The Washington Evening Star, September 19, 1914, Pages 1 & 5.

Survivors of 25th New York Cavalry See Regiment's Bravery Honored.


Representative Griffin Makes Presentation Speech and Brig. Gen. Scott Accepts Shaft for Government.

More than fifty years after that July, 1864, when the 25th New York Volunteer Cavalry put up a stubborn fight against superior forces to stop the onrush of the Confederate army into the National Capital, about twenty survivors gathered this afternoon and saw the nation, the state of New York and the District of Columbia pay tribute to them and their comrades in arms on the battle ground on which they fought. It was the unveiling and official presentation to the federal government of the monument erected by the state of New York to the gallant 25th at the Battle Ground cemetery on Georgia avenue. State and federal government officials as well as members of the commissions which had charge of the construction of the monument took part in the exercises. The remnant of those who fought in the battles were there, and the program did not lack Confederate representatives. It was again the joining of the north and south, when Union and Confederate veterans clasped hands in tribute to bravery.

The monument was presented to the federal government, on behalf of the state of New York, by Representative Daniel J. Griffin, representing Gov. Glynn, and, on behalf of the federal government, Brig. Gen. Hugh L. Scott, U. S. A., representing the Secretary of War, accepted it. It had been intended that Adjt. Gen. Henry De Witt Hamilton, National Guard of New York, should present the monument, but this morning W. V. Cox, chairman of the committee of arrangements, received a telegram announcing the inability of the general to be present.

The exercises opened with a selection by the 6th United States Cavalry Band. W. V. Cox, who presided over the exercises, then spoke briefly.

Mr. Cox's Remarks.

“I congratulate the members of the 25th New York Cavalry,” said Mr. Cox, “here present that they have been spared to see the regiment in which they served honored by state and nation by the erection of this monument.

“It has taken many years of earnest work, and, for its completion, thanks are especially due the loyal, tireless and faithful John H. Wolff and his comrades, G. F. Currey, C. H. Brous, Theodore Basterdes, Peter Banta, W. D. Campbell. George Collins, John Maloney, Judge H. M. Nevius, the lamented past commander-in-chief of the G. A. R., who lost his arm by the McChesney Spring, a short distance west of us, and A. B. Parks, member of the New York commission, whose death on September 4 we have been called to mourn. All these men have given both of their time and money to honor their regiment and their comrades who died on Fort Stevens field.

“Amid these surroundings of peace and happy homes, one can hardly realize that fifty years ago in that great fratricidal struggle you trained soldiers of the 25th were here engaged in the first day's fight before Washington. History tells what you did July 11, 1864.

“The citizens of Brightwood welcomed you then, and today, over fifty years afterward and on the anniversary of the battle of Winchester, in which you took such a distinguished part, and within a month of the close of the wonderful campaign against Washington, they again welcome you, as do many others who were your enemies in times of war, in peace, friends.

“During the long intervening years, we have thought of you, and on Memorial day the graves of your fallen comrades in Battle-Ground, Sergt Thomas Richardson, Sergt. Alfred C. Starbird, Elijah S. Hufletin, Jeremiah Maloney and William Tray, are covered with flowers, as are those of your fallen comrades at Arlington and the Soldiers' Home.

“The citizens of the District of Columbia desire to express their thanks to the state of New York and its monument commission, to the War Department and the quartermaster's department, to the 5th United States Cavalry Band, the Fort Stevens Association, the members of the various committees, especially to Lewis Cass White and A. S. Perham, for what they have done toward erecting and dedicating this memorial.”

Master John Ashton Wolff, grandson of John H. Wolff, then pulled the string that exposed the monument to the public view. Representative Daniel J. Griffin of New York at this point officially presented the monument to the federal government.

Griffin Presents Monument.

“These sacred precincts have been hallowed by the heroism and the blood of those dashing cavalrymen, who gave up their lives in defense of the nation's capital,“ said Representative Daniel J. Griffin of New York, representing the governor of that state in the presentation of the monument.

“Their supreme act of immolation is characteristic of the spirit that animates the volunteer soldier of America. He loves his country, its flag and its free institutions. To perpetuate them he is ever ready to sacrifice his life. With such a spirit existing, and known from one end of the civilized world to the other, the tranquility of the American people is assured. A half century has rolled by since those brave New York lads went gallantly to their death. No scars remain from that fratricidal strife. North, south, east and west are united inseparably under the starry emblem of freedom and humanity.

“The people of a united north and south have assembled here this afternoon at the Battle Ground national cemetery to honor those New York

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martyrs whose blood cemented the union of states.

