Charles Capehart Received the Medal of Honor For Bravery At The Battle of Monterey Pass

17203254_736687009828265_5582279057359834548_nCharles Capehart was born in 1833 at Johnstown, Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he served out west with Generals John Fremont and U.S. Grant. His service record there is a bit sketchy, but appears he enlisted for the short term.

On June 30, 1862, he received a commission as Captain of Company A, 1st Virginia Cavalry, where he fought in several engagements in Virginia.  Captain Capehart’s reputation for bravery would be earned in the eastern theater of the war.

A year later, on June 6, 1863, Captain Capehart was promoted to Major of the 1st Virginia Cavalry. It would be the Pennsylvania Campaign or as many call it, the Gettysburg Campaign in which he would earn his reputation for bravery and courage under fire. Shortly after his promotion to Major, West Virginia was admitted into the Union as the 35th State on June 20, 1863.

During the Battle of Monterey Pass, Major Capehart commanded the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, while their commander, Colonel Nathaniel Richmond commanded the brigade. 24 year old Major Capehart, just after 3:30 a.m. on July 5 turned to his men and ordered a charge. The regiment charged the Confederate artillery piece, and then turned their attention to the wagon trains in front of them. Taking prisoners and destroying wagons as the charged down South Mountain.

By March of 1864, Major Capehart was recommended for promotion. His brother would take over command of a cavalry brigade leaving Lt. Col. Darr to command the regiment. On August 4, at Front Royal, VA,  Major Capehart mustered out of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry by reason of promotion. The next day,  Capehart received his commission of Lieutenant Colonel, officially replacing Lt. Colonel Joseph Darr who just resigned from the 1st West Virginia Cavalry.

For the remainder of the war, Lt. Col. Capehart commanded the 1st West Virginia Cavalry Regiment. They fought hard in the Shenandoah Valley and played a role during the Appomattox Campaign until the Army of Northern Virginia surrendered on April 9, 1865. Lt. Colonel Capehart and his 1st West Virginia Cavalry mustered out of military service on July 8, 1865 at Wheeling, WVA.

The Battle of Monterey Pass lived on with many of the West Virginians as they often wrote about their experiences for the newspapers. On April 7, 1898, Charles Capehart received a Medal of Honor for his actions and bravery that he displayed during the Battle of Monterey Pass. Charles Capehart died in 1911 in Washington D.C. and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

“For The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Major Charles E. Capehart, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 4 July 1863, while serving with 1st West Virginia Cavalry, in action at Monterey Mountain, Pennsylvania. While commanding the regiment, Major Capehart charged down the mountain side at midnight, in a heavy rain, upon the enemy’s fleeing wagon train. Many wagons were captured and destroyed and many prisoners taken.”
Date of Issue: April 7, 1898
Action Date: July 4, 1863

Exploits of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry Before The Battle of Gettysburg

Moyer, Henry P. History of the Seventeenth regiment, Pa. volunteer cavalry or one hundred and sixty-second in line of Pa. volunteer regiments, war to supline the rebellion, 1861-1865; by Pennsylvania cavalry. 17th regt., 1862-1865; 1911,


As we crossed the boundary line between Maryland and Pennsylvania, one of the guidon carriers of Company G, of our regiment, was stationed at the line making the announcement to each company as they approached, that they were, at that point, entering upon Pennsylvania soil. The boys raised their caps and lustily cheered, again and again, for the old Keystone State and Old Glory.

On June 29, 1863, the regiment encamped for the first time, since it left Harrisburg, on Pennsylvania soil, in the vicinity of Waynesboro, in sight of the homes of many of the members of Company G. A request was made to Colonel Josiah H. Kellogg to permit the men of Company G, to visit their homes during the night, which request was granted, however, only upon condition that every member of the company would be present again at roll call the following morning. Captain L. B. Kurtz commanding the company vouched for the men, and, to the credit of the company, it could be truthfully said that every member of the company was present for duty and answered roll call the next morning. It was in this same camp that, early the following morning, an old Pennsylvania farmer and his daughter drove into our camp with a one horse spring wagon and handed out loaves of bread and cakes, free of charge, saying he and his wife and daughter stayed up all night and baked them for the soldiers. “They are yours,” he continued, “you are welcome to them. I wish I had more to give you.” The boys doffed their caps and thanked the donors. Then someone proposed three cheers for the old farmer, another proposed three cheers for his wife, and still another proposed three cheers for the daughter. It is needless to say that in less time than it takes to tell this little incident, the bread and cakes were all distributed. The old farmer said, if we would remain until next morning, he would come again with more bread and cakes; but, before he left camp, “Boots and Saddles” sounded, and we parted, he no doubt for his home, and the regiment in the direction of Gettysburg where we arrived about four o clock in the afternoon of June 30, 1863.


