MARCH 29, 18--


What a Cavalry Officer Saw and Heard in the Early Summer of 1863
The Historic Town in December, 1861, and at the Time of the Battle
Formerly Captain Tenth New York Cavalry.
It is the intention of the writer of this article to confine himself to the relating of personal reminiscences and incidents in the connection with Gregg's Division of Cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign, his position as Commissary of Subsistence of the Tenth New York Cavalry often calling him into relation with the inhabitants of the county through which we passed in such manner as to sometimes form interesting episodes. There was a peculiar charm in the then almost unknown name of Gettysburg to more than one member of the regiment, who cherished the memory of some pretty little damsel in the village, and in the hearts of nearly all these remained the fond remembrance of happy hours spent among its hospitable citizens months before. The regiment (then better known as the Porter Guard Cavalry, in honor of Colonel Peter B. Porter of Niagara Falls), while in rendezvous at Elmira, N.Y., was ordered to Gettysburg in the last month of the initial year of the war. Gettysburg? Where was it? None of the many young aspirants for military honors who had but just left school room were sufficiently well acquainted with the geography of their county to locate a place of so much importance as to require the presence and protection of a full regiment of "dismounted horsemen." However, the rank and file at that time were accustomed to measure a man's knowledge by the profusion of brass buttons on his breast and the size of his shoulder-straps under which he staggered, and so it was considered safe to follow the lead of our field officers, believing that they would not take us where there was any danger of being hurt.


We arrived at Gettysburg on Christmas night, 1861, and a warm Christmas greeting awaited us. There was no brass band, hurrah-boys manifestation, but the quiet grasping of the hand and the hearty welcome to the hearth and home of the citizens where fair hands contributed to make us all feel comfortable and contented caused that mutual good will and warm attachment which ever after prevailed. For several days the regiment remained quartered in public halls, schoolhouses, courthouse, etc., with a goodly number distributed among the private houses of the town awaiting the building of barracks. While sick it was my good fortune to come under the motherly care, and in her own house, of that noble Christian lady, Mrs. Harper (the wife of the editor of the Sentinel), who was always conspicuous in every work of charity and aid for the suffering. During the great battle, this kind-hearted lady gave up her residence for hospital purposes, and aided with her time and means the suffering wounded of both sides.


Barracks were erected for the regiment on the farm of George Wolf, between the York pike and the Bonaughtown road, about a mile and a half east of the town. The regiment dress parades, which had so long been the evening attraction in the village, were transferred to our new location. In the rear of the buildings was a broad field, which served as a drill ground for the regiment. Eighteen months later, on this same ground, where the regiment was maneuvered to the adjoining gaze of the fair ones of the town, the Confederate cavalry was marshaled for the attack on Gregg's Division of Cavalry on the memorable 3d of July, 1863. To the members of the regiment the county surrounding Gettysburg had become almost as familiar as their own homes. Many of the trees in the woods adjoining our barracks, which served to screen the movements of Stuart's cavalry prior to the attack already mentioned, bore the initials of some of the boys upon their trunks, cut with pocket knives. Frequent pilgrimages were made by the restless soldiers to Cemetery and Culp's Hills, Spangler's Springs and the Devil's Den. Beneath the sod of Cemetery Hill reposed the remains of Private John W. Congdon, of my company, the first Union soldier buried there. The regiment was called from flirting to fighting early in the spring of 1862 taking leave of our friends on Friday, March 7, little dreaming of the circumstances which would reunite us again. Shortly afterward the regiment was mounted and equipped at Baltimore, and sent into Virginia, and from that time until the close of the war the history of the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac will confirm the assertion that no regiment made a more honorable record or was subjected to harder service.



So much by way of preface. We now pass to the opening to the opening of that long and tedious campaign, which brought us once more into the immediate presence of our friends among the hills of Southern Pennsylvania. The battle of Brandy Station, the most brilliant passage of arms between the opposing cavalry corps, has been so well told by participants on both sides, through the medium of The Annals of the War, that it would be both unprofitable and uninteresting to repeat the story, even though slightly varied because beheld from another standpoint. But there was an "incident" related with the affair that I will record as I heard it. Captain Fobes, our division commissary, was both brave and popular. Learning on the day before the battle of General Gregg's purpose of crossing the river next morning and giving battle to any force which he might encounter, he asked for and received permission to accompany the division to "see a fight," and his wish was thoroughly gratified. After crossing at Kelley's ford the division marched straight for Brandy Station and was soon warmly engaged.


