By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

CW2In McClellan’s retrograde movement from Harrison’s Landing on the James River, Companies E, F, H, K, and a squadron of the Fourth Cavalry acted as his escort and had the post of honor at the rear of the whole army. They crossed the Chickahominy near its mouth August 17, 1862, and took up the pontoon bridge. After witnessing the whole army embark for the north, the regiment sailed from Fort Monroe, Virginia, August 25 for Alexandria, Virginia, and went into camp at Centerville near that place.

After the arrival of McClellan’s army near Washington following his withdrawal from the peninsula, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Virginia were combined under his command. Lee invaded Maryland instead of attacking Washington, and the Union Army shielded that city, at the same time keeping in touch with the invader. The four companies of the Second Cavalry were a part of the Army of the Potomac which followed Lee into Maryland. Leaving the camp at Centerville, Virginia, September 1, 1862, it marched north as a provost guard at General Headquarters.

Pleasanton’s cavalry division, though not in good condition for the campaign of Antietam, took the field and in early September reconnoitered the fords of the Potomac. The right wing of the Federal army having reached Frederick, Maryland, September 13, 1862, the cavalry cleared the passage through the Catoctin Mountains. In the fighting to drive the Confederates from their position at South Mountain on the 14th, the Second took some part. Pleasanton deployed a part of his cavalry dismounted but did not have an important role in the battle of that day. Lee withdrew to the south, followed by the Union army via Boonesborough. At this place the Federal cavalry caught up with the enemy rear guard and drove it two miles beyond town. On September 17, at the battle of Antietam, the cavalry moved to Antietam bridge within a short distance of Lee’s center. Here it came under a heavy cross fire of artillery which caused many casualties. Skirmishers were thrown forward and with the help of the Federal guns, the Confederate barriers were driven away. After the battle, the cavalry moved down to the fords of the Potomac and remained there in observation.


  1. I have been doing research on my great great grandfather who served in 2nd Dragoon Company F. NY Times articles reported that a tornado came through New Bridge, VA in June 1857. I just wanted to indicate other nature obstacles the soldier faced during the Civil War.


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