THE SIXTH REGIMENT
By CAPTAIN WILLIAM H. CARTER, 6TH U. S. CAVALRY.
The Sixth Regiment of Cavalry was organized as the Third Cavalry, under the President's proclamation of May 3, 1861; and the proclamation was confirmed by Act of Congress, July 29, 1861. It was provided that its officers should take rank from May 14, 1861.
The headquarters were ordered established at Pittsburg, Pa., and the following officers were appointed to constitute the commissioned force of the new regiment:
Colonel David Hunter, Lieutenant-Colonel
William H. Emory, Majors D. H. Rucker and E.
Captains I. N. Moore, A. V. Kautz, A. W. Evans, Wm. S. Abert, D. McM. Gregg, J. H. Taylor, J. I. Gregg, John Savage, G. C. Cram, C. R. Lowell, J. S. Brisbin, and H. B. Hayes.
First Lieutenants J. K. Mizner, W. W. Averill, H. M. Enos, I. W. Claflin, S. H. Brown, B. T. Hutchins, H. T. McLean, Tattnall Paulding, Frederick Dodge, J. B. Johnson, J. F. Wade, M. H. Leavenworth.
Second Lieutenants J. W. Spangler, Peter McGrath, Hugh McQuade, and C. B. McLellan.
Major Rucker having declined, Major J. H. Carleton was appointed second major, to date from September 7, and Major L. A. Williams was on the same date appointed the junior major. Captain Moore having declined, Captain William P. Sanders was appointed.
The designation of the regiment was changed to Sixth Cavalry," August 10, 1861, the Mounted Rifles becoming the Third Cavalry.
The regiment was recruited principally in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and western New York, under the supervision of Lieut.-Col. Emory, and on October 12, 1861, Companies B, D, E, F, G, H, I and K having been organized, the regiment was transferred to the camp of instruction east of the Capitol at Washington. The organization of Company A was completed October 15; a sufficient number of recruits arrived during the month to complete the organization of Company M; and on the 1st of November the band of fifteen members joined, and the instruction of the regiment was begun. Company C was organized December 23, 1861, thus completing the organization of all but one company, and on December 31 the regiment was ready for the field with 34 officers and 950 men.
Winter quarters were abandoned on March 10, 1862, when the regiment crossed Long Bridge and marched to Fairfax C. H., where it was assigned to General P. St. G. Cooke's command, and after making a reconnoissance to Centreville, Manassas and Bull Run, was embarked March 27, at Alexandria, for Fort Monroe, which it reached on the 30th.
The regiment, except one squadron, was equipped with sabres and pistols as light cavalry, and marched in advance of the Army of the Potomac to the position before Yorktown, where it remained until the evacuation.
The regiment participated in the Peninsula campaign as part of General Stoneman's command. It opened and participated in the battle of Williamsburg, after pursuing the enemy through Yorktown. Here it undertook a feat of arms seldom or never attempted by cavalry, mounted, and which was probably brought about by a misconception of orders, or faulty information regarding the garrison and works attacked. The daring counter-charge of Captain Sanders was the salvation of the rear of the command. The following extract is taken from the report of the regimental commander:
"I was ordered to make a detour through the woods and take a battery on the enemy's extreme left flank. I accordingly proceeded with the Sixth Cavalry through the woods indicated, and after going about half a mile at a trot, debouched upon an open but undulating ground in front of the enemy's line of fortifications. The ground was very heavy, and between the woods and the field works there was a deep ravine only passable by file. The ravine was about equi-distant from the woods and the works. It was passed and the regiment formed about one hundred yards from the fortifications. Lieutenant Madden with a platoon was sent to reconnoitre the gorge. This was during the time its occupants were engaged with Gibson's battery in front. Lieutenant Madden reported that the ditch and rampart would have to be surmounted before we could effect an entrance, and also that infantry was approaching on the near side of a wood which skirted the back of the fort. I saw three regiments advancing in line; our position was critical, equally exposed to the guns of the fort and the advancing infantry. I determined to retire. Four of the squadrons and a portion of the fifth had already passed the ravine (it was belly deep to the horses in mud), when two squadrons of rebel cavalry rushed from the barracks in rear of the fort, and endeavored to cut off Captain Sanders' company. Captain Sanders wheeled his company about, charged and repelled the enemy with great gallantry. I cannot speak too highly of the officers and men on this occasion. Though every one felt that few would survive if the guns of the fort were turned upon us, not one showed the slightest concern. Captain Sanders showed great prudence and bravery in the timely manner in which he met the enemy, though taken at a disadvantage by superior numbers. I regret to report that Lieutenant McLellan was wounded in the leg by a shell while engaged."
The regiment formed part of the advanced guard of the Army of the Potomac, and was engaged May 9, 1862, in the action at Slatersville under General Stoneman, where Sanders again distinguished himself by repeatedly charging superior forces of the enemy's cavalry. May 11, the regiment again became sharply engaged at New Kent C. H.
May 24 it was in action at Mechanicsville, and two days later in the battle of Hanover Court House, the regiment camping on the battle-field until the morning of the 28th, when orders were received to burn the railroad bridge on the South Anna, near Wickham's farm. Colonel Wickham was laid up with a sabre wound received in the action with Sanders, and was captured and paroled. The destruction of the bridge and consequent railroad communication was accomplished during the day by a platoon under Lieutenant Kerin supported by the regiment. At 12 o'clock the same night
Lieutenant Kerin successfully destroyed the county bridge, about 200 yards above the railroad bridge.
Captain Cram destroyed a bridge which had been fired by Rush's Lancers on the 27th, but which they had failed to destroy because withdrawn prematurely. Orders arrived during the night to destroy the Virginia Central R. R. bridge over the North Anna, which was accomplished by Captain Abert's squadron, supported by Captain Kautz's.
June 13, 1862, General J. E. B. Stuart having succeeded in getting to the rear of the Federal army with a considerable force of cavalry, the Sixth was ordered in pursuit with part of the Fifth. Some active reconnoissance work took place, and Stuart's rear guard was found on the road to the White House. Orders being received to hold the position then occupied, the regiment halted until General Cooke arrived with his command. This raid made Stuart famous, and gave the opposing cavalries a lesson their leaders never forgot.
