John Regester’s Last Ride

Heading south from Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Photo by me.

Recently we visited Kernstown, an unincorporated community in Winchester, Virginia, where on July 24th, 1864, the Union and Confederate armies clashed in the Second Battle of Kernstown. My partner’s ancestor, John Regester, fought and died there as part of the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry. Ever since we got back yesterday, I’ve been wanting to put together a basic reconstruction of John Regester’s last battle. This is an initial attempt to do so.

The 22nd was a new guise for an ultimately old unit called the Ringgold Cavalry, which was a Western Pennsylvania cavalry battalion that was one of the first units to serve in the war, in the Western Virginia Campaign of 1861. The Ringgolds were combined with a newly raised battalion of western Pennsylvania cavalry to form the 22nd Pennsylvania Cavalry, in February 1864. John Regester belonged to the new battalion, as a trooper of Company D.

On the morning of 23 July 1864, the Army of West Virginia, to which the 22nd belonged, was encamped around the Winchester/Kernstown area, with the Rebels close by to the south. General Alfred Napoléon Alexander Duffié, an officer of what seems like rightfully poor reputation, commanded the army’s 1st Cavalry Division.

General Alfred Napoléon Alexander Duffié (image is in PD)

Colonel A.J. Greenfield, commanding the 22nd, ordered Major George Work and Captain James P. Hart to reconnoiter the area in front of the army to evaluate the enemy troop strength. They soon returned with word that there was a strong force of enemy infantry, cavalry, and artillery waiting south of Kernstown.

Somehow, Duffié didn’t hear that– for reasons that are utterly beyond me, and were beyond his contemporaries, he insisted that there was “only a corporal’s guard” (i.e., a tiny force) of enemies, and ordered Hart to take 45 troopers to take the enemy’s artillery that sat in view, and bring them back to Union lines.

Captain James P. Hart of the 22nd Pennsylvania. (Image is PD)

Hart knew it was a fool’s errand, but orders were orders, and so he rounded up 45 volunteers, including Corporal Regester of D Company. They rode off to the edge of Union lines to await the signal to move out. They wouldn’t know the exact numbers, but Ellwood’s Stories of the Ringgold Cavalry reports that the Rebels waiting for them, under General Ramseur’s command, were 5000 infantry, 600 cavalry, and two batteries of artillery with six guns each.

While they waited, Colonel Allen of the First New York Veteran Cavalry, commanding the outer edge of the Union picket line, met with Hart and discussed his orders. According to Ellwood, Allen said

“I am not in the habit of advising men to disobey orders, but I would not obey your orders.”

Hart replied:

“I have the first one yet to disobey; I won’t begin here.”

Allen complained to Duffié, to no avail.

And so the 45-soldier detachment charged Ramseur’s command; and was immediately fired upon by artillery and infantry– but miraculously, a dip in the  terrain around Opequon Creek protected them– and the rebels at the top of the ridge fired too high (in the case of the artillery) or fired low and missed (in the case of the infantry).

Hart ordered a retreat: his detachment had two miles to ride, some of them had their horses shot out from under them, and they were soon chased by 600 troopers of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry. Of the 45 troopers of the 22nd, only John Shallenburger of D Company, and Levi Patterson of the old Ringgolds, were captured. John Regester was mortally wounded and his horse immediately killed by an artillery shell that passed through the treeline during the retreat. The Rebels found him on the battlefield, and in a strange irony, he was treated by a Rebel doctor from Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.

The “corporal’s guard” that Duffié insisted that Hart and his 45 troopers could take, marched up the road the next day and drove the Army of West Virginia back over the Potomac soon afterward, continuing north to burn Chambersburg, Pennsylvania in the final Confederate stab north in the Civil War.

Despite the attention of the Rebel surgeon, Corporal John Regester died just shy of 21 years old. His body was eventually recovered by his comrades. His brother Isaac, a 2nd Lieutenant in the same company, was severely wounded several days earlier, but lived.

We visited them yesterday, 17 October 2020, in their hometown of Beallsville, Pennsylvania. Having been to the part of Virginia where both brothers fought and one died, we thought to bring them home along the old National Road.

“Rest thee– there is no prouder grave.” (source)

Sources


This and more is made possible by readers like you. Support my work via Patreon at bit.ly/2lVqvv2, send a 1-time donation here: bit.ly/2lQfdZ8 , or buy my new novel #GreyDawn via bit.ly/greydawnebook! Thank you!

Grey Dawn: an eventful first month!

On 7 August, Grey Dawn: A Tale of Abolition and Union, had its world premiere. It’s been an eventful first month-and-a-half, during which it hit #1 on the trans romance category and #21 in the timetravel romance category. Not bad for a debut novel!

If you haven’t read it, please consider picking up a copy today. Don’t forget to leave a rating and review on your platform of choice!

