Cavalry; or Three Years in the Saddle
In the Shenandoah Valley
By C. Armour Newcomer
Chapter One: Introduction
The following pages were written at the solicitation
of a number of the survivors of Cole's Cavalry, and I
herewith present a brief history of this once famous
command, confining myself entirely to facts; most of the
incidents related coming under my personal observation.
The strong Southern feeling prevailing in Baltimore
culminated in a violent outbreak on the 19th of April,
1861. The march of the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment, on
their way to the defense of the Nation's Capitol, in
response to President Lincoln's call for troops, was
obstructed by a mob composed of the baser elements of
society, and the troops were attacked in the streets
with stones and firearms; many citizens attracted to the
scene by curiosity were shot down by the soldiery, which
had a tendency to further inflame the excited feeling of
the populace. Any one known as an outspoken Unionist, or
giving expression to loyal sentiments, was often the
subject of insult, and at times of personal violence. A
number of citizens, who were opposed to Secession, left
the city for safety, myself among the number. I visited
relatives in the western part of the State, who were
large slave holders and Southern sympathizers, and who
endeavored to influence me to cast my fortunes with the
Although connected by ties of birth and blood with
the South, I loved my country and flag better than my
State or section. A number of my relatives living in the
cotton States had already identified themselves with the
Southern cause. One of my relatives, (Mr. Rench,) who
had not yet crossed the Potomac, tried to persuade me to
accompany him, and, failing in this, he started alone
and was shot by a Union Picket at Williamsport,
Maryland. I resolved to enter the Federal Army and was
determined to join the first Cavalry command that was
organized in my native State. Since the riot, affairs in
Baltimore had assumed an entirely different aspect,
owing to the occupancy of the city by the Government
forces, under the command of Major General Benjamin F.
Butler, and those of us who were compelled to leave so
hastily on account of our Union sentiments, now had an
opportunity of returning to our homes without fear of
Chapter Two: Formation of Cole’s Cavalry
On the 28th day of August, 1861, myself, with
fourteen other young men, enlisted for three years, or
during the war. We went to Frederick City, Md., where
Company A had already been mustered into the service;
Company B was forming in the extreme western part of the
State; and Company C had a goodly number on their rolls
from Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Company D,
the Company I joined, had several more detachments join
us from Baltimore City and Howard County, Maryland,
which enabled us to be mustered regularly into the
service of the United States. At the time of formation,
the four Companies, A, B, C, and D, were separate and
independent of each other.
Company A elected for their Captain, Henry A. Cole,
from Frederick, who, after the consolidation of the
Companies, became the Major of the Battalion, and on the
reorganization of the command in 1864, became the
Colonel of the Regiment, and the command from its
formation as a Battalion, was known as Cole's cavalry.
Richard Cooms was made First Lieutenant, George W. F.
Vernon was made Second Lieutenant. Lieutenant Vernon
later became the Captain of his Company, and on the
reorganization in 1864, became Lieutenant Colonel of the
Original Members Company A.
Henry A. Cole, Captain. Richard Cooms, First
Lieutenant. Geo. W. F. Vernon, Second Lieutenant. Lewis
M. Zimmerman, First Sergeant. Geo. W. Lease, Second
Sergeant. Isaac T. Devilbiss, Third Sergeant. Martin L.
Kaufman, Fourth Sergeant. Edward V. Ganuon, Fifth
Sergeant. James W. W. Virts, Sixth Sergeant. John A.
Hudson, Seventh Sergeant. Basil H. Alhaugh, Eighth
Sergeant. David E. Orrison, First Corporal. William F.
Ulrick, Second Corporal. Jeremiah Everly, Third
Corporal. James H. McDevitt, Fourth Corporal. Joseph H.
Stansbury, Fifth Corporal. Peter J. Caughlin, Sixth
Corporal. David Speck, Seventh Corporal. Roland H.
Henry, Eighth Corporal. James W. Forsyth, Sadler. John
W. Crim, Farrier. Charles W. Beaty, Farrier. David W.
Ashmeyer, W. Angelberger, Thos. T. Badeau, Edgar.