During the move from the Chickahominy to the James, the regiment retired by the way of York River. There was an accumulation of stores at White House landing which it was desired to move, and it became necessary to check the rebel cavalrymen who were pushing in close pursuit of the retiring columns. The Sixth was placed with a platoon of artillery at the crossing of Black Creek, which it successfully defended against several attempts to force a passage. After dark, June 26, the stores having been removed or destroyed, the regiment retired to Williamsburg, marching all night. It remained about Yorktown, Hampton and vicinity until July 7, when it was embarked at Fort Monroe for Harrison's Landing, where the army had arrived after the seven days' fight.
Company L was organized and arrived at camp July 13, completing the regimental organization.
August 4, 1862, the regiment marched to Malvern Hill as part of Pleasanton's Brigade, and on the next day had a sharp engagement, losing four killed and a number wounded. During the evacuation of Harrison's Landing, August 18, it formed the rear guard to Charles City Court House.
The regiment embarked on transports at Yorktown, August 3r, and landed at Alexandria, Va., September 2, 1862. For the next three months it was almost constantly in contact with the enemy, meeting him at Falls Church, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Middletown, Charleston, Va., the expedition to Leesburg, Waterford, Charleston again, Hillsboro, Philamont, Uniontown, Upperville, Barber's Cross roads, Amosville and the Rappahannock, the regiment reaching Belle Plain, November 24, where it remained until December 12, when it marched to the vicinity of Fredericksburg.
The army was now crossing the Rappahannock below the town, and a pontoon bridge having been thrown over, a squadron was crossed, and made a reconnoissance towards the enemy's works, developing their infantry line and receiving the fire of a battery, with a loss of two men and eight horses wounded. The squadron was withdrawn and the result reported to General Burnside. The regiment was put in camp near Falmouth, December 13, 1862, where it remained until April 13, 1863
The regiment was greatly hampered in its early service by the want of
proper arms for the kind of warfare it was dealing with. It was not until three days after the battle of Antietam that carbines were issued at Sharpsburg to all the men, and in the midst of an active campaign it was impossible to undertake any systematic instruction with the new arms. After four months of camp life near Falmouth, notwithstanding strenuous efforts to procure horses, the regiment resumed active work with nearly 300 men in the dismounted camp.
The regiment participated in the "Stoneman Raid" to the rear of the rebel army, which ended May 9, after swimming the Rappahannock. A picket detail under Lieutenants Carpenter and Wade reported on the 4th of May to General Buford, and accompanied him on his forced march to Gordonsville. During the raid Lieutenant Tupper with a detachment of ten men on a foraging expedition, captured the chief quartermaster of Stuart's cavalry in sight of one of their squadrons. It is doubtful if any service during the year was accompanied with greater hardships than were endured by men and horses during these few days from May 1st to 9th, 1863 the rain falling incessantly, swelled the streams and rendered the roads impassable.
Four days later the regiment encamped at Hartwood Church, and the regimental commander, assistant surgeon, and two men, were captured while passing from camp to General Buford's headquarters, a mile and a half distant.
On the 8th of June the regiment arrived near Beverly Ford on the Rappahannock, and crossed next day, participating in that famous cavalry combat with a loss of four officers and 63 men, killed and wounded and captured, out of 254 engaged. The regiment charged, losing Lieutenant Madden by a shell, and while reforming, the adjutant—Lieutenant Kerin—was captured. The regiment then supported Elder's horse-battery for several hours, part of the time under severe fire. It was then moved with the Second Cavalry to the extreme right, where severe loss occurred in charging the enemy to resist a flank attack. Lieutenant Ward was killed and Lieutenant Stoll badly wounded, both commanding squadrons. The latter was fired upon after he fell, and his men who tried to bear him away were shot down. This was one of the most severe cavalry actions of the war, and a loss of one-fourth its members is ample evidence of the courage and tenacity with which the Sixth fought until the line was withdrawn, and then the regiment was the last to withdraw and formed the rear-guard, where Lieutenant Tupper was specially mentioned for the skillful and deliberate manner with which he withdrew his squadron, the extreme rear guard, checking the enemy at every step as he retired.
While on the road to Snicker's Gap, the regiment had a brisk skirmish, June 17, near Benton's Mill; and again on the 21st, having joined General Gregg's command, it was engaged with the enemy, nearly all the cavalry of both armies fighting all day between Middleburg and Upperville. In the charge near the latter place Lieutenant McQuiston and five men were wounded. The regiment marched by way of Aldie and Leesburg to the Potomac, which was crossed at Edward's Ferry; thence to Point of Rocks and Emmitsburg, arriving July 2, 1863
On July 3d General Merritt ordered the regiment to Fairfield, Pa., on the road leading to Gettysburg from the northwest, to capture a wagon train, the rest of the brigade moving towards Gettysburg by way of Farmington. Fairfield was reached at noon, where two troops were detached to proceed along the base of the mountain, the regiment keeping the road to Gettysburg. About a mile from Fairfield the enemy's pickets were encountered and driven back to their supports, when another squadron was added to the skirmish line, and the enemy—the 7th Virginia—was driven back to the forks of the road from which their main body could be seen, consisting of about four regiments of cavalry. The regiment was close enough to hear the command "Draw Sabres" of the enemy, as they were formed for the charge. The two squadrons were in between post and rail fences, and could not form line or join those in the fields before they were charged by the rebel brigades under Generals Robertson and Jones. Caught in such a trap the men remained firm, firing and inflicting severe loss on the advancing column, until literally ridden down. Some escaped to the fields and made for the town, but the rebels were there first and Lieutenant Balder, who was ordered to surrender, called on the few men near him to follow and had nearly cut his way out when he fell mortally wounded. The squadron which was on the road near the mountain was also overpowered and hurled back to the town.
It was very unfortunate that the scattered squadrons were not withdrawn instantly from the front of such superior forces for more favorable ground. The regiment paid dearly for the error, losing, besides Lieutenant Balder killed, Major Starr and Lieutenants Tucker, Wood, and Chaffee, wounded; Captain Cram, Lieutenants Bould and Paulding, and Surgeons Forwood and Notson captured. The loss of men was 232 killed, wounded and captured, out of a total of less than 400.
