Cdv of Captain James E. Harrison, 5th US Cavalry. Identified in old pencil on the back as:
5th Cavalry Regular
My Adjt Genl."
Image in good condition with wear as shown in the scan. Portland, ME photographer's backmark. Please see below for details on Harrison's participation in General George Stoneman's Raid and his career in general.
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During April 29 and 30, elements of Buford's cavalry scoured the countryside seeking suitable river crossings and skirmishing with Rebel pickets. The conditions and the weather deteriorated with the men's rations becoming sodden and since campfires were forbidden lest they reveal the raider's location, the cavalryman's uniforms were rarely dry. The plight of the horses was even worse; dead and crippled animals marked the route of Stoneman's march. By May 2, Buford's brigade camped alone on the south bank of the North Anna river - he had led his men almost halfway to the Confederate capitol at Richmond and could begin his task of destroying the local infrastructure in earnest.
Into action on May 2 was Captain Myles Keogh; Keogh accompanied British born Lieutenant Walker's C Company, Fifth U.S cavalry, in a raid that captured a 15 wagon strong supply train at Thompson's Cross Roads. Keogh personally arranged for the captured mules, 60 in all, to be distributed to the men whose horses had gone lame. At Louisa, Captain Lord, with his regiment, the First Cavalry, was also detached toward Tolersville and Frederickshall, to destroy the railroad and to burn the bridge over the North Anna, on the road from Fredericksburg.
On May 4, a Captain Harrison with the remainder of the Fifth U.S. cavalry engaged Confederate cavalry for the first time in the raid, led by Robert E. Lee's son, Rooney Lee. In his own report of that event, Captain James E. Harrison gives his account of facing a force vastly superior in number to his own -
"Upon the arrival of Lieutenant Urban, I joined his party to the main force, making 30 in all. After the guidon-bearers had fallen out, and finding the rebel force still advancing at a charge, and several of my scouts and pickets still out, I made up my mind to charge them, with the hope of checking them for a short time, to enable my pickets to return and to get my led animals off. When they came in sight of my command, they commenced to slacken their speed, feeling somewhat uncertain as to the strength of my force. I took advantage of that moment and charged. As soon as they saw the end of my column, they also sounded the charge, and we met just at the point of the woods where the road comes out on to an open space of about an acre. I found that I had become engaged with at least 1,000 men. The shock of the charge was so great that my foremost horses were completely knocked over. I fought them as long as I deemed prudent, and, finding that I was overpowered by numbers, I wheeled about and retreated on the road to Yanceyville..."
By May 5, only 646 of the brigade's horses were deemed fit to continue. Using these mounts, Buford, by necessity, returned to Louisa and Gordansville only to find their destructive work of three days previous part-repaired! No doubt to the enemies frustration, Buford's men set about their destructive task again. There at nightfall they met and evaded a strong contingent of Confederate infantry and cannon, although briefly, one trooper admitted - "it looked...as if our time had come"
Buford's return towards Gordansville was also ordered as a ruse to mask the return of the main body of Stoneman's cavalry to Hooker's command. Colonel George B. Sandford would later write of this undertaking - "Buford was the man of all others to be entrusted with such an undertaking." For three days and nights, Buford's exhausted men remained on the move and such was the trooper's fatigue that dozens of men fell asleep in the saddles of their emaciated, sore backed horses. Even now as the mission was nearing completion, ended by the Union retreat from its defeat at Chancellorsville, Buford's column was still battling the swollen rivers and streams.
From May 6, when they regrouped with Stoneman, to the 10th, Buford's men made their way slowly back to HQ at Falmouth where they returned to picket duty and recovered from the previous weeks exertions. Buford's enterprise provided one of the few bright moments in what was a less damaging campaign than expected, although the Northern press hailed the incursion in glowing terms.
JAMES E. HARRISON.
[Born in Virginia.—Appointed from District of Columbia.]
Military History.— Second Lieutenant 2d U. S. Cavalry, June, 1856. At Camp Cooper, Tex., to April, 1858. Detached service, Fort Belknap, Tex., to May, 1858. Fort Auchita, to July, 1858, and Fort Belknap, Tex., September to October, 1858. Scouting Indians, November, 1858. Commanding company, December and May, 1858. In Texas, to December, 1860. Detached service, Carlisle Barracks, Penn., February to March, 1860. First Lieutenant 2d U. S. Cavalry, April, 1861. Captain 5th U. S. Cavalry, May, 1861. Engaged in the Peninsular campaign, Army of the Potomac. Commanding regiment at Harper's Ferry, Va., September, 1862. In the field, to April, 1863. At Portland, Me., to December, 1863. Cavalry Corps Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, to January, 1864. Acting Inspector-General of Cavalry, Department of Arkansas, to July, 1864. Special Inspector of Cavalry, Military Division of West Mississippi, to January, 1865. With regiment, Washington, D. C, to November, 1867. Brevet Major U. S. Army, for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Hanover Court-House, Va. Brevet LieutenantColonel U. S. Army, for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Antietam, Md. Died of disease, at Washington, D. C, November 4, 1867.