Revised Register Of The
Soldiers And Sailors Of New Hampshire
In The War Of The Rebellion 1861-1866.
Prepared And Published By
Authority Of The Legislature,
By Augustus D. Ayling, Adjutant General.
Concord: Ira C. Evans, Public Printer. 1895.
DARTMOUTH CAVALRY. COMPANY B. SEVENTH SQUADRON RHODE ISLAND VOLUNTEER CAVALRY.
[Transcribed by Dave Swerdfeger]
By JOHN SCALES. Secretary and Historian of the Class of 1863, Dartmouth College.
THE Dartmouth Cavalry stands unique among all the military forces contributed by the colleges of this country to suppress the Great Rebellion, Dartmouth is the only college that furnished any thing of the kind, and has just occasion to feel proud of that company of cavalrymen, not only for what they did, but also for what they were ready and prepared to do, had more been demanded of them. The idea of forming such a company was conceived by a member of the class of 1863, Mr. Sanford S. Burr, who became captain of it after it was organized, In May, 1862, Captain Burr began to talk about raising a company of cavalry. The war spirit ran high at that time. The North was threatened with an invasion, the capital of the country was regarded as in great danger of being captured by forces of General Lee, and the whole body of college students was deeply stirred, President Lincoln had issued a call for forty thousand men for three months, when Captain Burr took hold of the matter in earnest and got a hundred students pledged to join a company for three months, in response to the President's call. He then applied to the governor of New Hampshire to accept such a company when ready to be mustered into the service; the governor declined. A similar application was made to the governors of Massachusetts and Maine, with no better success. He then applied to Governor Sprague, of Rhode Island, and obtained a promise to accept the company if raised immediately. This was in June, when Hanover was in all of its beauty of scenery that inspires and delights. The boys were continually discussing the question, but feared they could not get a chance for the company to be accepted. While they were in this state of mind the joy they expressed can better be imagined than described when Captain Burr received a telegram from Governor Sprague that he would accept the company.
The news spread rapidly, and the whole college was stirred as never before or since. For a day or two after. it seemed as though the, whole college would respond to President Lincoln's call. Parents began to be alarmed lest their young sons should enlist and be off for the war before they could reach them with letters forbidding rash and inconsiderate action. President Lord and the faculty counselled against it, also, on the ground that it would be more beneficial to the students to keep to their books than to go to the war. These influences tended to dampen the ardor of many of the students when the time actually came to enroll their names, so finally, it was found necessary to admit a few from Norwich University, then just across the Connecticut river from Hanover, a few from Union, Bowdoin, and one or two other colleges, with a contingent from Woodstock, Vt., not connected with any college; but nearly all were Dartmouth boys. At the time the company was being organized there was no recruiting going on in Vermont. The Sixth Vermont Infantry had been filled, yet there were plenty of recruits; and when some of the college boys appeared in Woodstock for recruits for the cavalry company, Mr. John S. Eaton, of that town, and Mr. William S. Dewey, of Hartford, were earnest and enthusiastic in meeting the call, both joining the company and persuading others to join. There being no opportunity to enlist in Vermont at the, time, and this appearing to be the only chance to go to war, the boys thought best to improve it, This seems to be the principal moving cause of what appears at first to be a movement somewhat out of the usual course on the part of the Woodstock boys.
On the evenlng of June 18 the company left Hanover, for White River Junction, escorted by a large number of students, who wished to see their classmates and friends safely on board the train that was to take them to Providence, R.I., where they were to be mustered into the United States service, preliminary to entering the United States volunteer army, They left White River Junction on the night express, and arrived in Providence a little past noon of June 19. There they were received by Col. A. C. Eddy, of the governor's staff, and treated to a generous lunch of crackers and cheese with hot coffee. They then took the oath of enlistment, and went to the Quartermaster's Department to get their uniforms. The scene in that large room, where the students were not only uniformed, but also transformed from students to soldiers, was ludicrous in the extreme, and at the same time, in many cases, most affecting. It was a shock to them all to look at themselves in the coarse garbs of troopers, in comparison with the "go-to-meeting suits" they had just taken off. The transition was so sudden, and so different from the heroes they had pictured in the mind's eye, as they had discussed the question on the campus and beneath the shade trees at beautiful Hanover, that they felt disgusted with themselves; nothing after that in their camp life caused them so much embarrassment.
This transformation scene concluded, the company was marched to "Camp Codman," pleasantly and convenlently located on Dexter's Training Ground. There they elected their officers. They tossed a cent to decide whether their company or a company of Rhode Island men should be numbered A or B. The Rhode Island company won the choice, and was called "A," the Dartmouth men, "B." The former company was, for the greater part, made up of men of foreign birth or extraction, but the two companies got along on the most amicable terms throughout the whole campaign, which lasted till the middle of September.
