Charles H. Kirk.

History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry which was recruited and known as the Anderson cavalry in the rebellion of 1861-1865; online

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Online LibraryCharles H. KirkHistory of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry which was recruited and known as the Anderson cavalry in the rebellion of 1861-1865; → online text (page 1 of 77)
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Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer



in the Rebellion of 1861-1865



First Lieutenant Company E




Society of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry





Preface 7

Introduction 9

The Inception and Organization of the Regiment. ... 13
Reminiscences of the Early Days of the Anderson

Cavalry 17

Antietam 30

A Scout to Hagerstovvn 41

Extract from Col. A. K. McClure's Book. "Lincoln and

Men of War Times" 43

After Information with Colonel Palmer 47

Reminiscences of Antietam 49

On Picket at Antietam 56

Colonel Palmer and the Patriotic Parson 59

Our First Campaign 62

Sergeant Betts and Old Company E 71

A Private Foraging Party at Bowling Green which

Failed 73

The Christmas Foraging Expedition in 1862 75

Death of Martin L. Hill 'j'j

Fifteenth Pennsylvania (Anderson) Cavalry at Stone

River 80

The Halt at Overall^s Creek loi

Major Rosengarten's Last Order to Major Ward 103

Incident of Stone River Battle 104

What I Saw at Stone River 108

The Charge on Infantry at Stone River 1 1 1

Capture of Our Wagon Train by Wheeler's Cavalry. . . 116

With Rosengarten's Battalion at Stone River 118

Story of a Typical Capture, Imprisonment and Ex-
change 121

Among the Killed and Wounded at Stone River : 129

My Charge at Stone River 137


4 History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.


With Our Captured Wagon Train 140

Bringing Our Dead Back to Nashville 142

The Chase Brothers 145

From Stone River to Libby 147

Will Ward's Hunt for His Brother, the Major 154

At Nashville 178

A Close Call 182

Reorganization and Middle Tennessee Campaign 187

The Christian Spirit of the Regiment 195

"L" and "E" Carrying a Dispatch to General Mitchell,

AT Rover 202

Courier Duty 204

Memories Musical of Camp Fires 206

The Escort Companies at Army Headoltarters 211

How I Became Acquainted with Gen. P. H. Sheridan. . . 217

On the Courier Line 220

Carrying Dispatches from General Rosecrans to Gen-
eral Stanley 222

The Chickamauga Campaign 225

Incidents During the Battle of Chickamauga 240

At Headquarters During the Battle of Chickamauga . . 244

Experience of a Courier at Chickamauga 249

With General Garfield at Chickamauga 2,^4

The Break at Chickamauga and the Ride it Cost Me. . 259

Orderly Duty at Headquarters During Battle 262

A Wild Ride by a Courier at Chickamauga 268

Chickamauga's Stricken Field 271

How Two of Us Got Lost After Chickamauga 276

Bringing in the Chickamauga Wounded 278

Our Teamsters 280

Company L on Lookout Mountain 286

First Step Toward Opening the Cracker Line 297

Opening the Cracker Line 299

Capture of Our Wagon Train in Seoltatchie VxVlley,

Tennessee 303

Sequatchie 307

Major Ward's Charlie 312

War's Varied Duties 314

Contents. 5


Company I at Missionary Ridge 324

Patriotic Utterances of Gen. Geo. H. Thomas 327

Henri Le Caron — One of Our Characters 328

First East Tennessee Campaign — December 3, 1863. to

February it, 1864 331

Scouting in East Tennessee 340

The Cherokee Indian Raid 345

Fighting Cherokee Indians 348

The Pursuit and Capture of General A\\nce 351

Dandridge 24TH OF December, 1863 354

Wounded and Left to Die in Rebel Hands 357

A Peculiar Situation 363

]\Iy Escape from Andersonville 365

Prison Life at Belle Island and Andersonville 377

Continuation of Andersonville Narrative 388

The Midnight Crossing of the French Broad 391

The Wrong Men Shot ; . . -. 394

"Hold the Fort"' 397

Hood's Attack on Resaca, Ga 404

Foraging When Hood Cut Our Cracker Line 407

Second East Tennessee Campaign 409

Scout to Find General Burbridge 415

Recollections of the Burbridge Trip 421

The Rear Gltard at McKinney's Ford 425

A Trip to Sand Mountain, Ga 430

The Vote of the Regiment in the Presidential Election 432

Sojourn in Dixie 434

The Last Blow at Hood's Army 440

Capture of Colonel Warren and Incidents of the Pon-
toon Raid 457

An Incident of the Raid 460

The Lyon Scout 463

Sergeant Lyon's Last Ride 469

On the Lyon Scout 474

Arthur Peace Lyon 475

"Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead'' 481