Betson, Joseph. Bishop, Charles A. Cline, Frederick.
Crawford, B. F. Crawford, Joshua M. Cromwell, Arthur H.
Crouse, John A. Cubitts, John M. Delict, John J. Dern,
Abraham. Dixon, Franklin. Early, John W. Edwards, James.
Fogle, Henry. Fogle, Solomon. Fouch, Temple. Fosler,
Charles. Fraley, John F. Fry, Martin. Grams, Jonathan C.
Grams, Frank D. Hall, John B. Hall, Levi M. Hargett,
David Q. Hargett, Geo. B. Harris, Edward V. Harner, Wm.
H. Hornie. Christopher. Houck, David. Jacobs, Philip A.
Jones, David. Keedy, Walter H. Kelly, John A. Kerns,
John. Killian, John. Kintz, Daniel. Kreglo, Isaiah A.
Lacoy, Alfred. Manderfield, H. A. Mathews, 0. A. Main,
Geo. W. Moore, Edward W. McKnight, Jos. T. Miller,
Henry. Miller, John. Murphy, Harvey A. Myers, John.
Null, Harvey T. Orrison, Logan. Rice, Job. Rontzahn,
Alfred. Shaefer, Chas. Shaefer, Jos. H. Shilt, Samuel D.
Smith, Geo. S. Smith, Martin. Smelzer, U. W. Staley,
Simon M. Stone, Edward V. Stone, Samuel. Stott, James H.
Stottlemeyer, A. J. Sweeney, Chas. Tall, Erasmus.
Tinterman, Wm. Tollinger, Geo. Wachter, C. S. Wachter,
G. R. Wachter, T. M. Washburn, D. L. Watson, John.
Wheeler, Thos, Wilderg, James. Wolf, William. Yoste, C.
M. Young, George.
This Company during its service had over two hundred
members, the greater portion was wounded, killed or died
William Firey was selected by the members of Company
B as their Captain, John Metz as First Lieutenant, and
A. M. Florey as Second Lieutenant.
Original Members Company B.
William Firey, Captain. Albert Metz, First
Lieutenant. Alex. M. Florey, Second Lieutenant.
Brush, Jacob. Bell, P. M. Boggs, William. Coppich,
Charles. Carpenter, Jonathan. Craft, Andrew. Dick,
David. Davis, Thomas. Diel, Reuben. Dennis, Jerry.
Donaldson, Thomas. Drake, Benjamin. Ever, Isaac. Filles,
Frank. Foos, Gotleib. Fink, Michael. Good, John. Gletner,
James. Hoefly, John. High, Kolla. Holland, Daniel.
Holland, Joseph. Ira, Isaac. Jones, William. Jackson,
John. Johnson, William. Jack, Mathias. Karns, Jacob.
Keefer, David. Keefer, Silas. Lucas, William. Links,
Henry. Lormon, George U. Miller, Daniel. Myers, John W.
Mills, Samuel. Medcalf, Otho. Mann, Wesley B. Mayhew,
Harvey. McKinny, Lake. Miller, John. Mills, Amos. Pearl,
Keson. Roger, James. Robinett, Mathias. Rivers, Samuel.
Rivers, John L. Rockwell, John. Sufacool, William.
Sufacool, Joseph. Stine, J. N. Sosey, Abraham. Stoufer,
Jacob. Steffey, William. Smith, Harrison. Sleigh,
Charles. Strole, Samuel. Smith, Clark. Spitnauss, A.
Vance, William. Wiley, Jerry. Wiley, Harrison. Wolf,
Hamilton. Weaver, George.
Company B during its service had more than one
hundred and seventy-five members, a large percentage was
killed, wounded or died in prison.
John Horner was chosen as Captain of Company C, with
John M. Annan as First Lieutenant, and Washington
Morrison as Second Lieutenant.
Original Members Company C.
John Horner. Captain. John M. Annan, First
Lieutenant. Washington Morrison, Second Lieutenant.
William A. Horner, Orderly Sergeant. Alexander M.
Walker,.Quarter-Master Sergeant. Oscar McMillan, First
Sergeant. Samuel J. Maxwell, Second Sergeant. Hiram S.
