ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
The Second Cavalry was detached from the Reserve Brigade on September 20 and reported to General Sheridan as escort. In this capacity it moved up the valley to Fisher’s Hill, where the Confederates were found entrenched. At the request of Colonel Lowell the regiment was again assigned duty with the brigade the next day and thus marched with the division to the Luray Valley, encamping that night at Front Royal, ten miles east of Fisher’s Hill.
On the 22nd the First and Third Divisions marched up the valley to Milford, where the enemy was found posted in a strong position. Unable to dislodge the Confederates at this place, the two divisions returned to Front Royal on the 23rd. Early on this day an ambulance train escorted by the Second Cavalry was attacked by Moseby’s guerillas near Front Royal. After a brief struggle the irregulars were scattered and thirteen prisoners taken. Lieutenant McMaster pursued the guerillas beyond supporting distance of the regiment and was captured and killed. Word was received that same day that Sheridan had driven Early south from Fisher’s Hill. The cavalry resumed its march up the valley at once and camped that night near Milford. Early on the morning of the 24th, the march south was resumed until reaching Luray. At this place Wickham’s cavalry was met and routed by the First and Reserve Brigades and 100 prisoners and one battle flag were captured. The pursuit was continued by the cavalry across the Shenandoah River. Turning to the west the two divisions crossed the Massanutten Mountains and joined the main army at New Market.
On September 26 the Reserve Brigade joined the Third Cavalry Division under Wilson and marched to Staunton for the purpose of capturing all mature males and movable property, and destroying other supplies. The command camped there that night and on the next day destroyed several miles of the railroad and then marched to Waynesboro for the same destructive purposes. On the 28th they remained at this place doing picket duty until late in the afternoon. About 5:00 p.m. the Confederates made a sudden attack upon the First and Second Cavalry, who were on duty as outguards. The surprise was so great the pickets fled in dismay back upon the main body. The fighting was soon going on in the streets of Waynesboro and continued until after dark. Being the most exposed toward the enemy, the First and Second Cavalry were attacked from two sides and almost surrounded. They gave way in confusion and soon the entire command retreated hastily in the dark back to Staunton and thence to Harrisonburg, a distance of about thirty miles, where it rejoined the main army.
Upon Sheridan’s recommendation, Grant ordered him to withdraw down the valley. During this march the cavalry was spread out across the fertile country to destroy everything that could be of use to the enemy. The retrograde movement began October 6, 1864, and by the 8th the First Cavalry Division reached Tom’s Creek as a part of the cavalry covering the withdrawal. On this same date General Merritt sent the Second and Reserve Brigades to support the Third Cavalry Division, which was seriously engaged nearby. When these two brigades reached the field of action they fought the enemy at once and drove him back across Tom’s Creek. On the morning of the 9th the First Cavalry Division marched to a position on the Back Road approximately where the two brigades fought the enemy the day before. The Third Division under Wilson was already engaged at this place. The First Brigade of Merritt’s Division was ordered to attack the flank and rear of the enemy, while the Reserve Brigade crossed Tom’s Creek and gained the rear of the Confederates. The Second Brigade took position to the front between the main pike and the Back Road. The Rebels were pushed back everywhere except in front of the Reserve Brigade, where they showed unusual resistance. Reenforcements were sent to this part of the line and soon the enemy was retreating by two roads. The division mounted and started a hot pursuit which lasted for twenty miles. At Woodstock the enemy artillery made some resistance but was ridden down by the Reserve Brigade and two guns captured. Wherever the Rebels stopped for a moment the Federals were upon them, scattering their ranks in all directions. The pursuit was not given up until the advance elements reached Mount Jackson. The Reserve Brigade captured fifty prisoners, four pieces of artillery, and other supplies, but lost only seven men wounded.