WITH SABER IN HAND
THE CHARGE THROUGH
JUNE 27, 1863.
No more gallant work was ever done by any troops than was done this day by the 7th Pennsylvania.
John Wyeth, in reference to charge of the 7th Pa. Cavalry at Shelbyville, Tenn.
The Saber Regiment
The Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry
The Gallant Charge At Shelbyville, Tennessee
On June 27, 1863 one of the most gallant charges ever made by a cavalry regiment was done during the fight with Gen. Joseph Wheelers men at Shelbyville Tennessee. George F. Steahlin the Adjutant of the regiment, wrote this interesting article in the National Tribune newspaper about the charge that the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry made through the streets of Shelbyville Tennessee.
The Army of the Cumberland was organized in November, 1862, out of the army of the Ohio. After general Don Carlos Buell's efforts to withstand the confederate General Braxton Bragg at Peryville Ky. on October 8, 1862. Gen. William S. Rosecrans was placed in command of the Army of the Cumberland which marched out of Kentucky to Nashville, Tenn. where General Rosecrans began the arduous duty of reorganization. The cavalry was too small in numbers to cope with the thousands of confederates Generals Forrest, Wheeler, Morgan and Roddy, who were continually hovering around our flanks, attacking supply trains, cutting railroad communications and capturing isolated outposts. General Rosecrans decided to increase the cavalry. His requisitions for cavalry reinforcements were favorably received by the war department at Washington. Gen. David Stanley was selected as commander of the cavalry troops, and he at once began to place cavalry in the best condition possible.
By the time General Rosecrans was ready to move on Murfreesboro the cavalry was considerably increased and thoroughly organized. Brigades and divisions were formed and officered by experienced brigade and division commanders. The cavalry was handled by General Stanley with telling effect through the battle of Stones River, but it was really too weak to cope with the enemy's cavalry, who out numbered us three to one. The brigade of which I shall speak particularly was the First Brigade Second Division. The First Brigade was composed of the Seventh Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. Seipes; Fourth United States cavalry (Regulars) commanded by Capt. McIntire; Fourth Michigan, volunteer cavalry, commanded by Col. R.H. Minty; and a battalion of the Third Indiana commanded by Lt. Col. Kline. The brigade was commanded by Col. Minty. On the 5th day of January, 1863 we returned from pursuing the rear guard of confederates and camped east of Murfreesboro.
During the five months the army remained at Murfreesboro General Stanley was exceedingly active in strengthening, equipping and remounting the corps. The corps was kept reconnoitering and making raids upon the confederate outposts and flanks. Numerous skirmishes took place; some almost amounted to regular battles. The Seventh Pennsylvania made several saber charges; ,one at Rover Tenn. January 31, 1863, upon the Seventh confederate regular cavalry, completely routing them; one into the town of Franklin Tenn.; one at Eagleville; one at Spring Hill, Tenn. under an expedition commanded by General Phil Sheridan; another at McMinville, Tenn. and several others. General Rosecrans named the Seventh Pennsylvania cavalry "The Saber Regiment of the Army of the Cumberland."
On the 25th of June one of the best equipped corps of Cavalry in the Union army moved out of camp at daybreak. General Rosecrans had decided, contrary to his corps commanders opinions, to move on the confederate strong holds at Tullahoma, Belbuckel, and Shelbyville; twoe thirds of our cavalry moved out on our right on the Shelbyville pike. The movement was unexpected by General Bragg. The pickets were driven to the main army the first day. His right was very heavily pressed, causing Bragg to draw from his left at Columbia. By noon a drizzling rain began to fall and by night it rained copiously. The following day June 26, a severe storm raged, making military movements tedious; in fact, the army almost came to a halt. The cavalry bivouacked in a woods on the night of the 25th, and remained inactive during the 26th.
At 3 O'clock a.m. June 27, the bugle sounded reville. A heavy fog surrounded us. The cavalry was formed in an open field in columns of regiments. By 7 O'clock the fog had disappeared. As the bright morning sun shone upon the seven thousand horsemen massed in the field I beheld one of the finest military displays I saw during the entire war. The "Forward" was sounded and seven thousand men and horses began to move for the pike. After marching in column for several miles we came to a halt. The Seventh Pennsylvania depolyed on the right of the pike in a small piece of cedar woods. A forward movement was made about a half mile, then we recieved orders to take the advance of the column. As we reached the top of a hill we passed a fortified picket post, which Colonel Stokes, with the First Tennessee cavalry, had charged successfully.
Before us was the beautiful Guy's Gap, through which we passed on a trot for the distance of three miles. The east end of the Gap was protected by a line of trenches running along the summit of a hill, north and south, as far as the eye could see. Wheeler's confederate cavalry had moved from Columbia, and was posted behind Guy's Gap trenches. Our column was brought to a walk by four pieces of confederate artillery. Colonel Sipes turned the Seventh cavalry into a field on the right of the pike, formed a line of battle, and dismounted Major C.C. Davis third battalion to move on our front on foot. The Fourth United States cavalry formed on the left of the pike. The Fourth Michigan were ordered to move to our right and find a bridle path that led to the trenches about a mile beyond; the Third Indiana cavalry was held as our reserve. Colonel Minty ordered Colonel Sipes to move to the pike with the two battalions of the Seventh to move to the pike with the two battalions of the Seventh Pennsylvania, form in column of fours, and charge the trenches.
We moved on a walk till we passed over a small bridge spanning a rivulet. Then we went up the hill on a trot until we reached the trenches, through which we passed on a gallop. The Fourth Michigan were coming in on the right on the confederates' left flank. The enemy's line wavered, the men huddled like sheep, broke and went at full speed towards Shelbyville. The first battalion of the Seventh Pennsylvania did not halt, but charged with impetuosity, cutting right and left, causing hundreds to fall. The second battalion charged through the woods on the
left of the pike. A hand to hand fight took place for two miles, when the confederates turned off the pike on to a road leading to Wartrace. The second battalion under Capt. B.S. Dartt, coming in on the left cut them off, and with the aid of a cedar stockade fence brought four hundred and eighty to a stand; these were taken prisoners. Colonel Seipes gathered the prisoners and took them to the rear, having over five hundred in his possession.
