James Riley Bowen.

Regimental history of the First New York Dragoons (originally the 130th N.Y. Vol. Infantry) during three years of active service in the great Civil War online

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First New York Dragoons

(Orii;in:illy the i3otli N. Y. Vol. Infantry)

During Three Years of Active Service
IN THE Great Civil War

BY REV. j; R'. bow en

Our Motto : ' ' SEM PER PA RA TUS ' '
( Always ready )




The preparation of this history has been carried forward with
mingled feelings of pleasure and pain. In my really laborious
search after historic material I have been singularly carried back,
and have lived over those three eventful years of our regimental
service. Like the successive presentations'^of a moving panorama,
their scenes have vividly seemed to pass in review. Names of
comrades, with their forms and faces, are recalled after the lapse
of more than a third of a century, as if but yesterday. The
battlefield with its movements of troops, the roar of cannon
and rattle of small arms, the ringing commands of officers, the
groans of the wounded and dying soldiers, are again living

•Looking back over a period of thirty- eight checkered years I
behold a magnificent regiment, with full ranks of patriotic young
men, taking their departure for the, front. Three years later a
portion return as battle-scarred veterans, some with a missing limb
or serious wounds, and all more or less injured, and life shortened
by the exposures and hardships incident to army experience.
To-day we gaze upon the fragments that survive. We are but
the rear guard, the main body having crossed the dark river and
pitched their shining tents "where glory guards with solemn
rounds the bivouac of the dead."

In this connection a word as to why the history has been
written so long after the ending of the war, will be in place.
Aside from the excellent little pamphlet prepared by Lieut. J. N.
Flint, at the close of the war, we have no record of our splendid
service as a regiment, although nearly every survivor has felt the
desire for a more complete history. Several ett'orts in this
direction have failed, although it is probable that had our


beloved Major Smith been spared he would have succeeded.
Some of the material he collected has been utilized in this
volume. Excellent contributions have also been received from
Lieutenant Flint and many others.

At our memorable reunion in Buffalo the author heard many-
expressions of regret that our history should go unwritten. But
who should undertake the task? No one more competent seemed
disposed, so after an extended correspondence, receiving many
assurances of assistance and best wishes for mj' success, the work
was entered upon with the knowledge that it would necessarily
require a large degree of patience, perseverance, and hard labor;
but I had then no conception of the ditlicult and burdensome
undertaking before me.

Explanatory circulars were sent to comrades whose addresses
could be obtained, with the request that each contribute some
items of interest for the history. In answer to these personal
appeals, much valuable data came to hand, gathered from
carefully preserved army letters, newspaper correspondence, old
army diaries, and from personal recollections.

During our entire three-years' service it was my custom to
write quite elaborate descriptions of our battles, raids, marches,
and camp life, for the gratification of friends at home, or for
publication in home newspapers. Fortunately much of this
material has been preserved and drawn upon in this work.
These letters, written when all the facts were fresh, are more
reliable than accounts written after the lapse of years. In a few
instances I have copied largely from them, as containing a more
complete record of our transactions than elsewhere obtainable.

Various war histories containing descriptions of campaigns or
battles in which our regiment was concerned have been consulted ;
also some forty large volumes of official records pertaining to the
War of the Rebellion have been searched for official reports of
ntei'est in this history. Such official reports made by command-
ing officers of both armies, immediately after the battles or cam-


paigns, are coDsidered more reliable than any other source of

It may differ from most war books in that it is comparatively
free from dry statistics and mere details of military movements.
On the contrary, the ettort has been made to supply a missing
part in soldier history by the introduction of suitable anecdotes,
daring adventures, thrilling incidents, and descriptions of camp
life, as well as the wreck, roar, and carnage of battle; all, how-
ever, drawn from experiences within our own regiment.

War, though a grim reality, had its humor as well as its
tragedy, and our history would be incomplete without an occa-
sional presentation of the humorous side of army life.

In fact, no effort has been spared to place in permanent form
a reliable record of the entire three-years' service of the regiment,
its heroic deeds, desperate battles, bold achievements, and undy-
ing glory; such a record as every dragoon will appreciate, and
which will be prized by his family when the veteran has passed
to the eternal camping-grounds. It is also impartial, giving
credit and honor not only to the gallant officers who led us, but
also to the brave boys in blue who composed the rank and file,
for none should overlook or underestimate the courageous men
who, in the carnage of battle, stood behind the bayonets or
wielded the gleaming saber, and in the midst of whistling bullets
and cannon's roar pressed with an unfaltering tramp, tramp,
tramp, into the very jaws of death; or in the thunderous cavalry
charge, with waving sabers and savage yell, swept down upon the
enemy like a besom of destruction.

