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First Loyal Virginia Troops For the Union Cause: The 1st West Virginia Volunteer Infantry

Mountains, Munitions, and Men: The 1st West Virginia Light Artillery

The 1st West Virginia Cavalry

The 3rd West Virginia Cavalry

 

First Loyal Virginia Troops For the Union Cause: The 1st West Virginia Volunteer Infantry

The 1st West Virginia Infantry (3-year regiment) was essentially established on the foundation of the earlier 1st Virginia (US) Infantry (3-months service). This forerunner regiment, the first "Loyal" Virginia regiment to respond to President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 troops, was commanded by Col. Benjamin F. Kelley. Its only battle action was on June 3, 1861, at Philippi – ostensibly the first land battle of the Civil War. For their gallantry during this battle, two regimental officers would receive significant promotions -- Colonel Kelley to Brigadier General and Regimental Surgeon Joseph Thoburn to Colonel of the new 3-year 1st (West) Virginia Infantry.
Of the 779 officers and enlisted men of the 3-month regiment, 353 would seek service in one of the new 3-year regiments. Of that number, 171 would re-enlist in the new 1st West Virginia Infantry. This new infantry regiment was recruited from the northern panhandle counties of West Virginia and adjacent counties of Ohio and Pennsylvania in September and October of 1861. It was organized and mustered into federal service at Wheeling on October 30, 1861.
The database generated from the Compiled Service Records of officers and enlisted men of the regiment yields an interesting profile of these Union soldiers. They ranged in age from 16 to 58 years, with a median age of 22½ years. Composite personal characteristics of these soldiers show: median height -- 5’8"; about a quarter of them had dark hair and blue eyes; and about half had light or fair complexion. The database provided the places of birth for 783 of the regiment’s 1274 soldiers. As can be seen from the "Place of Birth" chart, 39% were born in counties that would become part of the new state of West Virginia; 23% from Ohio; 18% from Pennsylvania; 11% were foreign born; and the remaining 8% from other parts of the U.S. The high percentages from Ohio and Pennsylvania reflect the tenacious efforts of those citizens to enlist when their states’ quotas were filled. Of the 308 soldiers born in West Virginia, most came from Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties. Those born in Ohio primarily came from Columbiana, Jefferson and Belmont counties, while those from Pennsylvania hailed from Greene and Washington counties. Many of the foreign-born soldiers were from the British Isles and Germany. The pre-enlistment occupations of these soldiers showed the following: farmers -- 43%; skilled "blue collar" workers -- 30%; unskilled "blue collar" workers -- 23%; professional -- 3%; other -- 1%.
The regiment’s first major battle actions were against Maj. Gen. Stonewall Jackson’s celebrated "foot cavalry" during the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 -- at First Kernstown, VA, on March 23, and at Port Republic, VA, on June 9. In late June 1862, Brig. Gen. James Shields’ Brigade (which included the 1st WV Inf.) was transferred to McDowell’s 3rd Corps of Maj. Gen. John Pope’s Army of Virginia. As such, the regiment fought in the battles of Cedar Mountain (8/9/62), Thoroughfare Gap (8/28/62), and 2nd Bull Run (8/30/62). By the time of the 2nd Bull Run Campaign, Col. Thoburn had been given to a brigade command in Brig. Gen. Ricketts’ Division. Command of the regiment would revolve to Lt. Col. Jacob Weddle -- who began his Civil War career as a 1st Lieutenant in the old 3-month 1st Virginia (U.S.) Infantry.
