Pvt. Lucius E. Holcomb (1843-1862) of Simsbury, Connecticut. Co. A, 1st Connecticut Cavalry. Lucius appears to have been orphaned at an early age. At age 7, he was enumerated in the 1850 Census in the boarding house run by Rosanna Bawn (age 34) in Simsbury — possibly a relative.
The Connecticut Cavalry was originally organized as a battalion of four companies, one from each congressional district in the State. The call for it was issued October 1, 1861, and on the 23d it assembled at Camp Tyler, West Meriden, with full ranks. It remained here on drill and discipline until February 20, 1862, when, under command of Major Judson M. Lyon, it proceeded to Wheeling, Va., arriving on the 24th. March 27th it was assigned to the brigade of General Robert Cumming Schenck and ordered to Moorefield, Va. [now W.V.] — the county seat of Hardy county — to fight guerillas. It was very active here, covering the ground with its scouting parties for many miles up and down the South Potomac valley, and penetrating into almost every recess of the mountains on either hand.
Early in May the brigade moved up the valley, and was present on the 8th at the battle of McDowell. The battalion covered the rear of our army as it fell back, repulsing an attack by Ashby’s cavalry near Franklin on the 11th. Jackson having driven Banks from Strasburgh across the Potomac, our army, under Fremont, hastened to intercept him. The battalion led the advance over the mountains. At daylight, May 30th, it met and repulsed the enemy’s cavalry at Wardensville. June 1st, at dusk, it overtook and charged Jackson’s rear at Strasburgh, and in the pursuit of him up the valley was constantly in the advance. It joined in the sharp cavalry fight near Harrisonburg, June 6th, where the rebel General Ashby was killed, and in Fremont’s battle at Cross Keys, two days later. On the 9th it made a dash to save the bridge at Port Republic, but too late for success. The army now retired down the valley, and on July 10th crossed the mountains to Sperryville.
The 1st Connecticut Cavalry would go on to have a storied career at Gettysburg and elsewhere (see Riding for Uncle Sam or Whirlwind & Storm) but Sperryville was the end of the line for young Lucius Holcomb who died of typhoid fever in the regimental hospital at Sperryville on 30 July 1862 at the age of 19.
Alvah H. Granniss of Co. B mentions several encounters with bushwhackers around Moorefield, Virginia, and interactions with Southern civilians, particularly the women who he describes as “the worst you ever see” and “surly as blazes.”
Camp Durfee, ¹ Virginia
April 1, 1862
Arian [?], I received your letter the other day just as we were leaving Wheeling [Virginia]. We took the cars and came to New Creek and stayed overnight there and then we mounted our horses and came to Moorefield. We are right across the [South Branch] Potomac River from the village. There is one regiment [82nd Ohio] ² here with us and two cannons. ³
There was a few cavalry here the other day and there five of the rebels [were] taken prisoners. They crossed the river and put the stars and stripes on the courthouse. The southerners used to use the court house for their troops. The rebels are very saucy here. There has been about one hundred of them taken. There has been twelve taken in one night. There was two brought in yesterday. We were in camp in [an] old cornfield last Saturday night but we had no tents but what the skies afforded us and it thundered and lightened like everything. It rained hard, and Sunday we saddled and started again. We had 31 miles to go then.
This paper looks rather hard but I hope you will excuse. Tis wrote in an old cabin beside the fence. It composes seven rails with some old hay thrown over it and the horse right beside it. I like it very much here here. It is very nice land here. It is something like our meadows at home and plenty of corn and wheat. The corn cost husking. There is fields about thirty acres in them covered with it. The wheat costs carrying to mill. There was some beef that costs dressing 57 head, 5 hogs and 280 head of sheep.
We are at camp on an old secessionist’s [farm]. He offered one thousand dollars for [us] not to camp on his farm. Then they made him take the oath of allegiance and took the farm for bonds. We have our horses saddled nights and our arms on ready at the word and the 82nd Ohio, they do the same. They keep a picket out about a mile. The reason that we have to keep our horses saddled all night is because they expect that General [Stonewall] Jackson has to retreat from Manassas [and] that he has to come this way.
I have not much news to write so please direct your letters to New Creek for we cannot have them come here. There is someone detailed to go after the mail and a guard with him. Our boys want to have a fight [with] some of them scoundrels.
You wanted to know what Co, I belong to, It is Co. A. So I must bid you goodbye for now. I send you one of my pictures.
From your friend, — Lucius E. Holcomb
Direct your letters to New Creek, Virginia
¹ Lt. Col. Bradford R. Durfee of the 82nd Ohio Infantry — a former lawyer of Marion County, Ohio — was in command of the Union troops at Moorefield, Va. He died in the military service on 22 February 1863.
² A letter written on 23 March 1862 by Charles F. Engle of Co. K, 82nd Ohio Infantry states that his regiment arrived at Moorefield on 23 March after a 5-day march and one day on the train. “Last Tuesday,” he wrote, “we traveled by train from Grafton to New Creek, then we had to go on foot. We marched from 10 AM until 2 PM, then we rested the remainder of the day….On the way we took 45 horned cattle and 135 sheep from the Rebels plus 10 wagons…There were about 500 Rebels here but upon our arrival they took off.” [Charles’ letters were written in German and transcribed by Darla Anhorn Lee]
³ I believe the battery was from Co. K, 1st Ohio Light artillery.