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The cavalry was to be divided in two columns, one under Buford supported by Ames, to cross at Beverly Ford; one under Gregg supported by Russell, to cross lower down the river at Kelly’s Ford. The Second Massachusetts received their order to join this detachment first; and, it is related that they were quite urgent to have the Third Wisconsin included in the detail; for the two regiments had grown to feel that their careers were inseparable. Each was proud of the other, and neither coveted any glory that the other could not share, and each desired the support of the other in close work. As the Second moved off, they urgently solicited Gen. Ruger to have the Third also sent along. We were soon ordered out and on the road. When we came up where the detachments had assembled the Second Massachusetts greeted us with cheers, which ran through the column, as our regiment with lithe step and honest pride in the compliment paid it, took place as part of the special brigade. A summer shower laid the dust, and we started out at a brisk pace, under our new brigadier, a very affable, handsome, young gentleman, who was deeply interested at all our halts in reading a novel which he carried in his pistol holster. We pushed on at a quick step. This was adventure. In fine health, excellent spirits, with fresh, cool air, we stepped off sixteen miles and went into bivouac at eleven. On the way we passed the cavalry which, at about eight o’clock in the evening, were drawn up by the roadside to give us the front. A merry bandying of jokes, as we passed this seemingly vast array of horsemen, showed the light-hearted humor of brave soldiers. The boys chaffed the cavalry because they could not keep up with us and had to turn cut and let us pass. The next morning we rested, while the troopers clattered by. There were some 5,000, perhaps, but there appeared to be ten times that number, as the long column passed in procession.

Following on after them we reached Bealeton on the railroad about sunset, and carefully concealed ourselves in the woods. We were forbidden to light fires, and the yearning for hot coffee, that comforting refreshment of the tired soldier, was very strong.

The next night, the 8th,126 we stealthily moved down near to Beverly Ford and into the woods again. “No fires” were the orders and “no noise.” These injunctions were strictly enforced, and staff and company officers were on constant watch to keep the men still. Buford’s whole body ov cavalry was hidden in the woods near by.

ED. NOTE: 8 June 1863.

-123At 3 o’clock on the morning of the 9th a detail was made from the Second Massachusetts to move down to the ford and reconnoiter. The Captain of this party soon came back and reported a large force of cavalry on the other side of the river, apparently unconscious of the presence of Buford’s command.127 At early dawn we were up, ate our cold breakfasts, and without bugle call or other noise the road soon swarmed with cavalry. The whole was hidden from the view of the opposite shore by a dense, morning mist.

We will not leave the force of Buford forming to cross the river, and visit the other side.

General Stuart, a young, dashing, handsome, somewhat vain, yet able officer, had then in the region of Culpepper the best cavalry force the Confederates had ever got together. Very proud of it, he had invited Gen. Lee to come with some of his friends and review it. When Gen. Lee arrived at Culpepper with Longstreet’s corps on the 7th, he met Gen. Stuart and said, “Here I am, General, with my friends,” — pointing to the bivouacs of the First corps — “to review your cavalry.” It was arranged that the next day the review should be held. On a great plain between Culpepper and Brandy Station the grand pageant passed before Lee, who sat upon his horse motionless, wearing a broad brimmed hat, his grave face and simple attire in striking contrast with the gay deportment and brilliant uniform of Stuart. Then there were cavalry charges, and many of the features of a sham fight, such as headlong charges suddenly checked, the waste of some powder, as the flying artillery galloped into position and opened cannonade upon an imaginary foe.

The little dreamed of the events of the morrow.

This gala day was preliminary to a movement of Stuart toward Warrenton to threaten Washington, and this cover the movement of Lee’s infantry as he moved northward under the screen of the Bull Run mountains into the Shenandoah. After the review the various brigades were moved toward the Rappahannock to begin the serious work of the campaign.

The Confederates were not expecting visitors at that time. Intent on their own movements, and regarding our cavalry with contempt, they had withdrawn their pickets from the lower fords of the river. Jones’ brigade was in bivouac some 1,200 yards from the river, at the edge of a wood on the western slope of the hills along the shore. The horses were picketed, the men at fatigue duty or lying about camp, no one suspecting the presence of an enemy.

Under cover of the fog Buford’s head of column rushed across the river.

