The 3rd (West) Virginia Cavalry

Hardly ever garnering much PR among the regiments in Gen. John Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division is the little contingent of the 3rd (West) Virginia Cavalry in Col. Thomas C. Devin’s brigade.  The visitor to Gettysburg’s Buford Avenue today will notice the plain, simple monument to the two companies present on July 1, and which participated in the opening of the battle.

Over the years I compiled a brief history of the regiment culled from rather elusive and obscure sources, and present it here.  This would also be considered a bit of an installment of “Faded Hoofbeats,” due to the information here about David Strother and Seymour B. Conger.

Organized: 
   Company A – Recruited primarily from Morgantown, mustered in at Wheeling on December 23, 1861
   Company C – Mustered in at Brandonville on October 1, 1861
   Regiment mustered out of service June 23, 1865
Officers: 
   Lt. Colonel David H. Strother
   Major John L. McGee
   Adjutant Barna Powell
Major Engagements:  Aldie, Bristoe Station, Chester Gap, Brandy Station, Beverly Ford, Upperville, Gettysburg, Boonsboro, Funkstown, Falling Waters, Culpepper Court House, Averell’s Raids, Sheridan’s Raids, Winchester, Five Forks, Appomattox Campaign
Regimental Casualties:
   Killed and mortally wounded:  6 Officers and 40 Enlisted men
   Died of Disease and as Prisoners of War:  136 Enlisted men
   TOTAL CASUALTIES:  182

Upon muster, the companies of the regiment (actually there were not enough recruits to form a full regiment) was led by Lt. Colonel David Hunter Strother (pictured), a nationally-known artist and writer.  He was among the first in the country to illustrate his own writings, depicting Southern life and events, prior to the war, in Harper’s Magazine.  Strother used the pen name “Porte Crayon.”   Strother was born in Martinsburg (now in WV) in 1861 into a slave-owning family of farmers (Strother died in 1888 of pneumonia).  Major McGee had seen much active service prior to his promotion into the 3rd, and had served as Chief of Staff under General Robert Huston Milroy.  McGee began as a Captain in the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, the first such unit raised in the state.  On October 2, 1861, McGee became Major of the newly-formed 3rd.  Company C was stationed at Clarksburg until January 1862.

The battalion comprising Companies A and C was attached to General John C. Fremont’s command in the Shenandoah Valley when formed in February 1862, with Major McGee in command.  Until March of 1862, the regiment was attached to the Railroad District, West Virginia, then to the Railroad District of the Mountain Department until May.  Company C was led by Captain Seymour Beach Conger.  During the pursuit of Confederate General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s infantry in his retreat up the Shenandoah Valley, Captain Conger and his company frequently engaged them.  During an especially notable assault by the company near a bridge at Mount Jackson VA, the Union position was saved and special mention was made of the company by General Fremont.  The troopers of the 3rd would continue to make themselves conspicuous with gallant bravery and determination in numerous skirmishes and battles.  In late 1862, the battalion primarily served as scouts in northern Virginia.

When the Army of the Potomac was reorganized in January of 1863, companies A and C were detached for special duties at General Sigel’s “Grand Reserve Division” headquarters.  Company H, commanded by Captain W. H. Flesher, was detached to Parkersburg, and company G, under Captain John S. Witcher, was in Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes’ brigade in the Kanawha Valley.

In June 1863, companies A and C, both under Captain Conger (who himself had recruited Company A), were attached to the cavalry brigade of Colonel Thomas C. Devin, in Brigadier General John Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division.   The unit would see heavy action in the battles at Brandy Station, Beverly Ford, Stevensburg, and Upperville.