Our Campaign Against Colonel Mead's Guerrillas 486

Our Last Campaign and Pursuit of Jeff Davis 492

6 History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.


With Gillem's Tennesseans on the Yadkin 520

With the First Battauon to Lynchburg 529

The Regiment at Hillsyille, Va., in April, 1865 533

A High-Priced Meal 536

"An Orderly Entrance Into Town'' 538

Capture of Third South Carolina Cavalry 541

Burning Bridge Over South Buffalo Creek 545

My Part in the Capture of the Third South Carolina

Cavalry 550

A Recruit Who Had Great Nerve 553

Company A at Sherrill's Ford, 1865 556

Carrying Dispatches on Our Last Raid 560

Carrying News of the Armistice Between Sherman

AND Johnston 564

The Capture of General Braxton Bragg 566

An Attempt to Capture Jeff Davis 569

Capture and Release of Major Garner at Jacksonville,

Ala 572

One of the Final Incidents of the War 574

A Scrap of Paper 575

A Race for Life 582

Getting Home from Athens, Ga 586

The "Fifteenth" at General Joe Johnston's Surrender 589

Our Regiment — in War and Peace 596

Plan of the Formation of the Anderson Troop 601

The Anderson Troop 605

Correspondence Relating to the Formation of the An-
derson Cavalry 622

Muster Roll of the "Anderson Troop" 624

Addenda 627

Chronological History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania

Cavalry 629

Telegrams from the Front 640

Official Reports 647

Letters of General Palmer 716

Muster Roll of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, y^)?
Taps 785


IT is possible that this book should have been prepared and
published long ago, when the incidents described were fresh
in the memories of all ; but we were too busy then, and the
recollections of our war experiences were so vivid that it did
not seem they could ever fade. Even now, with forty years
intervening, to many the events are as clear and fresh as if it were
only yesterday the facts narrated in the following pages took place.
In the compilation of this work, the committee who had it in
charge have received active help from so many of the Regiment
tliat it is hardly proper to name any — the list would be too long.
In like manner those who have contributed the various articles
^v•hich tell the history from enlistment to muster out have been
assisted by those who took part in the events described. It is,
therefore, a regimental work. All of the most prominent articles
are verified by official documents, while old diaries and letters have
been ransacked to tell again the story they told long ago.

But, in a large sense, this book is not for those who made these
annals, but rather as an inheritance we leave our children, that
they may know, for all time, what Regiment their fathers served in
and the part they took in the greatest war of modern history.
Should this object be accomplished, the work done will be a suc-

Charles H. Kirk,
ist Lieut. Company E, i^th Penna. Cavalry,
Chairman of Historical Committee.


Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, June i, 1905.

THESE annals of a Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment, which
served for the last three years of the Civil War, are
written by some of its surviving members, and edited by
one of its line officers, Lieutenant Kirk, to whose selection of
the contributors and subjects and weaving together of the "thread
of the narrative" the chief credit for this modest history is
due. There is included a brief account of the Anderson Troop
of Pennsylvania, which served under General Buell during the
first year of the war, and was the pioneer body whose success
led to the organization of the Regiment.

Having had the honor to raise and command both Troop and
Regiment, I have been asked to contribute some introductory
words. It should be stated that in the last year of the war, when
its activity was perhaps the greatest, the command of the Regi-
ment — then embraced in my brigade and division — devolved upon
a very able and successful officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles M.

For the whole three years, with a few temporary exceptions, the
Regiment served as an independent command, under the direct
orders either of the Department Commander or of the General
commanding the cavalry of the army with which it was serving.
This naturally gave its officers and men an unusual opportunity
of knowing what was going on ; and, owing to their intelligence,
discipline and spirit, they were often entrusted with special and
delicate missions requiring tact, dash and courage.