The entire regiment was sent back to Wheeling for "Recruiting Duty" in October 1862, and then went into winter quarters at Camp Willey, at North Mountain in Berkeley County (12/62 to 3/63) and Mechanicsburg Gap, near Romney in Hampshire County (3/63 to 6/63).
In the Summer & Fall of 1863, the regiment was transferred to the 8th Corps, which was given responsibility for controlling destructive raids by Confederate cavalry and partisan rangers in central and northern West Virginia, such as the commands of Capt. John Hanson "Hanse" McNeill, Brig. Gen. John Imboden and Brig. Gen. "Grumble" Jones. In September, Major Edward Stephens and a battalion of five companies of the regiment were ordered to Moorefield, WV, to surprise and capture "Hanse" McNeill’s illusive company of partisan rangers. Instead, because of one non-commissioned officer’s gross failure to follow orders, the entire command was surprised by McNeill’s Rangers, and almost all – except Major Stephens – were taken prisoner on September 11. The Confederates also captured copious numbers of horses, wagons and firearms, as well as quantities of ammunition, camp equipment, tentage, and records. For at least ten of the soldiers, this would be their second or third prisoner-of-war experience. Major Stephens would later be arrested under charges of "alleged neglect of duty," but was released when Col. Thoburn testified strongly in his defense.
The regiment spent the winter of 1863-64 at Petersburg, WV, and New Creek, WV. During that time, the regiment gained 412 new recruits to fill their depleted ranks and accepted the re-enlistments of 250 veteran volunteers.
The regiment played an integral part in the entire Shenandoah Valley campaign of 1864, beginning with the May 15th Battle of New Market. Although most troops of the 1st WV "broke and ran" under heavy fire at New Market, Sgt. James M. Burns received the regiment’s only Medal of Honor. He was awarded it for his gallantry in rescuing both a severely wounded comrade and the regimental colors from the field "under heavy fire of musketry."
The Battle of Piedmont, VA, on June 5, provided the regiment’s and Col. Thoburn’s "finest hours" of their entire Civil War service. Thoburn’s Brigade "rolled up" the Confederate right flank and inflicted the battle death of the Confederate field commander, Brig. Gen. "Grumble" Jones. Meanwhile, the detached 1st West Virginia Infantry bolstered up Col. Augustus Moor’s battered brigade and turned the Confederate left flank. For his demonstrated battlefield leadership, especially at Piedmont, Col. Thoburn would be given command of an Infantry Division by mid-summer. The regiment also saw action at Lynchburg (June 17-18), Snickers Ferry (July 17-18), 2nd Kernstown (July 23), and Berryville (Sept. 4). Tragically, Col. Thoburn would be killed in action at Cedar Creek on October 19, while he was trying valiantly to rally his Division when they were surprised and overrun in an early morning attack by Lt. Gen. Jubal Early’s army.
On Nov. 26, 1864, the 236 veterans of the regiment whose terms of enlistment had expired were mustered out of federal service. The remainder of the regiment -- the 662 re-enlisted Veteran Volunteers and new recruits -- was consolidated with the 4th West Virginia Infantry in December 1864 to form the 2nd West Virginia Veteran Volunteer Infantry, under the command of Lt. Col. Jacob Weddle. The 2nd Veteran Infantry would serve until the end of the war and be mustered out on July 16, 1865.

