“The Gettysburg Encyclopedia” by Savas-Beatie

I had a nice conversation earlier today with Theodore “Ted” Savas of Savas-Beatie LLC, publisher of the Stuart’s Ride book by Eric Wittenberg and me.  Savas is currently working on a huge publication to be called the Gettysburg Encyclopedia – like an encyclopedia, it will contain articles of all things Gettysburg… actions, personalities, units, monuments, you name it.

Ted has honored me by naming yours truly the Cavalry Editor for the work.  Hhmm, I don’t think there’s any more money in it, and my fan club membership probably won’t get much of a bump, but it’s truly an exciting duty.  I’ll be pulling together everything needed to produce articles on all things Gettysburg Cavalry for the book.

Ted estimates that the book will end up being nearly 1,000 pages, chock full of maps, photos, etc.  A truly terrific and ambitious project and resource of all things Gettysburg.

I’ve already recruited fellow Cav Guys Eric and Mike Nugent to come on board, and have some other folks in mind as well.  Watch Savas Beatie’s website for more specific details on this project in the months to come.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 4:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Gettysburg Anniversary Weekend Appearances

For those of you who will be in and around Gettysburg over the Anniversary Weekend (held July 6-8), I will be at book signings at various locations.  I will be personalizing and autographing copies of Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, and you can bring your own copy to have it signed if you’d like.  Here are the locations and dates:

Friday July 6:
2pm to 4pm – Gettysburg National Military Park Visitor Center Bookstore, 97 Taneytown Road.

Saturday July 7:
2pm to 5pm – Gettysburg Gift Center, 297 Steinwehr Avenue.
7pm to 9pm – Farnsworth House Inn Bookstore, 401 Baltimore Street.

At other times, such as the mornings of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I will be doing living history in uniform at the John Buford statue along the Chambersburg Pike.  Friend Mike Nugent will be there, along with a couple others.  We’ll all be in uniform, talking about Buford’s early morning action and the events of the first day of the battle.

If you have the opportunity and are around town, please do stop by! 

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 10:21 am  Comments (3)  

Full Weekend continued

Sunday we rose early again and we soon headed on the road to Antietam battlefield – in separate vehicles since we each would be leaving from there later that day.  We quickly met up with Ranger Mannie Gentile, and Dimitri met us out front of the Visitor Center.  Mannie was set to give visitors a general overview tour of the field at 10:00 am, so the four of us decided to tag along.  We promised Mannie that we wouldn’t heckle him 🙂

Although I’m pretty well versed about the battle and the Maryland Campaign, I was extremely impressed with Mannie’s talk and tour.  Everyone who attended listened to him with rapt attention.  It was a great introduction for Dimitri, since he hadn’t yet had a good overview of the field [in the picture, that’s Mannie on the left, then Eric, myself, and Dimitri on the right].  Mannie started with a talk about the state of the war and the elements of the campaign, then we stopped at The Cornfield.  After describing the initial action there (truly, it’s called The Bloody Cornfield for good reason) we then went to the Sunken Road.  I get chills there everytime.  Mannie finished up at Burnside’s Bridge.  Afterwards we talked for a while, then Dwayne, Eric and I took Dimitri on a walk around the famous bridge.  The gnats (Antietam’s official bird this time of year) were getting pretty bad, and we needed to get on the road to our next stop at Harper’s Ferry, so we said goodbye to Dimitri and piled into my truck for the trip.  Dimitri is a terrific fellow, and we enjoyed spending time with him.  We all agreed that we’ll have to have another Blogger’s Convention very soon.

Driving the old Harper’s Ferry Road this time of year is visually stimulating.  Beautiful old war-time road trace through beautiful country – and along the beautiful river all the way to town.  We were amazed at the literally thousands – thousands – of folks out for the day biking, rafting, swimming, etc.  Everyone was enjoying the sunshine and heat.

We got there around 2:00 pm or so, found a place to park near the train depot, and walked over to a BBQ restaurant for lunch (my wife and I had eaten there a few years back and I recommended it to the guys).  After lunch, we took a walk down to the Armory, then to a bookstore on the main street that had opened last year.  None of us knew it was there until coming on it, and we were amazed at the selection.  Terrific store, and I heartily recommend it to you next time you visit.  We came out of there with some books we’d never heard of before but that will be great sources for future projects.  Turns out they want to stock Eric and my Plenty of Blame to Go Around book, so I got information to have our publisher contact them.

After spending time marvelling at the view from the Overlook, Dwayne and I marched Eric up to Jefferson’s rock.  Folks, if you’ve never been up there… it’s a climb.  Woooheee.  We all made it to the top and took some pictures.  I have a creaky left knee from an old football injury, and it started aching from the climb – in fact, it’s still a bit sore. 

We hated to part ways, but it was time for us to drive back to Antietam so Eric could get on the way to Ohio, and I had to get back home as well.  My wife had to drive to Pittsburgh that evening to help our daughter move to her college apartment, so I needed to be back by 9:00 pm.  We said our goodbyes, knowing we had capped off another great time with great friends (and making some new ones!).

Thank you Mannie, for a terrific time on the field, and great meeting you, Dimitri – I look forward to the next time.

Published in: on June 28, 2007 at 10:04 am  Comments (2)  

A full weekend

Late last night I returned home from the trip south.  It was a full and enjoyable weekend.  On Friday evening, I met Eric Wittenberg and our friend Dwayne Siskey at the Mine saloon in Gettysburg.  Dwayne recently relocated to Gettysburg from Grove City PA.  Dwayne has been a reenactor and living historian for a long time (in fact he is the one who got me interested in that aspect over 10 years ago).  When a job within his company opened up in Gettysburg, he was able to fulfill his dream and move there.

