The 5th New York Cavalry at Hanover
Cavalry statuary on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Public Square in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. While no Ohio units fought at Hanover, Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer was a native Buckeye, although he commanded the Michigan Brigade.
The Rev. Louis Napoleon Boudrye was the chaplain of the 5th New York Cavalry. He and his comrades participated in the June 30, 1863, Battle of Hanover here in York County, Pennsylvania. Here is his account of the regiment’s action at Hanover, taken from his 1865 book, Historic Records of the Fifth New York Cavalry, The Ira Harris Guard.
June 30th. The column moved early to Hanover, where we were again enthusiastically received by the citizens, who furnished refreshments liberally to the troopers, as each regiment entered and passed through the town. This enjoyable state of things continued until about 10 o’clock; and while the Fifth was receiving the attentions of the people, the sudden report of a cannon was heard from one of the neighboring hills. At first this was taken as a friendly salute for our troops, but the deception was soon removed by a
fierce charge of Rebel cavalry under immediate command of Gen. [J.E.B.] Stuart, upon the unsuspecting column in the street, sending terror to the people, especially to the ladies and children, who were paying their compliments to their defenders.
With his accustomed coolness and bravery, Maj. [John] Hammond, in command of the regiment, quickly withdrew from the street to the open field near the railroad depot, ordered the boys into line and led the charge upon the Rebels, who then possessed the Lown. The charging columns met on Frederick street, where a hand-to-hand conflict ensued. For a few moments the enemy made heroic resistance, but finally broke and fled, closely pursued by our men. They rallied again and again but were met with irresistible onsets, which finally compelled them to retire behind the hills under cover of their guns. In less than fifteen minutes from the time the Rebels charged the town, they were all driven from it, and were skulking in the wheat fields and among the hills of the vicinity.
The dead and wounded of both parties, with many horses, lay scattered here and there ahmg the streets, so covered with blood and dust as to render identification in many cases very difficult. Meanwhile, Gen. [Judson] Kilpatrick, who was several miles beyond the town, at the head of the column, when the attack was made, arrived upon the field, and took personal charge of the movements. These were ordered with consummate skill, and executed with promptness and success. His artillery, well posted on the hills facing the Rebels, and well supported, soon silenced the guns of the enemy, and compelled him to retire in the direction of Lee’s main army.
He left not less than 25 dead in the streets and fields, and his wounded by far exceeded this number. We captured 75 prisoners, including Lt. Col. [William H.] Payne, who commanded a brigade, and one stand of colors, the flag of the 13th Virginia cavalry. This was the trophy of Sergt. [Thomas] Burke, Company A. Our entire loss was nine killed, thirty-one wounded and a few prisoners. Among the killed was Adjutant [Alexander] Gall, who fell while gallantly charging the enemy in the street. The fatal ball entered his left eye, and passed through his head, killing him instantly.
The citizens of Hanover, who so nobly cared for our wounded in the hospitals during and after the battle, and assisted us in burying the dead, will long remember that terrible
last day of June. The brave boys, who had so valiantly defeated the enemy, though taken by surprise, built their bivouac fires and spent the night on the field of their recent victory.