General Jones’ brigade of Virginia cavalry were in bivouac near the ford with wagons and artillery parked not far from the river, and a little further out Fitz Lee, Robertson and W. H. Lee each had a brigade. Wade Hampton was in reserve at Fleetwood Hill.

-124The brigade was led by Col. Davis of the Eighth New York cavalry, nicknamed in the service “Grimes” Davis. It brushed away Jones’ outpost dashed up the hill through the woods, and came near capturing the whole of Stuart’s artillery.

But a few of Jones’ cavalry jumped into the saddle and began to oppose the head of the column. Colonel Davis fell mortally wounded early in the fight, and was carried upon a blanket to the rear. Thus was lost a valuable officer, and the confusion arising caused a momentary delay. Meanwhile Ames’ infantry, eager to be in action, plunged into the stream without interrupting the advance of the horsemen.128 As we dashed into the water, in fine spirits, Gen.

Pleasanton, on the river’s bank, watched the movement. Indeed, his staff on that morning formed a party who came out of the war with high distinction.

His handsome adjutant-general, A. J. Alexander, was afterwards a brigadiergeneral with Thomas in the west. One of his aides was the gallant Farnsworth,129 who fell in the famous cavalry charge a few weeks later at Gettysburg, three days after he received his promotion as a general. Another was the model chevalier, Custer, whose later career in the war was as glorious as his end come years later in the Big Horn mountains was tragic.130 Another was young McKenzie [sic],131 of the engineers, now with well-won fame a colonel in the regular army. There, too, was Ulric Dahlgren,132 a boy in years, but with all the dash and fire of the cavalryman. These young and gallant hard-riders were full of the enthusiasm of the true bred soldiers they were.

Our little column of “foot cavalry” soon cleared the stream and briskly “The Second Massachusetts and Third Wisconsin were the first to cross.” — [Colonel Underwood’s History of the Thirty-third Massachusetts Regiment.] Ed. Note. — Underwood, Adin Ballou. The three years' service of the Thirty-Third Mass. Infantry Regiment, 1862-1865 : and the campaigns and battles of Chancellorsville, Beverley's Ford, Gettysburg, Wauhatchie, Chattanooga, Atlanta, the march to the sea and through the Carolinas, in which it took part. Boston: A. Williams & Co., 1881.

Ed. Note. Elon John Farnsworth, 30 Jul 1837 - 3 Jul 1863, Brigadier General, cavalry commander. Ordered by H. Judson Kilpatrick to lead a Union regiment in action against Confederate infantry on the third day of Gettysburg, although Farnsworth protested that the mission was suicidal, he nonetheless led it when his courage was questioned, and was either killed by Confederate infantry or took his own life.

ED. NOTE. I feel compelled to mention that Custer’s death was by no means tragic to the people he had gone to butcher. He boldly went forth on a search and murder mission into a village filled with far more Lakota and Cheyenne warriors than he had bargained for, and his entire command was lost. Custer graduated last in his class at West Point, in 1861.

Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, 27 Jul 1840 - 19 Jan 1889, First in West Point class of 1862.

Ulric Dahlgren, 3 Apr 1842 - 2 Mar 1864, killed in action near Richmond, Virginia.

-125hurried up the hill to the outer edge of the wood. There before us was a large open country, excellent ground for a cavalry battle; and thousands of Confederate horsemen were hurrying to and fro on the farther side of the opening. Our cavalry were coming up, squadron after squadron, forming on the edge of the woods, and a galling fire was dismounted skirmishers was making considerable havoc with the animals. General Ames’ infantrymen were all expert skirmishers, and their services were at once tendered to return the attentions of the dismounted rebels who were picking off the horses. A line of battle was at once formed. One company of the Second Massachusetts and one of the Third Wisconsin were at once thrown forward as skirmishers. The command was soon after divided into detachments, two companies of the Second Massachusetts, under command of Maj. Hubbard, of ours, in one place, and others elsewhere. The remainder of the Third was moved further to the north to cover an intercal between Buford on the right and Devin133 on the left. The remainder of the Second Massachusetts were under the immediate command of Gen. Ames. Soon it was apparent that the Third could be more servicable [sic] on the left in front of Col. Devin’s cavalry, and Ames send Lieut.-Col. Flood with a part of the Third to Devin. He ordered Floor to move forward on his line of cavalry and drive out a force of dismounted Confederates who were mowing down his horses with a merciless fire. Soon the infantry were at business, and it was much relief to the cavalry.