Thomas E. White,
Research Associate
GTM Center

 

Mountains, Munitions, and Men: The 1st West Virginia Light Artillery

The 1st West Virginia Light was the only regiment of artillery raised in West Virginia. Some batteries were attached to a geographical department such as Department of West Virginia or an operational field army such as the Army of the Potomac. Several batteries saw action only in the state of West Virginia, while others served in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia as well.
The term "light artillery" refers to artillery mobile enough to move with an army and to be easily maneuvered in battle. The typical gun crew consisted of nine members who worked as a team and had to be able to perform the skills associated with the operation and sighting of artillery pieces. Although horses were used to transport equipment from place to place, the strenuous duties of operating a field gun demanded that the artillery soldier be of sturdy build.
Generally, four to six guns, or cannons, constituted a battery. Each gun was hooked behind a limber, which carried an ammunition chest. Each gun also had a caisson assigned to it that hauled three ammunition chests. Guns and caissons each were drawn by six-horse teams, controlled by three drivers. In the case of the 1st West Virginia Light Artillery, the guns most often used were three-inch ordnance rifles and 10-lb Parrot rifles, both of which fired the same caliber ammunition. At full strength, a battery was comprised of 155 men: one captain, four lieutenants, eight sergeants, 12 corporals, six repairmen (called "artificers"), two buglers, 52 drivers, and 70 cannoneers.
The database information developed from the soldiers’ compiled military service records gives a clearer profile of these men. An "average" artilleryman of this unusual regiment would have been a 23-year-old farmer, 5’8" tall, with blue eyes, dark or black hair and fair or light complexion. Our database provided "Places of Birth" for 1028 of the regiment’s 1515 soldiers: 44% were born in what would become the new state of West Virginia; another 31% came from neighbor states to the north and west (Maryland, Pennsylvania and Ohio); and a sizable minority of 16% were European immigrants.
In relating a regimental portrait, we have chosen to feature two of the regiment’s eight batteries – Battery C (the Pierpoint Battery) and Battery G (the Plummer Guards), and summarize the military service of the remaining batteries.
Of the other six batteries, two of them – batteries F and H – saw service totally within the mountains and valleys of West Virginia and the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley. Battery F was formerly Company C of the 6th West Virginia Infantry, and fought at the 2nd Battle of Winchester, Virginia (1863) and the 2nd Battle of Kernstown, Virginia (1864). Battery H saw action at New Creek, West Virginia, in August 1864.
Two other batteries – A and E – saw duty and action within West Virginia, western Maryland, the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley, and the Washington, DC, area. Battery A gallantly participated in the 1st Battle of Kernstown, Virginia (1862) and served in the Defenses of Washington in 1863. Moore’s Battery (Battery E) served on Baltimore & Ohio Railroad guard duty, fought at the 2nd Battle of Kernstown, and helped to train artillery crews at the Camp Barry, Virginia, Artillery Camp of Instruction.
The military career of the remaining two batteries – B (Keeper’s) and D (Carlin’s) – ranged all the way from western and northern West Virginia to central Virginia, and participated in Brig. Gen. David Hunter’s attempted assault on Lynchburg in 1864. Additionally, Keeper’s Battery fought at 1st Kernstown and White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia (1863), and Carlin’s Battery fought at New Market, Virginia (1864).
Battery C, known as the Pierpoint battery, was organized by Capt. Frank Buell, and its men saw some of the most intense action of the war. It was furnished with four 10-lb Parrot guns and fought at Cross Keys, Port Republic, Luray, Cedar Mountain and Freeman’s Ford, all in Virginia. In the latter battle, Buell was mortally wounded but had handled his battery exceptionally well, disabling one Confederate battery and silencing another. The battery participated in the 2nd Battle of Manassas and then served in the defense of Washington DC until December 1862. Later, the battery endured the "Mud March" following the Battle of Fredericksburg and also fought at the Battle of Chancellorsville.
Early July 1863 found Battery C at Gettysburg, serving with the Artillery Reserve, 3rd Brigade of the Army of the Potomac, with Capt. Wallace Hill commanding the battery. The battery was posted on Cemetery Hill, south of the Baltimore Pike with its right on the border of Evergreen Cemetery and its left near a stone wall by the Taneytown Road. About sunset on July 2, the battery helped to repulse an attack on the Union center. On July 3 at 1 p.m., an estimated 100 to 120 Confederate cannons opened fire on the Union center. For the next two hours Battery C performed its duty amidst heavy frontal and enfilading fire. About 3 p.m., the Confederate advanced and penetrated the Union lines. The Union Artillery Reserve, including Battery C, was ordered to fire on the left flank of the attackers, which helped repulse the Confederate assault. Battery C fired a total of 1,120 rounds of ammunition during the Battle of Gettysburg. In his after-action report, Capt. Hill noted that, on July 2, the battery lost cannoneer Stephen J. Braddock. On July 3rd, Private Charles Lacey, a driver, fell mortally wounded. Lacey, a 21-year-old Irish immigrant, lies buried in Gettysburg National Cemetery, only a few feet away from where he fell (West Virginia section, grave 3/B). The battery was engaged in one more battle, at Mitchell’s Ford, Virginia. During the winter of 1863-64, many of its soldiers reenlisted and served in Washington DC until mustered out June 28, 1865.
Battery G was unique, its members initially organized as an infantry unit at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in May 1861. They were known as the Plummer Guards, having received complete uniforms from local merchant Joseph Plummer. With the Pennsylvania soldier quota already filled, they offered their services to the "restored" state of Virginia. Given responsibility for some old brass 6-lb guns, they quickly mastered their operation and were assigned to the 1st West Virginia Light Artillery. They were involved in a severe fight with Robert E. Lee’s rear guard at Hedgesville, West Virginia on July 19, 1863, during the Army of Northern Virginia’s retreat from Gettysburg.
Battery G next saw action at Rocky Gap, near White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. They participated in various engagements throughout West Virginia with Gen. William Averell, most notably at the Battle of New Market against the small Confederate army commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Breckinridge. The battery was positioned on the Union left. When ordered out onto the Valley Turnpike, it opened fire with canister for approximately 10 minutes. The battery fell back with the rest of the Union force, leaving the victorious Confederates in control of the battlefield. On January 26, 1864, Battery G was designated part of the 5th West Virginia Cavalry and served in this capacity until the end of the war.
Lori E. Kaylor

