Chicago Standard Genealogical Publishing Company.

A Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away online

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Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 4 of 108)
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eral always had a kind word for all, but did not care to be bothered with any-
thing that was not strictly military.

After the army had reorganized, it was set in motion, this time going into
Maryland and Pennsylvania. General Lee had become much emboldened
by his great victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and was about
to start on his raid into the northern states, and had set liis cavalry in motion
for that purpose.

It was on the morning of the 8th of June, 1863, that General Pleasanton,
who had superseded General Stoneman in command of the cavalry of the
Army of the Potomac, set his command in motion, after a rest of one month.
His object was to find out the position and strength of the enemy, who was sup-
posed to be moving up the valley.

The command consisted of three divisions, as follows^ First Division,
General Buford ; Second Di\'ision, Colonel Duffie ; Third Division, General
Gregg. Each was accompanied by two light batteries. Our cavalry force,
all told, was about 9,500; and the enemy's force, from their own records, was
12,100, with twelve six-pounders. On the 9th Pleasanton's command crossed
the Rappahannock river at Beverly's and Kelly's Fords, which are about five
miles apart. It was supposed that the enemy were at Culpeper Court House;
but it was soon ascertained that they were at Brandy Station, in full force.
Buford's division, crossing at Beverly's, soon came in collision with the whole
of Stuart's cavalry force, and a most sanguinary battle- ensued, at what is
called St. Mary's church, not far from Brandy Station. After Buford had
fought for some hours, the enemv getting in on his rear, he was obliged to fall

In the meantime General Gregg had come upon the field, and he. too,
was obliged to fight the whole of Stuart's force with his single division. It
seemed an unequal fight, and Gregg was being steadily forced back, when at
the critical moment. General Kilpatrick, who had crossed at Kelly's Ford with
his gallant brigade, hove in sight, striking the enemy in flank and rear, thus
saving the day in one of the hardest-fought cavalry engagements of the war.

The enemy's infantry could now be seen coming down from Culpeper to
relieve the cavalry. But the object of the expedition having been accom-
plished, and the great battle of Brandy Station fought, Pleasanton fell back
across the Rappahannock. This movement evidently kept General Lee on the
west side of the Blue Ridge mountains, where otherwise he would have entered
Maryland at Monocacy, and therefore accomplished much more damage than
he did on his northern raid. General Hooker had always underrated the \-alue
of cavalry, for the sole reason that they were never thoroughly organized.
General Stoneman, who had command of it for some time, was as incompetent


to handle cavalr}' as Hooker was to command the whole of the Potomac army.
After the Brandy Station fight we were on the alert and kept our eye on
the movements of the enemy, meeting them again at Aldie on the i/th, with
General Kilpatrick as the leader of this expedition. Kilpatrick's brigade was
composed of the Harris Lights, Fourth New York, First Massachusetts, First
Rhode Island and the Sixth Ohio, accompanied by a section of artillery. Kil-
patrick was directed to move through Ashby's Gap and ascertain the move-
ments of the enemy. We met the advance of Fitzhugh Lee's division at Aldie,
and a very sharp engagement was the result. Kilpatrick took in the situation
at a glance and sent the Harris Lights, charging through the town, to hold the
town, to Middleburg. This move cut off Lee's retreat in that direction. Then
the Sixth Ohio and other regiments charged them in front and flank in quick
succession. Here the Sixth Ohio charged and captured a battalion of the
Fifth Virginia Cavalry, and here ]\Iajor Stanhope was killed. Lee's men
fought desperately, using his artillery to good effect, but all in vain; Kilpat-
rick's gallant men_, aided by Randall's battery, swept the enemy back until
they intrenched themselves behind stone walls and haystacks, and otherwise
fortified themselves; and here they made it very disagreeable for our men in
the open. The general finally ordered up a regiment (the Harris Lights, I
think), in charge of JMajor Irwin. The general said, "Major, there is the
opportunity for which you have been asking. Go, take that position." Away
dashed the Harris Lights ; but their horses could not leap the barricades. Dis-
mounting, they rushed with drawn sabers upon the enemy, who quickly asked
for quarters. The balance of the brigade, inspired by the dash of the Harris
Lights, made a charge all along the line and drove the enemy from the field,
capturing quite a number of prisoners, Lee moving in the direction of Middle-
burg, with part of our men in pursuit, where two days later we had another
brush with them.