The dead and wounded along the pike numbered over a hundred. Our loss was but one man, private Felix Herb, of company A. I must relate how he was killed at the cedar stockade fence. Herb took two prisoners; they threw up their arms as a signal of surrender, but changed their minds. Not seeing immediate support for Herb they shot him, the bullet passing through the centre of the forehead. While this was going on Sergeant James A. Wilson of company F, arrived and shot both the confederates who had shot Herb. I reached the spot just as Wilson shot the second man. Wilson turned towards me, saying "Adjutant ! the devils shot Felix Herb after they had surrendered, so I made short work of them."
As Colonel Seipes passed to the rear with the prisoners he gave me orders to gather up the men who had become separated from the regiment during the charge. In the meantime the confederate artillery posted on the square in Shelbyville was throwing shells along the pike. I collected eighty men of our regiment and formed them into a company; then deployed them on our front and flanks. In the meantime our third battalion arrived; also the other regiments of the second division. Davis's third battalion was in good order with fresh horses. Colonel Seipes arrived just as I received the order. I repeated Colonel Minty's order, when Colonel Seipes replied: "My regiment is back with the prisoners. I cannot make another charge."
Colonel Minty overheard this remark and came to Colonel Seipes saying; "Your third battalion is in good order - horses comparatively fresh. All the other horses of the brigade have been run down." Colonel Seipes replied "If I must make the charge I will take the artillery and drive them into the Duck River." I then called in the men I had deployed and formed them on the left of Davis's third battalion, which by now numbered only two hundred rank and file. This battalion had been cut by Forrest at Murfreesboro, in 1862, which accounted for its weakness.
Major Charles C. Davis led the charge. The Colonel and myself took our proper place in column. Two pieces of Captain Newwll's Ohio battery were placed on the right and left of the pike. As they belched forth fire, smoke and shell, our bugler, John Cole, sounded the charge. Through the smoke, down the hill went the little band, yelling like mad. We were on the dead run. Half the distance between the mile post and the confederate battery was passed in safety. Two shots had screamed over our heads, but the third shot hit Company G, killing three men and a horse, but onward we ran. A ravine was reached a few feet from the artillery. Fortunately we were below their point blank range. As we reached the slight rise going into Shelbyville we saw the confederate cavalry waver and break. The artillery limberd up and joined the fleeing cavalry. The two hundred pushed on with the yell revoiced. The last piece of artillery turned the corner of a street as the two hundred began to saber the cannoniers. Then the riders were cut off the horses. One piece was ours in a twinkling. The second piece was also ours in two minutes. The railroad depot was reached and there the road turns to the right while on the left lays an open plateau. At that moment Gen Wheeler led his escort in a counter charge. He delivered one volley and broke, caused by the third Indiana coming down on our left flank. Lieutenants Rhoads and Reed fell there and ten men also died. Still we hardly stopped to look, cutting right cuts, left cuts, front cuts, and rear cuts, making thrusts right, left and front - dealing death at every blow, until the Duck River was reached. We pushed over the bridge, where a dozen confederates were crushed by their two remaining pieces of artillery.
At the east end of the bridge stood Sergeant Edward Shutt, of company A, bareheaded his long golden hair disheveled and waving in the breeze, saber drawn and holding the third piece of artillery. But in this river was one of the most heartrending scenes man ever beheld. The river was high and a strong current flowing owing to the rain the day before. The banks of the river are very high - at least twenty feet high. Down the precipice leaped the confederate cavalry, on both sides of the bridge to escape the sabers of the Seventh. In the stream were hundreds of horses and men struggling to escape. Many horses and men were drowned. Some gained the shore and stood wet and shivering. The sun was down as the last man of the two hundred returned and reported no enemy to be seen. The sick in the hospitals in Shelbyville took up the stampede and assisted to choke the bridge and add to the misery of the troops.
General Wheeler's cavalry never stood our cold steel. This day they stampeded and were totally routed. General Wheeler had his horse shot from under him during the charge. He escaped by mounting another horse and swimming the river. The confederate captain of artillery said that he would have given us a dose of grape as we came in town, but he dared not. He was a German, and took his misfortune philosophically. Sgt. Major Braut took a sword from a confederate officer marked "Toledo 1762". Lieut. Waters of the Ninth Pennsylvania, was killed coming down the hill leading into Shelbyville by his horse falling. He was a private in the Lewisburg company in the three months service. One of the companies that entered Washington April 18, 1861. The regimental color-bearer was an Englishman. He had his discharge from the light Brigade that made the charge at Balaklava during the Crimean War. He, remarked, after the charge into Shelbyville, that the charge was not surpassed at Balaklava. The Sergeant John Ennis, was killed at Selma, Alabama, in taking the colors upon the ramparts of the last fort that was captured late in the war.
The following letters were written by Friends and officers of the Seventh Pennsylavania Cavalry in reference to Francis Reed’s death. The letters were all written to Sgt. Reeds mother and father. They contain a emotional look at what a friend would have to say to his best friends family upon the death of their son, and for a good look at what the regiment was doing after the death of Francis.
2 Division Cavalry
June 29, 1863
It is with much regret that I am obliged to write you at this time though you no doubt ere this have heard of the death of your son Frank.