McNair, Third Sergeant. George Guinon, Fourth Sergeant.
Oliver Johnson, First Corporal. David W. Longwell,
Second Corporal. Andrew A. Annan, Third Corporal. Oliver
A. Horner Fourth Corporal. Mosheim S. Plowman, Fifth
Corporal. John E. Gibson, Sixth Corporal. John M. Swan, Seventh Corporal. William White, Eighth
Corporal. Maxwell J. Cable, First Bugler. Albert M.
Hunter, Second Bugler. William B. Wenk, First Farrier.
William F. Weikert, Second Farrier. Samuel J. Wolf,
Sadler. Peter Wolf, Teamster.
Bennett, Joseph A. Bollar,
John A. Buckingham, Henry. Ceise, George. Coyle, John B.
Grouse, William A. Currens, William H. Deihl, Martin.
Dorsey, Charles F. Duphorn, Thomas W. Fites, Theodore.
Flohr, Reuben. Fritchey, Alfred H. Gehr, Henry. Gelwicks,
George. Gillelan, George. Gibson, Charles A. Grimes,
James. Gettier, Henry. Hartzel, Jacob. Hollebaugh, John
Z. Huber, John M. Hughes, Henry. Hizer, Lewis. Jacobs,
George W. Kehn, Calvin. King, Hiram. Knott, John E.
Lott, William H. McAlister, Theodore. McCullough, James.
McPharland, William. Merving, Edwin W. Mcllhenny,
William A. McNair, Samuel. Morritz, John N. Morison,
Lake B. Myers, Jacob E. Ocker, John H. Keaver, Henry A.
Reck, Elias O. Richards, Isaac. Scott, James A. Seitz,
John. Shaugheny, John. Sherfey, Thomas B. Shilt, David.
Spangler, George. Sponseller, George. Stahl, Jesse.
Test, Joseph U. Thomas, Levi E. Turl, Henry. Weigle,
Daniel E. Weikert, George W. Welsh, Oliver. Weible,
Joseph E. Wills, Joseph H. C. Wilson, Samuel D. Wolford,
Thomas. Wolf, John F. Hilleary, Henry C. Bostick,
Company C's membership during their service was near
two hundred, a large percentage was killed, wounded or
taken prisoners. This Company made more changes in their
officers than any Company in the command.
Pierce K. Keirl became the Captain of Company D, with
Robert Milling as First Lieutenant, and Francis
Gallagher as Second Lieutenant.
Original Members Company D.
Pierce K. Keirl, Captain. Robert Millery, First
Lieutenant. Francis Gallagher, Second Lieutenant.
Stephen George, Orderly Sergeant.
Armstrong, Benjamin. Alt, Conrad. Bennett, Charles.
Bennett, Andrew J. Ball, Charles. Ball, Joseph. Boyd,
Andrew J. Brown, Thomas. Brown, George. Buford, George.
Bowman, William. Bryan, Stephen. Chamber, Geo. W. Cox,
Geo. H. Craig, Donald. Casey, James. Craft, John. Davis,
Charles. Davis, Lafayette. Dawson, Louis. Dennis,
Charles. Edmonds, Esom. Eltonhead, Thomas D. Earnshaw,
James. Eddy, John. Forward, Samuel. Frost, John. Fowler,
Randolph. George, Stephen. Goff, John W. Gruber,
Charles. Grubb, James. Gebbins, Oliver. Godfrey, Thomas.
Grogg, William. Howard, Henry. Hngg, Benjamin. Hilleary,
Edward. Hitzelberger, William. Hoofnatgle, Charles.
Hirshberger, ——— Iseminger, A. Lewis, Arthur. McCauly,
Adolphus. McConnell, Duncan. McGregor, William. Mills,
Samuel. Mills, Amos. Millholland, William. Marks, Henry.
Morris, Ilickman. Newcomer, C. Armour. Nicewarner, Web.
0'Brian, John. Orr, James C. Purden, Charles. Pierce,
John Q. Padgett, J. William. Rhodes, Augustus C.
Stansbury, John W. Stansbury, Alpheus. Shank, Otho.
