This past Friday, the Madison County Civil War Round Table invited Joe Reinhart to speak on the topic of “Federal Regiments from Kentucky.” Mr. Reinhart discussed where most Union volunteers lived, where they fought, statistics on deaths and desertions, and some prominent brigadier generals. On the basis of his lecture, I learned about the contribution that the 1st Kentucky Federal Cavalry made in strategically important Civil War battles.
Approximately 63,000 Kentuckians heard the call and joined the Bluegrass State’s volunteer regiments and batteries during the Civil War. In comparison, an estimated 25,000 to 40,000 Kentuckians joined the Confederate army.
The First Kentucky Cavalry, commonly known as “Wolford’s Cavalry," was organized at Camp Dick Robinson, under Colonel Frank Wolford, and assembled into the United States service on Oct. 28, 1861. The 1st Regiment, Kentucky Cavalry, was organized at Liberty, Burkeville, and Monticello, Kentucky. Wolford’s Cavalry were known as effective scouts and therefore were constantly kept at the front.
During the East Tennessee campaign on Oct. 14, 1863, Wolford reported to Gen. Burnside that the main body of the enemy had fallen back. Eight privates and one lieutenant had been captured by the enemy within the last couple of days. Wolford kept his scouts out in every direction.
On Oct. 15, the 45th Ohio Mounted Infantry were out foraging when rebels attacked them. The enemy was repulsed. Lt. Colonel Adams, of the 1st Kentucky Cavalry, was sent out to help. The wagons were successfully protected, and Adams followed the Confederates to within 4 or 5 miles of Decatur, Tenn. There he charged the enemy, capturing 25 men and recapturing nine of the Union prisoners.
Adams soon heard the sound of artillery coming from Philadelphia, Tenn. He then pushed with his men for the scene of action and soon confronted about 300 rebels near the railroad. He opened fire on them and charged into their ranks, capturing many of them.
Adams then proceeded toward Loudon, having noticed that the firing had ceased at Philadelphia. He then came face-to-face with a column of North Carolina Cavalrymen that had been sent to deceive the Union commander about Loudon.
Adams’ men charged the Confederates capturing many of them. Among the casualties was Madison County Pvt. James T. Pond of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry Company A. who was killed in action.
Besides the Philadelphia action, the 1st Kentucky Cavalry fought at Maryville, the siege of Knoxville, Bean’s Station, Dalton and Cass Station. The eastern Tennessee campaign was successful and supplied significant numbers of troops to the Federal army.
Derived from Horse Soldiers of the Bluegrass: A History of the 11th Kentucky Cavalry