It was great seeing Mine barkeep Bobbie again.  She’s had health problems recently, but is doing fine and always has a big smile for me and my friends when we walk in the door.  I sat down at the bar where Eric and Dwayne were keeping company and tipping beers with old friends William Frassanito and Blake Magner.  There’s always good conversations to be had with Bill and Blake.  Blake kindly told me how much he enjoyed reading the Stuart’s ride book by Eric and myself.  “Frass” and I had a long conversation about a book of Gettysburg photos which came out recently (the publisher sent me a review copy and I’ll be reviewing it here shortly).  We all jabbered for several hours and finally decided to head out to Dwayne’s apartment about 11:00 pm, since the three of us would be on the road to Westminster MD by 8:30 am.

Dwayne’s apartment is very nice.  On the small side, but adequate for one person.  We all zonked pretty quickly, and were up by 7:00 am.  Since I have a large new pickup with an extended cab, I drove the three of us to breakfast at the Avenue Restaurant, then down Rt 97 (Baltimore Pike) for Westminster.

The event in Westminster was the commemoration of the anniversary of Capt. Charles Corbit and the 1st Delaware Cavalry’s charge against Jeb Stuart’s cavalry column in the streets of Westminster (June 29, 1863).  Eric and I have a full chapter on the action in our book, the most modern and detailed treatment of the action ever compiled.  The organizers of this event – the Carroll County Historical Society and the Pipe Creek Civil War Roundtable – asked Eric and I to attend and sign copies of our book.

When we entered town, we were rather surprised to find that there was very little advertising (signage) for the event.  In fact, anyone going into Westminster would have no idea about the activities, nor where they were.  We stopped and asked for information, and were sent to the wrong location by a local.  Finally we asked a sheriff’s deputy, who pointed out the event for us.

The encampment was just a block from the old Courthouse.  We were able to find the coordinators, who had a location for us in the large activities tent.  In the encampment were living history by reenactors, including an impressive mounted contingent of the 4th Virginia Cavalry (the regiment that led Stuart’s advance into town and clashed with Corbit’s Delawareans).  A couple other authors were set up in the tent with their books, and the County Historical Society also had a tent with many publications available.

As we set up, we couldn’t help but be astonished that the visible advertising for the event was so non-existent.  It was the event’s 5th year, so I thought maybe it’s become a fixture and will be well-attended anyway.  However, there was little noticable advertising in Gettysburg to speak of, so Eric and I were skeptical about the number of folks that might come.

As the day progressed, it was evident that our skepticism was warranted.  We were there from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm, and I truly doubt that more than a few hundred people came through during the day.  There should have been several thousand.  The 4th Virginia Cavalry was very impressive, and marched to the new monument to the Charge near the old Court House in procession with others for the wreath-laying ceremony.  Then there was a procession to the old cemetery of the Ascension Episcopal Church were Lt. William Murray of the 4th Va (killed during the action) still lies at rest.

More people should be given the opportunity to attend and witness these impressive events.  It is certainly within the powers of the Historical Society, the Pipe Creek CWRT, and the city of Westminster to advertise this event more in regards to signage around town – and special attention should be paid to the Gettysburg area.

We were also disappointed to see that the Historical Society was selling our book too – right next to us.  Now, we fully understand that these groups survive on donations and sales of such items – but when authors are invited to attend an event such as this, certain allowances need to be made.  For those who are unaware, authors traveling to events for book signings only make money by selling their books (minus, of course, any fee paid by the sponsor).  We have to purchase the books from our publisher at the wholesale rate, just like bookstores, and only retain the resulting profit.  They don’t give them to us for free.  We ended up being, therefore, in the uncomfortable position of competing for sales with the very folks who sponsored our attendance in the first place.  We had at least one instance where a customer bought the book from the Society, then brought it over to us to sign.  Eric and I were glad to do so, of course, but that very thing defeats the purpose of our being there in the first place.

Throughout the entire day, we only signed and sold a total of 6 books.  Between Eric and I, the resulting “profit” didn’t even cover the cost of our gas to attend.  Luckily we bunked with a local friend… if we had to pay for hotel rooms, the day would have cost us a lot of money.  Throw in the costs of meals, etc., and our attendance could have cost us a lot more money.

I don’t wish to sound like the success of such an event for an author must come down to the financial bottom line.  We know that we were also witnesses to the fine events taking place that day, and we were duly impressed and enjoyed them very much.  Our book is going into its third edition only months after its release, and we couldn’t be happier with its sales.  But more folks should know about the event through better signage advertising, which would have assumedly led to more books sales for us.  Eric and I then would have been able to make a nice donation back to the sponsors.  As it was, however, all profits (and more) went right into our gas tanks.

Westminster historian Thomas LeGore had terrific events in the monument wreath-laying and the tribute paid at Murray’s grave.  As I said earlier, it was impressive to see the nine fellows portraying the 4th Virginia Cavalry on horseback along the way.  Dismounted, they fired a 21-gun salute over the grave, then taps was played.  I looked around at the 60 or so people watching, and thought how great it would be to see 10 times that amount of spectators.  I believe that had the event been advertised better (especially in the Gettysburg environs) they would have had that.