An incident happened at .Vldie. in which a brave officer retrieved his good
name and at the same time added much fame to his military record. Colonel
Di Cesnola, of the Fourth New York Cavalry, had that morning, through
mistake of orders, been placed under arrest, and his sword taken from him.
But in one of these wild charges his regiment hesitated, forgetting that he
was under arrest, and without command he flew to the head of his regiment,
re-assured his men, who Avere wavering, and led them to the charge with suc-
cess. The act was seen by General Kilpatrick, who rode up to him and said.
"Colonel Cesnola, you are a brave man. You are relieved from arrest :" and
taking his own sword from his side, handed it to the colonel, saying, "Here is
my sword; wear it in honor of this day."

In the next charge that the colonel was in he was badly wounded, as I
will relate. At Upperville, four days after the Aldie fight, we again met
the enemy. The contest for a certain position of importance to both armies
was to be taken. Evidently it was considered a forlorn hope, for volunteers
were called for to form a storming party. I think there were about twenty
men of Company A. of our regiment, among the force engaged in it. Colonel
Di Cesnola being at their head. They were ]M-omised support; but the support


did not come in time; and after a severe hand-to-liand contest, they being out-
numbered finally surrendered. They were all taken prisoners and sent to
Libby prison, except the colonel, who was so badly wounded that he could not
be moved. Captain Delos R. Northway and many of his men were among
the wounded. The battle was won later in the day. Kilpatrick's men were
all engaged; and I am confident that there were more horses killed in that fight
than in any other cavalry engagement of the war; and we were equally
afflicted by the loss of scores of good men, — killed, wounded and prisoners. I
should have remarked that at Aldie our regiment sustained a great loss in the
death of Major Ben Stanhope, who was wounded in the charge, his arm being
badly shattered; and he did not rally from the amputation; also that two days
later we met the enemy at ]\Iiddleburg, June 19th, where our men were again
successful in giving Lee a drubbing.

These were the days that tried the mettle of every man, not alone those
that were doing the fighting at the front but those also that had charge of sup-
plying them with fo(_)d and ammunition. My duty was to keep my brigade in
rations, as well on the march as at any other time; and I can assure you that
there were many anxious hours sjient in thinking how this was to be accom-

When we first started out on this campaign I drew from the corps' com-
missary fifty head of beef cattle of the Texas long-horned variety to keep the
brigade in fresh meat on the march. The cattle were in charge of a sergeant,
and guard of about ten men. \\'hen out a day or two the sergeant came to me
in great excitement and said, "I have lost every head of cattle I had." The
underbrush in that section was very thick, and the cattle getting into it could
not be driven out. I said, "Boys, you know what you will have to do." That
evening they came to me with smiles all over their faces. They had gathered
up over one hundred head of fine Ijeef cattle, and as the country after that was
more open they had no more trouble.

At the battle of Aldie, General Kilpatrick's headquarters (also the head-
quarters of the ordnance ofiicer, quartermaster, and commissary) were on the
rise of ground just east of the town and battlefield. Our wagons were
packed ; but the mules were not unhitched from the wagons, for we knew not
how soon we would have to move. At times during the battle they got range
of us, and the darky teamsters were stampeded, and they cut some of the mules
loose from the wagons and went helter-skelter to the rear, as fast as the mules
could carry them : nor did we see them again for some hours after the battle
was over. When asked why they ran away, the spokesman of the darkey
teamsters said, "De Laud, Massa Cap'n ! dose shells a-cumin' right ober heah,
an' a-bustin'. You think we a-goin' to stan' that ? Not if dese darkies know
demselves." It was useless to argue with them; but they were informed that
if it occurred again they would be fired.

