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.
Sheridan started his movement up the Shenandoah Valley August 10, 1864, preceded by the cavalry. The First Cavalry Division was ordered to travel on the direct road through Berryville and take up a position at White Post. Arriving at Berryville, the Reserve and Second Brigades were ordered to make a reconnaissance to the west toward Winchester as far as Opequan Creek.
At the point where the main column made the turn to the right toward Winchester, the regiment ahead failed to leave a guide at the crossroads. When the Second came along, Captain Gordon continued with the regiment on the direct road. Thinking the rest of the command was ahead a short distance, he provided no advance guard in front. Suddenly the regiment was fired upon from a point directly down the road. A quick estimate of the situation told Captain Gordon what had happened and he put the outfit into a defensive position. Realizing that he must follow the rest of the Reserve Brigade, he soon withdrew and after a short counter march found his place in column. As soon as the regiment reached the main body, firing commenced in the front. This was a severe skirmish in which a brigade of the enemy cavalry was driven back upon Winchester. The command went into camp on the battlefield.
The reconnaissance was continued on August 11 toward Winchester as far as Opequan Creek, the First Brigade, under Custer, going on farther. The infantry soon came up and relieved the cavalry, as Sheridan hoped to bring General Early to battle in this vicinity. Merritt now swung to the left and marched toward Front Royal in three columns, the First Brigade on the right, the Reserve Brigade in the center, and the Second Brigade on the left. Near White Post the Second Brigade, under Devin, met the enemy on a ridge posted between breastworks. After a stubborn fight in which the whole command participated, General Merritt’s division drove the Confederates across the pike and toward Newton. The march was now continued toward the latter place, which was on the main macadamized valley road a few miles to the west. The enemy infantry was soon encountered, but in a severe engagement Merritt was unable to drive them away. From prisoners it was learned that the Union cavalry was engaged with the rear of Early’s army which was retreating up the valley.