Third Kentucky Cavalry

Third Kentucky Cavalry

Contributed by Department of Kentucky, SUVCW, member Timothy Downey


Upon the outbreak of the rebellion, in the spring of 1861, President Lincoln called an extra session of Congress to meet July 4th. There was a special electionJames S. Jackson in Kentucky of this called session of Congress, held June 20, 1861. At that election, James S. Jackson, a Unionist of Hopkinsville, Ky., was elected by a majority of over 9,000 in his, the Second District. It may be here stated that the Union majority in Kentucky at that election was over 54,000. At the regular August election, the same year, the Union majority was increased. James S. Jackson was in Washington, when the condition of the country caused him to resign his seat in Congress to become a soldier. A very interesting mention of Jackson is contained in Col. John H. McHenry’s account of his own regiment, the 17th Ky. Infantry, read before the Federal Historical Society, March 5, 1882. He says: “The representative in Congress from the second District was James S. Jackson, of Hopkinsville. So soon as he observed that war was inevitable, his restless and gallant spirit caused him to resign his seat. Receiving authority from Mr. Lincoln to raise a cavalry regiment, he nobly gave up the luxurious life of a Congressman, and took to the hardships of a soldier.”

He tells of meeting Jackson in Louisville, in the summer of 1861, and learning from him that Nelson was about to organize troops in Central Kentucky, and that Hobson and Hawkins, of Warren, and Burbridge of Logan, and Shackleford, of Hopkins, and himself (McHenry), of Daviess, were to be authorized to recruit regiments in connection with Jackson’s cavalry.

September 6th, Jackson published the following call to the young men of Kentucky:

By the authority and for the service of the government of the United States, I propose to organize a regiment of cavalry to serve three years, or during the war, to consist of ten companies, each company to contain not less than eighty-four, no more than one hundred four, rank and file. Volunteers owning good horses can have them appraised and paid for. The captains and lieutenants are to be elected by the companies respectively. Captains of companies will report to me at the Galt House, in Louisville, as soon as practicable. No company must be removed from its point of organization until ordered into camp. Transportation to the point of rendezvous will be furnished. None but active, vigorous men, and men of steady habits will be received. Capt. Richard W. Johnson, of the regular army, has been detailed to act as lieutenant-colonel. I intend to make this regiment in all respects equal to the best drilled and disciplined corps in the regular army. I know this call will be patriotically answered. The soil of Kentucky has been wantonly invaded.

Louisville, September 6, 1861.

In publishing this call, the Louisville Journal said:

We invite attention to the military call we publish. No word of ours can lend force to the simple but kindling appeal. It will stir the hearts of the loyal youth of our Commonwealth like the notes of a bugle. The magnitude and grandeur of the cause at stake, the exciting and peculiar solemnity of the present juncture in the mighty struggle, the sudden and unprovoked invasion of Kentucky by the Confederate force, and the capacity and courage of the glorious manhood, and the lofty and spotless honor of the leader, who here summons his youthful compatriots to the field, conspire to invest the call with a restless charm. Young men of Kentucky, read the call and answer it. Rally under the flag of your country for the protection of your state!

The call of Jackson was responded to by the instantaneous formation of companies. The men came principally from the counties of the Green river region, west of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, though many were from Christian County and the counties adjacent thereto. It would be a pleasing task to give a detailed history of this magnificent regiment, with its gallant officers- Jackson, Holmes, Murray, King, Breathitt, Wolfley, White, Sloo--all of them indeed; their names appear in the roster of the regiment, and space forbids other mention here. The regiment was full of the spirit of its hero leader, who was soon made a brigadier-general, and laid down his life at Perryville, October 8, 1862.

The 3d Cavalry began to assemble in September and October, 1861, at Owensboro and Calhoun, and in those months, before it was mustered into service, was actively engaged in contests with the Confederate cavalry then operating in that part of the state.

In October, a portion of the regiment skirmished with the enemy at Woodbury, Ky., and November 21st, another portion was engaged at Brownsville.

