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1st New Jersey Cavalry

Regimental History
First Cavalry.— Cols., William Halsted, Percy Wyndham, John W. Kester, Hugh H. Janeway, Myron H. Beaumont; Lieut. -Cols., Julius H. Alexander, Joseph Karge, Virgil Broderick, Walter R. Robbins; Majs., Henry O. Halsted, Ivins D. Jones, Alexander M. Cummings, John H. Shelmire, Henry W. Sawyer, James H. Hart, William Harper, William H. Hick. On Aug. 4. 1861, the president of the United States issued an order authorizing Hon. William Halsted, of Trenton, to raise a regiment of volunteer cavalry from the state of New Jersey. The order limited the time for recruiting to ten days, but there was afterward an extension of ten days additional. Mr. Halsted had been for many years a prominent member of the bar of the state; had attained considerable political eminence ; was at one time a member of Congress, but now approaching his 70th year, he scarcely possessed the activity and physical strength requisite for the cavalry service. Gov. Olden, for this and other reasons, declined to recognize the regiment as part of the state contingent of volunteers and it was consequently recruited under wholly independent auspices. But whatever judgment may be pronounced upon the capacity of the colonel to command, he certainly proved that he possessed the ability to raise the regiment. On Aug. 24, the first four companies, under command of Maj. M. H. Beaumont, arrived in Washington, and a week afterward six other companies were brought in by Col. Halsted himself — the whole going into camp on Meridian hill. Being ordered to the Valley of Virginia, with many of the horses unshod, over stony roads and through heavy mire, often along hillsides, giving up the road to others, the regiment pushed steadily on, passing all other forces, and in five days reached Strasburg, where about 150 Confederate stragglers were captured. The regiment did heroic service at the battle of Woodstock, and also fought at Harrisonburg. It had left Fredericksburg about 800 strong, and was now reduced to less than half that number, but those who remained were as full of daring as was their gallant leader. At Harrisonburg the Federal forces were defeated, an event that was repeated two days later at the battle of Cross Keys, in which the regiment also participated. It was then advanced to the Rapidan, and no movement of any moment being made, remained there, skirmishing successfully every day, 12 miles from any support, while the enemy again took the offensive. The regiment was engaged at the battle of Cedar mountain, where its steadiness saved the day, as it delayed the forces of the enemy who might otherwise have turned the Federal left. The engagement was a brief one, and the number of the wounded was very large, though the 1st regiment lost only 11 men. With the 2nd N. Y. it was engaged in a skirmish near Brandy Station, in which the enemy was driven back with loss. The regiment also took part in the fight at Rappahannock Station and after it was over, of the 250 Jerseymen engaged 40 did not answer to their names. The regiment supported the left in the fight from Centerville to Fairfax Court House, only the skirmishers, however, having any work to do. The next engagement of importance in which the regiment participated was the drawn battle with Stuart at Aldie, and though not 20 men were lost on both sides in the action, its results were such as to entitle it to mention in the regimental history. In April, 1863, the New Jersey regiment, while on the road to Orange Springs, surprised and charged a small party of the enemy, capturing their major and several other prisoners. The regiment was also engaged in the noted cavalry fight at Brandy Station, and it is enough to say in illustration of the severity of that engagement, that out of 39 horses in the second squadron 27 were left on the field, and of 280 officers and men in action, 6 officers and over 50 men were killed, wounded or missing. At Gettysburg, on the afternoon of July 2, an assault was made upon the position occupied by the regiment, but it was easily repulsed and at night the cavalry brigade fell back upon the Baltimore pike to bivouac until the morrow, when it contributed to the victory. On July 5, in the mountain passes above Emmitsburg, the 1st N. J. cavalry was sharply and successfully engaged, and on the 6th it had another contest. On the 14th, having been daily engaged in arduous duty, the regiment crossed the Potomac at Harper's Ferry and finding the 12th Va. cavalry in possession of the country beyond advanced against it, capturing its colonel. At the battle of Sulphur Springs the regiment came out of the remarkable contest with the loss, wonderfully small under the circumstances, of 4 officers and 30 men, though 7 officers and 130 men had their horses killed or wounded, so that the casualties amounted to nearly one-half of the force engaged. Two days later, shortly after passing the headquarters of the army, the regiment ran into the pickets of a Confederate brigade and drove them into the advance of the 2nd corps, by whom they were captured. At the battle of Parker's store the loss of the regiment was more severe than that of any other engaged, and in the death of Lieut. Jamison, who was killed in the engagement, it gave to the country one of the most zealous and efficient officers in the service. The entire loss of the regiment in the brilliant affair at Todd's tavern on May 5, 1864, was 6 men killed and 2 officers and 41 men wounded. The following day the 1st was not engaged, but on the 7th the whole of the Confederate cavalry having been thrown across the Po river the hostile forces became fiercely engaged. On May 9 the whole cavalry corps moved south in the direction of Richmond, the 1st N. J. having the rear of the column. Early on the morrow, the Confederates assaulted the line, but were held in check by the 1st N. J., and the whole force crossed the North Anna. Nine companies of the regiment were engaged at Haw's shop, and the total loss of these companies was 64 in killed and wounded, 11 being officers. At Trevilian Station 100 men of the regiment engaged two regiments and a section of artillery with comparatively few casualties and came out of the contest with honors. In the sharp fight at Deep Bottom, in July, in which the 1st N. J. cavalry participated, the enemy was repulsed with serious loss, but he carried away with him one of the guns. With the engagement at Reams' station the 1st N. J. cavalry terminated the period of its original enlistment and on Sept. 1 the men whose term of service had expired embarked at City Point for home, reaching Trenton a week later, but leaving the regiment as an organization still in the field, its honors being duly inherited by the hundreds of reenlisted men and supported by its numerous recruits. During the three years now expired it had lost 6 officers and 29 enlisted men killed, and 18 officers and 76 enlisted men wounded. The regiment participated in another engagement at Reams' station in September, and during the fight on the Vaughn road its losses amounted to 4 killed, 7 wounded and 1 missing. At the battle of Bellefield Station, Va., the casualties amounted to 4 killed, 11 wounded and 4 missing. At last the hour struck when the regiment was to move out for the last time against the columns of the enemy. It participated in the actions at Dinwiddie Court House, Hatcher's run, before Petersburg, Five Forks, Chamberlain's creek, Amelia Springs, Jetersville, Sailors' creek, Farmville and Appomattox Court House, being present at Lee's surrender. Its campaigns then being ended, it proceeded to Trenton, where it was finally dissolved. The total strength of the regiment was 3,317, and it lost during its term of service, by resignation 42, by discharge 320, by promotion 139, by transfer 455, by death 298, by desertion 453, by dismissal 5, not accounted for 238, mustered out, 1,367. (This regiment was also known as the 16th N. J. volunteers.)

Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 3

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