Dispatches and Reports Relating to the 12th New York Cavalry


His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
President Confederate States

June 9, 1863

Mr. President: A letter from General A.P. Hill, dated 8 p.m. yesterday, reports no change in the attitude of affairs at Fredricksburg. Two batteries of light artillery have crossed to the south side of the Rappahannock since my departure, and the enemy has constructed a line of rifle-pits along the bank of the river, extending from the mouth of Deep Run to Mansfield (Mr. Bernard's house), which defends the ground they occupy. General Hill, to test the enemy's strength in his front, made a demonstration yesterday afternoon at Moss Neck, which caused him to send hurriedly north of the Rappahannock four regiments from the south side. This causes me to believe that he has not more troops at that place than are visible, though his main body may still be at or near Aquia. Scouts on the Potomac report a fleet of thirty-three schooners, unloaded, passing up the river on last Friday, and five steamers, towing empty canal-boats, passing down. I should, therefore, conclude that the schooners were not intended for the transportation of troops down the river.

I see by the New York Herald that the Twelfth New York Cavalry Regiment is on its way to New Berne, N.C. and that the transports Pocahontas and S.L. Tilley would sail from New Berne for Boston on the 8th instant, with the Forty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment. The Herald's correspondent also states that had General Foster five or six more regiments of cavalry, and a few more brigades of infantry and artillery, he could starve out the rebel army in Virginia. I infer from this, and the statement the General Wild had arrived at New Berne to organize an African brigade, that General Foster was not considered very strong. The plan stated in the letter ( a copy of which was sent to me by General A.P. Hill) for destroying this army, does not appear to me to be in process of immediate execution, inasmuch as it seems to be certain that the enemy has abandoned West Point, and diminished his force at Yorktown, Gloucester, and Suffolk. As the writer is supposed to be in communication with General Hooker, its objective may have been to cause us to take [?] to save this army and the city of Richmond. This course does not now appear to me the most advantageous for us, but if you think differently. I will pursue it.

I am your obedient servant.

Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 27 (Part 2), page 294.

June 28, 1863 - Reconnaissance from Plymouth to Nichol's Mills, N.C.

Report of Capt. Raymond Ferguson, Twelfth New York Cavalry.
June 29, 1863

General: It is with regret that I am obliged to remit you the following report, knowing that, where the fault lies, he alone will be censured without regard to rank.

I left here as per order, 9 p.m. 28th instant, with 50 men of my command, and 100 infantry, commanded by Captain Freeman, of the One Hundred and first Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.

We had arrived within 1 mile of Nichol's Mills when we discovered 5 men running from us toward the woods. The nature of the ground was such that they escaped. Proceeded on to Nichol's Mills, laid bridge, and crossed over. Captain Freeman's command remained here. I had arrived within 100 yards of the junction of the Jamesville road and the road which leads to the camp of the Ninety-sixth New York Volunteers, when I discovered men prowling along the road. I halted my command; was then challenged, "Halt! Who comes there?" Answer, "Friends" Waited a few seconds for a reply.

I then asked twice, in a clear, distinct voice, "What regiment are you?" No answer. I replied, "I am Twelfth New York Cavalry." Still received no reply. I then formed my troop by fours, and gave the command to charge. Four of my company followed me. Shots were exchanged on both sides. I then found out my supposed enemy was Colonel [Edgar M.] Cullen's command. There was no loss of either men or horses of my troop.

In the first place, I was to meet Colonel Cullen's force only at Grey's farm, about 4 or 5 miles beyond. He was to have a picket stationed from his main body, so I would not run on his whole command at first. Instead of this, he changed his plans, and met me when and how I have explained.

When the disorder was over, I reported my command under his charge; also gave him instructions as regarded gunboat. He then asked me what he should do. I told him he was in command, and that I was willing to push on to Gardner's Bridge. He said the rebels might have heard our firing, and he did not wish to advance. He then gave me orders to return to my quarters; I did so, and arrived here this 3:30 a.m.

