5th West Virginia Cavalry
(formerly the 2nd West Virginia Infantry)
The Second Virginia Infantry, afterwards the Fifth West Virginia Cavalry, was the first regiment in the State enlisted for the three years service, and the first one mustered in under Governor Pierpont. Companies A, D, F and G came from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Company I from Greenfield and California, Washington County, Pennsylvania; Company H from Ironton, Ohio; Company B from Grafton, Virginia; Company C from Wheeling, Virginia; Company E from Monroe and Belmont Counties, Ohio, and Wetzel, Taylor and Ritchie Counties, Virginia; and Company K from Parkersburg, Virginia, and Bridgeport, Ohio. The companies met together at Beverly, Virginia, in the latter part of July, and were organized as the Second Regiment Virginia Infantry.
The muster out rolls show a total enlistment of 1069 men from first to last, of whom 65 were discharged before the arduous campaigns of 1862 began, and Company G was detached for artillery service, making the real strength of the regiment, April 1st, 1862, about 900 men. As a rule, when a West Virginia regiment was once formed and mustered into the service, it had to depend on its original members for its future strength. But few recruits were received, and as comrades fell in battle, or by disease, their places were forever left unfilled, sad reminders of the horrible realities of war. In this regiment, but 19 recruits were received in the whole of the three year’s service. Of this number, 189 were killed and died from disease and in Confederate prisons. It was a regiment of comparatively young men, the average age being about 24 years, a large number of them being but boys of eighteen, while a few had reached the age of forty. They were young, active, strong and intelligent, the making of a splendid regiment, and their work for three years fully confirmed all that was expected of them. Some of the companies of this regiment enjoyed special distinction in the early part of their service. Company A claims the credit for killing the first armed Confederate soldier.
At Glovers Gap, between Wheeling and Grafton, on the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road, the company was detached to guard that important position, and more particularly to break up a Confederate military organization, known to be in that section, under command of Captain Christian Roberts. On the morning of May 27, a detachment of the company under command of Lieutenant West encountered Captain Roberts and a portion of his command, and in the fight that followed, Captain Roberts was killed, being the firm armed Confederate soldier that fell in the war. Jackson, the slayer of the gallant Colonel Ellsworth, killed a few days previously, was a civilian, while Captain Roberts was a regularly mustered officer of the Confederacy.
Company B claims to have had killed the first enlisted man in the U.S. volunteer service in the war. The company was at Fetterman, W.Va. On the night of May 22, Daniel Wilson and Bailey Brown, of the company, walked down towards Fetterman, and encountered the Confederate picket on the railroad in the east end of town, where Daniel W. S. Knight and George Glenn, of Captain Robinson’s Confederate company, 25th Virginia, were on guard. Knight ordered them to halt. Instead of doing so, they continued to advance, Knight repeated his order, until they got close to the pickets, when Brown fired his revolver shooting Knight through the ear. Knight, who was armed with an old-fashioned smooth-bore flint-lock musket, loaded with slugs, returned the shot, killing Brown almost instantly. He was enrolled as a member of his company, May 20, 1861, though the company was not mustered in until the 25th. His death occurred on May 22, while that of gallant Colonel Ellsworth did not occur until the 24th, two days later.
Company I was organized April 27, 1861, and immediately offered its services to the country, but was not accepted because of Pennsylvania’s quota being filled, and was one of the first companies organized in the country that entered the three years’ service. When mustered into service the pay of the men began with April 27, they having, at their own expense, in the meantime been drilling and preparing for service. The company was called “the boatmen,” when met by the three months’ volunteers in western Virginia, because of their having come from the Monongahela River, many of whom followed that occupation and were a hardy set of men.
The regiment lay in camp at Beverly from the latter part of July until September 12, when it was sent to Elkwater, where General Reynolds was fortified against General Robert E. Lee, to help drive the enemy’s forces from Cheat Mountain. Early in the morning on the 13th, the Second Virginia in the lead, with the Third Ohio, charged up and over a foot hill in the mountain, driving the Confederates from their hot breakfast in confusion. Soon afterward the enemy were driven from their stronghold, and to this regiment is due, in part, by its impetuous advance, the honor of administering the first defeat to General Lee.
On December 13th, it took part in the battle on the summit of the Allegheny Mountains, remaining at Elkwater until January 7, 1862, during which time several important expeditions were made, and the whole section cleared of the marauding bands of Confederates. January 7th, the regiment went to the fort on Cheat Mountain Summit, the highest camp of the war, while the Confederates were encamped on the Allegheny Mountains, 20 miles distant, remaining there scouting, etc., until April 5th, when the onward movement toward Staunton began.
General John C Fremont took command of the “Mountain Department,” including the Cheat Mountain force, March 29th, and the regiment was with him until superseded by General John Pope, taking part in the battles of Monterey and McDowell, the advance up the Shenandoah and the battle of Cross Keys.
Under General Pope, it was in General Milroy’s brigade, leading the column and took part in the battles of Kelly’s Ford, White Sulphur Springs, Waterloo Bridge, Groveton and Bull Run. The regiment lost 24 killed and 90 wounded in these battles, more than one-third of the losses of the brigade. After the Bull Run battle the regiment was placed in the defenses at Washington, and returned to West Virginia, September 30th, arriving at Beverly October 29th.
April 23, 1863, the command was attacked by a superior force of Confederates and compelled to leave Beverly, returning to that place May 21st, and remaining there until ordered to Grafton to be mounted, in which time scouting expeditions were so numerous that is was difficult to keep run of them.
May 23, 1863, Brigadier General W.W. Averell was assigned to the command of the Fourth Separate Brigade, composed of mounted infantry and cavalry, of which the Second Virginia became a part, operating in western Virginia. In addition to scores of scouting expeditions, the most notable of the battles and expeditions of this brigade were the battle of Rocky Gap, August 26 and 27, in which the regiment lost five killed and 18 wounded; the battle of Droop Mountain, November 6, the regiment losing nine killed and 15 wounded, out of 200 men engaged; and the famous Salem raid, from December 8 to 25, 1863, in which the regiment lost but one man wounded and 17 captured. The command then went to Martinsburg, W.Va., where by special order of the War Department, each man that was on the Salem raid received, gratis, one pair of shoes and a suit of clothing, to replace those lost and worn out on the expedition. General Order No. 39, War Department, dated January 26, 1864, was issued, changing the Second Virginia Infantry to the Fifth West Virginia Cavalry. At noon, March 19, 1864, the brigade left Martinsburg and went to Charleston, W.Va., arriving there April 30, 1864. In the spring and summer of 1864, the regiment took a gallant part in the battle of Cloyd Mountain in May, and in the expedition of General David Hunter to Lynchburg.
After this the companies whose term of service had expired were mustered out of service and the re-enlisted men, about 200 in number, were consolidated with the Sixth West Virginia Cavalry in September. The regiment had a service of which any troops might be proud, and fully sustained its reputation for courage, efficiency and staying qualities. In the history of this noble regiment, Governor Pierpont has the following to say of it: “Some that came to Wheeling were mere boys. Major Oakes, the mustering officer, a very judicious man, told me that some of the boys ought to be home with their mothers, but they persevered, and those boys came out veterans. It was the first regiment I had mustered in, the three month’s regiments being formed before I became governor. Those that came from Pennsylvania were in citizens’ light clothing, and there was a great deal of hardship and destitution until clothing was issued to them, which was some time after their mustered in.
There was one pleasing feature of the troops from the two States, Ohio and Pennsylvania, that was their perfect assimilation in spirit and purpose. The Pennsylvanians seemed to feel that they were with the Virginians to defend the Virginia homes from invasion, and partook of all the enthusiasm of the Virginians in the fight. Whenever I heard of a fight where the Second Virginia or Fifth Cavalry, after they became mounted, was, I heard a good report of them. They were reported brave to recklessness sometimes. It was said of them that whenever they got in a close place, every man was a general, and that they were almost invincible. They certainly achieved some victories that seemed in the beginning hopeless.”
[Source: Loyal West Virginia from 1861 to 1865, by Theodore F. Lang
2nd West Virginia Infantry
Company “A” organized at Pittsburgh, Pa., April, 1861. Not accepted by Pennsylvania. Moved to Wheeling, W. Va., May 9, 1861, and mustered in May 21, 1861. Moved with 1st West Virginia Infantry May 25 along line of Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Guard Glover’s Gap till May 28. Action with Capt. Roberts’ Command May 27. Moved to Grafton May 28. Detached as Body Guard to Gen. Geo. B. McClellan on his assuming command of the Army of West Virginia. Participated in the West Virginia Campaign July 6-17. Assigned to 2nd Regiment as Company “A.” Company “B,” Grafton Guards, organized May 20, 1861. Moved to Wheeling, W. Va., and mustered in May 25. Moved to Mannington June 28, thence to Grafton July 1, and to Philippi July 4. West Virginia Campaign July 6-17. Laurel Hill July 7. Carrick’s Ford July 13. Moved to Beverly and assigned to 2nd Regiment as Company “B.” (A detachment of Company at Belington till January 25, 1862, guarding supply trains between Webster and Beverly and scouting. Company “C” organized at Wheeling and mustered in June 1, 1861. Moved to Beverly, W. Va., July 1, and joined Regiment. Company “D” organized at Pittsburgh, Pa., and mustered in at Wheeling, W. Va., June 14, 1861. Moved to Clarksburg, W. Va. Guard supply train to Rich Mountain (Cos. “C,” “D,” “E”) July 5-6, thence march to Beverly. Company “E” organized at Wheeling, W. Va., and mustered in June 16, 1861. Moved to Clarksburg, W. mustered in June 16, 1861. Moved to Clarksburg, W. Va. Guard supply train to Rich Mountain July 5-6, thence march to Beverly. Company “F” organized at Pittsburgh, Pa., and mustered in at Wheeling, W. Va., June 24, 1861. Company “G” organized at Pittsburgh, Pa., and mustered in at Wheeling, W. Va., June 13, 1861. Companies “F” and “G” left Wheeling July 5, and Joined Regiment at Beverly. Company “H” organized at Ironton, Ohio, and mustered in at Wheeling, W. Va., June 28, 1861, Company “I” organized in Washington County, Pa. Moved to Wheeling, W. Va., July 9-10, and mustered in July 10. Moved to Grafton, Webster and Beverly July 22-27. Company “K” organized at Parkersburg, W. Va., and mustered in July 21, 1861. Regiment attached to Army of Occupation, W. Va., to September, 1861. Cheat Mountain, District West Virginia, to March, 1862. Cheat Mountain District, Dept. of the Mountains, to April, 1862. Milroy’s Brigade, Dept. of the Mountains, to June, 1862. Milroy’s Independent Brigade, 1st Army Corps, Pope’s Army of Virginia, to September, 1862. Defences of Washington, D.C., to October, 1862. Beverly, W. Va., District of West Virginia, Dept. of Ohio, to March, 1863. 4th Separate Brigade, 8th Army Corps, Middle Department, to June, 1863. Averell’s 4th Separate Brigade, West Virginia, to December, 1863. 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, West Virginia, to January, 1864.
SERVICE.–Duty at Beverly, W. Va., till September 11, 1861. Laurel Fork Creek August 20. Ordered to Elkwater September 11. Operations on Cheat Mountain September 11-17. Cheat Mountain Pass September 12. Camp Allegheny September 13. Expedition to Huntersville December 31, 1861, to January 6, 1862. Huntersville January 3, 1862. At Cheat Mountain Summit till April 5. Dry Fork, Cheat River, January 8 (Co. “B”), and February 8. Advance on Staunton April 5-May 8. Monterey April 12. Battle of McDowell May 8. Near Franklin May 26. Battle of Cross Keys June 8. At Strasburg June 20-July 5. Advance to Luray July 5-11. Moved to Sperryville July 11, thence to Woodville July 22, and duty there till August 9. Battle of Cedar Mountain August 9. Pope’s Campaign in Northern Virginia August 16-September 2. Fords of the
Rappahannock August 21-23. Freeman’s Ford, Hazel River, August 22. Waterloo Bridge August 23-25. Gainesville August 28. Groveton August 29. Bull Run August 30. Duty in the Defences of Washington till September 29. Moved to Beverly, W. Va., September 29-October 9. Duty there till April 24, 1863. Cockletown January 22, 1863. Expedition into Pocahontas County February 10-12 (Detachment). Scout to Franklin April 11-18. Beverly April 24. Regiment mounted at Grafton. West Union May 6. Averell’s Raid through Hardy, Pendleton, Highland, Bath, Greenbrier and Pocahontas Counties August 5-31. Jackson River August 25. Rocky Gap near White Sulphur Springs August 26-27. Seneca Trace Crossing, Cheat River, September 25 (Detachment). Averell’s Raid on Lewisburg and the Virginia & Tennessee Railroad November 1-17. Mill Point November 5. Droop Mountain November 6. Averell’s Raid from New Creek to Salem on Virginia & Tennessee Railroad December 8-25. Gatewood’s December 12. Salem December 16. Scott’s or Barber’s Creek December 19 (Detachment). Covington December 30. At Martinsburg till January 26, 1864. Designation changed to 5th West Virginia Cavalry January 26, 1864.
5th West Virginia Cavalry
Organized from 2nd Regiment West Virginia Mounted Infantry January 26, 1864. Attached to Martinsburg, W. Va., to March, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, West Virginia, to April, 1864. 3rd Brigade, Cavalry Division, West Virginia, to June, 1864. 2nd Brigade, 2nd Cavalry Division, West Virginia, to July, 1865. Kelly’s Command, Reserve Division, West Virginia, to December, 1864.
SERVICE.–Duty at Martinsburg, W. Va., till March 19, 1864. Operations in Hampshire and Hardy Counties January 27-February 7. Springfield February 2. Moved to Cumberland, Md., and duty there and at Patterson’s Creek till April 27. Moved to Charleston April 27-30. Crook’s Expedition to Virginia & Tennessee Railroad May 2-19. Cloyd’s Mountain or Farm May 9. New River Bridge May 10. Hunter’s Expedition to Lynchburg May 26-July 1. Lexington June 11. Near Buchanan June 13. New London June 16. Diamond Hill June 17. Lynchburg June 17-18. Liberty June 19. Buford’s Gap June 20. Catawba Mountains and about Salem June 21. At Camp Piatt, Charleston and New Creek guarding railroad in district west of Sleepy Hollow till December. Consolidated to a Battalion at Charleston September. Expedition from New Creek to Moorefield November 6-8 (Detachment). New Creek November 28. Transferred to 6th West Virginia Cavalry, December 14, 1864.
[Source: Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Dyer]
Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 68 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 118 Enlisted men by disease. Total 189.
[Source: Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Dyer]
Reader, Francis; History of the Fifth West Virginia Cavalry, Formerly Second Virginia Infantry, and of Battery G, First West Virginia Light Artillery. New Brighton, PA: Daily News, 1890. 304 p.
Francis Reader Diary, Washington and Lee University Library Special Collections, Lexington, Virginia.