The two armies met at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Julv i. iSC>,^: and
every one knows the result of that great battle ; so I will not enter into details,
but will pass it over to the historians, who have told the story many times. At
the time of the Gettysburg battle I was on the road between Frederick City,


]\IarylancJ, and the battle-fiekl, bringing up rations for tlie brigade. 1 had to
make three trips, both ways, in four days, sleeping In my saddle, when I slept
at all. My horse gave out completely, and I can assure you that the horse
question with me was becoming a serious one, as at that time Kilpatrick was
accused of killing more cavalry horses than any other general in the army. My
chance came to better my condition in the horse supply in an unexpected man-
ner, and in the nick of time. I was riding along the road between Gettys-
burg and Frederick, ]\Iaryland, about noon, and was passing the headquar-
ters of the First Brigade, First Division of our corps. The officers were in an
inclosed fiekl under some trees, eating their dinner. The darky waiters were
supposed to be taking care of the horses, feeding in the enclosure, and as I came
along I saw a fine horse jtim]} the fence into the road and run in the direction
that I was going. He had run perhaps a mile before I came up with liim,
being led by a darkey, who had just caught him and was leading him in the
direction that I was going. I put spurs to my old horse, and as I came up to
him I said, "Hello! that's my horse; I am glad you caught him." "Is that so,
Massa Cap'n ?" I thanked him for catching the horse. After he had ridden
out of sight and seeing no one coming to claim the lost, I put my saddle on
my new horse and turned the old one out to rest, — a very humane act appar-
ently, — but probably he would be picked up by some foot-sore infantryman.
Ever afterward I tried to steer clear of this di\-isiun. I rode this horse the
remainder of the time that I was in the service, and he proved to be the best
one that I ever had. I don't remember who was the fortunate possessor of him
after I was wounded. I presume that some of my good friends will say :
"Reeves, it was not right for you to take that horse." I say, "It was." I was
on duty that required the utmost dispatch. I was obliged to be at certain
places at a certain time, or the men would not get their rations : and I felt that
I was justified in bettering my condition under these circumstances.

Kilpatrick commanded a division in the Gettysburg campaign, having been
promoted after the Aldie fight, and Colonel Hughey had command of the brig-
ade in place of Kilpatrick. 1 he work of the cavalry in this campaign can be
known only by reading the history of the great cavalry leaders.

From Gettysburg we crossed over into Virginia and stopped for a few
days at Thoroughfare Gap to recruit a little. While here I was taken sick
with typhoid fever, and was so sick that I could not be moved in the ambu-
lance with the other sick. Dr. W. B. Rezner reported my case to the colonel.
The colonel said, "Leave Reeves here? No, sir." "But he can't be moved.
Colonel." "Well, then leave the best nurse in the regiment with hipi." ]\Iy
old friend, M. H. Barber, volunteered to stay with me. he being my old chum
of long years. There was a farm house up on the side of the I31ue Ridge
mountain, about one mile from the depot, owned by a Mr. Saunders, and the
colonel ordered me to be taken there. Barber knew full well that it would
be a capture, and Libby prison for both of us, if I got well enougli to be
moved. Dr. Rezner left medicine enough with Barber to cure a dozen men,
and mercury enough to salivate a horse, all of which I think went down my
throat ; my tongue was done to a crisp and my hair all fell out ! The last that


I remembered of what was going on around me, was wlien the boys set the
litter down to open the gate to Mr. Sauntler's house; 1 laid them all good-
bye, never expecting to see them again.

We were at Mr. Saunders' about one month, and were treated with the
utmost kindness. Mrs. Saunders had a brother in Mosby's o-uerrilla band, and
they often came t' 1 see In )w I was getting- along. They used to ask Barber hoVv
long he thought I wnulil l)e sick, for they were sure we would be their pris-
oners in time; ami it luwked so to us; but Barber fooled them. One morning,
after I had bec<<nie cimx alt-scent. Barber came to me and said, "I hear bugles
sounding over the dtlier Mde df the mountain;" and he wanted to know if he
had not better go o\cr and see if they were our men. Mr. Saunders, whom we
had every reason to l)elie\'e to be a good Union man, told him of a bridle path
across the mountain. So the next morning, about 3 o'clock. Barber left me and
got to the eastern slnpe, just as the bugle was sounding the reveille, and, as
good luck would have it. he came into the camp of the One Hundred and
Twenty-first New York Infantr}-, who were picketing the gap. He made his
wants known, and about 2 o'clock, p. m., an ambulance, conveying a flag of
truce, drove up to Saunders' residence. After giving these kind people our
heartiest thanks and all the money we possessed (I think about ten dollars),
we bid them an affectionate good-bye, and b}' dark I was in the hospital tent
of the One Hundred and Twenty-first New York, where Barber and 1 staid
until the regiment mo\'ed; and 1, with the sick of the regiment, was sent to
Washington, and was an inmate of the Lincoln hospital for about two months.
This was a model for neatness and order. It was conducted by the Sisters of
Charity (God bless them !) ; they were angels in disguise. I could not ha\-e had
better treatment if I had been at home.

