the Confederate cavalry in the East: the cavalry corps of the army of Northern Virginia
Holmes Conrad, Major Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia
One of the regiments that Stuart eluded: lancers in the Federal cavalry.
A glance at the gallant and hardy bearing of Rush's Lancers as they looked in 1862, and at their curious weapons, suggestive more of Continental than of American warfare, brings sufficient testimony to the high quality of the men who endeavored to curb the Confederate leader, Stuart, and the resources behind them.
The usual armament of the Union volunteer cavalry regiments consisted of a saber, a revolver, and a single-shot carbine.
The Sixth Pennsylvania was provided with lances in addition to the pistol, twelve carbines being afterwards added to the equipment of each troop for picket and scouting duty.
A clean cut, smart-looking lot they are by the streaming pennants — the privates, recruited from the fashionable athletic set of the day in Philadelphia, no less than the officer, so intent upon the coffee that his orderly is pouring out. But it was vainly that in North or South, in Pennsylvania or in Virginia, in Federal territory or along the banks of the Chickahominy, the men of this crack Pennsylvania regiment tried to catch Stuart and his fleet command.
At Tunstall's Station, Virginia, they were two hours late; at Emmittsburg, Maryland, an hour early.
On the occasion of Stuart's famous raid on Chambersburg, in October, 1862, General Pleasonton, irritated by the audacity of the daring Southerner, had made every disposition to head off the raiders before they reached the Potomac.
General Pleasonton himself, with eight hundred men; Colonel Richard H. Rush, with his unique lancers, and General Stoneman, with his command, were all scouring the country in search of Stuart, who was encumbered with many captured horses, but was moving steadily toward the Potomac.
A march of thirty-two miles from Chambersburg brought the wily Stuart to Emmittsburg about seven o'clock on the evening of the 11th. One hour before their arrival six companies of the Lancers, at that time attached to the Third Brigade, had passed through the town on their way to Gettysburg.
But until the day of his death, Stuart often managed so that the Union cavalry came too early or too late. |
The Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was a growth, not a creation.
Its nucleus was formed of three cavalry companies, at Harper's Ferry
, in April, 1861. “Clarke
's cavalry” was stationed at the bridge over the Shenandoah River
near Harper's Ferry
's company was at the bridge over the Potomac River
at the Point of Rocks
, and Drake
's company was at the bridge at Brunswick
J. E. B. Stuart
was commissioned as lieutenant-colonel and assigned to the command of the cavalry in the district then commanded by Colonel T. J. Jackson
When General Joseph E. Johnston
relieved Colonel Jackson
, the forces were withdrawn from Harper's Ferry
, and the headquarters of that army were at Winchester
, in the Shenandoah valley.
On July 1, 1861, General Patterson
crossed the Potomac
with the intention of operating against General Johnston
, and preventing him from reenforcing Beauregard
The first engagement of any kind between these opposing forces is known as “the affair at Falling Waters
,” in which Jackson
, with three hundred and eighty infantry and one piece of artillery, detained the advance of Patterson
's army for some days.
, with his cavalry, was reconnoitering on Patterson
's right flank.
While passing along the edge of a piece of woods, he came suddenly upon a company of Pennsylvania
infantry, separated from him by a high rail fence.
, dressed in a blue-flannel coat and corduroy trousers, rode to the fence and in peremptory tones
One of the earliest Confederate cavalry exploits
A month before the first battle of Bull Run, the bridge at Berlin, Md., six miles below Harper's Ferry, was thoroughly destroyed in one of the first exploits of the Confederate cavalry.
It was not yet organized.
A few detached bands here and there — the Clarke company at the bridge over the Shenandoah River near Harper's Ferry, Ashby's company at the bridge over the Potomac River at the Point of Rocks, and Drake's company at the bridge at Brunswick — were operating along the first Confederate line of defense.
But they had already begun to demonstrate their daring and effectiveness.
This was the prelude to the bold rides of Stuart and Forrest, to the swift raids of Morgan and the terror-inspiring Mosby.
It was acts like this that hampered the Union leaders, and detained an army between Washington and the Confederates.
Not until the Union cavalry had learned to retaliate, and to meet and fight the exhausted Confederate horsemen on their own ground and in their own way, did the Union generals get complete possession of their infantry. |
ordered the Federals
to pull down the fence at once, which they did. The cavalry rode into their midst, and without the firing of a pistol took the entire company of thirty or forty men.
On the 18th of July, Johnston
withdrew his army from Winchester
, and moved toward Manassas
's entire command consisted of twenty-one officers and three hundred and thirteen men. All were well mounted and at home on horseback.
Yet for arms they could muster but few sabers of regulation make and still fewer revolvers, although double-barreled shotguns and rifles were prevalent.
This command reached Manassas
on the evening of the 20th of July, and went into camp.
The next morning, at early dawn, it was aroused by the firing of a signal gun by the Federals
In the afternoon, General T. J. Jackson
's brigade, while fully occupied in front, was threatened by the advance of a heavy attacking column on its left.
was sent to its relief, and moving in column on Jackson
's left, he soon came in view of a formidable line of Zouaves moving upon Jackson
The appearance of the head of Stuart
's column arrested the movement of the opponents, attracted their fire, and finally caused their withdrawal, for which Jackson
, in his report, made grateful acknowledgment.
During the summer
, the cavalry occupied and held Mason
's and Munson
's hills and picketed as far as Falls Church
and at points along the Potomac
With the exception of an affair at Lewinsville, in September, the period was uneventful and free from striking incidents.
In September, 1861, Stuart
was commissioned brigadier-general, and in December occurred the battle of Dranesville
, in which he commanded the Confederate forces, but the result of the engagement afforded him no ground for congratulation.
In March, 1862, the Confederates
, and moved below Richmond
The advance of McClellan
up the Peninsula
, afforded but little opportunity for cavalry operations other than protecting the flanks
Falls church, on the Confederate picket line in 1861-nearly three miles from Washington
This typical cross-roads Virginia church, less than three miles from Washington, lay on the end of the line patroled by the Confederate cavalry pickets in the summer and fall of 1861.
