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8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment
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8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment 1861-1862
Organized at St. Charles, Ills., and mustered in
Moved to Washington, D.C.; At Meridian Hill
Attached to Cavalry, 2nd Army Corps, Army of the Potomac
Advance on Manassas, Va.
Reconnaissance to Gainesville
Operations on the Orange and Alexandria R. R.
Warrenton Junction, Bealeton Station
Reconnaissance to the Rappahannock
April 23-May 1
Moved to the Peninsula, Virginia; Attached to Stoneman's Light Brigade
Battle of Williamsburg
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
Mechanicsville, Atlee's Station and near Hanover Court House
Garnett's Farm and Gaines' Mill
Despatch Station (Companies E and K)
White Oak Swamp and Glendale
Reconnaissance from Harrison's Landing; At Harrison's Landing
Expedition to Malvern Hill
Movement to Fortress Monroe, thence to Alexandria
Monocacy Church and Nolansville
Sugar Loaf Mountain
Middletown and Catoctin Mountain
Reconnaissance from Sharpsburg to Shepardstown, W. Va.
Pursuit of Stuart into Pennsylvania
Mouth of Monocacy
Sharpsburg and Hagerstown Pike
Purcellsville and near Upperville (Detachment)
Barber's Cross Roads, Chester Gap and Markham
Markham Station and Barber's Cross Roads
Battle of Fredericksburg, Va.
8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment 1863-1865
Operations in Westmoreland and Richmond Counties
March 15 and 29
April 29-May 8
Clendennin's Raid below Fredericksburg
Brandy Station and Beverly Ford
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.
Funkstown, Md.and Boonesborough
Chester Gap and Benevola or Beaver Creek
At and near Funkstown, Md.
July 31-August 1
Raccoon Ford and Stevensburg
Culpeper and Pony Mountain
Reconnaissance across the Rapidan
Jack's Shop, Madison Court House
Stevensburg, near Kelly's Ford and Brandy Station
Fleetwood or Brandy Station
Madison Court House
Near Catlett's Station
Major John Beveridge leaves command
Advance to line of the Rappahannock
Warrenton or Sulphur Springs, Jeffersonton and Hazel River
November 26 -
Mine Run Campaign
Jennings' Farm, near Ely's Ford
January to March
Camp at Giesboro Point. Veterans on furlough until May
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
Reconnaissance to Madison Court House (Detachment)
Rapidan Campaign (Detachment)
Craig's Meeting House, Va. (Detachment)
Todd's Tavern (Detachment)
Alsop's Farm (Detachment)
Guinea Station (Detachment)
Salem Church and Pole Cat Creek
Point of Rocks, Md.and Noland's Ferry
Middletown and Solomon's Gap
July 7, 8
Battle of Monocacy; Rockville and Urbana
Near Fort Stevens, D.C.
Along northern defenses of Washington, D.C.
Operations at Snicker's Gap (Detachment)
Scout from Fairfax Court House to Hopewell Gap
Scout from Fairfax Court House to Brentsville
Scout to Aldie and Middleburg (Co. B)
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.
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
From the west side:
From the east side:
From the north side:
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.
The 8th Illinois Cavalry at the Battle of Monocacy
In July of 1864, most of the 8th Illinois Cavalry was stationed in the Washington D.C. area and was involved in guard duty and patrols against Colonel John F. Mosby’s guerillas. This regiment of veteran cavalrymen had been involved in most of the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac since the spring of 1862, seeing action in several major battles and countless minor skirmishes. On July 4th, five companies of the 8th Illinois Cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel David L. Clendenin were sent out from Washington with orders to find out who had cut the telegraph lines between the city and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, as well as the number and location of the enemy, presumed to be Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s Corps. Early had been sent to the Shenandoah Valley to drive out Major General David Hunter’s Army of the Shenandoah. Early defeated Hunter at the Battle of Lynchburg on June 17th to 18th, and Hunter retreated into West Virginia. Early then marched north into Maryland on a mission to threaten Washington and force the Federal command to send reinforcements north and relieve some of the pressure on the Confederates under siege at Petersburg, Virginia.
After skirmishing with Mosby’s Rangers on the 5th and 6th, the Illinois horsemen entered Frederick, Maryland on the evening of the 6th. At Frederick, Clendenin met with Major General Lew Wallace, who was organizing a defense against Early, who was approaching from the west. Wallace had his hands full trying to put together a fighting force from the few troops available to him, many of whom were inexperienced in battle and had short term enlistments. Reinforcements from the 6th Corps were on their way from Petersburg, but it was not certain when they’d arrive, and Wallace needed all the help he could get in the meantime. Wallace asked Clendenin to scout Early’s Confederates instead of proceeding to Harpers Ferry, and Clendenin agreed.