As Buford’s two brigades, the 2nd under Devin and the 1st under Colonel William Gamble, made their way north through Maryland and over the Pennsylvania border, the unit would see its most desperate action since Brandy Station.  Entering the small town of Gettysburg around noon on June 30, the 59 men of Companies A and C of the 3rd, and the rest of the two small brigades, were met with cheers and shouts by the excited townspeople.  In the morning, the two companies of a newly-created Union state found themselves in the midst of very hot work northwest of the town, holding back a Confederate infantry advance until their own infantry could arrive on the field.  The 3rd was positioned near the unfinished Railroad Cut, on the left flank of Devin’s brigade, connecting with the right flank of Gamble’s troopers.  Their two companies held a narrow front that morning, but the troopers, who were growing accustomed to such hot work, held their line with the rest of the brigade until finally relieved by the Union 1st Corps.  Devin’s brigade was positioned northeast of the town to picket the approaches from that direction.  As the newly-arrived Union 11th Corps were pushed back in the fields north of Gettysburg in the early afternoon, the 3rd West Virginia and Devin’s brigade slowed the Confederate advance long enough to allow the infantry to rally on Cemetery Hill and Ridge to their rear.

This small group on the battle line that morning was quite different from the other troopers.  While they may have had many of the same reasons for being there as their comrades from Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois, on factor set them apart from the others; the men of the 3rd were Southerners, men who, until recently, had called themselves Virginians.  

The path that the men of the 3rd took to reach that ridgeline that morning had been a long and complicated one.  Like many of the citizens who lived in the mountainous western and northern counties of Virginia, these men had felt “abandoned” when the Old Dominion, Virginia, voted to secede from the Union.  They saw no good reason to break up the Republic over the abstract ideas that the politicians were arguing over.  And, many of these people felt more of a kinship with their neighbors on the Ohio and Pennsylvania borders, than to the affluent farmers of the Virginia tidewater areas.  So, the Virginia counties in the west decided that if their state could decide to secede over their protests, then they themselves would secede from Virginia and form their own new state.

Companies A and C of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry would serve in Devin’s Brigade until November of 1863, when they were ordered back to the Department of West Virginia.  Returning to Wheeling, it joined the other companies in the regiment and reorganized under Conger.  The following year, through continuous recruitments, the roster of the 3rd would be completed and would constitute a full regiment of cavalry.

Conger would live unscathed through the action at Gettysburg, but was  killed on August 7, 1864, as a Major, near Moorefield WV while the regiment was attached to the Army of West Virginia.  He is today interred at Arlington National Cemetery.  General Averell, lamenting Conger’s death, wrote in his official report, “…with our exultations is mingled a profound grief at the loss of Major Conger, 3rd West Virginia Cavalry, who found death as he had always wished, in the front of battle, with heart and hand intent upon the doing of his duty.  Brave, steadfast and modest, when he fell this command lost one of its best soldiers, and his regiment and general a friend.  The men who followed him in the charge will never forget his glorious example…”

The 3rd was in the Second Brigade (commanded by Colonel William H. Powell) in General George Crook’s Army of West Virginia.  During January and February of 1865 the brigade was commanded by Colonel Henry Capehart.  At this time the unit was stationed near Winchester VA, in picket duty and making frequent reconnaissance up the valley.  On February 27, the regiment broke camp and moved with Major General Philip M. Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps up the valley to Staunton, and participated in the battle of Waynesboro on March 2, where Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early was defeated.  Shortly after, the regiment would continue with Sheridan on his raid through the territory.

On the morning of April 1, the regiment participated in actions against the retreating Confederates, and on the 2nd at Ford’s Station the unit charged and drove a brigade of Confederate cavalry, killing General John Pegram.  The 3rd continued in the pressing actions that led to the Appomattox surrender.

The regiment participated in the Grand Review in Washington in May and was mustered out of the service on June 23.

 

Two companies, A and C, of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry fought under Colonel Thomas C. Devin’s 2nd Brigade.  This monument approximates the center of their line on McPherson Ridge that first morning of battle.  The monument is located on Buford Avenue, north of the Chambersburg Pike, and was dedicated on September 28, 1898, the same day as the similar monument to the 1st West Virginia Cavalry monument on the Taneytown Road.

