This is the first regimental history of the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as the 117th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers. This is not a tale of the romance of war and the women they left behind. It is about men who become bored with routine camp life and freezing nights in tents without heat. Men who learn first to care for the horse and then for themselves. Men who learn to be accustomed to hunger and sickness and death, long before fighting their first battle!
When the first bullets fly they react as men could be expected to react. Confused and led by some men who may not have understood the new way of war, the outcome of the first encounter is predictable. Later, in one of the lesser-known battles of the Gettysburg Campaign, the regiment is ordered in front of enemy artillery during a midnight ambush and suffers casualties of almost half the regiment. But they learn, and they prevail, and when Grant turned the Union army into the Wilderness in 1864 the regiment knew what they had to do. And they did it well, serving with Gregg, Sheridan, Custer, Hancock, and others. When Grant asked for "One Good Regiment" of cavalry for an assignment, the Thirteenth was chosen.
Using letters, diaries, photos, and official correspondence, some of which are published here for the first time, the author traces the lives of cavalrymen at war. With brutal honesty, humor, and humanity, the men struggle to survive sickness as well as the hail of bullets and cannonballs. They'll tell you how they felt about the life they lived, and the bond with their friends and fellow soldiers that they were dying for.
New Jersey native "Sonny" Hand is a Civil War reenactor and living historian, bringing authentic Civil War education to the public. Reenacting battles and encampments has led the author to a much better understanding of the life of the Civil War soldier, and has also enabled this detailed day-to-day non-fiction account of the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry. This is the only regimental history of the 117th Pennsylvania Volunteer regiment, the "Irish Dragoons," more popularly known as the Thirteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry.