9th New York Cavalry Monument

Alright, let’s move over to Col. Thomas Devin’s brigade in Buford’s cavalry division for their monument, memorializing their participation in the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863.  The 9th New York is one of my favorite regiments – they were recruited and trained in upstate NY where my wife is from.  One day I hope to pen a modern regimental (I currently have a collection of hundreds of letters and some diaries of members).  Next I’ll post my biography of 9th NY trooper Alpheus Hodges, who vied with Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry for the honors of firing the “first shot” of the battle that morning.


Photo by Pat Finnegan

The beautiful sculpture adorning the front of this monument is called “Discovering the Enemy” and shows the vigilant trooper spotting enemy elements, sculpted after 9th New York trooper Alpheus Hodges’ likeness.  The sculptor was Casper Buberl of New York.  The monument is located on Buford Avenue on the regiment’s main battle line on the first morning.  It is constructed of Hallowell Maine granite, resting on a base of Gettysburg granite, and cost approximately $2500.There is an inscription on the back which states that this was the “Position 8 am July 1st 1863, Picket on Chambersburg Road fired on at 5 am.”  There was some bitter controversy during the placement of this, and Lt. Marcellus Jones’ First Shot Marker west of here on the Chambersburg Road.  The 5 am time refers to the claim of Corporal Alpheus Hodges, Co. F of the 9th New York, that Rebel pickets fired on his vedette post west of Willoughby Run at that hour.  There likely was some limited skirmishing in that area prior to Jones’ shot, but Jones lays claim to the first fire at an element of the Confederates’ principal force.  When the theme of the monument was brought to the attention of  by the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, it was objected to on the grounds that its claims would not be historically accurate, in light of Jones’ and the 8th Illinois’ claim.  The committee, led by Colonel Wilbur G. Bentley, presented evidence of the regiment’s “first shot” and the Association then voted unanimously to allow the inscriptions, recording the following in its published proceedings:
“At a meeting held July 3, 1888, a committee of the Ninth New York Cavalry
appeared before the board, and established to the entire satisfaction of those
present that this regiment fired the first shot of July 1, 1863.”

The monument was dedicated on July 1, 1888, the 25th Anniversary of their first-morning action.The regiment was known as the “Westfield Cavalry” and was raised in the counties of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Wyoming, and St. Lawrence, and Warren County PA.  It was organized at “Camp Seward” (the county fairgrounds) in Westfield NY and mustered in from September 9 to November 19, 1861.

Colonel William Sackett (pictured) commanded the regiment at Gettysburg, taking command after the first Colonel, John Beardsley, resigned after being forced out of the service in March 1863.  Sackett was born in Seneca Falls NY on April 16, 1839.  He had been a lawyer in Chicago at the start of the war.  He was mortally wounded on June 11, 1864 in the battle at Trevilian Station VA and died three days later.  The GAR Post No. 234 in Westfield NY would later be named the “William Sackett Post” in honor of their slain regimental commander.  The reverse of the regiment’s monument at Gettysburg features a bronze medallion bust of Sackett.

Of the unit’s 425 troopers at the battle, two were killed, two were wounded, and seven were missing.  The troopers carried Sharps and Smith single-shot carbines, and .44 caliber Colt revolvers.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 10:15 am  Comments (32)  

8th Illinois Cavalry Monument at Gettysburg

To follow a bit further on my recent post about Marcellus Jones of the 8th Illinois Cavalry (credited with firing the first shot at massed Confederate troops to begin the battle on July 1, 1863), here is a picture of the regimental monument and a bit of its history.

Like the monument of the 12th Illinois troopers, the 8th Illinois Cavalry monument features the sculpted saddle equipment of the cavalryman.  It rests on the spot previously occupied by the 8th New York Cavalry monument, which was moved to more accurately mark the units’ positions.
It is carved from three separate blocks of Blue Westerly Rhode Island Granite and was dedicated on September 3, 1891.  It honors all members of the unit, but two members have received special recognition on the monument:  Lt. Marcellus Jones, and Pvt. David Diffenbaugh.  The morning of July 1, Jones claimed to have fired the first shot at the main body of Confederate troops from a spot today marked by the First Shot Marker monument, placed at the intersection of Knoxlyn Road and the Chambersburg Pike (Rt. 30).