Our Army has been advancing for 5 days through the most dreadful rain imaginable and on yesterday morning five mile this side of Shelbyville we came up to the ememys fortifications and entrenchments. Our Regt. being in advance was orderd or rather four companies being orderd to dismount and fight on foot whilst eight companies wher held as a reserve to watch any movement the enemy might attempt to make. as the four companies where advancing we found that the enemy where trying to charge the artillery. Lt. Col. Sipes and Major Seibert on seeing this ordered A charge and in went our boys over entrenchments fortifications and completely routed the enemy, got four pieces of artillery and some 8 to 900 hundred oprisoners besided killing and wounding between 4 and 400 hundred. They drove them 10 miles into the Duck river and there drowned some 90, it was the greatest Cavalry fight, the most daring on record and our loss thank God was but killed 1 officer Lt. Rhoads, Frank and another Sergent two privates, a total of five. The country may well be proud of such noble men who sold their lives so dearly. Gen. Stanley says it is the greatest feat on record and no regement but ours would stand to such work. Lt. rhoads lives in Williamsport Penn. has a family there, the rest of the boys I beleive are all un married as we could not get any metallic coffin, we made some nice woeden coffins and nicely buried them all five along the side of each other. We had head boards put up so that they may be known. with the following inscription F. Reed Born in Schuylkill County Penn. killed at Shelbyville Tennessee June 27 1863. I presumed that you might possibly want him sent home but this we could not do as we could not get the proper facilites for so doing. As soon as the army stops moving his effects now in the hands of Capt. McCormick will be sent home. we have some heavy work before us and many will be the poor fellow who must go down but we are driving them nobly and are confident of success.
Frank was a brave soldier and much beloved by officers and men and all join in consolation with his bereaved family. I am your most obt.
( Signed ) Thos. U. Rickert
Any information you may desire that I can give I will address me Thos. U. Rickert Lt. And AAQ No. 2 Divisions Cavalry.
In the field July 1863.
Mr. And Mrs. Reed
I have the painful duty to perform of informing you of the death of your much beloved son Francis, he was killed in a charge that our regiment made on a battery on the 27th of June. It was a daring charge and poor francis lost his life, he was alongside of me when he was shot but I did not see him fall or I should have stopped to pick him up. I did not know that he was dead until the battery was taken and the battle over. I was so struck when I heard it, that I almost fell off my horse. I went right to where he lay in a building and laid him straight and closed his eyes and mouth and got water and washed him, he was covered all over the face with blood, I washed him clean, he looked as if he was still alive. I stayed with his body all night, I would have buried him but I had to leave early in the morning. The Lt. Colonel of our regiment paid out $ 50 to have boxes made for all the killed in the regiment, and have them buried in the town of Shelbyville Tennessee I and all the members of our company do sympathize with you, in your bereavment and affliction. Knowing that his place can never be filled at home or inthe field as a soldier, enclosed you will find the letter y9u sent me for him I opened it to see who it was from. I would have wrote much sooner but we marched most all the time since besides it rained every day, please accept of my sympathy. I know that I have lost in him a good and true friend and deeply mourn his loss. I will now stop for this time if I live, in a few days I will give you all the particulars the Lieut. Told me to tell you that he will write to you as soon as he can find time to do it, I remain.
Sorrowfully your friend Henrry H. Snyder.
P.S. Please drop me a few lines address the same as you did your letters to Francis. H.H.S.
Francis was shot in the neck with a musket ball the ball is supposed to have lodged in his throat, one of the men asked him whether it was all over with him he answered, O, I guess not, being asked whether he could speak a minute afterwar he said yes, and died.
Camp Near Salem Tenn.
July 22nd 1863
Mr. And Mrs. Reed
After a lapse of three weeks time, during which time I could get no opertunity to write you, since my last and sad letter to you we have been continually on the march, we were down in Huntsville Alalbama, I will not go into any details of themarch, we got back last night, I am of the opinion that we will stay here for some time.
I promised in my last, to , give you the oarticulars of Francis’s death, to do that I will also have to give the particulars of the fight, on the 27th of June, ( the day he was killed we were skirmishing withthe enemy, all day, we drove him for fifiteen miles, when we were within one mile of Shelbyville we found that the rebels werer strongly posted in the town with four pieces of artillery, the guns were posted in the town or court house square, witrh heavy support of mounted infantry and cavalry, as soon as Col. Minty, our brigade commander got to the front he saw the state of things, he ordered a charge to be made down the road leading directly to the enemys position, it was ordered that the third battallion of our regt. Should lead the charge, we were all well pleased when we heard it, Francis was at my side when we started he seemed happy and was cheerful, the signal determined for our starting was the firing of two of our cannon, the signal given, and we went through the smoke of our guns, as soon as the rebels saw that we were charging they directed their fire into our advancing column little damage was done by their artillery only one man was killed by it he was alongside of me when he fell before we got near enough to do any execution with our sabers the rebels turned and run, we followed them soon commenced taking prisoners, after we had followed about two hundred yards there were some of them turned and gave us a volly, it was then that Francis received his mortal wound, he lived but a very few minutes one of the men of the company, seen him fall and jumped off his horse and picked him up, he asked francis whether he thought it was ll over with him, the answer was O. I guess not, he asked him a few minutes afterwards whether he could speak and he answered yes, which was the last word he spoke, he died almost as soon as he had uttered the word, after the fight was over heard that Francis was killed I went immediately to where he lay ( which was in a warehouse) and you cannot imagine how I felt when I washed his face, breast and hands he was covered with blood, after I had washed him I combed his hair and closed his eyes and mouth, which was all that I could do for my bosom friend, I would have put clean clothes on him but his horse run into the enemys ranks with all Francis posessed in the army. I could not bury him as it was now night and early in the morning we left the place our presence being required elsewhere, Col. Sipes however paid a man an Undertaker fifty dollars to make coffins for and bury all the dead of our regiment which number was five. I have francis’pocket knife, comb and handkerchief which I will endevor to keep until I return, whenI will place them in your hands. I trust the war will soon be over so that I can go home but cannot return with my friend. Your son, he and I often talked about home and how we and our many friends would be at our safe return, one is gone to a better world now and the lord only knows whether the remaining one will live to see his friends on earth, God grant that he may hear my prayer,
Since penning the above I received yours of the 17th I was sorry to learn that you had not received thiose few lines that I wrote on the 1st any sooner, Dear friends you willn ot think hard of me for not writing immediately after Francis was killed, it rained hard every day and we were on the march all the time, only at night then I had no candle or any other light to write with, I had to write in an old shed when I did write, it rained hard at the time, and got dark before I had half wrote what I wanted to write.
