Edited by John A. Miller
Colonel Henry Cole
In a former narrative a sketch was given of Company "E", of the
2nd Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, the first
body of troops from Adams County to respond to President Lincoln’s
call for troops on April 15, 1861. "To suppress combinations and
cause the laws to be executed."
The next organization from Adams County was Company "K" of the
Pennsylvania Reserves; mustered into service at Harrisburg, Pa. On
June 8th, 1861 and mustered out of service on June 13th,
The next to follow Company "K" was a cavalry organization from
Adams County, the subject of this narrative. This body of troops
had its inception along the Mason and Dixon’s Line, in the border
state of Maryland, and took it’s name from it’s organizer,
Captain Henry A. Cole, and for
this reason is known in the annals of the war as "Cole’s Cavalry."
Local Recruits Accepted
As no cavalry regiments were being recruited at that time in
Adams County, the volunteers who were anxious to join that branch
of the service, tendered their service to the Maryland
organization and were accepted. The new recruits from Adams
County, with the addition of Oscar McMillan,
Joesph Bennett, Maxwell Coble, George Gwinn, Henry Hughes and
William Weikert, who had served with Company "E" of the
Pennsylvania Volunteers, numbering about 68 from this area; these
with the addition of the Maryland members were listed as Company
"C" of "Cole’s Cavalry Battalion."
Editors note: Company C was often referred to as the Keystone
Rangers. Cole’s Cavalry was
designated as the First Potomac Home Brigade
Companies A, C, and D were organized at Frederick, Maryland,
and Company "B" at Cumberland, Maryland, from August 10th,
1861, to November 27, 1861, for the term of three years. Company C
was organized on August 27th, 1861. The four original
companies A, B, C, and D, were consolidated into a battalion, and
Captain Henry A. Cole was assigned to the command thereof.
The original companies A, B, C, and D at the expiration of
their term of service for three years in February of 1864,
re-enlisted, and the battalion by authority of the War Department
was increased by the additional companies E, F, G, H, I, l, M, and
K, to a full regiment of 12 companies, and as such served to the
end of the war, and was mustered out of the service of the United
States on June 28, 1865.
Editors Note: Company C itself was mustered out of service on June
I shall not attempt to tell within the limits of a newspaper
article of all of the services of all of the companies. The
narrative will be confined chiefly to the operations of Company C,
as it was composed mostly of Adams County men, who were known and
are remembered by many of the citizens of Gettysburg and other
places in the vicinity.
Before telling something of where and when they were engaged a
roster of the officers and privates of Company C, who enlisted
from Adams County will be given as it is believed it would be of
interest to the readers of the narrative.
Editors Note: To view the
Complete Roster of the men who served in Company C of Cole’s
Cavalry. Also see
the Battles of
Cole's Cavalry, Company "C". The men from Maryland that
enlisted with Company C of Cole’s Cavalry was from the
Emmitsburg area of Northern Frederick County and also Western
Captain Albert Hunter
After meeting at
Emmitsburg where Company C, was formed with the addition
of the Maryland Recruits, Captain
Albert Hunter assumed command of the company , and they
then moved to Frederick, Md. Where they were mustered into
They went into camp at the old military barracks, and received
their equipment of horses, uniforms, and arms. Some of the men
furnished their own horses, while others were received from
After spending some time in drilling, the company then moved
from Frederick to Hagerstown, and later to Hancock, where they
were order to guard the telegraph line between Hancock and
Hagerstown, this being the first service of the company.
Early in the spring of 1862, the company crossed the Potomac
River and marched to Martinsburg, (West) Virginia, and thence to
Winchester, Virginia, and served under General Banks who with
Shields and Fremont was engaged against Stonewall Jackson during
his famous Valley Campaign of 1862.