Eric and I had a great conversation with LeGore about his activities in preserving the history of the area, and specifically his work on Corbit’s Charge.  Much of our book chapter on the event benefitted from his work.  Tom impressed us with the level of detail he knows about the events, and his dedication is inspiring.  It was Tom who spearheaded the placement of the new monument near the Court House, the new gravestone over Murray’s resting place, and many other tangible remembrances around town.  Tom is to be congratulated and appreciated for his untiring work.

Once we packed up and left the event, I decided to take Eric and Dwayne to nearby Taneytown, and show them the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac on June 30/July 1, 1863.  I drove them to the location of the Shunk Farm just outside town, where army commander George Meade’s HQ was located, with us noting that Cavalry Corps commander Alfred Pleasonton’s HQ was next door.  When there, I always imagine those couriers running up and down the nearby roads to Gettysburg over those hours as events in Gettysburg got underway.  I also drove them over to the property where Winfield S. Hancock and his II Corps were camped.  We checked out the War Department markers in a little park in town, and then I drove the boys back to Gettysburg via Harney Road, which is the road that Meade used to travel to the battlefield after Hancock.  Just a few miles before reaching Gettysburg, I stopped at the little church cemetery in Mt. Joy where Pvt. George W. Sandoe is buried.  Sandoe, a new recruit of Capt. Robert Bell’s Adams County Cavalry Company (later a company in the 21st PA Cavalry) was killed in Gettysburg on June 26, 1863, after being shot by one of Lt. Col. Elijah White’s 35th Battalion Virginia Cavalry.  White led Brig. Gen. John B. Gordon’s brigade’s advance into the town that day on their journey north toward Harrisburg.  As much of the Army of the Potomac marched to their date with destiny at Gettysburg along Harney Road on July 1, they literally passed by the fresh grave of the first casualty on that battlefield.

We then headed to the Baltimore Pike, where our old friend Dean Shultz was hosting a pig roast in his back yard for members of the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College.  Dean had invited us to come over after our time in Westminster.  Dean is a local powerhouse of Gettysburg knowledge, owns a beautiful period home used as a hospital during the battle, and is also the owner on the land on which the “Lost Avenue” and its monuments are located.  I was able to meet several members of the CWI, including Pete Vermilyea, a great historian and author.  Pete is a terrific fellow and it was very nice to talk with him.  A couple of the folks even bought some copies of our book.

We had a bit to eat, and enjoyed Dean and Judy’s homemade ice cream – delicious!  As we were leaving, Gabor Borit of the college was just coming in.  Gabor has had some health issues lately, but appears to be recovering well.  We were able to greet him before leaving.  It was great to see the trademark big smile on his face before we left.

The three of us had plans to have dinner that evening at a local hotspot, Dave and Jane’s Crab House near Emmitsburg MD.  When we got there, we were disappointed to see the parking lot overflowing and a line of people waiting to get in.  It was Saturday night and the place was bursting at the seams.  So, we headed down Rt. 15 and Eric suggested we eat at Cozy’s Restaurant in Thurmont, a favorite hangout of the high-falootin’ from Camp David.  It’s a buffet, which is right up my alley (as Eric will be quick to tell you).  I’m 6’1″ and only 180 pounds, but I put away enough food that I should be twice as heavy.

Must be that dang tapeworm.

The food was great, and when we headed back north we would have just enough daylight to check out some obscure monuments at Gettysburg.  First we drove to the seldom-seen monument of the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry east of town (which Dwayne had never seen before).  Then, I took the guys to the little monument of the 4th New Jersey Infantry’s wagoneers Granite Schoolhouse Road, probably one of the most obscure monuments on the field.  I usually call it the “New Jersey Teamsters” monument, and Eric officially dubbed it the “Jimmy Hoffa Monument” – very fitting indeed.  A great play on words, and like Jimmy, no one really knows where it is 🙂

It was getting dark, so we headed over to the Mine for libations, where Bobbie was holding court behind the bar.  We stayed a couple hours having some great conversations, then called it a night around 11:00 pm again.  The next day, Sunday, we had planned a trip to Antietam to meet up with Ranger Mannie Gentile, fellow blogger Dimitri Rotov, then do a little exploring at Harper’s Ferry.

I’ll post about that next.

Published in: Uncategorized on June 25, 2007 at 1:18 pm  Comments (7)  

Turn the horses to Westminster MD

Later this afternoon I’m off to Gettysburg, where I and Eric Wittenberg will stay at the home of a local friend, then in the morning we’re off to Westminster, Maryland.  This weekend is the commemoration of Capt. Charles Corbit’s and the 1st Delaware Cavalry’s charge on June 29, 1863, against Jeb Stuart’s Confederate cavalry in the streets of the town.  For an excellent article about the event, click here.

Eric and I will be at the authors location in town to sign copies of our book on Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg.  Living history and reenactment encampments and events will be around town, as well as events at the new monument to the charge, as well as other interesting activities.  We will personally endorse copies of our book, and we’ll also have a few of the remaining copies of the Special Gettysburg Limited Edition of the book as well.

We hope to see many of our friends there – so if you’re in the area or at the event please stop by!

Published in: on June 22, 2007 at 12:22 pm  Comments (2)  

Central Delaware CWRT Talk – and an explosion

Yesterday morning, I left home for the 5-hour drive to Dover, Delaware, to speak to the good folks at the Central Delaware Civil War Round Table.  My friend and excellent Gettysburg historian, Tom Ryan, is President and invited me to speak on the book co-authored by Eric Wittenberg and I on Stuart’s ride to Gettysburg.