The fight made at Fairfield by this small regiment against two of the crack brigades of Stuart's cavalry, which were endeavoring to get around the flank of our army to attack the trains, was one of the most gallant in its history and was really a part of the battle of Gettysburg. The efforts of these brigades were frustrated and their entire strength neutralized for the day, by the fierce onslaught of the small squadrons. The regiment was cut to pieces, but it fought so well that the squadrons were regarded as the advance of a large body of troops. The senior officer of these brigades was adversely criticised for allowing his command to be delayed by such an inferior force. Had the regiment not made the desperate stand, the two brigades of Virginians might have accomplished incalculable injury in the Federal rear, before sufficient force could have been gathered in their front. The small portion which escaped retreated to Emmitsburg, joined the brigade the next day, proceeded to Frederick City, Md., July 5, and to South Mountain and Williamsport, July 6, participating in the engagement there with the loss of one sergeant.
While making a reconnoissance to Funkstown, July 7, the regiment became heavily engaged with superior numbers, and lost Captain Claflin severely wounded and 85 men killed, wounded and missing. The regiment remained in contact with the enemy and was engaged, July 8 and 9, near Boonsboro, and again engaged near Funkstown, July 10.
The regiment had now lost all but three or four officers and a few men, and was ordered to report at Cavalry Corps Headquarters, and marched via Warrenton junction to Germantown, arriving there August 8, 1863. The service of the regiment during the period between the action at Beverly Ford and the last affair at Funkstown was one of incessant marching and fighting, and although nearly decimated by the casualties of action, the brave little band hung on to Lee's army with a courageous tenacity, which remains to-day as one of the most cherished historical incidents of the regiment's existence.
The regiment did not leave Germantown until September 12, and next day crossed the Rappahannock and engaged in the fight at Brandy Station, driving the enemy through Culpeper. Here it remained for a month, when the rebels attacked and forced a retreat towards the Rappahannock. When near Brandy Station the regiment was ordered into position on the left of the road, and when the skirmish line on its left retired, it was in an exposed position which was promptly seen by the enemy, who attempted a flank attack with a column of cavalry. In withdrawing around a piece of thick pine woods where the corps skirmish line was placed, the regiment was fired into by the 1st New York (Harris') Cavalry, killing a sergeant and wounding Lieutenant Chaffee, Surgeon Forwood and three men. On the 14th the regiment reached Centreville, and while reconnoitring the enemy's position Lieutenant Nolan was wounded. The regiment remained near Brandy Station during the winter in huts constructed by themselves.
The regiment left winter quarters May 4, 1864, and reconnoitred Germania Ford, Mine Run, and U. S. Ford, returning to Chancellorsville in time to go with General Sheridan to Todd's Tavern, where, May 7, the cavalry corps were heavily engaged with cavalry and infantry.
The next day was spent in preparations for the raid towards Richmond which commenced May 9,1864. The regiment marched on the Fredericksburg and Richmond Pike, crossing the North Anna after dark. The clouds of dust having attracted the attention of the enemy, they arrived during the night and opened on the corps headquarters at daylight with a battery, the regiment being near by and receiving a few shells without casualties. The march was resumed, the rebels continuing in pursuit and frequently attacking the rear guard. Reaching Beaver Dam Station, a train containing prisoners captured at the Wilderness was seized about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 10th, and destroyed with a large amount of muskets and small arms. The march was resumed and at 11 o'clock A. M., May 11, the enemy was encountered in front of Yellow Tavern, and a severe engagement took place resulting in the defeat of the rebels and the death of their gallant and famous leader—J. E. B. Stuart.
Crossing the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, May 12, the march continued towards Richmond until the outer works were reached, when the column turned to the left towards Mechanicsville Bridge. A shell placed in the road exploded as the regiment passed, killing one horse. The enemy now opened fire on the column, and the direction of the march was changed towards Mechanicsville. The enemy was in position on the road and fought stubbornly for two hours before he was driven away and a passage
over the river secured. Mechanicsville was reached at dark and the regiment went on picket.
Bottom's Bridge was destroyed May 13, and the day following the regiment was detached to Fort Monroe with orders for supplies to be sent to White House Landing. A march of fifty miles to Williamsburg was made the first day, and on the 15th Fort Monroe was reached, where the regiment remained until the 21st when it rejoined the cavalry corps at White House Landing, and proceeded to join the Army of the Potomac at Milford Station, May 24, 1864.
May 26, marched to Hanover town, crossing the Pamunkey at that point on a pontoon bridge next day, and on the 28th came upon the enemy and attacked him near Salem Church. Reached New Castle Ferry on the 29th and Old Church on the 30th, where the enemy was again engaged. Returning, the regiment reached Trevillian Station, June 10, and participated in the battle of that name, June 11.
The Cavalry Corps marched to White House Landing, leaving the Sixth at the crossing of the Mattapony to await the arrival of detachments and take up the pontoon bridge, which was done and the corps rejoined on June 19. The next ten days was spent in marching, and on the 29th the enemy was again encountered near Dabney's Mill and a skirmish took place. The regiment crossed the James, August 1, and engaged in the action of Deep Bottom.
General Sheridan having been assigned to command the Middle Military Division, embracing the Shenandoah Valley, Troop L was ordered to duty as his escort, and the regiment embarked for Washington, and thence marched via Harper's Ferry and rejoined the Cavalry Corps near Berrysville, August 20, 1864.
September 19, 1864, the regiment left Berryville at 3 o'clock A. M., towards Winchester, and at noon, as General Sheridan's escort, became engaged in the battle of that name. On the next day pursued the enemy to Strasburg and engaged in the fight of Fisher's Hill, driving the enemy all night and arriving at Woodstock next morning, where the day was spent in picking up stragglers and prisoners. The march up the Valley was resumed September 22, and at 10 o'clock A. M., the enemy was found posted on the south bank of the Shenandoah to dispute the crossing. The rebels were dislodged and the regiment proceeded to New Market and thence to Harrisonburg, where it remained.
October 7, the regiment marched down the Valley, and remained on the north side of Cedar Creek until October 19, when the battle of that name was fought. The rebels drove the regiment from its camp, but it was retaken before night and reoccupied. Captain Lowell was killed while leading the Regular Brigade to the charge in this action.
December 6, 1864, the regiment marched to Stephenson's Station, and formed part of General Merritt's command on his raid in Loudon Valley; and on he 19th it went with General Torbert's command on the raid to Gordonsville. Returning December 31, it went into winter camp at Kernstown.