While I was staying with the One Hundred and Twenty-first Xew York,
they had cpiite a lively experience with Colonel ]\Iosby's men. About the
middle of a very dark night the wdiole of ]Mosby"s men pounced down upon the
camp with yells that would do credit to a band of Comanche Indians. All but
the guards were asleep; and, if the rest of the men were as badly frightened as
I was, I pity them; but, of course, they were not, for in about two min-
uts all of the men were out and on duty, and in ten more the enemy were flying
up the pass, with the One Hundred and Twenty-first after them. But to a sick
man it was a trying ordeal.

About the first of November those of the cavalry able to leave the hospi-
tals around Washington were sent to what was called "the dismounted camp."
there to receive new equipments of all kinds necessary for service in the field.
I being the ranking officer, they were placed in my charge to be taken to the
front. The squad consisted of cavalrymen from nearly every regiment in the
Potomac army. We were well equipped and officered as a company. Mosby's
men were always hanging around in the rear of our army, and we were obliged
to keep a sharp lookout for them. I was instructed to take the command to
Culpeper Court House, where the cavalry was sup]:)osed to be, and turn them
over to their respective regiments; but when we arrived at Culpeper. we found
that the cavalry had moved that morning to a point about fifteen miles farther


on. The rain was falling in torrents, and my men had no tents or rations : one
can imagine our situation. I housed tlieni the best I could under the circum-
stances, in old sheds; but the next thing was to feed them. This was not so
easily done. I found the commissary of the brigade, the man that had relieved
me at the Gap, when I was taken with the fever, and to him I applied for aid.
I told him the situation. "But," says he, "you have no requisition on which to
draw rations." I told him that I could arrange that. I had some of the army
requisition blanks in my pocket, which I soon filled out for three days' rations
for one hundred men, and took them to him; he smiled, looked wise, and filled
the order, and the boys were made happy. The next day we found the com-
mands to which the men belonged, and I was received with cheers by the
boys of my own regiment. They said that they never expected to see me

I had been in camp about a week when our wagon train that had gone
to the station for rations was attacked and captured by JMosby's men, but not
without a fight, in which one of his men was captured. Colonel Steadman
immediately called out the regiment to trj- and retake the wagons. He ordered
the captured "Johnny" to be tied securely on a white horse, and after finding
out from him the shortest route to Alosby^s camp, told him that he would be
shot if he did not pilot us there that night. Mcsby was at White Plains, about
fifteen miles in a direct line over the mountains from our camp. The night was
as dark as the proverbial "stack of black cats," and as chilly as Alaska. The
"Johnny" did as he agreed ; he took us over the mountain by a mere bridle
path, where we had to go single file. We got to the west side of the mountain
just as the sun was casting its bright beams on the low hills to the west of
White Plains. Here we had the extreme pleasure of seeing our wagon train,
about three miles off, going over the hills, and out of sight forever. Mosby's
men were drawn up in line at the foot of the mountain, ready to give us battle
as soon as we came into the valley. Mosby never knew what it was to stand up
and fight like regular soldiers, but could make the prettiest running fight of any
officer in either army. In this way they kept us from following the wagons.
They gave us a beautiful fight on that bright Sunday morning in November,
and we returned to our camp very much chagrinned at our failure to bring back
the wagons.

While in this camp, we were called out one day to see a deserter shot.
The deserter belonged to a regiment in another brigade, but in our own divis-
ion. Colonel Steadman wished to see just how many men in the regiment cared
to see a man shot for the crime of desertion. The vote was taken and scarcely
a man cared to see it; and our noble old colonel sent back word that his men
declined to witness so barbarous an act.

A few days later the whole army was on the move, this time to Aline
Run. This was one of the many moves that should not have been made, but,
like many another, it was forced upon the commanding general l3y outside
pressure, and was against the better judgment of General ]\Ieade and the
generals in his command. The clamor of the Copijerheads of the north and
the sliouters. that "the \\ar is a failure and we can never whip them," brought


on a battle that would not have been fought if that element had been muzzled.
They were the prime cause of more than one-fourth of the total loss of the
killed and wounded in both armies during the war.