As before intimated, this history has been prepared under
peculiar embarrassments and difficulties. The survivors were
scattered from the Altantic to the Pacific. Besides sending out
nearly two thousand printed circular letters, I have actually
written by hand and mailed over two thousand three hundred
letters and postal cards. In many instances from ten to twenty
letters have been written to secure reliable imformation regarding


some one circumstance. Notwithstanding the care exercised
errors may have crept in.

Comrades, this book is sent out without hope of pecuniary
remuneration for the time and labor bestowed upon it. I do not
even expect to get back the actual cash expenditures, therefore
please be indulgent regarding its faults and failings.

Among those who have placed me under obligations for
assistance are Capts. J. N. Flint, A. J. Leach, W. C. Morey,
G. Wiley Wells, 11. A. Britton, S. Culbertson, and W. H. A.
Godfrey ; Col. A. B. Lawrence; Drs. B. F. Kneeland and
Robert Rae; Lieuts. Henry Gale, W. W. Tadder, and A. J.
Aldrich ; Sei'gts. Walter H. Jackson, Ezra Marion, M. C.
Grover, Harrison W. Green, Chester B. Bowen (for army letters),
M. T. Hills, James D. Bishop ; Q. M. Sergt. John W.
Barnard; Com. Sergt. S. S. Morris; Sergt. Merritt Norton;
Color Sergt. W. A. Ferris; W. W. Stebbins, A. Bigelow, R. C.
Jefferson, M. C. Grover, Geo. A. Peavy, A. F. Robinson, Henry
Sawyer; Sergts. R. E. Robinson and E. D. Humphrey, also
H. S. Mc Master, for loan of army diaries; Mrs. Mary Joslyn
Smith, for use of valuable papers of her late husband, Major
Smith, Mrs. Marvin W. Lindsley, for writings left by Mr.
Lindsley ; Miss Emma A. Norton, for valuable information
secured at Albany, N. Y; Dr. D. W. Harrington, for encourage-
ment and assistance in many ways ; Col. T. J. Thorp, and others ;
n fact, to every comrade who has sent words of encouragement
and cheer. I am specially grateful for the numerous contribu-
tions and words of cheer from Lieutenant Flint, who has stood
by me like a brother.

Last, but not least, am I indebted to my faithful wife, with-
out whose sympathy and co-operation during the weary weeks
and months, I should have given up in despair,

J. R. B.

Lyons, MicJi., June, 1900.



I. Portage to Suffolk 7

II. Various Experiences at Suffolk 15

III. Everyday Life in Camp. ... 35

IV. Black Water Marches and Battle of Deserted

House 48

V. Siege of Suffolk 09

VI. Suffolk TO Manassas — Peninsular Campaign 82

VII. Manassas to Mitchell's Station 96

VIII. Winter Quarters at Mitchell's Station 112

IX. The Spring Campaign — 1864 134

X. Sheridan's First Raid 153

XI. Five Days op A^VFUL Fighting (May 28 to June 1,

Inclusive 168

XII. The Trevilian Raid and Battles 183

XIII. From White House Landing to the Shenandoah

Valley 199

XIV. With Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley 208

XV. Sweeping Victories and Decisive Battles — The

Shenandoah Valley' Regained 224

XVI. Battles of Fisher's Hill and Woodstock Races.. 239

XVII. Battle op Cedar Creek 2.50

XVIII. Various Experiences — The Loudon Raid 263

XIX. The Gordonsville Raid 269

XX. Winter of 1864-65.— Last Raid 277

XXI. Appomattox Campaign — The Final Battles 282

XXII. Looking Homeward 299

XXIII. Recollections of an Army Surgeon. — Col. Thorp's

Letter 302


List of Engagements 317

List op Captures 317

Itinerary of the Regiment 319

Three Hundred Fighting Regiments 322

Roster First New York Dragoons 324

Regimental Badge 401

A Patriotic Southern Lady 462

A Friendly Letter to the Author 404



Rev. James R. Bowen Frontispiece

Ma.iou Scott akd Lieutenant Colonel Thorp 18

Col. Alfred Gibbs 23

A. B. Lawrence 34

Col. Thomas J. Thorp 39

Major Rufus Scott 55

Major Howard M. Smith 74

Major Jacob W. Knap. . .'. 91

Gen. Wesley Merritt, Gen. Thomas C. Devin. Gen. Philip H.