I am, general, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain Troop E Twelfth New York Cavalry
Brig. Gen. H.W. Wessells, Commanding.

Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 27 (Part 2), page 804.

Report of Maj. Floyd Clarkson, Twelfth New York Cavalry.

New Berne, N.C.
July 24, 1863

Lieutenant: I have the honor to present this my report of the
operations of the second detachment against Tar-
borough and Rocky Mount. This detachment was composed of 18
commissioned officers and 289 non-commissioned officers and privates,
divided thus. [Details omitted.]

During the first day’s march, this detachment was in the center.
We bivouacked the first night at Swift Creek. Early in the morning,
after my detachment was in column in the road, and I had reported
ready to move as per orders of the previous evening, I received an
order to take the rear. Giving way to the balance of the column,
we moved forward as third in column, Captain Spann’s squadron,
consisting of his Company B, Mix’s new cavalry, and Company
L, First North Carolina Union Volunteers, forming the rear guard.
The extreme rear, Company L, First North Carolina Union Volun-
teers, with one howitzer, under Sergeant ------, Third New York
Artillery, reached Greenville about 2 p.m., where we fed, and,
after a halt of a couple of hours, moved forward to Sparta, which
we reached at 2 a.m. on the morning of the 19th instant, the vedettes
having been fired upon three times near Tyson’s Creek.

We left Sparta at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 20th, in the advance,
and at 9 a.m. charged into Tarborough, our advance being fired upon
by the advance of a column of rebel cavalry moving upon Tarborough
from Hamilton. We here captured a lieutenant and a sergeant,
whom I sent to the provost-marshal.

Our pickets having been posted, I was ordered by Lieutenant-Col-
onel Lewis "to post a squadron on the Hamilton road, 1 mile from
the bridge." I immediately reported to the colonel that my vedettes
had been fired upon twice, and that a prisoner we had taken (one of
those who fired upon us on our entry into Tarborough) reported that
160 cavalry were then quite near us, and asked that I could take two
squadrons and a howitzer. He immediately gave me his permission,
and I took Companies A, B, and F, Twelfth New York Cavalry, consist-
ing of about 100 men, and a howitzer, under Lieutenant Clark, Third
New York Artillery.

Moving forward a mile, my vedettes and myself, who were then
reading the directions on a guide-post, to determine our course, were
fired upon by 6 cavalrymen a short distance down the road.

Ordering up the howitzer, they left. I ordered Company B, under
Capt. Simeon Church, to charge down the road, the column following.
After a charge of a half mile, a volley was received by the head of
Company B, which wounded 6 enlisted men, including Orderly Ser-
geant [Stephen] Laishley. This fire forced Company B into the
woods on the left side of the road.

Riding forward, I saw about 15 rebels drawn up across the road,
and took a volley. I immediately directed Lieutenant Clarke to move
forward his piece and shell the woods. This he promptly did, and
threw three spherical case shots among them. I also directed Capt.
Cyrus Church to charge with his squadron, consisting of his Company
A and Company F, Lieutenant Brace’s, both of the Twelfth New
York Cavalry, immediately on the discharge of the howitzer. This
was done with hearty good will and a stirring yell, discharging their
pistols at the rebels as we passed, and taking their fire.

Owing to the fact that this was the first time that any of these men
or officers (with the exception of 5 or 6) had been under fire, their
horses also entirely unaccustomed to the report of fire-arms, very
many pistols were discharged while at "raise pistol," and their fire
lost. Passing the rebel line, which was in a wood with but little
underbrush, I rallied the men a quarter of a mile beyond.

During this charge, Capt. C. Church was wounded and thrown
from his horse. Lieutenant Hubbard was severely wounded, and Lieu-
tenant Mosher was found to be missing. Finding that most of the
pistols were entirely discharged or incapable of being fired, I ordered
sabers to be drawn, forming again a column of twos, directed
that they charge directly into the woods, and clean up the enemy,
there not being over 40. This is a liberal estimate, as I carefully
surveyed them as I charged with Captain Church’s squadron.

