Jeff Davis Legion [Cavalry]

aka 2nd Battalion Mississippi Cavalry (Martin’s)

 

(from Dunbar Rowland’s "Military History of Mississippi, 1803-1898"; company listing courtesy of H. Grady Howell’s "For Dixie Land, I’ll Take My Stand’)

 

Companies comprising the Jeff Davis Legion [Cavalry]:

Company A -- Natchez Cavalry, aka Natchez Mounted Company, and aka the Adams Troop (raised in Adams County, MS)

Company B -- Chickasaw Rangers (raised in Chickasaw County, MS)

Company C -- Southern Guards (raised in Kemper County, MS)

Company D -- Sumter Mounted Guards (raised in AL)

Company E -- Canebrake Legion (raised in AL)

Company F -- Dixie Cavaliers (raised in GA)

Company G -- Screven’s Company (raised in GA)

Company H -- Morehead Rangers (raised in AL)

Company I -- McKenzie’s Company (raised in AL)

Company K -- Roberts’ Company (raised in AL)

 

Colonel -- William T. Martin, promoted and transferred. Lieutenant-Colonels -- Martin, promoted; J. Fred Waring. Majors -- William M. Stone; William G. Conner, killed near Gettysburg; J. Fred Waring, promoted; Ivey F. Lewis. Adjutant -- R. E. Connor, of Natchez. Quartermasters -- G. Farrar, of Natchez; D. S. Farrar.

The cavalry companies of Captains Martin (Co. A), Gordon (Co. B), and Perrin (Co. C) went to Virginia independently. It was ordered August 17, 1861, that "A troop of Mississippi horse, under Capt. W. T. Martin, now at Ashland, will march as soon as possible to Manassas and join the army of the Potomac." On September 17 "Capt. James Gordon, of the Chickasaw Rangers, Mississippi cavalry, will proceed with his company to Manassas, Va., and report to General Johnston." And a special order of October 24, 1861, required that "The following companies will be organized into a battalion, the designation of which will be the Second Battalion of Mississippi Cavalry, Maj. William T. Martin commanding; Captain Martin's company of Mississippi cavalry, Captain Gordon's company of Mississippi cavalry, Captain Perrin's company of Mississippi cavalry, Captain Stone's company of Alabama cavalry." Subsequently the battalion was merged with three companies of Love's Alabama battalion and a Georgia company, to form the Jeff Davis Legion, under Martin's command.

At the battle of Williamsburg, May 5, 1862, the Legion, under Lieut.-Col. Martin, made the reconnaissance that revealed the dispositions of the enemy. They had one man killed. In June two squadrons of the Legion, 250 picked men, under Martin's command, rode with Stuart in the famous raid around McClellan's army before Richmond. Of the most dangerous part of this adventure Stuart wrote in his report: "With an abiding trust in God and with such guarantees of success as the two Lees and Martin and their devoted followers, this enterprise I regarded as most promising....The rear now became of as much importance as the front, but the duties of rear guard devolving upon the Jeff Davis Legion, with Breathed's howitzer attached, its conduct was intrusted to its commander, Lieut.-Col. Martin, in whose judgment and skill I had entire confidence. He was not attacked, but at one time there appeared in his rear a party of the Fifth Cavalry, U. S. A., bearing a flag of truce, twenty-five in number, who actually surrendered to his rear guard, so great was the consternation produced by our march." Stuart recommended that three companies be added to the legion and Martin promoted to Colonel, "a grade which he has fairly won."

In the Chickahominy campaign, or seven days' battles, Colonel Martin had command of his battalion, the Fourth Virginia cavalry and Pelham's artillery. It was a period of constant fighting, in which the cavalry performed deeds of reckless daring. First, on crossing the Chickahominy, Martin took an advanced position on the South Anna, which effectually covered from McClellan the movement of Jackson's army against his flank. Then, when Jackson came up, they advanced with him to Cold Harbor. In the course of the daring raid to cut the York River Railroad, Captain Avery's company (Co. C) was dismounted, and with one of the Virginia companies and two of Pelham's guns, attacked and drove away a gunboat near the White House, where the Federal General in a panic was destroying his vast collection of army supplies. July 2 Lieutenant Chestnut, of the Boykin Rangers, with ten men defeated a squadron of the enemy's cavalry, and Martin advanced to Haxall's landing, where 150 prisoners and guns were taken within sight of the Federal monitor. The same day Martin encountered and drove the Tammany regiment from New York, taking three prisoners. Lieutenant Fisher, with fourteen men of Company B, captured a company of the Bucktail regiment, nearly sixty men. Martin particularly mentioned Major Stone, Captains Avery and Waring, Lieutenants Waldhauer, Chestnut and Mosely, and Privates Robertson (D) and Volney Metcalfe and William Barnard (A).

