Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.


Near Macon, Ga., May 13, 1865.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that, in compliance with your orders of the 6th instant, I marched from Macon on the evening of that day with 150 men of the First Wisconsin Cavalry and proceeded to Jeffersonville, Twiggs County. Leaving Lieutenant Hewitt with thirty men to watch the cross-roads at that place, I continued the march on to Thomas' Cross. Roads, Wilkinson County: where I learned that a large party of paroled men from General Johnston's army had just passed that point on their way home; some were armed and others were not, but all were mounted. After feeding our animals, I continued on to Dublin, Lawrence County, arriving there about 5 p.m. (May 7), and encamped near the ferry across Oconee River, having marched a distance of fifty-five miles. At Dublin I learned from some negroes that a train of light wagons and ambulances had crossed the ferry during the day, and going on the Jacksonville road, attended by an escort and having some led horses; but the citizens of Dublin disclaimed all knowledge of there having been any train of wagons in that place. Later in the night I also learned from another negro that Jeff. Davis and wife were with the train. Here I left Lieutenant Lane and forty-five men to guard the ferry and patrol the roads. With the balance of my command I started at daylight in pursuit on the Jacksonville river road. At Turkey Creek bridge I learned that the train had taken the Telfair road, and from a woman I got the description of a man I thought must be Jeff. Davis. From this place I sent the dispatch to you, but I have since learned that the courier was captured by the rebels and taken thirty miles down into the pine woods, robbed of his horse and equipments, and then released. I found the trail of the wagons very indistinct, as the country was pine woods, poor and barren, and almost uninhabited. Here I impressed a guide who had heard of the wagons the evening before, and who led us away from the main road some eleven miles to the place where the party had encamped during the previous night between the forks of Alligator Creek. After having fed the horses and taken a new guide, we again started in pursuit. At this point we were four hours behind them. Our way now led across the main Alligator Creek and through the swamp to the ford of Gum Swamp Creek, Pulaski County, where I encamped, being then after dark and the trail too indistinct to follow. Distance marched this day, forty miles.

On the 9th of May we started at 3 a.m., marched to Sugar Creek, thence to Cypress Creek, thence to Ocmulgee River, which we followed down a few miles in the dense swamp to Brown's Ferry. In crossing my command an accident happened to the ferry-boat, causing a delay of two hours. At this place I learned positively that Mr. Davis and family were the occupants of one of the ambulances in the train which we were following. Proceeding to Abbeville, Wilcox County, I fed the horses, and learning that the train had left, that place at 10 a.m. (May 9), in the direction of Irwinville, Irwin County, I sent forward my command in that direction, going myself to meet Colonel Pritchard, who I learned was advancing with the Fourth Michigan Cavalry on the Hawkinsville road. I informed the colonel of the train which I had been so long pursuing, and that Mrs. Davis and family were with it, and that Jeff. Davis himself was undoubtedly accompanying them or not very far distant. Also that my command had gone on toward Irwinville in pursuit. Colonel Pritchard then informed me that he was ordered to Abbeville with his regiment to watch for Jeff. Davis, at the same time tendering me some of his men, which I declined, as my force was sufficiently large and I found it very difficult to obtain forage for the horses and subsistence for the men. Parting with Colonel Pritchard near Abbeville, I soon overtook my command, and, after marching some ten miles from the last named town, we discovered the camping ground of the train, so recently left the fires were not yet gone out. I continued on in the direction of Irwinville through the pine woods until about 9 p.m., when I halted and grazed the horses, having no grain for them, with orders to the men to be ready for an early start. At the time I felt certain the train was near at hand, but fearing that if we came upon them in the darkness of that night Jeff. Davis and others might escape under cover of the night, I waited until 3 a.m. (May 10), when I again started. After marching about one mile--possibly more--our advance guard, commanded by Sergeant Hussey, was halted by a party of men partly concealed behind trees. Supposing, of course, that he had run upon the rebel picket, [the] sergeant endeavored to retreat, when a heavy volley was fired  upon the party, wounding three out of his seven men. Knowing that we were in the immediate vicinity of the rebels, and having had no intimation of the presence of Union troops in that vicinity (I understood from Colonel Pritchard that he was going into camp at Abbeville, which was over twenty miles in our rear), I immediately prepared to drive them back upon the train and capture the whole command if possible. Advancing with ten men to ascertain the position of the force opposing our farther progress, we were again met with another heavy volley from the same unseen source. I then deployed my small force and advanced rapidly, forcing back the opposing force, when we captured a prisoner, who proved to be a member of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, Colonel Pritchard commanding. All firing immediately ceased, when an explanation showed that after parting with Colonel Pritchard at Abbeville, the colonel selected a portion of his best mounted men, and pushed rapidly forward on the river road, thence by way of House Creek back to Irwinville, arriving there before the train, then came out to where the train was encamped, one mile from the town and about two miles from our encampment. He (Colonel Pritchard) had sent a small force dismounted around to the rear of the train, and, as his force moved upon the train from the Irwinville side, we encountered his dismounted men within a short distance, only a few hundred yards from the rebel camp. While the fight was going on between my command and Colonel Pritchard's, a portion of his force captured the train, Jeff. Davis, and family. The casualties in my command were 3 men severely wounded, several slightly wounded, and 2 horses killed. I regret to learn that the Fourth Michigan had 2 men killed and 1 officer severely wounded. I sincerely regret the unfortunate collision resulting in the death of two brave and noble soldiers and the maiming of several more; but, of the degree of culpability which attaches to my conduct in this matter, others must decide. After attending to the wounded as well as possible (transportation having been kindly furnished by Colonel Pritchard in captured ambulances) I returned to Macon as rapidly as the condition of my horses would permit, where I arrived in the forenoon of May 13, 1865.