Have Thrilling Crossing
At the battle of Kernstown, Virginia on March 23, 1862, General
Stonewall Jackson was repulsed and retreated up the Valley. At
this time Company C charged a Confederate Battery across Cedar
Creek and failed to captured it. It then returned to Winchester,
where it was held for some time. General Banks withdrew to the
Potomac and Company C halted near Harper’s Ferry. It was then
ordered to cross the river. It was to cross by the ford as it was
not considered safe to take the horses across on a railroad
bridge, which had only railroad track with planks between. The
ford was crooked, and one of the members of company C, Oscar
McMillan missed the ford and was thrown off his horse and narrowly
escaped drowning: however he managed to get a hold
of his horses tail and got safely to the other side. Some of
the members who decided to risk the bridge, dismounted and led
their horses between the rails of the bridge, it was during
intense darkness and a thunderstorm when the crossing was made.
The company camped for some time at Bolivar Heights, where
headquarters were established, and it was from there that
continuous scouting was kept through Louden Valley, and through
parts of (West) Virginia. The company was frequently split up into
detachments for duty at different points. Sometimes it would
operate as a unit and at other times with the other companies as a
After scouting for some time in
Louden County, where Mosby and his
Partisan Rangers gave the battalion
much trouble, the battalion was
ordered to Leesburg, Va. Where it
was unexpectedly almost surrounded
by a much superior Confederate force
of cavalry. Observing the situation,
Major Cole issued the command "Every
man for himself." The battalion
after being scattered got through,
but not until quite a number were
killed, wounded, or captured. The
severely wounded in this engagement
on September 2, 1862, was
A. Scott and
McNair, the former by saber
cuts, and the latter by a shot
through the lungs. The prisoners
numbering about 15 were paroled
until they were exchanged. It should
be remembered that this engagement
occurred while General Lee was
moving the Army of Northern Virginia
on it’s way North prior to the
battle of Antietam on September
Editors Note: The Partisans were formed in January of 1863
after General Lee given his approval to General J. E. B Stuart
to detail one of his best scouts and 15 men to operate behind
Union lines and disrupt the Union communications and other items
of importance. John Mosby was the commander of the Partisan
Rangers and this small band of men formed the core designate as
the 43rd Virginia Battalion.
After the Leesburg engagement Company C along with the other
members of the battalion returned to their camp on Bolivar
Heights. Harper’s Ferry was then occupied by the Union forces in
command of General Dixon S. Miles, to whom the battalion was
subject for orders.
General Lee on his way North divided his army and sent General
Jackson to infest Harper’s Ferry, while the other part of his army
under General Longstreet engaged Union forces in command of
General McClellan at South Mountain on September 14, 1862.
Display Their Bravery
General Jackson succeeded in crossing the Potomac and attacked
the battalion on Bolivar Heights; another section of his forces
advanced and moved against the battalion from Loudon Heights and
also from Maryland Heights. General Miles ordered the battalion to
withdraw from it’s position into Harper’s Ferry that was
practically surrounded by Jackson’s forces. General Miles after
calling a council of war, decided to surrender his forces
numbering about 13,000 men to Jackson. Major Cole on learning that
Harper’s Ferry would be surrendered, respectfully advised General
Miles "That under no circumstances would Cole’s Battalion
surrender, and offered to head and pilot the entire cavalry force
of the besieged in their efforts to cut their way through the
enemy’s lies, and the following order was accordingly issued:
Headquarters, Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, September 14, 1862.
Special Order No. L20
1. The cavalry force at this post except detached
orderlies, will make immediate preparations to leave here 8
o’clock tonight without baggage, wagons, ambulances, or lead
horses, crossing the pontoon and taking the Sharpsburg Road
2. The senior officer, Colonel Voss will assume
command of the whole, which will form in the following order:
The right at the Quartermaster’s officer; the left up Shenandoah
Street without noise or loud command, viz. "Cole’s Cavalry." 12th
Illinois Cavalry , 8th New York Cavalry, Rhode Island
Cavalry, 1st Maryland Cavalry. No other instructions
can be given to the commander for his guidance than to force his
way through the enemy’s lines to our army.