Research Associate
GTM Center

 

The 1st West Virginia Cavalry
   
Selby
The First West Virginia Cavalry was "first" in more than name. To begin with, Company A of the regiment, known as the Kelley Lancers, was the first company organized in the counties that ultimately formed West Virginia. The regiment was organized in the summer and fall of 1861 at Wheeling, Morgantown, and Clarksburg. At that time, West Virginia did not yet exist as a separate state, so the regiment was then called the First Virginia Cavalry, a "loyal Virginia" regiment. It drew recruits primarily from the staunchly anti-secessionist counties (in particular Ohio and Monongalia) of the northwest corner of what is now West Virginia, and from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The accompanying pie chart shows where these men were born. The chart contains a few surprises.
First, only a third of the men were born in "West Virginia" counties. Most of the rest were from Pennsylvania and Ohio. Second, about 10% of the men were born in states that eventually comprised Germany. Our database tells us that most of the German-born troopers were in one 1st Cavalry company – Company M, a German-speaking company. We know Company M was German-speaking because of a curious letter in the records – a letter of resignation written in February 1862 by First Lieutenant Robert W. Playford. Playford had been elected temporary first lieutenant of Company M, pending appointment of a German-speaking officer. None was appointed. The clearly frustrated lieutenant resigned because he "could not issue commands in the company’s native tongue."

Featured here is a profile and synopsis of the record of the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, the most recent Civil War regiment completely entered into the GTM Center’s Civil War Soldiers Data Base Program.
 
What else do we know about these men? Our data hardly supports the stereotype of the farm-boy cavalryman, raised on the back of a horse. Slightly less than half the men were farmers. That proportion was roughly the same for a West Virginia infantry unit recruited from the same area. Skilled laborers – most commonly, blacksmiths, carpenters, and shoemakers – constituted the next most frequent occupational category (29%). Only 21% of the troopers were unskilled laborers.
In terms of appearance, the "median man" of the regiment fit a clear, predominant pattern. He looked much like the 1st Cavalry trooper in the above picture, Garrett Selby. Only Selby’s auburn hair and age (35) would have set him apart. The regiment’s "median man" was 23 years old at enlistment. His eyes were quite likely to be blue (or gray, like Selby’s), his hair dark or black, and his complexion fair. As a typical 1st Cavalry trooper, Selby’s weapons would have included a saber, carbine, and pistol. His pistol probably was either the Army Colt or the lighter Navy Colt favored by many of the regiment’s troopers. The colt revolvers then used loose powder and balls, difficult to reload in a cavalry charge, where a saber was most useful. The carbine of a typical 1st Cavalry trooper would have been either a single-shot, breech-loading Burnside or, later in the war, the revolutionary seven-shot Spencer repeating carbine.
Chart1

