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The charge of the eighth Pennsylvania cavalry.1

I. By Pennock Huey, Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. V.

Just as we reached Hazel Grove, at Scott's Run Crossing, at half-past 6 o'clock P. M., May 2d, a staff-officer rode up in a state of great excitement and reported to General Sickles that the enemy had flanked General Howard's corps, and that he had been sent for a regiment of General Pleasonton's cavalry. General Sickles immediately ordered General Pleasonton to send a regiment. General Pleasonton then ordered me to report with my regiment as quickly as possible to General Howard, whom I would probably find near the old Wilderness church. There were no other orders given to me or to any officer of my regiment.2

I found the regiment, standing to horse, on the opposite or north side of Hazel Grove, near the road. The wood in front was so thick with underbrush that a bird could scarcely fly through it; much less could a cavalry charge have been made. On inquiring for the adjutant of the regiment, and on being informed by some of the men where he was, I rode to the point designated and found Major Peter Keenan, Captain William A. Dailey, Adjutant J. Haseltine Haddock, and Lieutenant Andrew B. Wells playing cards under a tree. When I ordered them to mount their commands they were all in high spirits about the game, Keenan remarking: “Major, you have spoiled a good game!”

After mounting the regiment I rode off at its head in my proper place, followed by four other officers, all of whom belonged in front except Lieutenant Carpenter, who commanded the second company of the first squadron, and might properly have been in the rear of the first company, where he undoubtedly would have been had I supposed there was danger ahead. The officers in front were: Major Pennock Huey, commander of the regiment; Major Peter Keenan, commander of the first battalion; Captain Charles Arrowsmith, commander of the first squadron; Lieutenant J. Edward Carpenter, commander of the second company; and Adjutant J. Haseltine Haddock, whose place was with me unless otherwise ordered. We rode through the wood toward the Plank road; there was no unusual stir or excitement among the men or officers of the regiment, the impression being that the enemy were retreating, and all who had not heard of General Howard's disaster felt happy with the thought that the battle was almost over. No one in the regiment, with the exception of myself, knew where we were going or for what purpose.

From the information I had received from General Pleasonton, and from hearing the aide make his report before I started, I had no idea that we would meet the enemy till after I had reported to General Howard. Therefore the surprise was as great to us as to the enemy, as we were entirely unprepared, our sabers being in their scabbards. When we arrived almost at the Plank road, we discovered that we had ridden right into the enemy, the Plank road in our front being occupied by them in great force, and that we were completely surrounded, the woods at that point being filled with flankers of Jackson's column, who were thoroughly hidden from our view by the thick undergrowth. It was here that I gave the command to “draw sabers and charge,” which order was repeated by Major Keenan and other officers. The charge was led by the five officers already named, who were riding at the head of the regiment when we left Hazel Grove. On reaching the Plank road it appeared to be packed about as closely with the enemy as it possibly could be.

We turned to the left, facing the Confederate column, the regiment crowding on, both men and horses in a perfect frenzy of excitement, which nothing but death could stop. We cut our way through, trampling down all who could not escape us, and using our sabers on all within reach, for a distance of about 100 yards, when we received a volley from the enemy, which killed Major Keenan, Captain Arrowsmith, and Adjutant Haddock, three of the noblest and most gallant officers of the war, besides a large number of men. All three of the above-named officers fell at the same time and from the same volley, Major Keenan falling against me and lighting on the ground under my horse. A few days afterward his body was found near the spot where he had fallen.


II. by J. Edward Carpenter, Major, 8th Pennsylvania cavalry.3

There was no confusion at Hazel Grove when the regiment received its orders and left that place. No enemy was in sight. Indeed, until after the 8th Pennsylvania had left the place there was not the slightest evidence that the enemy was in the immediate neighborhood, excepting, perhaps, that the musketry-firing seemed to be drawing nearer. The charge of the regiment was made on the Plank road, about three-quarters of a mile from where Pleasonton was at Hazel Grove, and was first ordered by the commanding officer of the regiment at the moment when the emergency arose.

The writer of this, although himself a participator in the charge, was unable to recognize General Pleasonton's description of it and the surrounding scenes attending it. [See p. 179.] A letter from the writer to a member of his family, written three days after the charge, is now before him. From this letter the following is extracted:

We lost, however, I regret to say, three gallant officers, Major Keenan, Captain Arrowsmith and Adjutant Haddock. Major Huey and . . . were the only ones who came out from the head of the column. All the rest were killed, wounded, or prisoners.

