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8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment


The 8th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment served the duration of the war, and was the only cavalry regiment to serve the entire war in the Army of the Potomac. They also aided in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and served as President Lincoln's honor guard while he lay in state under the rotunda. Lincoln gave them the nickname of "Farnsworth's Abolitionist Regiment" when he watched them march past the White House.


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8th Illinois  Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg
8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg
First line of battle July 1, 1863 Occupied until relieved by 1st Corps. One squadron picketed ridge east of Marsh Creek and supported by another squadron met enemy's right advance, ---- Lieut. Jones, Co. E, fired first shot as the enemy crossed Marsh Creek Bridge
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Civil War Flag
8th Illinois  Cavalry Regiment Flag
8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment Flag
8th Illinois Cavalry Guidon The guidon flag was carried by the soldiers of the 8th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Cavalry during the Civil War. Beginning in early 1862, the 8th Illinois was stationed in Washington D.C. and attached to the Army of the Potomac, fighting in their first battle at Williamsburg. The unit also fought in a number of engagements including Mechanicsville (Seven Days Battle), Hanover Court House, Seven Pines, Brandy Station, Middleburg, Upperville, and Gettysburg.
8th Illinois  Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg
8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment Gettysburg
First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
Rear-First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
Rear-First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
West Side First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
West Side First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
East-First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
East-First Shot Marker at Gettysburg.jpg
Union & Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg.gif
Union & Confederate soldiers at Gettysburg.gif
Battle of Gettysburg.gif
Battle of Gettysburg.gif
Battle of Gettysburg.jpg
Battle of Gettysburg.jpg
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Civil War Campaign.jpg

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8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment 1861-1862


September 18

Organized at St. Charles, Ills., and mustered in

October 13-17

Moved to Washington, D.C.; At Meridian Hill

December 17

Attached to Sumner's Division, Army of the Potomac; at Alexandria, Va.



Attached to Cavalry, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac

March 10-19

Advance on Manassas, Va.

March 20

Reconnaissance to Gainesville

March 28-29

Operations on the Orange and Alexandria R. R.

March 28

Warrenton Junction, Bealeton Station

March 29

Rappahannock Station

April 2

Reconnaissance to the Rappahannock

April 23-May 1

Moved to the Peninsula, Virginia; Attached to Stoneman's Light Brigade

May 4

Near Williamsburg

May 5

Battle of Williamsburg

May 23-24


May 31-June 1

Battle of Fair Oaks, Seven Pines


Attached to Averill's Cavalry Brigade, 5th Army Corps

June 25-July 1

Seven days before Richmond

June 25

Ashland (Detachment)

June 26

Mechanicsville, Atlee's Station and near Hanover Court House

June 26-27

Hundley's Corners

June 27

Garnett's Farm and Gaines' Mill

June 28

Despatch Station (Companies E and K)

June 29

Savage Station

June 30

White Oak Swamp and Glendale

July 1

Malvern Hill


Attached to 2nd Brigade, Stoneman's Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac

July 4

Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing; At Harrison's Landing

July 5

Malvern Hill

July 20-22

Expedition to Malvern Hill

August 5

Malvern Hill

August 16-23

Movement to Fortress Monroe, thence to Alexandria


Attached to 1st Brigade, Pleasanton's Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac

September 3-4

Falls Church

September 7-8

Poolesville, Md.

September 9


September 9

Monocacy Church and Nolansville

September 10


September 11-12

Sugar Loaf Mountain

September 12


September 13

Middletown and Catoctin Mountain

September 14

South Mountain

September 15


September 16-17


September 19

Shephardstown Ford

October 1

Reconnaissance from Sharpsburg to Shepardstown, W. Va.

October 1


October 9-12

Pursuit of Stuart into Pennsylvania

October 12

Mouth of Monocacy

October 16-17

Sharpsburg and Hagerstown Pike

October 29

Purcellsville and near Upperville (Detachment)

October 31


November 1-2


November 2-3


November 3


November 5-6

Barber's Cross Roads, Chester Gap and Markham

November 7


November 8

Little Washington

November 10

Markham Station and Barber's Cross Roads

December 12-15

Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.

8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment 1863-1865


January 30

Turner's Mills


Attached to 1st Brigade, 1st Division Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac

February 10-16

Operations in Westmoreland and Richmond Counties

March 15 and 29

Near Dumfries

March 30

Zoar Church

April 27

Chancellorsville Campaign

April 29-May 8

Stoneman's Raid

May 1

Rapidan Station

May 6


May 20-21


May 20-28

Clendennin's Raid below Fredericksburg

June 9

Brandy Station and Beverly Ford

June 17


June 18

Goose Creek

June 21


July 1-3

Battle of Gettysburg 
Commanded by Major John Beveridge; the 8th had 491 men present, of whom 1 was killed, 5 wounded and 1 missing.