During the heat of the conflict it was discovered that our pack train of mules and lead horses had followed the column across the river and was making its way to the scene of action. General Gregg promptly had them sent across the river again, but Captain Fobes, not understanding that they had been sent back and anxious that every man should "stand up to the rack," put spurs to horse, and galloping to the head of the pack train, shouted to the sergeant in command:

"Hold on, here. Where are you goin'?"
"We've been ordered back across the river by General Gregg," returned the sergeant.
"You can't come that; get around here; get into line; we'll fight these fellows!" said the captain, swinging his saber.


While endeavoring to get the unwieldy column "into line" a party of the enemy swooped down upon them from the woods near by and dashing up to the Captain, shouted:

"Surrender, you d---d Yankees!"
"Can't see it!" was the laconic reply. In an instant the muzzle of a revolver was placed against the side of his head in no gentle manner, and the second graff demand to surrender was accompanied by the sharp "click! Click!" of the hammer, which brought the brave little commissary to a realizing sense of his situation and in a subdued tone he replied: "Hold on; don't shoot that thing; I see now!" The ravenous manner in which they relieved him of a large amount of greenbacks, and finally of an elegant pair of knee boots caused him to ejaculate: "You're a cuss"d pretty lot of swine anyhow!" In his pilgrimage to Libby he had plenty of company, among the number Lieutenant Colonel Irvine, of my regiment.


After the battle of Brandy Station a reorganization of the cavalry took place, and my regiment which had been long in Kilpatrick's Brigade, was transferred to a new brigade called the Third, consisting of the Fourth and Sixteenth Pennsylvania, First Maine and Tenth New York, commanded by Colonel Irvin J. Gregg. Then followed the long tedious march northward under the scorching rays of a pitiless sun and through stiffening clouds of dust. From Union Mills we marched toward the Blue Ridge Mountains and on Wednesday, June 17, Stuart's advance was met at Aldie and driven through the village. In one of the desperate charges made upon the enemy here the brave old Colonel Doty, of the First Maine, was killed. Sheltered by stone walls and haycocks the dismounted Confederate cavalry fought stubbornly, but once driven from their cover they manifested no disposition to meet us in a fair, open fight.


We continued to force them back until Middleburg was reached on the 19th. Here an old man of Company A, Thompson B. Beckhorn, came to me and requested horse and arms that he might engage in the pending fight. He had been exchanged and forwarded from Washington, having been in a Confederate prison pen for a long time. The old man was an enthusiast in his devotion to country, and had no patience with shirks and bummers. I told him to wait till the fight was over, when I presumed his company commander would provide for him. "Excuse me, Lieutenant, but I don't think it would be right for me to wait while my comrades are fighting. My feeble efforts might turn the battle, " he said. Soon after he secured a carbine and ammunition and took an advanced position on the skirmish line in an open field. Screened by a little depression in the ground in which he lay, the constant puffs of smoke from his carbine indicated his determination to impress upon the enemy the fact that Thompson B. Beckhorn was back again. When a little later, our flank was turned and we were compelled to fall back, Beckhorn was made prisoner again. Poor old man! He never saw home nor friends again--dying not long after in a Southern prison pen.


The regiment being out of rations and forage, Mayor Avery, who was in command, asked me if I could not get a light supply up to the front in some manner. I hastened back and had a wagon loaded with supplies and returned to Middleburg. Near the village I met General Gregg, who inquired why I had brought a wagon into such close proximity to the enemy. Upon my explaining to him the pressing wants of my regiment he reluctantly gave his consent for me to proceed. The wagon was taken to the front and rations and forage issued to the regiment while it was fighting.


After completing the issue I returned to the village with the wagon and escort, where the wagon was filled with wounded, which, together with a number of prisoners, I was ordered to take to Aldie. The day was oppressively warm and the dust stifling. I started at once with my charge, feeling anxious to get through as early as possible, as the guard was light and I feared the prisoners--an unprepossessing looking lot of fellows--might attempt their escape in the darkness. Under the burning rays of the sun the beautiful groves by the wayside proved too seductive, however, and occasional halts were made. On each of these occasions I noticed, or thought I noticed a suspicious glancing about by the prisoners while engaged in low conversation. The guards were instructed to keep a close watch of them and in no case to allow prisoners to approach them on the march.


