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Regimental History of
Cole’s Cavalry Company “C”

John Allen Miller 

The First Potomac Home Brigade was made of four Companies.  Companies A, C & D were organized at Frederick City, Maryland and Company B at Cumberland, Maryland, from August 10 to November 27, 1861.  Company C known as Horner’s Company was mustered into service at Frederick, Maryland on September 9, 1861.  When organization was completed, these four companies were mustered into a battalion, and Captain Cole was promoted to Major and given command of that battalion.  The First Potomac Home Brigade was then given the name as “Cole’s Cavalry”. 

Most of the men in Horner’s Company of Cole's Cavalry were from Western Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania that included the Emmitsburg area, the Taneytown area, and the Gettysburg area.  Most of the men were farmers, planters, young, unmarried, accustomed in the use of firearms and the knowledge of riding.  This was a talent that most cavalry companies were missing during the first two years of the war.  Most of the recruits of Horner’s Company even brought their own horses.  Their extensive knowledge of Western Maryland, and the topography of the Shenandoah Valley that runs through Pennsylvania deep into southern Virginia, which served as a great asset to the Union cause. 

Horner’s Company went into winter quarters along the Potomac River in Western Maryland.  During their winter encampment 1st Lieutenant John M. Annan was accidentally shot and killed on November 13, 1861.  This was Horner’s Company’s first casualty.

During General Thomas Jackson’s Romney Campaign in January of 1862, Cole's Cavalry was among the meager defenders who held Hancock, Maryland, and checked Jackson's advance until a stronger Federal force arrived. The battle of Hancock was their first baptism of fire.

In March of 1862 General Bank's crossed the Potomac River and proceeded toward Martinsburg, Virginia.  On the 5th the battalion had a lively skirmish with Confederate forces near Bunker Hill, and on the 7th, in a fight between Bunker Hill and Winchester they suffered their first casualties, one dead and two wounded, and Cole's horse was shot out from under him; but the rebels were driven from the field.  On the 11th Williams' Brigade, to which the battalion was assigned, engaged Confederates at Stephenson's Depot, and on the 12th, as General Bank's advance, made a cavalry charge into Winchester, capturing a number of prisoners.

On March 2nd Williams' Brigade left Winchester to join General McDowell's command in eastern Virginia, Horner’s Company along with Company A accompanied Williams, while Co.'s B and D remained with General Shields' Division.  That very day General Jackson attacked Shields at Winchester.  Hearing the gun fire from behind, Company A and Horner’s Company turned about and returned to Winchester to join the other two companies in the battle.

Due to personal reasons Captain John Horner resigned his commission on June 2, and Second Lieutenant Albert Hunter became Captain commanding Company C. It was Captains Albert M. Hunter and Henry Buckingham who officially succeeded the organizer.  However during 1863 Horner’s Company became known as Hunter’s Company.

Cole's Cavalry remained in the Shenandoah until September of 1862, until the Maryland Campaign as General Lee began his first invasion of Maryland.  Cole's command attempted to impede the Confederate advance.  On September 2nd the battalion engaged a superior Confederate force at Leesburg.  It was at this time that Captain Albert Hunter was then taken prisoner.  They managed to push back the Confederate cavalry, at a severe cost; then fell back to Harper’s Ferry. The casualties for Horner’s Company are as follow: George Cease (more likely Seiss but misspelled, who was killed in action September 2, 1862 probably at Leesburg, Va.); Samuel J. Maxell (who later became a Lieutenant on Cole’s staff and was captured September 2, 1862, also probably at Leesburg during the fiasco that followed Second Bull Run; he was exchanged and fought with the regiment until its final muster-out June 28, 1865); Samuel N. McNair, wounded in action September 2, July 1862 and discharged for disability though the Roster mistakenly carries is him on the rolls until January 7, 1865; and Samuel Wolfe was also taken prisoner.

Confederate forces under General Stonewall Jackson soon surrounded Harper’s Ferry.  On September 14th, when it became apparent that it was the intention of the garrison commander to surrender the garrison, Major Cole informed the commander, Colonel Miles, that he would not surrender his command.  Miles then authorized any cavalry within the garrison to attempt a breakout if they choose to do so.  That night, Cole's Cavalry along with the 12th Illinois Cavalry, 8th New York Cavalry, Rhode Island Cavalry and 1st Maryland Cavalry, slipped out of Harper's Ferry, crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, and through the Confederate lines.  It so happened that his breakout put them between Jackson and Lee's forces that were concentrating near Antietam.  General Lee had earlier sent General Longstreet north to investigate rumors of a Federal column advancing toward the Confederate Army from Chambersburg.  The Federal cavalry column, while moving around Lee's flank encountered Longstreet's ammunition trains moving south to rejoin the main body of the Army of Northern Virginia.  The cavalry was able to capture a large portion of the wagon train and escorted it to Federal authorities.