February 27, 1865, the camp was broken up and the regiment proceeded
with the Cavalry Corps under General Sheridan, up the Valley through Strasburg, Woodstock and New Market, and arrived at Staunton, March 5; thence to the James River, and joined the Army of the Potomac near Petersburg, March 27, 1865. March 29, proceeded to Dinwiddie Court House. Here the Cavalry Corps engaged the enemy on the 30th, and drove them into their works at Five Forks, holding the position for three hours against repeated attacks and until the ammunition was exhausted. The enemy got in on the right flank of the regiment undercover of dense woods, and when the line was withdrawn for ammunition the rebels charged the flank capturing Lieutenant Nolan and 15 men. On March 31, their infantry having come up the enemy attacked and drove the Cavalry Corps back to Dinwiddie. Next morning the regiment occupied the extreme right in the memorable battle of Five Forks, and connected with the 5th Corps, when it came into action during the afternoon, the regiment wheeling to the left and resting the right on the enemy's works. About 3 P. M., an advance was ordered which never ceased until sunset, when the battle was won.
The Cavalry Corps went in pursuit, April 2, and came up with the rebels and engaged them at 3 P. M., but they retreated. The pursuit was continued incessantly and with great loss to the enemy until April 6, when they were compelled to make a stand to save their trains. The Cavalry Corps pressed hard on their flank and awaited a favorable opportunity to capture the trains. Their infantry was forced to form, enabling the 6th Corps to arrive during the delay. The 3d Cavalry Division was now ordered to charge, the other two divisions supporting, and this the battle of Sailor's Creek, resulted in the capture of about 10,000 rebels. During this action the regiment was ordered to take possession of some log huts. It is recorded in the regimental archives that the few men now left in the ranks hesitated, believing it was sure death; but Lieutenant McLellan, a veteran of the Old Army, faced them and said, "Men, let us die like soldiers." Every one of the little band rushed for the huts under a shower of bullets, and gained the cover with a loss of but three men wounded. The pursuit was pressed until 9 P. M. While trying to force a passage across the creek after dark, a shell burst in the midst of the little remnant bearing so bravely the standard of the Sixth, and wounded three, one of whom died next day. The march was resumed on the 7th, and on the 8th a rapid march was made to Appomatox Station where a charge was made resulting in important captures. April 9, 1865, the rebels made a desperate attack upon the cavalry at Clover Hill, but the arrival of infantry supports about 9 A. M., relieved the cavalry, which immediately proceeded at a gallop to the enemy's left with a view of charging upon that flank. On nearing the rebel lines a flag of truce was met requesting a cessation of hostilities as it had been decided to surrender. The surrender was announced at 4 P. M.
The cavalry was at once started for Petersburg and thence, after the grand review in Washington before the President, into camp at Frederick, Md., to reorganize and equip for duty on the distant frontier, where it was destined to pass the next quarter of a century.
The salient features of the regiment's history, during this most eventful
period of our nation's existence, have now been traced from the date of its first service in the Peninsula campaign, until formed for the last charge at Appomatox. The history of the regiment is that of the Regular Brigade, than which none brighter appears upon the records of the Army of the Potomac. The regiment was fortunate at the beginning of its career in having General Emory present as its lieutenant-colonel to organize it. The talent and courage of the squadron leaders, who so materially aided in establishing a reputation for the regiment, caused the early loss of these officers, who were soon selected for higher commands. Brave Sanders, a Southerner and West Pointer who remained loyal, was promoted to brigadier-general and was killed at the siege of Knoxville, Tenn. Lowell was killed while leading the brigade to the charge, he being then colonel of volunteers serving in the same brigade with his own Sixth. There were many officers of the regiment holding high commands, like Generals Hunter, Emory, Carleton, Kautz, the Greggs, Sanders and others, who rendered good service commensurate with the increased rank held by them, but the records contain many applications for and references to younger officers who were constantly detached for staff, recruiting and similar duties, who might have carved more enduring names for themselves in command of such excellent men as composed the ranks of the Sixth Cavalry.
Subsequent to the close of hostilities, the Adjutant-General's office not having given proper credit to the regiment for its services in battle, General Sheridan sent to the War Department the following communication, which is cherished as a manly and characteristic action on the part of that great leader "I take this occasion to strongly urge that justice be done the Sixth Cavalry, and that the battles as given in the within order issued by me * * * be credited to this regiment on the next Army Register, so that its record, or so much of it as is permitted in the Army Register, may be in a measure correct and complete. In the following battles the Sixth Cavalry fought under my personal supervision, viz.: Wilderness, Todd's Tavern, Furnaces, Spottsylvania Court House, Yellow Tavern, Meadow Bridge, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek, Five Forks, Dinwiddie C. H., Clover Hill, Sailor's Creek and Appomatox Court House."
The records of casualties during the Rebellion show seven officers killed, 53 men killed in action and 53 other deaths; 122 wounded in action and 17 by accident; 438 missing, most of these being captured at Fairfield and in other charges,—making a total of 689 enlisted men.
The regiment participated in the following actions during the war:
|Williamsburg, May 4.|
|Slatersville, May 9.|
|New Kent C. H., May 11.|
|New Bridge, May 20.|
|Mechanicsville, May 24.|
|Hanover C. H., May 27.|
|Ashland, June 16.|
|Black Creek, June 26.|
|Charlestown, September 28.|
|Hillsboro, September 29.|
|Waterford, October 1.|
|Charlestown, October 8.|
|Philamont, November 1.|
|Uniontown, November 2.|
|Upperville, November 3.|
|Barber's Cross Roads, Nov. 5.|
Malvern Hill, August 5.
Falls Church, September 5.
Sugar Loaf Mountain, Md., Sept. 13.
AmosviIle, November 7 and 8.
Sulphur Springs, November 17.
Fredericksburg, December 12.
|Petersville, Md., Sept. 15.|
|Beverly Ford, June 9.|
|Benton's Mill, June 17.|
|Middleburg, June 21.|
|Upperville, June 21.|
|Fairfield (Gettysburg), Pa., July 3.|
|Williamsport, Md., July 6.|
|Funkstown, Md., July 7.|
Boonesboro, Md., July 8 and 9.
Funkstown, Md., July 7.
Brandy Station, September 13.
Culpeper, October 11.
Brandy Station, October 11.
Robertson's Tavern, Nov. 27.
