21st Cavalry / 182d Regiment

Pennsylvania Volunteers


The Twenty-first Cavalry was recruited during the months of July and August, 1863, by authority of Governor Curtin, under the President's call of June 15th, for cavalry for six months' service.

  • Company A was recruited in York county,
  • Company B in Adams County,
  • Companies C, and G in Lancaster County,
  • Companies D, I, I, K, L, and M in Franklin County,
  • Comapny E in Bedford County, and
  • Company F in Cambria County.
The companies were equipped and mounted at Camp Couch, near Harrisburg, and were thence sent to camp of instruction near Chambersburg. The following field officers were selected and commissioned:

  • William H. Boyd, Colonel
  • Richard F. Moson, Lieutenant Colonel
  • Charles F. Gillies, Major
  • Oliver B. Knowles, Major
  • John W. Jones, Major
The field officers were all experienced in cavalry duty. Colonel Boyd had commanded a company in the Lincoln Cavalry, which had attained distinction upon the Peninsula, and especially in skirmishing with the advance of Lee's army, in the Cumberland Valley, in the Gettysburg campaign. Lieutenant Colonel Moson had commanded a company in the Seventh Cavalry. Major Gillies was a regular army officer, and Major Knowles had served with great gallantry under--Captain Boyd--in-the Lincoln Cavalry. Most of the line officers and men had previously been in the service.

On the 23d of August, the regiment was ordered to Harrisburg, whence a detachment, consisting of companies C, E, K, H, L, and M, was sent for duty to Pottsville and Scranton, and company B to Gettysburg. The remaining five companies, under command of Colonel Boyd, proceeded to Harper's Ferry, and during the fall and winter, were engaged in arduous duty in the Department of the Shenandoah.

In January, 1864, authority was given to re-organize the regiment for three years service, and about the 1st of February, its scattered ranks were concentrated at camp near Chambersburg, where the troops who did not choose to re-enlist were mustered out of service; the remainder were mustered for the long term, and its depleted ranks were filled by new recruits, The field officers all remained, with the exception of Major Joties, whose place was filled by the promotion of Captain Robert Bell.

On the 1st of April, company D was ordered to duty at Scranton, Pennsylvania, where it remained for over a year. About the middle of May, the regiment was ordered to Washington, where, upon its arrival, it was dismounted, armed and equipped as infantry, and sent by transport to join the Army of the Potomac. It arrived at the front on the Ist of June, and was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, of the Fifth Corps, where it was associated with the Sixty-second Pennsylvania, and Twenty-second and Twenty-third Massachusetts, commanded by Colonel Sweitzer.

The army was then in front of Cold Harbor, and at noon of the 2d, the regiment was sent to the left of the Fifth Corps, where it was ordered to throw up breast-works. These were hardly completed, before the enemy opened upon it a flank fire from his artillery, from which Lieutenant Richard Waters was instantly killed. On the following morning, it was ordered a half-mile to the right, to the support of a battery, and at seven, the enemy brought his twenty-four pounders into play, killing two men and three horses belonging to the battery. The regiment was subsequently ordered to the front line,and in reaching it, was obliged to pass over a grain-field which was raked by the enemy's infantry and artillery fire. The charge across this was gallantly made, but with a loss of eight killed and nineteen wounded. A galling fire was kept up during the entire day from behind breast-works, and, notwithstanding it had this protection, it suffered considerable additional loss, the entire number being eleven killed and forty-six wounded. Colonel Boyd received a severe wound, on account of which he was subsequently discharged. Captain William H. Phillips, and Lieutenant Martin P. Doyle, were also among the wounded.

