Skirmish at Catlett’s Station, VA, Oct. 24, 1862 – four soldiers of Co. A taken as Prisoners of War [POWs], one of whom had been wounded in action [WIA]; Skirmish at Dumfries, VA, Dec. 12, 1862 – 15 POWs and one WIA/POW of Cos. A & C; Skirmish at Wardensville, WV, Dec. 22, 1862, three POWs and one mortally wounded in action [MWIA] POW of Co. D; Cavalry battle of Brandy Station, VA, June 9, 1863, two WIA of Co. A (both Cos. A & C were engaged here); Second Battle of Winchester, VA, June 13-15, 1863, 70 POWs –Capt. Charles W. White & 42 men of Co. B, and 27 men of Co. D; Battle of Gettysburg, PA, July 1-3, 1863, one WIA of Co. A (both Cos. A & C were engaged here); Battle of Rocky Gap, WV (near White Sulphur Springs), Aug. 25-26, 1863, two killed in action [KIA] and one WIA/POW, one each from Cos. E, H & I; Engagement at Morton’s Ford, VA, Oct. 11, 1863, seven casualties – 4 POWs, 2 KIA, and 1 MWIA, from Cos. A & C; Skirmish at Griffensburg, VA, Nov. 24, 1863, 13 casualties – 12 POWs, and 1 KIA, from Cos. A & C; Battle action at Cove Mountain (near Wytheville), VA, May 10, 1864, six casualties – 2 KIA, 2 WIA/POW, 1 POW & 1 WIA.
You will also note, from the frequency of two pairs of companies above –Company A with Company C, and Company B with Company D—that they often scouted and campaigned together during this period of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry as a fragmented battalion. During the Second Battle of Winchester and Maj. Gen. Milroy’s retreat from Winchester, Major McGee –Milroy’s Inspector General and Chief of Staff— voluntarily commanded a three-company cavalry detachment which included Companies B and D. During the Gettysburg campaign in June and July of 1863, Captain Seymour B. Conger commanded a two-company cavalry detachment consisting of Companies A and C at the battles of Brandy Station, VA, and Gettysburg, PA, in Col. Thomas Devin’s Cavalry Brigade. During the late summer and fall of 1863, both Capt. Lot Bowen and Capt. Seymour Conger were promoted to new positions as Majors in the regiment.
Finally, in the summer of 1864, many of the companies of the 3rd Cavalry were pulled together and organized as a functioning regiment, variously under the command of Majors Conger and Bowen. As such, they fought at Lynchburg, VA (6/17/64); Snicker’s Ferry, VA (7/17-18/64); Newtown, VA (7/22/64); 2nd Battle of Kernstown, VA (7/24/64); and Oldfields, near Moorefield, WV (8/7/64). During that period of time, the database documents 26 regimental casualties –of them, nine were killed in action including the death of Major Seymour Conger at Oldfields. Col. William H. Powell, their Brigade Commander, specifically commended the regiment for their gallantry and bravery during the battles of Opequon Creek, VA, and Fisher’s Hill, VA, in late September 1864.
Following the assignment of Colonel Powell as commander of the 2nd Cavalry Division, Department of West Virginia, on September 30, 1864, the 3rd came under the command of Col. Henry Capehart and helped the brigade win the well-deserved nickname “Capehart’s Fighting Brigade.” In October 1864, following Lt. Col. David H. Strother’s resignation, the West Virginia Adjutant General called J. Lowery McGee back from civilian life and commissioned him as Lieutenant Colonel and regimental commander. Under Capehart’s and McGee’s capable command, the regiment fought at Nineveh, VA in November 1864, and five battle actions during General Lee’s retreat from the Defenses of Petersburg, VA, in March and April 1865 –Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks, Namozine Church, Sayler’s Creek, and Appomattox. The regiment’s only Medal of Honor recipient, Commissary Sergeant Walter F. McWhorter, earned his medal for valor and battle flag capture at Sayler’s Creek on April 6, 1865.
Finally, on May 3, 1865 –nearly a month after the cessation of hostilities-- Lt. Col. McGee received a commission as full Colonel of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry. On May 23, 1865, Custer’s Cavalry Division --including the 3rd Cavalry within Capehart’s Brigade, led the Grand Review of the Army of the Potomac along Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. However, on a much more somber note, twenty of the regiment’s Prisoners of War ended up in confinement at Andersonville Prison in central Georgia. Of that number, nine died there and are buried in Andersonville National Cemetery.
With the war ended, the regiment finally mustered out of Federal service at Wheeling, WV, on June 30, 1865.
Essay by: Thomas E. White,