By the end of the war, the 1st West Virginia Cavalry was the most active, and one of the most effective, of all West Virginia regiments. However, like most Union cavalry units, the regiment started slowly. In October of 1861, Company A (the Kelley Lancers) played a key roll in the capture of Romney.
Other companies were formed during the fall of 1861 and early winter of 1862. By mid-winter 1862 the regiment consisted of about 1,100 men, organized into 14 companies, each with about 80 to 100 men. Colonel Henry Anisansel led the 1st Cavalry. At that time the regiment’s primary job was to defend the vital Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in western Virginia. It fought primarily in small detachments, until assigned to the Army of the Potomac in January 1862.
Their first real test came in February 14, 1862, at Bloomery Gap, in the mountains east of Romney. Here they helped secure the Gap with a hesitant, disorganized, but ultimately successful cavalry charge. After the battle, the explosive Union commander, General Frederick Lander, brought court martial charges against Colonel Anisansel for failing to obey an order to charge the enemy. Anisansel was quickly exonerated, claiming that he could not respond to Lander’s order because of a battle injury. Anisansel resigned in July 1862 because of that injury. He was succeeded by his second in command, 28-year-old Lt. Col. Nathaniel P. Richmond, who was promoted to full colonel in October 1862.
Following Bloomery Gap, a large detachment of the regiment fought in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, most notably at First Winchester, Cross Keys, and Port Republic. But the regiment’s bloodiest battle, prior to Gettysburg, was Second Manassas. On the last day of the battle, August 30, 1862, the 1st Cavalry was one of four regiments assigned to a brigade under newly appointed Brig. Gen. John Buford. Buford’s men charged an advancing Confederate cavalry brigade. In a furious cavalry clash, Buford’s brigade was driven off, but the Confederate brigade failed to complete its assignment – to intercept and disrupt the orderly retreat of Gen. Pope’s defeated Union army.
After Second Manassas, the battered 1st Cavalry was ordered to the defenses of Washington, DC, where it was to recruit and refit. This assignment lasted until June 1863, the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign. That same month, after West Virginia was granted statehood, the regiment became the First West Virginia Cavalry. The 1st Cavalry was heavily involved in the Gettysburg Campaign. Its fiercest fighting occurred at Hanover on June 30 (where Garrett Selby was killed), the "South Cavalry Battlefield" at Gettysburg on July 3, Monterey Gap on July 4, and Hagerstown and Williamsport on July 6.
The regiment’s best known engagement at Gettysburg was as part of a valiant but failed cavalry charge over rough terrain on July 3, against infantry "dug in" behind fences and stone walls. The story of "Farnsworth’s Charge," as it is now called, generates interest and controversy to this day.
After Gettysburg, in late 1863, the regiment was active in the Mine Run and Bristoe campaigns. In November 1863, Col. Richmond resigned for health reasons. He was replaced by Henry Capehart, the regiment’s surgeon. Capehart soon was promoted to full colonel and eventually to brigadier general of a brigade that included the 1st West Virginia Cavalry, two other West Virginia regiments, and a New York regiment.
Capehart’s brigade fought under legendary Generals Sheridan and Custer during much of Sheridan’s 1864 Valley Campaign. Custer dubbed this brigade "Capehart’s Fighting Brigade" for its bravery and effectiveness. The regiment remained a part of this highly regarded brigade until the end of the war, fighting with great distinction in the Petersburg and Appomattox campaigns. Almost all of the regiment’s 14 Medals of Honor – the most for any West Virginia regiment – were earned for valor displayed during the 1864 Valley, Petersburg, and Appomattox Campaigns. Of course, the regiment’s glory came at a price. The 1st West Virginia Cavalry lost 207 men to battle wounds and disease. But disease, not battle, accounted for over three-fourths of these 1st Cavalry deaths. Only about 14% died as a result of battle wounds. Three diseases – diarrhea (usually a symptom of dysentery), typhoid, and tuberculosis – accounted for most of the regiment’s disease-related deaths.

About 1,900 men served in the regiment during the war. They earned more than their share of medals and monuments. For additional information about the First WV Cavalry, the following sources of information are useful:
· The Ground Trembled as They Came; The 1st West Virginia Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign by Stephen A Cunningham and Beth A. White
Original article appeared in Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War. Reprint available at the George Tyler Moore Center. This article is an excellent overview of the history of the regiment, primarily focusing upon the Gettysburg Campaign.

· A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Part III, Regimental Histories by Frederick H. Dyer, Page 1655 and 1656
This section of Dyer’s familiar Compendium is a detailed listing covering the regiment’s service and engagements.

· Loyal West Virginia, 1861-1865 by Theodore F. Lang (Baltimore, 1895), Chapter XXIII, Page 159
This chapter is a complete and useful regimental history of the 1st WV Cavalry, though flawed by Victorian hyperbole.

Chart2

· The Devastating Hand of War; Romney; West Virginia During the Civil War by Dr. Richard A. Sauers, Chapters 1 –3
These chapters describe the regiment’s first engagements, near Romney, WV in the early years of the War.

· Frederick W. Lander; the Great Natural American Soldier by Gary L. Ecelbarger, Chapter 10, Page 229
This Chapter covers the engagement at Bloomery Gap in March 1862, the regiment’s first real cavalry action as a part of the Army of the Potomac under Gen. Frederick Lander.

A 1st West Virginia Cavalry website can be found on the Internet at www.wvcivilwar.com/1stcav.shtml

Aside from the web site, the above-noted sources of information are available at the George Tyler Moore Center, for study or (in some cases) for sale.