Late in the afternoon the heavens became obscured by heavy clouds and the distant thunder indicated the approach of a storm. This, while acceptable as giving relief from the oppressive atmosphere, filled me with forebodings of evil, for in the storm and darkness I felt confident an effort would be made by the prisoners to effect an escape. Finally the storm broke upon us in great fury; the rain descended in torrents, the thunder caused the earth to quake and the inky darkness was made to appear even more dense by the electric flashes, which gave us a momentary view of the moving caravan. My heartbeats quickened at every step, expecting as I did a bold push for liberty by the prisoners, who seemed highly favored by circumstances for such an undertaking. But this may have been the very reason for their fearing to undertake it since they knew it called for the greatest vigilance on our part and our readiness to promptly meet it. At any rate they kept their there places, marched quietly but doggedly along, until late in the night we reached Aldie, all thoroughly drenched, and I was relieved of their care and left the wounded in a brick church outside the village, which was used as a hospital.


Early next morning I rejoined the regiment at the front. When I reached it they were some distance beyond Middleburg, and had just received orders to clear the road through a piece of timber by a mounted charge. The narrow highway was flanked on the right by a heavy stone wall, behind which, as well as the large trees in our front and in the wheat field to the right, the dismounted Confederate cavalry was posted. From these concealed positions they poured a deadly fire into our ranks. The fight for the possession of this important point was very obstinate, but was finally decided in out favor, the enemy being driven from their cover to the open county beyond. In the engagement around Middleburg the Tenth New York Cavalry lost heavily in killed and wounded, Lieutenants Hawes, Boyd and Beardsley being among the former.


The next stand made by Stuart was at Upperville, for we had found it impossible to bring him to an engagement in the open field before reaching there. Here we found the Confederate horsemen drawn up in battlearray to receive us. But it was of no avail; the Southerners were unable to stand before the impetuous charges of our confident troopers, and after a short resistance were sent flying across the open county for protection under Longstreet's guns in Ashby's Gap. It was a glorious ending of a series of engagements beginning at Aldie, in which our cavalry had clearly demonstrated their superiority over the Southern horsemen. Through all those days the Second Division, under David McM. Gregg, had moved on the direct road from Aldie to Middleburg, confronted by the entire Confederate Cavalry Corps, while Buford's Division moved by a road to our right, nearer the mountains, but joined us at Upperville in time to assist in finishing the fight.


After the battle I entered an old tobacco warehouse in the village, used as a hospital, and there saw a Union surgeon attending a young Confederate soldier--a mere boy--whose left hip and side were terribly torn and mangled by a piece of shell. With teeth set the little pale-faced fellow watched the surgeon probe the gaping wound with his fingers. As the heavy piece of shell and brass butt from the hilt of his sabre, which had been broken off and forced into his side, fell to the floor a sigh of relief escaped his lips and he sank back upon the floor. He refused to use anaesthetizes. I asked for the piece of shell and sabre hilt, which he freely gave me, and I now have them among other relics. The weight of the two pieces, just as they were taken from his lacerated body, is fifteen ounces.

After driving the Confederate cavalry into Ashby's Gap on Sunday, the 21st, we began falling back on the next morning. They followed us and skirmishing continued until we were near Aldie. In this retrograde movement the Tenth New York bore a conspicuous part again, being constantly engaged. Before reaching Aldie, however, the regiment was ordered to report to General Slocum, commanding the Twelfth Corps, at Leesburg, for duty with his command. It was hard to be separated from the troops of Irvin Gregg's Brigade, with whom we had become so intimately associated, and with whom we had shared so many hardships and won so much renown, and go among strangers and infantry, too. But we bade them good-bye and began the march for Leesburg early in the morning, reaching there in the afternoon of the same day. Moving with the Twelfth Corps we crossed the Potomac at Edwards' ferry, and on the 28th--the day of General Meade's appointment to the command of the army--we arrived in Frederick, Md., where we joined our brigade.


Our infantry was already swarming into and through the streets when we arrived. We were all pleased with out return to Gregg's Division, though the separation had been brief. On account of our foraging proclivities some of the Twelfth Corps boys spoke of us as the "horse thieves," in distinction from the infantry thieves. We encamped for a short time on the outskirts of the city. The owner of the premises on which we were located was loud in professions of loyalty and anxiously searching for some one to pay him for a dozen rails which he alleged the soldiers had appropriated. Leaving Frederick on the morning of the 29th we passed long trains of our wagons and went into camp for the night near New Windsor. Resuming the march early the next day we reached Westminster about noon, where the command halted and foraging parties were sent in search of food and rations. I was so fortunate as to find a gristmill located in a ravine, and almost smothered with trees, which had escaped the long-range vision of both friend and for, who had proceeded us. Here I secured an abundant supply of substantials "for both and an beast."