As regards sending his remains home, I have no way to find out how much it would cost, I copuld not get to Shelbyville, if I had the means to send or take him home, and I think I could have got leave of absence to have taken him home, but our army was on the move, and I had to go along not with standing my feelings to the contrary, he shall not lay buried always where he is now, but at present the heat is so great, and it being sometime since he was buried I do not think that it would be advisable to attempt to move him while the heat continues, if I was in your place I would let him rest until next winter when he could be taken up without difficulty, I am of the opinion that the war will be over by next winter, and then if I can in any way assist you in getting his remains home, I will do so. I would do it now cheerfully but it is entirely out of my power. You stated that you would like to have all that belonged to him, you shall have all if God is willing to let me keep his things until some one goes to Penna from the regt. Or until the express gets through near enough for me to send them in that way, since I got back from Alabama I found in our desk three likenesses belonging to him I will enclose one ion his letter and I will write other letters to you when I will enclose the others and send them to you. Mrs Amamda Medlar had wrote a letter to him I opened it to see who it was from, when I wrote to her giving some particulars and enclosed her letter, I also sent one back to his aunt below Orwigsburg, you will forgive all my shortcomings in the case if there are any, but I think and Know I done the bestd I could under the circumstnces.
I am well and trust you are and may continue the same, I remain as always your,
Henry H. Snyder
P.S. I trust you will write to me hereafter for I shall always be happy to hear from you, while Francis was alive I heard from you every letter he received.
Confederate Cavalryman John A.Wyeth gave this glorious account of the fight at Guys Gap and the charge of the Seventh Pennsylvania into Shelbyville on June 27th, Wyeth was a menber of the Alabama Cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler and wrote this article for the Harpers Weekly Paper entitled “ General Wheelers Leap”.
Figuratively speaking, many men in times of peace, as well as in the more exciting times of war, failing to accomplish the end in view, have been compelled to “Take Water”. It does not very often happen in reality that a Major General of cavalry caught in the toils, with all other avenues of escape closed to h im, has shown himself so desperately in earnest not to be captured as to plunge on horseback at full speed over the high bank of a river into the ragging torrent below. There have been recorded in history two such instances, and, by a strange coincidence, the heroes of both occasions had been christened Joseph. The one was Prince Joseph Poniatowski, Marshall of france under the great Napoleon; the other Major Deneral Joseph Wheeler then of the confederate army, recently appointed by the President Major General of volunteers in the army of the United States. Evewry reader of the life of Bonaparte remmembers the tradgic death of Poniatowski after the defeat of Napoleon at Leipsic, when he rushed in a mad charge through intrevening line of the enemy, and although wounded, at full speed rode over the steep bluff of the elster into the river below, when horse and rider disappeared benenath the surface, never to rise.
The cavalry fight at Shelbyville was the liveliest engagement which marked the retreat of Bragg’s army from Tullahoma to Chattanooga, in the summer of 1863. In as much as the Confederates were finally driven from the field, the honors of the day rested with the Union troopers although they stopped short of reaping the full success which was in their grasp as of the brilliant fighting they had done. The Southern troops, who for more than three hours, in the outskirts of Shelbyville, stood up before and held at bay a largely superior force of Federals were a forlorn hope numbering 1200, placed there and commanded by Major General Joseph Wheeler, in the desperate effort to protect from capture or destruction an immense wagon train loaded with supplies invaluable to Bragg’s army. While the fighting was going on, this immense train was filing across the naarow bridge which two miles from the battle field spans the Duck river, and was making its snail like progress over the muddy and almost impassable road to Tullahoma.
The army of Rosecrans began its forward movement from Murfeesboro on the 23rd of June 1863. Convinced of the inadvisability of risking a great battle with do large a stream as the Tennessee River immediately in his rear, General Bragg had ordered a withdrawl of his picket lines of cavalry under General Joseph Wheeler and Forrest to the south bank of the Duck river. At Shelbyville on the northern bank of the stream there had been gathered a large supply of commissary and quartemaster’s stores, and it became of the utmost importance to remove these to a point of safety. Wheeler in command of allthe cavalry operating in the department of which General Bragg was commander in chief, was directed to withdraw his troops south of the Duck river by way of Shelbyville, holding off the federal advance until the wagon trains were across, when, by destroying the bridge, they would be safe from pursuit. In accordance with these instructions, General Forrest, who was operating in the neigborhood of franklin and Spring Hill was directed to fall back, inorder to unite with General Wheeler at Shelbyville. The junction was to be effected as early in the afternoon of the 27th of June as was practicable, and the two commands were then to form the rear guard of the army which was in retereat and convoy the wagons southward.
However, General Wheeler had claculated that the force he had left to hold the Union cavlary, in check at Guy’s Gap would be able to maintain their position long enough to permit Forrest, who had the greter distance to travel, to effect the junction at the time agreed upon. But upon this day the federal troopers were evidently intent upon great deeds. Advancing on Guy’s Gap they were backed by a corps of infantry under the command of General Gordon Granger, making a combination of strength against which the small confederate cavlary command was able to make but feeble resistance. In addition to Granger’s infantry, Major General David S. Stanley, commanding all cavalry of the Army of the Cumberland, was here at the head of the troopers, leading in person one of the best brigades of mounted men at that time in the Union Army. At eight o’clock on themorning of the 27th of June as Colonel R.H.G.Minty, in his official report says, “ the entire cavalry force was ordered to move on Guy’s Gap, the first divvision in the advance.” Colonel Minty at the head of the 4th Regulars amd Major Genral Stanley leading the Seventh Pennsylvania, fourth Michigan and Third Indianna, so over matched the confederates that they quickly passed by the left flank and gained the rear of their position and drove them rapidly toward Shelbyville. “ Major General Granger says. “ Our advance met here with no resistance to speak of.” From the gap to within a few miles of Shelbyville the fight resolved itself into a horse race with stampeded confederates as far in the leed as they could get. The writer of this, who at the time was filling the humble role of a private in the confederate cavalry,was one of the detachment stationed on this day about two miles in front of Shelbyville, several hundred yards in the rear of some abandoned earthworks which had been thrown up there earlier in the war. Even after the lapse of 35 years there comes vividly to mind the forlorn appearance of these flying troopers froms Guy’s Gap as they passed through our lines to the rear. The incessant rains, together with the trampling of horses hoofs had converted the roads into beds of mortar, and these demoralized cavaliers were so bespatted with mud from head to foot that no one could tell what uniform they wore. Many of them were hatless some had lost their guns, and fully one half of them seemed to have lost heart and hope.