The monument’s very simple inscription, “Erected by the state of West Virginia to commemorate the valor and fidelity of the Third West Virginia Cavalry” was legislated by the state in 1897.  A total of $2000 was appropriated by the legislature for the four West Virginia monuments (2 cavalry, 1 infantry, and one artillery) to be erected on the Gettysburg Battlefield.Raised in Wheeling (formerly in Virginia), the troopers of Company A were mustered in on December 23, 1861 and Company C on October 1.  The companies and squadrons were not combined into an actual full regiment until 1864.The commander of the squadron at Gettysburg was Captain Seymour Beach Conger, born in Plymouth OH on September 25, 1825.  He was a farmer near Lexington OH and recruited Company A, becoming its Captain on November 22, 1862.  Reaching the rank of Major, Conger was killed on August 7, 1864, near Moorefield WV.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  No photograph of Conger is known to exist or yet been discovered.

Of the unit’s 5 Officers and 59 enlisted men at the battle, one was wounded, 1 was captured, and two were missing.  The troopers carried Gallagher and Smith single-shot carbines, and .44 caliber Colt and .36 caliber Remington revolvers. 


Gravesite of Seymour Beach Conger at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Published in: on June 14, 2007 at 11:05 am  Comments (38)  

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  1. J.D.,

    Just a small correction to an otherwise fine piece. Lang’s “Loyal West Virginia” got it wrong when it talked about the Conger mentioned by Fremont during the 1862 Shenandoah Campaign. It was actually Everton who was mentioned in connection with his near capture of Turner Ashby. Everton was the one who put together company A and most of the soldiers were from the Wheeling area. I’ve got some of Seymour’s letters that are with the Third West Virginia’s papers in Charleston, W.Va., but there is nothing of a personal nature there–all are regiment related.

    Best
    Rob

  2. Thanks, Rob – I’ll have to make that correction. The Conger boys were an interesting pair :)

    J.D.

  3. How would you find the names of the men in the 3rd West Virginia Calvary company A? Do you know who the three men were that were missing?
    Judy

  4. Sg Major Jacob Sturgeon of the 3rd WVA Calv was my Great Uncle. Is there any history of him or a photograph available?

    703-938-5226

    Thanks, Frank Sturgeon

  5. Joseph B. Garnes is listed as Pvt Co G 3 WVA CAV died 11/05/1864 in Danville Prison. Perhaps the “G” is a “C”. He is my great grand Uncle.

    • Joseph Garnes was my great grandfather’s triplet brother {Andrew Jackson Garnes,a.k.a.”Jackie]. My great grandfather served with his brother.

      • my name is gary howard garnes and i am researching family history .my greatgrandfather was joseph b garnes who served in the 7 regiment of the westvirginia cavalry. i have in my possession orignal discharge papers also copys of his muster roles.i was told that he had a twin benjamin garnes.my grandfather howard b garnes also a ww1 vet. my father george h garnes aww2 and korean war vet. also have picture of family member joseph franklin garnes from 1928 who we can not ID.also have all their enlistments and dischared papers. would like to know more if all possable.

  6. In Nov. 1862 Gov. Pierpoint signed commissions for following Louodoun Ranger officers: Capt. Samuel C. Means, 1st Lt. Luther Slater and 2nd Lt. Daniel Keyes, listing thme as members as the 3rd Va. Cavalry (Union). However the Rangers had already been formed in June 62 under direct order of Secretary Stanton. Means viewed the commissions as only a formality, and refused to integrate with the [West} Virginia regiment, something that cost him his career when he was sacked for disobedience in Apr. 64. Eventually the War Dept. agreed that the Loudoun Rangers did not have to merge with the West Va. Cavalry. My question, however, is there any reference to the Loudoun Rangers in papers relating to the 3rd West Va. Cavalry? Best regards, Taylor Chamberlin

  7. My great-grandfather was John Lindsey McMurray of Co H of the 3rd WV Regular Volunteers. Where can I get a list of those serving in this unit? Thanks

    • Elmer,

      John L. is also my GGrandfather. My Grandfather was his son Virgil S. Below is a link for a listing of officers and enlisted. You’ll find our grandpa listed.

      http://files.usgwarchives.net/wv/wood/military/civil5.txt

      • Sorry…I stand corrected…Edward

  8. I have dovument showing a relative James H. Duncan a member of Co. I, WV Calvary. He was honorably discharged 30 Jun 1865. The discharge was signed by J. W. ?????, Major General, The Adjutant General. Who ws the Adjutant General???