As the Regiment campaigned actively in every Southern State
east of the Mississippi River (except Florida and Louisiana) and
also in Pennsylvania and Maryland, it may be supposed that, first
and last, it enjoyed rather an adventurous career.

Beginning with the Pennsylvania border, to which it was rushed,
while being organized, from Carlisle Barracks to harass and delay
the rebel invasion of 1862. and with the battle of Antietam which


lo History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

shortly followed, the Regiment was soon after sent to Kentucky to
join the army of the Cumberland, in all of whose subsequent cam-
paigns, first under Rosecrans and later under Geo. H. Thomas, it
participated to the close of the war. It has been observed how
completely the coils were drawn around the fated Southern army,
when at the time of the closing battle Sherman was in North Caro-
lina and forces from the Army of the Cumberland of Thomas high
up in Virginia. The latter, under General Stoneman, were repre-
sented in part by this Regiment, which had borne the most promi-
nent part in disabling the railroad connecting East Tennessee with
Richmond, and whose advanced battalion (under Major Wagner)
had, on April 8th, driven in the enemy's pickets at Lynchburg,
within about twenty miles of Lee's rear at Appomattox, when
on April 9, 1865, the final surrender of his army and of the
Southern Cause took place. The Regiment then followed south-
ward through the Carolinas, destroying the railroads and cutting
off the retreat of the scattered forces with the Cabinet and Gen-
erals from Richmond, many of whom it captured and paroled.
Having destroyed the railroad bridge ahead of it, and but barely
failing to intercept the train on which Jefferson Davis was retreat-
ing, the Regiment then followed in the pursuit of Davis and his
large cavalry escort supposed to be seeking union with the Confed-
erate forces of the trans-Mississippi for a prolongation of the
struggle. Following closely on their.heels, well down into Georgia,
it drove Davis and his escort into the successful cordon which
General Wilson had drawn across that State to intercept him.

These chronicles, written by men without pretence to any liter-
ary training, have the interest of coming from soldiers who were
part of what they describe. Forty years after the close of the
war, when from sixty to seventy years of age, these veterans
have turned aside for a moment from the current of their present
civil life to recall and, aided by reference to their war-time letters
and diaries, to set down, that it may be preserved for the edification
of their children and grandchildren and successors and for the en-
tertainment of their surviving comrades, this unambitious record of
their regimental experience. Written especially for the "inner cir-
cle" of family, friends and comrades, these familiar recollections of
camp, march and engagement make no appeal for recognition by
the general reader. Nevertheless they may contribute some mate-

Introduction. ii

rial of interest to the historian who hereafter seeks to recreate
with truth and vividness the hfe of these memorable years in one
of the decisive epochs of the world's history.

This Regiment, raised in the dark days of the war following
the defeat of Pope in Virginia, was composed of young men of
good character and physique, intelligence and spirit, carefully
selected from nearly every county in Pennsylvania, from several-
fold as many applicants. They were chiefly very young men —
boys in fact — of good breeding and education, usefully occupied
on railroads, farms, in law offices, stores and counting houses,
machine shops, etc., or but just out of school or college. They
had not felt strongly called upon to take the field as private sol-
diers during the first year of the war, when volunteers were in
excess of the demand and "acceptance" was a favor.

Enthusiasm was then unbounded and an early victory was the
general expectation. But now one disaster after another had made
it plain as noonday that the "putting down of the Rebellion" was
no holiday affair and that the nation's throat was in the grip of a
mortal enemy, with the issue in the gravest doubt.

It was at this time, and not long after the fruitless Corinth
campaign, that I was detached by General Buell and sent to Penn-
sylvania from Huntsville, Ala., where I was serving as Captain
with my troop, to raise, by consent of the Secretary of War, a bat-
talion of cavalry, which very soon, by reason of the unexpected
number of young men of the desired sort offering, developed into
a regiment of 1200 men.

They were among those who came forward in response to
President Lincoln's call for "300,000 more." The life of the
nation was at stake and they felt that their own lives would cease
to have interest or justification should their country be rent
asunder. The recruits for this Regiment came almost without
solicitation, and without a single promise of office, commissioned
or non-commissioned, directly or indirectly. Every man enlisted,
as the men of "the Troop" had done before them, as a private
soldier, either heedless of office or trusting to future demonstra-
tion of fitness for command. It can, I think, be truthfully said
that before the war closed but few of them were not competent to
be officers, and many served as such with this and other regi-
ments. Of the three years' experience which followed their enlist-

12 History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

ment and drilling at Carlisle Barracks, or at least of the salient
features of that experience, the story is told by themselves in
the pages which follow. That they served with usefulness and dis-
tinction is borne independent testimony to by their common repute
in the Army of the Cumberland and by the reports of Gen. Geo. H.
Thomas and other Commanders.

