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The First Maryland cavalry, C. S. A.

by Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden.
In the March, 1877, number of the Southern Historical Society Papers, page 136, Mr. Lamar Holliday, quite unintentionally, I am satisfied, fails to do full justice to the First Maryland Cavalry, C. S. A. The impression conveyed by his article is that the First Maryland Cavalry was not in the Confederate service until its organization as a battalion, in November, 1862. A fuller history of this command will, I am sure, interest those who survive. The facts I give are from my own knowledge and from my diary, kept during the first two years of the war.

Before 1861 there were organized in Howard county, Maryland, two cavalry companies of from 75 to 100 men each. They were composed of the choicest material of the county. In one company there were seventeen members of the Dorsey family; in the other company, eleven members of the same family. The first company organized was named the Howard County Dragoons, commanded by Captain Geo. R. Gaither. Both companies were handsomely uniformed according to United States army regulations, well mounted, and furnished by Governor Hicks with the best cavalry sabres and Colt's revolvers. When the indignation of the citizens of Baltimore burst forth at the appearance, on the 19th of April, 1861, of a Massachusetts regiment marching through her streets to make war on the South, the Howard County Dragoons immediately assembled at Ellicott's Mills, and on the next day marched into the city and placed themselves under the command of General G. H. Steuart. This action, and the subsequent treachery of Governor Hicks, made it necessary, when quiet was seemingly restored, either to disband the company or to march it South of the Potomac. Early in May a large portion of the Dragoons, mounted and equipped, crossed at Point of Rocks and rendezvoused at Leesburg under Captain Gaither. Here the writer joined them May 30, 1861. At that time an effort was made to organize “the Maryland Line.”

This proposed organization failing, “the Maryland Cavalry,” as the company was called, marched on the 15th of June to Winchester, and on the 17th united with the cavalry regiment under Colonel [252] Angus McDonald. This regiment was ordered to Romney, Va., on the 18th of June, where the Maryland company encamped, and performed picket duty until July 18th, when, owing to some dissatisfaction with the idle life they were leading, the company withdrew from Colonel McDonald's command, and by forced marches placed itself under the command of Colonel J. E. B. Stuart, and became Company K of the First Virginia cavalry; doing such excellent service during her connection with this famous regiment, that at the retreat from Manassas Colonel Fitzhugh Lee said, “Give me the Maryland company and one hundred other men, and I will keep McClellan back a month longer.”

The company reached Manassas on the night of the 20th July, and participated in that memorable battle of the 21st. About the 28th of July, near Fairfax Courthouse, the company was for the first time mustered in the Confederate States Army, and an election of officers was held, resulting as follows: George R. Gaither, captain; George Howard, first lieutenant; Thomas Griffith, second lieutenant. As well as I can remember, the company numbered fifty members rank and file.

Before the one year for which this company had enlisted had expired the time of enlistment was unanimously extended to two years more, or three years from the date of first enlistment (May, 1861). During this year there had been various changes among the officers; Corporals Brown and Bond had each risen to the grade of sergeant, and then to first and second lieutenant.

On Saturday, April 26, 1862, a new election occurred in the company, resulting in the re-election of George R. Gaither, captain, and the election of G. W. Dorsey, first lieutenant; N. Hobbs, second lieutenant; W. Cecil, third lieutenant. The same day the minority of thirty-one sent a petition to Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, and also to General George H. Steuart, by James Clark, asking to be transferred as cavalry to the “the Maryland Line.” The result is thus noted in my diary: “Monday, 5, 12, ‘62.-Company to be mustered out on Wednesday; Company Q (the title assumed by the minority, in jest rather,) is to be transferred to-morrow. Tuesday, 5, 13, ‘62.-Lieutenant Bond returned from Richmond; Company Q transferred and move towards Richmond; Company K discharged.” The next movement of Company Q is recorded in Goldsborough's History of the Maryland line, p. 197. On the [253] 15th of May, 1861, (Thursday), eighteen of the thirty-one assembled at Richmond and organized Company A, the nucleus of the First Maryland cavalry; and the following officers were elected: Captain, Ridgeley Brown; First Lieutenant, Frank A. Bond; Second Lieutenant, Thomas Griffith; Third Lieutenant, James A. Ventris Pue. The subsequent history of this company is already recorded by Major Goldsborough.

During its connecti n with the First Virginia Cavalry it won for itself a reputation for bravery and faithfulness in the performance of duty second to none. Owing to its material and excellent equipment, it was frequently called upon to do extra duty; was in all the encounters with the enemy in which the First Virginia Cavalry was engaged, from the first battle of Manassas to the mustering out of the company on the Peninsula.

It is a just tribute to the beloved Colonel Ridgeley Brown, who was killed while gallantly leading his command in a victorious charge, June 1, 1864, near the South Anna, to notice that, from the day he first entered the company as a private, he won and retained the confidence and love of his comrades. His faithful devotion to his duties as a soldier won for him, step by step, the positions he held — as corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, and lieutenant-colonel. And the same tribute is justly due to his brave fellow-in-arms, Colonel Frank A. Bond, who also entered the ranks as a private, and filled each grade of rank within the gift of his command.

Brownsville, Pa., July 4, 1877.

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