We crossed the river on pontoons at Edwards Ferry and took up the line of march through Maryland, moving so as to cover the left flank of the army. The country was loyal and men and horses recuperated rapidly. Passing near Frederick City, Md., a luckless spy happened to fall within our clutches. A drumhead court-martial dealt out prompt justice and his body was left hanging to a tree by the road side. A committee of indignant citizens called on General Buford and wanted to know why he was hanged. General Buford informed them that the man was a spy and he was afraid to send him to Washington because he knew the authorities would make him a brigadier General. The committee retired, unanimously voting General Buford a “Northern brute.” The march through Western Maryland was thoroughly enjoyable good roads, frequent streams of water, fine camping grounds, sympathizing people often crowding villages and country towns as we swept on through them. Mails, with letters from home, and newspapers, too, met us and were distributed almost every day. Later in the day June 29th w r e crossed the boundary line into Franklin County, Pa. The men of Company G, of this regiment, commanded by Captain Luther B. Kurtz, were natives of this county, and mostly recruited at or near Waynesboro. A trooper of this company, with guidon, stood at the line while the regiment passed, and each squadron lustily cheered him as we hastened on.

The division crossed the South Mountain on a good highway, along which the enemy s cavalry had preceded us some days. The road at some points had been barricaded by home guards and local troops to retard their progress, but these obstructions had mostly been removed. The command bivouacked on the night of the 29th at the foot of South Mountain, with orders to move at sunrise. The camp, as near as we can remember, was some eight or ten miles east of Waynesboro, the home of Captain L. B. Kurtz and the home of the men of Company G. The captain asked Colonel Kellogg for permission to take his company and spend the night in his native village. The request was novel; the orders under which the command was marching were very exacting. The colonel was a West Pointer and a strict disciplinarian. On the other hand, the sympathies of every officer in the command were with Captain Kurtz and his men. The request was granted and Company G went home for the night, leaving assurances of honor that all would be back at the hour the column would march, and, true to their word and country, they came, and when they reported the next morning, without a man missing or a straggler, they received a warm greeting from their generous, though less fortunate, companions.


A RETROSPECT, pg. 379-380

General Buford s Division crossed the Pennsylvania line in Franklin County on the 20th of June Passing over the South Mountain it went into camp near Fairfield for the night, in a region abounding in forage and water for our jaded horses, as well as in supplies of Pennsylvania bread and meat for the wearied men of the command. The days march was uneventful, save in the short but eloquent speeches made by the captains in obedience to orders, and in the responsive and ringing cheers made by the gallant soldiers as they marched by the trooper of Company G, who stood with streaming guidon, on the boundary line of the State, indicating our exit from doubtful Maryland into loyal Pennsylvania.

The restful camp that followed our march over the mountain was memorable only in the departure of Company G on a social visit for the night to their homes, at and near Waynesboro, in the exercise of authority reluctantly given them by Colonel Kellogg, and their return without a man missing by sunrise on the following morning, in fulfillment of their pledge of honor. The day s march had a significance, however, far beyond the comprehension of the toiling officer and soldier of the line. The trained eye and splendid forecast of General Buford, scanned with eager interest the landscape that opened to his view on this mountain highway. Gravely impressed by the importance of impending events, Buford said to the officers surrounding him “within forty-eight hours, the concentration of both armies will take place upon some field within view, and a great battle will be fought.” By the examination of a local map obtained in the neighborhood, the remarkable convergence of broad highways at Gettysburg was first clearly disclosed to the officers in command, and indicated the approximate field of the coming conflict. To this point, under general instructions, Buford hastened and directed his next day s march. It is a remarkable coincidence that on the evening of this day, June 29, General Lee issued his order for the concentration of his army at Cashtown, recalling General Ewell from the Susquehanna. The march of

Buford’s column northward, reported to Lee by his secret service, indicated the advance of the Army of the Potomac in the same direction. This movement precipitated preparations for what was then, as well as subsequently, believed to be the greatest battle of the war.

