The Independent Dragoons
WAR OF 1861-1865
Interspersed with Personal Reminiscences
T. F. Dornblaser
Army Correspondent "Dragoon," and Present Chaplain of Lincoln Post, No. 1, G.A.R., Topeka, Kansas.
Published for the Author.
Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1884.
In Perpetuam Memoriam
THE facts and incidents narrated in the following pages are drawn principally from memory. Diaries and letters written in "camp and field" have been consulted, as far as possible, to correct and confirm the author's recollections.
It is not proposed to give the history of an army, or to elucidate the plans of any particular campaign, but simply to tell the story of army life as seen and experienced by a soldier in the ranks.
The rank and file of the army had nothing to do in originating the plans of battle; notwithstanding, they had more to do than all others with the successful execution of those plans.
The writer, of necessity, must depend largely on his personal
knowledge, and if he should fail to do justice to the memory and heroism
of a single comrade, it must be ascribed to a lack of information, and not
to a want of
-- T. F. D.
THE Independent Dragoons were organized in Nittany Valley, Pennsylvania, by Colonel John Smith, five or six years prior to the outbreak of the rebellion. They were organized as State Volunteers. The State furnished them with broadswords and horse-pistols. The handsome uniforms and horse-regalia were purchased by the men them-selves, at a cost of seventy-five dollars to each man. This troop was the best uniformed company of cavalry at the State Military Encampment in eighteen hundred and fifty-nine and sixty.
After the promotion of Col. Smith to Brigadier General of State Militia, I. B. Schaeffer, his son-in-law, was unanimously elected captain of the company.
This troop of horse met for drill three and four times a year. On the day appointed they often rode from ten to fifteen miles to the place of muster, starting before day, drilling in the field three hours in the forenoon and three in the afternoon, charging and counter-charging, wheeling in platoons and by company, until the troopers' legs were sore from the scrouging of their prancing steeds.
Weary and jaded, both man and beast, the home ride had to be made that same night. How their sides ached with the weight of the sabre! How their heads reeled with agony under the plumed helmets! But it was heroic. The crowd of spectators looked with admiration upon the mounted dragoons, giving expression to their enthusiasm by huzzahs as loud and long as ever greeted the knights of ancient chivalry. Men, women, and children along the highways, gazed with wonder at the advancing column of these gay cavaliers. When the command was given to fire a volley from those old-time horse-pistols, the scene beggars description. Women shrieked, children cried, the horses stood on their hind feet and pawed the air, and as the cloud of smoke lifted from the scene of confusion, more than one horseman was seen on the ground readjusting his accoutrements. These pistols had a bore large enough to admit a good-sized acorn. Like the blunderbuss, they were calculated not so much to hurt as to scare people.
In order to increase the effect and to terrify the natives beyond measure, a twelve-pound howitzer was planted on an eminence commanding some quiet village, and while the cavalry dashed into town, pouring their volleys into the air, peals of thunder and volumes of smoke were belching forth from the hill-top, shaking the houses by the mighty concussion, and smashing in a score or more of window-panes, for which a generous public was always willing to pay. But this play with firearms was soon followed by dread reality.
Sumpter fell under the fire of hostile cannon! At the first call for seventy-five thousand men, the Independent Dragoons promptly tendered their services, but the War Department had no use for any more cavalry.
The company was about to offer its services as infantry, when Col. Geo. C. Wynkoop was commissioned by Governor Curtin to recruit the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry, at Harrisburg. Accordingly, on the fourteenth of October, 1861, a number of dragoons and fellow-citizens of Clinton and Centre counties enlisted in the service of the United States.
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