Strange-looking soldiers were those riders in Colonel J. E. B. Stuart's command, without uniforms, armed with rifles and double-barreled shot-guns, with hardly a saber or a revolver.
While McClellan was drilling his army in Washington and metamorphosing it from an “armed mob” into an efficient fighting machine, the Confederate horsemen occupied and held Mason's and Munson's Hill and picketed at points along the Potomac.
With the exception of an affair at Lewinsville in September there was little actual fighting.
In that month Stuart was commissioned brigadier-general, and in December occurred the battle of Dranesville, in which he commanded the Confederate forces, but failed to carry the day. Soon, however, he leaped into fame. |
and rear of the army as it withdrew within the lines around Richmond
Toward the middle of June was effected that brilliant movement which so distinctly illustrates the daring and skill of Stuart
and the unfailing endurance of his men. He passed around the entire Federal army, obtaining the information he sought and returning to Camp with the substantial rewards of his prowess.
During the Seven Days battles around Richmond
, but little opportunity was afforded for cavalry operations beyond the ordinary work of obtaining information on the front and flanks, but in the latter part of June, Stuart
reached White House
, where a Federal gunboat had been seen on the Pamunkey
Seventy-five dismounted cavalrymen, armed with carbines and deployed as skirmishers, approached the vessel, whereupon a body of sharpshooters was landed from the gunboat and advanced to meet them.
A single howitzer of the Stuart horse artillery opened on the war-ship from a position on which her guns could not be brought to bear.
The shells from the howitzer greatly distressed her, and withdrawing her sharpshooters, she disappeared down the river.
On no occasion was the audacity of Stuart
and the temper of his men more severely tested than in October, when there was carried through the movement to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania
, which was reached on the 10th.
The advance was bold and perilous enough, but it was tame in comparison with the return.
The Union forces had been thoroughly aroused, and dispositions had been ordered, intended and calculated to head off the invaders before they could recross the Potomac
, a march of nearly thirty-two miles brought Stuart
and his men to Emmittsburg at about seven o'clock on the evening of the 11th. One hour before their arrival, four companies of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry had passed through the town on their way to Gettysburg
with eight hundred men, Colonel Rush
with his regiment, and General Stoneman
with his command were scouring
A Confederate horse at an historic Virginia spot, in May, 1862
When 1861 came, the young men in the North were to be found rather at commercial and indoor pursuits, as compared to those in the South.
There the sports of country life appealed in preference, and the rifle and saddle were more familiar than the counting-house.
Thus the Confederate cavalrymen saw nothing wrong in the proposition that they should furnish their own mounts throughout the war. The name of the beautiful horse in this photograph was “Secesh.”
Its upraised ears and alert expression of interest in the man who is waving his hat in the foreground, to make it look at the camera, proves it a “well-bred” animal.
“Secesh” was captured by the Federals in 1862 at Yorktown, and the spot where the photograph was taken is historic.
It is the cave excavated in the marl bluff by Cornwallis in 1781, for secret councils. |
the country in search of Stuart
, who was encumbered with many captured horses in his march toward the Potomac
had so interpreted Stuart
's movements as to make it clear to his mind that Stuart
must cross the river at the mouth of the Monocacy
, but, as a matter of fact, White's Ferry
was the point at which the Confederate
purposed to get over.
Colonel W. H. F. Lee
commanded the advance, and as he approached the ferry, he found it guarded by a force of Federal infantry.
had arranged his plan of attack upon these troops when it occurred to him to try a milder method.
He sent a flag of truce to the Union
commander and demanded the unconditional surrender of his men within fifteen minutes. To this there was no response, and Colonel Lee
then opened with one gun, which fire was not returned.
In a few moments the Union
infantry quit their impregnable position and withdrew down the river.
and his returning legions, with all their plunder, then crossed the Potomac
Several companies in the Virginia
cavalry regiments were mounted on thoroughbred racers, sired by horses whose names are as household words in racing annals.
One experience, in the summer of 1861, demonstrated their unfitness for cavalry service.
After General Patterson
had crossed the Potomac
and occupied Martinsburg
, the First Virginia Cavalry was in Camp in an apple orchard, about two miles south of that town.
A section of a Federal battery of two rifled guns advanced and took position a few hundred yards from the orchard, and threw some percussion shells over the cavalrymen.
The missiles struck soft earth beyond and did not explode, but their screams, as they passed over the camp, were appalling.
One of the companies, mounted on thoroughbreds, had no more control over their steeds than they had over the shells that frightened them.
The commander of the company sought to divert attention from the noise by keeping the horses in motion, but no sooner were they brought into line than they broke and ran. A hundred yards distant was a fence, eight
A Southern roadster in 1862, at the spot where Stuart on his famous raid escaped from danger
The spring, the rangy endurance of this Virginia riding-horse, halted on the highway near Charles City Court House, illustrates one factor in the dismay the Confederate cavalrymen were able to implant in the hearts of their Northern opponents during the first two years of the war. This horse, by the way, is treading the very road where Stuart, two years before, had escaped across the Chickahominy from the vengeful army riding in his wake after he had ridden completely around its rear.
Such raids, until the North had created an efficient cavalry force, destroyed millions of dollars' worth of Federal property and exercised a tremendous moral effect.
The cry of “The black horse cavalry” terrified still further the panic-stricken Federal troops at Bull Run; Mosby's brilliant dashes at poorly guarded Union wagon trains and careless outposts taught the Northern leaders many a lesson, and Stuart's two raids around McClellan's army, on the Peninsula and in Maryland, resulted in the systematic upbuilding of a Federal cavalry.
In the latter years of the war, when the South was exhausted of such horses, their cavalry became less efficient, but nothing can dim the luster of their performances in those first two hopeful and momentous years. |
They cleared this like deer, and moved to the northwest.
The rifled guns returned to Martinsburg
, and the regiment remained in the orchard, but it was two days before all those race-horses found their way back to the regiment.
