Battles & Leaders of the Civil War
THE CHARGE OF THE EIGHTH PENNSYLVANIA CAVALRY*
There was no confusion at Hazel Grove when the regiment received its orders and left that place. No enemy was in sight. Indeed, until after the 8th Pennsylvania had left the place there was not the slightest evidence that the enemy was in the immediate neighborhood, excepting, perhaps, that the musketry-firing seemed to be drawing nearer. The charge of the regiment was made on the Plank road, about three-quarters of a mile from where Pleasonton was at Hazel Grove, and was first ordered by the commanding officer of the regiment at the moment when the emergency arose.
The writer of this, although himself a participator in the charge, was unable to recognize General Pleasonton's description of it and the surrounding scenes attending it. [See p.179.] A letter from the writer to a member of his family, written three days after the charge, is now before him. From this letter the following is extracted:
``We lost, however, I regret to say, three gallant officers, Major Keenan, Captain Arrowsmith and Adjutant Haddock. Major Huey and ... were the only ones who came out from the head of the column. All the rest were killed, wounded, or prisoners.
When this letter was written on the 5th of May, 1863, there was no thought of controversy. It was intended only for the eye of the person to whom it was written, with no idea that it would be preserved.
General Pleasonton's report of the operations of his command at Chancellorsville, dated May 18th, 1863, makes no mention of Keenan, but commends Huey as the commander of the regiment and indorses his report. In Major Huey's report of the operations of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry, dated May 9th, 1863, he states that he was ordered to report, with his command, to General Howard, and no mention is made of any order from General Pleasonton to charge. This report was before Pleasonton when his own report was made, and no exception was ever taken to it. In Colonel Thomas C. Devin's report of the 2d brigade, dated May 12th, 1863, he states that the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry was sent to the support of General Howard, and Major Huey is complimented as the commander of the regiment. No mention is made of an order to Keenan to charge, and Keenan is only referred to as having gallantly fallen.
III. BY ANDREW B. WELLS, CAPTAIN, CO. F, 8TH PENNSYLVANIA CAVALRY. **
Our regiment on the second day of May, 1863, was awaiting orders in a clearing of wooded country called Hazel Grove. We had been there some little time. Everything was quiet on the front. The men were gathered in groups, chatting and smoking, and the officers were occupied in much the same manner, wondering what would turn up next.
About 4 o'clock I suggested a game of draw poker. An empty cracker-box, with a blanket thrown over it, served as a card- table. The party playing, if mistake not, was composed of Major Keenan, Adjutant Haddock, Captain Goddard, Lieutenant W.A. Daily, and myself. We had been playing about two hours-the game was a big one and we were all absorbed in it-when, about 6 p.m., it was brought to an abrupt end by the appearance of a mounted officer. Riding up to where we were playing, he asked in an excited manner: ``Who is in command of this regiment?'' Major Keenan, who was seated beside me, turned his head and said, in a joking way: ``I am; what's the trouble?'' Our visitor replied: ``General Howard wants a cavalry regiment.'' And before we had time to ask further questions he was off, and the next moment we were all on our feet our game was ended. I remember it perfectly well, for I was out of pocket on the play.** The regiment was mounted, I mounting at the same time and alongside of Major Keenan. We then moved out of Hazel Grove by twos. Keenan, Haddock, Arrowsmith, Huey, and Carpenter moved out with the first squadron. I remember distinctly seeing that group of officers, and did not see General Pleasonton at the time.
I was under the impression, and believe that the other officers also were, that we were on our road to report to General Howard. Anyhow, I fell in with the second squadron, Captain William A. Corrie being in command, and he and I rode a together at the head of it. When we passed out of the clearing there were no officers or men on our flank, all was in order ahead, and the command was moving at a walk. The command entered the woods and was still moving on a walk, when, at the distance of about one mile from where we had mounted, Captain Corrie and myself saw the first squadron take the trot, leaving a space between us of about twenty-five yards. At the same time we heard the command, ``Draw sabers,'' and saw the first squadron draw them. We then heard the musketry-firing. In was given in continuous but distant volleys.
We of the second squadron knew that our time was at hand, and Captain Corrie gave the order to draw sabers and charge. Taking a trot, we found that the road took a bend as we proceeded. When we turned the corner of the wood-road a sight met our eyes that it is impossible for me to describe. After charging over the dead men and horses of the first squadron we charged into Jackson's column, and, as luck would have it, found them with empty guns-thanks to our poor comrades ahead.
**Captain Wells has elsewhere said that at 6:20 by his watch, Major Huey rode up and gave the order to mount.-EDITORS.