The advance of all columns was upon Gettysburg on the morning of June 30, save that commanded by General Stuart; General Ewell from the east, General Hill from the north, General Longestreet from the west; from the south, General Buford on the left, General Gregg on the right, covering the capital, and the face of the country from Hanover to Fairfield the Army of the Potomac, under a new commander was moving to strike the Army of Northern Virginia whenever found.


On the night of June 29th, the regiment encamped upon Pennsylvania soil, about eight miles from Waynesboro, almost in sight of the homes of the members of Company G. I heard Colonel Bean, in a public address, make the statement that Captain Kurtz, commanding Company G, asked permission at this time to allow his men to visit their homes during the night, and that this permission was granted upon condition that every member of the company must report for duty again at sunrise the following morning; and that, to the credit of Company G, it could truthfully be said that every member of the company answered roll call the next morning.

Lt. Henry G. Bonebrake

Moyer, Henry P. History of the Seventeenth regiment, Pa. volunteer cavalry or one hundred and sixty-second in line of Pa. volunteer regiments, war to supline the rebellion, 1861-1865; by Pennsylvania cavalry. 17th regt., 1862-1865; 1911, pg. 155-156

histseventee00editrich_0184Lieutenant Henry G. Bonebrake was born near Waynesboro, Franklin county, Pennsylvania, June 21, 1838. His early life was spent on the farm with his father in the vicinity of Waynesboro, Pa. On September 8, 1862, he went to the office of Michael H. Stoner, a justice of the peace in Waynesboro, and signed the muster roll of the Waynesboro Cavalry, then being recruited in Franklin county, and later became one of the chief promoters of the company. When the company was permanently organized he was elected first sergeant of the company and served in that capacity until December 15, 1864, when he was commissioned second lieutenant.

On January 14, 1865, he was commissioned first lieutenant of the company. From the day the company was mustered into the United States service, September 26, 1862, until the day of his muster out of the service, June 21, 1865, he had a continuous service record with the company.

On October, 1863, during the engagement at Stephensburg, Virginia, his horse was shot on the skirmish line. He, with Comrade Aaron Harman who was also dismounted at the time, was cut off from the company and experienced great difficulty in crossing a swollen stream in their rear.

While emerging from the stream on the opposite side, they were greeted with a volley of Rebel bullets and he received a slight wound. On December 23, 1864, in the mounted charge near Gordonsville, Virginia, his horse was again shot from under him, receiving two bullet wounds, and was killed.

On April 1, 1865, at the battle of Five Forks, Virginia, while charging the enemy’s breastworks, Lieutenant Bonebrake and Comrade William Cummings were the first to leap over the breastworks. Seeing a Rebel battery flag, he made a dash for it, but failed in the attempt to capture it. A short distance to the right was another Confederate color-bearer who was enthusiastically waving his flag and urging his comrades to stand by the colors. While the color bearer s attention was principally directed to the assault in his immediate front, Lieutenant Bonebrake rushed to his side, grasped his colors and demanded his surrender. A hand to hand struggle followed and he succeeded in capturing the flag.

histseventee00editrich_0187For this distinguished and meritorious act he was one of fifty-one who, having captured Confederate flags, presented in person their trophies to the Secretary of War, the Honorable Edwin M. Stanton, receiving his warm personal congratulations. All who presented Confederate flags on that occasion were granted a thirty days furlough. In further recognition of his distinguished bravery, he received from the War Department, May 5, 1865, a medal of honor for conspicuous bravery in the battle of Five Forks, Virginia, April 1, 1865, together with the following letter:



WASHINGTON, D. C, MAY 3, 1865.

Lieutenant H. G. Bonebrake, Company G, Seventeenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry.

Sir : Herewith I enclose the medal of honor which has been awarded you under the resolution of Congress, approved July 12, 1862 : To provide for the presentation of medals of honor to the enlisted men of the army and volunteer forces who have distinguished or may distinguish themselves in battle during the present rebellion. Please acknowledge the receipt.

Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,

W. A. NICHOLS, Assistant Adjutant General.

An act of Congress approved April 23, 1904, provided for the issue of a medal. The first was of bronze, the latter of silver heavily electrotyped in gold. It is much handsomer than the old medal. The new medal was received by Lieutenant Bonebrake on Memorial Day, May 30, 1905. Lieutenant Bonebrake prizes these medals very highly and regards them as rare souvenirs to hand down to his posterity. Lieutenant Bonebrake was regularly mustered out of the United States service, with his company, at Clouds Mills, Virginia, in obedience to General Order No. 312, War Department, June 16, 1865.