Blooded horses proved unfit for the service; they fretted and exhausted themselves on a quiet march, and proved to be unmanageable in field engagements.
June, 1863, witnessed the most spectacular tournament in which the cavalry of the opposing armies in Virginia
The Army of Northern Virginia was entering upon the campaign that was to culminate in the three days battle of Gettysburg
, and the entire cavalry force had been assembled for review, at Brandy Station
. General Pleasonton
, commander of the Union
Cavalry Corps, wished to cross the Rappahannock
to ascertain the disposition of General Lee
Two fords led across the river in that vicinity, Beverly
's, and these were promptly approached by the inquisitive Northerners.
The second and third divisions of cavalry and a brigade of infantry were ordered to cross at Kelly's Ford
; the first cavalry division, with another brigade of infantry, was ordered to cross at Beverly Ford.
Several batteries of artillery accompanied each column, and never were batteries more gallantly served or skilfully commanded.
On the morning of the 9th of June, the Eighth New York Cavalry crossed at Beverly Ford.
One company of the Sixth Virginia, under Captain Gibson
, formed the picket at this point.
's headquarters had been on Fleetwood Hill
from which, however, he had, luckily, removed his baggage at an early hour.
's force of Federal cavalry which crossed at Beverly Ford was, in the opinion of all of us, quite enough to satisfy the wishes of reasonable men, and Stuart
had not reckoned on a further assault on his rear.
But General Gregg
, with another division of Federal cavalry, crossed at Kelly's Ford
, and thus had Fleetwood Hill
, which was the key to the situation between the two hostile forces.
The banks of the Chickahominy in 1862--when Stuart crossed it in the first great raid of the war
This small but quick-rising little stream came nearer than the entire Union army to stopping Stuart in his famous “ride around McClellan” on the Peninsula, June 13-15, 1862.
This was the first of the great Confederate raids that served to startle the Union into a recognition of the maladministration of its cavalry.
After a brush with a squadron the Fifth United States Cavalry, commanded by Captain W. B. Royall, and a short halt at Old Church, he marched with only twelve hundred cavalrymen, by night, down through New Kent to Sycamore Ford on the Chickahominy, thence straight back to Richmond along the James River road.
His entire loss was one man killed and a few wounded; yet he brought prisoners and plunder from under McClellan's very nose.
Of most importance, he discovered the exact location of the Federal right wing, so that Jackson attacked it a few days later successfully.
The cavalry gained confidence in itself, and the Confederacy rang with praises of its daring.
The one really dangerous moment to the adventurous party came when the Chickahominy was reached on the homeward journey and was found to be swollen suddenly, and impassable even by swimming.
Only Stuart's promptness in tearing down a mill and building a bridge with its timbers got his men across before the Federals hove in sight. |
6-pounder howitzer had been left on Fleetwood Hill
, under charge of Lieutenant Carter
, and with this disabled gun and a very limited amount of ammunition, General Gregg
was held in check until aid from General W. E. Jones
' brigade could be sent.
very naturally supposed that so important a position would not have been left unprotected, and that a stronger protection than one howitzer would have been afforded it. One dash by him with but a single regiment would have taken the position, and placed Stuart
in a very uncomfortable situation.
From early morn till the stars arose did the battle of Brandy Station
The full cavalry forces of both armies were engaged, and neither could claim the advantage in gallantry or skill.
The greater credit is due, perhaps, to the Federals
, because they were the attacking party, and their assault had to be made by crossing a swollen river in the face of a cavalry corps that had the advantage of being on its own ground, and had the means of concentrating at each of the fords, which were the only ways the Federals
had of getting access to the field.
In no engagement between these two cavalry corps were sabers used so freely, or charges by regiments in line made so frequently and furiously.
was then advancing toward Pennsylvania
was screening this movement by keeping to the east of the Blue Ridge
, and marching northward.
The country was checkered with stone fences, strongly built and in good condition.
Along the turnpike from Washington
, passing through Aldie
, and Paris
there was continuous and severe fighting in which the cavalry alone participated.
A Federal force, formed of the second cavalry division under General Gregg
, with Kilpatrick
's brigade and a battery of artillery, moved swiftly and with determination.
Captain Reuben Boston
had been placed with his Confederate squadron on the right of the road, with instructions to hold it. It appeared later that this little band had been
Brigadier-General Thomas T. Munford, C. S. A.
From the Peninsula to the last stand of the Confederate cavalry at Sailor's Creek, General Munford did his duty both gallantly and well.
As colonel of the Second Virginia Cavalry he masked the placing of a battery of thirty-one field pieces upon the bluff at White Oak swamp, June 30, 1862.
When the screen of cavalry was removed, the gunners opened up and drove a Union battery of artillery and a brigade of McClellan's infantry rearguard from a large field just across the White Oak stream.
His was the regiment which picketed the roads leading in the direction of the Federal forces upon the occasion of Jackson's famous raid around Pope's army to Manassas Junction.
At Antietam he commanded a brigade of dismounted cavalry, comprising the Second and Twelfth Virginia regiments and eight guns, and he was with Longstreet and Hill at South Mountain. General Munford and General Rosser were two brigadiers of Fitzhugh Lee when the latter assumed command of all the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia in March, 1865.
Munford's diminished brigade was swept before the Federal infantry fighting bravely at Five Forks, but with undiminished courage it drove back Crook on the north side of the Appomattox River only two days before Lee's surrender to Grant. |
stationed too far to the front to receive aid from the rest of the regiment, and hence, after receiving and repulsing several attacks, Boston
fell, with a remnant of his squadron, into the hands of the Sixth Ohio Cavalry.
Peremptory orders were frequently given without due consideration, and they were as frequently obeyed, even when the person so ordered knew that they were destructive.
In this same campaign, Colonel Duffie
, of the First Rhode Island Cavalry, was ordered to encamp at Middleburg
on the night of June 17th, and his line of march was prescribed.
He followed that line and it disclosed to him the presence of the Confederates
at many points along its course.
