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.”