  9. Do you have any more information on Joseph Garnes he is my 4 Great Grandfather

    • Joseph, Jackson, and James Garnes were triplets, remarkable given the time they were born. Joseph and “jackie Garnes” both joined the West Virginia 3rd Cavalry, but James was sickly and could not serve. They lived near Ripley W.V.A, Joseph died of dysentery in Danville Prison. Jackson survived{he;s my great grandfather].

  10. One of my wife’s ancestors, Griffin Canterbury, was a member of the 3rd. He died in Clarysville, Md in April 1865. I’m assuming he was at the hospital in Clarysville (the Clarysville Inn?) when he died either of wounds or illness. Does anyone know where I can find specific records of members of the 3rd that died during the war or of those that died at Clarysville?

    • Chuck-
      We share a common relative in Griffin. His daughter was married to Amos Workman (died in Vicksburg). Griffin’s record shows that he died 9April1865 at Clarysville as you noted, his pension record shows a death date of 20April1865, so not sure what is correct between the two official records Those records show he died of typhoid fever in a field hospital near Claryville MD.he was listed as being 5″8 “with blue eyes, grey hair, fair complexion and occupation farmer. He was quite a bit older, in his 50’s for your average private, and he was listed a a cook. His unit was in Appomattox, so ironic if he died on surrender day. His son Samuel s unit 2nd WV Veteran Infantry is shown to be in Cumberland Md in April, so that may have been why he stayed there and was not brought further home. His unit was not really that far north-they were in the Shenandoah for the preceding months, and typhoid would have killed him in a matter of 2 or 3 weeks. That’s why I think he probably crossed paths with his son’s unit and stayed with him. His other son John was in and survived the war as a member of Company A 1st WV Cav, the very decorated unit. He is interred in Antietam, grave 2962

      • David,

        Thanks for your reply. That was very good information on Griffin’s son Samuel that I did not have. I did finally mange to locate Griffin’s headstone in Antietam as well as his civil war records from the Archives. Not sure if you’re a member of Ancestry.com but I’ve uploaded what I’ve been able to find on Griffin and his ancestors and descendants on that site.

        Chuck

  11. My great-grandfather, James B. Lovett, was a private in Company E 3rd (West) Virginia cavalry. Does anyone have information on him. Thanks

    • Hello and yes he is my great great-grandfather. His son Harry K. Lovett is my great grandfather. His son Robert Stewart Lovett is my grandpa. I’m looking for information on Daniel Lovett married Susannah.

    • I have been researching Lt. William E. Lovett, Co. E. He had a brother, who was arrested and confined at Ft. McHenry, as was William himself in the Spring of 1863. Happy to share information.
      Edward Spannaus

  12. Do you have any further information on Urias Methany Straight? He would be my 3x Great Grandfather, we believe him to be in Company A of the third West Virgina Cavalry. Thank you!

  13. Thank you for the well done article. Very nicely written.

    I have a 2nd Great Grand Uncle who served with Company C.

    William E. Pullin enlisted as a Sergeant.