On the 18th of June, it was again engaged in front of Petersburg. "We were marched" says J. D. H., who has published a pamphlet of the "Travels and Doings" of the regiment, "over the field where the Second Corps had been engaged the day before, and the ground was covered with their dead. We came to a halt in a woods, where we were ordered to lie down. The rebels then commenced to shell us. We lost a great many men, killed and wounded. Among the latter was Major Gillies, of the First Battalion, wounded in the knee. We were ordered to go forward, and charged across a large field, and came to the Petersburg and Suffolk Railroad. Here we halted and kept up a brisk fire with the rebels, who were behind their works in front of us about half a mile. In the evening we were ordered to charge a large rebel fort. We fixed bayonets, and went up the hill on a yell, while the rebels opened upon us a perfect hail-storm of iron and lead from their muskets, and from sixteen pieces of artillery. If Cold Harbor was hard, the fight of the 18th of June was harder. We charged the brow of the second hill, and the rebel fort lay directly in front of us, at a distance of about one hundred and fifty yards. Here we found that we could go no farther. He who went beyond this, went to his grave. Four times were our colors shot down, and four times were they raised again. Finding that we could do no more, we halted and formed, and while some carried rails and built works, others kept up a heavy fire on the fort, which effectually silenced their artillery. After forming a line of works, we lay behind them, keeping up a fire with the rebels until morning, when we were relieved and taken to the rear."

In this engagement, the loss was eleven killed, seventy-nine wounded, and one missing. Lieutenant Colonel Moson, and Lieutenant Henry G. Lott, were among the severely wounded, the latter mortally. Major Gillies was incapacitated for further service, and was honorably discharged,and Lieutenant Colonel Moson was prevented from re-joining his command until near the time of its muster-out. The command of the regiment consequently devolved on Major Knowles

.On the 22d, the regiment was again engaged on the Jerusalem Plank Road, losing two killed and three wounded. Early in July, the Sixty-second Regiment was mustered out of service, by reason of expiration of its term, and the Ninety-first was assigned to the brigade, to the command of which Colonel E. M. Gregory succeeded. The regiment remained for some time in heavy works, near the Ninth Corps line, where it was subjected to a vigorous shelling. On the 30th of July, upon the occasion of the springing of the Mine, it was under fire, and sustained some loss, Captain John H. Harmony being wounded, but no advantage was gained, and the routine of duty behind the works was resumed.

On the 18th of August, a descent was made upon the Weldon Railroad, in which the Twenty-first participated, and was engaged in destroying the track, when the enemy attacked; but by the timely arrival of a portion of the Ninth Corps, he was repulsed, and the portion of the road possessed was held. The loss was one killed and twenty-seven wounded. Among thelatter was Lieutenant James Speer Orr, mortally.

Early in September, the Twenty-first was brigaded with the One Hundred and Eighty-seventh, Major Knowles commanding. About the middle of the month, upon the withdrawal of the One Hundred and Eighty-seventh from the front, the Twenty-first was transferred to the First Brigade, General Sickel in command, where it was associated with the One Hundred and Ninety-eighth. On the 30th, the brigade joined in the movement to the left, and at Poplar Spring Church came upon the enemy's works, which were triumphantly carried, with a loss in the Twenty-first of sixteen killed and wounded. On the following day, the regiment was attacked while lying upon the ground, in a large open field, but held its position without serious loss. For its gallantry in this engagement, it received a complimentary order from General Griffin, in command bf the division. With this battle closed the connection of the regiment with the infantry.

On the 5th of October, the Twenty-first was sent to City Point, where it was equipped and mounted, and ordered to the division of General D. M'M.Gregg, in which it was assigned to the First Brigade, composed of the First Maine, Sixth and Thirteenth Ohio, Second New York, and Twenty-first Pennsylvania, commanded by Colonel C. H. Smith. On the 27th of October, ther egiment was in a sharp engagement at the Boydton Plank Road, where the division went to the support of the Second Corps, which was hard pressed.The fighting was severe, and the Union forces were obliged to retire, the cavalry holding the line until the infantry and artillery were well out of the way, and then cutting its way out after night-fall. The Twenty-first lost three killed, thirty-three wounded, and eighteen missing. Captains Elias M'Mellen and George F. Cooke, and Lieutenants Martin P. Doyle, Henry C. Pearson, JohnT. Pfoutz, and Henry B. Kendig, were among the wounded, and Lieutenant William Chandler, among the prisoners.