Ron French
Research Associate
GTM Center

 

From Fragmented Battalion to Full Regiment: The 3rd West Virginia Cavalry

   

In this essay, we feature a synopsis of the profile and record of 3rd West Virginia Cavalry Regiment.  With the recent completion of the database of the 1,534 officers and men of the 3rd Cavalry by Research Associate Tom White, the Center’s Civil War Soldiers Database Program now includes fourteen completed regiments – ten Union and four Confederate, with a total of 18,606 Civil War officers and enlisted men.  The Center’s documented database information about these Civil War soldiers, gives us the detailed information to “put faces and personalities” on each of these fourteen regiments.  And with the addition of this fourteenth regiment, this expanding GTM Center database becomes that much more valuable to students, genealogists, and scholars in pursuing research -- both about individual soldiers and about their entire units.

 

It took the entire three-and-a-half years of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry’s existence to recruit and completely organize.  For its first two-and-a-half years, the unit was a regiment in name only.  Although Captain James R. Utt recruited the first of the regiment’s twelve companies in Monongalia County in October 1861, as late as December 1863 Lieutenant Colonel J. Lowry McGee wistfully wrote in the regimental Record of Events:  “This regiment has never had the advantages of having the companies composing it together, and therefore in fact, no regimental organization exists, a portion of the companies said to have been assigned to it are stationed at the following points, viz.:  Army of the Potomac, Harper’s Ferry;  New Creek, West Virginia; Beverly, West Virginia; Buckhannon, West Virginia; Charleston, West Virginia;  and  Barboursville, West Virginia.  But two of the field officers are serving with the organization.”By that time, company commanders had recruited and organized eight of the unit’s twelve companies, which should have been the core of a very effective battalion of cavalry.  However, the piecemeal duty assignments of these companies made the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry a fragmented battalion, at best!

Age_Dist

As an overview of recruitment and organization of the companies of the 3rd Cavalry, the completed database reveals the following pattern (the primary county of enlistment is shown for each in parentheses):  from October to December 1861 – Companies D (Monongalia), A (Ohio), and C (Taylor);  from October to December 1862 – Companies E (Harrison), B (Taylor), G (Cabell), and H (Wood);  from May to September 1863 – Companies I (Upshur) and K (Mason);  April 1864 – Company M (Upshur);  April 1865 – Company L (Ohio), and the 2nd Company F (Ohio).  
                The first Company F --which Capt. Samuel Means recruited and organized in northern Loudoun County, Virginia in June 1862— was permanently detached as an independent organization by order of the War Department.  However, whether or not this company was –at least on paper—part of the regiment remained a point of contention with its commanders as late as October 1863.  In that month, Lieutenant Colonel McGee wrote:  “Captain Means commanding Company F informs me that he has never been mustered, nor his company, by any officer than himself and refuses to make returns to me claiming [to be] an independent organization, while the Adjutant-General of West Virginia informs me that Means was assigned to this regiment.  The attention of the War Department is respectfully called to this matter.”  However, on October 14, 1862, Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas wrote to Secretary of War Stanton the U.S. War Department authorized Captain Means and his independent company of Loudoun Rangers to operate in the Virginia mountains.