Diffenbaugh’s name is carved in the back of the monument with no explanation.  It was placed there because he was the only fatality in the regiment at Gettysburg.  Diffenbaugh is buried in Row A, Grave 4 of the Illinois section of the Gettysburg National Cemetery.
The monument is located on South Reynolds Avenue, and was designed by the Smith Granite Company at a cost of $1500.

The 8th was raised from the counties of Kane, DeKalb, Whiteside, DuPage, Cook, McHenry, and Winnebago.  It was organized at Camp Kane in St. Charles IL and mustered in on September 18, 1861.  The commander was Major John Lourie Beveridge (pictured), who was born in Greenwich NY on July 6, 1824.  He practiced law in Evanston IL prior to the war and became Captain of Company F of the regiment when it was mustered in, then promoted to Major to date from the same.  After the war, Beveridge became Sheriff of Cook County, and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served from 1871-73, then became Governor of Illinois until 1877.  He died in Hollywood CA on May 3, 1910.

Of the unit’s 562 men at Gettysburg, who served under brigade commander Colonel William Gamble, one trooper (Diffenbaugh) was killed, five were wounded, and one was missing.  The troopers carried Sharps single-shot carbines and Colt .36 and .44 caliber revolvers.

The inscription on the monument reads:
“First line of battle July 1, 1863.  Occupied until relieved by 1st Corps.  One squadron picketed ridge east of Marsh Creek and supported by another squadron met enemy’s right advance. Lieut. Jones, Co. E, fired first shot as the enemy crossed Marsh Creek Bridge.  On reforming line regiment took an advanced position on Hagerstown Road.  Late in the day delayed enemy’s advance by attacking his right flank, thereby aiding infantry in withdrawing to Cemetery Hill.  In the evening encamped on left flank.  July 2, 1863 Buford’s Division retired toward Westminster.”

Published in: on June 4, 2007 at 1:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Off the Beaten Path

Someone told me once that over 90% of visitors to battlefields rarely leave their vehicles – they stay on the Park Roads and take a published auto tour, and/or listen to a tour tape/CD.  Probably true.  I see that at Gettysburg quite often.  Anyone like me, who visits battlefields on a regular basis, spends just as much time (if not more) off the NPS land and on surrounding private property and public roads off the battlefield.  At Gettysburg, in my case, this is doubly true – and over the past several years I’ve probably spent more time on areas surrounding the battlefield than on the public land itself.

This past weekend I gave a Gettysburg tour to a group of friends made up of members of an online discussion group owned by my good friend and writing colleague Eric Wittenberg.  It’s called the Civil War Discussion Group (CWDG).  I’ve given other tours previously to this group, such as one on Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry’s defense during the early morning of July 1, the first day of the battle.  Because the cavalry’s delaying action that day mostly took place between Knoxlyn/Wisler Ridge a few miles west of the town, to McPherson Ridge, most of the area is actually off the battlefield.  By it’s very nature, the study of Civil War cavalry takes one outside public battlefield boundaries.

The tour I gave Saturday morning was about the clash between John B. Gordon’s Confederate brigade and Pennsylvania militia forces on the afternoon of June 26, 1863, just west of Gettysburg.  It’s an action hardly studied, and accounting of it (always brief) appear in only a few books and fewer articles.  However, it’s always been fascinating to me because it took place over the identical ground that Buford’s action happened a few days later, and involved one of my favorite Confederate units, Lt. Col. Elijah V. White’s 35th Battalion of Virginia Cavalry.

That morning, Jubal Early’s division of Ewell’s corps marched from Chambersburg Pa, burnt down Thaddeus Stevens’ ironworks in Caledonia, then proceeded east to Cashtown.  Hearing that some type of militia was in Gettysburg, Early decided to divide his force.  Taking 3 of his brigades north toward Mummasburg (led by Col. William French’s 17th Virginia Cavalry), and sending Gordon and White directly ahead to Gettysburg, Early hoped to get the militia squeezed in a pincers.  Local militia usually broke and ran in the face of veteran Southern troops, and Early figured he could gobble up the whole lot of whoever was in the town.

Well, he figured right.