Mine Run, November 28 and 29.
|Wilderness, May 5 and 6.|
|Todd's Tavern, May 7.|
|Spottsylvania C. H., May 9.|
|Yellow Tavern, May 11.|
|Meadow Bridge, May 12.|
|Salem Church, May 28.|
|Old Church, May 30.|
|Trevillian Station, June 11-12.|
|Dabney's Mill, June 29.|
|Deep Bottom, August 1.|
|Berryville, August 16.|
|Winchester, September 19.|
|Fisher's Hill, September 20.|
|Cedar Creek, October 19.|
|Five Forks, March 30.|
|Dinwiddie C. H., March 31.|
|Five Forks, April 1.|
|Sailor's Creek, April 6.|
|Appomatox Station, April 8.|
|Clover Hill, April 9.|
In October, 1865, the regiment left its camp near Frederick, Md., and proceeded via New York and New Orleans, to Austin, Texas, where camp was established November 29. The headquarters remained at Austin until August 24, 1868, when station was changed to Fort Richardson, Texas. The troops were distributed about the Department of Texas, at Forts Richardson, Belknap and Griffin, and Camps Austin, Sherman, Buffalo Springs and Sulphur Springs.
During the period from 1865 to 1871, while the regiment was stationed in Texas, the duties falling to the officers and men were of the most dangerous and varied kinds. After the close of the Rebellion the country was overrun with desperadoes and outlaws who were even worse than the hostile Comanches, and the officers and men were continually called upon to guard the courts of justice, to assist revenue officers, aid in executing convicted criminals, supervise elections, pursue outlaws and murderers, and in general to institute lawful proceedings where anarchy reigned. Many soldiers were assassinated for their devotion to law and order, and nothing but incessant vigilance and unflinching courage, prevented the guerrilla community from running the border counties of the State. The records for this period are very unsatisfactory, and important actions, in the light of to-day, are entirely omitted and remain only as traditions from the generation of war service men, who have almost entirely passed away from the regiment.
Parts of the regiment were engaged with Indians at Buffalo Springs, July 21, 1867; Fort Belknap, Texas, August 30, 1867; in the field, October 17, 1867; and at Paint Creek, Texas, March 5, 1868.
The desperadoes spoken of above, organized into bands of outlaws in many parts of Texas about this time, one of the most notorious being Lee's band. On March 7, 1868, Corporal Henhold, Troop D, left Sherman, Texas, with 13 enlisted men and some citizen guides, to break up this band. The pursuit carried the detachment to Read Creek swamp, where the band was effectually broken up by killing two and capturing five of their number. One troop marched more than a thousand miles in pursuit of outlaws during the last three months of 1868.
While scouting from Fort Richardson, Texas, in July, 1870, Captain McLellan with two officers, an A. A. surgeon, and detachments from Troops A, C, D, H, K and L, 6th Cavalry, came in contact with a war party of 250 warriors, and fought them on July 12 for about five hours. Captain McLellan's force numbered only 53 enlisted men, of whom two were killed and nine wounded. Eight horses were killed and 21 wounded. The Indians almost surrounded the command, fighting bravely at close range. Their loss was reported as 15 killed and many more wounded.
Other Indian engagements took place May 30, 1870; near Little Wichita River, October 5, and October 6, 1870; and on November 12, 1870.
During the early part of 1871 the regiment was ordered from Texas to the Department of the Missouri. The headquarters and troops which had assembled at Fort Richardson, Texas, left the post March 20, 1871, for Fort Sill, I. T., and soon after arrival began active scouting, which continued without intermission until the campaign of 1874-75 so completely paralyzed the hostile Indians, that they were compelled to abandon their belligerent attitude and flee from their familiar hiding places in the Pan Handle, to seek the protection of the agencies. A few of the troops were assigned to garrison in the Department, but most of the regiment eventually went into camp near Fort Hayes, Kansas, from which place the country in the vicinity of the Saline, Solomon and Republican rivers was kept thoroughly patrolled with scouting parties.
As it soon became evident that desultory scouting, and chasing war parties which had a good start, were equally unprofitable, expeditions were organized in Texas, New Mexico and Kansas, to pursue the Indians even to the cañons of the Tule and the bare, waterless plains of the Pan Handle.
Two troops which had been sent to Mississippi and Louisiana for reconstruction duty in January, 1872, returned in 1873, much to their gratification, and participated in the Indian scouting and subsequent campaign.
The regiment took part in the operations against the Cheyennes, Kiowas and Comanches in 1874, under Colonel N. A. Miles. This expedition was organized at Fort Dodge, Kansas, in August, two battalions of four troops each, under Majors Compton and Biddle, representing the Sixth.
As the command advanced the Indians retreated to the south, concentrating near Red River, Texas. They were rapidly pursued and were overtaken near the mouth of the Tule, where an engagement took place August 30, 1874, with about 600 warriors. The hostiles occupied a line of bluffs,
and, notwithstanding the Indians displayed their usual dash and courage in the first attack, the command was rapidly deployed, the Indians charged and were driven over the bluffs, thence through deep and precipitous cañons, past their burning villages and out on to the Staked Plains. The regiment was commended in orders for its dash and intrepidity in this engagement.
Two parties were sent from the battle-field to Camp Supply, I. T., with dispatches, one of which was under the charge of Sergeant Z. T. Woodall, of Troop I, 6th Cavalry. This one was attacked by Indians and the following extract from a letter, written by General Miles, tells the story of its remarkable fight.
"From early morning till dark, outnumbered twenty-five to one, under an almost constant fire and at such short range that they sometimes used their pistols, retaining the last charge to prevent capture and torture, this little party of five defended their lives and the person of their dying comrade, without food and their only drink the rain water that collected in a pool mingled with their own blood. There is no doubt that they killed more than double their number, besides those that were wounded. The Indians abandoned the attack at dark on the 12th. The simple recital of their deeds and the mention of the odds against which they fought, how the wounded defended the dying, and the dying aided the wounded by exposure to fresh wounds after the power of action was gone, these alone present a scene of cool courage, heroism and self-sacrifice, which duty as well as inclination prompt us to recognize, but which we cannot fitly honor."