Representing his excellency, the Hon. Martin H. Glynn. Governor of the State of New York, it is my privilege to present to the United States this monument of enduring granite— New York's tribute to the valor, patriotism and the sacrifice of her sons who died in defense of the nation's capital.”

Brig. Gen. Scott Replies.

Brig. Gen. Hugh L. Scott, U. S. A., in accepting the monument, said that it was— “a high privilege to. have been designated by the Secretary of War to receive this monument in his name from its committee and the representative of the Governor of New York into the hands and the fostering care of the national government, which has been preserved by the services and sacrifices of the men of the civil war such as those rendered by the gallant men of the 25th New York Volunteers upon those historic grounds in the defense of Washington and commemorated here today.

“I rejoice that there has been builded for those patriotic men of the civil war not alone these beautiful monuments of stone, but others in the hearts of the American people far stronger than iron and more durable than brass.”

High tribute to the gallantry of the 25th New York Cavalry was paid by Representative J. A. Goulden of New York, who was a participant in the battles. After giving a brief account of the mustering in of the command he said:

“Its first engagement was with Early's Corps near Fort Stevens, just north of Washington. June 11, 1864. The regiment stood its ground nobly, although greatly outnumbered. Gen. Alexander McDowell McCook, one of the fighting brothers of that famous name in command of the defenses, ordered the regiment to retire, which it did in an orderly manner, contesting every foot of the ground until relieved by the 9th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps.

“The 25th Cavalry undoubtedly checked Early's advance and perhaps saved the capital.”

“Being on the ground near Fort Stevens, as a volunteer, it was my privilege to witness this engagement. I can therefore bear testimony to the bravery of the men under fire, to the excellent discipline maintained and to the soldierly manner to which they slowly fell back under orders of Gen. McCook. I will be pardoned, I am sure, if I digress here to give a brief personal account.

President Under Fire.

“I was stationed in the Washington navy yard at the time, and vividly remember the intense excitement prevailing. Early's famous corps of seasoned veterans of Lee's army was marching on the capital with nothing but raw troops and thousands of civilians, laborers, clerks and so forth from in and around Washington to oppose the enemy. Clearly I recall marching to Fort Stevens July 10, over muddy roads; of being stationed at Fort Slocum; just to the east of Fort Stevens Heavy guns in the different forts, mere earthworks, and of helping drill as best we could the civilians who were expected to help handle them. It is stated, and I believe truthfully, that President Lincoln was under fire at Fort Stevens on that memorable July 11. Fort Slocum and Fort Totten were under the command of Col. Haskin, a gallant officer. Of the other officers of note who were there I recall Gens. Meigs (the Quartermaster general), Augur, Rucker and Payne.

“The splendid work done by the 25th New York Cavalry on the 11th of July saved the day, as it checked Early's advance and enabled the 6th and a part of the 19th Corps to arrive on the line of defense, which reached from Fort Stevens to Fort Lincoln, a distance of five miles. It is not generally understood, I imagine, what force constituted Early's army, which included a part of A. P. Hill's Corps. I think beyond a doubt, and that was Gen. McCook's estimate, that there were 30,000 men and sixty pieces of field artillery in Maryland in front of Washington.

“I desire to quote the following from the official records of the War Department: ‘The first important encounter the regiment had with the enemy was in the repulse of Early's attack on Washington. July 11 to 12, 1864. It has been ordered back from the Army of the Potomac and placed on the picket line in front of Fort Stevens, Washington, D. C. At about noon, July 11, this picket line was attacked by a strong line of skirmishers sent out by Gen. Early, Gen. Alexander McDowell McCook, who was in command in person at Fort Stevens, observing the line was too thin to cope with the enemy's skirmishers directed them to retire, slowly contesting their ground. The regiment was relieved at 4 o'clock by the 9th Regiment Veteran Reserve Corps. The relief was, however, not accomplished until after a brisk fight in which the 9th Regiment lost one killed and eleven wounded.’

Dr. Calver's Poem.

A poem about the 25th New York Cavalry, composed by Dr. Thomas Calver, then was read by the author, as follows:


In the gray, cheerless light of the break of the day,
     As the moon and the stars faded out,
A regiment silently wended its way
     Where the foe reconnoitered about;
A cavalry regiment minus its steeds—
     It marched at the President's sign.
To fight, as it stretched o'er the green flower meads.
     In a thin, blue skirmish line.

No fighting was theirs such as proudly they knew,
     With the saber and carbine and steed,
And pennants and guidons of yellow and blue.
     And the trumpets in galloping, lead.
But here they must patiently watch for the foe
     To give of advance any sign,
And, if they should come, meet the force of the blow
     In that thin, blue skirmish line.