Since the close of the war, with few exceptions, they or their
survivors have borne an honorable record in civil life. Among
them are now found, or have been, judges, merchants, engineers,
bankers, presidents and treasurers, lawyers, railroad officers, minis-
ters, locomotive builders and citizens well known in many other
useful and honorable pursuits. One of our First Sergeants, Wil-
mon W. Blackmar, of Company K, was elected Commander-in-
Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic at the National Encamp-
ment held in 1904. Although most of the survivors continue to
live in Pennsylvania, there are many scattered throughout the
Union from the Atlantic shore to the Pacific. Sixteen were at
one time assisting me in railway building in Colorado.

Perhaps to an exceptional degree the officers and men have kept
up since the war their regimental associations — the surviving
"comrades" meeting at a yearly banquet to exchange greetings,
renew old memories and "fight their battles o'er again."

I feel sure that no war of aggression or for the spread of empire
would have drawn these young men from their homes. It was a
great and pure cause for which they fought, and if war is ever
justifiable, their consciences are clear that this one was so. That
I am proud to have commanded and to have since retained the
respect and confidence of such a body of men goes without saying.

Wm. J. Palmer.


Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer



THE Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry was conceived shortly
after the Battle of Shiloh (April, 1862) where General
Buell, after the hardest fighting that had perhaps so far oc-
curred in the War of the Rebellion, drove the enemy from the
field and converted the crushing defeat of the previous day into a

Some two months later,, at Huntsville, Alabama, realizing what
even a comparatively small body of properly trained and led young
cavalrymen of spirit and intelligence could do in serving as ears
and eyes for the commanding General, as well as in deinoralizing
a retreating enemy by a bold charge at the right moment. General
Buell sent for Capt. Wm. J. Palmer, then commanding his es-
cort, the Anderson Troop, and asked if he could raise in Pennsvl-
vania enough more of the same class of young men to increase his
company to a battalion. Captain Palmer at once responded that
he could, and urged to be allowed the opportunity.

General Buell, accordingly, in July, 1862, obtained permission
from the War Department for Captain Palmer to enlist a battalion
of 400 men for special service, and a detail was at once sent to
Pennsylvania from the "Troop" for that purpose. Recruiting


14 History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

offices were opened in Philadelphia, Pittsburg and other parts of
the State early in August, 1862, and in a few days the 400 men,
allowed by the War Department, were enlisted.

Captain Palmer saw at once that a full regiment of ten or
twelve companies could easily be enrolled, and asked permission
to increase the enlistment, which the War Department, at the re-
quest of General Buell, granted. The result was that a regiment
of 1200 men was very quickly secured. A large majority joined
within ten days after August 10, 1862. They represented over
thirty counties in the State, the larger numbers coming from
Philadelphia and Allegheny, and a splendid body of young men
they were.

The quickness in securing the required number of this quality
of men was phenomenal. There were more than forty regiments
of Pennsylvania infantry and cavalry mustered into service in
August, 1862. Most of these regiments had been recruiting
and in process of formation for a long time ; the Fifteenth Penn-
sylvania Cavalry, however, was recruited and assembled at Car-
lisle, Pa., for organization and muster, in less than two weeks
from the time the recruiting stations were opened.

These young men were actuated chiefly by sincere patriotic
motives — they wanted to do something to suppress the rebellion
and to preserve the life of the nation. That they were attracted
by the promise of special service there can be no question
although they m.ay not have stopped to consider that special ser-
vice meant specially arduous and dangerous service.