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.


A Confederate Jewish Soldier Recollects His Experience At Monterey Pass During The Confederate Retreat From Gettysburg

L. Leon (Louis) Diary of a Tar Heel Confederate Soldier, Charlotte, N.C.: Stone Publishing Co., 1913. Pg. 38-39(53rd North Carolina Infantry)

July 5 – Left this morning at 5 o’clock. Only marched ten miles to-day. The enemy being in our rear, and skirmishing very strong.

July 6 – Our company was ordered out as skirmishers to-day, as our regular skirmish corps was broken up during the fight. We were the rear of the army, and therefore had a very hard job before us. Fighting all day in falling back we certainly had fun. We were close enough to the enemy to hear their commands. We would hold them in check and give them a few rounds, then fall back again. They would then advance until we would make a stand, fight again, and so it was until we reached Fairfield, six miles from Gettysburg. I don’t think there were many lost on either side in this skirmish. We crossed South Mountain at Monteray Gap. When we came to the above town I pressed into service a citizen’s coat, in this way: We were ordered to rest, and, as usual, we would sit on fences and lay about the road. Some of the boys jumped on an old hog pen. It broke through. They fell in, and, lo and behold, there were boxes of clothing, dresses, shawls, blankets, and, in fact, everything in the line of wearing apparel. I, being a little fellow, crawled through some of the boys’ legs and captured the coat. If the fool citizen would have left his things in his house they would have been safe, but to put it in our way was too much for us to leave behind. We also passed through Waterboro, and Waynesboro, Pa., where the Maryland line commences. We then passed through Latisburg [Leitersburg], and halted in Hagerstown, Md., on the evening of the 7th. We marched yesterday and all night up to 11 o’clock – twenty-four miles.

Confederate Gunner George Neese during the Retreat from Gettysburg to Monterey Pass

George Neese. Three years in the Confederate Horse Artillery, New York and Washington, The Neale Publishing Company, 1911 Pg. 189-193

July 4 — It seems that the great battle is over and from all appearances our forces intend to strike out for Dixie’s fair land. The last reverberations of the deep booming thunder of the artillery that shook the hills around Gettysburg have died away, and the thick sulphury folds of the battle cloud that hung like a canopy over the battle-scarred plain and hugged the bloody crest of Cemetery Hill had dissolved in the soft summer air before General Lee’s army unwound itself from its deadly coil, and like a huge and dangerous serpent glided slowly and defiantly away toward the Potomac.

As soon as the Federal commander was thoroughly convinced that the Confederate forces were withdrawing from his front, he dispatched his cavalry on missions of destruction, to harass our rear and if possible destroy the immense trains of commissary and ordnance stores that were on the road toward the Potomac, by the way of Hagerstown valley.

Vast squadrons of the enemy’s horsemen soon swarmed and hung along our track like hungry vultures, ceaselessly watching for vulnerable points to attack and to seize booty, to the great terror and consternation of quartermasters, clerks, servants, cooks, and teamsters.

The arduous and responsible duty devolving on the Confederate cavalry during the retreat was to guard and defend the retiring trains of wagons and ambulances against all inroads and attempts that the Federal cavalry were liable to make for their capture or destruction, and more especially to strenuously oppose and foil all efforts of the enemy to make any advantageous interposition between General Lee’s army and the Potomac.

At sunrise this morning we moved to Fairfield and remained there until General Ewell’s wagons and ambulances passed, and then we followed them as a rear guard. It was nearly night when the last ambulances passed Fairfield, and at about six o’clock this evening we took up our line of march and followed them, the great caravan moving on the Hagerstown road.

At dark we struck the foot of the Blue Ridge. The road was muddy and slippery, the night dark; rainy, dreary, and dismal. The train moved very slowly, with halts and starts all night. Every time an ambulance wheel struck a rock I heard the pitiful groans of the wounded. Now and then an ominous and inauspicious boom of a Yankee cannon came rolling through the thick darkness from the top of the mountain, and apparently on the road we were on, which unmistakably indicated that the enemy was seriously interfering with the movements of our wagon train.