When this letter was written on the 5th of May, 1863, there was no thought of controversy. It was intended only for the eye of the person to whom it was written, with no idea that it would be preserved.

General Pleasonton's report of the operations of his command at Chancellorsville, dated May 18th, 1863, makes no mention of Keenan, but commends Huey as the commander of the regiment and indorses his report. In Major Huey's report of the operations of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry, dated May 9th, 1863, he states that he was ordered to report, with his command, to General Howard, and no mention is made of any order from General Pleasonton to charge. This report was before Pleasonton when his own report was made, and no exception was ever taken to it. In Colonel Thomas C. Devin's report of the 2d brigade, dated May 12th, 1863, he states that the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry was sent to the support of General Howard, and Major Huey is complimented as the commander of the regiment. No mention is made of an order to Keenan to charge, and Keenan is only referred to as having gallantly fallen.

Iii. By Andrew B. Wells, Captain, Co. F, 8th Pennsylvania cavalry.

Our regiment, on the second day of May, 1863, was awaiting orders in a clearing of wooded country called Hazel Grove. We had been there some little time. Everything was quiet on the front. The men were gathered in groups, chatting and smoking, and the officers were occupied in much the same manner, wondering what would turn up next.

About 4 o'clock I suggested a game of draw poker. An empty cracker-box, with a blanket thrown over it, served as a card-table. The party playing, if I mistake not, was composed of Major Keenan, Adjutant Haddock, Captain Goddard, Lieutenant W. A. Daily, and myself. We had been playing about two hours--the game was a big one and we were all absorbed in it — when, about 6 P. M., it was brought to an abrupt end by the appearance of a mounted officer. Riding up to where we were playing, he asked in an excited manner: “Who is in command of this regiment?” Major Keenan, who was seated beside me, turned his head and said, in a joking way: “I am; what's the trouble?” Our visitor replied: “General Howard wants a cavalry regiment.” And before we had time to ask further questions he was off, and the next moment we were all on our feet, and our game was ended. I remember it perfectly well, for I was out of pocket on the play.4 The regiment was mounted, I mounting at the same time and alongside of Major Keenan. We then moved out of Hazel Grove by twos. Keenan, Haddock, Arrowsmith, Huey, and Carpenter moved out with the first squadron. I remember distinctly seeing that group of officers, and did not see General Pleasonton at the time.

I was under the impression, and believe that the other officers also were, that we were on our road to report to General Howard. Anyhow, I fell in with the second squadron, Captain William A. Corrie being in command, and he and I rode together at the head of it. When we passed out of the clearing there were no officers or men on our flank, all was in order ahead, and the command was moving at a walk. The command entered the woods and was still moving on a walk, when, at the distance of about one mile from where we had mounted, Captain Corrie and myself saw the first squadron take the trot, leaving a space between us of about twenty-five yards. At the same time we heard the command, “Draw sabers,” and saw the first squadron draw them. We then heard the musketry-firing. In was given in continuous but distant volleys.

We of the second squadron knew that our time was at hand, and Captain Corrie gave the order to draw sabers and charge. Taking a trot, we found that the road took a bend as we proceeded. When we turned the corner of the wood-road a sight met our eyes that it is impossible for me to describe. After charging over the dead men and horses of the first squadron we charged into Jackson's column, and, as luck would have it, found them with empty guns — thanks to our poor comrades ahead. [188] The enemy were as thick as bees, and we appeared to be among thousands of them in an instant.

After we reached the Plank road we were in columns of fours and on the dead run, and when we struck the enemy there occurred a “jam” of living and dead men, friends and enemies, and horses, and the weight of the rear of our squadron broke us into utter confusion, so that at the moment every man was for himself.

The third squadron, which Captain P. L. Goddard commanded, was in our rear, and came thundering along after us, but as to the balance of the regiment I do not know how they came in or got out.

The enemy were as much surprised as we were, and thought, no doubt, as they now say, that the whole cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac was charging them. I distinctly remember hearing a number of them call out, “I surrender, I surrender.” We did not stop to take any prisoners for fear of being captured ourselves,--I had been caught once and was just out of Libby prison and did not want to be captured again,--but made for our lines as best we could.