Lieutenant Frank West with 20 men was sent with Captain Lyman, 5th Infantry, and his company, from camp with a wagon train to meet the outcoming train and bring supplies to the front. The train was found September 7, when the detachment was increased by seven men coming out to join the regiment. The stores were transferred in a violent storm, and the return march begun, when the Indians appeared and killed and scalped a teamster who had wandered off a short distance. The train was followed, and on the 9th the attack of the Indians, about 250 in number, commenced. The train was corralled a mile or more north of the Washita River for the ensuing fight, which lasted four days. The train had just emerged from a ravine when the Indians charged the rear fiercely, riding to within about 100 yards and shooting down Lieutenant Lewis and Sergeant Armour, 5th Infantry. A scout was sent through to Camp Supply, being chased on the way, and returned with Troop K, 6th Cavalry, with medical assistance for the wounded, who had endured great suffering during the four days fighting and exposure without food or water.
On November 8, 1874, Troop D (Lieut. Overton), with Company D, 5th Infantry, all under Lieutenant Baldwin, fought a band of Indians from 9 A. M., until 2 P. M., near the headwaters of McLellan's fork of Red River. Major Compton with Troop H went to the assistance of these troops but the fighting had ceased before he arrived. Two captive white girls, Julia and Adelaide Germain, were rescued during this engagement. Their parents and an older brother and sister were killed near the Smoky Hill River, and these two girls with two other sisters were carried into captivity.
Horse thieves took advantage of the unsettled condition of affairs to ply their nefarious trade, and Lieutenant Hanna with ten men of Troop B was
sent from Fort Dodge on November 4th in pursuit of a band. It was overtaken on the 9th and in the fight which lasted two hours, Private Skelton was wounded, Lieutenant Hanna's horse killed, two thieves wounded and twelve horses and mules recovered.
On December 1st, Captain Chaffee made a night march to surprise a party of Indians reported to be on a branch of the North fork of Red River, but the Indians received warning and decamped in great haste. First Sergeant Ryan, Troop I, with a detachment, pursued and overtook them at daylight, December 2, attacked and routed them, capturing their ponies, about 70 in number, which were mostly saddled and packed.
The campaign was continued far into the winter, the last movement on the Staked Plains being executed in intensely cold weather, the thermometer registering at times 25 degrees below zero, and "Northers" prevailing almost incessantly. The Indians were fought in nine engagements, and were so harassed during this campaign that they were unable to commit their usual depredations. After continuous pursuit they went into the agencies and surrendered in a greatly impoverished condition, and have never regained their old war spirit.
Peace prevailed until spring, but on April 6, 1875, Troop M was engaged near the Cheyenne Agency from 3 P. M. until dark with about 150 Cheyennes. Nine Indians were killed, four soldiers wounded, and nine troop horses killed or wounded.
A party of Cheyennes broke north, and having been seen crossing the railroad, Lieutenant Austin Henely with 40 men of Troop H, went by rail to Fort Wallace, Kansas, and left there April 19, 1875, to strike the trail southeast of the post. He pursued rapidly until April 23, when he overtook the band at Sappa Creek, Kansas. The Indians made a stand and they were fought at close quarters to the bitter end. Twenty-seven Indians were killed; 134 ponies, with all their camp property and arms were captured. Sergeant Papier and Private Theims, of Troop H, were killed.
After a brief space of active scouting again, the regiment proceeded to relieve the Fifth Cavalry in Arizona, the order having been issued the preceding year and suspended on account of the Indian troubles. The first half of the regiment, with the headquarters and band, assembled during the early part of May, and marched under the command of Captain McLellan from Fort Lyon, Colorado. The 5th Cavalry moved from Arizona at the same time, and the two commands met at Santa Fé, N. M., where horses were exchanged and old acquaintance renewed. As soon as these troops had reached their respective Departments, the remaining troops of the outgoing regiments were relieved, and a similar meeting and exchange of horses was made at Fort Union, N. M.
Upon arrival in the Department of Arizona, the troops were widely scattered. Headquarters and Troop B went to Camp Lowell; A and D to Camp Apache; C, G and M, to Camp Grant; E and I to Camp Verde; H to Camp Bowie; L to Camp San Carlos; K to Camp McDowell, and F to Fort Whipple. The troops marched an average of 1064 miles from their old stations to the new.
Comparative quiet reigned in Arizona during the summer while the regi-
ment was marching in, but it was not long before marauding bands of Apaches commenced their usual deviltry, which continued at intervals during all the years the regiment was stationed there.
On January 9, 1876, Troops A and D, while in garrison at Camp Apache, were engaged with the White Mountain Apaches for three hours. For some fancied wrong the Indians got into the rocks and timber and opened fire on the post. One Indian was killed, five captured, and the others driven away.
During the summer of 1876, while the great Sioux war was progressing in the north, the entire regiment was called to the field to put down the Chiricahua Apaches, and later to assist in removing them to San Carlos Agency. Before the arrival of the regiment at the scene of operations several parties were sent out to stop the numerous raids. Lieutenant Henely went from Camp Bowie with a detachment and had an engagement April 10, 1876, and subsequently assisted about 200 friendly Chiricahuas to the agency adjoining the post in Apache Pass. The regiment arrived and during June was sent around the Indian reservation to drive in the Indians, but many of the worst had fled to the rocky fastnesses of the Mexican mountain peaks, and remained a thorn in the side of the army and the settlers for more than ten years.
Such Indians as were willing were moved to San Carlos Agency, the troops sent back to their stations and soon the dangerous country was filled with daring prospectors seeking the fine mines located thereon. Many of these hardy miners have paid with their lives for the privilege of prospecting that section.
Encounters with the Indians occurred August 15, and October 4, 1876, and January 9, 1877, and they became so daring in Southern Arizona that another company of scouts was organized under Lieutenant John A. Rucker than whom no officer in the army was better fitted for the work before him. In command of a detachment of Troops H and L, and his scouts, he overtook and defeated a band of Chiricahua Indians in the Leitendorf Mountains, N. M., on January 9, 1877. Ten Indians were killed and one boy captured, and from the evidences left behind a number of Indians are believed to have been injured. The entire herd, arms and ammunition were captured, together with a large amount of stolen goods and about $1200 in Mexican silver. The hostile strength was estimated at fifty warriors.
May 29, 1877, Lieutenant West with a detachment was attacked near Camp Bowie, Arizona.
