Edited by John A. Miller
Introduction by John Miller
This article is an excerpt from the Ceremony of the Dedication
of Henry Cole’s Sword that was donated to the Frederick Historical
Society by Judge Edward S. Delapliane. Judge Delapliane was a
well-known Civil War Historian. This article starts with the
history of Cole’s Cavalry from 100 years before and gives great
detail of how Cole’s Cavalry was formed. Although it mainly
discusses Company A, it’s a great piece of history that we in the
Emmitsburg/Gettysburg area know that Company C was part of this
organization. It goes without saying about the importance of this
unit’s service was to the United States of America during the
Civil War. They are perhaps one of the underrated Cavalry units,
until now that is getting it’s name and the soldiers who served
the recognition it deserves. For more information about Company C
that was recruited in the Emmitsburg/Gettysburg area, please
browse through our online Roster.
There you will find links that allows the reader to see photos,
letters, prison records, and also obituaries of these men who
served in Cole’s Cavalry.
100 Years ago
The story of Cole’s Cavalry goes back to the exciting days 100
years ago. It begins with Francis Thomas, who was Western
Maryland’s representative in Congress during the Civil War, an
unusual person who was governor of Maryland from 1842 to 1845.
On July 19, 1861 Congressmen Thomas received authorization from
the Secretary of War in Lincoln’s Cabinet to provide for the
raising of four regiments of infantry for the protection of
persons and property in this area.
The Congressmen plan to raise, in addition to the four
regiments of infantry, four companies of cavalry. He brought the
Secretary of War’s order to Frederick and promulgated it. He
requested volunteers to assemble at the
barracks on South Market
St. Where prisoners have been confined touring the war of the
The response to Congressmen Thomas’ appeal was enthusiastic.
The government accepted the cavalry companies and assign one
company to each of the four regiments of infantry. The entire
force was designated as the Potomac Home Brigade.
William P. Maulsby, an attorney of Frederick was appointed by
President Lincoln to serve as the Colonel of the First Regiment.
Charles E. Trail was chosen as Lt. Colonel.
The first company of cavalry was mustered in on August 10,
1861. It was composed of young men, most of whom had been going to
school. They came from the farms of Frederick County, bringing
their own horses. Many of the boys had raised the horses from
colts, and they brought their horses very freely to the aid of the
Cole Becomes Captain
Henry A. Cole was selected
as the Captain of the Company (Company A), and
George W. F. Vernon was
chosen as the first Lieutenant. George Vernon was one of the
speakers, along with the former mayor of Baltimore James H.
Preston at the organizational meeting in Brodbeck Hall of Hood
College of the sergeant Lawrence Everhart Chapter of the sons of
the American Revolution.
Just as the inducting officer of the United States Army
declared the troops a part of the military forces of the United
States. Lt. Vernon stepped from the ranks and proposed three
cheers for the American flag. Three cheers were given with all of
vigor of which young men were capable.
Lt. Vernon then proposed that the name of Cole’s cavalry be
adopted in compliment to the recruiting zeal of their commander.
The proposal was met with unanimous approval. Company A was now in
the military service of the United States.
Shortly afterwards Company B.,
and Co. D. were mustered into service. These three companies also
soon adopted the name of "Coles Cavalry."
Captain Cole spent the winter months in the field making
reconnaissances. Some of his men died during the winter, but none
The Confederates began to move early in the year of 1862.
Cole’s cavalry accordingly active operations against them.
On March 7, 1862, Captain Cole attacked a cavalry force under
Ashby on to Winchester Road. Cole’s grey horse was killed under
him. Three days after the engagement, the battalion through
Winchester and captured a number of prisoners.
In the second Bull Run campaign, Captain Cole was ordered to
operate against the left flank of the Confederates. On September
2, 1862, Captain Cole attacked Mumford’s cavalry at Leesburg,
Virginia. Very few of the boys escaped without Sabre cuts or
Lee Visits Frederick
The battalion was now ordered back to Harpers Ferry, where a
large amount of United States ordinance, ammunition, in military
stores had been collected. While general Robert E. Lee was
encamped near Frederick, he ordered Stonewall Jackson to advance
on Harpers Ferry. General McClellan received orders from the War
Department in Washington to give help to the garrison at Harpers
Ferry, which was under the command of the Colonel Dixon Miles.
Stonewall Jackson crossed the Potomac River and was approaching
Harpers Ferry on September 13, 1862. On that day, although the
Confederates were in possession of Maryland Heights in Loudoun
Heights, Captain Henry A. Cole accompanied one comrade, made his
way on foot through the investing Confederate lines with
dispatches to General McClellan informing him of the desperate
situation at Harpers Ferry.
General McClellan gave Captain Cole orders to return to Harpers
Ferry to urge Colonel Miles to do everything possible to try to
hold out, as reinforcements were coming.
But Cole’s trip to McClellan’s headquarters was of no avail.