December 31st, it was mustered into the United States service at Calhoun, Ky., by Maj. W.W. Sidell, being a full regiment of cavalry of the finest material- officers and men. Its record was a thorough fulfillment of its early promise. December 28, 1861, Maj. E. H. Murray, with 168 men, was attacked while on a scout by Col. Forrest, with 300 men, at Sacramento. The fight was fierce, but Murray’s men, being greatly outnumbered, gave way. The loss was severe, Capt. Bacon being killed, Davis captured and eight soldiers killed and others wounded. Col. Forrest reported his force to be 300, and that he lost Capt. Meriwether and three privates killed. His wounded he took to Hopkinsville in wagons. At this time, Maj. Murray was only eighteen years of age, and Gen. Crittenden reports that his conduct deserved the highest praise. During the winter the regiment remained in Western Kentucky, performing duty constantly, as the country was all the time raided by the Confederates from Hopkinsville and other points.

After the capture of Fort Donelson, February 1862, the federal troops advanced into Tennessee, and the 3d Cavalry proceeded to Nashville, being in Crittenden’s division. It marched with Buell’s army to Pittsburgh Landing, and a portion of the regiment engaged in the second day’s battle at Shiloh, and received high commendation from Gen. Crittenden.Battle of Shiloh

After the battle of Shiloh, the 3d continued with Crittenden’s division, Buell’s army, in the movements on Corinth and Iuka. Col. Jackson, however, was placed in command of Buell’s entire force of cavalry, and the regiment was in charge of the lieutenant-colonel. It was on constant duty all the summer in Tennessee and Alabama, being at Huntsville, Florence, Athens and other points. July 16, 1862, Col. Jackson was made brigadier-general, and in August the regiment was in charge of Maj. E. H. Murray. From Athens, Ala., it moved to Decherd, Tenn., and proceeded with Buell’s army into Kentucky. An illustration of the severe duty during the summer of 1862 is shown by an order of Gen. Buell at Huntsville, July 13th, directing “the 3d Ky. Cavalry and one section of artillery to move by forced marches to Fayetteville; thence to Shelbyville, to form a junction with the troops at Wartrace or Tullahoma, and act at Murfreesboro, or in cutting off his retreat. They must be vigilant on the march, and take three day’s rations and get forage on the route.”

This is only a specimen of the many like orders received. The regiment was sent as a whole or part to numberless places in Alabama and Tennessee, wherever the enemy was to be encountered.

The estimate in which the regiment was held is shown in Gen. Crittenden’s report of the battle of Shiloh, expressing his wish to have had the entire regiment with him. Also in Gen. Boyle, at headquarters in Louisville, July 13, 1862, applying to the Secretary of War for the 3d Ky. Cavalry for aid against Morgan.Second Battle of Franklin, TN

August 11, 1862, Gen. Negley, at Columbia, Tenn., reported a fight near Kinderhook, in which Maj. McGowan’s battalion of the 3d behaved most gallantly, fighting fiercely for four hours, and “driving the enemy in every direction.”

September 5th, Col. John Kennett was placed in command of two brigades of Buell’s cavalry at Murfreesboro. The 1st Brigade, 2d Ind., 1st Ky. Cavalry, 4th Ky. Cavalry, 7th Penn. Cavalry, 3d Ky. Cavalry; the 2d brigade, 4th Ohio Cavalry, 3d Ohio Cavalry, 5th Ky. Infantry.

