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Adjutant and Inspector General Reports

1864 Report

Troops in the Field

First Regiment of Cavalry

The history of the FIRST REGIMENT of CAVALRY, during the period covered by this Report, will probably never be written as it deserves. Dashing, daring and fearless men, accustomed to be almost constantly in the saddle, and to charge the enemy, where ever seen, without much regard to odds, they have fought their way to a reputation which entitles them to all the consideration, which can be given them.

At the date of their last return, mentioned in my last Annual Report, which was the ninth of September, 1863, they were stationed at Falmouth, Va. No detailed report had then been received of their operations in the Maryland campaign, subsequent to July 10th. On the 12th of July, they occupied Hagerstown, Md. On the 13th they were engaged in a reconnoisance, skirmishing with the enemy, during which Companies L and F, distinguished themselves by a daring charge upon the enemy in force. On the 14th they followed the enemy to Williamsport, and were in reserve during the engagement at Falling Waters. On the 15th they marched to Boonsboro, on the 16th to Harper's Ferry, and on the 17th crossed the Shenandoah, arrived at Purcellville on the 18th, and on the 19th moved to Ashby's Gap. On the 20th they returned to Upperville, on the 21st marched to Snickersville, on the 22d occupied the Gap and held it until the night of the 23d, when they returned to Upperville, and on the 24th crossed the Rappahannock. I annex, in Appendix C, the Report of Col. Sawyer, covering the time from the 10th to the 24th.

Of their movements from the 24th of July to the 22d of August I have no report. August 25th, they marched 65 miles on a reconnoisance to King George County, Va., having a brisk skirmish with the enemy. From the 28th to the 1st of September they were on picket on the Rappahannock. On the 1st of September they composed a part of the expedition into King George County, which resulted in the capture f two rebel gunboats by Cavalry, and on the 3d returned to their camp near Falmouth, and picketed the Rappahannock until the 12th, when

they proceeded to Kelley's Ford, crossed the Rappahannock on the 13th, proceeded to the vicinity of Culpeper Court House, and charged through the town, driving the enemy before them, capturing eight prisoners and one gun with carriage and horses. They took position on the South side of the village, where they were subjected to a heavy fire of artillery from guns stationed in front and on the left. Being directed to attack the force occupying the woods to the left of the town and holding the road leading in the direction of Orange Court House, Companies E and I were sent to the right, dismounted, and engaged the enemy's skirmishers, and the 2d Battalion -- Companies B, C, H and G, -- under Capt. Adams, charged the enemy, driving them from their position and through the woods back under the protection of their artillery, and capturing 26 prisoners. The enemy rallied, and were largely reinforced, but repeated charges were made upon them and they were finally repulsed and retreated towards the Rapidan. In this affair both officers and men behaved with great gallantry. I annex in Appendix C, the reports of Col. E. B. Sawyer and Major William Wells.

On the 8th of October the regiment moved from Wayland's Mills to James' City, 4 miles, and went on picket, and on the 10th returned to Wayland's Mills, and thence to near James' City, where they met the enemy in force. In the retreat from that place through Culpeper to Brandy Station and across the Rappahannock and the severe engagement which attended it, the regiment was greatly distinguished for the coolness and daring bravery of officers and men. Constantly under severe fire, with the enemy in rear and upon both flanks, and at one time completely surrounded by them, they repeatedly charged them, and won high commendation from their brigade commander. The detailed and interesting report of Col. Sawyer will be found in Appendix C. Scarcely had they unsaddled at 9 o'clock P. M., when they were ordered to picket the Rappahannock from Ellis Ford to United States' Ford, which was accomplished by eight o'clock the next morning, some portions of the command marching over 33 miles, after the fatigues and marches of the two previous days.

At 3 o'clock on the morning of the 13th they were again ordered to move, and arrived at Bealton Station at 11 A. M. and thence moved by a circuitous route, through woods and fields, towards Warrenton, covering the left flank of the Second Corps, and about 10 P. M. bivouaced about three miles from Buckland's Mills, after a march of 25 miles. On the 14th they moved to Studley Church, on the bull Run battle-ground, in which vicinity they remained until the 18thy, having occasional skirmishes with the enemy. On the 18th they advanced towards Gainesville, met and charged the enemy and drove them back upon their reserves, and were on picket duty through the night, -- and the next morning, under a heavy fire, drove the enemy from the town, and followed them, frequently exposed to heavy fire, to near Buckland's Mills, where the enemy had taken a strong position. The regiment returned to Gainesville that evening, four miles, whence they moved, on the 20th, to Groveton, and remained on picket until the 24th, when they returned to Gainesville. The report of Col. Sawyer of this series of engagements will be found in Appendix C.