I am, general, your obedient servant,


Lieutenant-Colonel, Commanding First Wisconsin Cavalry.

 [Brigadier-General CROXTON,

Comdg. 1st Div., Cav. Corps, Mil. Div. of the Mississippi.]

[ First indorsement. ]

Macon, Ga., May 14, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded.

From this report it appears that Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden faithfully discharged his duty, and no blame can attach to him in relation to the unfortunate collision between his detachment and Colonel Pritchard's, which he had every reason to believe remained at Abbeville. It is, however, a source of painful regret that the satisfaction experienced in this consummation is clouded by the knowledge that an act having every appearance of unsoldierly selfishness in appropriating by deception the fruits of another's labor, and thus attaining an unearned success, resulted in unnecessary bloodshed and a sacrifice of lives for which no atonement can be made. What may have been intended merely as an act of bad faith toward a fellow-soldier, resulted in a crime; and for this closing scene of the rebellion, inglorious in itself, but historic by circumstance, it is difficult to repress a wish that accident had afforded the Government a representative above suspicion.


Colonel, Commanding.

[Second indorsement. ]

May 15, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded.

As an act of justice to all parties, I recommend that this report, together with that of Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard, be forwarded to the Secretary of War, with the request that they be published in the Army and Navy Gazette.


 Brigadier-General, Commanding.

[Third indorsement.]

Macon, Ga., May 19, 1865.

Respectfully forwarded; the recommendation of General Croxton approved.

Justice to a brave and skillful officer impels me to say I do not think the strictures of Colonel La Grange warranted by the facts. Colonel Pritchard would have been more culpable had he have remained in camp, knowing the object of his search had already passed on. I am unwilling to believe him intentionally guilty of any act unbecoming a good soldier. Colonel Ham den and his command are certainly, on the other hand, entitled to a full share of the credit in apprehending Jeff. Davis, and in no way to blame for the collision between his own command and that of Colonel Pritchard.


Brevet Major-General.


Judge- Advocate-General of the United States :

