First Manassas at Cedar Creek was large and, like the actual First Battle of Manassas, had limited cavalry play. We combined with the Confederate Cavalry to execute a cavalry demonstration narrated by yours truly after I appropriated the microphone in the speaker's tent. Trooper Doutt attempted to evade service as an officer but was cajoled into donning his Lieutenant Colonel's outfit and serving as Federal Cavalry Commander against the gray hordes. I appreciate the troopers who came out to support the unit and USV in the heat and "hurry up and wait." Again, positive mental attitudes prevailed over trying circumstances and all had a good time as a result. Mentioned in dispatches are Trooper Happy and his team, who provided meals, the lovely Miss Brianna Chazin in her civilian impression, and the return of Trooper "Claire" Beames and Chickenhawk to our ranks. Huzzah!
This event remains one of the highlights of our year and it did not disappoint this time around. The weather was hot with occasional showers but we were able to execute all of our demonstrations and get in a trail ride between storms. Everyone looked magnificent and uniform, and the many spectators were inquisitive and appreciative. Special thanks go out to Trooper Doutt for setting everything up, Trooper Happy for preparing delicious meals, and special guests who are not really guests: Norm Hoerer, and Tom and Bev Poustie and their guests. As usual Ranger Holbrook was pleased with our performance and professionalism so I am sure we will be invited back next year.
Dry Creek this year was Wet Creek with the rain that has been endemic to West Virginia this summer. Facing the twenty-odd riders of the 2nd Virginia were myself, Corporal Harry, Trooper Frankie, Trooper "Billy Yank" Fuzia, Trooper Crispin, and Trooper Amos. As you can see the odds were in our favor... We had plenty of action, both mounted and dismounted, and I was most pleased with the positive waves that flowed in spite of driving rain followed by heat and humidity. As usual this small event was a lot of fun and included infantry and artillery in addition to the mounted combat arm of decision. The artillery usually does a live fire at a target but had to cancel this year due to the rain. If you have never seen cannon balls fly you should come out to Dry Creek some time and check it out. Only in WV... My thanks to the intrepid troopers that came out for this one.
As per orders, under the overall cavalry leadership of Col. Mike Church, and the squadron leadership of our own Lt. Colonel Doutt, the 2nd.US Co. A deployed at Gettysburg Pa. 5-8 July, to again defend our Northern soil for the 155th anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg, held this year at the Redding farm site. Our first squadron consisted of Co. A, Co. H, elements of the 11th and 17th Pa., and the 5th Illinois. Lt. Colonel Bob Vance had the second squadron of the 6th Ohio, 11th Ohio, and 7th Michigan companies. As a tactical surprise element to increase our hammering capabilities, a third squad was developed under brevet Captain Norm Hoerer. We were accompanied throughout with our own horse drawn battery the 1st. Tennessee, commanded by Capt. Steve Cameron. Suffice to say our numbers were impressive, and the reb numbers as well. On the field, Col. Church’s command staff included our own guidon, Trooper Amos, and a full compliment of buglers, totaling seven altogether with the Federal Cavalry, who were both impressive and entertaining. Bugle calls were the watchword for the event. With our gun, our extra squad, excellent leadership, and our dismounts, we were a force to be reckoned with and we hammered continuously as the rebs readily admitted. A hat tip to Major Scott Romine (XO on horseback) who, along with the 3rd Pa commander Tony Polanski, directed the dismounts who were active, aggressive and hustled all over the field all weekend, bravo.
Friday morning began early with our circuitous ride, around the event site, roughly 3 miles, to arrive on the field to open the battle dismounted as Buford’s cavalry. Complete with our gun and galvanized rebs, it was an impressive column. Some light rain accompanied our march, but it remained dry throughout the rest of the event. The temps actually cooled comfortably and the nights were great for sleeping. There was a second battle in the afternoon, the Hunterstown scenario. Saturday’s action began with us galvanizing to grey, as we helped portray the arrival of Stuart’s cavalry. It was then a quick switcharoo back to blue and game on. A fast moving tactical that with our firepower and aggressiveness, the rebs did admit we really took it to them. Sunday morning finished with the east cavalry field scenario, followed by a pass in review and a very efficient bug out before Pickets charge. So an active schedule with plenty to do and still time to relax and enjoy camaraderie and camp life as well. Camps were in a new location. The horses were shaded in the woods, and we were drawn up tightly beside them. The camps were a bit close, but I believe it added to the fellowship and family atmosphere we exhibit. All amenities were close by and accessible. USV staff also aided in camp logistics. Equipment and horses were shuttled into and out of camp efficiently. Overall the GAC did a good job. But it was the work and cooperation of our fellow troopers that made all the difference.
Mentioned in dispatches: First of all, as we know, an army marches on its stomach. It is fair to say, we could march a long, long way with team Happy on the job. Hank with assistance by Teresa Barth (now an official unit member) did an outstanding job as usual. Our meals where delicious, plentiful and timely. Everything and anything needed in camp was provided for. Three cheers. The fare also included Pulig Pies, which seem to magically appear whenever we’re near Gettysburg. Next is our own Lt. Colonel Charlie Doutt. With his on field leadership and experience, and as our consigliore, he spent hours and days of behind the scenes planning and work. Thank you Charles. To our many guests in camp, including Captain Norm Hoerer, Lauren and Perry and Robbie Gallagher from the 11th. To Captain Blake Sponsel, of the 5th Illinois cavalry: a great group of guys that Charlie and Barry met out west last year. Great to have them with us, they really fit the mold of the 2nd. Also, our outstanding troopers, including Trooper Sopko, solid as ever, Trooper Franky carrying the bugle and her new mount, Eagle really coming along. We also welcome Trooper Mike Scholl back to the ranks.
Our gallant NCOs. Sgt. Barry Kruise, always on the job. Cpl. Moloney, invaluable, also acting as our camp provost and attending to multiple details. And Cpl. Thomas, stepping up to his new position very well. It was also reported that members of the 7th Michigan and 11th Ohio traveled multiple days from Nevada and Wyoming to be there, dedication. In conclusion, all these factors combined with positive waves, equaled a very successful event. The FCA really contains some good elements, it’s a brotherhood. And it’s proved, working together, it can accomplish anything.
This event, organized in part by Corporal Harry, Trooper Amos, Trooper Crispin, and myself, was a great success and a lot of fun in a bucolic and historical setting. In addition to the organizers (minus Trooper Crispin who was on detached duty with her Reserve unit) we had Trooper "Billy Yank" Fuzia (making a special appearance as Major General W.W. Averell), Trooper Joe, Trooper Sam, Trooper Frankie, and Trooper Val (guest of Corporal Harry). The event recreated the entry of the Federal Army into Union, WV in May 1864. It included a skirmish against the Confederate home guard on the streets of Union, looting of historical properties, a bank robbery, demonstrations on the lawn of an 1838 plantation, a ladies tea interrupted by hungry Yankees, and a period dance and church service. In addition to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A there was infantry, artillery and an authentic Civil War ambulance driven by Ray and Lynne Tuckweiler. The crowds were very appreciative and the local authorities are already planning to expand the event next year. The unit, though small, looked great and both horses and riders performed in an exemplary manner. The event did lead me to muse about our choice of "max effort" events, which seem to always focus on events put on by external organizations rather than those we do ourselves such as this one, Brandy Station, and the upcoming Cavalry Competition. Food for thought.
On Friday, the 1st of June, troopers from the 9th Va Cav Co D galvanized with other units at Cynthiana, Kentucky to attack Federal units in the vicinity. Members who participated were: Sergeant Barry, Corporal Harry, and Troopers Amos, Mark S, and Charlie. We were attended by Company Nurse Elaine and convalescent trooper Hank. Besides our five riders, there were 27 other troopers and officers in our force.
That first day, activities were confined to troopers infiltrating the town during the evening to “socialize” with the inhabitants and learn the disposition of vital supplies.
On the following morning, we forded the river below the dam and began our ride into an area of town where we expected to find Federal infantry. The river water was at the bottom of our stirrups on this crossing; we crossed safely although several of the other riders had problems negotiating the muddy bank and the underwater hole on the river’s south side.
We wound our way through field margins, on farm roads and past both inhabited and abandoned buildings on our 4-mile journey, expecting to run into infantry pickets at any time. There was one picket post with upwards of 10 soldiers. The skirmish in high brush and undergrowth was fierce and, to some degree, confusing but our leaders guided our positioning and fire to successfully rout the picket.
In another mile we came into an area of hay field that had recently been mown and collected. As we entered the fenced fields, we came upon infantry guarding a passage over a narrow part of a lake. We were confined to either attacking a cross the well defended bridge or, at the other end of the lake, crossing the bog and climbing a short but steep hill into the fire of infantry behind solid barricades. At some expense of life and limb, we finally succeeded in getting several troopers past the barricades and across to hit the bridge defenders from the rear. From then on we were across this major obstacle and pushing the infantry. It was a long, slow process however to get their commander to admit he had no options but to surrender his remaining force.
We took some time for a noon meal using the resources of the townspeople who, it was plain to see, were glad we had relieved them of the oppressive burden of the Union force. During this time we collected our wounded and relieve ourselves of the accumulated weight of the previous 24 hours’ groceries.
In the afternoon we pulled ourselves into formation to take stock of loses which were amazingly light compared to the amount of infantry fire we had taken that morning. We exercised our horses and ourselves in a display of tactical prowess for the accumulated townsfolk then rode back toward our camp.
During the time we had been away, the river had risen some 8 to 10 inches even though the day was clear with no sign of rain in our area. In this crossing, everyone’s boots were wetted and, although everyone made the crossing successfully, Corporal Harry’s horse Tiny mis-stepped into the aforementioned hole and went in, her whole head going underwater. Rider and horse recovered relatively easily although Tiny was no longer content to just follow the others, making her crossing at a faster pace than the line she had been following.
Nurse Elaine and her beau led the company dancers at the evening festivities.
After another quiet, pleasant evening and night, we broke camp and, following another route to get into the town, took up position on the hill where the Federal infantry had deployed the day before. After some short period of time our commander had the inclination to send us forward as dismounted skirmishers. As we approached to point near the lake where the infantry had held us the day before we encountered fresh Federal infantry already across the lake. And they were in much greater numbers than the previous day. We gave ground slowly but then the Federals appeared in force on our right flank. Our efforts to refuse the right failed. The officers, who were still mounted, left the field and the rest of us fought on until overrun and forced to surrender. Trooper Sopko went down fighting, taking many with him as he relieved the dead or wounded of their revolvers and fought to the last.
Afterward we were allowed to collect our skirmishers and retreat back toward the cars that were to take us off to the northern prison camps, each of us taken to a separate and individual hard labor camp with some of the most sever task masters known.
Special thanks to Trooper Hank who assisted the camp details, participated in support of our troopers at the battle and drill scenarios, and provided a horse even though he was not riding himself.
YHS, Cpl. Harry Moloney
On 13 June, a small detail from Co. A, reported to Brandy Station to join with Captain Bill Scott and members of the Black Horse to help commemorate a memorial for Captain Wm. F. Payne of the 4th Va Cavalry. Led by brevet Sgt. Norm Hoerer, our mounted detail consisted of trooper Doutt, trooper Happy, myself, Cpl. Thomas, and also joined by trooper Standard, and one dismount, Randy Stolz, Charlie’s friend from Martinsburg Pa. A brief company drill led to a series of saber charges with the Black Horse, followed by forming up for the oration ceremonies, with comments from Bud Hall and various dignitaries. We proceeded to dismount and a carbine salute was initiated, after which we were graciously invited to a very fine catered lunch. Mr. Hall and guests were favorably impressed and grateful for our services. Always good to visit and stay involved with Brandy Station. A thanks to all involved. Although brief, we all left smiling and well fed.
2nd. US Cavalry
William Henry Fitzhugh Payne was one of the two men (other was a John Scott) who initially started the Black Horse Cavalry as a Virginia militia unit in 1858. John Scott was its initial Captain while it was Virginia militia. Upon the outbreak of the Civil War, Payne entered Confederate service as captain of the Black Horse Cavalry, was promoted to major of the 4th Virginia Cavalry September 1861, to lieutenant-colonel in 1862 of the 4th Virginia cavalry, and finally to brigadier-general commanding Payne's Brigade, Fitzhugh Lee's Division.
For further information regarding William Henry Fitzhugh Payne See the following:
I wanted to send a brief thanks to the stalwart five horses and support staff who participated at Fort Monroe Living History last weekend. The weather was a key factor in our low numbers. With four Nor-Easters slamming into the east coast, it was a surprise we had the event.
However, despite the cold and wind, Fort Monroe had beautiful skies and dry ground. West Virginia, on the other hand, got hit hard with snow, dropping our numbers. Even so, Sgt Barry, along with Trooper Charlie, made the event driving from PA. This was a first event for Charlie’s new horse, and a good, low-key initiation. Apache did OK and Charlie handled him well, even when he decided to get a little squirrely.
Trooper Frank made a good showing with Chicken Hawk, after he had his trailer pulled out of the mud. He also had some equipment issues, but stayed safe and performed like the experienced trooper he is. Our new Corporal Brad got to exercise dismounted drill for the first time, and did well directing yours truly on the last dismounted fire. Our ever-vigilant Sgt. did an outstanding job, keeping the drill together and compensating for new horses, equipment issues and small numbers.
Our support was great! Trooper Mike assisted throughout the demos and provided the daily cleanup (poop patrol). Trooper Jan spent the weekend and not only provided us with help in camp and lunches, but excellent cookies and friendship bread. Her chocolate friendship bread is to die for. Lt Col (sometimes trooper & bugler) Dave provided his expert narration and was accompanied by Miss Ginny and Miss Megan (of the purple hair). Lastly, I need to mention our good correspondent Chappie, who took pictures of the event and had helped set up and tear down, as well as provided a tent that kept our food for lunches out of the wind. It was a team-building event and turned out to be safe and productive. Thanks to all, and I hope to ride with you again soon!
Your most humble and obedient servant,
Trooper Mark Sopko
2nd US Cav Co A/ 9th VA Cav Co D