The regiment left Gainesville Oct. 31st and moved 7 miles to the vicinity of Bristow Station, on the 1st of November moved about one mile, on the 2d to Catlett's Station, 7 miles, and on the 4th to Falmouth, 31 miles, being engaged in a skirmish with the enemy, and returned to the vicinity of Hartwood Church, 8 miles from Falmouth, and on the 4th returned to Catlett's Station, on the 7th marched to Grove Church, 15 miles, thence to Ellis' Ford, on the Rappahannock, where they were on picket during the night, and on the 8th moved to Stevensburgh, 10 miles. On the 12th they moved to Raccoon Ford, 8 miles, and picketed the Rapidan for 7 miles until the 15th, when they returned to Stevensburgh. On the 18th they marched to Ely's Ford, on the Rapidan, 15 miles, and returned to Stevensburgh, and on the 21st proceeded to Raccoon Ford where they remained on picket until the 24th, when they returned to Stevensburgh, and thence, on the 26th, moved to Morton's Ford, where they remained on picket until Dec. 3d, having a skirmish, with the enemy Nov. 28th, in which they lost one man captured, and one wounded. From Dec. 3d to the 6th the regiment was on picket moving from Morton's Ford to Mitchell's Ford on the 3d, thence, on the 5th, to Raccoon Ford, returning on the 6th to Stevensburgh, where they remained until the 28th of February, picketing the line of the Rapidan.

On that day the regiment started, with other forces, upon the famous raid to Richmond. Leaving camp at sundown, they crossed the Rapidan at Ely's Ford, 12miles from Stevensburgh, marched all night, passed Spotsylvania Court House at 8 A. M. on the 29th, crossed the Little Anna, and arrived at Beaver Dam Station, 25 miles from Spotsylvania, at 5 P. M., where they assisted in destroying the depot and rail road. They left at dark, crossed Little Branch River at 7.30 P. M., and halted for two hours, then marched in the night, during a hard rain, crossed the South Anna River at 6 A. M., March 1st, crossed the South branch of the Chickahominy at 2.30 P. M. and halted three miles from Richmond. They remained there two hours, to refresh the men and horses, during which the artillery maintained a continuous fire upon the rebel fortifications. From thence they moved to Mechanicsville, 6 miles from Richmond, in a snow storm, having destroyed a mile of tressle work rail road on the way. At 10 P. M. the camp of the brigade, to which the regiment belonged, was attacked, -- but the firing was soon silenced. An attack was again made, at 11 P. M., with artillery and musketry. A brisk skirmish ensued, in which the regiment sustained a prominent part; but being ordered to fall back, the division moved off, halting at 2 A. M., March 2nd, until 8 A. M., when the division moved in the direction of White House. The regiment, being let in the rear, was soon attacked, but quickly dispersed the enemy, and, after waiting an hour for a renewal of the attack, moved on, and at sundown arrived at Tunstall's. Here Capt. Ray and Lieut. Williamson, who had been detached, on leaving Stevensburgh, with 100 men, to report to Col. Dalghren, rejoined the regiment. The pickets were attacked at 4 A. M. but the regiment moving out to their support, the enemy dispersed, without loss to the regiment. The command, -- the First Vermont Cavalry having the rear, -- moved at 8 A. M. and bivouaced that night within 12 miles of Williamsburgh, and March 4th they reached Yorktown.

On the 6th a detachment of 200 men from the regiment, with similar detachments from each of the other regiments in the division, were taken by transports to Portsmouth, Va., and then, on the 7th, to Gloucester Point. On the 9th they marched to near West Point, 25 miles, and on the 10th to Plymouth, 15 miles. From West Point a portion of the detachment proceeded to King and Queen's Court House, skirmishing with the enemy, killing two and capturing fifteen of them. On the 11th, they marched to Gloucester Court House.

That portion of the command, which was left at Yorktown on the 5th, had taken transports for Alexandria on the 11th. The residue of the regiment sailed for Alexandria on the 12th, arriving there o the 13th. On the 16th the command started for Fairfax Court House, on the 17th marched to Warrenton Junction, and on the 18th arrived in camp at Stevensburgh.

It will be seen, that this was a most arduous expedition for both men and horses. Almost constantly on the march, frequently engaged with the enemy, bivouacking without shelter from the storms which prevailed, the regiment, and especially the recruits, who had but recently joined it, and were unaccustomed to such marches on horseback, suffered severely. Their cool daring is shown by their quietly stopping two hours, "to refresh men and horses," within three miles of the rebel capital, and under the guns of its fortifications.

From the 18th of March until the 3d of May, the regiment remained at Stevensburgh, picketing by detachments the line of the Rapidan and at Grove Church, north of the Rappahannock.

On the 3d of May, the regiment left camp, with the division, to which it was attached, crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford at daylight May 4th, and arrived at Parker's Store at 3 P. M. A battalion, under Major Bennett, made a reconnoisance several miles to the front, returning at dark. The morning of the 5th the division moved to Craig's Church, the First Vermont having the advance. The enemy's cavalry was met at that point, and a sharp fight ensued, which lasted several hours. The regiment bore a conspicuous part in the affair, -- losing 4 men killed, 3 of officers and 24 men wounded, and 14 men missing; -- Total 45.