Sheridan, and Surgeon Benjamin T. Kneeland 110

Mrs. T. J. Thorp 127

Capt. Samuel Culbertson and Capt. A. J. Leach 138

Capt. John P. Robinson and Lieut. Joseph N. Flint 148

Lieut. Andrew J. Lorish 165

Capt. W. H. A. Godfrey. Lieut. Corydon C. Olney, and

Lieut. Wm. W. Tadder 170

Lieut. Samuel A. Farman and Lieut. Alphonso J. Aldrich 186

E. R. Robinson 196

Devillo W. Harrington. M. D 205

Sergt. Elon D. Humphrey and George H. Walker 216

Sergt. Milton T. Hills and Corp. Chauncy S. Pettibone. . . 226

Sergt. William Kramer 235

Corp. James G. Harris 245

Sergt. Harrison W. Green and F.uoler Henry C. Hollen-

BECK 256

Evan G. Gkiffith and Orancje A. Gardner 206

Sergt. Louis L. Lewis and Corp. Fernando W. Agard 276

Rufus C. J efferson and Parmer R. Karns 286

Geo. II. Kimp,all 295

Mrs. Lucy Reich , 303

Rev. Richard Gay 311



Thirty-five years have come and gone since that
memorable Sabbath morn when the echoes of war died
away on the heights of Appomattox, yet no adequate
record has been prepared of the part sustained by our
regiment in the most gigantic war of the century. The
present volume of history and reminiscences, edited by
Comrade Bowen, heroically, under the discouragements
of ill health and other disadvantages, is intended to meet
that want. It will be eagerly read by the friends of the
regiment, and especially by the younger class, who will
be gratified to know that their people of an elder genera-
tion did not fail in duty to their country in a great crisis.

To those of the "old boys" who read this book will
come back a flood of memories of our matchless field and
staff, each one equal to any emergency. They will
recall the good ofiices of a capable physician, who
personally ministered to the needs of the boys on every
battlefield ; of some company commander, trudging
along a dusty road with a musket on either shoulder to
relieve his worn-out men. They will recall how the
pangs of hunger were forgotten in the glories of a battle
won. To them will come the visions of comrades with
bleeding feet making their way along the brier-covered
fields of the Peninsula, or of many another one lying by
the roadside or sleeping in a nameless grave at Ander


The members of the regiment were very proud of
their organization, and earned their title to be classed by
the historian among the four hundred fighting regiments
of the Civil war. Very many have dropped out of the
ranks since 1865. Those who still survive realize full
well that for them the sun is rapidly approaching the
western horizon. May each of them at the final roll call
be able to answer, as did good old Colonel Newcombe,
" Adsum " (I am here).

Sa/i Francisco, Cal.
April, I'JOU.




The history of the First New York Dragoons is, in
one respect, unique, it having as an unbroken organization
served in two distinct branches of military service, one
year in infantry and two in cavalry. During the first
year we were known as the One Hundred and Thirtieth
New York Yolunteer Infantry, and had abundant experi-
ence as "dough boys'"" in fighting on foot, as well as in
long and exhausting marches with blistered feet and ach-
ing joints. As cavaliers we also had our turn of pitying
the poor boys who still had to " hoof it." We also learned
full well that, though riding our prancing steeds, the
mounted service was not all fun, especially under such
vigorous leaders as Sheridan.

After our transfer to the cavalry branch of service, we
became not simply " mounted infantry," but full-fledged
cavalrymen, having changed not only our regimental
name, but exchanged everything pertaining to infantry, —
our Enfield rifles, together with all accouterments and
clothing, for the carbine, saber, and revolver, as well as
full cavalry uniform.

This explanation is made at the outset, that those un-
acquainted with the facts may not get confused. So far


as the men were concerned, the One Hundred and Thir-
tieth Infantry and the First Dragoons were the same.

The regiment was organized at Portage, N. Y., in
August, 1SG2, our phice of rendezvous being near the
famous high bridge. It was recruited mainly from Liv-
ingston, Allegany, and Wyoming Counties, and composed
of men who, for intelligence, high moral character, patri-
otism, nobility of manhood, and genuine fighting quali-
ties, were unexcelled by any regiment in the service.
Although the majority were from well-to-do farm homes,
almost every trade and profession was represented — the
legal, medical, ministerial, and educational. There were
engineers, machinists, carpenters, painters, jewelers,
printers, and other skilled mechanics; editors, bankers,
merchants, college graduates, and professional musicians,
— all actuated by a stern sense of duty and one common
purpose to serve their country in time of her greatest

At the call of the president for more men, the regi-
ment sprang into existence as if by magic. It was mar-
velous how quickly ten full companies were enlisted and
the organization completed.