I have the honor to represent that, in obedience to orders from Col. O. H. La Grange, commanding Second Brigade, First Division Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi, I reported with one battalion of the First Wisconsin Cavalry to Brigadier-General Croxton, commanding First Division Cavalry, Military Division of the Mississippi, at Macon, Ga., on the 6th day of May, 1865. My orders from General Croxton were verbal, to proceed in search of Jefferson Davis; to march to Dublin on the Oconee River; to leave men at the crossroads at Jeffersonville and also at Dublin; to proceed with the rest on toward the Savannah River, unless I could get some trace of Jeff. Davis, in that case to pursue and capture him, if possible. I left Macon with my command at 6 p.m. May 6, 1865, marching to Jeffersonville, Twiggs County, where I left Lieutenant Hewitt, with thirty men. I continued on toward the Oclinee River, marching all night and the next day, arriving at Dublin, Lawrence County, about 5 p.m. May 7; distance from Dublin [Macon], fifty-five miles. The roads were very sandy, and the day intensely hot; men and horses much exhausted. Before reaching Dublin I sent Lieutenant Clinton off on a side road to Lawrence Hill--distant some seventeen miles--with twenty men. I passed during the day many men from the rebel General Johnston's army, on their way home. Some of them were mounted and armed. At a place called Thomas' Cross-Roads I heard of several hundred of them, who were all mounted. They had passed about one hour before I arrived. They were a part of a brigade of cavalry from General Johnston's army. At Dublin I camped near the ferry. About 11 p.m. Lieutenant Clinton arrived with his men. I could get no information from the whites whatever. About 12 o'clock at night a negro came to me, and told me that Jeff. Davis, with his wife and family, had passed through the town that day, going south on the river road. The negro stated that they had eight wagons with them, and that another party had gone down on the other side of the river; that he heard the lady addressed as Mrs. Davis, and one of the gentlemen spoken of as President Davis; that Mr. Davis did not come across the river at the regular ferry with the rest of the party, but that he came over on a small flat-boat about three miles lower down the river, and that he was mounted on a fine bay horse; that he did not come through the town, but only up to the outskirts; when the party left he joined them, and all went together. The story of the negro being so straight that I believed it to be true, I detached Lieutenant Lane, with forty-five men, to remain at Dublin, watch the ferry, and picket the cross-roads. May 8, at early dawn, started in pursuit on the Jacksonville road. At Turkey Creek I got from a woman information that convinced me that Jeff. Davis was certainly with the party that I was pursuing. Here we entered the pine regions. The country was poor, and almost uninhabited. I think that during the day I saw only two or three men. After leaving the vicinity of Dublin it commenced raining in torrents, and after a few hours the track of the wagons could no longer be followed. While endeavoring to find the trail again a citizen came along on horseback. At first he professed to know nothing of any party, bet upon my threatening to press his horse, he said that he had heard of some wagons stopping over night about eleven miles away. This man guided us through the pine woods in a westerly direction about a dozen miles to the place where the wagon party had stopped the previous night. Discharging the guide, we followed the trail a few miles, when we again lost it. Here I found a new guide who, for a consideration, showed us through the swamps of the forks of the Alligator Creek over to where the track of the wagons could be plainly followed. Continuing on to the crossing of Gum Swamp, and it being after dark, we stopped for the night. We had made about forty miles this day, but, owing to the great rain it was a hard day's march. The men had no rations except a little corn meal.

May 9, started a little before light and pressed on through the same wilderness country to the Ocmulgee River, thence down a few miles in a dense swamp to Thomas' Ferry, where after some difficulty we crossed over. An accident to the boat caused a delay of about two hours and a half. Here I learned that the wagon party had left at 1 o'clock that morning. Passing on to the little town of Abbeville, which contained only three families, we stopped to feed the horses corn. Here I ascertained that the wagons had gone in the direction of Irwinville. Just as we were leaving Abbeville four Union soldiers appeared in sight. They informed me that they belonged to the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard commanding, and that Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard with his regiment was advancing on the Hawkinsville road  and not far distant. Believing it to be my duty as an officer to communicate to Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard the information in my possession in regard to Jeff. Davis, I sent Lieutenant Clinton in charge of the command forward on the Irwinville road, going attended only by an orderly to meet Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard. I gave to Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard all the information in my possession in regard to Jeff. Davis. I informed him that Jeff. Davis and family had passed that morning in the direction of Irwinville, and that my command had gone on in pursuit; also that a part of his train, with an escort, was still on the east side of the river. Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard informed me that he was out after Jeff. Davis, but until then had heard nothing from him, and that his orders were to camp at Abbeville and guard the ferries on the river, offering me at the same time some of his men if I needed them. I declined the offer, as my force was ample and it was very difficult to get subsistence for men and horses, and neither of our commands had any rations. Parting with Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard about 2 p.m., I hastened on and overtook my command. Some eight or ten miles out from Abbeville we came upon the place where the Davis party had stopped to feed and rest. They had left so recently that their fire was still burning. We passed on until after dark, probably about 9 o'clock, when, coming to water, I ordered a halt, giving orders to graze the horses a short time, as we had no corn, and be really for an early start. At this time I knew that Mr. Davis' party were not very far away, and so informed my command, but I supposed we were near the Allapaha River, and that the Davis party had probably crossed over. I had been informed that the ford was difficult, and I did not wish to come down to the river in the night, for fear of alarming Mr. Davis and enabling him to escape on horseback under cover of the darkness. We had made this day about forty-five miles.