To-day while we were at Fairfield a drenching thunder-shower passed over, and we went in a stable for shelter during the rain. While we were in there some of our boys played marbles for amusement. Eventually one of the marbles rolled through a crack in the floor, and in order to get it we raised one of the boards in the floor, and under there we found a large store-box full of good, clean, nice bed-clothes, sheets, blankets, counterpanes as white as snow, and beautiful quilts, all of which had been recently hidden from the supposed desecrating hands of prejudged thieving Rebels. We left everything in the box and reported our find to the family that owned the stable, and told them to move their goods to the house and fear no danger of being molested. The family seemed to be astonished at our find and utterly surprised into coyish silence to learn that their goods were safe even when discovered by the dreaded Rebels.

I am almost convinced that a strong sentiment prevails throughout the whole North that the Southern army is composed of thieves and robbers mixed with barbarians and savages, and this malignant spirit is instilled into the populace and encouraged by irresponsible, mean lying newspapers that are published by men who have never been south of Mason and Dixon’s line.

Just yesterday, after the little fight with the Yankee cavalry near Fairfield, a young lady came to me and asked whether our men would allow her to take care of a wounded man that was lying in the road near her father’s bam. I told her to go and take care of as many wounded as she could find, and assured her that our men would not disturb her nor willingly interfere with her humane and laudable mission. I also told her that we did not come to Pennsylvania to make war on women.

July 5 — We were on the march nearly all last night, and most of the time we were mixed up in an ambulance train. Our march was very slow, and seemed more like a dead march than anything we have done in the marching business since the war. The surroundings were about as cheerful as a tomb.

The cannon we heard in the forepart of the night belonged to the Yanks, and they were shelling some of our wagon trains on top of the mountain. This morning just before day Colonel Thockmorton, commanding the Sixth Virginia Cavalry, came down the mountain with his regiment in a rather stirred-up condition, as if something wild and very dangerous had been seen in front. Captain Chew asked Colonel Thockmorton where he was going. He replied, ” Down the mountain. A Yankee battery fired canister into the head of my command, and I am not going up there again until daylight.” Captain Chew then remarked, ” Colonel, my battery was ordered up here to support your regiment, and if you go back, I will too.” Accordingly we went back down the mountain a short distance, fed our horses and waited for day. Immediately after daylight we renewed our march up the mountain, and when we arrived on top the Yankee destroyers had vanished from the scene of their last night’s destructive operations, and all was still and quiet on the mountain highlands. From all accounts and appearances the Yankee force that struck the wagon train on top of the mountain last night was considerable and overwhelming, as we had but few men to protect the train at that point in particular. It was not the train that we were guarding that was destroyed. The Yanks destroyed about ninety wagons, and they did their work well. Some of the wagons were chopped to pieces and others were burned. I saw the debris, such as skillets, frying pans, camp kettles, and all sorts of camp furniture scattered all along the road.

I made a little tour of inspection this morning where the Yankee raiders attacked the wagon train last night, merely to see whether I could find any evidence or trace of the resistance our few wagon train guards offered to the overwhelming force of Yankee cavalry that swept along the road. I found very few battle scars or marks on the trees and bushes, but behind a rock in a thick clump of trees lay one of our sharpshooters, still and silent in the bivouac of the dead, and no earthly reveille will ever wake him again. He was shot through the brain, and no doubt was killed by his adversary firing at the flash of the sharpshooter’s gun, which still lay by the dead body and pointed to the front.

After we were on the summit of the mountain about two hours we went down a mile on the Emmitsburg road on picket. We had about five hundred infantry of McLaw’s division with us for support. The infantrymen threw up breastworks along the front of our position. We remained on picket all day, and this evening we moved back a mile and camped at Monterey Springs on the summit of the Blue Ridge, sixteen miles, east of Hagerstown. General Longstreet’s infantry came up the Emmitsburg road this evening.




This letter was recently for sale at the Horse Soldier and if our institution could afford it, we would buy this. The Horse Soldier translated the text on their website.