The students received many kindly attentions from the leading citizens of Providence while they remained there. The "Providence Journal" spoke of the company in highly complimentary terms. They attended church on Sunday in a body, and listened to Bishop Clark, seats being specially reserved for them. on the evenlng of Thursday, June 24, they were tendered a reception and banquet by Ex-Governor Hoppin and Colonel Gardner, at which the elite of the city were present and Dartmouth College was extolled to the highest degree for the patriotism of its students, as manifested by their leaving their studies to defend the honor and preserve the union of the nation. The squadron of cavalry consisting of the two companies A and B. remained in Providence till June 28; on that day-a hot Saturday-they left for Washington, in accordance with orders, and arrived in New York Sunday morning. There they were transferred to an Amboy boat, on which their horses had been previously loaded, and proceeded by the old Camden & Amboy line to Philadelphia, where they received a warm and cordial reception from the Soldiers' Welcome Association, and a good dinner of roast beef was served to the hungry cavalrymen, Sunday evenlng they left for Baltimore, reaching there at midnight. The weather was intensely hot, and the students suffered much with the heat.
They arrived in Washington the thirtieth day of June, about noon. The horses were unloaded and corralled in a stock yard, and the squadron marched to some barracks near the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad station for dinner; and such a dinner Dartmouth students never tasted before. It was made up chiefly of extremely salt and hard-boiled beef. In the afternoon the squadron pitched their tents in Gate's woods, a splendid grove of oaks a little more than a mile north of the Capitol. Here the students drew their horses. The boys knew nothing about riding horseback, and the horses knew less about having anyone astride their backs. The result was a great surprise to both horses and men when the first order-"boots and saddles"- was obeyed, or attempted to be obeyed. Some of the boys then swore for the first time in their lives.
The third day of July the squadron was mustered into the United States service by Capt. J. Elwood, U.S.A., the muster rolls dating June 24, and an unexpected bounty of fifteen dollars was given to each enlisted man. They remained in Washington till July 18, when they were ordered, across the Potomac to General Sturgis's command. During their stay in Washington they were thoroughly drilled by competent officers in all the mysteries of cavalry practice. It was torture for the boys at first, but they were in for war and would not cotriplain. When they left Washington they were as good as experts in the cavalry service. They next pitched their camp about three miles from Alexandria, on the road towards Fairfax Seminary, and they all said it was the pleasantest camp they had during the campaign, They called it "Camp Eddy." They remained there nine days, and on the 27th of July started for the Shenandoah valley and Winchester. During their stay at Camp Eddy nothing of special note happened. Every day was devoted to its regular routine of drill, and the necessary work of camp life.
They went to Winchester via the Baltimore & Ohio road, to Harper's Ferry, thence up the Shenandoah valley by rail, over a road on which only straps of iron were fastened to wooden rails, on which they could convey only one company at a time, with the horses and equipments. Company A was taken up first, while Company B waited at Harper's Ferry, and reconnoitered the town. Company B arrived in Winchester July 29, and marched through the town to Camp Sigel, one mile northwest of the town, on the Nason farm. Brig. Gen. Julius White, of Indiana, was in command of the place, with a brigade of infantry, composed of the Thirty-second Ohio, Colonel Ford; the Sixtieth Ohio, Colonel Trimble; the Thirty-ninth New York, Colonel d'Utassy; the Ninth Vermont, Colonel Stannard, and a small battery of mountain howitzers, the whole being a detached brigade of General Sigel's corps. It was there to watch the passes of the Blue Ridge: and the highways of the valley, and hold the guerrillas in check-that whole region being infested with them, the rebel women of Winchester being the worst of all. The first night in camp the boys were aroused by firing, on the picket line, and they began to realize what active service meant.
The squadron was ordered to mount without lights or loud talking. It was very dark -so dark that it was almost impossible for the men to find their horses and saddle them. The squadron was kept under arms, while an officer and a few men made a reconnoissance, and reported, on return, that bushwhackers were assaulting the camp, and no danger need be feared. July 30 the horses were saddled, and the squadron of over a hundred men went to Front Royal and were gone all day. On the 31st the pickets were fired on, and the men had to remain, in saddle till 9 P.M. August 1 they were engaged in scouting on the Romney Pike. At night the horses remained saddled, and the men slept on their arms. August 2 they were reconnoitering, on North Frederick Pike. August 3 they guarded a wagon train from Martinsburg, August 5 a scouting party under Captain Burr obtained the trunk of a rebel lieutenant; rode twenty miles, scouting, August 6 they were gone all day, till 10 o'clock P.M.; took two prisoners, five horses, and thirty-two cattle, August 8 they were in the saddle twenty-four hours, on a reconnoissance towards Ashby's Gap; captured some valuable horses and a large herd of cattle that were on the way to the rebel army, August 11 a scouting party marched twenty miles. August 19 Privates Blodgett and Manson, while out beyond the picket line, were captured by a small party of Confederate cavalry. As soon as this was known, a party started in pursuit, but the men could not be recovered. Blodgett and Manson spent the 'rest of their service in Libby prison, at Richmond; they were exchanged the last of September, having lost all of their superfluous flesh.