When I returned to the pretty village I heard cheering in the camps, caused by the silly report the McClellan had been restored to the command of the army. There was a subtle power in the name of McClellan that brought cheers from the mouths on men who denounced him openly. I found on this occasion officers raising their voices and swinging their hats for "Little Mac" whom I had heard mention his name contemptuously many times. But even pretty Westminster with its many attractions, not the least of which were its fair damsels, could not detain us long. While marching through the dust, with a piece of woods to our right and a pretty little cottage home in the open fields on the left, Major Avery remarked that he believed we were on Pennsylvania soil. Calling to a pretty little miss, who was standing at the gate, I asked whether we were in Maryland or Pennsylvania. "You are in Maryland yet," she replied; "but you will cross the state line into Pennsylvania at the edge of the woods yonder." As we reached the designated place we commenced singing:

John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
John Brown's body lies mouldering in the grave,
His soul goes marching on!

The refrain was instantly caught up by the troops in the rear and swelled into the grandest chorus I ever heard. We entered the old Commonwealth with hearts well tuned for the great work, which lay before us.


While encamped far a time at Hanover Junction to await the return of scouting parties some of the men became restless lest the command should move to York instead of Gettysburg, and a few managed to elide the vigilance of officers and pickets and started on a flying visit to friends in Gettysburg. The Junction presented a forsaken appearance, in strong contrast to the animation visible when we last were there. William r. Plum in his interesting book, "Military Telegraph in the Civil War," mentions that immediately after the battle of Gettysburg, while the loyal North was clamoring for news from the army, an operator named Edwards was sent to this point to open communication. Finding that the wires, which had been cut by the Confederates, had shrunk by the heat so as to make it impossible to connect them, Edwards, searching about, found some old soda bottles, which he placed upon the fence, and laying railroad rails-and-stovepipe on them completed the circuit, and was thus enabled to give to the world the first intelligence of the great Union victory.


We left Hanover in the afternoon, and, to our great satisfaction, saw the head of the column take the Gettysburg instead of the York road. Passing through Hanover early in the morning of the 2nd of July, we were treated to such refreshments as the inhabitants had, and, passing over the scene of Kilpatrick's fight with the rebel cavalry, we reached and took position on the right of the army at Gettysburg about noon of the same day. It was a disappointment to us to find ourselves debarred from visiting friends in the village, because of the presence of the enemy there, bet we wisely concluded that the only way open to us was to assist, to the best of our ability, in driving the enemy out.


Immediately on our arrival the Tenth New York was placed on the skirmish line, encountering the Confederate infantry in considerable numbers. General Gregg had taken the precaution to have the rail fences on both sides of the Bonaughtown road taken down, so as to be in readiness for any emergency. On our right was a field of tall, ripe wheat and beyond this the woods, which intervened between us and the ground on which our barracks once stood. In our front Johnson's Confederate troops advanced to meet us over the same field formerly used by us as a drill ground. Skirmishing was continued until late in the evening, other portions of the division becoming gradually engaged in the meantime. Afterward we moved to the right rear of the Twelfth Corps, where we joined the infantry fighting in the timber, our dismounted men doing excellent service with their carbines. In our falling back before superior numbers of the enemy Lieutenant B. F. Loundsbury together with several enlisted, were taken prisoners.

After some skirmishing next morning we returned to our place on the Bonaughtown road, which we had left the day before. During the forenoon it was reported that the southern part of the village was in the possession of our troops, and receiving permission from Major Avery to go see some friends I started by the way of the rear of the Twelfth Corps and Baltimore pike for the town. And thus it happened that I missed the cavalry fight on the right, but was present at Cemetery Hill during the awful conflict on our left. Passing down the pike I rode leisurely by the sentinel, who was marching back and forth in the road, without a challenge from him and reached the junction of the pike with the Emmettsburg road when he called out:

"Where are you going?"
"To see friends in the village," I replied.
"Well, you'll see your friends in heaven before you do any on earth if you go any further. Those houses in your front are filled with rebel sharpshooters," he said. That settled it. I returned to the archway leading into the cemetery, where I entered into conversation with some artillerymen who were lying carelessly around their guns.