The Empire State's Twenty-fifth— this was their name
     And well had their courage been tried.
And each soldier felt, as he thought of their fame
     'Twere well for such fame to have died;
And when the great Lincoln said, “Boys, hold them back!
     This duty to you I assign!”
Each soldier was ready to die in his track,
     In that thin blue skirmish line.

So, bright through the morning their rapid shots gleamed.
     And flashed through the following day;
So bold was their front that the enemy deemed
     That an army in front of them lay.
Their courage and cool, skillful marksmanship gave,
     Of weakness in numbers no sign;
They fought like an army, efficient and brave,
     In that thin, blue skirmish line.

And so at Fort Stevens the battle they saved
     And the capital shielded from harm
An army of veteran solders they braved
     And held back, with fortitude's arm.
Till the following eve, when the Sixth Corps appeared,
     In spirit and armament fine.
And gone was the danger the government feared—
     Oh, that thin, blue skirmish line!

God bless every one who came out of that fray
     And the souls of the brave boys who fell;
For we, who now reap what they sowed that dread day
     The worth of their valor can tell.
And bless every one who to duty gives all;
     His in bright glory shall shine.
As those of the heroes who stood there, to fall
     In that thin blue skirmish line.

History of the Regiment.

Following the reading of the poem. C. Broas read a history of the 25th's operations, written by John. H. Wolff.

In part it follows:

The 25th New York Volunteer Cavalry was organized at Saratoga Springs, N. Y., from October, 1863, to the spring of 1864. It was commanded by Maj. Samuel W. McPherson until after the battle of Fort Stevens, D. C., July 11 to 13, 1864. The regiment numbered about 1,100 men, from Company A to M.

It took part in about thirty-five battles and skirmishes. Its total loss of officers and enlisted men, who were killed and died of disease from all causes was 104.

The 25th New York Cavalry dismounted and turned in their horses at City Point Va., July 8 or 9, 1864, embarking at City Point July 9, and arriving at Baltimore the afternoon of July 10, 1864, and proceeded to Washington, D. C., where they arrived the evening of the 10th.

Between 2 and 3 o'clock the morning of July 11 they proceeded to Fort Stevens, where they arrived between 6 and 7 o'clock the morning of the 11th receiving orders to advance as skirmishers in front of the fort, which Gen. Early and his army were threatening.

Lincoln on Firing Line.

Just as they were moving out President Lincoln came along and inquired of Maj. S. W. McPherson as to his name. The President said: “It is a very good name, indeed, sir, but upon you and your men depend the safety of our capital. Should any of you be captured, forever hold your peace and say nothing about the situation in Washington. The 6th Army Corps is coming to Washington to your assistance. Should any of you be captured, tell the enemy that you are a part of the 6th Army Corps.”

The regiment occupied the skirmish line from the 7th street pike west and in front of Fort Stevens. They started on the skirmish line about 8 a.m. July 11, 1864, and were relieved by the regiments of the 6th Army Corps about 6:30 on July 11, 1864. At this time the regiment numbered about 800 men, ten companies being on duty at Fort Stevens.

The enemy had occupied several houses in front of Fort Stevens, but July 11, 1864, about noon, the 25th New York Cavalry burned some of these houses and drove the enemy away.

In this engagement the regiment lost six men who were killed in the battle, July 11, five of whom – Sergt. Thomas Richardson, K. S. Huffleter, J. Moloney, Sergt. A. C Starbird and W. M. Tracey – lie buried in Battleground national cemetery [near Fort Stevens. One man] who was also killed, is buried else-where.

Sixteen men wounded in the battle died from the effects of wounds. After the fight at Fort Stevens the 25th was sent up the Shenandoah valley and was placed in the Michigan brigade, under Gen. George Custer, taking part in a number of important battles under Gen. Phil Sheridan, the last engagement being at Staunton, Va., 1865.”

Other Addresses.

G. Prank Southerland gave some reminiscences of the 25th New York men. E. W. Whittaker told of the northern cavalry in general, an address concerning the fighting was delivered by Gen. J. Floyd King. C. S. A., Gen. Hurley's chief of artillery, and Maj. J. F. Carter told of the effectiveness of the carbine in the hands of the cavalry at Fort Stevens.

Dr. N. H. Holmes pronounced the invocation, while Rev. Thomas C. Clark pronounced benediction. A vocal solo was rendered by Miss Ida O'Neal.

Monument to Capital Savers, The Washington Evening Star, September 19, 1914, Pages 1 & 5.(PDF)