He reached Middleburg
, and despatched an officer to General Kilpatrick
, at Aldie
, to advise him of the situation, but Kilpatrick
's troops were too exhausted to go to Duffie
‘s relief, and the latter's regiment was attacked in the morning by Robertson
's Confederate brigade, and two hundred of his men fell into Robertson
Many brilliant incidents of the Gettysburg campaign
testify to the efficiency of the cavalry on both sides.
was off on the left of the Confederate army, Robertson
's brigade was on the right.
General W. E. Jones
was sent, with three regiments, to protect the wagon train near Fairfield
Near that place, the Sixth United States Cavalry, under Major Starr
, met the Seventh Virginia, and decidedly worsted that gallant regiment; but the Sixth Virginia, under Major Flournoy
, took its place, and the tide was turned.
The Sixth United States was routed, its brave commander was wounded and captured, with one hundred and eighty-four of his command.
fell back from Gettysburg
, the Potomac River
was much swollen.
From the 8th to the 11th of July, Stuart
was engaged in guarding the front of the Confederate army, waiting for the waters to fall.
Cavalry engagements, of more or less severity, with the divisions of Buford
, took place at Boonesboro
, Beaver Creek
, and in
A restful scene at General McDowell's headquarters-taken while Stuart's cavalry was extremely busy
The Federals were camping in peaceful and luxurious fashion, August, 1862, quite unconscious that Jackson with Stuart's cavalry, was cutting in between them and Washington.
It would have seemed madness to the Union generals in command of one hundred thousand men, with potential reinforcements of fifty thousand more, that the Confederate leaders should split their army of only fifty-five thousand and separate the parts by two days march.
It turned out that the Confederate generals were “mad,” but that there was brilliant method in their madness.
Twice they had attempted to turn the Federal right, when Pope lay across the Rappahannock waiting for McClellan's return from the Peninsula, and twice the watchful Pope had foiled the attempt.
It was not until Jackson left Early's brigade in an exposed position across the hastily repaired bridge at Rappahannock Station that he managed to delude the Union general into accepting this point as his real objective.
Leaving Early quite as mystified as his opponent, Jackson dispatched Stuart with all the cavalry to Catlett's Station, on the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, where Pope's supply trains were parked.
The night of August 23d was pitchy black, and the rain was descending in torrents, when the Confederate horsemen burst into Pope's camp.
A few hours later they rode away with the Federal general's uniform and horses, his treasure-chest and personal effects, a member of his staff, and some three hundred prisoners, leaving the blazing Camp behind them.
The retreat of the cavalry was the final indication that there would be no more efforts to turn his right.
Two days later Jackson, with twenty thousand men, marched around the Union right and, joined by Stuart's cavalry, captured the immense supply-department depot at Manassas Junction. |
Repairing after Stuart's raid
In a single night Stuart's cavalry, falling upon the Orange & Alexandria Railroad at Catlett's Station, thirty-five miles from Washington, had done damage to Pope's railroad connection which it took days to repair.
This was on August 22d, and only the heavy rainstorm prevented the burning of a large quantity of army stores at Catlett's. Stuart's troopers got away with two hundred and twenty horses from the wagon trains and all the personal baggage of General Pope and his staff.
The superior railroad facilities of the Federals were in this instance turned into a means of danger and delay, necessitating the detachment of a large repair force and enabling Lee's army to seize advantage elsewhere. |
A military train upset by Confederates
This is part of the result of General Pope's too rapid advance to head off Lee's army south of the Rappahannock River.
Although overtaking the advance of the Confederates at Cedar Mountain, Pope had arrived too late to close the river passes against them.
Meanwhile he had left the Orange & Alexandria Railroad uncovered, and Jackson pushed a large force under General Ewell forward across the Bull Rum Mountains.
On the night of August 26, 1863, Ewell's forces captured Manassas Junction, while four miles above the Confederate cavalry fell upon an empty railroad train returning from the transfer of Federal troops.
The train was destroyed.
Here we see how well the work was done. |
front of Sharpsburg
Thus was the advance of Meade
's army delayed until the Confederates
had recrossed the river.
In September, 1863, the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia was reorganized, and Stuart
's headquarters were at Culpeper Court House.
On the 18th, Kilpatrick
's division crossed the Rappahannock
, and pressing its way with celerity and vigor toward Culpeper
, captured three guns of the Confederate
On the 22d, Buford
's shop, in Madison County
, and a fierce engagement occupied the divisions of both Buford
, with the result that Stuart
withdrew across the Rapidan
In October, General Lee
entered upon what is known as the Bristoe campaign
, which aimed at turning the right flank of the Federal
army in Culpeper County
To cover this movement, Stuart
distributed his command over a wide extent of country and along the Rapidan
On the 10th, Stuart
was ordered to make a reconnaissance toward Catlett's Station.
He sent Lomax
forward, who moved to Auburn
, and there learned that the Federals
were in force at Warrenton Junction.
He further discovered that the entire Federal wagon train was parked in a position easy of access.
It was most desirable that its commissary supplies should be so applied as to appease the hunger of his half-starved cavalrymen.
consequently moved in that direction, and on reaching a piece of woods there was plainly seen, about half a mile beyond, the vast park of wagons.
gazed long and ardently at this coveted prize, but as he gazed, the hopeful expression on his countenance faded away and was succeeded by one of vexation and disappointment.
Beyond the park of wagons, his practised eye discerned a moving cloud of dust, which appeared to be passing on the left of the wagons.
It was growing dusk; tidings from his rear seemed to disconcert him, and he appeared to those who were near to be anxiously awaiting something.
He rearranged his column; some pieces of artillery were put in front, and behind these a medical transport wagon, and then
Thus formed, he moved to the front, leaving wagons and moving dust far to our right.
At some distance ahead, there rose from the plain a wooded ridge, extending northeast and southwest.
Toward the end nearest to us we headed, and began its ascent, in the order in which we were formed.
The front of the column reached the top and moved on to the further end, from which the ridge fell with more precipitousness than the end which we had ascended.