Probably one reason why the Regiment was formed so
quickly was because it was not so easy a matter to join the Ander-
son Cavalry. Special care was taken to obtain a select body of
young men. Applicants were required to have a good moral
character and to furnish letters of recommendation from men of
standing in the respective counties, and to pass a severe physical
examination. In addition, the recruiting officers from the Ander-
son Troop were stationed throughout the State at their home
towns, and naturally drew recruits from the circles in which they
moved themselves. The result was the formation of a regiment
of as intelligent, active and high-spirited young men as could be
found anywhere in the country. Every man was enlisted as a pri-
vate and without promise of office of any kind. Clothed in a neat-

The Inception and Organization of the Regiment. 15

fitting and handsome uniform, the members of the Regiment pre-
sented an attractive appearance and, excepting training and ex-
perience, possessed all the requisites of the ideal cavalry soldier.

As the men were enlisted they were sent off to Carlisle in
small and larger bodies and went into camp on ground adjacent
to the U. S. Cavalry barracks near that town. The camp was
named "Camp Alabama," and to most of us there was something
very significant in that name. Alabama at that time was to our
youthful minds far doivn South, and little did we then think that
nearly three years of great hardship and danger were before us and
that many skirmishes and battles would have to be fought ere we
could make our final halt at Huntsville preparatory to our happy
march to Nashville to be mustered out of the service — the war
being over.

On August 22, 1862, the regiment was paraded and mustered
into the U. S. Service by Capt. D. H. Hastings for three years
or during the war. The drill was started at once, the old regular
sergeants of the barracks being the chief drill-masters and some
progress was made in perfecting the details of the organization,
when an interruption occurred. Lee had invaded Maryland and
was threatening Pennsylvania and on September 9th and nth two
large detachments were hastily sent to the border and "Antietam"
to do what they could to repel him. They performed the duty as-
signed to them better than, at the time, they thought they did — ^the
great misfortune being that they were compelled, after the battle
of Antietam, to return to their camp at Carlisle without their com-
mander, and thus, unfortunately, before he had selected any offi-
cers for the Regiment, which then left for the Arm.y of the Cum-
berland, comparatively unofficered.

After these many years it must be a source of much gratifica-
tion to every survivor to look back to those early davs and recall
that, with all the disappointments and troubles of the time, the
boys of the Regiment (the average age was probably not over
twenty years) remained faithful and anxious for duty, and although
some of them, when the real test came at Nashville, at first refused
to move, bringing some confusion to our ranks, it was not disloy-
alty or cowardice — they wanted a leader, such as he who, having
escaped from captivity, stood before us early in February, 1863, at
our rude camp on the outskirts of Nashville, and said to those

i6 History of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.

drawn up in line there: "I was determined I would not appear
before you until I could look every man of you in the face and say
to you — 'this Regiment will be re-organized." And so we were or-
ganized at Carlisle and re-organized at Murfreesboro, and after
nearly three-}-ears' service, we returned to our homes and took up
the cares and duties of civil life, and forty years after, those of us
v/ho survive, are meeting year after year to "fight our battles o'er
again" and still keep up our organization.



IN August, 1862, a group of students, including myself, in
Washington College, Pa., were discussing the war and Presi-
dent Lincoln's recent call for 300,000 more volunteers, when
one of the number, Sam. McFarren, mentioned that a crack
Regiment was being raised to be General Buell's bodyguard, and
proposed that we go into it.

Our patriotism was already at a white heat and the suggestion
was adopted with enthusiasm.

As soon as arrangements could be made, we secured a spring
wagon and drove over to Pittsburg, twenty-eight miles distant,
where we enlisted in Company F.

There were eight of us, namely: Robert Brownlee, David
Clark, Edward Cornes, M. L. Hill, A. P. Howard, S. J. McFarren,
J. H. Sharpe and myself.

We were soon after sent to Carlisle, where we joined the Regi-
ment, and spent some weeks in being drilled by the Sergeants of
the regular army stationed there.

At the time of Lee's invasion of Maryland, in September, the
Regiment was hurried down to the front, gathering up our equip-
ment of horses on the way.

At Chambersburg I was detailed on orderly duty at headquar-
ters, and served in this capacity for three days, which proved
advantageous to me in two ways. First, I had my pick out of
some hundreds of horses and secured a fine animal, which did me
a good turn when we had our baptism of fire at Antietam. The
second advantage was the opportunity afforded me of seeing a
fine sight, namely, the gathering of the Pennsylvania clans at the

Online LibraryCharles H. KirkHistory of the Fifteenth Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry which was recruited and known as the Anderson cavalry in the rebellion of 1861-1865; → online text (page 1 of 77)