On the 1st of December, the division proceeded to Stony Creek Station, destroying the station and rebel stores.The regiment was of the rear-guard on the return march, and sustained some loss. On the 4th, company E was detailed for duty at the headquarters of the Sixth Corps, with which it remained until near the close of its service. On the 6th the regiment was again out upon the Bellefield raid, and on the10th was engaged, losing two killed, five wounded, and one, Lieutenant John A. Devers, a prisoner. In the meantime, Major Knowles was promoted to Colonel, and Captain Richard Ryckman to Major.

On the 5th of February, 1865, a heavy force of the Union army moved across Hatcher's Run, for the purpose of opening the way to the left, and extending the lines towards the South Side Railroad. It was met by the enemy, and heavy fighting ensued, but the Union forces held their ground. Gregg's Cavalry co-operated, and moved on to Dinwiddie Court House, meeting some opposition, but having no serious fighting. Colonel Knowles had command of the brigade in this expedition.

During the winter, the Twenty-first was recruited to the full maximum strength, and on the 1st of March, was transferred to the Second Brigade, of the Second Division, which was composed of the Second, Fourth, Eighth, Sixteenth and Twenty-first Pennsylvania regiments, commanded by General J. Irvin Gregg. The dismounted men of the Twenty-first, comprising nearly half its entire strength, were ordered to City Point, under command of Captain James Mickley, and with the dismounted men of the brigade, participated, under command of Major Oldham, of the Eighth Pennsylvania, in the final assault upon the defenses of Petersburg.

"On the 29th of March," says Major Bell," the cavalry corps moved out on the left flank of the army, the Eighth Pennsylvania having the advance. By some mistake, this regiment mistook the road, which left the Twenty-first in advance, and gave it the honor of making the first charge in the campaign, striking the rebels near Dinwiddie Court House, carrying their barricades, and capturing some prisoners, from whom important information, pertaining to the rebel cavalry under Fitz Hugh Lee, was obtained. The Twenty-first was not in the fight of the 31st, which well nigh proved a disaster, it having been detailed to hold a bridge over Stony Creek. When it was discovered that the cavalry line was unable to hold its ground, Colonel Forsythe, of Sheridan's staff, ordered the Twenty-first to throw up a line of works across the road, in rear of the Court House, and said, with emphasis, "Thismust be held, at all hazards, until morning, when the Fifth Corps will be up"

Fortunately, the rebels did not follow their advantage, and the regiment was undisturbed during the night. The Second Brigade was only partially engaged at Five Forks, it being posted to prevent any flanking attacks on the left. On the 5th of April, the Second Division struck the rebel wagon train, and captured a battery, destroying two hundred wagons, and bringing in some nine hundred mules. The First Brigade made the captures, while the Second and Third did the most of the fighting. Out of two hundred and thirty-four engaged, the Twenty-first lost ninety-eight in killed, wounded, and missing, in less than half an hour. Adjutant Samuel Henry had two horses shot under him. On the next day, the Twenty-first was in the fight at Sailors' Creek, capturing a number of prisoners, with the loss of Lieutenant J. Henry Triece, killed, and a few men wounded. On the 7th, the brigade had a sharp, and in a measure disastrous fight, at Farmville, in which General Gregg was captured, and the regiment sustained some loss, mostly prisoners.

At daylight on the 9th, our brigade, under Colonel Young, of the Fourth, was thrown across the main road to Lynchburg, upon which the rebel army was retreating, and had some sharp work, contesting the ground in front, while Rosser's Cavalry hung upon its rear. Finally, the Twenty-fourth and Twenty-fifth corps came up, and the division turned upon Rosser, who was driven nearly a mile, when he made a determined stand, and preparations were made to charge him in force. The Third Brigade had the centre, and the Twenty-first led on the main Lynchburg Road. At the sound of the bugle, the regiment dashed forward ,driving in the rebel skirmish line; but by the time his main force was reached, it was discovered that the regiment was entirely unsupported, and fearfully exposed to capture. A precipitate retreat was made, in which some prisoners were lost. On its way back, it was greeted with the glad tidings that Lee had surrendered, the other brigades having received the intelligence just as the Twenty-first went forward.