When the last file of the rear regiment was well up on the ridge and protected by the trees, no room remained for more.
We were dismounted and lay down, holding the bridle-reins in our hands.
In less than an hour a heavy column of infantry approached the ridge from the direction in which we had come.
It passed to the left and moved along very close to the ridge and toward its further end. Almost at once, another column, like unto the first and moving by its side, passed to the right of the ridge, and at about the same distance from it, in a parallel line toward the same end of the ridge.
So near were these moving columns, and so still were we, that all night long we could hear the conversation carried on among our foemen on either side of us.
The hours seemed interminable, but those marching columns seemed even longer.
Daylight came, but still they marched.
Should sunrise find us still so beleaguered, our chances of escape would be small.
As the earliest rays of the sun routed the mists, the long-hoped — for rear of these columns went by, and halted but a few rods beyond the further end of our ridge.
During the night, Stuart
had sent messengers to General Lee
, telling him of our situation and asking for relief.
That relief was sent, but it miscarried.
As the sun rose higher, Stuart
opened on the rear of these two columns, which had halted for breakfast, had made their fires, and were boiling their coffee.
The four guns did some execution, and the Federals
, startled by this “bolt from the blue,” ran — not, as we hoped,
Manassas junction, where the Federal war department entertained unexpected guests
“ Stonewall” Jackson and twenty thousand men were the unexpected guests of the North at Manassas Junction on August 26, 1862.
The ragged and famished Confederates, who had marched over fifty miles in the last two days, had such a feast as they never knew before.
The North had been lavish in its expenditures for the army.
No effort had been spared to feed, clothe, and equip them, and for the comfort of the individual soldier the purse-strings of the nation were freely loosed.
Streets of warehouses, crammed to the doors, a line of freight cars two miles in length, thousands of barrels of flour, pork, and biscuit, ambulances, field-wagons, and pyramids of shot and shell, met the wondering gaze of the Confederate soldiery.
The sutlers' stores contained a wealth of plunder.
“Here,” says General George H. Gordon, describing the scene that followed, “a long, yellow-haired, barefooted son of the South claimed as prizes a tooth-brush, a box of candies, and a barrel of coffee, while another, whose butternut homespun hung round him in tatters, crammed himself with lobster salad, sardines, potted game, and sweetmeats, and washed them down with Rhenish wine.
Nor was the outer man neglected.
From piles of new clothing, the Southerners arrayed themselves in the blue uniforms of the Federals.
The naked were clad, the barefooted were shod, and the sick provided with luxuries to which they had long been strangers.”
All unportable stores were destroyed. |
from the danger that presented itself, but ran, and with intrepid force, toward us. They charged the steep ascent, struck down the commander of a North Carolina regiment, and only desisted when the fire from our guns repelled them.
withdrew from the ridge.
He had extricated himself in safety, and what would have been stigmatized as his folly, had we been routed, became a proof of his genius and heroic courage.
The object of the Bristoe campaign
was accomplished as far as such objects are generally accomplished, but, on the 18th of October, Stuart
was at Buckland
, with Kilpatrick
in front of him. A device suggested by Fitzhugh Lee
withdrew and Kilpatrick
followed him hopefully, but Fitzhugh Lee
had taken a position which threw him in Kilpatrick
Upon an agreed signal, Stuart
turned on Kilpatrick
in front and Lee
struck his rear, and a rout ensued in which Davies
' brigade bore the brunt.
It ran, and the race extended over five miles. Custer
, however, saved his artillery and crossed Broad Run
On the 28th of February following, Custer
made a brilliant, and in the main successful, foray from Madison Court House into Charlottesville
, with about fifteen hundred cavalry.
were four battalions of artillery, resting in fond security in winter quarters.
The guns were all saved but horses were taken, and some of the quarters were burned, with the loss of clothing and blankets.
was moving on Richmond
with about thirty-five hundred cavalry.
Colonel Ulric Dahlgren
and about four hundred and fifty men were pushed rapidly toward the Virginia Central Railroad, which they struck at Frederick's Hall, where they captured eight officers who were sitting on a court martial, and moved toward the James River
Thence they moved down on the north side of the James
, where they attacked the outer entrenchments.
's Camp and drove him from it, compelling his return to Fredericksburg
made a wide
Out of reach of the Confederate cavalry: U. S. Military engines stored in Alexandria, 1863
By the middle of 1863 the Federal generals had learned the wisdom of storing in a safe place, under a heavy guard, anything they wanted to keep.
Of especial value was the rolling stock of the military railroads, which when not in use was ordered out of the danger zone.
General J. E. B. Stuart with his tireless troopers had proved himself so ignorant of the meaning of the words “danger” or “distance” that the Federals had lost their confidence of the previous year, when they believed that the mere interposition of an army of a hundred thousand men was sufficient to protect a base of supplies.
This photograph was taken about the time the battle of Gettysburg was raging, and Stuart was causing a diversion by throwing shells near Washington.
It was not until the Army of the Potomac returned to Virginia, with headquarters established at Brandy Station, that any great number of these iron horses were allowed out of their stables.
By that time the Union cavalry had received the experience and equipment to meet the Confederate troopers in their own way, and threatened the railroads running into Richmond.
Organization and numbers had begun to tell. |
circuit, crossing the Pamunkey
and the Mattapony
, but at length he fell into an ambuscade near King and Queen Court House
where he lost his life, as did many of his command.
We have reached now, in the order of time, the Wilderness
campaign which opened May 4, 1864. General Grant
's object was to interpose his army between Lee
, with about ten thousand cavalry and several batteries, had moved to Hamilton's Crossing
and thence toward Richmond
, on the Telegraph
, with his brigade, followed in pursuit.
's shop he was joined by Fitzhugh Lee
, with about five thousand cavalry.
, now in command, moved toward Yellow Tavern
, which he reached before the appearance of Sheridan
They did appear, however, and attempted to drive Stuart
from the Telegraph
A severe fight ensued, in which Stuart
lost heavily in officers, but maintained his position.