There was a striking contrast between the condition of the sacred enclosure now and when I last visited it. Tombstones, monuments and ornamental fences were upturned and broken; graves were ruthlessly trampled upon by the horses and men and cut up by the heavy wheels of the artillery, and the shot and shell from the enemy's guns had plowed great furrows in the ground. Comparative quiet prevailed along the line when I reached the cemetery and continued for some minuets after, but in this case it was truly the "clam that precedes the storm," for not long after there broke from the rebel position on Seminary Hill, the awful thunder from more than one hundred cannon. The shot and shell shrieking and whizzing through the air fell crashing on every side. Then followed that grand charge of Pickett's Division of Confederates which has challenged the admiration of the world for its heroic daring and tenacity of purpose which will live in history as one of the most wonderful and sublime assaults ever made by soldiers of any country. But it is not my purpose to attempt the description of this or any other battle, but to relate personal reminiscences and incidents.

After witnessing this greatest battle of the war, I returned to my regiment on the right and learned of the severe action between our division and Stuart's command, which was not entirely ceased when I reached there--in which the Confederate cavalry had been beaten in an open field fight by Gregg's Division, assisted by Cutter's Brigade of Kilpatrick's Division.


Next morning Major Avery directed me to take as many men as I needed and go into the county and get food and rations for the regiment. When about two miles out I found a small supply of corn, which I at once had loaded into wagons to be sent into camp. Just about this time a report was circulated among the frightened farmers that Stuart's cavalry was approaching and a general stampede followed. Women laden with clothing, household utensils, chickens, geese, etc., were following in the wake of their lords, who were eagerly crowding forward their livestock out of the reach of the phantom Confederate cavalry. After leaving this place--having sent the corn to camp--I found the country had been stripped of everything in the way of forage and rations for miles by the Confederates, who had been over the ground for that purpose.


When near Littlestown, a thunderstorm coming up late in the afternoon, I took my command into a spacious barn, where I found considerable corn. The storm continuing I concluded, as it was already dark, to remain until morning, and to prevent any possible surprise posted pickets and told the men to make themselves as comfortable as possible. Some of them had already visited the house and purchased some bread and cakes, paying exorbitant prices for them. I was indignant at such treatment and went to the house to remonstrate with the people for making such charges. But I found more Billingsgate than sentiment in their souls and was most soundly berated and was given to understand in broken German that I had "petter mind my pisbness." To get even with the man I refused to give him a receipt for the corn I had taken.


I returned to the barn and lay down on some hay and was soon sleeping soundly to the music of the patter of rain on the roof. About midnight Sergeant Moody, who was in charge of the pickets, came into the barn in great haste and, shaking me, said excitedly: "Hurry out; the pickets have been attacked." I hastened to have the men in the barn prepared for an emergency and then followed the sergeant out into the darkness and rain to the place where he said the attack had been made. Behind a stone wall running along the edge of a wood, I found the picket somewhat excited. He said he had heard someone approaching in the woods and promptly challenged them, but they continued to advance, when to his second challenge to "halt" they had fired on him, and then he had heard voices, which indicated the presence of a party of men. While he was detailing the matter to me we heard someone approaching and the picket commanded him to "halt," but, regardless of the challenge, the individual muttering and spluttering came on.


I told the picket to allow him to approach; well knowing no harm could come from him. He proved to be a German soldier, belonging to the Eleventh Corps, who had got lost and had wandered around the country nearly all day and so far into the night. He could scarcely speak a word of English, but by the aid of "interpreters" it was learned that upon being challenged the first time he became frightened, and falling down his musket was discharged, inflicting a painful, though not dangerous wound, and it was the lamentations and groans of the poor fellow that the picket had magnified into the "many voices." After placing the man in charge of the people at the house, I returned drenching wet, to the barn. Scarcely had I closed my eyes in sleep when I was awakened again, with the information that Stuart was surely approaching and was close by. I hastened down to the road, where in the gloom and rain I found the farmers, with their horses and cattle, in a confused mass. They insisted that the Confederate cavalry was close by, but none of them seemed to know which direction they were coming from. I left them cursing and jabbering in low Dutch and once more sought rest, convinced that Stuart was far away and having all he could attend to where he was.


Early on the morning of the 5th we started on the return to the regiment. I ascertained that we were near Littlestown and therefore concluded the best way would be to go via the Baltimore pike. When about two miles from the village we overtook a party of refuges returning to their homes, and at their head my friend, Charles Tyson, the photographer. They reported the town in the possession of out troops and I therefore marched directly into the village, intending to march up the Bonaughtown road to where the regiment was, but on our arrival I ascertained that our brigade passed through town the day before in pursuit of the Confederate army, going first to Hunterstown, but had swung around to the Chambersburg road, upon which they were now marching. From members of the regiment, who had returned as guards to prisoners, I learned that the brigade was marching toward Cashtown.