Smith, William. Sakers, John. Seifert, John. Stewart,
William. Stull, Henry. Sigler, Samuel B. Staton,
William. Sweitzer, Jeremiah. Steadman, Wm. B. Sullivan,
J. W. Trich, Henry. Talbott, Howard. Winters, Harvey.
Winters, Win. H. Winters, Warren. Welsh, Wm. H. Welsh,
Richard. Wheeland, ———. Wiggans, John. Williams, John B.
Detachment of Recruits Company D, Aug. 19, 1863.
Alien, William. Beal, Robert B. Barthelow, George.
Brown, William. Benner, Alonzo. Carr, William. Dele van,
Francis. Doherty, John. Good, Joseph. Giles, Edward.
Holmes, Hecry C. Hoffman, Henry. Hawk, Thomas. Lanning,
James. Lailer, Johnson. McCabe, James E. Moore, John.
Nail, William. Pilclier, Joseph. Reindollar, William.
Scarlet, Joseph. Smith, William. Smith, Thomas. Turner,
William. Valentine, Vincent V.
Company D had more men on its rolls during the war
than any Company in the command, numbering over two
hundred and fifty. Its loss in killed, wounded and
prisoners was two-thirds of its membership.
The Companies were now thoroughly equipped and ready
for active service, and were ordered to guard the
Potomac River, which in the winter of 1861-62, they were
constantly patrolling from Frederick to Cumberland.
Company B, under Captain Wm. Firey, was sent to Western
Virginia. The boys were commencing to look upon
soldiering in a different light from what they did when
they left their comfortable homes; the winter was
severe, but there was no complaining of the hardships
they were compelled to endure.
During the winter General Jackson's forces had made
their appearance on the south side of the Potomac,
opposite Hancock, Maryland, and on the 7th of January,
1862, had sent a flag of truce to General Landers, the
commander of the small body of Federal troops stationed
at that point, to surrender the town. Company A of
Cole's cavalry were hastily sent from Hagerstown;
Company D was patrolling from Hancock to Williamsport;
the first Maryland Infantry, Colonel John R. Kenly, was
also ordered from Williamsport to join with Landers. A
fearful snow storm had set in and the weather was
bitterly cold. On arriving at Hancock the Rebels had
fallen back, Cole crossed the river and followed through
Bath or Berkeley Springs, within a few miles of
Winchester, and not coming upon the enemy, returned to
Maryland, again crossing the Potomac at Hancock.
I will not attempt to give a detailed history of each
Company; but of the incidents which came under my
personal observation. The Spring of 1862 had rolled
around; troops were being concentrated at different
points along the Potomac River. It was rumored there
would be a general advance into Virginia, and we were
all eager for the command to cross over, and at last the
order came. How well I remember the fears that many of
us had; we wrote to our friends at home that we were
about invading the enemy's country, and it was doubtful
if any of us would ever return alive.
In March, 1862, my Company with others, crossed the
river with General Williams, at Williamsport. We
advanced upon Martinsburg, West Virginia, and without
seeing a sign of the enemy we occupied the town. Colonel
Ashby's Virginia Cavalry were reported to be in the
neighborhood of Winchester, and Captain Cole with
Company A, was ordered on a reconnaissance, and at
Bunker Hill they came across Ashby's Confederates, who
greatly outnumbered Captain Cole; the boys of Company A
charged the enemy and were driven back, then commenced
their maiden fight, the skirmish was spirited while it
lasted; our boys were reinforced by a Company of
Infantry, and Colonel Ashby fell back. Captain Cole had
his favorite gray mare shot from under him; and a rifle
ball cut a lock from his flowing beard. Dennis Stull was
killed; Walter H. Keedy and Jonathan D. Grimes were
wounded; Captain W. H. Whittleson, Assistant Adjutant
General of Williams' Brigade of Banks' Division, had his
horse killed under him. The loss of our comrade, and
looking upon those that were wounded cast a feeling of
sadness over the command, but we soon ceased to mind
seeing wounded soldiers and others shot to death.
