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broke through and got back. Many individual
encounters occurred that night to be told at the
meetings of the G. A. R., as the years rolled on.
Lieutenant Bell Is said to have run a Confederate
through the body with his saber. Captain Heer-
mance struck a man across the face and broke his
nose. Several years after, at a dinner in Kinder-
hook, New York, a stranger sat next him at a
table, who proved to be his quarry of that night,
and Heermance took great delight in taking him
about and relating the incident.

This affair, which occurred near a place called
Todd's Tavern, forms the principal part of a his-
tory of the Sixth New York, prepared under the
supervision of Lieutenant Easton acting Adjutant
under McVicar. McVIcar and Easton were both
Scotch. McVicar was kjlled April 30, 1863.
Easton resigned and was mustered out three
months later, viz., July 26, 1863.

V^hen my Regiment had its encounter at Todd's
Tavern 1 was with General Devin who had
with him the Eighth and Seventeenth Pennsylvania
Cavalry and a battery of horse artillery. We

Lee's Good Fortune 89

crossed the Rappahannock at United States Ford
and proceeded to the right of our Army which
had already taken position on the pike leading
from Fredericksburg to Orange Court House.
Hooker's plans were ably conceived and as ably
executed up to a certain point. He had placed an
Army of sixty thousand men in the rear of Lee's
Army and the movement was executed without
Lee's knowledge. Forty thousand men were left
in Lee's front to make a demonstration and to
follow him when he left his entrenchments. Eight
thousand cavalry were between Lee and Rich-
mond to cut off his supplies and line of retreat.
Not a soldier in the whole army doubted that Lee
was doomed to destruction and that the war was

Which one of the gods fought for Lee and
caused Hooker to turn back at the critical mo-
ment and to relinqviish his grip, has never been
satisfactorily explained to the public. If it had
been another general some might have said it
was lack of nerve, but no one has ever accused
Hooker of lack of nerve.

On the morning of May 3, Devin was ordered
to take position at an angle of our line between the
Third and Fourth Corps. On our way to this
point I met Bob Fitzhugh, of my class, who was in
command of a battery. He told us he had been
watching a cloud of dust on our front, which was

90 Life in Tent and Field

evidently a large force proceeding toward our
right flank. I asked him if Hooker had been ad-
vised of this, and he said he had.

Devin disposed of his little force at right angles
to the plank road which leads from Fredericks-
burg to Orange Court House, with the Eighth
Pennsylvania on the right and the Seventeenth on
the left, and the battery covering the road.

The dust which Fitzhugh had seen was raised
by the Confederate General Stonewall Jackson,
who marched past our entire line and attacked our
Eleventh Corps which had the right of the line.
This Corps was composed of Germans, formerly
commanded by Siegel, at that time by Howard.
"We fights mit Siegel, we runs mit Howard" be-
came a familiar byword. Jackson's sudden attack
took Howard by surprise and his corps came tear-
ing down the road and through the woods toward
the Chancellorsville House, men, batteries and
wagons in the utmost confusion. As the enemy
came in pursuit, our little battery of four guns
stopped their onrush. General Devin ordered
Major Keenan, who was in command of the
Eighth Pennsylvania, to charge,

Keenan was known as one of the bravest offi-
cers of the Brigade. He did not hesitate, but led
his regiment in a charge, which for pluck and suc-
cessful results was unsurpassed during the Civil
War. Keenan and all his officers were killed, but

Too Much Politics 91

Stonewall's Corps was held in check long enough
to enable our Twelfth Corps to change its align-
ment and get its guns in position.

"Into the jaws of death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rushed the four hundred."