On the 27th of November, the armies of Meade and Lee met again, this
time under very discouraging circumstances to us, "Mine Run" being the
scene of action. Here General Lee's army was well intrenched in a thick
growth of timber, large and small. While our army was in the open, with a
large ravine in our front, the enemy behind their breastworks seemed to have
it all their own way. After a great deal of cannonading, and some charges
on their works, with no results for good, it was decided to withdraw after the
first day's fight. The weather became intensely cold, and the men, not being
prepared for a winter campaign, suffered severely. After this, the army went
into winter quarters around Warrenton and vicinity, and the winter of 1863-4
was spent in picketing the fords along the rivei% and gathering together the
largest and best equipped army that this country has ever seen.

There is always the amusing, as well as the sad, side connected with the
life of a soldier. An amusing thing happened to some of the bo3's in our regi-
ment the morning of the battle of "Mine Run," but it wasn't one bit amusing
to the "other fellow." Some of our regiment were out on the flanks of th.e
army foraging more for amusement than anything else : for we had plenty of
rations. ^Ve came to a large plantation with apparently everything that one
could wish for in the way of eatables. The place had all the appearance of
wealth and contentment. Evidently we were the first Yankee soldiers that
had been that way for some time, as we were a long way ofif from the main
road. This planter proved to be a rebel sutler. He had a large barn, well
filled, wath doors opening on both sides, to enable wagons to drive through.
Li this barn we found, hanging up, ready for the rebel army, about thirty
nicely dressed hogs, as fat as southern hogs ever get. In his wagon, just ready
to leave for the front, we found plenty of hams and tobacco. Our boys cap-
tured the whole "business." The sutler swore vengeance ; but that made no
difference to us. In disposing of the hogs in the barn, one boy would ride
under a hog hanging by the hind legs, ancl another would cut the ham-strings,
and away went the hog;, until all were gone. When we got back to the regi-
ment the hogs were cut up, as we were on the march and each man had about
ten pounds of fat pork strapped to his saddle. A greasier lot of men I never
saw. The pork that we captured did us very little good, as we had no salt ;
and after one trial of fresh pork without salt we threw it all away: but I pre-
sume that it was all gathered up b}- the colored peo])le or the Cunfederate
army the next day.

That afternoon we were supporting a battery, which was not a pleasant
job, especially for cavalry. It was here that mv old and tried friend, M. H.
Barber, was wounded in the head by a spent minie ball. The wound was a
severe one, although it did not prove fatal. The skull had to be trepanned.
He finallv recovered, and is now living at Cuvahoga Falls, Ohio.



After an all summer's camijaign, with but here and there a breathing
spell, it was a pleasure to know that we were going into winter quarters. e\'en
if for only a month or so. The camp at Warrenton was an ideal one, sloping
gently to the south, with plenty of room for picket lines for the horses, and
quarters for the men without being at all crowded. \\'arrenton was a beautiful
little village of about one thousand inhabitants, but had seen hardships untold
during the war, and the people were on the verge of starvation when we went
there. But our camping with them was a Godsend, for the men spent nearlv all
of their money with the towns-people.

The walls of our winter houses were built four feet high, from the ground
to the eaves, of split logs. Then each of the men had a fly tent. These tents
were made so that they could be buttoned together. jNIost of the houses had
from four to six persons, and therefore each house had from four to six fly
tents buttoned together to form a roof. Each of the houses had a stone or
mud chimney, extending to the peak of the roof, and usually on top of the
mud chimney they had a keg with both ends out. Many pranks were played
on the boys by placing a covering over the top of the chimney, or throwing a
handful of blank cartridges down the chimney, to give them a shaking up wdien
all was quiet within, or when a game of seven-up or eucher was in progress.

The winter to the most of us passed away very pleasantly. Occasionally
the cavalry made reconnaissances into the enemy's lines to see what they were

Online LibraryChicago Standard Genealogical Publishing CompanyA Volume of memoirs and genealogy of representative citizens of northern California, including biographies of many of those who have passed away → online text (page 4 of 108)