Thank you so much for your support, everyone. You can find bonus art and other material expanding the Grey Dawn universe, and updates on my next book project, at http://patreon.com/riversidewings

Expect more soon here on WordPress!

NOVEL COMING NEXT YEAR!

Friends, it’s been awhile, and I have outstanding news. Balance of Seven Press has picked up my novel Grey Dawn for publication next year!

Grey Dawn is the story of two women– time-displaced Civil War Union Army veteran Chloë Logan, and former infantry platoon sergeant Leigh Hunter– bonding in modern Philadelphia over shared experiences at war. It’s a romance, but it’s more than that: it’s about learning to trust, being whole scars-and-all, and after all the years and all the miles and all the battles a person goes through, coming home again.

To keep up with and support my work, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, and Sponsus at riversidewings. We have a hell of an adventure ahead, friends. It’s my privilege to share it with you.

Anthrocon 2019: Come say hi!

Hey, so I’m at Anthrocon for the final day, today. I presented a lecture on Japanese anthropomorphic art of the late Heian era, on Day 2, and today I’m just enjoying the unique ambiance of Pittsburgh’s premier furry convention while I can. Definitely a liminal space. If you’re around and see me (glasses, olive drab kitty hat), come say hi!

If you saw me speak, leave a comment below! And as ever, please consider sending a few dollars my way via bit.ly/2VpR6wZ or paypal.me/riversidewings so that I can keep costs covered amidst chronic underemployment and keep bringing you the kickass history you love.

PHENO 2019: Come Say Hi!

Hey guys! So, thanks to my wonderful partner being on staff, I am attending some of the PHENO 2019 conference at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m not a physicist by any means, but it’s nice to get to talk to some of these amazing folks who are in town.

Litchfield Towers and the bridge over Forbes Avenue yesterday. Photo by me.


So if you are there, come say hi! I’d love to see you.

Getting Back To It

So I’m back. After graduation from Pitt, getting my hard-fought Ph.D., a job search that took way, way too long (partly the same hard-fought Ph.D. making me overqualified for everything), and launching a career as a freelance author, I’ve got a job again, and some measure of normalcy and stability is returning to life. I used to blog elsewhere, on history and spirituality, and finishing up grad school– followed by my stipend ending– meant that I really didn’t have the time to be writing anything if it didn’t directly help me make ends meet. But that’s all different now, and here we are, so. I’m back. And I’m glad to see you.

A view inside one of the classrooms at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning. These days are, at last, behind me. (source)

So. What can you expect ahead, now that I’m here? Broadly stated: the history and spirituality and folklore are back, interspersed with the fiction for which I’ve gotten some measure of reputation since I graduated, and some new things too! I had my research interests in grad school, and I have new ones now, too, so that’ll all be making an appearance here. The plan, however, is to have content hit Patreon first, so if you want to get an early peek, go sign up at http://patreon.com/shiogamawaves !

  1. Japanese history: I’m still as interested as ever in Japanese history, particularly the Bakumatsu-Meiji transition and the Boshin War of 1868. I’ve still got a book to put together, there, so in the meantime I’m exploring new questions (e.g. what was the role of non-samurai combatants in the Boshin War?). But I’ve got new research interests: Noh and its systems of patronage and supervision in domain service in the Edo period, the matagi of Akita, women author-activists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and more.
  2. American history: This is a new focus ever since my dissertation, but a lot centers around the American Civil War. Lesser known episodes of the conflict, its intersection with the later Boshin War, the role of women in combat, the history of trans people as combatants, are all points of interest for me.
  3. Japanese folklore and spirituality: I am a Hachiman devotee, and as I was in my past blogging career, I remain interested in Shinto and its history and ritual, as well as local folklore in northeastern Japan and beyond. You can expect to see some of this, too, as I pick up with reading and research. I had a series of shrine profiles that were well received, on my old blog– I could see picking up with that!
  4. New item is fashion! I’m trying to merge historic (or if you prefer, vintage) and modern vibes into a new, harmonious whole. I share some of this over on Instagram (follow me there!) but I’d like to make more in-depth posts here, too– and share bigger photos, soon improved by the benefit of a remote control for my camera.
  5. Photos and local historical or cultural commentary from my travels. I regularly travel parts of the Middle States (Mid-Atlantic) in the US, and eventually I hope to return to Japan, too. I take a lot of photos, and history has a way of catching my eye. Again, I post some of this I already post on Instagram, but the longer format of WordPress would let me do so at greater length.
  6. Updates on my fiction work and other developments in my authorly career.
  7. Some of my art!

At any rate, this should give you a taste of what’s in store. Again, if you want to see this stuff early, plus get bonuses, come subscribe over at Patreon! Patreon support has gone a long way in keeping me going during the past couple of difficult years, and I’d love to have your support too.

That’s all for now! More soon. Until next time, remember: who you are, and what lights your fire, is worth fighting for.