September 29th, Kennett’s cavalry command, which was with Buell’s army in pursuit of Bragg, surprised and captured the 3d Georgia Cavalry at New Haven, Ky. Continuing with Buell’s army, it moved in advance of Crittenden’s division to Louisville. From thence to Perryville, where it operated with other cavalry in that battle. It then joined in the pursuit of Bragg out of the state, and afterward moved to Nashville, where it became part of the cavalry force of Rosecran’s army. December 12, 1862, the 3d Ky., 7th Penn. and 4th Mich., under Col. Ed McCook, made a reconnaissance to Franklin, Tenn., where it drove off the enemy in a severe fight. December 21st, the 3d was again engaged on Wildcat creek. In the Stone’s river campaign and great battle of Murfreesboro, December 31, 1862, the 3d bore a conspicuous part. At this time Murray was colonel of the regiment., it being in Minty’s brigade, Kennett’s division, and all of Rosecran’s cavalry being under Gen. Stanley. A successful charge made by the 3d is mentioned in Stanley’s report, and Minty says: “Col. Murray, with a handful of men, performed service that would do honor to a full regiment.” Murray says in his report, that his regiment captured 87 prisoners. Other reports speak of the splendid fighting of the 3d Cavalry in this great battle. After the engagement at Murfreesboro the 3d was sent back to Kentucky. During the winter and spring of 1863 it was stationed at Hopkinsville and Russellville, Ky. June 2d, Gen. Rosecrans applied to Gen. Burnside to have the regiment sent to him at Murfreesboro, to which request Gen. Burnside replied: “It would be very dangerous to take any cavalry from this department (Kentucky), particularly the 3d Ky. Cavalry.” In the alter part of June, when the forces startedStones River to Burksville, Ky., to intercept Morgan, the 3d was included, but two of its battalions were sent back to Russellville, to remain there and be ready to meet Morgan in case he should attempt to pass out of the state through the western part. As Morgan crossed the Ohio river and went through Indiana and Ohio, these two battalions had no opportunity of either meeting him or sharing in the pursuit; but one battalion, under Maj. Lewis Wolfley, went with the pursuers, and continued until Morgan’s capture.

August 31, 1863, in the organization of the Department of the Ohio, eight companies of the 3d, with Maj. Breathitt and Col. Murray, were at Hopkinsville, and four companies, with Maj. Wolfley and Maj. B. H. Bristow, were at Russellville. The 3d did not accompany the expedition to East Tennessee in the fall of 1863, but was retained on duty in Kentucky.

December 21, 1863, Gen. Boyle reports to Gen. Grant that he had “ordered the 3d Ky. Cavalry to report to Gen. W. S. Smith at Nashville, as you ordered.” It then bore its part in the Sooy Smith expedition.

In January, 1864, Gen. Thomas, in his report of operations from December 1, 1863, says: “Gen. W. S. Smith, with the cavalry of the Military Division of the Mississippi, and the 3d, 5th and 7th Ky.; 2d and 4th Tenn., and 8th Iowa, started for Savannah, on the 20th of December, to cross the Tennessee and operate on the flank and rear of Forrest and drive him from West Tennessee.” He adds: “The operations of the cavalry have been quite brilliant during the month.”

Returning to Nashville the 3d Cavalry, about the last of December 1863, entered the veteran organization, and after the veteran furlough in the winter of 1864 it joined the cavalry organization for the Atlanta campaign under Gen. Sherman. Space does not admit of giving the details of service in the Atlanta campaign, in which the regiment was in Kilpatrick’s division, in the immediate command of Lieut.-Col. Robert H. King, a most faithful and gallant officer, while the young and heroic Col. E. H. Murray sometimes commanded the brigade; sometimes the division to which it was attached.

May 13th, Murray, under instruction from Gen. Sherman, and then commanding the division of cavalry to which the 3d belonged, moved from Resaca to Lay’s Ferry, Gideons and Calhoun. At each place there was lively fighting. Crossed the river at Lay’s Ferry the 16th and moved on Adairsville road in advance of Gen. Logan; 18th at Adairsville; 19th Kingston. Through the months of June and July the cavalry was on the flanks of Sherman’s army. In August at Sandtown. August 18th the cavalry left Sandtown for an expedition southward, encountering the enemy constantly. The 3d fought at Camp creek and Steven’s cross roads. There was hard fighting also at the crossing of the Atlanta and West Point R.R. Col. Minty then taking the advance, moved to Jonesboro. There the brigade commanded by Col. King destroyed the railroad while others fought off the enemy. The command then moved on the McDonough road; then to Lovejoy’s and Fosterville. At the latter place a charge was made, which the reports say was “terrible and magnificent.” It was over infantry and artillery “with the saber and horse’s hoof.” From thence to McDonough; thence to Cotton Indian creek; then to Lithonia; then to Decatur, and thence “to our old camp” at Sandtown, arriving on the 23d, having made a complete circuit of Atlanta and the rebel army. (Murray’s Report.)