Early in the morning of July 7th, the 8th Illinois Cavalry along with two artillery pieces headed west in search of Confederates. They found them later that same morning at Middletown, Maryland, in the form of Brigadier General Bradley Johnson’s cavalry brigade, part of Major General John B. Gordon’s division. Though greatly outnumbered, the Federals held off the Confederates for several hours before retiring to Frederick.
The next day, Clendenin received additional cavalry, which was placed under his command. This included a group of 256 cavalrymen cobbled together from various regiments under the command of Major Levi Wells of the 1st New York Cavalry; a portion of the 159th Ohio Infantry that was operating as mounted infantry under the command of Captain Edward H. Leib of the 5th U.S. Cavalry, a mustering officer pressed into service in the field; and two companies of the Loudoun Rangers, an independent unit of Virginians who were loyal to the Union. The Federal cavalry, now joined by some 6th Corps infantry reinforcements, engaged the Confederates just to the west of Frederick. More of Early’s men began arriving in the Frederick area, and Union forces retreated east out of the town the night of the 8th and early morning of the 9th.
It was apparent that Early’s objective was Washington D.C. Wallace set up his defense with emphasis on guarding the bridges and fords of the Monocacy River. Even with reinforcements from the 6th Corps, the Union troops were still outnumbered but capable of slowing down Early’s advance. With reinforcements from the 6th and 19th Corps arriving in Washington, a delaying action would buy the city additional time to prepare a formidable defense.
As the Battle of Monocacy opened on July 9th, the 8th Illinois Cavalry was deployed on the Union left. Clendenin split up his troopers, sending some to burn bridges further down the Monocacy River while others contested Confederate forces crossing at a ford. The 8th was often cut off from Wallace’s main defensive lines, and individual companies were cut off from each other.
After holding out as long as he could, Wallace retreated toward Baltimore, with three companies of the 8th Illinois providing rear guard support. At the town of Urbana, Maryland, the 8th Illinois battled the pursuing 17th Virginia Cavalry, killing it’s commanding officer, Major Frederick F. Smith, and capturing the flag and flag bearer of Company F of that regiment. This portion of the 8th covered the retreat to Baltimore, while two other companies of the regiment that had been cut off from Wallace retreated to Washington. These two companies, plus the others from the 8th that had remained in Washington, were in action against Early’s Corps as it reached the northwest corner of the city at Fort Stevens.
Here’s Lt. Col. Clendenin’s Official Report on the 8th Illinois Cavalry’s action at the Battle of Monocacy and the events leading up to it:
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTH ILLINOIS CAVALRY,
Baltimore, Md., July 14, 1864.
SIR: I have the honor to report that I left Washington, D.C., July 4, at 7 p.m., with 230 officers and men of the Eighth Regiment Illinois Cavalry, and arrived at Point of Rocks at 2 p.m. July 5, where I found Mosby with two pieces of artillery and about 200 men posted on the south bank of the Potomac. Dismounting one-half of my command, I skirmished with him for an hour and a half, killing 1 of his men and wounding 2 others, when he retired down the river. He fired but six shots from his artillery. I lost no men. Hearing that he was crossing at Noland’s Ferry, I moved down and drove him back about 10 p.m., and went into camp for three hours.
I returned to Point of Rocks by sunrise the next morning, and sent one squadron to Berlin and Sandy Hook to protect the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. At 11.30 a.m. I received a telegram from General Howe to repair to Frederick and ascertain the force of the enemy reported in the vicinity of Boonsborough. Calling in my forces, I arrived at Frederick at 8 p.m., where I received orders to report in person to Major-General Wallace, at Monocacy Junction, and by him was ordered to take two pieces of Alexander’s battery and move forward by the way of Middletown and find the enemy.