Devin ought to have got another star for his
conduct in this affair, but at that time politics had
too much to do with promotion. Devin's little
force, and the way it was handled, saved the Army
of the Potomac from utter destruction. If any
officer during the whole war earned promotion
Devin did at that time, and should have been made
a Major General, but the battle of Chancellors-
ville was so disastrous that meritorious work of
any officer, however commendable it might be, was
overshadowed by the general disaster. Besides,
officers higher up claimed the credit of Devin's

In a history of the battle of Chancellorsville, by
General Abner Doubleday, published by Scribner
& Sons in 1890, he says, "There was but one way
to delay Jackson, some force must be sacrificed,
and Pleasanton ordered Major Peter Keenan,
commanding the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, to
charge the ten thousand men in front with his four
hundred. Keenan saw in a moment that if he
threw his little force into that seething mass of

92 Life in Tent and Field

infantry, horses and men would go down on all
sides, and few would be left to tell the tale. A
sad smile lit up his noble countenance as he said,
'General, I will do it.' Thus, at thirty-four years
of age, he laid down his life, literally impaled on
the bayonets of the enemy, saving the army from
capture and his country from the unutterable deg-
radation of slaveholding rule in the Northern

If this isn't romancing, I don't know what it is.
In the first place Pleasanton didn't know Keenan;
second, if he had known him he wouldn't be guilty
of such a breach of etiquette as to give orders di-
rect to one of Devin's officers in Devin's presence;
third, Pleasanton was not in that particular place
at that time. Devin knew Keenan and knew that
he would charge the devil himself and all his imps,
if ordered to do so.

Another author says, "Pleasanton, knowing
that the Eleventh Corps were retreating in dis-
order, rode forward with two Regiments of
Cavalry at a gallop, and when he saw the situa-
tion, called Major Keenan to him and directed him
to charge. 'General, I will do it,' simply replied
Major Keenan. It was nearly certain death. He
knew it, but the honor of the duty assigned and
the importance of the service to be done lighted
up his features with a noble smile." Who invented
that expression about the "noble smile" ? Several

The "Noble Smile" 93

authors use the same words, "General, I will do it,
and a noble smile, etc."

Devin placed Martin's battery, and Devin
ordered Keenan's charge, but no one heard him
say anything about the "noble smile." Devin had
no political backing, no one in Washington to see
that he had his dues. He did his duty and his su-
perior officers of the Regular Army got the credit
of his achievement.

The fight continued till after dark. Jackson
forced his way almost to the Chancellorsville
House, when he was killed. We lost the battle
and Lee lost his ablest General.



After Chancellorsville the Army had lost half
Its force, some by desertion, many whose term of
service had expired, and more than all, the killed,
wounded and missing at Fredericksburg and Chan-
cellorsville. The Army Itself had lost Its morale.
The Copperheads at the North were saying, "I
told you so," and loyal citizens had the dumps.
The President tried to encourage Hooker, and
Hooker was discouraged. Lee himself was the
only man who could set the North right again, and
this he proceeded to do by an Invasion of Mary-
land, with Washington as an ultimate prize. The
Southern Army had got what we would call
"swelled heads," which Is a fatal disease. The
Germans "had It bad." "Whom the gods wish
to destroy they first make mad."

Lee had got a good start for Maryland through
the Shenandoah Valley, when Hooker began pur-
suit. Stuart's Cavalry guarded Lee's flank, and
our Cavalry pursued with frequent skirmishes.


Hard Tack 95

My Brigade had been enlarged by the addition of
the Third Virginia, and I found a good deal of
difficulty in keeping them supplied with rations.

My regular course was, after issuing rations, to
start with a wagon train for the nearest depot,
draw five days' supplies of coffee, sugar, hardtack,
salt and salt pork. As soon as the wagons were
loaded 1 would start back to the Brigade. If they
were on the march my business was to follow until
I found them. On a few occasions I reached them
at night sleeping on the ground. In a few minutes
they were all awake and the camp was ringing
with the cry of "Hardtack," "Hardtack." Each
Company would send its Commissary Sergeant to
the wagon train, where would be weighed out to
him five days' rations for each enlisted man. The
officers could get supplies only by paying a fixed
price for each article.

Each enlisted man received, for five days' ra-
tions, three pounds, twelve ounces pork, eight
ounces coffee, twelve ounces sugar, five pounds
hardtack, and as much salt as needed. There
were other articles which he could get if in camp,
but which he could not use when on the march for
want of means of cooking. A receipt was given
by each Commissary Sergeant for the number of
rations he received.

It usually took all night to finish the issue, and
if we were in an exposed position we had to get

g6 Life in Tent and Field

away at once, as soon as the issue was finished.
Sometimes the Commissary force would be two or
three days and nights with little if any sleep. At
times our train was pursued by enemy troops, but
we were mostly fortunate in getting away.