On the 28th of August another expedition, similar to the one around Atlanta, took place, which lasted until September 8th. It was attended with daily encounters, Murray’s report saying: “It is impossible for anyone not a participant to have a conception of the many marches made and successful engagements.”

It should be remembered that all this work of the cavalry from May to September was in connection with the great armies, and was not harmless raiding about over the country where there was nothing to encountered.

September, 1864, the writer spent a few hours with Col. Murray and his cavalry, in the Georgia woods near Sandtown. Hood was about to cross the Chattahoochie- his cavalry concealing the movement. Murray then commanded the brigade, in which was the 3d cavalry. He was twenty-one years of age; youthful in appearance, but the picture of an ideal soldier; tall, well built, handsome. He had the confidence of all the commanding officers. The official reports covering three years, show his correspondence with Sherman, Thomas, Sheridan, Negley, Stanley and many others. It was remarkable to observe his serene confidence and self-reliance, and faith in his men. While the writer was with Murray, at that time, a staff officer came hurriedly with a message from Kilpatrick to Murray, to “look to his picket line, something is wrong.” Murray instantly sent an officer of the 3d to the line, then said: “There is a mistake about this; my line is in perfect order, I know every man on it, and just where he is.” The staff officer left, and soon returned saying the trouble was in another quarter. Murray’s command was always in splendid condition and ready for every service.

The 3d Cavalry was with Sherman’s army in the pursuit of Hood, all through Northern Georgia, October, 1864, and then made ready for the move to sea, in November. It bore its part in this great movement, reaching Savannah in December, having fought at Buckland Creek. November 28th, and Waynesboro, December 4th. It then crossed the Carolinas with Sherman’s army, participating in all the labors of that memorable campaign, in which it had many encounters. Among them Blackville, S.C., February 7, 1865; Lancaster, February 27th; Taylor’s Crossroads, March 8th; Fayetteville, March 10th. In March it was at Mt. Olive, N.C. In April it was near Lexington, N.C., where it was mustered out of service July 15, 1865, the officers and men having proven themselves everywhere worthy of their first brilliant and heroic leader, James S. Jackson.

The substance of the report of Gen. Eli H. Murray, commanding the 1st Brigade 3d Cavalry Division, from Atlanta to the sea, will here be given for the intrinsic interest it has and because it narrates the experience of three splendid cavalry regiments-the 2d, 3d and 5th Ky.

The brigade was composed of these three regiments, with the 9th Penn. and the 8th Ind. The brigade left Marietta November 14th, and camped four miles south of Atlanta. November 15th, drove the enemy from Jonesboro; November 16th, struck the enemy entrenched two miles from Lovejoy’s, where the 3d Ky. made a brilliant saber charge and the remainder of the brigade dismounted and charged. The enemy was completely routed, losing artillery and prisoners. November 17th, camped near Jackson; November 18th, camped near Cork, where the 5th Ky. crossed Ocmulgee river and captured 125 horses. November 19th, marched at midnight, crossed the Ocmulgee at Planter’s Ferry, camped fourteen miles from Clinton. November 30th, marched to Clinton, demonstrated toward Macon, and camped at Griswoldville. November 21st, skirmished all day; November 22d, successfully resisted an attack; November 22d, participated with the infantry of Wood’s division in a severe fight; November 23d, camped near Gordon; November 24th, marched to Milledgeville, crossed the Oconee to strike Augusta & Savannah Railroad. November 25th, at Ogeechee Shoals; November 26th, marched twenty-eight miles to Sylvan Grove. Here the command was attacked by Wheeler’s cavalry, but fought them off. November 29th, marched toward Waynesboro, camping on the railroad; here a severe engagement occurred, and six separate attacks were repulsed. In this fighting Gen. Murray compliments especially the conduct of Col. Baldwin and Capt. Glore, 5th Ky. November 30th, in camp near Louisville, Ga.; December 1st, marched toward Waynesboro to attack Wheeler, who was there in force. Murray’s brigade received orders to take the town; every regiment in the brigade is mentioned as excelling in this charge. They drove the enemy panic stricken, and took full possession of the place. Murray says, “It was a magnificent fight”; that the 3d lost a number of men charging a barricade. The enemy fled away in the direction of Augusta. December 7th, started at 5 a.m. and camped at Jacksonboro, twenty-two miles. December 6th, covered the rear of the 20th Army Corps twenty-four miles; December 7th, marched eleven miles; December 8th, marched through Springfield, the last three days being severe marches through swamps. December 9th, marched twenty-two miles and camped eleven miles from Savannah. December 10th, marched four miles near and camped; December 11th, camped at McAllister’s plantation; December 13th, marched to Midway. The enemy escaped in every direction, leaving the way open to the sea. December 14th, remained in camp; December 15th, marched toward King’s Bridge; December 16th, in camp near Sunbury, from which point the fleet could be seen. Murray mentions with high praise many officers of his command, among them Col. King, Captains Sloo and Beggs, and Lieutenants Waters, Bruner, Kelly and Davis of the 3d; Col. Baldwin, Capt. Offutt, and Lieutenants Bryan and Gorham of the 5th; Captains Forman, Gilmore and Lyon, and Sergeants Emery, Pepper and Taylor of the 2d. To Surgeon R.M. Fairleigh of the 3d, who was the brigade surgeon, he expresses his thanks for faithful service. He laments the loss of Capt. Forrester of the 5th and Capt. White of the 3d.