On the 11th of May, the regiment was in engagement at Yellow Tavern, seven miles from Richmond, lasting from 2 P. M. until sundown. The enemy were driven from their position and crossed the Chickahominy, with the loss of Gen. Stuart, Brig. Gen. Gordon, and others, and two guns. The loss of the regiment was 2 men killed, 2 officers and 8 men wounded, and one man missing; -- Total 13. On the 12th the regiment was engaged at Strawberry Hill, near Richmond, losing 5 men wounded and 4 missing. From that time to May 30th the regiment was constantly moving and doing picket duty.

On the 1st of June, the regiment had an engagement with the enemy at Ashland, losing 7 men wounded and two officers and 24 men captured. On the 3d of June they fought the enemy at Salem Church, losing two officers killed and five men wounded. On the 13th they were engaged with the enemy during the entire day, at White Oak Swamp, losing one killed, 12 wounded, and 3 missing. On the 15th, they were again engaged at Malvern Hill, and one officer and two men were wounded. On the 17th they crossed the James River and marched to Prince George Court House, and remained there, in bivouac, on the 19th and 20th.

On the 22d of June the regiment left the vicinity of Prince George Court House and accompanied Gen. Wilson's division upon a raid into the enemy's lines, on the south side of James River. They were engaged with the enemy, on that day, at Dinwiddie Court House, having 2 men wounded. On the 23d they fought at Nottaway Court House, losing one officer and one man killed, and 4 officers and 19 men wounded. The regiment was also fighting the enemy on the night of the 28th and morning of the 29th, near Stony Creek Station. These engagements were very severe and the loss of the regiment was considerable. One officer and two men were killed; one officer wounded and missing; 11 men wounded, and 75 missing. Among the missing were a number of wounded. For eleven days the regiment was marching and fighting, destroying the property and breaking the communications of the enemy.

From the 10th to the 17th of July the regiment was in camp at City Point. They were then on picket near Prince George Court House, and subsequently on the extreme left of the Union forces until the 23d, when they returned to City Point. From the 29th to the 3d of August they were again on picket on the left of the Infantry Liens. On the 8th of August they embarked for Washington, where they arrived on the 10th, and on the 12th they crossed Chain Bridge and proceeded to Langley, Va., thence, on the 13th, to Drainsville, on the 15th to Purcellville, on the 16th crossed the Shenandoah and bivouaced near White Post, Va., on the 17th moved to Winchester and remained in line of battle during the evening, then fell back, with the army, 10 miles, and were in line of battle all day on the 18th, and in the evening moved back to Summit Point, 6 miles from Charles Town, where they remained until the 21st, when their pickets were driven in and they skirmished with the enemy all day, falling back towards Harper's Ferry. On the 22d they skirmished until noon, and then went into cam near Bolivar Heights, where they remained until the 25th. On that day they went out upon the Smithfield Pike and had a severe engagement, the regiment covering the retreat, when the Union forces were flanked. On the evening of that day they left Bolivar, crossing the river at Harper's Ferry, on the 26th moved to Boonsboro', Md., on the 27th to Sharpsburgh, on the 28th crossed the Potomac at Butler's Ford, and moved to Charlestown, where the regiment was encamped on the 29th of August. Of their movements during Sheridan's brilliant campaign in the month of September, no report has been received.

The changes in the regiment during the year, so far as reported, are as follows: Transferred to Invalid Corps 55; Discharged 37; Deserted 28; Died 85; Total 205.

The following table shows the condition of the regiment at the several dates specified:--

FIRST REGIMENT VERMONT CAVALRY

ABCDEFGHI
Sep. 29, '63 Wayland Mills, near Culpeper, Va. 792 557 214 1 14 6 -
Oct. 28, '63 Gainesville, Va. 776 568 194 5 7 2 -
Nov. 28, '63 Stevensburg, Va. 794 599 189 2 3 1 -
Dec. 28, '63 " 786 623 147 12 3 1 -
Jan. 28, '64 " 1113 799 188 120 4 2 -
Feb. 28, '64 " 1128 931 181 5 8 3 -
Mar. 28, '64 " 1076 868 182 10 8 8 -
April 28, '64 " 1062 847 182 18 8 7 -
June 7, '64 Near Bottom's Bridge, Va. 1014 749 245 10 7 3 -
July, 10, '64 City Point, Va. 920 639 275 4 1 1 -
Aug. 29, '64 N'r Charlestown, Va. 925 633 284 3 4 1 -

Legend:
A - Date
B - Station
C - Aggregate
D - On duty
E - Sick
F - Absent with leave
G - Absent without leave
H - In arrest or confinement
I - Prisoner of War

The regiment had lost, during the year, some of its best and bravest officers. Col. Addison W. Preston, who was killed in action June 3, 1864, was one of the finest Cavalry officers in the service. Brave, fearless and dashing, he had the entire confidence of his men and won the highest commendation of his superior officers. He had received his promotion as Colonel, in place of Col. Sawyer, resigned, but a few days previously, and he had won it fairly by severe and brilliant service. Capt. Oliver T. Cushman, who was killed on the 3d of June, Capt. Hiram H. Hall, killed June 23, 1864, Lieut. Gilbert Stewart, who died of wounds received June 28th, Lieut. John Williamson, who died of wounds received June 15th, were all brave and valuable officers, whose loss was severely felt.

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