May 10, started at 3 a.m. We had marched a mile or so, when the advance, under Sergeant Hussey (who was an experienced soldier), was suddenly halted and ordered to dismount. Thinking, of course, he was upon the rebel picket, the sergeant answered "Friends," at the same time giving the word to his six men to retreat, when a heavy volley was fired upon him and his party. This was rapidly followed by the second volley. I called for ten men and dashed ahead to where the volley had been fired, when we were greeted by another volley from what I judged to be from twenty to thirty muskets. It was so dark that I could distinguish no one, and only saw at this time the fire from their guns. I then rapidly formed my line, dismounting about one-half of my force. We then pressed on the enemy, After one charge we forced them into a swamp. At this juncture I saw a line of mounted men near on my left. Ordering Sergeant Herr, with a small party, to pursue the enemy who had disappeared in the swamp, I turned with my whole remaining force against their mounted men, who I saw greatly outnumbered my own. The firing was continued on both sides with spirit until Sergeant Herr came running to me saying that he had captured a prisoner, and that our opposers were Union troops. I instantly gave orders to stop firing, which was soon followed by a cessation on the part of our opponents. I then rode forward, and the first man I met was Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard. I asked him how he came to be fighting us. He said that after we had parted at Abbeville he had selected a portion of his best mounted men and taken another way, and had got to Irwinville first, and that the wagon train had just been captured near at hand. I inquired of him if Davis was taken. He said that he did not know. He and I then crossed over a narrow strip of swamp about fifty yards wide, when we found the wagon train and  Jeff. Davis and party, guarded by a small force of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry. Ascertaining that the whole party were prisoners, and that my mission was ended, I prepared to return to Macon, where I arrived on the 13th of May, 1865. Of my men there were wounded Corpl. G. W. Sykes, of Company D, arm badly shattered near the shoulder; Private C. W. Seely, Company D, wounded in the leg severely; Nelson Appley, Company D, in the shoulder slightly. This affair took place about twenty-five miles from Abbeville and within one mile of Irwinville, Irwin County, Ga. Of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry two men were killed and one officer badly wounded. I will here say that I had no intimation of the presence of any Union troops nearer than Abbeville, and that I believed all the while that we were fighting with Jeff. Davis' escort. Had we not been waylaid and fired upon by the Fourth Michigan Cavalry we should without a doubt have captured Jeff. Davis even sooner than it was effected. For further information I will refer to my official report, made to General Croxton upon my return to Macon.(*) In view of all the facts, I do for myself and the officers and men of my command who were with me at the time of the capture claim a due share of the reward offered lay the President for the capture of Jefferson Davis.

Respectfully submitted.


Late Lieutenant-Colonel First Wisconsin Cavalry.

Jefferson, County :

Henry Harnden, being duly sworn, on oath says that in the month of May, A.D. l865, he was in command of the First Regiment of Wisconsin cavalry, and that all the foregoing statements by him made are true.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 11th day of December, 1865.

 O. F. WEED,

 Justice of the Peace.

Jefferson County:

I, John C. Kelley, clerk of the circuit court in and for the county and State aforesaid, do hereby certify that O. F. Weed, justice of the peace, esquire, whose name is subscribed to the certificate or proof of acknowledgment of the annexed instrument, was at the date thereof an acting justice of the peace, duly elected and qualified, and duly authorized by law to administer oaths, take and certify acknowledgments, &c.: and further, that I am well acquainted with the handwriting of said O. F. Weed, and verily believe that the signature thereto is genuine, and that said instrument is executed and acknowledged according to the laws of this State.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and affixed the seal of said court this 13th day of December, 1865.


Clerk of Circuit Court, Jefferson County, State of Wisconsin.

Green Lake County:

James J. Aplin, being duly sworn, on oath says that he was a private in Company K, First Regiment Wisconsin Cavalry; that he acted as orderly for Lieut. Col. Henry Harnden, and was with him in the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis; that he heard the conversation between Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard and Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden referred to in the statement of Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden, and that he knows of his own knowledge that all the facts set forth in the whole of said statement are true.


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 14th day of December, 1865.


Notary Public.

County of Green Lake, ss :


I, Albert Long, clerk of the circuit court for the county aforesaid, do hereby certify that Thomas C. Ryan, esq., whose name is subscribed to the annexed instrument as notary public, was at the date thereof an acting notary public, duly appointed and qualified, and by law authorized to take acknowledgments and administer oaths; that I am acquainted with the handwriting of said notary, and verily believe the signature thereto purporting to be his is genuine; and I further certify that said instrument is executed and acknowledged according to the laws of this State.

Witness my hand and seal of said court at Dartford this 14th day of December, A. D. 1865.