Twyman’s Independent Company of Scouts.

In connection with the 3d Cavalry mention should be made of Capt. Henry G. Twyman’s independent company of scouts, which served as an independent organization from 1861 to July, 1863, when it was consolidated with Company G, 3d Ky. Cavalry.

With this independent company was also Lieut. J.C. Twyman and Lieut. Edward W. Ward, the latter being made captain for a time was in command.

The company was organized under orders from Gen. Buell, in 1861. The company was on active duty continuously in connection with the cavalry of the army, and is most highly spoken of in the reports. In the organization of Buell’s army, June 10, 1862, it was associated with the cavalry, and led by Capt. Henry G. Twyman.

In October, 1862, it was with the post forces at Nashville. November 5, 1862, Col. Smith, commanding that post, reports an attack upon Edgefield, which he repulsed, and says: “I can not close my report without mentioning the excellent conduct of the mounted scouts belonging to Capt. Twyman’s independent command. I have rarely seen their equal for efficiency and bravery.”

July 4, 1863, Gen. Hobson mentions Capt. Twyman’s company with great praise, in the account of his operations against Morgan.

In the organization on June 30, 1863, of the 23d Army Corps under Gen. Burnside, the Twyman Scouts are under command of Capt. E.W. Ward, in Boyle’s division, Shackelford’s brigade.

They are again so reported in the organization of July 31, 1863, at which time they were consolidated with the 3d Cavalry.


From Dyer's Compendium:

3rd Regiment Cavalry

Organized in Calhoun and McLean Counties, Ky., December 13, 1861. Attached to 5th Division, Army of the Ohio, to June, 1862. Cavalry Brigade, Army of the Ohio, to September, 1862. 1st Brigade, Cavalry Division, Army Ohio, to November, 1862. 1st Brigade, Cavalry Division, Army of the Cumberland, to January, 1863. 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Army Cumberland, to March, 1863. District of Western Kentucky, Dept. Ohio, to June, 1863. 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 23rd Army Corps, Dept. Ohio, to August, 1863. Unattached, Hopkinsville, Ky., 1st Division, 23rd Army Corps, to October, 1863. District of South Central Kentucky, 1st Division, 23rd Army Corps, to November, 1863. District of Nashville, Tenn., Dept. of the Cumberland, to April, 1864. 3rd Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Cumberland, to October, 1864. 1st Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Military Division Mississippi, to July, 1865.