The woods were full of wounded horses, limping about on three legs, with that look of pleading in their great, expressive eyes, that appealed as strongly to sympathy as did the sufferings of the wounded men. As soon as Stuart’s men found that the Federal cavalry was “stiffened” with infantry, they became quite circumspect in exposing themselves along our front.

Soon the roar of a general engagement was on. Artillery was got in place and began to thunder. Several charges of cavalry squadrons were witnessed during this spirited fight. It is one of the most exciting scenes in war to see, as we saw on that soft, June morning, some of the squadrons of Buford and those of Stuart come together, at topmost speed, with a rush, a thunder of advancing squadrons, the loud shouts, the sabers flashing and swinging in the air, then the clash, the hewing strokes, the indescribable jumble and melee, the rearing of horses, the snapping of pistol shots, the huddling together, horses overthrown, riders unhorsed and trodden under foot of the wrestling squadrons; and constantly dropping out of the crush the riderless horse, quivering with excitement, galloping a little to the rear and then turning instinctively to rejoin the troop; and from both sides the wounded Thomas Casimer Devin, 10 Dec 1822 - 4 Apr 1878, it was Union cavalry under the command of Devin that kept the Confederates out of Gettysburg long enough for the Union army to arrive and force a showdown with Lee’s army.

-126men limp in the saddle with drooping head, reeling in faintness, their sabres [sic] hanging to the wrist and dangling from a sword-arm palsied with the weakness of wounds of the languor of death.

In one of these, which we saw in full view, the enemy finally gave way and were hotly followed by our men. But Stuart sends in fresh squadrons; a recall is sounded and our men wheel and gallop to their places reforming in grand style, while Ames’ skirmishers boldly rush out, each by himself, eager to get better shots at the close squadrons that advance.

The infantry did good service that day. The Wisconsin companies were led by tried soldiers, Stevenson, Parks, Hinkley, Giddings, Gardner, Barrager, Slagg, Kleven, Balcom, captains and lieutenants remarkably cool and steady in action, quick and clear-headed on the skirmish line.134 The rebels made strenous [sic] endeavors to turn our right. Captain Stevenson was there with his company (B), and the brave Capt. Daniel Oakey had his company of the Second Massachusetts. They were supporting a battery for Buford. The Confederates collected and formed for a fierce charge on our right. It seemed at one moment as if they would crush Buford in; but as they came on the artillery opened upon them and Stevenson and Okey’s men and others of the Ames brigade plied their rifles at close range with telling effect. The rebels quailed and wavered before the galling fire. Then the Second United States Dragoons of Merritt’s135 reserve brigade drew their sabers and bore gallantly out upon them, putting them in flight.

A rebel battery had got into position in front of our right and was disputing with our guns planted on a knoll in the open field on the right of the ford. Stevenson of the Third, with his own and Barrager’s men, Oakey of the Second Massachusetts, and Lieut. Parker of Company F, of the Second, were called upon to support the guns upon the knoll. They took position in the rear of the guns, the men lying down with the enemy’s shells screaming over them.

General Buford with part of his staff stood near the guns. The general was smoking imperturbably, while his staff officers galloped up on horses soaking with foam to report and take orders to other parts of the field. Custer was there, his long hair waving in the breeze and his manner full of animation.

The Tenth Virginia cavalry had dismounted part of its men, and sent them down behind a stone wall near our right front, and from this secure ED. NOTE. George W. Stevenson, Warham Parks, Julian Wisner Hinkley, Ephraim Giddings, Silas E. Gardner, Charles R. Barager, Thomas Slagg, John E. Kleven, and Lyman B.

Balcom; all officers in the Third Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.

Wesley Merritt, 16 Jun 1834 - 3 Dec 1910, 22/? West Point class of 1860. Cavalry officer. This clean shaven young man went from captain to brigadier general after gallant service at Brandy Station, the largest mounted battled fought in North America. Also served at Todd’s Tavern, the largest dismounted cavalry battle of the Civil War.

-127shelter they were annoying the artillery and had checked a charge of cavalry.

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