Signed H.C. Reynolds Lieut. And A. A. General by order of
Take Lee Ammunition
Cole’s Battalion, did head the cavalry force and cut their way
through the lines of the besieging army, but only to enter that of
General Lee’s Army then at Sharpsburg. The cavalry however, pushed
on through this force and upon reaching the turnpike leading from
Hagerstown to Williamsport, the column discovered the ammunition
train of General Longstreet’s corps of Lee’s Army and captured a
large portion consisting of about 65 wagons loaded with ammunition
for the Antietam battle.
The captured train was taken by Company C, to Chambersburg,
Pa., on the following day. On returning from Chambersburg where
they received a royal welcome, the company, on its way back to
Frederick passed over the battlefield of Antietam and beheld the
devastation of the bloodiest one day battle of the war.
After the battle of Antietam, General J. E. B. Stuart, the
noted cavalry commander of Lee’s Army, made a raid around General
McClellan’s army that remained for some time in the vicinity of
Hagerstown and Harper’s Ferry.
The Raid was made in October 10th to the 15th.
Stuart got as far North as Chambersburg, returning through
Cashtown, Fairfield, and Emmitsburg. While making this raid,
Stuart succeeded in getting a large number of horses, and got
through without any loss to the Potomac, where Cole’s Battalion
then at Hyattstown, intercepted him and captured 12 of his men.
During the winter of 1862. The Battalion was in camp at
Harper’s Ferry; and from there scouting parties were frequently
sent out to watch the movements of the enemy. Small parties of
Confederate cavalry frequently skirmished with Cole’s Battalion
throughout the winter.
In the spring of 1863, the battalion moved to Kearneysville,
where it remained for some time guarding the Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad. The was comparative quiet for some time. The Shenandoah
Valley as far South as Winchester was held by Union forces under
General Milroy. When it was learned that General Lee was moving
his army on another invasion of the North an urgent call was made
for the troops to meet the invaders.
Pestered Lee’s Army
After General Milroy had been driven out of Winchester and part
of his forces captured by Lee’s army, the detachment that
succeeded in forcing its way through the enemy lines was protected
its retreat by Cole’s Cavalry, who aided in the escape, and then
assumed the offensive and hung upon the flanks and rear of Lee’s
army in its invasion that ended at the battle of Gettysburg.
The engagement at Berryville, Virginia, June 13, 1863;
Martinsburg, Virginia, June 11, 1863; at Williamsport, Maryland
June 15, 1863, at Catoctin Creek, June 17, 1863; at Frederick, June
22, 1863; at Fountain Dale, Pennsylvania, June 28, 1863; and
Gettysburg, July 1, 1863; Emmitsburg July 5, 1863; Harpers Ferry
and Falling Waters, July 6, 1863, attested the good work of the
command. They captured many of the enemy, they captured a dispatch
courier from General Lee to General Ewell "ordering a
concentration of the Confederate army at Gettysburg" which was
sent to General Reynolds, then in command of the left wing of
Meade’s army and who was killed in the battle of the first day at
Believing that Milroy’s forces which escaped from Winchester
were in the vicinity of Chamersburg, two members of Company C,
McAllister and McIlhenny, came up to Gettysburg and went out the
Chambersburg Pike as far as Fayetteville, where they ran up
against the Confederate pickets of Lee’s army. They made a hasty
retreat to Gettysburg and made in the first authentic report of
the whereabouts of the enemy. They then returned and rejoined
their comrades at Frederick, where they held during the battle of
Gettysburg on July 1, 2, and 3, 1863.
Editors note: The dispatches that are being referred
to were credited to
Samuel McNair by Oliver Horner as to whom captured them. Read
Samuel McNair's Obituary which has some interesting notes
about his exploits during the Gettysburg Campaign.
After the battle of Gettysburg, Cole’s Cavalry was attached to
French’s Division at Frederick, Company C, in command of Captain
Hunter, was sent to Harper’s Ferry to destroy the bridge over the
Potomac in order to impede Lee’s return to Virginia.