SERVICE.--Action at Woodbury, Ky., October 29; 1861. Brownsville, Ky., November 21. Sacramento December 28. Moved to Nashville, Tenn., February 15-March 8, 1862, and to Savannah, Tenn., March 18-April 6. Battle of Shiloh April 6-7. Advance on and siege of Corinth, Miss., April 29-May 30. Pursuit to Booneville May 31-June 12. Buell's Campaign in Northern Alabama and Middle Tennessee June to August. Columbia and Kinderhook August 11 (Detachment). Mt. Pleasant August 14. March to Louisville, Ky., in pursuit of Bragg August 21-September 26. Mumfordsville, Ky., September 22. Ashbysburg September 25. New Haven September 29. Capture of 3rd Georgia Cavairy. Pursuit of Bragg into Kentucky October 1-22. Near Perryville October 6-7. Near Mountain Gap October 14 and 16. Expedition to Big Hill and Richmond October 21. March to Nashville, Tenn., October 25-November 7. Duty there until December 26. Reconnaissance to Franklin December 11-12. Wilson's Creek Pike December 11. Franklin December 12. Advance on Murfreesboro December 26-30. Lavergne December 26-27. Battle of Stone's River December 30-31, 1862, and January 1-3, 1863. Overall's Creek and Wilkinson's Cross Roads December 31. Lytle's Creek, Manchester Pike, January 5, 1863. Expedition to Franklin January 31-February 13. Unionville and Rover January 31. Rover February 13. Ordered to Kentucky February. Duty at Hopkinsville and Russellville and in District of West Kentucky until December, 1863. Action at Russellville June 28. Pursuit of Morgan July 2-26. Buffington Island, Ohio, July 19. Near Volney October 22. Lafayette November 27 (Detachment). Ordered to Nashville December 17. Smith's Expedition from Nashville, Tenn., to Corinth, Miss., December 28, 1863, to January 18, 1864. Ringgold, Ga., April 27. Reconnaissance from Ringgold, Ga., toward Tunnel Hill April 29. Atlanta (Ga.) Campaign May 1-September 8. Near Tunnel Hill and Ringgold Gap May 2. Near Nickajack Gap May 7. Near Resaca May 13. Battle of Resaca May 14-15. Calhoun May 15. Operations on line of Pumpkin Vine Creek and battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5. Operations about Marietta and against Kenesaw Mountain June 10-July 2. Assault on Kenesaw June 27. On line of the Chattahoochie River July 2-12. Adairsville July 7. Siege of Atlanta July 22-August 25. Expedition to Pickens County July. Fairburn and Sandtown August 15. Kilpatrick's Raid around Atlanta August 18-22. Lovejoy Station August 20. Flank movement on Jonesboro August 25-30. Flint River Station August 30. Battle of Jonesboro August 31-September 1. Lovejoy Station September 2-6. Operations against Hood in North Georgia and North Alabama September 29-November 3. Camp Creek and near Atlanta September 30. Sweetwater and Noyes Creek near Powder Springs October 1-3. Van Wert October 9-10. March to the sea November 15-December 10. East Macon November 20. Griswoldsville November 22. Sylvan Grove November 27. Waynesboro November 27-28. Near Waynesboro November 28. Near Louisville November 30. Millen or Shady Grove December 1. Rocky Creek Church December 2. Waynesboro December 4. Siege of Savannah December 10-21. Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865. Blacksville, S.C., February 7. Williston February 8. Johnston's Station February 10. About Columbia February 15-17. Lancaster February 27. Phillips' Cross Roads, N. C., March 4. Rockingham March 7. Monroe's Cross Roads March 10. Averysboro, Taylor's Hole Creek March 16. Battle of Bentonville March 19-21. Occupation of Goldsboro March 24. Morrisville and occupation of Raleigh April 13. Chapel Hill April 15. Bennett's House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. Duty at Lexington, N. C, and in the Dept. of North Carolina until July. Mustered out July 15, 1865.

Regiment lost during service 3 Officers and 41 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 3 Officers and 168 Enlisted men by disease. Total 215.

Copyright © 2000-2009, Robert M. Baker, Timothy Downey, and the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, Kentucky Dept.

Additional Resources

3rd Kentucky Cavalry (Rosters)

3rd Kentucky Veteran Cavalry (Rosters)


Return to Index Page