  14. My GGG-grandfather was Enoch B. Sullivan, a P. (private?) in the WV Cavalry, Co. L, Reg. 3. I would be ever so grateful for any info. that you might have on him OR on Co. L Reg 3!

    b. 1845
    VA
    d. Nov 11 1913
    Adamston, Harrison Co., WV
    e. Occupation
    Coal Miner
    e. Residence
    1880
    Coal Dist., Harrison Co., WV
    m. CARTER, Susan Feb 13 1867

    Susan and Enoch appear to have had 8 children – Nancy, Enoch W., Bertha, Arthur B., Walter Cecil, Silus, John E. and Stella, born betw. abt. 1868 and May of 1882

  15. Oh, and if you prefer, you are welcome to call – 206.697.2344

  16. Hi
    My relatives records states that he was with the 3rd calary Co A and signed in March 1 1865. All at I read says Co A was signed in in 1865.
    How do I find the travels of his regiment for March 1865 to July 1865?
    Thanks,
    Sandy

  17. Please disreguard the previous message. I will list better information.
    I have a dalima:
    Hiram E Street enlisted Feb 3 1865 to 3WV Cav Co A
    He was mustered out on July 3 1866.
    He deserted May 27 1865 near Bladensburg MD
    I would like to find the movements of his unit and try to figure out why he deserted.
    ALSO:
    The 1890 Veterans Schedule shows a: H. E. Street that was from Grant District Wetzel County WV. Book 1 page 193.
    Are they the same person?
    If they are, why would he be on the veterans schedule if he deserted???
    Also:
    There is a Hiram E Streets that enlisted March 1 1865.

    HOW DO I TELL ALL OF THESE APART?????

    THANKS for any and all help
    Sandy

  18. My great grandfather, Wade Hampton Borin, has “CO C 3 W VA VOLS” on his tombstone in Salisaw, Oklahoma. I assume that means 3rd Calvary. Is there an official list that would show his name in that unti? He was a private, I believe.

    • This may help clear up the confusion. In May 1863, three W.Va. infantry regiments — the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th — were ordered to convert to “mounted infantry.” The 3rd (West) Virginia Infantry became the 6th W.Va. Cavalry. This is why he is listed on the NPS roster (which corresponds, I believe, to the NARA rosters) as the 6th W.Va. Cav.

  19. Hi Tom,
    I did a search on the CW Soldiers and Sailors database and found a Wade Hampton Borin, member of the 6th West Virginia Cavalry (he was the only Borin who came up under West Virginia). Hope that helps you.

  20. Hi I am in the process of researching my gr., gr., grandfather, Lt. Col Chas. Cumminga of Vermont. In his letters he refers to meeting a Capt. Spaulding of the 3rd Va. Cavalry, Loyal who somehow knew Boston family of Cummings’ wife. Any ideas who this Spaulding might be?
    K. Gans

  21. Company “M” ? 3rd West Va Cavalry formed 1864 Sago, W Va. Could this be a misprint ?

  22. Hello,
    I was wondering if in your research of Co. A 3rd WV Calvary had you run into the name of John W. Shoemaker/Shumaker of Richland Co., OH? From an article I found he was at Gettysburg where he was captured July 2.

  23. How do I go about finding out where Company K, 3rd West Virginia Cavalry was engaged?

    • Sandra — I just returned from Gettysburg. My gr grandfather, Charles Crump, was a pvt w/ Co. K. With the help of a park ranger, I was able to find out that Co. K fought on Oak Ridge on the first day of the battle. On the second day, it was watering its horses at Plum Run near Little Round Top. My ancestor helped pull artillery up Little Round Top when horses couldn’t make it. (My father, who would be 105 this year, knew the soldier and the story.) Get a map of the battlefield and you will see what I mean.

      Sarah

  24. Thanks in support of sharing such a good thinking, article is fastidious, thats why i have read it fully

  25. Does anyone know a J. W. Estep(military Co. E 7 W. VA Calvery)? He is buried in Kavanaugh Chapel Cemetery. There are no dates on the marker only the above information. The cemetery is located at 9762 Kavanaugh Rd, Catlettsburg, KY 41129

  26. I noticed a grave marker in the grave yard where I grew up in West Virginia. It gave the name of the deceased, but with no birth date or date of death. It says that he was a member if The 3rd West Virginia Cavalry Co. B, but I
    can’t find anything listing Co. B, only A and C. Can anyone help me?

  27. Is there a casualty list for the 3rd WV Cavalry at Gettysburg?


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