So eager were their pursuers that we had scant time to jeer at or “Guy” our unfortunate brothers. Moreover the situation was not over conducive to fun or frolic. General Wheeler was with us, and in command of our detachment of 1200 in number which made the sum total of our force. With him on hand every one of us realized that a lively fight was sure to take place. He impressed upon us the the necessity of holding the enemy at bay, no matter at what cost, unti the train of wagons could clear the bridge, and added that General Forrest was coming to our aid. We were greatly encouraged when we heard that General Forrest with his command was not far off, for we knew that no matter how weak we were, if we could only hold our own until Genral Wheeler’s famous subordinate; who had already achieved a reputation as a successful fighter, could arrive, we could then beat back all the cavlary that copuld be sent against us. For at least a mile in front of the position we occupied, which was on a slight elevation, all the timber had been felled. Along the road and out of the strip of timber to the north there came in sight a long array of federal troopers, a deep blue fringe upon the border of green forest beyond. There were so many of them it did not seem possible for us to stand up before them longer thanit would take thenm to put spurs to thier horses and ride over us; but fortunately for us the dashing tactics with which they had employed at Guy’s Gap earlier in the day, they did not practice now. Wheelers bold front had evidently impressed them with the idea that we were there in strength, and were probably trying to lead them into a trap. If they had ridden down upon us then our destruction would then have been complete, for we had no avenue of escape except by one narrow bridge two miles inour rear. Instead of smashing us then and there, as they could easily have done, and as they did after several hours of desultory fighting in which time they lost a great prise they were fighting for they dismounted the seventh Pennsylvania under the brace Captain Davis, who deployed them as skirmishers and advanced to engage our front.. As this regiment advanced, another the fourth Michigan moved from their heavy column in the turnpike around the left of our line, in order to turn our flank and force us back. Simultaneously the Third Indianna was deployed in the opposite direction to overlap our short line upon the right. Immediately to rear of the Seventh Pennsylvania the famous Fourth United States Regulars came undirectly before us, and behind the double line was a section of artillery which began to make its presence felt.
A cavalry fight well sustained on both sides is lively enough when one side takes part in it, but it seems exceedingly tame on paper. This one did not lack spirit. Of about a score of such scraps some of which the larger growth have passed to a place on the bloodiest pages of history, the writer doesnot recall a contest which for downright pluck in giving and taking a hard and heavy knocks through several hours surpasses the Shelbyville affair. The carbines and rifles were flashing and banging away, at times in scattering shots when the game was at long range, and then when a charge came on the work grew hot, the spiteful, sharp explosions swelled into a crackling roar, like that of a cnae break fire when in a single minute, hundreds of the boilde joints have burst asunder. Add to all this the whistling, angry whir of countless leaden missles which split the air about you.; the hoarse, unnatural abouts command, for in battle all sounds of the nhuman voice seem out of pitch and tone. The wild defiant yells andd the answering huzzas of the opposing lines; the plunging and rearing of frightened horses, the charges here and there of companies and squadrons, or more than these which seem to be shot out ouf the main body, as the flames shoot out of a house on fire, here and there the sharp quick cry from some unfortunate trooper who did not hear one leaders message, for only those heard which have passed by, the heavy soggy striking of the body against the ground, thescurrying runaway of the frightened horse, as ofteninto battle as one of it, whose empoty saddle tells the foe that their is oone less rifle to fear, all these sights and sounds go to make up the confussing medley of a battle field.
The Federal advance upon the center of our line did not succed. Time after time it was attempted but the baffled troopers went back again. As they spread out upon our flanks our own line was stretched out more and more to meet them. At least about five o’clock taking advantage of a momentary lull in the attack General Wheeler with the exception of Russel’s Fourth Alabama Regiment with drew the troops and orderd them to retire rapidly as possible to the bridge and come across the river; 200 of us were left under the command of Colonel A.A Russell with orders to stay until they rode us down, in the hope that this catastrophe would be delayed long enough to permit Genral Wheeler to clear the bridge in our rear. I did not understand this movement at the time, but have learned since from General Wheeler that it was only then that the last wagon had passed across the Duck River and he felt now that he could save at least a portion of his troops on the field by a rapid retreat. We were told when we were beaten, to make our way every mnan for himself as best he could. Before the Federal Cavalry realized what had been done he was gone at full speed, and reaching the brtidge, had the troops and artiollery which accompanied him on the safe side of the Southern bank. But before this was accomplished the lightning had struck our little forlorn hope. The Seventh Pennsylavania rode out and over us in the most brillant cavalry manuevere the writer ever witnessed. They formed and were in view for at least a half mile before they came within firing distance. On either side of the highway, in columns of fours they advanced at a steady gallop, until they passed into the opening in the line of earth works which the main road lead through some 200 yards in our advance. As soon as they reached this point inside the works, still on the full run, they deployed from columns of fours into line of battle, like the opening of a huge fan. The movement was made with as much precision as if it had been done on an open plain, on dress parade, or in some exhibition of discipline and drill. Huddled there as we were, knowing what fate was impending, we could not refrain from expressing our admiration not only of the courage which they were displaying, but of themarvelous precesion in the change of the formation. Our orders were to stand until they apprioached within fifty yards, when we were to empty our rifles draw our pistols and Sauve qui peut. The Union troopers with sabers high in the air made no sound whatever beyond the rumpling tatoo of the horses hoof s played upon the ground. It was only a short space of time probably the fraction of a second until they were so near we could distingush their faces. Leveling our guns we fired our final volley, by the time our horses heads were turned to the rear they were coming full speed upon us, in an increadably short period of time the writer found my self on the ground and well in the rear of the charging line. No more gallant work was ever done by any troops than was done on this day by the Seventh Pennsylvania and Fourth Regulars. Meanwhile General Wheeler who had safely crossed the river, was in the act of firing the structure, when a member of General Forrest’s staff Major Rambaut, reported to him that Forrest, with two brigades was