In November Cole's Cavalry was assigned to the 12th Army Corps, and was at the head of General Geary's Division as advance reconnaissance when the 12th began its march up the Shenandoah Valley in December.  The battalion was engaged the Confederate forces at Charlestown on the 2nd, Berryville on the 3rd and Winchester on the 5th.  In mid month the 12th was directed to move east, but Cole's Cavalry was ordered to remain in the Shenandoah Valley.  On the 20th a portion of the 12th Virginia Cavalry attacked the Marylanders in an attempt to drive them from the Valley or destroy them.  But Cole had caught wind of the attack.  He placed two companies on his flanks out of sight before the attack, and once it commenced, these companies came in on the 12th Va.'s blind sides.  The Virginians were driven off, and their Commander, Captain Baylor, who was wanted for violating a flag of truce, was captured.

The Battalion continued to patrol the Shenandoah Valley through the spring of 1863, skirmishing with partisans.  On June 13th, in pursuit of Confederate Cavalry, Cole's Cavalry stumbled into the advance of General Rodes' column as it advanced toward General Milroy's position at Winchester.  Maryland scouts slipped through the Confederate lines to warn Milroy.  After Milroy was driven from Winchester, Cole's Cavalry provided a rear guard for the fleeing Federal troops who managed to break out of Winchester.  Cole then took the offensive.  Hanging on Rodes' flanks, he continually used the tactics of hit and run raids on the Confederate column as it marched north.  When not engaged in raids, Cole's Cavalry provided reconnaissance for the Federal Army as it sought out General Lee's army. 

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the battalion fought at Martinsburg on June 11th, Berryville on the 13th, Williamsport the 15th, Catoctin Creek, Maryland, on the 17th, Frederick City June 22nd, Fountain Dale, Pennsylvania, June 28, near Frederick, Maryland on July 4th, and at Harper's Ferry and Falling Waters on July 6th.  The most significantly action during the Gettysburg Campaign was that Company "C" burned the pontoon bridge on July 4th that General Lee had had built across the Potomac south of Hagerstown.

During the months that followed the Battle of Gettysburg the battalion rested and recruited to refill it's ranks.  On September 14th the battalion surprised and captured much of a Confederate company of Cavalry near Leesburg, Virginia.  On October 18th, General Imbodden and Harry Gilmor's Maryland Battalion of Partisan Rangers successfully attacked and defeated a large portion of the garrison at Harper's Ferry.  Among the units sent to the relief of the arsenal, Cole's Cavalry suffered severe losses throughout a daylong engagement.  Private John M. Morritz ("Moritz") died November 15, 1863 as a result of these engagements.  In December the battalion participated in a raid into the Shenandoah Valley towards Staunton.  For fifteen days the cavalry rode through grueling winter weather and suffered greatly for it.

George Schriver received a four-day furlough allowing him to spend Christmas with his family.  George reported for duty on December 29, 1863.  For the next several days’ 250 members of Cole’s Cavalry engaged about four hundred of Colonel Mosby’s men.  When the fighting ended, Cole’s men returned to camp with the loss of three killed, six wounded, and seven taken prisoner. 

When the raid was over the battalion returned to its winter quarters on Loudon Heights, over looking Harper's Ferry.  On numerous occasions Cole's Cavalry had crossed swords with Colonel Mosby's Rangers.  Lt. Colonel Mosby, learning that Cole's exhausted men had returned to their camp, resolved to drive them from Virginia.  He led his command to within several miles of Loudon Heights, then his men advanced on foot leading their horse through the snow, until they were hidden in the woods outside of Cole's camp.  Without warning Colonel Mosby attacked the camp.  But his plans soon went airy.  Cole's men, stumbling from their slumber into a blazing fire fight managed to put up a stout defense and drive Mosby from their camp.  Mosby's losses were quite significant.  Among the casualties of Horner’s Company were Theodore Fites (or Fitez), who was taken prisoner on January 1, 1864 by Mosby’s Rangers whom the battalion was fighting near Upperville, Virginia and he died in prison December 10, 1864. Sergeant George W. Shriver, was also captured and died on August 27, 1864 at Andersonville Prison Georgia; Edward Wenchoff, taken prisoner but obviously exchanged for he is carried on the rolls until June 6, 1865.

Promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on January 14, 1864 Oliver A. Horner, of Emmitsburg who was originally a private in Horner’s company, rose to rank of Major on the regimental staff on August 20, 1864.  He achieved greatest individual fame with it and came to be known as the outfit’s leader.

Later in the month the Cole’s Cavalry marched into West Virginia to help repel Confederate raiders.  On February 13th most of the men in the battalion re-enlisted for the duration of the war, marched to Frederick and enjoyed a well-deserved 30-day furlough.  Cole’s Cavalry then began the process of recruiting new men to bring its ranks back up to strength.  During their recruitment, they was assigned to General Franz Sigel's command and sent back into the Shenandoah Valley.  Not fully reorganized, many of its men without mounts or proper equipment, because of this the new recruits suffered significantly during Sigel's campaign.