Also that morning, Col. William Jennings led the 760 raw and untested men of his 26th Pennsylvania Militia a few miles west of Gettysburg on the Cashtown Pike (modern Rt. 30) to Marsh Creek, where he thought he could delay or stop a suspected Confederate advance on the town.  Protecting the Gettysburg and Cumberland Valley areas was paramount to Maj. Gen. Darius Couch’s aims in protecting the important artery from Confederate invasion.  Couch was in command of all the state’s militia – only about 8000 had signed up by that time to meet the emergency, and he had no choice but to send greenhorn, inexperienced troops to the field to face Southern veterans.

Along with Jennings and the 26th was Capt. Robert Bell’s Adams County Cavalry Company, a local militia cavalry unit made up of citizens from the Gettysburg area.  Bell had about 75 troopers with him, all of whom, like the 26th Pa, had never leveled a bead on another human being.  There were also a few townsmen along, toting shotguns and the like.  They set up camp at the Marsh Creek crossing of the pike, not knowing what to expect.

About 2pm, Jennings and Bell rode to the top of a small hill near the Samuel Lohr farm, where they could see about two miles west down the Cashtown Pike.  Immediately they spotted Gordon’s long column trudging toward them, with Lige White’s ragamuffin cavalry leading the way.  Jennings and Bell rode back to the militia camp, and without so much as raising a gun, Jennings ordered everyone to bug out.

A real footrace that would have made Monty Python proud, folks – remember the line “Run Away!  Run Away!”?

Jennings and Bell gathered up all their men, and headed north then west, heading back toward town on the Mummasburg Road, leaving a few dozen of the militia pickets and some of Bell’s troopers just west of Marsh Creek as a burnt offering for White and Gordon.  Seeing the bluecoats, Lige White ordered a charge.  Lt. Harrison Strickler of White’s Company E spurred their mounts into the pickets, snatching up every one.  Not a shot was fired, and one of White’s men later snickered about how willing the pickets were to surrender.  The fleeing soldiers along the Mummasburg Road were soon run over by Early’s other brigades and the 17th Virginia Cavalry, grabbing up more of the men.

I took the folks out Rt. 30 west of town where the militia had set up camp, and where a small marker today commemorates their, well, service.  The marker, which looks an awful lot like a large tombstone (deliberately or not) is hardly ever noticed today.  Of the 25 or so people in the group, I think only 1 or 2 others had ever even seen it before then.  I spoke about the action for about 45 minutes, emphasizing that we’re far off the beaten path of the battlefield, and that the area we were on had seen a lot of action on June 26 and then, with Buford’s defense, on July 1.

We then drove back to town and out the Baltimore Pike a few miles to where two cavalry monuments, also hardly noticed, sit on the north side of the Pike.  Two of Bell’s cavalrymen, William Lightner and George Washington Sandoe, got away from White’s assault and tried to sneak away by following the low ground of Rock Creek up to the Baltimore Pike.  Thinking it was safe, they came out to the road.  One of White’s men, however, saw them.  Lightner got away, but Sandoe shot at the southerner.  White’s man shot Sandoe, killing him instantly, making Sandoe the first casualty at Gettysburg in the campaign.  The two monuments at the spot were placed by the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry (Co. B) which Bell’s company later joined.  One monument is to the company, the other to the memory of Sandoe.  Again, few people in the group had ever seen the monuments or heard the story of Sandoe.

I then drove the folks 5 miles south on the Taneytown Road to the small hamlet of Barlow, Pa to the Mt. Joy Cemetery where the 20-year old Sandoe was buried.  Since many Federals marched to their date with destiny at Gettysburg along that road, many of them would have seen Sandoe’s fresh grave – portending the fate of some 5000 of them over the ensuing days and weeks.  Sandoe has a new headstone now, complete with an engraving of the emblem of the cavalry – crossed sabers.  Sandoe left behind a pregnant wife.  She’s not buried with him there, and is not interred in the area that I know of – perhaps she left some time later and remarried, trying to put such a tragic past behind her.  She and George had only been married 3 months when he was killed.

The tour was certainly off the beaten path at Gettysburg – none of the events took place on the actual battlefield itself.  I remarked to the group that the 2 1/2 hours or so that we’d spent during the tour was probably the most attention ol’ George had received in a hundred years.

Here’s to you, George, and Bell’s Cavalry and White’s troopers.  Studying you takes me to the obscure locales and rarely-trodden earth where interesting events, all but forgotten today, deserve more study.

Published in: on October 19, 2006 at 7:23 pm  Comments (10)  
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