within two miles of Shelbyville and advancing rapidily to cross. Realizing the danger which threatend Forrest, Wheeler, not withstanding the Federals were in strong force in the suburbs of Shelbyville and advancing into town, taking with him two pieces of artillery and 500 men of Martin’s Division, with this officer, hastily crossed to the north side in order to hold the bridge and save Forrest from disaster. The guns were hastily thrown into position, but the charges had scarcely been rammed home, when the Union troops came in full sweep down the main street. When within a few paces of the mussles of the guns they were discharged inflicting, however, insignificant loss. With their small force of 500 men General Wheeler and Martin Stood up as best they could under the pressure of this charge. They held their ground manfully as the cavalry rode through and over them sabering the cannoneers from the guns, of which they took poscession, and then passed on and secured the bridge, leaving the two confederate generals and their troops well in the rear. The bridge had become blocked by one of the cassions, which had been overhtrown and now thinking they had them in a trap, the Union forces formed a line of battle parallel with the bank of the Duck River and across the entrance to the bridge. The idea of surrendering himnself and his command had not entered the mind of General Wheeler. As Positowaski had done at the Elder, he now shouted to his men that they must cut their way through and attempt to escape by swimming the river. With Genral Martin by his side, sabers in hand, they led the charge, which made in such desperate mood, parted the federals in their front as they rode through. Without a moments hesitation, and without considering the distance from the top of the river bank, which was here precipious to the water level, these gallant soldiers followed their invincible leader, and plunged full speed sheer fifteen feet down into the sweeping current. They struck the water with such force velocity that horses and riders disappeared, some of them to rise no more. The Union troopers rusjhed to the waters edge and fired at the men and animals struggling in the river, killing and wounding and drowning a number. Holding his horse’s mane, General Wheeler took the precaution to shield himself as much as possible behind the body of the animal, and although fired at repeatedly he escaped injury and safely reached the opposite shore. Some forty or fifty were said to have perished in this desperate attempt. “ Fighting Joe Wheeler” never did a more heroic and generous deed than when he risked all to save Forrest from disaster.
This letter was included with another letter he wrote but no indication as to which letter, there was no date.
Since my last our regiment has been in another fight and lost fifteen men wounded none killed. I was there too but our company was only partly engaged we lost no men, you are no doubt aware that our army is making a forward move at present I trust we will be successful, in all our undertakings we are on the left wing with our brigade watching the enemy as this letter may be captured will disclose no more at the present. DanielPaul received your letter last night he is very thankful, he is well and sends his regards to you and his brother and family, I will have toclose for this time, please give my best respects to Mr. And Mrs. Matson, Mr. And Mrs Freed,Mr D. Paul Mrs and Mr. A. Knowles, Mrs. Medlar and all inquiring friends, tell Mrs. Medlar to write me an answer to the letter I sent to her, always reserving for yourselves my sympathy and friendship.
I remain as ever yours
Henry H. Snyder
Salem Tenn July 28th 1863
Mr. Reed Dear Sir,
We were paid off today and I now take the liberty of stating to you that Julious Rinkle out of company L and myself have fixed it so that we can send a draft home instead of mioney and he sends his money too you. I thought that I would send the draft in your name and then you can take it and draw the moiney out of the bank you and Danl betweenyourselves the amount is eighty dollars forty of them you will keep for Julious and the other forty give to my brother for me its not safe to send m9ney home from here any other way, so if you will tend to it you do us a great favor. The draft will be cashed for you at any bank, I will send it in this letter. I will also let you know that I am still alive and well we are now lying only ten miles from the Alabama line our regt. Has been downas far as Huntsville Alalbama we remained there five days then come to this place, Alabama is a fine looking country but awful hot we left Murfeeesboro on the 24th of June and scoured the woods on the right ring of the army for three days and on the fourth day, June 27th we struck the Shellbyville Pike 9 miles from Murfreesboro then we advanced and fought the enemy at Shelbyville where your dutiful son fell, when I heard that he was dead I thought it could not be possible but it was to true but dont morn he fell in a glorious cause and the best of all is he fell not as a coward but as a hero, he was brave and dareing, he was in command of the Co. That day and was at the head of his men with saber in hand when we charged on the rebels artilary and cheered his company on too charge, we gained a glorious victory over the enemy but five of our best men fell in the charge, I came out safe as I went in but had plenty of schel shot and shel too fly close to me, I remained with Francis all that night and helped to take care of his body, but cpould not stay too see him buried,we left tyhe palce toosoon but he was given into the care of a cabinet maker and I have no doubt but that his body was well taken care of. I must now close duty calls me away but I will try and write a letter to Danl this evening and give him the particulars so he can give them to you.
From your sincere friend Daniel Paul
Direct your letters to Company K 7th Pa. Cavl.
Henry Snyder sends his best respects too you.
2nd Division Cavalry
July 28 1863.
O. Reed. Esq.
Yopur favor of July 9th was received a few days ago aand should have answered sooner only that we had been in the Central Part of Alabama and being away from the Regt. I could not get the necessary information for you. I can now get a metallic coffin have him taken up and brought to Nashville for $100.00 dollars whichis the best I can do in Shelbyville is some sixty miles from Nashville and that helps to bring up the expense of getting him there, then from Nashville home it will cost about $ 50.00 dollars more by express or nearly that. If you desire that it shall be done and let me know I will have him taken up and send him home. I myself expect to be home during the early part of next month when we can arrange it through perhaps I might hear from you before I am able to get away. His effects whatever they are are in the hands of Sergt. Henry Snyder and if I get away here to come home I shall bring them with me, if not they will be sent as yet I have not seen Capt. McCormick but as soon as I can I will and have him write you, Frank was shot by a rebel in taking their guns and was shoty through the left breast or rather just below and to the left of the neck by the breast bone. The ball was a minnie rifle, I think he never said anything after he was shot, but Oh I am killed and then expired instantly, at least I can fine no one that heard him say one word. WhenI get home I can explain more fully to you how and in what position the fight was and what deeds of Daring our boys accomplished there. You will please answer this immeditely so should I not get away as soon as I expect that I may hear from you.