When General David Hunter replaced Sigel, the mounted portion of Cole's Cavalry marched with Hunter to Lynchburg, participating enroute in the Battle of Piedmont on June 5th, and skirmishes at Tye River Gap on June 12th, Lexington June 13th and Buchannon on June 14th.  General Hunter arrived at Lynchburg on the 18th and was driven back into West Virginia by General Early.  When Early marched north so far completing his objects of clearing the Shenandoah Valley of Federals and was now beginning his famous Washington Raid. The dismounted portion of Cole's Cavalry participated in the defense of Leetown on July 3rd.  Remounted, part of this detachment was able to join up with General Lew Wallace's small command at Monocacy Junction.

In 1862, Samuel Maxell sons Samuel Jr. and Thaddeus joined Cole's Cavalry. Samuel Maxell Sr. a staunch abolitionist and owner of the mill located just upstream of Four Points Bridge. Samuel was a passionate advocate of the Union and was very influential in changing the sentiments of the local population with regard to slavery.   During their advanced to Piedmont, Virginia, they collided with a Confederate army under the command of Jubal Early.  While charging a breastwork, Thaddeus Maxell was fatally shot by a Confederate sharpshooter. Samuel Jr. accompanied his brother's body home where Emmitsburg witnessed his burial at the Lutheran church where his father served as both a deacon and an elder. Following his brother's funeral, Samuel returned to his unit and played a key role in what was known as a Union victory at the Battle of the Monocacy for keeping General Early’s Army held down in which brought valuable time for the defenses in Washington to be re-enforced.

After the Battle of Monocacy on July 9th, Early moved on toward Washington, but eventually re-crossed the Potomac back into Virginia.  Cole's Cavalry participated in the pursuit and the Battle of Snickers Gap on July 19th.  Richard N. Gilson died August 3,1864, of wounds received in action in the post-Monocacy fighting that chased Gen. Early back across the Potomac River.

In late July General Early again crossed the Potomac into Maryland near Cumberland.  His army crossed at various places to give the impression of a large-scale invasion.  The maneuver was a faint to draw attention away from the Confederate Cavalry column that streamed across Maryland to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  A portion of Cole's Cavalry engaged Confederate Cavalry engaged in this operation on July 26th, and participated in the pursuit of this column after it burned Chambersburg.

On August 5th General Early again crossed the Potomac River into Maryland, moved through Sharpsburg toward Boonsboro.  Approximately half of Cole's Cavalry engaged the head of Early's column and was subsequently driven back, suffering heavy losses. 

With the appointment of General Sheridan over a combined infantry and cavalry command directed to take control of the Shenandoah, Cole's Cavalry was assigned to Merritt's Cavalry Division, Tolbert's Cavalry Corps, and participated in the subsequent campaign to dislodge General Early from the Shenandoah Valley.  In the winter of 1864 General Rosser, C.S.A., led a raiding party into West Virginia to collect horses and forage.  Cole's Cavalry was moved to West Virginia to protect that region.  Subsequent attacks against the B & O Railroad in the winter and spring of 1865 by Mosby's Raiders, forced the cavalry command to remain in West Virginia until the end of the war.

Cole's Cavalry was mustered out of service on June 28, 1865 at Harper's Ferry.  The cavalry command then rode to Baltimore to be formally discharged.  It is estimated that the command rode over 7000 miles during its four years in the saddle. 

The exploits of Cole’s Battalion were among the most heroic and spectacular of any organization in the Eastern theater of the Civil War. The men themselves stuck together as a fraternity long after the war. As late as 1892 they were holding reunions at the local Grand Army of the Republic headquarters, banqueting at the old Western Maryland Hotel, and holding "campfires" where they relived their old days in the field and camp.

Helmans History of Emmitsburg also lists those from Emmitsburg who are buried in Emmitsburg’s local cemeteries, but states nothing else. It only identifies these men: Major 0. A. Horner, IA. John M. Annan, Enos McDannels, Presbyterian; Isaac Heagy, Noah Koontz, Thadeus Maxell, Benjamin Cehrhart, Joseph Wills, John Shields, James Peoples, James Mcllhenny, Jeremiah Stranesbaugh, Lutheran; C. W. McPherson, Jacob Settlemyer, James Arnold, Peter Cook, Augustus Little, John Murphy, Theodore Cook, Jacob I. Topper, Nicholas Seltzer, Catholic; John Constant, Nathaniel Millsbury, John Rosensteel, Joseph Shorb, Henry Taylor, George Seiss, College; Jacob Reeves, John Spence, Philip Long, Mountain View; John Kipe, George Kipe, Sabillasville; Frederick Nindle, Fairfield; John Hunter, Gettysburg; Joseph Davidson, Rocky Ridge; Peter Glasser, Mt. Joy; Joseph Zech, Henry Gelwicks, Joseph Coombs, Andersonville; Emory Gilson, died in prison; Newton Gilson, killed in battle.’

Want to learn more about Cole's Cavalry? Then try our archived edition for a complete listing of names: The Solders of Company C, Cole’s Cavalry  1861-1865

Read other civil war articles by John Miller