After a terrific dinner at the large and spacious Modern Maturity Center in Dover, the meeting began about 7:45 pm last evening.  Since Eric had spoken to the group on the book (not yet released at the time) about this time last year, I gave the 60 or so members a different angle, talking about the different transitions the book went through over the years to its completion, as well as the many new bits of information we worked into the book, some of which completely changed the interpretation of many events.  I also covered the June 29, 1863 scrap at Westminster MD between Stuart and upstarts of the 1st Delaware Cavalry, to bring home that local interest.

I spoke for about 45 minutes, then there was over a half hour of excellent questions by the members.  Really good stuff.  There was a lot of interest in the topic, and I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more.  After the meeting I autographed and sold several books.  Tom has a fine crew and the RT is comprised of a very active membership.

Since I wanted to get a few hours in the office this afternoon, and also since I had to play a match in our men’s golf league this evening at 5:00 pm, I decided to get up early and leave the hotel by 8:00 am.  That should get me home by about 1:00, plenty of time to take care of business before heading out to the links.

Everything started out like clockwork – I left right at 8:00 am after breakfast, and got on the road.  Traffic was pretty light, so I was making great time, marveling that I had hit the Mifflintown PA area of Rt. 322 by 11:30 am.  As I threw my Corvette into sixth gear and settled back for the last couple hours of my drive, buzzing along about 70 mph, it suddenly felt like either a tractor trailer slammed into the back end of my car, or a bomb had just gone off in it.

Ever been in a Corvette when one of your 18-inch Z-rated racing tires literally blows up?

Nope, me either.  But boy, is it loud.

Apparently, I had run over some sharp piece of metal or something similar.  It was enough to cut a 4-inch deep gash (all the way through the metal cords) in my left rear tire in a millisecond.  So, no slow leak. 

Just BOOM.

When the tire blew, it lifted the back end of the car about 6 inches off the ground.  Mind you, I’m zipping at 70 mph without a care in the world.  The noise was so loud, and the jump of the car so startled me, as I said I thought I either had just been crashed into from behind, or something in the rear of the car had just exploded – maybe the gas tank?

I got control of the car pretty quickly – thank goodness – and after getting it straightened out, I pulled over to the side of the road.  I still didn’t know I had a blown tire yet, because it hadn’t come off the rim, and I have Goodyear Run-Flats – the kind that allow you to drive the car for several miles even when they’re flat.  But when I got out and checked the back of the car, it was obvious what had happened to that rear tire.  I was glad nothing was on fire, no smoke, and there wasn’t another vehicle stuck to the back of mine.

I whipped out the cell phone and found out just how handy that 1-800 Roadside Assistance sticker on the driver window really is.  The nice lady on the phone at GM did a search of the area, and found a GM dealer just up the road a mile off the next exit.  She gave me their number, I called, and they told me to come right in.  I was able to drive the car to the dealer, and luckily they had Goodyear 18’s since they sold and serviced Corvettes there. 

They took my car right in, but since it was lunchtime, the guys couldn’t get to it until after 1:00.  I was going to need new rear tires by next year anyway, so I told the service personnel to go ahead and put two new ones on the rear.  I guess I’d forgotten how expensive that would be (those puppies run over $300 each even when on sale) and it would obviously take longer. 

When they got the bad tire off, they showed the gash in it to me, with one of the guys saying “Wow.”  Very rare to hit something that would blow a tire like that.  All we could figure was I ran over some pretty sharp piece of metal that either came off a vehicle, or flew out of one.  Whatever it was, it sure did a number on that tire.

Once they got the tires on and balanced, they ran into some trouble getting the tire pressure sensors hooked back up (seems you need a special tool to do that, and they had trouble locating theirs).  When I finally got the car back, and stretched out the credit card more than I had planned, it was already 2:30 – and I had nearly 2 hours left to get home.

No time in the office obviously, and I was just going to make my tee time.  My wife brought a change of clothes and my clubs to my office (which is closer) and I made the golf course with only minutes to spare.  Golf, no matter how frustrating, is always therapeutic for me, and it went a long way to helping me settle down after such a drive home.  I actually played pretty well considering how stressed out I was.

In spite of the car trouble, it was a terrific trip and a great time with very hospitable folks.  Like a trip to the casino, I ended up spending more than I came home with, but when you make new friends you always profit. 

Published in: on June 20, 2007 at 12:05 am  Comments (11)  

Fresh fish… er… Links

I’ve been adding a few more links to active Civil War blogs as I find them – shortly I hope to have just about every one listed here.  I’ve also been changing some existing links from the blogger’s name to the title of their blog, since that’s usually more descriptive (I even had one blogger who thought I recently deleted his link – no, look under your blog name and you should see it.)

There are lots of great blogs with varied subjects popping up lately, and it’s fun and informative checking them all out.  Plus, I’m trying to set up a database of all Civil War related blogs for my upcoming America’s Civil War Magazine article on blogging.  So, if you’re an active CW blogger and you don’t see yours listed in my links, please be sure to contact me so I don’t miss it.

Published in: on June 15, 2007 at 4:50 pm  Comments (4)  

The 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Another of my favorite regiments is the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Here’s my brief history of the unit, with emphasis on their actions during the Gettysburg Campaign.

Colonels:  Josiah H. Kellogg, James Q. Anderson
Also known as:  162nd Pennsylvania Volunteers
Recruitments: (counties)
   Company A – Beaver
   Company B – Susquehanna
   Company C – Lancaster
   Company D – Bradford
   Company E – Lebanon
   Company F – Cumberland
   Company G – Franklin
   Company H – Schuylkill
   Company I –  Perry and city of Philadelphia
   Company K – Luzerne
   Company L – Montgomery and Chester
   Company M – Wayne
   (During the Battle of Gettysburg, Companies D and H were detached to 5th Corps Headquarters, and Company K to the 11th Corps.)
Dates of Service:
   Organized at Camp Simmons in Harrisburg PA from September to November 1862
   Mustered in October 18, 1862
   Left the state for Washington DC on November 25, 1862
   Mustered out on June 16, 1865 at Washington DC
   (Detachment mustered out on August 17, 1865 at Louisville KY)
Major Engagements:  Kelly’s Ford, Chancellorsville, Beverly Ford, Aldie, Upperville, Ashby’s Gap, Middleburg, Gettysburg, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro, Falling Waters, Brandy Station, Rappahannock Station, Mine Run, Kilpatrick’s Raid, The Wilderness, Todd’s Tavern, Spottsylvania, Front Royal, Yellow Tavern, Hawes Shop, Cold Harbor, Trevilian Station, Kearneysville, Opequon, Winchester, Cedar Creek, Five Forks, Appomattox Station, Appomattox Court House
Regimental Casualties:
   Killed:  6 Officers, 98 Enlisted men
   Died from Disease:  128 Enlisted men

At Camp Simmons, near Harrisburg, the regiment elected the following field officers on October 18, 1862:
   Josiah H. Kellogg, Colonel
   John B. McAllister, Lt. Colonel
   David B. Hartranft, Major
   Coe Durland, Major
   Reuben R. Reinhold, Major
Kellogg was a captain in the 1st United States Cavalry, and some men of the unit had served previously in the Mexican War, but most recruits had no prior military experience.  Most were good horsemen, however, having worked as farmers, lumbermen, and mechanics.  Shortly after its formation, the regiment marched to Camp McClellan, slightly north of Harrisburg, where the men’s sabers, side arms, horses, and accoutrements were issued.  Under the effective leadership of Colonel Kellogg, strenuous drill to perfect their discipline was begun.

The regiment marched to Washington DC on November 25, and encamped for several days on East Capitol Hill, after which it was ordered to the front.  On December 22 the troopers reached Occoquan, where Confederate General Wade Hampton’s Legion of cavalry was encountered during a severe skirmish.  The new horsemen drove and pursued the Confederates across the Occoquan Creek.  Several skirmishes ensued over the next month with enemy cavalry, artillery, and infantry.

In February of 1863, the regiment was assigned to the 2nd Brigade of General John Buford’s 1st Cavalry Division, where it joined with the 6th New York, 6th United States, and the 8th Pennsylvania regiments.  The brigade was commanded by Colonel Thomas C. Devin, a skilled former New York militia cavalryman who had commanded the 6th New York.  The 17th served in this brigade throughout the war.  On February 18, Companies C and I under Captain Spera were ordered into escort duty with General George G. Meade, commander of the Fifth Army Corps, where they would remain until after the Battle of Chancellorsville.  During the battle the men of the companies were kept busy with the transmission of orders. 

During the Chancellorsville Campaign, only three regiments of cavalry moved with Hooker’s columns, one of them the 17th.  The main part of the Cavalry Corps was sent under Averell and Stoneman to harass the enemy’s rear and cut his lines of communication.  Two green squadrons of the regiment were ordered to mass behind the Federal artillery and display a front that would protect their being overrun.  In the “History of Pennsylvania Volunteers 1861-65,” it is stated that “And thus was the mad onset of Stonewall Jackson’s army checked by artillery, supported by a single line of raw cavalry.  It was a trying position for the regiment, but the firm front presented, saved the day, and enabled Hooker to re-form his shattered columns, and once more present an unbroken line.”  In a general order, issued immediately after the battle, Cavalry Corps commander General Alfred Pleasonton stated, “The coolness displayed by the Seventeenth Pennsylvania Regiment, in rallying fugitives, and supporting the batteries (including Martin’s), which repulsed the enemy’s attack under Jackson, on the evening of the 2d instant, has excited the highest admiration.”  Pleasonton’s comments were part of his overall (and spurious) claim to have blunted Jackson’s flank attack and thus “saved” the Union army.

On the 9th of June, the cavalry divisions of Buford and Brigadier General David McM. Gregg crossed the Rappahannock at Beverly and Kelly’s fords respectively, and boldly clashed with the cavalry of Confederate Major General JEB Stuart in the epic cavalry battle of Brandy Station.  After the battle, which lasted nearly the entire day, the 17th participated in covering the withdrawal of the Federal horsemen and was subjected to heavy artillery fire.  On the 11th, the 17th was posted to picket the line of the river, from Beverly Ford to Sulphur Springs, while the main column of the Union Army marched northward.  The 17th then rejoined the Division upon its withdrawal on the 15th.   Early during the morning of the 21st, the regiment was formed in line just west of Middleburg and met the Confederates, repulsed their attack, and drove them toward Upperville.  Near the town, the 17th was ordered to charge the Confederate left flank and in doing so brought heavy artillery fire until they were forced to withdraw.