The health of our regt. At present is very good and the weather is very warm yet pleasant.
I am your most obediant servant
Thos. U. Rickert.
In Camp Near McMinnville Tenn, August 12th 1863.
Mr. And Mrs Reed,
The following named articles, the content of this box are all that is left of your son’s Francis effect, viz. One Uniform Dress Jacket, two shirts, one pocket knife, one pocket comb, and one pocket pass book with two likenesses enclosed.
All that I kept belonging to my friend is a Canadian Half Penny, I value it highly, it was the only piece of money that he had on his person when he was killed, but it is not because it is money that I value it but because it belonged to him who I always considered my best friend, when he and I left home we left our negatives at Mr. Allens, in Pottsville where you can get some more of his likeness if you wish, and if you do get some more, I would desire oneof them, please be so kind and let me have one, and I shall be under lasting oblgations to you, this leaves me in good health hoping you are the same I remain your friend.
Henry H. Snyder
Give my respects to all inquiring friends
The following letter by Henry H. Snyder is the last letter in the file of the Francis Reed letters, written to Mrs. Obidiah Reed. Snyder sums up the latest actions that the Seventh has been involved in. There only remains a little over six months of active service for Lt. Snyder and the Seventh, Where they will perform one more charge, at Selma Alabama, only this time the gallant “Saber Regiment” will charge dismounted and instead of brandishing their sabers will fight with the Spencer carbine. They will be mustered out of service on August 23d, 1865 at Harrisburg, Pa.
Camp of the 7th Pa. Cav.
Near Gravelly Springs Alabama.
February 1st 1865
Dear and Esteemed friend.
Yours of the 15th Ult. Is before me, I just received it, you cannot imagine how glad or happy I feel, I did at times think that you and Mr. Reed had entirely forgotten me, but I have no such thoughts now, you will pardon me for ever thinking the like of you, a person situated as I am is very apt to think himself slighted, or treated coldly, if I do not get letters by every mail that comes in I am disappointed, and it seems as if every soldier was of the same dispostion, for there is always some growling, I am naturally rather touchy and get vexed at the very least little occurrence, I was aching long ago to write to you, but because I said I would not, in an unguarded moment or if I had even meant all I said that I would not write until I heard from you. I wasd too proud or stubborn to break my word, I am glad that the hinderance is removed.
Since I was to see you and since you heard from me, I have went through awful times, I could not, if I would, enumerate the many hardships I have endured and the many escapes I have had, during the past summerr and fall, I heard many a bullet whistle, and many a shell shreak in the air, but through a kind providence, I was permitted to escape unhurt. I was all through Shermans great Campaign against Atlanta which plase, through hard fightingh and the loss of many precious lives we fairly won, and when I thought we were to have a little rest, “ Old Hood” marched into our rear and all the cavalry and part of the infantry had to go and attend to him, when we got as far back as Rome Ga. Our noble Division was nearly all dismounted but we pitched in with what we had left and our regt. Had the honor of capturing two more pieces of rebel artillery, we lost some good men in the charge on the battery but we gained the day. After the fight at Rome our division was dismounted and sent back to Louisville Ky. To be remounted, reequipped and reorganized that being done we broke camp again on the 28th of Dec. And marched through the whole length of Kentucky and across Tennessee into this state. W e had it rough all the way here, it was bitter cold all the time and most of us froze our feet badly, I among the rest, four days before we gothere we had nothing but parched corn, rough living is it not, but we are all right now we have enough to eat, and we we have also put up comfortable quarters, we built houses out of wood and stretched our tents over the top for roofs, capt. Wren and I have a fine house, with a fiore place in it and a chimney made outof wood, which draws very good, but we have kitchen, dining, sitting room and parlor all in one, we live much like Indians,but that is called good living in the army.
Our old Capt. C.. McCormick is now Col. Of the regt. William Wren of Pottsville is Capt. Of L company and I am 1st Lt. Capt. Wren expects to go home this spring and then I may have another show for promotion, our former 1st Lt. R.M. McCormick and late Capr. Of Company G was murdered by Guerillas near Bardstown Ky. He was brother to Col. C.C. McCormick and he was a very fine officer and a good friend of mine.
I had almost forgot to state that our regt. Was not in the series of battles before Nashville this winter, we were then at Louisville but passed over th ebattlefield on the way down here, it is a sight to see it as it is now, at Franklin Tenn. I saw more rebel graves than I ever saw before, and some of the graves were with in a few feet of our breastworks the most desperate part of the fighting was done there, large trees were cut down by bullets, while the artillery tore everything to pieces, the town of Franklin is one vast hospital for rebel wounded.
You want me to give you the name of the young man that picked up francis when he fell his name is James Rowley, he was wounded last summer and is now in Chestnut Hill Hospital Philadelphia if you will write to him, for his photograph he will send it to you, and I will also write and tell him to do so, his address is James Rowley, Chestnut Hill Hospital Philadelphia you reminded me of a promise given long ago, that of letting you have another picture of Harry H. Snyder enclosed please find one, whichis freely given, now I want you to send me one of Francis, of the same size, at your earliest convenience I have a pcoket album, and desire very much to have one of his, and also of yours and Mr. Reed and little Emmas ( my little girl) and Charleys and Davy’s the whole family complete. I beleive I will send two of mine ion this one of which you will please give to Mrs. Matson, although she has not asked it, the interest she takes in all soldiers of the Union convinces me that she will accept it. Any one that is friend to the soldier, I consider as my friend, you will please present my compliments to Mrs. And Miss Matson and all my old Port Carbon friends, no forgetting Mr. Reed a due share of my love to little Emma and Charley and Davy.
I have been all summer and now in good health, and trust that this may find you all enjoying the same. With due gratitude for your kind considereations in writing to me, I beg to be as ever my dear friend.
Yours most respectfully
Harry H. Snyder
Lt. H.H. Snyder
7th Pa. Cav.
Please send a newspaper occasionally, daily papers preferred.