To add to my anxiety, Lieutenant Clark had charged down the
road with the view of throwing in some canister, but, while in the
act of going into battery, he was thrown from his horse by Com-
pany B, which had also charged, though without orders.

Lieutenant Clark’s battery received one volley, by which he lost
his sergeant and 1 rider.

Calling upon my men for a cheer, which was heartily given, the
column charged with drawn sabers, but the fire they received pro-
bably turned the head of the column, and it did not enter the woods.

I then directed the howitzer to move to the rear, and formed a rear
guard to protect it, returning with my command. My loss in this
charge was 3 commissioned officers wounded and prisoners, 2 enlisted
men killed, 12 wounded, and 16 missing.

Previous to this movement, I had detailed two squads to take pos-
session of two steamboats just below the bridge. One, under the
command of Lieut. William Banta, jr., acting quartermaster of the
detachment, boarded the Colonel Hill, and burned it. The other,
under the command of Capt. Emory Cummings, took possession of
the Governor -------, and burned it.

When the enemy, having brought up a piece of ordnance, opened
fire upon us, while we were upon the north side of the Tar River,
we were ordered to move across the bridge, through the town, and
out the same road to Sparta by which we had entered. This
we did in the same order as when we advanced.

Shortly after we left Tarborough, Captain Stearns, Company C, of
the Third Cavalry, reported to me with his company of carbineers,
and was placed in the advance, supported by Company L, First North
Carolina Union Volunteers, Lieutenant Graham.

As we approached Tyson’s Creek, our vedettes were fired upon by
the enemy in ambush. Captain Stearns immediately deployed his
company as dismounted skirmishers. I also dismounted 30 of Cap-
tain Cummings’ squadron, Troop L, First North Carolina Union
Volunteers, and sent them into the woods as skirmishers to cover
the right flank; formed the balance of my command into columns of
fours by squadrons, and retired them three times into the fields on
the left of the road, to keep them out of range of the enemy’s skir-
mishers. While in this formation, Captain Cummings had his horse
fall, dead, having been shot in the forehead. I also dispatched a re-
quest that a howitzer should be sent to me.

In a short time, a section came up, and Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis
took command of the skirmish.

When we executed the flank move around Greenville, my
detachment was in the center, and so remained until the halt, a few
miles from Swift Creek, when, the march being resumed, it was
placed at the rear. In this order we continued until our arrival at
the creek.

When the column moved to Street’s Ferry, my detachment was in
the center, and arrived at that place on Wednesday, 22d instant,
where we spent the night. Crossed the river at daybreak on the 23d.

As I had to superintend the withdrawal of the pickets and patrols,
being the officer of the day, my detachment crossed the Neuse, and
continued its march to the respective camps of its various portions
under the command of Captain Cummings, Company A, Mix’s new

The rear guard having been all embarked, I went on board the last
flat, and came down the river on the Port Royal.

Annexed I hand you a statement of the losses met with in my com-

I am, colonel, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Major Twelfth New York Cavalry, Commanding.

Lieut. J. Nourse,
Acting Adjutant, Cavalry Expedition.











Company A,
Mix’s new cavalry



Company B,
Mix’s new cavalry



Company L,
1st N.C. Union Vols.




Company A,
12th N.Y. Cavalry







Company B,
12th N.Y. Cavalry





Company F,
12th N.Y. Cavalry











Horses lost in action, 24; horses abandoned, 89? [Source image blurred]



Source: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 27 (Part 2), pages 971-974.

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© copyright Kenneth Jennings Wooster
27 Abdallah Avenue
Cortland, New York 13045-3302
File created: October 5, 1997.
File modified: March 31, 2000, April 3, 2000; December 26, 2002.