Dated “Williams Port VA/ July the 10th 1863”

Page One: “My Dear wife: Thank god I am well and have the time to write you a few lines which will inform you that I am well and hoping this letter many Reach you and find you and the children well I have more newse than I can write I am at this time on the patomoc River near Williamsport we have bin into mereland and in another fight we give the Yankees a goodwhipping hit [it] was the cavalry we fought tha undertook to capture our wagon train But we whipped them owt we was then sent to this side of the river to guard some wagins on this side where we are today our main army has bin to Gettysburg Pencilvania and has had one of severest Battles of the war The first two days of the fite we Run Them Back fews mile and took one of there breastworks But our army was so cut up we had fall Back The next day General Lee ordered the Senter to Retreate To a Certan point in great confution in order to draw them out wich did and longStreet and A.P Hill closed in on ther Rear and give Thim fits We got 5 or 10 Thousand prisoner The los on both sides is powerful The Report is we killed 5 to 1 lonStreet whipped Them again at South Mountain and are fiting in that direction at this time I have heard cannons ever Sense Sevn this morning we have Bin Blest I with great luck By Being sent Back from Winchester with prisoner we mist Being in all those hard fights and we thank god for hit Some companies went in to the fite with 30 or 40 men come out with 6 unhurt the lies of wounded men I never saw before Lieutanant Conly is wonded John Sargent is wonded shot in the Brest we got four wonded in our company Noah Biggerstaff is one of the four Leiuteant conly was in the big fit he had get to be Capt of the 22 Regt I heard from Conly the two first days of the fite he was not hurte But I Ihaven’t heard from sense I am afraid he is killed or wonded I am in hopes tha will send us to Richmond with prisoner again There is Eight Thousand here to be sent By Some dy.

Page Two: I hear General Lee says if his men will stick to him 6 days he will tell them the best newse that tha [y] ever heard I do hope and pray hit may Be So we have captured Sense we left FredericksBurg some 4 Thousan prisoners Be sides a variety of other stuf such as lither comasary stores and the like I think if we meet with noit defeat the war will stop by fall at least I hope So hit is powerful to think of the men we are loosing Cob Avery was killed in the Battle of gettysBurge he was acting Brigader Gen of our Brigade Len Hoke was wonded at FredericksBurge The last letter I got from you was wrot the 20- June the one Jim dueks wife sent a peace in I think I will get one when our mail comes up again I want to hear from you Mity bad tell James dueks james is on the road to us and will be here today I heard from him last nite By Alford miers I sti pe in very good spirits and I hope to live to get home to you and if I can it is all I want I am still trying to serve god the Best I can I hop if I never see you again on Earth to meet you where we’ll hurt no more you mustlet me no how your are getting along and send me all the newse you can I love to hear any knd of newse from home let me no if little Billys hand has got well ytet or not tell all the children ther papay wants to see them mity bad I have nearly forgot how tha little thngs looks I can See Bud plainer than any of them its fills my heart so full when I begin to think of the poor little things left dependent on the world and me a wayhere anse the lord noes whether I will get Back or not and if I don’t my god what become of them of them hit nearly Breaks my heart my dearwife you must for me ask god to let me live to Return to my home I wll have to close may the lord bless you and save you in heaven is the prayer of your humble husband James A. Mc Galliard/ To M. E. Mc Galliard.

Jacob Hoke Writes About the Great Night Battle

Jacob Hoke. The Great Invasion of 1863; or General Lee in Pennsylvania, W. J. Shuey Publications Dayton OH, 1887. Pg. 451-453

On this same day (Saturday, 4th,) Kilpatrick’s cavalry division, reinforced by Huey’s brigade, of Gregg’s division, moved from Emmittsburg up to Monterey Pass, with the purpose of striking the enemy’s line. The following thrilling and graphic account of the terrific night attack by that bold and intrepid leader, has been furnished me by Dr. H. G. Chritzman, who was connected with Huey’s brigade. So far as I am aware no account of that affair has ever before been published. Dr. Chritzman, says:

“July 4th, we moved to Emmittsburg and reported to Kilpatrick; moved same evening to intercept Swell’s wagon-train which was reported to be near Monterey Springs. The brigade moved rapidly up the mountain road, striking Ewell’s wagon-train about three o’clock in the morning of July 5th, in the midst of a furious thunder storm, whilst on its retreat from Gettysburg.

‘At once there rose so wild a yell

Within that dark and narrow dell,

As if all the fiends from heaven that fell,

Had pealed the banner cry of hell.’

This, combined with the Plutonic darkness made it one of the nights long to be remembered. When we came up with the wagon – train, Federal and Confederate cavalry, wagons, ambulances, drivers and mules became a confused mass of pursued and pursuing demons whose shouts and carbine shots, mingled with the lightning’s red glare and the thunder’s crash, made it appear as if we were in the infernal regions. Especially so as the cries of the wounded often rose high above the din of the conflicting forces.