About four o'clock in the afternoon, a brigade of Federal cavalry attacked Stuart
's extreme left, and he, after his fashion, hurried to the point of danger.
One company of the First Virginia Cavalry was bearing the entire burden.
joined himself to this little band and attacked the flank of the Union
The First Virginia drove the Federals
Many of the latter, having lost their horses in the fight, were keeping up on foot.
One of these dismounted men turned, as he ran, and firing at the general with his pistol, inflicted the wound from which he shortly afterward died.
Now, to turn back, when General Johnston
, on the 18th of July, 1861, moved from the Shenandoah valley to Manassas
, he left a body of cavalry, under Colonel McDonald
, scattered throughout the country between the Shenandoah River
and the North Mountains
In this body was a company from Fauquier County
, commanded by Turner Ashby
Later on, this company was organized into a huge regiment of which McDonald
was colonel; Turner Ashby
, and Oliver Funsten
The duty assigned to this regiment
Covering Lee's retreat from Pennsylvania
This photograph is an excellent illustration of the cavalry's method of destroying the railroads between the two capitals.
The light rails were placed across piles of ties.
The ties were lighted and the rails heated until of their own weight they bent out of shape.
Mile upon mile of railroad could thus be destroyed in a day. New rails had to be brought before it was possible to rebuild the line.
Note the tangle of telegraph wires.
The telegraph lines were also destroyed wherever the Confederate position was known and it was therefore impossible to tap them and read the Union leaders' messages.
The Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of the Potomac spent the month of October, 1863, when this photograph was taken, maneuvering for position along the Rappahannock.
On October 20th the Army of the Potomac was occupying Warrenton and Lee had retired to the north bank of the Rappahannock, having destroyed the Orange and Alexandria Railroad from Bristoe Station to the river, and by the 22d, both armies were again in camp. |
The prize that imperilled Stuart on his daring raid into the Federal lines: part of the “vast park of wagons” on which the Confederates gazed from ambush, October 10, 1863
In this striking photograph of 1863 appears the prize at which General J. E. B. Stuart gazed long and ardently during his reconnaissance to Warrenton Station on the 10th of October, 1863, after Lee's Bristoe campaign.
His half-starved cavalrymen urgently needed just such a wagon-train as that.
But, as they peered from their ambush, the hopeful expressions faded away.
Beyond the park of wagons Stuart's practiced eye had discerned a moving cloud of dust.
That night he was confined to a little ridge, with the Union columns moving to the right and left of his isolated force.
By dawn the rear of the passing columns were cooking their breakfasts at the foot of the ridge.
By the bold device of firing into them and repelling their first attack, Stuart disconcerted the pursuit and made good his escape.
This view of the wagons “in park,” or gathered in one large body in an open field, represents a train of the Sixth Corps, Army of the Potomac, near Brandy Station, during the autumn days of 1863, after the Gettysburg campaign.
The wagons in the foreground are ambulances, while immediately in their rear stand the large army wagons used for subsistence and quartermaster's stores.
The horses are harnessed to the vehicles preparatory to the forward movement.
It took this train across the Rappahannock River toward Culpeper and the Rapidan, where history indicates that they formed part of those upon which Stuart gazed so covetously. |
was the guarding of the Potomac River
on a line nearly one hundred and twenty-five miles in length.
No more striking and picturesque figure than Ashby
ever won the confidence and affections of his followers.
Since his boyhood he had been famed as a horseman, even in that land of centaurs.
Throughout all those marvelous campaigns in the Valley
, which have made Jackson
immortal, Turner Ashby
, as brigadier-general, commanded the cavalry that formed an impenetrable screen between Jackson
and the Federal
armies in his front.
In May and June, 1862, Jackson
moved up the Shenandoah valley, Generals Banks
following with fourteen thousand troops.
, with his army, was approaching Strasburg
from the direction of Moorefield
, while General Shields
, who had crossed the Blue Ridge
from the east, was moving up Luray Valley on Jackson
's left flank, with still another division.
waited at Strasburg
nearly twenty-four hours for one of his regiments, which he had left below him, to rejoin his command.
approached within ten miles, was met by General Richard Taylor
, and held in check until Jackson
, starting his wagon trains off before him, had followed in a leisurely manner, while Ashby
, with his cavalry, kept back Fremont
, who was pressing Jackson
was moving rapidly in the hope of intercepting Jackson
before he could cross the Blue Ridge
, which Shields
supposed he was striving to do. A few miles south of Harrisonburg
turned toward Port Republic
, encountered Fremont
's cavalry, under Colonel Percy Wyndham
, which Ashby
quickly routed, capturing Colonel Wyndham
and a large part of his command.
sent forward General Bayard
and his command, which met the Fifty-eighth Virginia, near Cross Keys
dismounted, and placing himself at the head of this infantry regiment, received the bullet which ended his career.
His former regiment, with certain additions, was organized into a brigade consisting of the Second, Sixth, Seventh,
A sad sight for the cavalryman
This pitiful scene after the battle of Gettysburg illustrates the losses of mounts after each engagement, which told heaviest on the Southern cavalry.
Up to the next winter, 1863-4, it was well organized and had proved its efficiency on many fields.
But from that period its weakness increased rapidly.
The sources of supplies of both men and horses had been exhausted simultaneously; many of the best and bravest of men and officers had fallen in battle.
From then onward it was a struggle for bare existence, until at Appomattox the large-hearted Lee pointed out to Grant that the only mounts left to the Confederacy were those that his men were actually riding.
Be it recorded to the Northern general's credit that he gave immediate instructions that every Confederate who owned his horse should be allowed to take it home for plowing and putting in his crop.
This photograph shows staff officers' horses killed at Gettysburg. |
and Twelfth Virginia regiments, and the Seventeenth Battalion which soon afterward became the Eleventh Virginia Cavalry.
's death, this brigade was, for a time, commanded by Colonel Munford
. General Shields
reached the village of Port Republic
, where Jackson
encountered him and drove him back down Luray Valley, and thus ended the Valley
Campaign of that year.