Get Annoying Rebels
On the 14th of
September, 1863, the Battalion surprised and captured on Catoctin
Mountain, near Leesburg, Va., nearly the entire command of a
Confederate cavalry company which had been a source of annoyance
to the Union armies.
On the 18th, of October, 1863, the Confederate
brigade of General Imboden surprised and captured at Charlestown,
Va. the 9th Maryland Infantry. Cole’s Cavalry promptly
rushed to the rescue with Minor’s Indiana Battery, followed by the
34th Massachusetts Infantry and the 10th
Maryland Infantry. The Battalion repeatedly charged the retreating
enemy, who were compelled to stop, form line of battle, and drive
back the Battalion, only to be again attacked in turn. Only at one
time did the infantry support reach the field when the enemy again
retreated in haste with the prisoners. Cole’s Cavalry suffered
severely in this engagement in killed and wounded. William A.
McIlhenny was wounded by a musket ball through the right shoulder.
After spending10 days in the hospital at Charlestown, he was given
a furlough and returned to his home where he remained until the
middle of December, when he returned and rejoined Company C that
was encamped at Loudon Heights.
On the 10th day of January 1864, the battalion while encamped
at Loudon Heights, was attacked by Mosby’s partisan rangers, with
some additional volunteers from Lee’s army. Mosby laid the plan
for a wholesale capture of the battalion, but, unfortunately for
him, Frank Stringfellow, who with his detachment of Mosby’s party,
was to attack the headquarters of the battalion, and capture Major
Cole and his aides. While Mosby made his attack on the other part
of the camp and capture men, led the attack, but, instead of
attacking the headquarters, attacked the camp. This made a general
mixup in the attack and failed to accomplish its objective “ the
annihilation of the battalion”.
This attack was made at midnight, the weather was bitter cold,
the ground was covered with 6 in. of snow, and the attacking party
found the men asleep in their tents. The pickets outside of the
camp had been captured by Stringfellow, and therefore the attack
was a great surprise to the battalion. But, they met the attack at
once, many of the men in their bare feet and scarcely clad, and
after a fierce struggle amid scenes of great confusion. Mosby and
his band was driven off with a loss of many of his men. The
battalion also lost a number of its men killed, wounded, and a few
captured. This battle was decided success for the battalion and
brought forth a congratulatory order from the general and chief H.
Human Interest Incident
Corporal Samuel McNair
An incident will be noted here. That brings to mind the adage.
“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.” About a year
before the engagement at Loudon Heights, the battalion met the
enemy at Leesburg Virginia, and Samuel McNair of Company C. Was
badly wounded. His brother, Hiram S. McNair of the same company,
asked a man by the name of Paxton, who lived nearby with the use
of a wagon to take his brother to a place of safety across the
river. Paxton readily consented to do this if McNair would promise
to do the same for his son under similar circumstances. Paxton’s
son was a member of Mosby’s Rangers. McNair of promise to do this,
the wagon was furnished in the wounded man was removed. At the
engagement of Loudon Heights a young man of the attacking party
was severely wounded in fellow near the tent of the men of Company
C. And some of them found him. He asked whether Samuel McNair was
there, and on being told he was, he said he wanted to see him.
McNair was called and when he reached the young man, he was told
by him that his name was Paxton, a son of the man who had given
his wagon to haul him off the battlefield on a previous occasion.
On learning this the wounded man was moved into the tent and
tenderly cared for until he died. Word was sent to his parents who
came in removed the body after kindly thinking all for their
In the latter part of January, 1864 the battalion moved through
Winchester to Romney and Moorefield, in Western Virginia, to
assist in repelling raiding parties of the enemy cavalry.
On the 13th day of February, 1864, the battalion
re-enlisted for the war, and was given thirty days’ furlough. The
battalion marched to Frederick, Maryland, where they received an
ovation from the loyal citizens of Western Maryland.
After the expiration of the furlough of the battalion, it was
increased by the addition of 8 companies making it a full regiment
of cavalry, and as such operated to the end of war.