About the 20th of August, several parties of renegades crossed the Mexican border at various places and, coming together by preconcerted arrangement, proceeded to the San Carlos reservation. Lieutenant Hanna started on a trail near Camp Huachuca, and when near Camp Bowie learned that another party had killed the mail rider east of Bowie. Rucker joined Hanna, and the two companies of scouts and cavalry detachments followed the trail which constantly grew larger. The renegades led them through a very rough country where some of the men became nearly insane for want of water. The trail turned into the San Carlos reservation and the commands stopped at Camp Thomas to telegraph for orders before going on the reservation. Before an answer came the renegades had succeeded in creating
an outbreak. The Warm Spring Indians broke away from San Carlos, and were pursued by Captain Tupper with Troop G and detachments from B, H, L and M,—Lieutenants Hanna and Rucker with their companies of scouts joined him. The runaways were overtaken, and in a scattered and running fight on September 9 and 10, 12 Indians were killed and 13 wounded.
Other encounters took place December 13 and 18, 1877, and January 7 and April 5, 1878.
The department commander finally decided to put a stop to the incessant raiding of small parties from Mexico, and Lieutenants Rucker and Carter with their companies of scouts were ordered to establish a supply camp near the border and to remain there patrolling. Lieutenant Henely joined the camp with a company of scouts, and a few days later the regiment was horrified by the news of his death by drowning, and that of Rucker while trying to save his friend and classmate, at their camp, by a sudden rush of waters resulting from a cloud burst. Henely was being carried away by the torrent, when Rucker boldly plunged his horse in the stream to save him, but the raging waters carried him down also. The loss of these officers, especially of Rucker, who was better known to the border people than any other officer of the regiment, was universally lamented.
Indian fights in which the regiment was represented took place September 17 and from September 20 to 30, 1878; September 29 and October 27,1879; and April 7, 1880.
Captain C. B. McLellan with Troop L, Lieutenant Touey's detachment, Troop C, and Gatewood's scouts, while on a scout in New Mexico came upon a battalion of the 9th Cavalry engaged with Victoria's Apaches at a serious disadvantage, and succeeded in dislodging the Indians and relieving the 9th. This fight occurred April 9, 1880, in the San Andreas Mountains. During the few weeks succeeding this event, Victoria raided incessantly, and on May 7, 1880, attempted to get in to San Carlos with 50 warriors, but was met by Capt. Adam Kramer with part of his troop (E) and Lieutenant Blockson with part of his scouts, on Ash Creek, where a fight ensued, resulting in driving Victoria away, but with the loss of an old and valuable noncommissioned officer,—Sergeant Griffin of Troop E,—killed, and one scout wounded. Several commands went after Victoria but he escaped and laid waste New Mexico to such an extent that nearly all the regiment was engaged during the summer in constant scouting, ending in an expedition to Sonora and Chihuahua, under General Carr, which was participated in by most of the regiment and several companies of scouts. Victoria was driven into the hands of a Mexican column in October and his band almost destroyed. During September this band of Indians captured the overland stage near Fort Cummings, N. M., and killed the occupants, including the young son of Captain Madden, who was coming out from an eastern college to spend his vacation with the regiment.
During August, 1881, the White Mountain Apaches, hitherto very friendly, began to show signs of disaffection, brought about by the machinations of a medicine man named Nackaydetklinne, and General Carr was ordered to arrest him. He marched from Fort Apache with Troops D and E, and Company A, Indian Scouts, to Cibicu Creek, and arrested the fanatic
in the midst of his people, who were informed that having refused obedience to the agent, it was necessary to take their medicine man to the fort, and that his family would be permitted to accompany him but that any attempt at rescue would be resisted. The battalion marched about a mile down the creek, and while preparing to bivouac there was some excitement amongst the scouts and other Indians who had followed the rear guard to camp, and though every effort was made to prevent a conflict, the Indians, including the mutinous scouts, fired on the troops and a hand-to-hand conflict ensued. The Indians were driven from the immediate vicinity, notwithstanding their numerical strength was about twice that of the soldiers, but continued for several hours to fire from the surrounding hills. The battalion lost Captain Hentig and six men killed, two wounded, and 42 horses; the medicine man was killed. The next day the command returned to Fort Apache in time to save that post, which was attacked September 1st. At the same time all the roads were scoured by war parties, and the mail rider, three soldiers and a number of citizens were killed. This outbreak involved the whole regiment in a short campaign which compelled the White Mountain Apaches to surrender at the agencies.
The withdrawal of troops from the Mexican border to participate in driving in these Indians, left the way open and the Chiricahuas broke from the reservation and fled south. They were rapidly pursued by two troops and overtaken near Cedar Springs, Arizona, and fought for more than five hours, with a loss of one sergeant killed and three privates wounded. The Indians fled from the strong position held by them during the night, and eventually reached Mexico.
The ensuing year was one of much hard scouting with but little reward, until April, 1882. The Chiricahaus then made one of their periodical breaks from the reservation, and started for their old haunts in Mexico. Two troops started from Fort Thomas in pursuit, and on the second day, April 20, Lieutenant Sands with a few men overtook the Indians and exchanged a few shots. Captain Tupper, with Troops G and M, and Indian scouts, caught up with the band near the Mexican line, and fought, April 28, about 150 Indians who had taken refuge in the rocks, killing 17 Indians and 15 horses and mules, and capturing 75 horses and mules, with a loss of one trooper killed and two wounded. The troops had to withdraw at night to obtain water, and the Indians fled southward. The command crossed into Mexico, and the flight of the Indians having been discovered by a regiment of Mexican infantry on the march, an ambuscade was quickly prepared and when the Indians found themselves entrapped, a hand-to-hand conflict ensued resulting in the annihilation of the savages.
During July, 1882, another outbreak occurred from the San Carlos Agency, the band going north murdering settlers instead of following the usual route to Mexico. Active pursuit resulted in overtaking the Indians, some troops of the 3d Cavalry, and E, I and K, 6th Cavalry, coming together from different posts on the hot trail just as the Indians were sighted. The fight occurred at the Big Dry Wash of Chevelon's Fork, A. T., and resulted in the capture of 60 horses and mules, 50 saddles, and much camp property. Sixteen Indians were killed and many wounded.
During, the remainder of 1882 and 1883, the regiment was scouting almost incessantly because of the raids from Mexico by small parties of Chiricahuas. During March, 1883, General Crook took Troop I under Captain Chaffee, on his famous expedition to the Sierra Madres in Mexico, returning in July, having marched goo miles, and bringing in the head chiefs and about 400 hostiles.