From the monument: "First line of battle July 1, 1863. Occupied until relieved by 1st Corps. One squadron picketed ridge east of Marsh Creek and supported by another squadron met enemy's right advance, Lieut. Jones, Co. E, fired first shot as the enemy crossed Marsh Creek Bridge. On reforming line regiment took an advanced position on Hagerstown Road. Late in the day delayed enemy's advance by attacking his right flank, thereby aiding the infantry in withdrawing to Cemetery Hill. In the evening encamped on left flank. July 2,1863 Buford's Division retired toward Westminster."


The rear of the monument is inscribed with the name, "David Diffenbaugh," the only member of the regiment killed at Gettysburg.

July 6-7


July 8

Funkstown, Md.and Boonesborough

July 9

Chester Gap and Benevola or Beaver Creek

July 10-13

At and near Funkstown, Md.

July 15

Falling Waters

July 21-22

Chester Gap

July 22


July 31-August 1

Kelly's Ford

August 1-3

Near Culpeper

August 4

Brandy Station

August 27


September 8

Brandy Station

September 10-11

Raccoon Ford and Stevensburg

September 13

Culpeper and Pony Mountain

September 21-23

Reconnaissance across the Rapidan

September 21

Liberty Mills

September 22

Jack's Shop, Madison Court House

October 7

Mitchell's Ford

October 9-22

Bristoe Campaign

October 9


October 10

Raccoon Ford

October 10

Morton's Ford

October 11

Stevensburg, near Kelly's Ford and Brandy Station

October 12

Fleetwood or Brandy Station

October 15

Oak Hill

October 16

Madison Court House

October 17

Hazel River

October 27


October 30

Near Catlett's Station

November 2

Major John Beveridge leaves command

November 7-8

Advance to line of the Rappahannock

November 8

Warrenton or Sulphur Springs, Jeffersonton and Hazel River

November 26 -
December 2

Mine Run Campaign

November 29

Parker's Store

December 1

Jennings' Farm, near Ely's Ford


January to March

Camp at Giesboro Point. Veterans on furlough until May

January 1864

Attached to Defenses of Washington, D.C., 22nd Army Corps; Patrol duty at Washington, D.C., and scout duty at Fairfax, Va., having numerous engagements with Mosby's guerrillas and the Black Horse Cavalry

January 31

Reconnaissance to Madison Court House (Detachment)


Attached to 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division Cavalry Corps, Army Potomac


Rapidan Campaign (Detachment)

May 5

Craig's Meeting House, Va. (Detachment)

May 5-6

Todd's Tavern (Detachment)

May 8

Alsop's Farm (Detachment)

May 18

Guinea Station (Detachment)

May 27

Salem Church and Pole Cat Creek

June 1-12

Cold Harbor

July 5

Point of Rocks, Md.and Noland's Ferry

July 7

Middletown and Solomon's Gap

July 7, 8

Frederick (Detachment)

July 9

Battle of Monocacy; Rockville and Urbana

July 11

Near Fort Stevens, D.C.

July 11-12

Along northern defenses of Washington, D.C.

July 13


July 18


July 20


July 21


July 30

Monocacy Junction

October 9

Near Piedmont

October 10

Near Rectortown

October 11

White Plains

October 28

Upperville (Detachment)

October 28-29

Operations at Snicker's Gap (Detachment)


Attached to 1st Separate Brigade, 22nd Army Corps, Department of Washington

November 11

Manassas Junction

November 26

Fairfax Station

December 26-27

Scout from Fairfax Court House to Hopewell Gap


February 6-7

Scout from Fairfax Court House to Brentsville

February 15-16

Scout to Aldie and Middleburg (Co. B)

March 3-8

Operations about Warrenton, Bealeton Station, Sulphur Springs and Centreville

March - July

Duty about Washington, D.C.


Ordered to St. Louis, Mo., then to Chicago, Ill.

July 17

Mustered out

First Shot Marker at Gettysburg

First Shot Marker at Gettysburg

The First Shot Marker for the Battle of Gettysburg is on Chambersburg Pike (US 30) at Knoxlyn Road, three miles west of Gettysburg. The monument is on the north side of U.S. 30 next to a private residence.(39.850964° N, 77.280727° W; map)

There are several claims as to which Union soldier fired the first shot at the Battle of Gettysburg. Three men from the 8th Illinois Cavalry felt their claim was strong enough to erect their own monument.


Lieutenant (later Captain) Marcellus Jones' Company E of the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment was picketing the Chambersburg Pike at this location on the morning of July 1 when he saw a strong force of Confederate infantry begin to cross Marsh Creek about a half mile to the west. Jones borrowed a carbine from Sergeant Levi S. Shafer and fired a single shot at a mounted officer, who might have been Colonel Birkett Fry of the 13th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Jones apparently missed.


In 1886, Jones, Shafer and Riddler had the five-foot limestone shaft hewn in a Naperville quarry and brought it the 600 miles to Gettysburg, erecting it on land purchased from the owner of the house which still stands behind it.


From the front (south) side of the monument:


July 1st 1863
7:30 a.m

From the west side:


From the east side:

Co. E
8th Ills. 

From the north side:



Jones' first shot claim ignited a controversy that raged for years, primarily with the 9th New York Cavalry.

First Shot Controversy at Gettysburg

In 1883, twenty years after the battle, three men arrived in Gettysburg from Naperville, Illinois. What set Marcellus Ephraim Jones, Alex Riddler and Levi Shafer apart from the many veterans that returned to Gettysburg was a five-foot shaft of limestone they brought with them. Any local farmer will tell you that the Gettysburg area has more than its fair share of rocks, so bringing a large stone 600 miles from Illinois might seem unusual. But the men from Naperville understood two things: they had taken part in a unique moment in history, and the best way to make their claim and pass it on to the ages was to carve it in stone.

Jones, Riddler and Shafer had been in Company E of the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment. Lieutenant Jones was in charge of a group of men picketing Chambersburg Pike, one of the roads leading into Gettysburg like spokes on a wheel. Riddler and Shafer were stationed at an advanced outpost on the east bank of Marsh Creek about four miles west of town.


Since first light on July 1, 1863, they had been watching a dust cloud make its way down the road from Cashtown. By about seven a.m. they could pick out individual men, with “the old Rebel flag” in front. They alerted the picket reserve, which quickly brought Lieutenant Jones up to the outpost. Jones sent a note to his regimental commander, Major John Lourie Beveridge, and ordered horses and horse holders to the rear.


Then, according to one version of the story, Jones borrowed Shafer’s Sharps carbine and, using the top of a nearby fence to steady his aim, squeezed off a shot at a mounted officer about half a mile down the road. A variation, told by Major (later Brigadier General, Illinois congressman and Governor) Beveridge, has him standing in the middle of the road to fire.

Jones was firing at the brigade of Confederate General James Archer. The 5th Alabama Battalion and the 13th Alabama Regiment were leading the column that morning, and there was a good chance Jones was firing at Colonel Birkett D. Fry, commander of the 13th Alabama Infantry, who was known to have reconnoitered the area west of the Marsh Creek in advance of his regiment. Whoever he was firing at, Jones missed.


But the single shot did what was intended. Colonel Fry ordered the 5th Alabama Battalion and three companies of the 13th to deploy as skirmishers. The march slowed to a crawl as the skirmishers worked their way forward through the brush and trees on both sides of the road, trading shots with more and more cavalrymen. They had not yet reached the west side of town when they suddenly ran into large numbers of "Black-hatted fellers," the Iron Brigade of the Army of the Potomac. Buford's cavalry had bought the time it needed for the main army to come up, and the great battle was on.


Twenty years later Gettysburg was recognized as a turning point of the war and the man who was there at the start of it sensed his place in history. Now the Sheriff of DuPage County and in his early fifties, Jones had a stone cut in a Naperville quarry. It was five feet long, tapered from 18 inches wide at the base to nine inches at the top, and was inscribed, “First shot at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, 7:30 A.M. Fired by Captain M. E. Jones with Sergeant Shafer's carbine, Co. E, Eighth Regiment Illinois Cavalry. Erected by Captain Jones, Lieutenant Riddler, and Sergeant Shafer (note: their ranks at the end of the war). Erected 1886." The three men purchased a plot of ground on the summit of the ridge overlooking Marsh Creek, and firmly planted their monument in the pages of history, "to tell the true story of the opening of the great and decisive battle of the war, on the morning of July 1, 1863." (See more photos of the monument and a map to its location.)