I left Frederick City at 5.30 a.m. July 7, and met the enemy’s cavalry in equal force approaching from Middletown, and immediately engaged and drove them back, when they were heavily re-enforced and I retired slowly to Catoctin Mountain and placed the artillery in position from which it was able to shell the enemy’s skirmish line with effect. The enemy had used two guns of longer range and heavier metal than those of Alexander’s battery, but we had the advantage in position. After five hours’ skirmishing, the enemy being heavily re-enforced and flanking me, I was compelled to fall back on Frederick. For three hours I had been fighting at least 1,000 men and I could see additional re-enforcements moving up from Middletown, The enemy pressed me closely as I retired on Frederick, where I found an additional gun and ammunition. Placing the guns rapidly in position I cleared the road of cavalry and opened on the head of the approaching column, which fell back and deployed to our left bringing up artillery, which was posted south of the Hagerstown pike in a commanding position. At this time Colonel Gilpin with the Third Maryland Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, came up, and being senior officer, took command of all the forces. I moved to our left and with my cavalry dismounted engaged the enemy, fighting continually until dark, repulsing them effectually. My loss this day was 1 officer, Lieutenant Gilbert, mortally wounded, 2 men killed, and 7 wounded; the enemy retired to Catoctin Mountain during the night.
The next morning I sent forward a portion of my regiment to find the enemy, and skirmished with them the greater part of the day, repulsing several charges and driving their skirmishers into the mountain. Captain Leib, Fifth U.S. Cavalry, with 96 mounted infantry; Major Wells, First New York Veteran Cavalry, with 256 cavalry of various regiments, and the Independent Loudoun Rangers were ordered to report to me that day, all of whom I had supporting the men of my own regiment, or on the flanks watching the movements of the enemy. The loss in the Eighth Illinois Cavalry was Capt. John V. Morris and 1 man killed, and 7 men wounded. The infantry having fallen back I called in my forces, covering the rear of the column.
Leaving Frederick City about 2 a.m. on the morning of the 9th of July, I arrived at Monocacy Junction, via Baltimore turnpike, about daylight. After two hours’ rest I deployed a squadron, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, on the Georgetown pike between the Junction and Frederick; sent Captain Leib with the mounted infantry to hold a ford above the bridge where the Baltimore pike crosses the Monocacy, and one company Eighth Illinois Cavalry down the Monocacy to move well round on the enemy’s right flank. The squadron on the Georgetown pike met the enemy’s skirmishers within a mile of the Junction and held them in check until compelled to retire before vastly superior numbers, which they did in good order. I moved with all the available force I had to our left, where I had been informed the enemy were making demonstrations with their cavalry. I had posted one company on the left of the infantry to cover a ford across the Monocacy and was down between the river and the road to Buckeystown, which was the line I designed taking up when the enemy charged across the river with a brigade of cavalry upon the company I had just posted. Lieutenant Corbit, in command of the company, drove the advance back and for a few minutes held his ground, then retired in good order to the Buckeystown road, which he held until the infantry came to his support. The enemy dismounted their cavalry and engaged the left of our infantry. During this time I was cut off from the main body of our forces, having three orderlies with me and directly in rear of the rebel cavalry. Two squadrons of my regiment were also cut off, but farther down the river. One squadron I directed to accomplish the work of destroying bridges and obstructions, crossing over the Monocacy and making circuit of the enemy’s right to join me on the Georgetown pike near Monocacy Junction. The other squadron I brought around the enemy’s flank and took a position on the left of the infantry. During this time I had scouts and patrols on the Georgetown pike as far as Urbana and fifty men of Major Wells’ command at the latter place patrolling toward Buckeystown. When the rebel infantry charged upon our left and our forces had fallen back, I retired toward Urbana, skirmishing with the enemy’s cavalry. They pressed me closely and made several charges. At Urbana the Seventeenth Virginia Cavalry charged me with desperation, but were repulsed with the loss of their colors, their major, color bearer, and several men killed and a number wounded. The force pursuing me was McCausland’s brigade. I had eighty men of my own regiment and thirty-five men of Stahel’s cavalry with which to oppose McCausland’s brigade. Stahel’s cavalry I could not bring into action, and ordered them to the rear to enable me to keep a clear road in my rear. Deploying my eighty men as skirmishers and making a show of having received re-enforcements, the enemy dismounted their advance regiment to fight me on foot, sending their horses to the rear and blocking up the road. I immediately called back my skirmishers over a hill and fell back to Monrovia, where I found trains loaded with wounded and stragglers moving off. Crossing to the Baltimore turnpike I covered the rear of our retreating forces until they arrived at Ellicott’s Mills. My loss this day was 1 man killed; Lieut. J. A. Kinley and 5 men wounded. Companies C and I, Eighth Illinois Cavalry, Captain Wells commanding, were entirely cut off and fell back on Washington. Captain Leib’s men behaved well and fell back in good order from our extreme right, forming part of the rear guard. The Loudoun Rangers are worthless as cavalry.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
D. R. CLENDENIN,
Lieutenant-Colonel, Comdg. Eighth Illinois Cavalry.
Lieut. Col. SAMUEL B. LAWRENCE,