“Frequently a driver would be shot or leave his mule team, when the unrestrained animals would rush wildly down the narrow road, and in many instances the wagons with the mules attached would be found at daylight at the bottom of some deep ravine crushed to pieces, with the mules dead or dying. It was a fearful ride suiting well the fearless intrepidity of our daring commander. A Confederate brigade, then a long train of wagons and ambulances, then our brigade in the center, with Ewell’s corps in our rear, going down that narrow mountain road upon the principle of the devil take the hindmost,—you have Kilpatrick’s dash across Monterey Pass.

Captain James Kidd, 6th Michigan Cavalry

Personal Recollections of a Cavalryman with Custer’s Michigan Cavalry Brigade in the Civil War, By J.H. Kidd, Ionia, Michigan, Sentinel Printing Company, 1908 p 167-171


Captain James Harvey Kidd, 6th Michigan Cavalry

Well, on the morning of the Fourth, General Kilpatrick sent an order to regimental commanders to draw three days’ rations and be prepared for a protracted absence from the army, as we were to go to the right and rear of Lee to try and intercept his trains, and in every way to harass his retreating columns as much as possible. We were all proud of our new commanders, for it was evident that they were fighting men, and that while they would lead us into danger, if we survived it there would be left the consciousness of having done our duty, and the credit of accomplishing something for the cause.


It must also be said that a strong feeling of “pride in the corps” had taken root. Men were proud that they belonged to Kilpatrick’s division and to Custer’s brigade, for it must not be supposed that the above estimate of the former is based upon what we knew of him at that time. We were under him for a long time after that. This was the first day that we felt the influence of his immediate presence.

When it was known that Kilpatrick was to lead a movement to the enemy’s rear all felt that the chances were excellent for the country to hear a good deal about our exploits within the next few days, and nobody regretted it.

But before the start it began to rain in torrents. It has been said that a great battle always produces rain. My recollection is not clear as to the other battles, but I know that the day after Gettysburg the flood-gates of heaven were opened, and as the column of cavalry took its way towards Emmittsburg it was deluged. It seemed as if the firmament were an immense tank, the contents of which were spilled all at once. Such a drenching as we had! Even heavy gum coats and horsehide boots were hardly proof against it. It poured and poured, the water running in streams off the horses’ backs, making of every rivulet a river and of every river and mountain stream a raging flood.

But Lee was in retreat and, rain or shine, it was our duty to reach his rear, so all day long we plodded and plashed along the muddy roads towards the passes in the Catoctin and South mountains. It was a tedious ride for men already worn out with incessant marching and the fatigues of many days. It hardly occurred to the tired trooper that it was the anniversary of the nation’s natal day. There were no fireworks, and enthusiasm was quenched not by the weather only but by the knowledge that the confederate army, though repulsed, was not captured. The news of Grant’s glorious victory in the west filled every heart with joy, of course, but the prospect of going back into Virginia to fight the war over again was not alluring, but possibly that might not be our fate.

Vigorous pursuit might intercept Lee on this side of the Potomac. Every trooper felt that he could endure wet and brave the storm to aid in such strategy, and all set their faces to the weather and rode, if not cheerfully, at least patiently forward in the rain.

I have said that on that memorable Fourth of July there were no fireworks. That was a mistake. The pyrotechnic display was postponed until a late hour, but it was an interesting and exciting exhibition, as all who witnessed it will testify. It was in the night and darkness lent intensity to the scene.

Toward evening the flood subsided somewhat, though the sky was overcast with wet-looking clouds, and the swollen and muddy streams that ran along and across our pathway fretted and frothed like impatient coursers under curb and rein. Their banks could hardly hold them.

During the afternoon and evening the column was climbing the South Mountain. A big confederate wagon train was going through the gap ahead of us. If we could capture that, it would be making reprisal for some of Stuart’s recent work in Maryland.