Time and space forbid lingering long at Portage, but
we can not forego a few reminiscences of our camp organi-

We all remember Col. W. S. Fullerton, with his
anti(|uated uniform, who was active there, but for certain
reasons did not accompany the regiment to the front.

None of us will ever forget our thorough medical
examination by Surgeon Kneeland; how he stripped,
pounded, pinched, and pulled us, examining every limb,
bone, muscle, and tooth, tested our hearts and lungs,
accepting only those he could pronounce " sound as a


new silver dollar.'' We were turned over to the govern-
ment as sound, healthy men. Yet, many of these noble
fellows after three years of active and faithful service,
exposed to hardshi}3s and the terrible strain of army" life,
returned home broken in health; but now, strange as it
may seem, when application is made for a pension, they
are required to search from Dan to Beersheba for evi-
dence to prove that they were not invalids and cripples
at the time of their enlistment.

After our acceptance by the surgeon came the formal-
ity of mustering into the service for three years, taking
the oath of allegiance to the government in whose defense
we were soon to fight.

Then came the lettering of companies and the distribu-
tion of uniforms, the establishment of camp guard, squad
drill, and election of officers.

We do not forget the thousands of visitors who over-
whelmed us with good things to refresh the inner man,
nor our evening camp-iires, where we listened to the
yarns spun by the champion story-tellers of the regiment.

We recall the romantic marriage of Lieutenant-Colo-
nel Thorp, performed on the battalion line, backed up
by the regiment at "parade rest," thus presenting us
with one more "major'" than the blue book provided
for. (Mrs. Thorp's maiden name was Mandana Major.)

At last the eventful day (Sept. 6, 1862) came, and
with it the order to break camp and go to the front.
With knapsacks in place, a thousand newly made soldiers
were in line of march for the railway station at Portage
Bridge. Not less than ten thousand visitors were present
to witness our departure. Who, present upon that occa-
sion, will ever forget the touching scene, when for a
short time the regiment broke ranks, that the boys might


speak their last good-bj, or receive the parting embrace
or kiss from fathers, mothers, wives, or sweethearts!'

"Attention!'" "All aboard!" rings out in stentorian
tones from our young commander. The locomotive
shrieks, and the cars move out midst cheers from men
and the waving of a thousand handkerchiefs from the
sad-faced women, who watched us as we passed out of

The journey to Elmira was an ovation all the way.
At that place the Enfield rifles and other equipments were
issued, but not distributed until reaching Harrisburg.

P'ew of us will forget that night of torture as we moved
out from Elmira, crowded into offensive-smelling cattle
cars, seated with rough hemlock boards, without backs,
affording us accommodations far removed from the
luxurious Pullman and Wagner cars in which soldiers
of to-day are carried.

Stiff and sore we disembarked Sunday morning at
Williamsport, Pa., just as the church bells were calling
the people to worship. But the kind-hearted citizens
were at the depot, loaded with baskets of provisions, and
gave us a sumptuous repast.

Our patriotism was so highly extolled by these good
people that we almost imagined the collapse of the Con-
federacy must occur when it became known that the One
Hundred and Thirtieth New York was headed South.
But somehow the obstreperous rebs, instead of throwing
down their arms, kept us dodging bullets for three long

After three rousing cheers for our kind-hearted hosts,
we sped on to Harrisburg, where, under our new expe-
I'iences, in the dirt of Camp Curtin, we made our first
acfpiaintance with shelter, tents, and army "gray-backs."


Here, too, we received our first scare, as wild rumors
were afloat that Lee was moving in that direction, and
some of the more timid tremblingly awaited the onset of
the enemy.

Monday evening we were hustled aboard a train of
dirty coal cars, our destination being Baltimore, where
we arrived a begrimed and disconsolate set, this being our
second night of rough riding, giving us a foretaste of
the rougher experiences awaiting us. Nearly all day
we lay in the hot streets of the city, where, not long
before, the famous Sixth Massachusetts had received
their baptism of brickbats.

Public sentiment was divided; while some scowled and
manifested extreme hatred, we found others intensely
outspoken in their loyalty. Some who purchased and
drank milk there became sick, leading to the belief that
it had been purposely poisoned.

