sheridan fell back to Berryville, to foil an attempt 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. The Twelfth suffered some loss in this engagement.

On the 8th of October, Lieutenant Colonel Bell was honorably discharged, and Major Congdon was promoted 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 head quarters were established at Charlestown. In the operations in the valley during the fall, the regiment participated, being stationed along the Blue Ridge. In an encounter with the enemy, while advancing along a narrow road, with but two abreast, Captain M'Allister, who had the advance, charged and carried the summit in gallant style. On the day following, the regiment returned to camp, and resumed its routine of guard and garrison duties.

On the 15th of December, Colonel Pierce was discharged, and Captain Marcus A. Reno, of the First Regular Cavalry, was commissioned to succeed him. 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 men wounded, Lieutenant Deloss Chase being among the killed. The instructions of the commanding general having been fully executed, the command returned to its former station.

1865

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 far as Lynchburg, but after a skirmish with the rebels at Edinboro, which was maintained on the Union side by the Twelfth, unaided, it was learned that Lee had surrendered, and had included in the surrender, all the troops in the Valley of the Shenandoah. The command was accordingly placed in camp near Mount Jackson, and charged with stopping and paroling all soldiers 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.

Organization

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.

Service

Duty at Washington, D.C., till June 20, 1862.
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.

Losses

Regiment lost during service 2 Officers and 32 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 107 Enlisted men by disease. Total 142.
Source:

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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