THE ROSTER OF
SEVENTH PENNSYLVANIA CAVALRY.
Charles C. McCormick, Captain.
John Umpleby, 1st Lt.
Otis Gerald, 1st Lt.
Albert Bechtel, 2d Lt.
James H.B. Warfield, 2d Lt. Pottsville, Pa. Dismissed Service. June 1, 1863.
Richard H. Fisk, 2d, Pottsville, Pa.
Henry H. Snyder, 2d Lt.
Samuel Milmore, 1st Sgt. Reading Pa.
George W. Smith, 2nd 1st Sgt. Died Munfordsville Ky.
H.H.Brown, Sgt. Discharged on surgeon certificate. 8/18/62
Thomas H. Parker, Sgt. Pottsville, Pa.
Benjamin Rakes, Sgt. Reading Pa.
John Duffy, Sgt. Died in Rush Kansas.
John H. Miller, Sgt. Orwigsburg, Pa.
John M. Berger, Sgt. Shamokin ,Pa.
James Rawley, Sgt. Transferred to VRC.
Charles I. Loeser, Sgt. Orderly to Col. Wynkoop, Pottsville. Pa.
John Riley, Sgt. KIA at Lebanon Tenn. 5/5/62.
Isaac E. Robinson, Q.M. Sgt. Reading, Pa.
Charles M. Kantner, Sgt. Pottsville, Pa.
William D. Williams, Corp. Ohioplye, Penna.
William Rader, Corp.
Francis S. Ebling, Corp. Transferred to VRC.
John Lutz, Corp.
James Seibert, Corp. Buried Stones River Tenn Cemetery, grave no. 341.
Jacob Neagard, Corp. Died from Injuries received in charge at Shelbyville Tenn. 8/30/63
Buried in Nashville, Tenn. Grave 270.
Windfield S. Carpenter, Corp. Deserted 12/61.
John Shaw, Corp.. Deserted 7/62
Lloyd B. Husted, Corp. Died 9/24/62.
Adolph Frohn, Corp. POW 10/. 64-4/65
Seth Morgan, Corp.
St. Clair Kyle, Corp.
Sebastin Deliseit, Bugler, deserted 9/24/62.
Jacob Uplinger, Deserted 9/24/62.
Elias Seiler, Discharged for disability, 8/62. Pottsville. Pa.
Miles C. Lee, Veteran, Covington, Tioga, County.
Solomon Burkhart, Pvt. Fleetwood, Berks County.
Joseph Bowers, Pvt. Reading, Pa.
Abraham Bauer, Pvt. Deserted and returned to duty.
David Block, Pvt. Discharged for Disability, Reading, Pa.
Harrison Bechtel, Pvt. Deserted and returned to duty, Middle Springs, Pa.
James Bowman, Pvt. Discharged for disability, Reading , PA.
Joshua Briner, Pvt. Died 2/62. Bardstown Ky.
Charles Coveney, Pvt. Mansfield, Tioga County. PA.
Daniel Cook, Pvt. Discharged for disability.
William Campbell, Pvt.
John Cluff, Pvt. Died 7/27/63 of wds. received in charge at Shelbyville, Tenn.
Thomas Drew, Pvt. Transferred to VRC.
Eliphant Decker, Pvt.
Reuben Englehart, Pvt. Died 4/18/62, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Jacob Fastler, Pvt.
James Gardner, Pvt. Discharged for Disability 7/62.
David Gardner, Pvt. Zburied In Nashville Tenn.
George F. Hains, Pvt.
Robert Huntzinger, Pvt. Discharged for Disability, 1863, Pottsville, Pa.
Francis Hobson, Pvt. Discharged for disability. 3/24/63.
John Hutchinson, Pvt.
Jacob Hartman, Pvt. Covington, Tioga, County, Pa.
John T. Hazzard, Pvt. POW 1/1/63 Stones River, died at Annapolis, Md. 2/10/63. Pottsville, Pa.
Jacob Hammer, Pvt. Deserted july 1862.
George W. Hutchins, Pvt.
Martin L. Havens, Pvt. Brownlee Tioga County, Pa.
David S. Ireland, Pvt. Died at Nashville, Tenn. Also reported to be in soldiers home Erie, Pa. 1903.
Alonzo T. Johnson, Pvt. Discharged for Disability, 6/62. Covington, Tioga county, PA.
William Keener, Pvt. Discharged for disability, 7/62.
Samuel Katzmoyer, Pvt.. Died August 18, 1862 at Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Robert Keener,Pvt. Died 11/62. Bardstown, Ky. Buried in NationalCemetery Lebanon, Ky. Grave 50 se.B.
Henry Lott, Pvt. Reading, Pa.
Nathan Moyer, Pvt. Deserted 12/61.
Henry Marboil, Pvt. Deserted 12/18/61.
Patrick Murphy, Pvt. Deserted 5/62.
Daniel M. Morgan, Pvt. Columbia Cross Roads, Bradford County. Pa.
Lindsay Newcomber, Pvt. Troter, Fayette County, Pa
John Patchen, Pvt. Deserted 7/21/62.
William F. Quigg, Pvt. Discharged for disability 7/62.
John Rossy, Pvt. Discharged for disability.
Augustus Shott, Pvt. Reading, Pa.
Merrick C. Seely, Pvt. Discharged for disability 3/8/63.
William Sell, Pvt. Discharged for Disability 4/62. Reading, Pa.
John W. Smith, Pvt. Discharged for disability 4/27/63.
William J. Stephens, Pvt. Discharged for disability 8/62. Wyoming,Luzerene County, PA.
Henry W. Snyder, Pvt. Died 7/27/64. Nashville, Tenn.
Anthony Sheek, Pvt. POW. 1864.
William Walu, Pvt. Veteran, Newberton, York County, Pa.
Julius Wrinkle, Pvt. Port Carbon, Schuylkill County , PA.
Albert Wheat, Pvt. Discharged for disability, 3/4/63.
Nicholas A. Wynkoop, Pvt. Promoted to Battalion Adjt. 1 Jan 62./ KIA 8/21/62 at Gallatin, Tenn.