Written by Ned Lodwick, US Grant Homestead Assoc. Georgetown, OH
The “Brown County Cavalry” as Gen. U.S. Grant’s escort at the surrender of Vicksburg, July 4, 1863
The 4th IOVCC was often called the “Brown County Cavalry.” It was formed in Georgetown by Captain John S. Foster, the Brown County Sheriff, on July 9, 1861. It was made up of men from across the county. Only the best horsemen were enlisted. Rarely were there more than 100 men in the company, though 200 men served at various times during the war. The men supplied their horses, saddles, and bridles. Brown County supplied their weapons, a revolver and a repeating carbine. Ohio issued their uniforms, dark blue trimmed with bright yellow. This was unusual for Union cavalry. Normally the state and later federal government provided everything the troopers needed. The troopers were paid $13 per month for their services and since they owned their horses $12 per month for them.
The 4th trained at Camp Chase near Columbus. They left Camp Chase by train and arrived in St Louis, Missouri on March 1, 1862 just in time to be the escort unit in Gen. Nathaniel Lyon’s funeral procession. While in Missouri they were active in fighting local partisan bands and were part of a Union force of 400 cavalry that located and defeated 800 Confederate soldiers at the Battle of Silver Creek in a headlong charge. One trooper of the 4th reported in a letter to the Ripley Bee that they charged into the fray and a Confederate stepped from behind a tree with a rifle at the ready. The trooper said his repeater spoke and the rebel was no more.
The day after the Battle of Shiloh, April 8, 1862, the 4th was transferred to the Army of the Tennessee under Gen. Grant. They were chosen by Gen. Henry Hallack to be his headquarters guard. This was a great honor but not easy duty. They were not only responsible for the general’s safety but also for reconnaissance and for carrying messages during battles to the front lines. Often they were in the worst places at the worst times.
The 4th was considered a highly trained and heavily armed unit. They were very good at what they did. They were to serve the entire war as headquarters guards for a list of prominent generals. Generals James B. McPherson, John “Black Jack” Logan, Peter Osterhaus, and Oliver O. Howard were all in command of the Army of the Tennessee at one time and all used the 4th IOVCC as their headquarters unit. They were at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Atlanta, the March to the Sea, and the Campaign through the Carolinas, generally out in front.
At the Battle of Port Gibson, Mississippi the 4th were not only carrying orders as individuals but at one point a weakness opened in the Union line and the 4th was sent in as a unit to fill the hole with great success. Sgt. Wm. C. Howard in a letter printed in the Ripley Bee on May 28, 1863 wrote, “Gen. Grant was on the field in person, not unexposed to the leaden hail, that was hurled against our troops. There may be better Generals, than Grant, in our army (and I doubt that very much) but I am well satisfied, when he dies, he will leave no braver heart behind.” The “Brown County Cavalry” had many proud moments like that, but none more so than July 4th 1863 when their friend and former Brown County native Ulysses S. Grant chose them to escort him into Vicksburg, Mississippi to except the largest surrender of soldiers in the Civil War.
The 4th IOVCC was Gen. McPherson’ guard when he was killed in the Battle of Atlanta, July 22, 1864. Two Brown County troopers were with him at the time. They had ridden to the sound of the guns and when they rode out of a band of heavy woods they burst into an open field only 50 yards from a rebel regiment in line of battle. The Confederates called for their surrender but the trio wheeled and tried to escape. A volley roared behind them and all three fell from their horses. The General and one trooper were dead and the second trooper was badly wounded and captured. The General’s horse was struck with three balls but lived. Gen. McPherson was the highest ranking Union officer killed in the Civil War.
The 4th Independent Ohio Volunteer Cavalry Company served from July 9, 1861 through May 28, 1865 and lost 42 men killed, wounded, or captured. Few of the cemeteries in Brown County are without a veteran of the 4th IOVCC so wide was the recruitment of the unit.
For more information: www.ohiocivilwar.com