When Stuart's cavalry division was organized Wade Hampton, of South Carolina, was given a brigade command, and the legion was assigned to that brigade.

Hampton's brigade, in the Maryland campaign, was engaged at Fairfax Courthouse, crossed the Potomac September 5, skirmished at Hyattstown, and followed the main army to Frederick, where a Federal battery was captured by a cavalry charge. Martin and his legion, as rear guard, picketed the mountain gap while Hampton followed Lee's army to Middleton, and at daylight September 13 were attacked by the pursuing army of McClellan. It was a gallant little battle of artillery and sharpshooters until Martin was withdrawn. "Martin and his men fought with their accustomed gallantry," was Hampton's report.

The brigade afterward moved to Burkittsville, to cover the movements of McLaws' division at Harper's Ferry, and reported to Stuart on the field of Sharpsburg. A part of the legion was in a brilliant raid across the Rappahannock, capturing a Federal picket guard November 27.

In December they rode in the raid to Poolesville on the Potomac; later in the same month raided on the Occoquan, capturing part of Sigel's wagon train, also raided on Dumfries and Fairfax station.

After this campaign Colonel Martin, whose merits entitled him to command of at least a brigade of the cavalry, and who had been serving a long time, with rare patience, in command of a small battalion, was promoted to Brigadier-General and sent to the west, where he served mainly in the capacity of General of division, with promotion to Major- General in November, 1863.

The legion shared in the important service of Stuart's cavalry in the Gettysburg campaign, losing out of their small number 12 killed and 44 wounded. In the hand-to-hand fighting of July 3, the most important cavalry battle of the war, up to that time, General Hampton was twice wounded and Major W. G. Conner, of the legion, was killed. At Fleetwood, July 9, after the return to Virginia, they were also distinguished. Lieut. P. B. Fisher and Private William Frew, Company F, and Private G. W. Seals, Company B, were killed at Upperville, in this campaign. Others particularly distinguished at Upperville were Capt. W. G. Henderson, Company B; Corporal R. Eustis, Company A; Capt. A. K. Ramsey, Company D; Private C. M. Taylor, Company C; Capt. David Waldhauer and Privates T. H. Lake and W. P. Lake, Company F.

The service in the fall of 1863 north of the Rappahannock, was hardly less arduous and brilliant. Stuart particularly noticed the legion in reporting the engagement at Frying Pan Church: "The Jeff Davis Legion was here conspicuous for its gallantry, advancing dismounted across the field upon the enemy's position."

Of the battle of Nance's shop, June 24, 1864, General Hampton reported: "As soon as the enemy gave way I brought up the Philips and the Jeff Davis Legions (mounted) and ordered them to charge. This they did most gallantly, driving the enemy for three miles in confusion."

Roll of honor published in December, 1864, mentioning battles of Frederick City, Stevensburg, Funkstown, Fleetwood, Rappahannock River, Frying Pan, Brandy Plains, Accotink River, Cold Harbor, Fauquier County, Mine River -- Company F: Capt. David Waldhauer, Lieuts. W. W. Gordon and J. McLeod Turner; Sergeants L. H. Clemens and M. G. Prendergast; Privates M. D. Prendergast, William P. Lake, G. N. Saussy, C. H. Mann. Company A: Lieut. Joshua Thorn, Private Thomas Metcalf. Company C: Privates John Robinson, Alexander McCaskill.

In March, 1864, it was recommended that seven unattached Mississippi companies in General Polk's command be united with the three Mississippi companies in the Legion, to form the Third Cavalry Regiment for Young's brigade to cover Richmond. This was not done, but by order of July 11, 1864, Love's Alabama battalion, three companies, and one Georgia company were added to the Legion, making it three squadrons -- (1) five Alabama companies, (2) the three Mississippi companies commanded by a Major, (3) the two Georgia companies.

The Legion was in the brigade of Gen. P. M. B. Young and had an aggregate present and absent of 868. Its final service was in the Carolina campaign against Sherman, under General Hampton.

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