Proceeding to Washington, we stretched our tired
bodies that night on the commons near the capitol. First,
however, we were marched into the rough room called the
" Soldiers' Rest," where was spread before us army bread,
boiled pork, and dirty-looking coffee in tin cups. Many
of the boys, just from homes of plenty, turned away in
disgust, and ate ' nothing that night. A year or two
later, however, less palatable food was devoured with

Following us came another New York regiment, more
fastidious than ours. They were marched to the same
place for supper, and after noting the general appearance
of things, bolted outright, declaring: " We are Uncle
Sam's soldiers, but not his hogs.""

Still fresh in our memory is our odoriferous camp at
Washington, containing more bad smells to the square


inch than any spot we ever saw; and no wonder, it
being on the border of a dried-up goose pond.

Everything about Washington presented a military
aspect. Regiments were moving here and there. Offi-
cers in bright new uniforms, with their gaily dressed
orderlies, were galloping along the streets, while in striking
contrast were seen the shabby, bronzed veterans, just from
the front, and the maimed and crippled soldiers lounging
in the shade of houses and trees. Everywhere we caught
the gleam of the bayonet, and heard the roll of drums,
and unceasing rumble of army wagons. Dirt and filth
were everywhere visible.

Street fakirs and peddlers besieged us at every turn,
offering every imaginable device for the convenience of
soldiers. Vile women plied their vocation, and viler men
offered their services to pilot the unsuspecting boys to
dens of infamy.

Embarking on the transport " New Yoi-k," we left the
Capitol City for Fort Monroe, making a pleasant trip
down the historic Potomac. We recall the tolling of our
bell as we passed Mt. Yernon and the tomb of the immor-
tal Washington, also our ride over the Chesapeake Bay
and arrival at the famous fortress, the recent scene of so
many stirring events. We were permitted also to enjoy
an invigorating sea bath, and a pleasant stroll about the

Passing over Hampton Roads, we disembarked at
Norfork, Va. , a city recently recaptured from the enemy,
but still a stronghold of rank traitors. Here we caught
whiffs of genuine secesh atmosphere, and were forcibly
reminded by the haughty and insulting demeanor of both
men and women that rebeldom had finally been reached
The women in particular were emphatic in manifestation


of supreme contempt for Yankee soldiers, and when in
response to Colonel Thorp's request the regiment lustily;
sang "John Brown," their anger and disgust were un-

One or two incidents described in a letter at the time,
will serve to illustrate their venom. A number of the
regiment were quietly awaiting orders, when a bevy of
ladies (?) approached for the apparent purpose of offering
insults, as one of them, looking directly at the boys, in
a loud voice remarked: —

" What a horrid lot of dirty creatures they are; noth-
ing but the dregs of society."

" We '11 be all right, madam," replied one of our boys,
" when we get washed up."

"Yes, but that won't make gentlemen of you," she
exclaimed. " Our Southern soldiers are all gentlemen."

To which our spokesman quickly retorted: " Perhaps
they are; but, madam, if you are a sample, all Southern
women are not ladies." Her face flushed with rage, and
her attempt to scream out a reply was drowned by shouts
of laughter.

Soon after this occurrence, a large, pompous man, who
we learned had been a prominent city official, was boasting
in the presence of some of the One Hundred and Thirtieth
about the superiority of Confederate soldiers over the
Yankee hirelings, reiterating the stale, old assertion that
"one Southerner is as good as a dozen Yankees in a
fight." He had scarcely got the words out of his mouth
when a small, wiry young man of the regiment stepped
up to him, and remarked: —

" See here. Mister, are you a Southerner?"

" I 'm proud to say I am, sir."

" Well, you old traitor, I 'm a Yankee, and not as big


as you are, but it" you don't get out of here, or take your
words back, I '11 knock them down your belly."

Without a word the fellow turned instanter and dis-
appeared around a corner.

Taking the train we reached Suffolk, some eighteen
miles southwest, about dark, Saturday, Sept. 13, 1862, just
a week after leaving Portage. This place is about fifty
miles southeast from Petersburg, and eight or ten miles
from the North Carolina line. Here was being collected
an offensive army to threaten the rebel capital from the
south. This proved to be our army home for about nine

Online LibraryJames Riley BowenRegimental history of the First New York Dragoons (originally the 130th N.Y. Vol. Infantry) during three years of active service in the great Civil War → online text (page 1 of 36)