The whole affair was accidental. We were on our way to report to General Howard, some three miles from where we were encamped, and the country that General Howard's staff-officer had just passed over in quest of the cavalry had in the meantime been crossed by Stonewall Jackson's troops, and in following the same track we naturally ran into them. The officers who were at the head of our column, seeing the situation, had only an instant to determine what was to be done. We could not turn around and get out in the face of the enemy, and the only thing left for us was to go through them, “sink or swim.”

Can any man who was a soldier for one moment imagine an officer deliberately planning a charge by a regiment of cavalry, strung out by twos in a column half a mile long in a thick wood?

The artillery at Hazel Grove.5

by James F. Huntington, Captain, Battery H, 1ST Ohio artillery.
When Jackson's advance struck the Eleventh Corps, four batteries had been for some time waiting orders in the extensive clearing known as Hazel Grove. Of these, “H,” 1st Ohio Light Artillery, and the 10th and 11th New York Independent Batteries belonged to Whipple's division of the Third Corps. They were left there when that division passed through en route to join the force operating under General Sickles near the Furnace. Later, Martin's horse battery, with Devin's cavalry brigade, arrived and took ground on the opposite or south side of the field. When the sound of battle indicated that the enemy were driving in the right of the army, and were approaching Hazel Grove, the batteries of Whipple's division were brought into position under my direction, as acting chief of artillery. Although the movement was delayed by causes beyond my control until its execution had become exceedingly difficult, our eighteen guns were established in battery, ready to open before the enemy fired a shot or were in a position to do so. General Pleasonton seems to be unaware of that fact, or he would hardly have failed to allude to it. It is, therefore, fair to presume that his attention was engrossed by the supervision of Martin's battery, as detailed in his paper. General Sickles, on his arrival, soon after the firing ceased, sent for me and warmly expressed his approbation of the manner in which my command had held the ground.6

Nothing on wheels from the Eleventh Corps passed through Hazel Grove. The vehicles that stampeded through my lines while in process of formation were forges, battery-wagons, ambulances, etc., belonging to the Third Corps, left in the cross-road leading to the Plank road, when that corps went out to the Furnace to attack Jackson's column. So whatever else may have formed the components of the remarkable tumulus described by General Pleasonton, it certainly did not contain the debris of the Eleventh Corps. As for the tumulus itself, it escaped my observation when I crossed the bog he refers to on Sunday morning with my battery, or what there was left of it, at the pressing solicitation of Archer's Confederate brigade.

Boston, October 14th, 1886. [189]

Race on the Plank road for right of way, between the Ninth Massachusetts Battery and a baggage train.

1 extracted by permission and condensed from “a true history of the charge of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry at Chancellorsville,” by Pennock Huey, Philadelphia, 1885.--editors.

2 General Huey was at this time Major (afterward Colonel) of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry, and was the senior officer present with it. [See also p. 187.]--editors.

3 taken by permission from the “Philadelphia Weekly press,” October 13th, 1886, and condensed.--editors.

4 Captain Wells has elsewhere said that at 6:20 by his watch, Major Huey rode up and gave the order to mount.--editors.

5 in reply to statements contained in General Pleasonton's paper, p. 179.--editors.

6 General Sickles says in his official report: “I confided to Pleasonton the direction of the artillery--three batteries of my reserve — Clark's, Lewis's [10th New York, of Huntington's command] and Turnbull's, and his own horse-battery. . . . The fugitives of the Eleventh Corps swarmed from the woods and swept frantically over the cleared fields in which my artillery was parked. . . . The enemy showing himself on the plain, Pleasonton met the attack at short range with the well-directed fire of twenty-two pieces double-shotted with canister.” According to this one of Huntington's three batteries (Lewis's 10th New York) was placed under Pleasonton's control. Probably this battery, with Turnbull's, Clark's, and Martin's, made up the twenty-two guns mentioned by both Sickles and Pleasonton. General Hunt, the chief of artillery of the army, says: “When the Eleventh Corps was broken up and routed on the 2d, . . . General Pleasonton collected some batteries belonging to different corps (Martin's Horse Artillery, 6th New York, six 3-inch guns, Clark's B, 1st New Jersey, six 10-pounders; Lewis's 10th New York, six light 12-pounders; Turnbull's F and K, 3d U. S., six 12-pounders), and with them formed a large battery of twenty-four guns.”--editors.

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