There were other claims. Throughout the morning of July 1st, Union cavalry bumped into Confederate forces advancing toward Gettysburg from several directions. The 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry had opened fire on scouts of Richard Ewell's Confederates on the Carlisle Road, and both the Sixth and Ninth New York Cavalry were fired on northwest of town. But these were brushes with scouts, not contact with a main body of Confederate infantry.


Corporal Alphonse Hodges of the 9th New York had a stronger claim. A twenty-year-old corporal from Lakewood, New York, Hodges was in charge of four men who, according to his story, were posted on the Chambersburg Pike where it crossed Willoughby Run. At around 5 a.m. he saw mounted men coming up the Pike. He notified his supports and flanking units, then crossed the stream and rode up the slope toward the oncoming men to get a better look. Satisfied they were Confederates, he turned back, and as he did so they fired at him. Returning to the bridge, he sheltered behind the abutments and returned several shots, at what he estimated was about 5:30.


So, according to their testimonies, both Jones and Hodges had supposedly fired the first shot of the battle at different times and at different bridges along the same road.


None of this was a real issue until 1888. The 25th anniversary of the battle prompted the placement of dozens of monuments, among them that of the 9th New York Cavalry. The monument features a handsome bronze relief of a cavalry scout entitled, "Discovering the enemy, " and the back of the monument states, "Picket on Chambersburg Road, fired on at 5 A.M." Wilber Bentley, a major in the 9th New York at Gettysburg who had lost his leg in the Battle of the Wilderness, was to make the dedication address on the day of the anniversary.

Less than a week before the dedication he received an alarming communication from the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association, the governing organization for monuments. Bentley was astonished to find that the 8th Illinois had protested the 9th New York's inscriptions, and the Association was requiring the Ninth to either make good their claims or remove them. Bentley had good friends among the 8th Illinois, and knew "no temptation could induce them to make any claim which they did not believe they were entitled to." He could not personally contribute to the evidence, as he had not placed the pickets himself; that had been done by the regiment's Colonel Sackett, who had been mortally wounded at the Battle of Trevillian Station in 1864. So Bentley had Hodges and members of the Ninth's survivors association meet him at the Gettysburg.


They first explored the possibility that Hodges had been on the next road north, Mummasburg Road, which also crossed Willoughby Run. But when they took Hodges there, he was certain that it was not the place. He remembered the "peculiar construction" of the bridge he had used as cover and described it in detail. And sure enough, when the group next visited the Chambersburg Pike bridge, it matched exactly.


The dedication was allowed to proceed, and two days later the Ninth New York defended themselves before the Monument Association. A written presentation had been prepared by Newal Cheney, 1st Lieutenant of the Ninth New York's Company C at the battle. The main argument was that both Hodges and Jones were correct. Hodges and the Ninth had their encounter at first light, and then, "General Gamble as soon as he had been informed that our pickets had been repulsed, sent out a squadron of the 8th Illinois Cavalry and they followed these Confederates back about two and a half or three miles to the advancing column of Hill's corps, and did just what they claimed they did at 7:30 A.M. and on the identical spot where they placed their marker."


The Gettysburg Battlefield Monument Association must have breathed a huge collective sigh of relief. Here was a solution that was well thought out, plausible and did honor to everyone concerned. The Ninth's claim was considered established "to the entire satisfaction of those present."


The Hodges story went on to appear in print in New York and Gettysburg and in Battles & Leaders of the Civil War. This prompted a counterattack from the 8th Illinois in the National Tribune, the newspaper of the Grand Army of the Republic, the national organization for Union Civil War Veterans. Volleys of letters and reports and presentations kept the exchange going for another quarter century.

But perhaps the final shot was fired in 1890, when the 8th Illinois Cavalry monument was finally placed on the battlefield. After petitioning the GBMA, Beverage and his comrades of the 8th Illinois succeeded in having the 8th New York Cavalry monument moved a thousand yards to the south so that the 8th Illinois monument could be placed just off Chambersburg Pike. And carved on its face is the inscription, "Lieut Jones Co E fired first shot as the enemy crossed Marsh Creek bridge."


What really happened? It is almost certain that both Jones and Hodges were where they said they were and did what they said they did. Which of them fired the true first shot of the battle is probably a matter of definitions. In the words of Wilber Bentley, the first shot controversy was "not a very important matter, except that it is always important to be right."

One thing is certain: if you're trying to make your mark in history and want to add weight to your argument, it doesn't hurt to do it with a five-foot shaft of granite.

Organization Details

From: 18 Sep 1861 1
To: 17 Jul 1865 1
Also known as: "Farnsworth's Abolitionist Regiment" 1
Name: 8th Illinois Cavalry 1

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