The next two weeks saw the opposing armies marching parallel northward on their date with destiny in and around the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.  For the boys of the 17th, this would mean returning to and defending their own home soil.  On the morning of the 29th, Buford’s First and Second Brigades marched at about 9 am, moving through Boonsboro, Cavetown, and Monterey Springs, MD.  Following the base of South Mountain, they headed toward Pennsylvania.  When the column reached the Mason-Dixon line, the guidon carrier of Company G of the 17th sat upon his horse, astride the boundary line, announcing to each company of his passing regiment that they were entering upon the Pennsylvania soil.  The men of the 17th “raised their caps and lustily cheered, again and again, for the old Keystone State and Old Glory.”

The division marched on to Fountaindale, located at the mouth of the strategically important South Mountain pass called Monterey Gap.  Proceeding down the rocky cliffs of the mountain, the division encamped about two miles from Fairfield PA.  The regimental historian of the 17th, in describing the rigors of the march north, stated:  “The division had been marching and picketing for almost a week with no rest for man or beast.  They had marched all night to reach this point… The column halted before the light of day with orders to dismount and stand to horse… an hour passed and the gray dawn… lighted up a picture I can never forget.  The men, who were completely exhausted, had slipped the bridle reins over their arms and lay down in a bed of dust (8 inches deep) that almost obscured them from sight.  Their jaded steeds seemed to know they should not move, and propping themselves with extended necks and lowering heads, stood like mute sentinels over their riders dead in sleep.”

Company G of the 17th was raised in the area around nearby Waynesboro and its troopers requested permission to visit their homes and families on the night of the 29th.  Permission was granted, with the promise that all men would return and be present for morning roll call.  It was a proud boast thereafter that not a single man of the company missed roll call early the next morning.

About 2 am on the morning of the 30th of June, the men of both brigades were roused and resumed the march at dawn.  After withdrawing from an unexpected skirmish with some Confederates, the column detoured through Emmitsburg and headed for Gettysburg.  Upon arriving in the town around noon, the men of the 17th and the brigades were met by the excited citizens with anxious shouts and patriotic songs.  Moving west, Buford’s column examined the ridges in the area for defensive positions after spying an approaching column of Confederates under Confederate Brigadier General James Johnston Pettigrew, which withdrew upon spotting the Federals. 

Brigade commander Colonel Devin began setting up his troopers’ dispositions northwest, north, and east of the town for the expected clash in the morning.  The headquarters of the 17th was set up in the John Forney barn, adjacent to the Mummasburg Road.  Advance vidette posts were placed to give early warning and to delay any enemy advancing from the west.  Anxiousness set in that night as a portion of the men slept once again with the bridle reins wrapped around their wrists.

About 7:30 the next morning, the men of the 17th would hear the first shots of the opening of the coming epic battle.  While the troopers of the First Brigade were engaged with the advancing Confederates of Major General Ambrose P. Hill’s Corps, the 17th and the rest of the brigade began setting up their skirmish lines to meet an advance from the north.  About 9 am, Buford spurred his horse up to Colonel Devin and announced that his area was “the key to the army position.  We must hold this if it costs every man in your command.”  The 17th was in that command and they and the Merrill & Smith carbines they carried would be put to the test. 

While the battle raged just to the south of the 17th’s position, Confederate skirmishers under Major General Robert Rodes began advancing upon them from the north.  The advance picket posts of their Second Brigade began the delay tactic, withdrawing upon being pressed, with the entire cavalry line fighting through to exhaustion to hold off the enemy until the Union infantry could arrive.  Lt. Colonel of the 17th, Theodore H. Bean, recalled that “from 8 to 10 o’clock, the unequal conflict was maintained, yielding ground to the enemy step by step, suffering severe loss in officers and men, with many of our led horses, which from time to time came within range of the enemy’s guns.  Our ammunition was almost exhausted, and it was becoming painfully evident that the Seminary Ridge, on which this fierce struggle was raging, would have to be abandoned unless additional support speedily reached us.”  As the men were getting sorely pressed, Devin withdrew the brigade to a defensive position east of their location on Oak Ridge.  Upon the arrival of some Union First Corps infantry, the 17th, engaged with the enemy at this point, was able to join with the rest of the brigade in a thin skirmish line stretched over a two-mile front.  The subsequent arrival of Union Major General Oliver O. Howard’s 11th Corps allowed the tired troopers to move to their right flank, then covered the withdrawal of the corps through the town as they became overwhelmed by the pressing Confederate infantry.  Around 3 pm, the brigade, while attempting to anchor the flank of the Federal Army, came under a heavy friendly artillery fire when a Union battery atop Cemetery hill began shelling the area.  Keeping their demeanor the men of the 17th and the brigade followed Colonel Devin through the shelling and made their way to the rear.  Since the flank of the 11th Corps was now exposed, the Confederates soon routed the Federals.  Troopers of the 17th massed near the York Road and delayed the Confederate pursuit by rapidly firing their single-shot carbines and answering the Rebel Yell with “a ringing loyal cheer.”  The enemy advance was sufficiently delayed so that the routed 11th Corps was able to reach safety on the hill.  The troopers of the 17th then deployed onto Cemetery Hill via the Henry Culp farm.

After the fighting on this momentous day, the 17th joined the division for an anxious respite on the Federal left flank near the Sherfy Peach Orchard, again receiving orders to “stand to horse” throughout the night and be ready for action at any time.  As Bean again recalled, “The Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry fully performed its share of service on the night of July 1, and cheerfully labored without rest or sleep in preventing the advance of the enemy on every road it occupied, and in preparing the field in its rear for the operations of those then marching out to relief.” Through the all-night drenching drizzle of rain, the division’s wagon trains came up and the 17th was able to finally secure some rations and refit.

