ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
In January, 1863, General Hooker relieved General Burnside from the command of the Army of the Potomac, and the organization of grand divisions was changed to army corps, with General Stoneman in command of all the cavalry. The mounted arm was organized into a corps, with the divisions being commanded by Generals Pleasanton, Averell, and Gregg, with a reserve brigade commanded by General Buford. During the winter the cavalry was employed in watching the fords of the Rappahannock and reconnoitering the enemy positions, with much skirmishing constantly going on.
General Hooker started the Chancellorsville campaign by crossing the Rappahannock River April 27, 1863. During this same period he sent General Stoneman with most of the cavalry on a raid toward Richmond to break up the Confederate line of communication.
Headquarters Cavalry Corps
Army of the Potomac
April 11, 1863
First. The effective force of this corps will be in readiness to move at daylight on Monday, April 13.
Second. Each trooper will carry on his horse not less than three days’ rations for himself and horse, and as much more as shall be judged practicable for him to take on short marches; and he will carry as much ammunition for the arms he bears as he can conveniently on his person, the amount not to be less in any case than forty rounds of carbine and twenty rounds of pistol cartridge.
Third. The pack-trains will be loaded with five days’ rations for the men. The supply-trains will be loaded with rations of grain and subsistence in such proportion that men and animals will be supplied to the same date.
Fourth. Some convenient point will be selected in each division and Buford’s brigade, at which camp and garrison equipage, quartermaster’s and subsistence stores, with private property, will be left in charge of an officer and the dismounted men, who will constitute the depot-guards for this property. All superfluous articles of clothing, camp and garrison equipage, and in fact of every kind, will be left with the regimental baggage at these depots.
Fifth. The sick of each division will be assembled at the division hospitals. Rush’s lancers will send their sick to the hospital of Gregg’s division, etc.
Sixth. The headquarters of the corps will be designated at night, during the campaign, either in bivouac or on the march, by a red lantern.
By command of Major-General STONEMAN.
J. H. Taylor, Asst. Adjutant-General
The cavalry corps crossed the Rappahannock at Kelly’s Ford April 29, 1863. They carried three days’ rations and forage with the trooper, while three days supply was taken on pack mules, but no wheel transportation was carried. After Averell’s division was recalled by Hooker and other detachments left behind, the command consisted of an aggregate of 4,329 men. General Buford’s brigade, which included the Second Cavalry, moved to the left soon after crossing Kelly’s Ford. Later in the day the force was again assembled and bivouacked in a plowed field in pouring rain which lasted all night.
On April 30 the command marched in three parallel lines, while the country was patrolled for the enemy. When General Buford’s column crossed the Rapidan at Minot’s Ford, it put to flight a considerable body of the enemy. The whole force encamped on the south side of the river at Raccoon Ford. On May 1 they moved out at 2:00 a.m. in the rain, but were delayed for lack of proper guides. Another group of enemy cavalry was put to flight at Orange Springs, where some prisoners and provisions were captured. After an all-night march they reached Louisa Court House on the morning of May 2, which is located on the Virginia Central Railroad. Here parties were sent out for miles up and down the track to destroy it and burn the bridges and culverts. They spent most of the day at this place gathering supplies, as they were now living off the country. After some skirmishing with small groups of the enemy, the command moved out at 5:00 p.m. and reached Thompson’s Four Corners a little before midnight.
General Stoneman called his leaders together and issued orders to divide the command into small groups for the purpose of destroying property of military value. These units spread out in all directions and began a systematic destruction of railroads, telegraph wires, bridges, store houses, and machine shops. One detachment under Colonel Kilpatrick, while destroying property near Richmond, pursued a Rebel force inside the fortifications of that place. On May 3 General Buford’s command was located at Shannon Hill and sent out parties to destroy the canal and bridge near Cedar Point. This destruction was kept up on the return trip day and night. The command was moving and fighting so much of the time there was little chance to rest. When they finally reached Kelly’s Ford May 8, men were straggling and wandering off from their units at an alarming rate. The amount of damage done behind the enemy lines was enormous, but the cavalry was lost to Hooker during the important period of the battle of Chancellorsville.