An amusing incident occurred while encamped near
Bunker Hill, which came near proving a very serious
affair. The First Maryland Infantry Regiment under
Colonel John R. Kenly, afterwards General Kenly, was
encamped with others at Bunker Hill, for a few days.
There was a distillery close by, and a member of one of
the Companies soon discovered there was liquor to be
had; the boys filled their camp kettles, and it was not
long before a number of the soldiers were drunk. The
cook of one of the Companies, had made coffee with half
whiskey and half water, and there was quite a number
came near dying, after drinking the coffee. (The cook
was George McCurley, of Baltimore, who called it "Royal
Coffee.") Colonel Kenly placed a guard at the distillery
to prevent any one from getting more liquor, but when an
examination was made of the premises, not one pint of
whiskey was in the building, the boys had gotten in
through the rear window, and removed all the liquor
whilst the guard had been guarding the front for several
days, not knowing he was guarding an empty building; it
is needless to say, the guard was sent to his quarters
with a reprimand. (The leader of the gang, Sergeant Bill
Taylor, afterward captured and confined in "Libby
Prison," from which he made his escaped, and after
wandering in the mountains for three months, joined his
company; and was afterward promoted to a captaincy.)
On March 11th, 1862, General Williams
ordered an advance, with Cole's Cavalry in the lead. We
came upon the enemy at Stevens' Station, five miles
north of Winchester, and for many of us, we were under
fire for the first time. Ashby's Cavalry fell back and
on the following morning, (Sunday, March 12th, 1862,)
Cole's Cavalry charged into Winchester and had the honor
of being the first Union troops that had ever been in
that historic town. Colonel Ashby was again routed.
At Stevens' Station I was called upon to witness a
duel, fought with Cavalry sabers, between two members of
my Company, John Chambers, known as "Ginger," a
notorious character, who enlisted from and lived at
Harper's Ferry, and James Orr. It appears that they had
a trifling dispute in reference to their proper position
in the skirmish line. I had requested them to stop
quarreling and fight the Rebels; they could settle their
differences when they encamped for the night; not
dreaming my advice would be taken. Chambers was a
powerful man, weighing two hundred and fifty pounds; his
opponent Orr, had been in the United States Navy prior
to the war, and understood the saber exercise. The
Brigade had stopped for the night. The principals
stripped to the waist, and commenced a deadly coin-bat
with their Cavalry sabers; they were on the edge of the
camp, with no one to. witness the fight but myself and a
few members of Company D. Chambers, being the larger
man, was the aggressor, but his cuts and thrusts were
skillfully parried. After fighting for some time
Chambers made a fearful cut, his opponent's guard was
broken and he received an ugly cut on his arm. Both
parties being satisfied, they donned their clothing and
we all returned to camp. It was some months before the
remainder of the Company knew the fight had taken place.
Chambers and Orr became fast 'friends for the remainder
of their service in the Army.
Chapter Three: The First Battle of Winchester
General Stonewall Jackson came down the Shenandoah
Valley. General Shields was now in command of the Union
forces at Winchester. The pickets were attacked Saturday
morning, March 22, 1862, at Kernstown, three miles south
of Winchester, and by evening the skirmish became quite
lively, and on the following morning, Sunday, the fight
became general. After the battle had been raging all
day, General Jackson was beaten back, leaving his dead
and wounded on the field; Cole's Cavalry with General
Banks' division, who had arrived, followed Jackson for
several days. General Banks assumed command, with
headquarters at Winchester. Our Cavalry was constantly
on the go, with an occasional skirmish with the enemy's
Cavalry. General Shields was shot through the body in
this engagement but recovered.
Myself, with others of the command, and a detachment
of the First Michigan Cavalry, were detailed to act as
General Banks' body guard and couriers. The day
following the occupancy of Winchester, one of our
number, Tom Godfrey, an Irishman, rushed into the
quarters, very much excited; we expected to hear some
startling bit of news, when he informed the officer in
charge of his having wandered into the Medical College
and of seeing terrible sights. A number of us concluded
to make an investigation, and sure enough a number of
subjects were in the dissecting room and one colored lad
on the table, partly dissected, the students having
left the town on our entrance. It was not long before
the building was overrun with soldiers, and many
valuable specimens of various kinds found in a medical
college were destroyed. One skeleton was supposed to be
that of Old John Brown, who was hung a few years prior,
or one of his sons, who was executed at the same time,
at Charlestown, Va.