General Beverly Robertson
was now assigned to the command of the old Ashby
On the 2d of August, a sharp hand-to-hand encounter took place in the streets of Orange Court House
, between the Seventh Virginia, and the Fifth New York and First Vermont, both commanded by General Crawford
, in which Colonel Jones
and Lieutenant-Colonel Marshall
, of the Seventh Virginia, were wounded.
The Sixth Virginia coming up, the Federals
reluctantly gave way, and were pursued as far as Rapidan Station.
On December 29th, 1862, General W. E. Jones
was assigned to the command of the Valley District, and in March, 1863, he moved to Moorefield Valley, with the view of gathering much-needed supplies of food, and also with the intention of destroying the Cheat River
viaduct, on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
The south branch, at Petersburg
in Hardy County, West Virginia
, was high, and the fords were almost impassable.
The artillery and the loaded wagon trains were sent back to Harrisonburg
, and Jones
, with his cavalry alone, undertook the invasion of West Virginia
At Greenland Gap, on the summit of the Alleghany Mountains
, a body of Federal infantry held a blockhouse, strongly built and gallantly defended.
This was taken only after the loss of several men, and the wounding of Colonel Dulany
of the Seventh Virginia.
It was repeatedly charged by the dismounted cavalry, and was finally taken by stratagem rather than assault.
The Cheat River
viaduct was reached on the 26th of April, and found to be guarded by three hundred infantry entrenched in a blockhouse, too strong to be taken in a moment, and time
did not allow of tarrying.
On April 28th, the command reached Morgantown
, where it crossed on a suspension bridge to the west side of the Monongahela
, and after dark moved on Fairmont
Here the Federals
were found in considerable force, which, after some fighting, was dispersed, and the object of the visit to that point being the destruction of the fine iron bridge, of three spans of three hundred feet each, that work was entered upon and continued until the bridge was destroyed.
Oiltown, near Elizabeth Court House, on the Little Kanawha River
, was owned mainly by Southern men who had first engaged in the oil industry.
There were found thousands of gallons of oil, in barrels, tanks, and in deep flatboats then on the water.
All was burned, and Dante
might have gained some new impressions of the regions described by him, from the scenes that presented themselves to the destroyers.
The dense, black smoke rose to the heights of hundreds of feet; the intense heat caused by the burning oil excited a breeze, and the flat-boats filled with burning oil, floated down the river toward Elizabeth
After thirty days incessant marching, without supplies of food, save what was taken from the people, without artillery or wagons of any kind, the expedition returned with seven hundred prisoners, one thousand cattle and twelve hundred horses, and with a loss of ten killed and forty-two wounded.
was back in the Valley
the last week of May, and, by crossing the mountains, joined Stuart
near Culpeper Court House.
A little later he took conspicuous part in the battle of Brandy Station
and the ensuing campaign.
The events and incidents of that and the following campaigns to the death of General Stuart
, have been already related.
General Thomas L. Rosser
had been assigned to the command of the old Ashby
brigade, and soon proved himself a most efficient cavalry commander.
In January, 1864, then under General Early
in the Valley District, he was in command of the cavalry.
On January 29th, Rosser
A second “army” opposed to the Confederate cavalry: a Federal cavalry mess-house
The Confederate cavalry, like the Confederacy itself, was hastened to its fall because of the exhaustion of resources.
While horseflesh was growing scarcer and poorer in quality in Virginia, and proper fodder had become little but a memory since Sheridan's devastation of the Shenandoah Valley, the Union Government, with its immense resources, was able to systematize the handling of supplies for its cavalry corps, establishing half a dozen huge cavalry remount depots, and devoting the proper amount of attention to every branch of the work.
This photograph shows the mess-house at the Government stables in Washington.
The Confederacy barely supplied food for the troopers themselves, while the Union Government was able to build mess-houses for those who were engaged in caring for the troopers' wants. |
mountains to Moorefield, in Hardy County, West Virginia
, and there learning that a large wagon train of supplies was moving from New Creek
, moved forward to take it. He found parked at Medley a train of ninety-five wagons, guarded by three hundred infantry and a small body of cavalry.
He moved one regiment toward the rear of this body, placed others on the flank, and then opened with one gun on its front.
The effect was to stampede the teamsters, and the infantry were unable to withstand the attack by dismounted cavalry, so that in a short time the wagons, with some prisoners, fell into Rosser
On the 1st of February, moving upon the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, at Patterson's Creek
, he captured the guard there, and brought out about twelve hundred cattle and some sheep.
On the 7th of June, Sheridan
was sent with two divisions to communicate with Hunter
, and to break up the Virginia Central Railroad and the James River Canal
He started on this mission with eighty-nine hundred cavalry.
On the morning of the 8th, Hampton
, who had succeeded Stuart
in the command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, moved with two divisions and some batteries of horse artillery to look after this movement.
His first step was to intercept Sheridan
before he reached the railroad.
On the night of the 10th, he had reached Green Spring Valley
, three miles from Trevilian Station, and there encamped.
At this time General Fitzhugh Lee
was at Louisa Court House, and Custer
, with his characteristic boldness, took an unguarded road around Hampton
's right and essayed to reach Trevilian
He captured ambulances, caissons, and many led horses.
Near at hand was Thompson
's battery, wholly unmindful of danger, and this Custer
essayed to take.
But Colonel Chew
, commander of the battalion of artillery to which this belonged, deployed a South Carolina regiment to hold Custer
in check until he could get another battery into position.
This he soon did, and Rosser
, coming up with his brigade at the moment,
A war-time view of Stuart's grave
“Gen'l Stuart--wounded May 11, 1864--died May 12, 1864.”
This simple head-slab on its wooded hill near Richmond toward the close of the war spelt a heavy blow to the Confederate cause.
In that struggle against heavier and heavier odds, every man counted.
And when destroying Fate chose for its victim the leader whose spirit had never fallen, whose courage had never failed, no matter how dangerous the raid, how fierce the charge and counter-charge — well might the Confederacy mourn.
To the memory of this American chevalier, tributes came not only from comrades but from opponents.
