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Last Days of the Rebellion The Second New York Cavalry (Harris' Light) at Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House, April 8 and 9, 1865   By:

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Major First U. S. Artillery (late Colonel Second New York Cavalry), Bvt. Brig General, U. S. Vols.



During the winter of 1864 5 the Second New York (Harris' Light) Cavalry was in winter quarters near Winchester, Va., on the Romney pike. Alanson M. Randol, Captain First United States Artillery, was colonel of the regiment, which, with the First Connecticut, Second Ohio, and Third New Jersey, constituted the first brigade, third division, cavalry corps. The division was commanded by General George A. Custer; the brigade by A. C. M. Pennington, Captain Second United States Artillery, Colonel Third New Jersey Cavalry. On the 27th of February, 1865, the divisions of Merritt and Custer, with the batteries of Miller (Fourth United States Artillery) and Woodruff (Second United States Artillery), all under command of General Sheridan, left their winter quarters in and around Winchester, and, after a series of splendid victories, and unsurpassed marches and fortunes, joined the Army of the Potomac in front of Petersburg on the 27th of March. The Second New York Cavalry shared largely in the glories and miseries of this great and successful raid. At Five Forks, Deep Creek, and Sailors Creek, it not only maintained its gallant and meritorious record, but added to its great renown. At the gentle and joyous passage of arms at Appomattox Station, on the 8th of April, it reached the climax of its glory, and, by its deeds of daring, touched the pinnacle of fame. On that day it performed prodigies of valor, and achieved successes as pregnant with good results as any single action of the war. By forcing a passage through the rebel lines and heading off Lee's army, it contributed largely to the result that followed the next day the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

On the night of the 7th of April we camped on Buffalo River. Moving at an early hour on the 8th, we crossed the Lynchburg Railroad at Prospect Station, and headed for Appomattox Station, where it was expected we would strike, if not intercept, Lee's retreating, disintegrating army. The trail was fresh and the chase hot. Joy beamed in every eye, for all felt that the end was drawing near, and we earnestly hoped that ours might be the glorious opportunity of striking the final blow. About noon the regiment was detached to capture a force of the enemy said to be at one of the crossings of the Appomattox. Some few hundreds, unarmed, half starved, stragglers, with no fight in them, were found, and turned over to the Provost Marshall. Resuming its place in the column, I received orders to report with the regiment to General Custer, who was at its head. Reporting in compliance with this order, General Custer informed me that his scouts had reported three large trains of cars at Appomattox Station, loaded with supplies for the rebel army; that he expected to have made a junction with Merritt's division near this point; that his orders were to wait here till Merritt joined him; that he had not heard from him since morning, and had sent an officer to communicate with him, but if he did not hear from him in half an hour, he wished me to take my regiment and capture the trains of cars, and, if possible, reach and hold the pike to Lynchburg. While talking, the whistle of the locomotive was distinctly but faintly heard, and the column was at once moved forward, the Second New York in advance. As we neared the station the whistles became more and more distinct, and a scout reported the trains rapidly unloading, and that the advance of the rebel army was passing through Appomattox Court House. Although Custer's orders were to make a junction with Merritt before coming in contact with the enemy, here was a chance to strike a decisive blow, which, if successful, would add to his renown and glory, and if not, Merritt would soon be up to help him out of the scrape... Continue reading book >>

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