A narrative of service with the Third Wisconsin Infantry/A cavalry expedition

A Cavalry Expedition

On June 6 this easy life came to an end. The company commanders of our Regiment were summoned to the Colonel's tent, and informed that the Regiment had been selected to accompany a cavalry expedition. We were instructed to leave behind all baggage not carried on the persons of the men, and to take only those who could march thirty miles a day. The expedition was to be composed of the two best regiments in each corps—the Second Massachusetts and ourselves having been selected from the Twelfth.

We left our camp at about six o'clock and marched that night to Spott Tavern, fifteen miles away. The next day we reached Bealeton Station, where we bivouacked in the woods until the night of the 8th, awaiting the arrival of our cavalry. We were joined here by a number of other regiments, the whole force being under command of General Ames. Our State pride was highly gratified to find four Wisconsin regiments in this detail of picked commands from every corps.

On the night of the 8th, our whole force, infantry, artillery, and cavalry, moved down to the Rappahannock at Beverly Ford. The next morning, a portion of the Third Wisconsin was deployed to cover the crossing; but the enemy had not discovered us, and we passed over without trouble. The cavalry now pushed on to Brandy Station, on the railroad; the infantry following, with our detachment in the lead. The cavalry were soon briskly engaged, and in a little while Colonel Davis, their commanding officer, was brought back mortally wounded. The infantry was now disposed on the flanks, to guard the cavalry from being taken at a disadvantage. The fighting soon became general, being mostly by detached companies deployed as skirmishers. At one time, in advancing with my Company to clear out a piece of woods, I had a lively fight for a short time; five men out of the twenty with me were severely wounded before we drove the enemy from their shelter. At another time, Company D succeeded in getting on the flank and rear of a North Carolina regiment, and captured over a hundred prisoners. Some of our cavalry regiments were pretty severely handled at the beginning of the fight, especially before the infantry came up. On the whole, however, the expedition was a success, resulting in the capture of the head-quarters of the Confederate cavalry leader, General J. E. B. Stuart, together with many valuable papers and orders relating to the contemplated invasion of the North.