Waukesha County, ss :

Orson P. Clinton, being duly sworn, on oath says that he was second lieutenant of Company B, of the First Regiment of Wisconsin Cavalry, and with Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden during the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis; that he has heard read the foregoing statement made by Lieutenant-Colonel Harnden and knows the contents thereof; that the same is true of his knowledge (except the conversation referred to with Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard, which he verily believes to be true).


Subscribed and sworn to before me this 12th day of December, 1865.


 Justice of the Peace, Waukesha County, Wis.

Waukesha County, ss :

I, John Forbes, clerk of the circuit court in and for the county and State above named, do hereby certify that C. G. Heath, esq., before whom the foregoing affidavit was made, and who has hereunto signed his name, was at the date thereof a justice of the peace in and for the county and State aforesaid, duly elected and qualified and authorized by law to administer oaths; that all his official acts as such are entitled to full faith and credit, and that his signature thereto is genuine.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto signed my name and affixed the seal of the said court at Waukesha this 12th day of December, A. D. 1865.


Clerk Circuit Court, Waukesha County, Wis.

List of officers and men of the First Wisconsin Cavalry engaged in the pursuit and capture of Jefferson Davis.

Name.     Rank and company.                Name.                Rank and company.

Henry Herndon                 Lieutenant-colonel.                A. E. Johnson                 Private, Company D.

O. P. Clinton           Second lieutenant                 John Ludwig   Private, Company D.

                     Company B.                M.F. Nickerson                Private, Company D.

W. O. Hargrave     Sergeant-major.                P.W. O'Heron                 Private, Company D.

James J. Aplin (a)                  Private, Company K.                J.A.L. Pooch     Private, Company D.

Austin M. Herr      Sergeant. Company A.                Alexander Pengilly                 Private, Company D.

David N. Bell          Private, Company A.            Arno Renom    Private, Company D.

William Billsback  Private, Company A.            Jerome Roe         Private, Company D.

Martin M. Coleman                 Private, Company A.                Herman A. Stone                 Private, Company D.

William Dozer        Private, Company A.            John Spear      Private, Company D.

John Huntamer                 Private, Company A.                Henry Seidenburg                 Private, Company D.

Gottleib Kleinlein                  Private, Company A.                J.A. Warren   Private, Company D.

Sidney Leonard     Private, Company A.            C.W. Seely      Private, Company D.

James McStilson  Private, Company A.            Charles L. Hewitt                 First lieutenant

George W. Silsbee    Private, Company A.                              Company A

Christopher Steinbrook.                 Private, Company A.                Frank Dolph                 Sergeant, Company A.

Herbert Shelter                 Private, Company A.                Obed W. Bell                 Sergeant, Company A.

Luther L. Blair                 Sergeant, Company B.                Isaac W. Spoor                 Sergeant, Company A.

Melvin T. Olin                 Sergeant, Company B.                Orlando Babcock                 Sergeant, Company A.

John Clark                 Sergeant. Company B.                James Aikenhead                 Corporal, Company' A.

Thomas P. Culbertson                Corporal, Company B.                Henry H. Benson                 Corporal, Company A.

James H. McCrary.                 Corporal, Company B.                Horace Miner, jr                 Corporal, Company A.

Ezra H. Stewart                 Corporal, Company B.                Robert Delong                 Corporal, Company A.

Albert L. Beardsley.                 Private, Company B.                Dor A. Gurnee                 Corporal, Company A.

Thomas Coleman                 Private, Company B                James M. Blood                 Private, Company A.

Rawson P. Franklin  Private, Company B                Henry Carr         Private, Company A.

Sylvester Fairbanks                 Private, Company B.                Charles Fierhelm                 Private, Company A.

William Gill                 Private, Company B.                Eliab Fernum, jr                 Private, Company A.

William Grimes                 Private, Company B                Edward Gibney   Private, Company A.

Lewis Jacobson                 Private, Company B                Asa R. Green      Private, Company A.

Honors Leverner                 Private Company B.                Roswell Hart        Private, Company A.

William Matskis                 Private, Company B.                Jeremiah Harrington..                Private, Company A.




Category: Civil War | Subcategory: Reports | Tags: Mississippi , Wisconsin , Michigan
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1865, Andy, Cavalry, Clark, Company A, Company B, Davis, Edward, Grange, Henry, Jack, Jacksonville, Jefferson Davis, La, Lawrence, Maine, Michigan, Military Division of the Mississippi, Mississippi, Nelson, Noble, Orlando, Reno (Nevada), Roswell (New Mexico), Savannah, Sergeant, Warren, Wisconsin,