The database generated from the individual Compiled Service Records of this regiment have revealed much new profile information about both the regiment’s individual soldiers and the regiment itself. 
                The composite personal characteristics of a common soldier of the 3rd Cavalry show the following: an age range from 17 to 52 years, with a median age of 21.3 years; blue eyes; dark hair; fair complexion, and a median height of 5’ 8½”.  Also of significant interest, this profile is quite consistent with those of six previously completed 3-year West Virginia regimental databases – 1st Infantry, 4th Infantry, 7th Infantry, 12th Infantry, 1st Cavalry, and 1st Light Artillery, which shows:  blue eyes; dark or black hair; fair or light complexion; median height from 5’ 7” to 5’ 9”; and median age from 21 to 23 years.
                The database reveals numerous characteristics of a regimental profile.  The database provided places of birth for over 82.3% of men of the regiment – 1,242 of its 1, 534 soldiers.  Of those, 60% were born in counties that would become part of the new state of West Virginia; 13%  from Ohio; 8% each from Pennsylvania and Maryland; 5% were foreign born from Europe (mostly from the British Isles & Germany); while the remaining 6% were from other parts of the United States.
                Additionally, this database gives the occupation at the time of first enlistment for 82.5% of the soldiers of the regiment – 1,265 of the 1,534 men and officers.  Of those whose occupation is stated, nearly three-fourths of them (73.3%) were farmers – 927 of the 1,265.  Of the remainder, slightly over half (13.9%) blue-collar workers (such as laborers, boatmen, coal miner, hostlers, millers, tanners, trapper, iron smelter workers, bar keeper and teamsters), and 10.8% were skilled tradesmen (such as carpenters, bricklayers, stonemasons, cabinet makers, carriage maker, carriage trimmers, blacksmiths, artists, coopers, coppersmith, silver smith, watch maker glassblowers millwright, saddlers, river pilot, shoemaker, printer and tinsmith).  The clerks, and professional men --surgeon, lawyer, druggist, civil engineer, and school teachers-- comprise the remaining 2% -- sixteen clerks and nine professionals.  
                Finally, the database gives us medical data concerning the 1,154 situations which caused hospitalization for soldiers of this 3rd West Virginia Cavalry.  As reflected in the accompanying “pie chart,” illnesses or medical conditions were not stated for 744 occurrences, which comprised nearly 65% of all of the hospitalizations. Of the remaining 35.5% of the cases, battle wounds comprised the largest single category – 96 cases, or 8.3%.  The next five most common maladies were negative side effects of poor living conditions in camp and on the march.  These three maladies -–in descending order— were typhoid fever (4.9%), diarrhea (4.0%), rheumatism (2.2%), intermittent fever (1.6%), and phthisis pulmonalis [a 19th century name for tuberculosis] (1.3%).  As you might note, other diseases specified on the pie chart were bronchitis, measles, and small pox.  Various specified diseases and medical conditions make up most of the remaining 11½% of cases; however, they do not occur with enough frequency to itemize for this chart.  Just a few examples within this non-itemized category are:  tonsillitis;  back, spinal, hip & leg injuries;  eye diseases;  heart diseases; scurvy; mumps; unspecified fevers; hernias; kidney ailment; diphtheria; old age/debility;  gonorrhea;  dyspepsia [indigestion];  blood diseases;  gastric ulcer;  and  dropsy.  At only four-tenths of one percent, accidental injuries make up the final category of medical conditions; with such things as: poisoning, accidental gunshot wound, and being kicked by a horse.
                In March 1862, with the first three companies of the regiment recruited and organized, Captain J. Lowry McGee accepted a promotion from his command of Company A, 1st West Virginia Cavalry (the “Kelley Lancers”) to become Major of the 3rd West Virginia Cavalry.   From July 1862 to February 1863 --when a total of seven companies of the regiment had been enlisted and organized— Major Lowry McGee commanded the regiment.  However, with those seven companies stationed in six different locations spread from Stafford County, Virginia –on the Potomac River—to Ceredo and Parkersburg, West Virginia –on the Ohio River, there was absolutely no regimental organization for the 3rd Cavalry, and Major McGee commanded it in title only.  From March to July 1863, McGee served as Chief of Staff for Maj. Gen. Robert H. Milroy, and then was assigned to special detached General Court Martial duty until November 1863.  Finally, on November 23, 1863, military authorities honorably discharged Major McGee from volunteer service because “the condition of the regiment did not require the services of a Major.”

Also, in June 1862, loyal Virginia Governor Pierpont commissioned David Hunter Strother –-a nationally and internationally known artist and illustrator, known by the pen name of “Porte Crayon”—as Lieutenant Colonel of the 3rd Cavalry.  However, even though he filed reports for the regiment in March and April 1863, he never actually reported for duty with the 3rd and never commanded it in the field.  Instead, he served as aide-de-camp to several different generals –Pope, Banks, McClellan, Sigel, and Kelley; and in October 1863, Brig. Gen. B.F. Kelley appointed him Chief of Cavalry for the Department of West Virginia.  From May to September 1864, Lt. Colonel Strother served as Chief of Staff for Maj. Gen. David Hunter –during the first part of the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864.  He resigned his commission in September 1864, when Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan took command of the Union forces in the valley. However, during the period of lack of regimental organization –roughly from December 1862 through June 1864--  the companies of the regiment rendered significant service in various military actions, ranging from isolated skirmishes to full-blown battles.  The regimental database delineates participation in and casualties suffered for the following:

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,
Research Associate