The next morning, regiments of the 17th’s Second Brigade would engage Confederates once again before being ordered off the battlefield.  The men of the 17th made several charges against them, but was repulsed each time.  Worried that the Federal Army’s wagon trains, still advancing from the south, Cavalry commander Pleasonton ordered Buford’s division toward Westminster MD to guard them and refit.  The hungry, exhausted troopers marched off and had to listen to the sounds of the ensuing battle over the next two days.  Despite their condition, the men of the 17th and the entire division wished they could rejoin their infantry comrades and clamored for any bit of information about the action on the front.

Soon, the regiment would see renewed fighting of its own.  The retreat of Lee’s repulsed army meant a pursuit by the troopers.  On July 6th, the 17th encountered the Confederates near the town of Boonsboro and drove them back after a sharp fight.  The next morning the attack was renewed and the 17th again drove them back.  Skirmishing continued nearly daily throughout the month until the Army of Northern Virginia was able to escape to relative safety.

The fall campaign of 1863 was one of heavy activity for the troopers.  As Bean reflected, “At Racoon Ford, you left your horses under shelter, and rushed to the support of your brother comrades in arms (the 4th New York), who were gallantly struggling against fearful odds, and under a murderous fire of grape and canister from the enemy, saved them from capture, re-established the line, and held it until relieved by the Twelfth Army Corps, for which you received the special commendation of your division commander (Buford).  In the subsequent movements… when the wily rebel chief proposed to flank the army of the Potomac, and thus gain possession of the Capitol, history will accord to the regiment an honorable association with the commands that beat back his advance at Morton’s Ford, Stevensburg, Brandy Station, and Oak Hill, where, holding the extreme left of the line, you skillfully repulsed… with heavy loss, a reckless charge of cavalry, for which that enemy at that time were notorious.  In the counter movements of the campaign, closing with the battle of Bealton Station, and Rickseyville, the occupation of the line on the Rapidan, and the indecisive management at Mine Run, the regiment was present bearing its share of the toils, and sustained its proportion of losses, and… went into winter quarters on the battle beaten plains of Culpepper.”

During the long winter, the regiment was on picket duty.  On February 27, 1864, a detachment of 200 men of the 17th (under Captain Weidner H. Spera) was ordered to report to Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick, who was about to start a raid on the Confederate capitol at Richmond with 5000 cavalrymen.  The raid and its path of destruction began on the following day.  The column reached with a few miles of the city but found a force too large to dislodge.

Throughout the spring campaign the regiment would fight with distinction, notably at Todd’s Tavern.  Fighting by the troopers on the 8th of May to hold the Spottsylvania Road against repeated assaults resulted in severe losses.  The 17th would lead charges of its own; near Richmond on Union Major General Philip M. Sheridan’s own grand raid toward the city, the 17th took the lead in crossing Meadow Bridge under heavy infantry and artillery fire, and delivered a fierce charge, driving Confederates out of their earthworks in confusion.  Lieutenant Joseph E. Shultz was killed in the charge, shot through the heart.

Regimental Quartermaster Lieutenant John Anglun would be killed while the regiment was engaged near Old Church Tavern.  Cold Harbor would see the regiment maneuvering dismounted.  Holding the left of the line, it suffered severe loss during a first advance and was repulsed, but routed and drove the Confederates on the second attempt.  At Trevilian Station, on June 11th, the 17th was sent to the front where Sheridan’s horsemen were hotly engaged.  The regiment would suffer severe losses this day, which caused the outnumbered Sheridan to disengage.  More regimental casualties would mount throughout the summer at White House Landing, Jones’ Bridge, Charles City Court House, and Ruffin’s House.

The 17th was ordered to the Shenandoah Valley in August when Sheridan took command of that Department.   At Major Reuben H. Reinhold’s resignation, Captain Spera was promoted to succeed him.  On the 11th, the 17th was ordered to the front near Newtown and ordered to charge a determined enemy that had just been driven.  After obstinate resistance, the regiment finally dislodged them up the valley.  On the 16th, the Confederates advanced upon their brigade line, with the 17th holding the center.  Immediately put into motion, the brigade attacked and repulsed the Confederates at Front Royal, where brigade commander Devin took a severe wound to the foot that would take him out of action for a month. 

In a diversionary charge made near Shepherdstown the following week, designed to aid Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer’s Division, Lieutenant James Potter was killed.  For three weeks the regiment would be engaged in nearly constant skirmishing, with participation in the actions at Smithfield on June 29th, at White Post of September 1st, at Opequon on the 7th (where Captain Martin R. Reinhold was killed), and at Bunker Hill on the 13th.

With Sheridan now assuming the offensive, the cavalry was brought together and refitted.  Advancing toward the Opequon on the 19th in the early morning hours, the horsemen moved to engage the Confederates near Stevenson Station.  Engaged along both their lines, Sheridan moved the troopers forward, as “step by step the ground was disputed.”  As Confederate cavalry was being massed to dispute the advance, Devin (now Brigadier General) was order to charge with the brigade.  The 17th led the assault and drove the enemy, under Confederate Major General Jubal A. Early, in great confusion towards Winchester.  Sheridan would be able to capture many prisoners and nine battle flags.