March 7,000 miles
It should be understood by the readers of the narrative that
already described apply to the battalion composed of
Companies A, B, C, and D, with special reference to Company C,
which was composed largely of Adams County recruits.
Cole’s Cavalry during it’s nearly four years of service in
scouting and raiding in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and
Pennsylvania marched over 7,000 miles. The losses were as follows:
Killed in battle, 2 commissioned officers and 45 enlisted men;
died of wounds in prison etc. 2 commissioned officers and 120 men;
The concluding part of the narrative will tell something of
Cole’s Cavalry in it’s operations as a regiment as beginning with
the battle of New
Market, Va. on May 13-15, 1864, where Cole’s Cavalry as
well as other Union forces suffered heavy losses.
Colonel George Smith Patton, commander of the
Virginia Infantry Regiment, saw the formation of a cavalry charge.
He ordered the 22nd and the 23rd Virginia Regiments to form a
square (European Military Tactic), from which they fired volley
after volley at the charging horsemen. It is very possible that
Cole's Cavalry was one the regiments that went up against Colonel
Patton and his "Fighting 22nd."
The Union forces at this time were in command of General Franz
Sigel, who succeeded by General David Hunter after the battle. The
Confederate army was in command of General John C. Breckenridge,
General Imboden and a detachment of 225 cadets from the Virginia
Military Institute at Lexington in command of Colonel Shipp, an
instructor at the V.M.I. Was added to the other forces. Out of
this number 56 were killed and wounded. The writer was told by one
of the members of Company C, who took part in this battle that the
cadets fought like old veterans although they were boys from 15 to
16 years old.
A Decisive Victory
After the battle of New Market, General Hunter advances or me to
Piedmont, where he gained a decisive victory over the Confederate
forces on June 5, 1864. All of Cole’s Cavalry participated in this
engagement. General Hunter moved his army onto Staunton, where he
remained several days before moving to Lexington, where he burned
the Virginia Military Institute, and the buildings occupied by the
officers of thereof. At Staunton a woolen mill in a large flour
mill or burned. This was considered an act of vandalism by the
South, and was given as an excuse for the burning of Chambersburg
on July 30, 1864 by General McCausland.
On hearing of the arrival of Early’s army from Lynchburg.
Hunter retreated from Lynchburg by way of the Kanawha Valley
accompanied by part of Cole’s cavalry. When Early, on his way to
Washington met the Union forces in command of General Lew Wallace
at the battle of the Monocacy on July 9, 1864 in which some of
Cole’s Cavalry participated, and other Adams County men who
belonged to companies B and G of the 138 Pennsylvania infantry
regiment. Early was prevented from reaching the outskirts of
Washington until the 12th, when he retreated into the
Shenandoah Valley where he met Sheridan’s army and after bloody
battles at Winchester, Fishers Hill, Cedar Creek, and some other
places in West Virginia where Cole’s Calvary were mostly engaged.
Early was finally driven up the valley, and the struggle for the
possession of this great source of supplies for the Southern
Army’s was lost to them. In order to prevent leading the valley as
a future source of supplies for the Army’s of the South, Sheridan
destroyed all the mills, barns, and the cattle and other livestock
was mostly driven off, by which it was left so bare that some wit
remarked that a crow to cross it would have to carry a knapsack,
this of course was an exaggeration of real conditions
On the 28th of June 1865, Cole’s Calvary was
mustered out of Military service of the United States at Harpers
Ferry but orders of the War Department, and by reason of the close
of the war, proceeded to Baltimore, where the regiment was finally
Editors Note: Company C itself was mustered out of service on June
25, 1865. Please be sure to see our
Cole's Cavalry Roster that features tons of
information from photographs, memoirs, and engagements.
To read a narrative about the Confederate Operations in the
1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, please visit my website of the
22nd Virginia Regimental History; webpage
1864: New Market to Cedar Creek. Also see modern day
photographs of the 1864 Valley Campaign.