First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry

History of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry: From Its Organization 1774 to November, 1874, printed For The Thoop, By Hallowell & Co, Philadelphia, PA, 1874, Pg 71-74.

On the morning of the twentieth, requisition for ammunition, tents, &c., was made upon the State Government, and promptly complied with, and orders were received to proceed by rail to Gettysburg. After a delay of four hours, transportation was furnished, and in half an hour afterwards the horses, wagons, equipments and men were in the cars. Much to the regret of the Company, Sergeant Maher was compelled by sickness to return to Philadelphia.

The Troop reached Gettysburg at 4 o’clock the next morning, and immediately disembarked, in the midst of a violent rain storm, and after coffee had been prepared and enjoyed by the men, the Command was mounted and marched into the town, when without much ceremony it quartered itself at the McClellan House; the horses in the stables and the men in the hay loft over them. The Company reported to Major Granville O. Haller, of the Seventh United States Infantry, who was in command of this post at the time. He at once ordered a detail of ten men to reconnoitre in the direction of Chambersburg. This party, under command of Cornet Randall, fell in with some of the enemy and captured three of their number. In the chase preceding the capture, private White’s horse becoming unruly dashed him against a tree and broke his leg.

This reconnoissance established the presence of a large body of the enemy between Williamsport and Chambersburg, and was therefore most valuable in its results. In the afternoon of the same day a rumor reached Gettysburg that a large body of the enemy were advancing from the direction of Fairfield, which lies a few miles south-west of Gettysburg. The remainder of the Troop, under First Sergeant Rogers, was ordered out to reconnoitre.

The detachment was accompanied by Captain Robert Bell and a squad of local cavalry from the Company under his command, as well as by Major Haller. About one mile east of Fairfield the party came up to a body of about one hundred and sixty of the enemy’s mounted infantry, who were scouring the country for forage and plunder of every kind, particularly for horses, of which they were much in need. The main body of the enemy was stationed at a barn in the outskirts of the town, while detachments were out in various directions. Major Haller being satisfied with what he saw, returned in haste to Gettysburg, leaving the command with Captain Bell, who proved himself a brave, intelligent and conscientious soldier. Captain Bell, after taking necessary precautions to avoid surprise from the rear, advanced with care until within a half mile of the town, the command was then ordered to charge, which it did through the town and for more than a mile beyond, driving the enemy rapidly towards the mountain pass. Night coming on the Column was halted, and after a short stop in Fairfield, where it received many marks of kindness and loyal support, it returned to quarters.

Gettysburg at this period was so much exposed that the Troop wagons were sent to Oxford, in the direction of York, so as to avoid their capture in case of a sudden advance of the enemy. At this time privates Conover and Welsh were detailed as orderlies to Major Haller.

On the afternoon of the twenty-second, a detachment was sent out scouting in the direction of Cashtown, which returned at midnight. During the afternoon of the twenty-third, the Troop accompanied by Major Charles McLean Knox of the 9th New York Cavalry, operating with the army of the Potomac, was ordered to move rapidly toward Cashtown on the Chambersburg Turnpike, in order to intercept a body of the enemy which had been seen moving across that road an hour or two before. The Troop reached Cashtown, a distance of eight miles, after a sharp gallop, and it there ascertained that the enemy was some distance above that point near a tavern called Moonshours, in Newman’s Gap of the South Mountain. Darkness coming on, a picket guard of ten men under Sergeant Brown was stationed at Cashtown while the rest of the Command returned to Gettysburg where it arrived after 9 o’clock. The order to unsaddle had hardly been obeyed when ” boots and saddles” was again sounded, and the men remained up all night, momentarily expecting to see their pickets driven in.

Detachments of the Troop patroled all the roads leading in the direction of the enemy, and those remaining at quarters kept their horses, saddled day and night. The wagons having been sent to the rear as before stated, the men were largely dependent upon the patriotic kindness of the citizens of Gettysburg, who were unremitting in their generous attention, and it was never too late or early for them to have ready a meal for the Troopers on their return from scout or picket duty. Their sympathy and kind offices will ever be gratefully remembered.

The Troop was kept on continuous duty, no member obtaining more than four or five hours sleep in the twenty-four, and this rest frequently broken by orders to “saddle up.” For several nights the only rest obtained by the men was that got while lying in front of their horses, bridle in hand, ready to mount at a moments warning.

 

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