It was early in June when the Army of the
Potomac started North after Lee. The weather
was very hot, and sometimes men and animals
were seen drinking together from the same spring.
The route of the Cavalry through the Blue Ridge
Mountains was full of picturesque situations. I
always loved the mountains, and the beauty of the
scenery is still impressed on my memory. Some of
the Cavalry encounters were almost in the clouds.

From a place in the mountains called Aldie, a
wagon train under charge of Lieutenant J. B.
Wheeler, Quartermaster, was sent to Alexandria
for supplies. I rode to Alexandria the same day,
drew five days' subsistence stores for my Brigade,
and returned to camp in the evening. I was afraid
of Mosby and rode so fast that when I got to
Alexandria my horse was played out and I turned
him in to the Quartermaster Department and se-
lected another to carry me back.

The new horse was a capable one but had lost
his left eye. The next day I was riding with sev-
eral officers. An officer opposite me called to
me and offered to swap horses, and I accepted his
challenge. We took off saddles and bridles, and

A Guerilla 97

when we came to mount, found we had made an
even trade. My horse had his left eye shot away
— his had lost his right eye.


At the time of the invasion of Maryland no one
had to be told "who was Mosby." His name was
known to every one, North and South. When the
Civil War began he had a law office in Bristol,
Va. Whether he had any clients, no one knows,
as he says nothing about clients in his Memoirs.
In 1 86 1 he joined the Southern Army as a private,
and during his first two years gained reputation
as a scout. In 1863 he began his career as a par-
tisan, or as he was generally called, a "guerrilla" in
the mountainous region South of Washington, and
until the close of the war operated with a small
force in that country, against the railroads, sup-
ply trains and outposts, so successfully that he
became a terror to the authorities in Washington.
He had under him a force of from fifty to one
hundred and fifty young men who lived in the
vicinity and were acquainted with the roads and
recesses in the mountains, who liked adventure and
who, each one, thought that but for himself the
Confederacy would not amount to much. After
a successful raid these young men retired to their
homes in various localities where they were safe

98 Life in Tent and Field

from discovery, and waited until called to make
an attack in some new direction. These attacks
were always surprises and did not usually entail
great danger. They were executed with a great
deal of yelling and pistol firing — very seldom, if
ever, on regularly organized troops.

Mosby was not such a bad man as he was con-
sidered in the North. He treated his prisoners
often with courtesy. After the war he resided for
many years in Washington, became a friend of
General Grant and held some public office under
the Government.

Wheeler, on his return from Alexandria, was
captured by one of Mosby's men and taken before
Colonel Mosby. Wheeler, more than forty years
later, wrote a chapter for a history of the Sixth
New York Cavalry, and among other incidents
told of his trip from Aldie to Alexandria and re-
turn, but failed to mention his capture and release
by Mosby. On the contrary he tells a curious
story of how he captured one of Mosby's men. In
relating the matter at the time he was somewhat
reticent as to what passed between himself and
Mosby. Colonel Mosby was a very inquisitive
person, especially in regard to our forces — their
number, location, etc., and doubtless asked
Wheeler some embarrassing questions so that
Wheeler, in after years, had forgotten whether
he had captured another man or been captured.

A Girls' School in Maryland 99

After we crossed the Potomac into Maryland
there was an entire change in our surroundings.
It was like a warm, sunshiny day after a long spell
of cloudy, disagreeable, nasty weather. Instead
of barren, wasted fields and deserted houses, we
found cultivated fields and the houses occupied by
men, women and children, who greeted us with a
smiling welcome. The soldiers were inspired with
fresh courage and their spirits rose.

One day Lieutenant Richardson, of the Sixth
New York Cavalry was riding with me, as we
passed a girls' seminary. The doors and windows
were closed but we could see the girls' faces at the
windows. Richardson was a graduate of Yale,
had been a school-teacher, and was never abashed
in the presence of women. He proposed that we
go in and visit the school. We had a good deal of
difficulty in gaining admission, but Richardson,
with some finesse, finally gained access.