Colonel Miles made no effort at defense, and on the morning of
September 15, he displayed the white flag of surrender. Before the
white flag was seen by the Confederates Colonel Miles was killed
by a shot fired by Confederate sharpshooter.
The surrender of Harpers Ferry was a stunning blow to the Union
side. About 12,000 Union soldier surrendered to General Jackson.
The Confederates also captured all of the Union ordinance,
ammunition, and stores.
After the battle of Antietam, when
Jeb Stuart made his celebrated dash around McClellan’s Army,
Cole’s cavalry pursued him and succeeded in cutting off some
members of Hampton’s Legion.
Cole Becomes Major
When the battalion was consolidated, Captain Cole was promoted
to the rank of Major. At this time Lt. Vernon was advanced to the
rank of Captain in Co. A. The decimated ranks were filled up. The
battalion entered upon a new career. For some time the battalion
ranged up and down the Shenandoah Valley trying to keep watch on
the movements of General Lee.
In June of 1863, Captain Vernon took his company numbering 30
men on a scouting expedition toward Frederick. On June 2, 1863 he
attacked the Maryland Confederate cavalry commanded by Major Harry
Gillmore at Frederick and drew them out of this city.
Temporarily the battalion was broken up, but in the fall of
1863 the command was reunited and was assigned to pursue General
During the autumn in winter, Cole’s cavalry fought the
Confederates at a great many places, including Leesburg,
Upperville, Charlestown, Woodstock, Front Royal, Edinburg, New
Market, Harrisonville, and Romney.
In the fall of 1863 the old battalion was placed in Brigade
with the first New York Cavalry in the 34th
Massachusetts infantry. The New York cavalrymen and Cole’s
cavalrymen became devoted friends. Each command had the highest
opinion of the brave qualities of the other. Rations and powder
were practically held by them in common.
Going to winter of 1863 – 1864 the New Yorkers in the
Marylanders engaged in horse racing and other sports at Brigade
headquarters at Charlestown.
Reception in Frederick
In February, 1864, three fourths of the command reenlisted for
the duration of the war. They were granted a furlough, however,
for the period of 30 days. The cavalrymen were given a warm
reception by the people Frederick. When the news that they were
coming home was received here, they were met on the outskirts of
Frederick by the Major and other officials in a large crowd of
The crowd formed in line and wall the bells of the fire engine
companies and the church bells were ringing, the crowd march
through the streets of Frederick wall flags were waving to welcome
Cole’s cavalrymen. The soldiers were escorted into the City Hall
on North Market Street to the strains of the song "Home Again."
A patriotic address was then made to the cavalrymen by Judge
Madison Nelson, associate judge of the Maryland court of appeals.
The ceremony was followed by a banquet, after when the members of
the battalion hurried to their homes.
About the time Maryland Governor Augustus W. Bradford who
succeeded Governor Hicks and had taken over great interest and
Cole’s cavalry, suggested that Major Cole should enlarge his
battalion to full regiment. The Governor had no difficulty in
getting the necessary authorization from President Lincoln’s War
Cole becomes Colonel
It was at this time that Major Cole was raised to the rank of
Colonel. The veterans of the first Battalion, who are fully
equipped were ordered to report to General Sigel, it was then
moving up the Shenandoah Valley.
On May 15, 1864, they took part in
the disastrous fight
at New Market. The losses were heavy. General Sigel was
defeated, and many of Union soldiers were captured by the brigade
of Cadets from the Virginia Military Lexington, Virginia. About
1/5 of the V.M.I. cadets were killed and wounded.
Genreral Sigel’s movements have been subject to criticism. He
had left General Jubal A. Early a clear path across Potomac fervor
to Frederick, where he levied his ransom of $200,000. As we all
recall, the city of Washington might have been captured why
General Early if it had not been for the resistance of General Lew
Wallace along the Monocacy at Frederick Junction.
General Wallace held back the invaders for one day, thus giving
General Grant the opportunity to bring up forces to defend the
Later in 1864, Cole’s cavalrymen took part in the engagements
at Keedysville, Charlestown, Halltown, Summit Point, Berryville,
and Winchester, where the day was saved by General Sheridan in his
famous horse. The regiment was afterwards ordered into West
Virginia to guard the lines of communication.
The command was mustered out of the service at Harpers Ferry on
June 28, 1865.
Fought 200 Battles
During the period of nearly four years from August 1861 to June
28, 1865, the regiment
fought in nearly 200 engagements and captured more than
1000 prisoners. Some the men had covered 7000 miles. But the
bodies of most of the brave boys who were mustered into the
service and Frederick in 1861, were strewn on the roads in the
fields from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Lynchburg, Virginia. Most
of the bodies were ultimately buried in government cemeteries.
In only a few of the original Battalion of Cole’s Calvary were
still live in when the terrible conflict came to close in 1865.
For more information about
Cole's Cavalry, Please see
our Roster of those who fought in the Civil War with