Until winter would set in, the regiment would be engaged in numerous skirmishes and battles in Virginia, one which would see the death of Lieutenant Alfred F. Lee.  Returning to Winchester for winter quarters, the troopers were employed in picket and scouting duties, with occasional detachments being sent out against roving bands of the enemy.  On December 27, Colonel Josiah H. Kellogg, in command of the regiment since its inception, was honorably discharged, and Lt. Colonel James Q. Anderson succeeded him.  Major Durland was promoted to Lt. Colonel, and Captains Luther B. Kurtz and William Thompson were both elevated to Major. 

Beginning in February of 1865, the 17th would participate in the raids of destruction led by Sheridan, destroying railroads, warehouses, supplies, and disrupting communications.  Subsequent losses in the regiment would be severe as the horsemen pressed the Confederates onward to Appomattox Court House.  Captain James Ham was killed on April 1 as the regiment charged entrenched Confederates.  Captains English, Henry M. Donehoo, Reinhold, and Lieutenant Anglun were among the wounded.  The cavalry would keep up a “running fight” with the Confederates as they retreated further toward Appomattox.  After Lee’s surrender of his army there, the 17th marched to Petersburg and had a week’s rest, then continued onward to Washington where it remained in camp until being mustered out of service on June 16.  A detachment of the regiment, consolidated with parts of the 1st and 6th Pennsylvania cavalry regiments (formed into the 2nd Provisional Cavalry) remained in service until August when it was mustered out at Louisville KY.  In his farewell order to the gallant troopers of the 17th, Division commander General Devin wrote:  “Of the many gallant regiments from your State none has a brighter record, none has more freely shed their blood on every battle-field from Gettysburg to Appomattox.”

The 17th had one Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, Lieutenant Henry G. Bonebrake of Company G.  Bonebrake was born in Waynesboro PA and received his honor for bravery at the Battle of Five Forks VA on April 1, 1865.  As one of the first troopers of General Devin’s division to enter Confederate earthworks, he fought in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle with a Confederate to capture his battle flag by superior physical strength.  The citation was issued on May 3, 1865.

Regimental standard of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry, made by Horstmann & Co., Philadelphia.

Published in: on June 15, 2007 at 12:08 pm  Comments (114)  

Faded Hoofbeats – Brig. Gen. William Wells, 1st Vermont Cavalry

Another installment, this one of William Wells of the 1st Vermont Cavalry.  Most famous for his participation in “Farnsworth’s Charge” at Gettysburg, Wells’ portrait statue on the ground of the charge greets visitors along Confederate Avenue on their way to the Round Tops.

Click here for the online version of the very rare memorial volume to Wells and the dedication of this statue.

The portrait statue of Major William Wells stands proudly on South Confederate Avenue, at the base of Bushman Hill, and faces in the direction which Brig. General Elon Farnsworth’s Charge on July 3 took place.  The statue of this Medal of Honor winner was dedicated on this spot on July 3, 1913, the 50th anniversary of this day’s actions.  Even though the July 3rd fighting was essentially over late in the day, one “small” act remained to be performed on the Union left.  Accompanied by four companies of the 1st Vermont Cavalry under Major Wells, Farnsworth charged five Confederate regiments of General Evander Law’s brigade and artillery.  Breaking into the Confederate rear right flank, the troopers took heavy musket and cannon fire in the area of the “D-shaped field,” enclosed by a stone wall on the Slyder Farm.  Eventually they had to turn back and lost Farnsworth to mortal wounds, along with 75 of the 225 cavalrymen who followed him.  Wells was awarded the Medal of Honor for “most distinguished gallantry” in the futile charge, ordered by the division commander, Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick.  Farnsworth has never been so honored, nor does he have a monument of his own on the field.Born in Waterbury VT on December 14, 1837, Wells enlisted as a private at the war’s start in the 1st Vermont Cavalry, and was soon elected Captain.  He eventually rose to Brigadier General of Volunteers in May 1865, and had received more promotions than any other Vermont officer during the war.  Captured in the spring of 1863, then exchanged, Wells was promoted to Major.  In June of 1864 he was promoted to Colonel. The State appropriated $6000 to erect his portrait statue at Gettysburg to honor him and the men under his command.  The sculptor, J. Otto Schweizer, used several of Wells’ actual personal  possessions in creating the work.  To use as models, Wells’ own uniform, hat, boots, belt, and revolver were loaned to the sculptor.  The facial features are taken from war-time photographs of Wells.  Upon seeing the finished work, friends of Wells were so pleased with it that an exact copy of the statue was created and erected the following year at Battery Park in Burlington VT.  After the war, Wells served as Adjutant General of Vermont, then in 1872 became a collector of Internal Revenue, and from 1886-87 served in the State Senate of Vermont.  Wells died in New York City on April 29, 1892.  Major General Philip H. Sheridan described Wells as “my ideal of a cavalryman.”

To further honor the troopers of the 1st Vermont who participated in this charge, another $2000 was donated by the Survivors Association to create and place a bronze sculpture plate, depicting the action, on the face of the foundation boulder.  Schweizer, contracted to sculpt this also, desired accuracy in the plate as well.  Using photographs of the actual participants, he modeled each of the faces visible on them and placed them in movements verified by the survivors.  The horses on the plate are known as “Morgans,” the same breed on which the unit was mounted when mustered in in 1861.  Wells is shown out in front of the charge, saber raised, while General Farnsworth falls mortally wounded at his side.  About 20 of the figures on the plaque are identifiable.

Published in: on June 15, 2007 at 10:30 am  Comments (5)  

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.

   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
   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

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.

Published in: on June 14, 2007 at 11:05 am  Comments (54)