The girls were assembled in a large school-
room, where Richardson made an address. He
told them of the privileges they enjoyed; of what
we were doing to protect them from unscrupulous
invaders; and what a pleasure it was to us, who
had been only in the company of men, to see so
many beautiful girls. He then turned and com-
plimented the teachers. He was perhaps too pro-
fuse in compliments, as the instructors seemed in
doubt as to whether we were in joke or earnest.

lOO Life in Tent and Field

We were, however, dismissed with a good deal of

The battle of Gettysburg was fought July i, 2,
and 3, 1863. Hooker was relieved from com-
mand of the Army three days before the battle,
and George E. Meade appointed in his place. I
shall not attempt anything in regard to Gettys-
burg, further than to say that I believe the ratio
of the number of men killed and wounded to those
engaged, surpassed anything known in the Euro-
pean War.

The supply train under my charge was halted
five miles from the field of Gettysburg, awaiting
orders. We could hear the continuous roll of
musketry and booming of cannon. It was an in-
tensely anxious time. We did not doubt the
ability of the Army of the Potomac to handle
Lee's Army, but the change of commanders from
Hooker to Meade on the eve of battle was an
element of some discouragement, and we could
not help recalling Lincoln's oft-quoted saying,
"It is no time to swap horses when crossing a

It was a great relief when we knew that Lee
was in retreat and orders came on the evening of
the third day for the supply train to follow the
Cavalry on the road leading south from Freder-
ick, Maryland.



I issued rations the next day at a point about
twelve miles from Frederick, and at once dis-
patched the wagons back to Frederick for a fresh
supply. In the evening I started to overtake the
wagon train. It got quite dark and as I was rid-
ing I was caught by the neck by a telegraph wire
which was strung on low poles following Army
Headquarters. But for the looseness of the wire,
which gave way enough for me to pull up my
horse, my neck would have been broken. I at
once lay down, fastened my bridle rein to one
foot, and slept till daybreak. I often slept in this
way. My mare was as good as a sentry, and at
the least danger would pull at my foot and wake
me. In this way she saved me from capture on
at least three occasions. Is it any wonder that we
became attached to each other?

Before it was fairly morning I passed my wagon
train and rode on to Frederick. I had a lot of
trouble getting into Frederick. Every little ways
I was halted, compelled to dismount and advance

102 Life in Tent and Field

under cover of a musket to explain my business.
It was the Seventh Regiment from New York who
had been sent down to reinforce Meade's Army.
It seemed to me at the time that they were more
alarmed than necessary at a single harmless Com-
missary of Subsistence.

When I got back my Brigade was on picket, and
I joined General Devin. That night General
Devin, his Adjutant General Mahnken, another
member of his staff, and I lay on the ground so
near the enemy's picket that we could hear them
talking. When the guard was changed I had
fallen into a sound sleep, with the mare fastened,
as usual, by her bridle strap to my foot. I was
waked by her giving sharp jerks, and at once
mounted and gave her her head. In about an
eighth of a mile we overtook General Devin and
staff. Mahnken explained that he had tried to
find me but in the darkness was unable to do so.
Mahnken was a German, which may possibly ex-
plain "the milk in the cocoanut."

The Army was flushed with victory and eager
to attack Lee before he could recross the Potomac.
It was generally believed that Lee's Army could
have been destroyed at that time. He, however,
had a strong position and an attack might have
resulted adversely. The Government in Wash-
ington felt that there was danger to the City, al-
though President Lincoln is said to have expected

Death of a Southern Lad 103

and been anxious for an attack. Within a month
Lee's Army was twice in position where it doubt-
less could and would have been destroyed but for
fatal delays.

The route of the Cavalry in pursuit of Lee was
nearly the same as when we had followed him
North. One day we passed a house in the Blue
Ridge Mountains and heard wailings and lamenta-
tions. Some old women came out and, with
shrieks and curses, accused us of murdering their
children. We learned that Captain Wade, son of
Senator Wade of Ohio, while carrying orders
from General Buford, was followed on horseback
and fired on by a mere boy. Wade waited until
the boy, who continued firing, was quite near,
when he turned and shot him. The boy fell di-
rectly in front of his moth,er's house.