From Appomattox Court House, the brigade marched back to Burkesville, and shortly after to Petersburg. It had been but a few days in camp, when Sheridan moved with his entire cavalry corps for North Carolina, Upon his arrival at the Dan River, learning that General Johnston had surrendered, he turned back, and retired again to Petersburg. Early in May, the brigade was sent to Lynchburg, whence detachments were sent for provost duty to various points in the surrounding counties. Colonel Knowles, with a part of the Twenty-first, was sent to Danville, Virginia.

About the middle of June, the entire regiment, including detached companies and dismounted men, was concentrated at Lynchburg, and on the 8th of July, was mustered out of service. The active duty of the regiment really commenced on the 1st of June, 1864, at Cold Harbor, and virtually ended on the 9th of April, at Appomattox Court House, a period of a little over ten months. In that time it had three field officers severely wounded, one staff officer slightly wounded, one died of disease, and one was discharged to accept promotion in the One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Regiment. Of the line officers, four were killed in battle or mortally wounded, ten were wounded, four were wounded previous to their promotions,and four were captured. Of the enlisted men, one hundred and forty-seven were killed in battle, or died of disease, and two hundred and fifty-three were wounded.


The original 21st Cavalry as organized at Harrisburg and Chambersburg June 28-August 1, 1863, for six months. Companies "C," "E," "H," "K," "L," "M," duty at Pottsville, Pa., and Scranton, Pa., and Company "B" at Gettysburg, Pa. Companies "A," "D," "F," "G" and "I" ordered to Harper's Ferry, W. Va., August 23, 1863. Attached to Cavalry Brigade, 1st Division, Dept. West Virginia, to February, 1864. Duty about Harper's Ferry, W. Va. Expedition from Charlestown to New Market November 15-18 (Detachment). Mount Jackson November 16. Wells' demonstration from Harper's Ferry December 10-21. Skirmish at Winchester January 3, 1864. Mustered out February 20, 1864. The 21st was organized as a 3-year unit at Harrisburg February, 1864. (Co. "D" detached April 1, 1864, and duty at Scranton, Pa., entire term.) Regiment moved to Washington, D. C., May 15, 1864, thence to Join Army Potomac in the field, arriving at Cold Harbor, Va., June 1. Attached to 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Army Corps, Army Potomac, to September, 1864. 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 5th Corps, to October, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry corps, Army Potomac, to March, 1865. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry Corps, to July, 1865.


Battles about Cold Harbor, Va., June 1-12, 1864.
Before Petersburg June 16-18.
Siege operations against Petersburg and Richmond June 16, 1864, to April 2, 1865.
Weldon Railroad August 18-21.
Poplar Springs Church September 29-October 2.
Sent to City Point October 5 and mounted.
Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher's Run, October 27-28.
Warren's Expedition to Hicksford December 7-12.
Bellefield December 9-10.
Dabney's Mills, Hatcher's Run, February 5-7, 1865.
Appomattox Campaign March 28-April 9.
Dinwiddie C. H. March 30-31.
Five Forks April 1.
Paine's Cross Road April 5.
Sailor's Creek April 6. Appomattox C. H. April 9.
Surrender of Lee and his army.
Expedition to Danville April 23-29.
Moved to Lynchburg, Va., and duty there and in Dept. of Virginia till July.
Mustered out July 8, 1865.


Regiment lost during service 4 Officers and 80 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 2 Officers and 116 Enlisted men by disease. Total 202.
Source:  Bates, Samuel P. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65, Harrisburg, 1868-1871.

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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