The regiment was relieved from duty in Arizona during June, 1884, and exchanged stations, marching, with the Fourth Cavalry in New Mexico, two troops going to Colorado.
During the nine years' service in Arizona the hardest work was the incessant detachment duty, which was necessary to such an extent that troops rarely if ever took the field over 35 strong. The average marching of troop, as shown by the returns for nine years, was 6419 miles. The greatest number of miles marched was 8514 by Troop A. These marches are of organizations and of course do not include the long trips with mails, paymasters, Indian scout companies, etc. Scouting for Apaches has always been attended with more labors and difficulties than honors or successes.
The command of the companies of Indian scouts usually devolved upon the young lieutenants of the regiment, and while developing self-reliance, coolness and woodcraft, the incessant exposure resulted disastrously to many of them.
Two of these young officers deserve special mention—Lieutenant John A. Rucker, whose station was always "In the field," and who during his service with scouts followed nearly every hostile trail between the Gila River and the Sierra Madres in Mexico within a few hours after it was made, and who finally laid down his young life in a seething mountain torrent in which no being could live for a moment, in an unsuccessful effort to save the life of his friend and classmate, Henely.
The other, —Lieutenant Charles B. Gatewood,—who entered upon service with the Apaches within a few months after joining the regiment. He saw much service during the Victoria and other Apache outbreaks, taking part in several engagements in New Mexico. He was commended later by the Major-General commanding the Army, for his conduct in the surprise and defeat of Chato and Bonito, and the rescue of five captives near the headwaters of the Bavispe River, in the Sierra Madres, Sonora, Mexico. An act which has made him known throughout the army and the country generally, and which Ned Casey probably had in mind when he was so foully murdered by the Sioux, is thus mentioned in the recent general order of the War Department commending him "For bravery in boldly and alone riding into Geronimo's camp of hostile Apache Indians in Arizona, and demanding their surrender."
Upon arrival in New Mexico, the headquarters were located at Fort Bayard, some troops going to Forts Wingate. Stanton, Cummings, N. M., and Lewis, Colorado. Captain H. P. Perrine, with Troops B and F which went to Colorado, took the field from Fort Lewis in pursuit of hostile Utes, and engaged them, July 15, 1885, at Wormington Cañon. One packer and one volunteer were killed.
The regiment settled down to garrison life, building quarters, putting in
water works, and improving the posts generally, which continued until the spring of 1885, when nearly all the troops were hurried to the field in May, to head off their old enemies, the Arizona Apaches, who broke away from Fort Apache and fled towards Mexico. Active but unsuccessful efforts were made to overhaul these renegades before they reached Mexico. Troop A followed the Indians about 500 miles into Mexico. The troops were placed in camp at the various water holes along the border, and patrols were kept out watching all the border country for hundreds of miles. This lonely and very disagreeable duty of watching for "signs," continued for more than a year, and the fact that very few Indians succeeded in getting back into the settled country, indicates great vigilance. The troops returned to their posts during June and July of 1886, but made frequent scouts subsequently after these same renegades.
Aside from frequent scouts on the Navajo reservation and vicinity to keep peace between citizens and Indians, the troops were not called into the field for any large operations until danger threatened among the far away Sioux in 1890. The scattered condition of the army at that time necessitated the gathering of troops from almost every department, and included the Sixth Cavalry, which was transferred by rail from New Mexico to South Dakota, arriving at Rapid City, December 9, 1890.
On January 1st the regiment was camped near the mouth of Wounded Knee Creek, and the pickets reported firing early in the afternoon, several miles away on White River. Troop K of the third battalion had not yet joined, and, suspecting that the Indians had attacked it, "boots and saddles" was sounded, and Major Tupper with his two remaining troops, F and I, proceeded at a gallop through the snow, guided only by the sound of the firing which came to the ears of the advanced guard. Arriving on the bluffs overlooking White River, Troop K, under Captain Kerr, was seen with train corralled and the attacking Indians in full view. Although the horses were blown with their run for four or five miles in the snow, the skirmish line was formed at a charge and the line pushed rapidly across the half frozen river between K Troop and the Indians, who, notwithstanding their taunting cries of "come on," gave way all along their line, and retreated in the direction of the main village.
Some of these Indians who had crawled up close to K Troop, were cut off, but by abandoning their ponies they managed to crawl away between the lines under a heavy fire, and succeeded in reaching the bluffs, where they were subsequently found wounded and were killed by the scouts. The result of this attack was particularly gratifying, because the Indians were seeking revenge for their losses at General Forsyth's hands, and found General Carr's troops so fully prepared to give it to them that they returned to the hostile village and acknowledged defeat and a loss of nine warriors. The other troops directed to take part in this affair arrived under General Carr so promptly on the flank of the Indians that if they had made a stand for a few minutes their escape would have been a very difficult matter.
This was the only fight participated in by the regiment during the campaign. Soon afterward the Indians formally surrendered and half the regiment remained with them at Pine Ridge Agency until February. While
en route to their new posts in the vicinity of the Indian reservations, the men and horses suffered greatly from exposure in very severe weather.
The regiment is now, as it has been ever since the Rebellion, "standing to horse" near an Indian reservation ready to participate in quelling disturbances after the Indian Bureau fails.
In following a cavalry regiment for thirty years by means of its retained records, the trail is often found dim and rough, sometimes completely obliterated. It would be impossible in so brief a sketch to name all the heroes and heroic deeds that these years have developed. The names of the officers participating in actions even, cannot be given because so many records have been lost in battle and flood. To illustrate the difficulties surrounding this labor it is only necessary to quote from one morning report where the naive remark is duly entered, that "the company clerk was captured yesterday with the muster roll in his saddle pocket." Many incidents of great interest have been brought to light through the kindly offices of the Sixth Cavalry Association, an organization of veterans who followed the fortunes of the regiment during the war, and who still meet annually to keep alive the friendships and memories of those eventful days.
This sketch is confined as nearly as possible to things historical, but the search for facts has developed a perfect mine of interesting incidents and regimental tales which have no place here. The pressure of other duties has made it impossible for the writer to do full justice to the subject, and it was only the fear that it would be entirely neglected by those more competent that caused the preparation of this imperfect narrative.
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