During the summer and fall of 1863 the Cav-
alry were engaged in following Lee, keeping
Meade advised of his movements, and acting as
pickets and escorts for various infantry corps. It
was not until General Sheridan was called to com-
mand the Cavalry in the East that it was formed
into a compact corps and became the most efficient
corps in the service. Every General officer, from
Meade down, thought he must have an escort of
mounted troops, and cavalry for his outlying
pickets, so that all the Divisions and Brigades of
the Cavalry were more or less broken up. The

104 Life in Tent and Field

Second Brigade, which Devin commanded, was
sometimes very much weakened in this way.
However, in spite of this it did very efficient serv-
ice and was constantly on the move on the rear
and flank, of Lee's Army, having frequent skir-
mishes, and at times severe engagements.

My duty wus to keep the Brigade supplied with
subsistence, wherever it might be, and sometimes
it was a difficult task and often quite dangerous.
Frequently the only source of information in re-
gard to the course the Brigade had taken was the
negroes. They would tell the truth as far as they
knew, whereas the whites in most cases would try
to mislead. Whenever the opportunity offered I
acted on the field staff of General Devin. The
General was somewhat deaf and could not always
hear the bullets as they sang past his ears. The
only sign of excitement I ever saw him show was
to frequently try to light his pipe. The smoke
would be pouring out of his mouth, and he would
strike a match on the seat of his pantaloons and
hold it right to his pipe. Whenever I saw this I
knew there was something doing.

On the tenth of October, 1863, the First Divi-
sion of Cavalry, consisting of three Brigades,
crossed the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford, to
the south side, and marched ten miles up the river
to Raccoon Ford. I was with Devin on this occa-

Pursuit of Lee 105

sion as aide. His Brigade had the rear and
camped over night at Raccoon Ford.

The next morning we moved farther up the
river to Morton s Ford, where the Brigade was
attacked by a large force. The situation was
critical and General Devin had his pipe in full
blast. The ford was in bad shape and General
Devin ordered me to take charge of the Pioneers
and repair the approaches so that the artillery
could cross. To do this the bank had to be cut
down on both sides and rails brought from the
neighboring fences to make a kind of corduroy.
Before the Brigade could get across we lost two
Captains, some other officers, men and horses,
killed and wounded. We kept up a running fight
back to Stevensburg, and there had another sharp
fight. The enemy were held in check a sufficient
time for us to cross the Rappahannock. We fell
back to Brandy Station, where the Sixth New
York made a very gallant charge, drove the enemy
back and opened a way for Kilpatrick's Division
to get out of a dangerous place. The two Divi-
sions then drove the enemy back across the Rappa-
hannock and this ended a bloody day.



In December, 1863, the Government sought to
retain the service of its veteran troops, and offered
a furlough of thirty days, transportation home
and return, and a cash bonus to those who, having
served three years, would re-enllst. The Sixth
New York Cavalry was one of the first Regiments
to re-enllst as a Regiment. We broke camp the
1st of January, 1864, to start North.

I was relieved from duty as Commissary and
appointed Adjutant of the Regiment. In Wash-
ington the men were housed in barracks in the cen-
ter of the city, and drew their arrears of pay.
One morning I was officer of the day, and when I
visited the barracks a man was lying dead outside
the building. There was no apparent excitement.
A corporal told me a pickpocket had been caught
robbing some soldiers and they had killed him and
thrown him out of a window. He related the
affair as though It were nothing of importance.
I heard nothing more of it afterward.

From Washington the Regiment was taken on

Veteran Furlough 107

a regular train as far as Baltimore, where they
were compelled to leave the train. After two
days' delay a train was made up consisting of one
decrepit passenger coach for the officers, and all
the rest, box or freight cars. In this train we
reached Harrisburg near midnight, and were told
by the Pennsylvania Railroad officials that they
could not take us to New York that night and that
we would have to leave the train.

The night was bitterly cold, and General Devin
said that he would not let his men out into the
streets to freeze. The railroad managers re-
plied that they would have to put us on a side-
track to let their express train pass, — whereupon
I was ordered to detail a corporal and two men
and place them over the engineer with instruc-
tions not to move the engine either way. I told
the engineer that the guard had loaded rifles, with
instructions to shoot if he moved the train or left
his engine. It was so late at night the railroad
officials were unable to get in communication with
Washington and were compelled to take us into
New York that night. I have related this incident
at some length to show how differently soldiers
were regarded in those days. There were no Red
Cross canteens to furnish light refreshments at

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