Toward midnight we were nearing the top, marching along the narrow defile, the mountain towering to the right, and sloping off abruptly to the left, when the boom of a cannon announced that the advance guard had encountered the enemy. The piece of artillery was planted in the road, at the summit, near the Monterey house, and was supported by the confederate rearguard, which at once opened fire with their carbines. It was too dark to distinguish objects at any distance, the enemy was across the front and no one could tell how large a force it might be. The First Michigan had been sent to the right, early in the evening, to attack a body of the enemy, hovering on the right flank in the direction of Fairfield, and had a hard fight, in which Captain Elliott and Lieutenant McElhenny, two brave officers, were killed. The Fifth and Sixth were leading and at once dismounted and deployed as skirmishers. Generals Kilpatrick and Custer rode to the place where the line was forming, and superintended the movement. The Sixth, under Colonel Gray, was on the right of the line, the road to its left. At least the portion of the regiment to which my troop belonged was in that position. I think, perhaps, a part of the regiment was across the road. The Fifth formed on the left; the First and Seventh in reserve, mounted. There is a good deal of guess work about it, for in the darkness one could not tell what happened except in his immediate neighborhood.

The order “Forward,” finally came, and the line of skirmishers advanced up the slope, a column of mounted men following in the road, ready to charge when opportunity offered. Soon we encountered the confederate skirmishers, but could locate them only by the flashes of their guns. The darkness was intense and in a few moments we had plunged into a dense thicket, full of undergrowth, interlaced with vines and briars, so thick that it was difficult to make headway at all. More than once a trailing vine tripped me up, and I fell headlong. To keep up an alignment was out of the question. One had to be guided by sound and not by sight. The force in front did not appear to be formidable in numbers, but had the advantage of position, and was on the defensive in a narrow mountain pass where numbers were of little avail. We had a large force, but it was strung out in a long column for miles back, and it was possible to bring only a few men into actual contact with the enemy, whatever he might be. This last was a matter of conjecture and Kilpatrick doubtless felt the necessity of moving cautiously, feeling his way until he developed what was in his front. To the right of the road, had it not been for the noise and the flashing of the enemy’s fire we should have wandered away in the darkness and been lost.

The confederate skirmishers were driven back across a swollen stream spanned by a bridge. The crossing at this point was contested fiercely, but portions of the Fifth and Sixth finally forced it and then the whole command crossed over.

In the meantime the rumbling of wagon wheels could be heard in the road leading down the mountain. It was evident we were being detained by a small force striving to hold us there while the train made its escape. A regiment was ordered up mounted to make a charge. I heard the colonel giving his orders. “Men,” he said, “use the saber only; I will cut down any man who fires a shot.” This was to prevent shooting our own men in the melee, and in the darkness. Inquiring, I learned it was the First (West) Virginia cavalry. This regiment which belonged in the First brigade had been ordered to report to Custer. At the word, the gallant regiment rushed like the wind down the mountain road, “yelling like troopers,” as they were, and good ones too, capturing everything in their way.

This charge ended the fighting for that night. It was one of the most exciting engagements we ever had, for while the actual number engaged was small, and the casualties were not great, the time, the place, the circumstances, the darkness, the uncertainty, all combined to make “the midnight fight at Monterey” one of unique interest . General Custer had his horse shot under him which, it was said and I have reason to believe, was the seventh horse killed under him in that campaign. The force that resisted us did its duty gallantly, though it had everything in its favor. They knew what they had in their front, we did not. Still, they failed of their object, which was to save the train. That we captured after all. The Michigan men brushed the rear guard out of the way, the First Virginia gave the affair the finishing touch.

The fight over, men succumbed to fatigue and drowsiness. I had barely touched the saddle before I was fast asleep, and did not awake until daylight, and then looking around, could not see a man that I recognized as belonging to my own troop. As far as the eye could reach, both front and rear, was a moving mass of horses with motionless riders all wrapped in slumber. The horses were moving along with drooping heads and eyes half-closed. Some walked faster than others and, as a consequence, would gradually pull away from their companions through the column in front; others would fall back. So it came to pass that few men found themselves in the same society in the morning with which they started at midnight. As for myself, I awoke to wonder where I was and what had become of my men. Not one of them could I see. My horse was a fast walker, and I soon satisfied myself that I was in advance of my troop and, when the place designated for the division to bivouac was reached, dismounted and awaited their arrival. Some of them did not come up for an hour, and they were scattered about among other commands, in squads, a few in a place. It was seven o’clock before we were all together once more.

Then we had breakfast, and the men had a chance to look the captures over and quiz the prisoners. The wagons were soon despoiled of their contents and such stuff as was not valuable or could not be transported was burned. Among the prisoners was Colonel Davis, of the Tenth Virginia cavalry, who claimed that he led the charge against our position on the third. He expressed himself very freely as having had enough, and said, “This useless war ought to be ended at once.”