All or Nothing
The Battle of Chancellorsville, April 27-May 6,1863.
On the morning of (May) 2nd (the Eighth) re-joined the brigade, and with the Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry was formed in an open field in rear of General Sickle’s line of battle.
“As I was going back at a trot,” says General Pleasanton, “an aid-de-camp came up to me and said, ‘General, the Eleventh Corps is falling back very rapidly, and some cavalry is necessary to stop it.’ I understood pretty well what that meant. I had only two regiments of cavalry with me (Eighth and Seventeenth). When I came to this open space which I had before left, I found it filled with fugitives, caissons, ambulances, guns, and everything.
I saw the movement was critical, and I called on Major Keenan, of the Eighth Pennsylvania, and gave him his orders.
‘I said to…’Major Keenan, you must charge in these woods with your regiment, and hold the rebels until I can get some of my guns into position.’ Says I,’ You must do it at all cost.’ I mentioned the Major because I knew his character so well; that he was a man for the occasion. He replied to me with a smile on his face, though it was almost certain death, ‘General, I will do it.’
It was one of those critical moments, which is the turning point in the fortunes of an army. Should Jackson gain the commanding position on this open ground just before him, and now almost within his grasp, he would sever the Union army and hold it at his mercy. But if he could be kept in check for a few minutes, until Pleasanton could bring his artillery into position, this commanding ground could be held. A fearful sacrifice must be made. It fell to the fortune of the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry to make it.
Major Keenan at the head of the first battalion, calling on his men to stand by him, ordered them to draw sabre and charge! Reaching the plank road, wheeled to the left, and dashed with his trusty followers full upon Jackson’s infantry. He was instantly assailed with fearful volleys, and his little band almost annihilated.
He was killed at the head of his regiment, but he alarmed the rebels so much that I gained about ten minutes on the enemy. Major Keenan had only from four to five hundred men.”
By this bold manoeuvre the enemy was startled, and time was given Pleasanton to get twenty-two pieces into position, double-shotted, bearing upon the menaced front; and when, in dark masses, the rebels swarmed from the woods, in a charge upon his guns, he swept them with terrible effect, and completely checked the further progress of their army.
[So unnerved were the rebel forces by the Eighth’s action, that rebel pickets, observing riders along their line in the dusky light, mistook them for Federal troops and fired, in so-doing mortally wounding their own General, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. -RP]
Source: Dyer, Frederick H. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion Compiled and Arranged from Official Records of the Federal and Confederate Armies, Reports of he Adjutant Generals of the Several States, the Army Registers, and Other Reliable Documents and Sources, Des Moines, Iowa: The Dyer Publishing Company, 1908.
This is the Masterbox 1/35 set of three 8th Pennsylvania cavalry troops under charge. The only additions are foil reins, halters, and stirrup chaps. The base is landscaped with various scatters/lump foliage. The split-rail fencing is scratch-built from balsa strip. The figures are adequately detailed but not more so; painting technique must lift otherwise weak contours, but the horses are nicely sculpted indeed.
7 additional images. Click to enlarge.