August 23 the mail train from Harper's Ferry was sacked and burned by rebel cavalry, about eight miles from camp; the rebels were pursued by the squadron, but could not be captured; the men were out scouting all night. On the 25th they charged the rebel cavalry up through Front Royal and returned to camp the next morning. August 26 they went over the same ground, September 1 they were out on a foraging expedition. September 2 the squadron, under Major Corliss, left camp at 3 P.M. on a reconnoissance, and marched over thirty miles, through Middletown, and Newtown; they took four prisoners; returning to camp, they found it deserted, and all the tents, stores. etc., belonging to the squadron, burned up; they had orders then to form the rear guard of the brigade retreating to Harper's Ferry; marching all night, they reached Harper's Ferry at 9 A.M., September 3, having been in the saddle for thirty hours, and marched continuously sixty-five miles. The squadron camped on Bolivar Heights, minus tents and almost everything else, The squadron remained there one day and had their horses shod; then they crossed the Potomac to Maryland, and took position on the Heights, opposite the Ferry, having been assigned that position as part of the Third Brigade of Colonel Miles's forces, under command of Colonel Ford.
All that the Dartmouth men had left from the Winchester camp were a few cooking utensils, their overcoats and rubber blankets. On the Heights their rations consisted of coffee and six "hard-tacks" a day. Here they had to perform daily details of picket duty, fully conscious that they were cut off from Washington and the North. From the observatory on the Heights they could see General Lee's army crossing into Maryland, in the neighborhood of Frederick. Two of the college boys went up Pleasant valley on a private scout, and from the mountains on the east they saw Lee's army encamped at Frederick.
It is not my purpose to enter into details of the capture of Harper's Ferry and the forces there, except the cavalry, by General Lee's army, but simply to say that the Dartmouth boys performed the duties bravely, as assigned them. After it became evident that Harper's Ferry must fall into the hands of General Lee, a conference of cavalry officers was called, to consider the question of escaping with their commands during the night. A plan was devised, and Colonel Miles reluctantly consented to let them try to escape, About 4 o'clock in the evenlng of September 14, the proposed plan of escape was made known to Companies A and B, by their commander, Major Corliss, who closed with the startling information that "by the next morning they would either be in Pennsylvania, or in hell, or on their way to Richmond."
Suffice to say the Dartmouth Cavalry joined with the rest of the cavalry, and escaped to Pennsylvania, encountering several thrilling episodes on the way through the intense darkness. At one point the whole cavalry narrowly escaped running into General Longstreet's army. At another point the escaping cavalry captured one of General Longstreet's ammunition and commissary trains, consisting of eighty-five army wagons, each drawn by six mules and loaded with ammunition and provisions, and followed by about forty fat young steers. They arrived in Greencastle, Pa., on the morning of September 15, in a greatly exhausted condition, but without the loss of a man or a beast on the retreat.
At Greencastle Colonel Voss, who was in command of the cavalry, reported to General McClellan for orders, and was ordered to take position at Jones's Cross Roads, on the turnpike between Hagerstown and Sharpsburg, a position forming the extreme right flank of McClellan's army, in the great battle at Antietam. Although the time of the Rhode Island Cavalry had expired, they remained with Colonel Voss's command till the battle of Antietam was ended, ready to join in the fight, if necessary, As soon as the battle was over, the Rhode Island Cavalry started for home. The Dartmouth company reached Providence, September 26. On the second day of October they were mustered out of the service, received their pay, and started for Hanover, where they arrived in due time, and received a royal welcome. The faculty were disposed, at first, to require the boys to pass examinations on the studies they had lost during the campaign; but on learning they would all be accepted by Brown university, the requirement was not insisted upon. Soon all settled down to work; but it was a long time before the students tired of hearing the stories of the campaign. Only one man was lost. He died of typhoid fever, at Winchester. Several were captured by the rebels, and were taken to Richmond and confined in Libby prison; but fortunately were let out in season to arrive home with the rest, so that the campaign was a remarkably successful one,' so far as health was concerned; and as regards their conduct in the campaign, General White and other officers under whose command they served, spoke of them in terms of highest commendation and praise.
DARTMOUTH CAVALRY. COMPANY B. SEVENTH SQUADRON. RHODE ISLAND VOLUNTEER CAVALRY. (THREE MONTHS.)