The Saber Regiment
History of the 7th Pennsylvania
Veteran Volunteer Cavalry, 1861-1865
By William B. Sipes
As the blue-coated horsemen trotted past an infantry column resting by the roadside, a tall sergeant, leaning on his rifle, remarked to his comrades, "Boys, there's going to be a fight. When them fellows are hurried to the front it means business."
The officers and men of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry regarded the comment as a high compliment, and for good reason were justifiably proud of their record and reputation. For much of its service during the Civil War the 7th was part of the Army of the Cumberland, belonging to Colonel Robert H.G. Minty's highly respected cavalry brigade composed of volunteers and U.S. Regulars, and deservedly earned the sobriquet "the Saber Regiment" for daring and deadly use of that weapon in the mounted charge. A successful assault on a Rebel battery at Shelbyville, Tennessee, in June 1863 (for which a 7th battalion commander was awarded the Medal of Honor), provided a noteworthy example of the Pennsylvanians' prowess with the saber. "There can hardly be instanced a finer display of gallantry than the charge made that day by the Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry," wrote General David S. Stanley. "I have read of nothing more admirable."
Recruited from the Keystone State's coal-producing counties and the Susquehanna, Schuylkill and Allegheny river valleys, the 7th participated in more than 30 battles and skirmishes in Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama. Its Confederate adversaries included some of the best saddle soldiers the South possessed in the western theater: Forrest, Wheeler, Morgan, Duke, Ross, Dibrell, Armstrong and Martin. The first Union casualties suffered in the battle of Chickamauga were troopers of the 7th. During 1864's Georgia campaign the regiment was involved in a number of exhausting actions, sabering its way through enemy lines on two occasions near Kennesaw Mountain, and again with General Judson Kilpatrick south of Atlanta. Serving in General James H. Wilson's Cavalry Corps in 1865, the 7th gained additional laurels when one of its battalions was the first to penetrate Forrest's imposing defenses at Selma, Alabama. "They did not stop until the town was captured," recalled a Company E sergeant, "and Forrest's command completely routed."
Colonel William B. Sipes, a pre-war newspaper editor and longtime commander of the 7th, finished writing the regiment's history less than a month before his sudden death. Sipes' work is a testament to the battle-hardened soldiers of one of Pennsylvania's premier cavalry organizations. This Blue Acorn Press edition features 48 photographic portraits of regimental members, a fully annotated roster and a new index.
Hardcover with dust jacket, 436 total pages, photos, roster, index. ISBN 1-885033-27-3.
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