The command continued to scout in the surrounding
country and was constantly on the move, until Banks'
memorable retreat. Cole's battalion brought up the rear;
Companies A and C went to Harper's Ferry, and Company D
was the last Union troops to cross the Potomac River at
Williamsport, having been continuously in the saddle for
over thirty-six hours. They were ordered to Hagerstown
to rest horses and men. In a few days Company D went to
Harper's Ferry, and when the army again advanced, Cole's
Cavalry was found in the lead; Jackson had returned up
the valley and the command was constantly on the go,
contending against small bands of Confederate Cavalry.
Mosby's, White's and Harry Gilmor's commands had to be
looked after; and Major Cole was kept busy; his
headquarters being at Harper's Ferry.
A detachment of twenty men were sent from Company D
to Smithfleld, an outpost, fifteen miles from the Ferry,
under command of Lieutenant Robert Milling. The men had
been in the village several weeks, the citizens showing
them every courtesy, inviting them to their homes and
entertaining them in the most hospitable manner. The
boys lost their usual vigilance. Lieutenant Milling, the
officer in charge, with a Sergeant and several men,
accepted an invitation to attend a party, several miles
from the camp; they were promised a good time. The
Lieutenant's head was turned by the persuasion of a
beautiful woman. The party was gotten up simply for the
purpose of getting the officer from the camp, and the
ruse was successful. Captain Baylor, with his Company of
Confederates, many of its members from this very town,
were notified that the Commanding Officer was absent.
Baylor took advantage of the circumstance and charged
the camp, capturing thirteen of our number, not however
without exchanging a number of shots. Lieutenant Milling
was cashiered and dismissed the service. Major Cole who
had been out on a scouting expedition with the
Battalion, hearing of the capture, hastened to
Smithfield, but too late, Captain Baylor with Ms
prisoners had gotten away.
Being one of the number captured, I felt somewhat
dejected, when it was discovered that the comrades in
pursuit failed to overtake us, but I resolved to make
the best of it. About midnight our captors halted at a
farm house, and placed us prisoners in an outhouse.
After securing the door a guard was placed outside, and
we were permitted to rest until the following morning,
when we were again ordered to mount our horses and rode
rapidly in the direction of Woodstock. Finding we were
no longer pursued by Major Cole, Captain Baylor ordered
We were given something to eat, and the prisoners
were drawn up in line in front of a farm house, and the
farmer's daughter brought us a large milk crock full of
soft boiled eggs that were intended for our breakfast;
the crock was passed along the line and each prisoner
was told to help himself, by drinking the eggs from the
crock. When the guard thought one of us had sufficient,
he would compel us to pass the vessel to the next man.
The boys on the lower end of the line kept calling out
for their turn. We got nothing more to eat that day. An
amusing incident occurred while taking our egg
breakfast. Among our number was an old Irish chap, by
the name of Duncan McConnell. Duncan had been up the
Valley on one of our many raids and had stopped at this
very house, for a drink of water. After having quenched
his thirst and was about taking his leave he remarked to
the very young lady who had served us with the eggs,
that he would like to marry just such a pretty Rebel
girl, not thinking at the time that he should ever see
her again. The young lady's memory was good, and as soon
as she saw Duncan she recognized him and informed her
brother, who was one of our captors. The brother
naturally was very much incensed, and inquired from the
old fellow if he had ever before been up the Valley, and
was informed of the charge his sister had made. Duncan
most positively denied ever being in this section of the
country, and assured the young man, if he was fortunate
enough to get out of this scrape, he would never be
The young lady was most positive he was the party who
had insulted her, but Duncan's persistent denial got him
off. A number of the Rebel Cavalrymen were eager to hang
the old man, as they stated it would be a warning to
others not to insult their women. After we had gotten
some distance on the road, Old Duncan told the boys he
had used the language, but it was simply a jest and he
had meant no harm.
Read Chapters Four-Eight
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