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Some Personal Reminiscences of Service in the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac   By:

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Reprinted from "The United Service," January, 1889.

Philadelphia: L. R. Hamersly & Co. 1889.


At the earnest solicitation of my many military friends, I have thrown together some reminiscences of my personal experience as a cavalryman during the late War of the Rebellion. Though my four years of campaigning began with a three months' tour of tramping with the "dough boys" under General Patterson in the spring and early summer of 1861, the latter was only a prolonged picnic. Two days before I was mustered out of the Ninth Pennsylvania Infantry I enrolled myself in the First Pennsylvania Cavalry, and soon discovered that I was more fitted for riding a horse than for trudging through the slush and mud with a heavy "Harper's Ferry" musket on my shoulder.

I will pass over the tedious instructions of the school of the trooper, mounted and dismounted, and begin my reminiscences as a full fledged Yankee cavalryman.

The First Pennsylvania Cavalry, which originally belonged to the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, began its experience as a fighting regiment in a skirmish and charge near Dranesville, Virginia, on November 26, 1861, and, strange to relate, the first man killed was our assistant surgeon, Dr. Alexander. The regiment's first experience of heavy firing was in the battle of Dranesville, on December 20. This engagement was fought by a brigade of the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, commanded by General E. O. C. Ord, my regiment supporting Eastman's battery. The enemy had the same number of regiments and guns that we had, and their commanding officer was General J. E. B. Stuart, but Ord outgeneraled him and gave us the victory, the rebels retreating from the field.

The campaign of the spring of 1862 showed what some, at least, of the cavalry did before General Hooker offered his liberal reward for a "dead cavalryman."[1] Those who served in the Army of the Potomac will remember that from the fall of 1861 to the summer of 1862 the cavalry were for the most part scattered about and used as escorts, strikers, dog robbers, and orderlies for all the generals and their numerous staff officers from the highest in rank down to the second lieutenants. The cavalry force under General George D. Bayard, then colonel of my regiment, consisting of the First New Jersey, Second New York, and First Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiments, was the first brigade organized in that branch of the service in the United States army. The campaign began with easy marches to Catlett's Station, on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, and scouting to Warrenton and Rappahannock Station.

[1] In this connection it may be well to quote the following extract from an article in the Century Magazine of May, 1888, by Colonel William F. Fox, entitled "The Chances of being hit in Battle": "The muster out rolls of the various mounted commands show that there were ten thousand five hundred and ninety six 'dead cavalrymen' who were killed in action during the war, of whom six hundred and seventy one were officers, the proportionate loss of officers being greater than in the infantry."

On the morning of the 17th of April we left Catlett's Station and moved in the direction of Falmouth. In this movement we were supported by a brigade of infantry commanded by General Augur. On the morning of the 18th, about three o'clock, we charged upon the heights of Falmouth, drove the enemy from their position, and captured the quaint old town, but we were unable to save the bridge spanning the river, as the enemy had set fire to the end on the Fredericksburg side. This was my first experience in a mounted charge of any consequence. In this engagement I was acting as assistant adjutant general for Bayard, with the rank of first lieutenant... Continue reading book >>

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