One of these, Theophilus F. Rodenbough — a Federal captain at the time of Stuart's death, later a cavalry historian and a contributor to other pages of this volume — wrote, twenty years after the tragedy, this fitting epitaph: “Deep in the hearts of all true cavalrymen, North and South, will ever burn a sentiment of admiration mingled with regret for this knightly soldier and generous man.”
to relinquish his well-earned gains and betake himself to flight, while all his plunder fell into Rosser
, however, remained that night near Trevilian
, from which Rosser
strove to drive him, but his reward was a severe wound which disabled him from further action that day. Desperately did Sheridan
endeavor to drive Hampton
from his path, and the fight continued through three days, but the result was the withdrawal of Sheridan
's forces, and his rejoining Grant
, in his “Memoirs,” states of this withdrawal that “Sheridan
went back because the enemy had taken possession of a crossing by which he proposed to go west,.and because he heard that Hunter
was not at Charlottesville
In September, Lee
's army was sorely in need of beef.
Scouts reported at Coggin's Point
a large but well-guarded herd of cattle, and on the morning of the 11th, Hampton
, with his cavalry, started to capture it. Notice of this movement had got abroad, and near Sycamore Church a regiment of Federal cavalry was awaiting the assault.
The cattle were protected by a strong abatis, through which cavalry could not pass, and a deliberate attack was required.
Accordingly the Seventh Virginia was dismounted and moved forward, while other regiments were sent around the obstruction.
The herders then broke down the fence of the corral, and tried by firing pistols to stampede the cattle, and thus get them beyond Hampton
's cavalry were born cowboys, and, heading off the frightened cattle, soon rounded them up, so that the expedition returned with twenty-five hundred cattle to Lee
's starving soldiers.
On the 17th, General B. F. Butler
informed General Grant
that “three brigades of Hampton
's cavalry turned our left and captured about two thousand cattle, and our telegraph construction party.”
returned to the Valley
with his brigade, and on November 27th started on the “New Creek
raid,” so called from a village on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, about
twenty-two miles west from Cumberland
A Federal scouting party had been sent out from New Creek
on the 26th, and Rosser
, marching all night, arrived within six miles of New Creek
at daylight on the morning of the 27th.
The village was strongly fortified, with one heavy gun enfilading the road on which Rosser
was moving toward it. General W. H. Payne
's brigade was put in front, with about twenty men in blue overcoats.
The column moved slowly toward its object, and citizens along the road, and travelers at that early hour thought it was the returning party that had gone out the night before on a scout.
Less than a mile from the two, the first picket was reached.
These men jocularly mocked the empty-handed returning party, but they were silently surrounded and taken along with the column.
was reached and entered.
On the left was a high hill, not steep, on which an infantry force of twelve hundred men was encamped.
The Federal troops were engaged in drying their blankets and preparing their breakfast, when the column of Confederates, suddenly breaking into line, charged the hill, and, without the loss of a single life, took eight hundred of these infantry.
The Confederates then proceeded to destroy the railroad bridge, and gather as much as they could carry away of the large supplies they found stored at that point.
, encumbered with many hundred cattle and sheep, and a long train of captured stores, turned his column homeward.
, a village seventy-five miles west from Staunton
, there were stored large supplies, guarded by a Federal garrison that did not exceed one thousand men. Rosser
, learning of this fact, took three hundred men from the several brigades and started before daylight from Swoope's Depot, on January 10th.
He spent that night, or a part of it, on a mountainside, without fires.
The snow was deep, and the weather bitterly cold.
Before daylight on the morning of the 11th, he was on a hill west of Beverly
, overlooking the garrison of Federal infantry in their wooden huts on the plain below.
Brigadier-General M. Calvin Butler, C. S. A.
General Butler was a leader under Wade Hampton, who played an important part in the defeat of Sheridan with eight thousand men at Trevilian Station, June 12, 1864, just one month after the death of Stuart.
Between 2 P. M. and dark, Butler, in command of Hampton's division of cavalry, repulsed seven determined assaults of Sheridan's men. During the day Butler was unable to keep his batteries in exposed positions entirely manned, but between sunset and dark, when the Federal cavalrymen made their last desperate effort, the howitzers were remanned and double-shotted with canister.
The Federals emerged from the woods a stone's throw from the Confederate lines, and the canister tore great holes in their lines.
It was at this engagement that General Butler lost his leg. |
was full and shining brilliantly on snow over a foot in depth.
Dismounting a part of his command, and moving them in line in front, with the mounted men behind, Rosser
moved upon the sleeping host.
Had they remained in their strong huts and used their rifles, the disaster might have been averted, but as the result, five hundred and eighty prisoners, and ten thousand rations fell into the hands of the invaders.
On the morning of February 21, 1865, a portion of McNeill
's command, under Lieutenant Jesse McNeill
, entered the city of Cumberland, Maryland
, an hour before daylight.
, the commander of the Department of West Virginia, and Brigadier-General Kelley
, his able lieutenant, were quietly sleeping, the one at the St. Nicholas Hotel
, and the other at the Revere House
. Six thousand troops, of all arms, occupied the city.
called on General Crook
, while some other member of the command performed the like civility to General Kelley
These two officers were persuaded to accompany their ill-timed callers on their return to Dixie, and were entertained in Richmond
at an official hostelry there.
and his command were present at Appomattox
, but did not participate in the surrender, but while that ceremony was in progress, this command passed on to Lynchburg
, and dissolved into their individual elements.
Up to the winter of 1863-64, the Confederate cavalry was well organized and had proven its efficiency on many fields, but its weakness from that period grew rapidly.
The sources of supplies of both men and horses had been exhausted, and the best and the bravest of men and officers had fallen in battle.
On the other hand, when General Sheridan
took command of the Federal
cavalry, a new and far more vigorous life was imparted to it. Armed with repeating carbines and fighting on foot, as well as mounted, it became the most formidable arm of the Federal
When the war ended, it was but reasonable to aver that the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac was the most efficient body of soldiers on earth.