As seen in the November 2006 edition of W&ET Magazine
An Ode To Pink
By: Ed fedory
"What is the sentiment, if not love, that ties a man to the horse which has carried him to victory in the charge, or which has borne him to safety in defeat... and which often, by a keener and ever alert sense, warns of coming surprise or given notice of ambush by a snort?"- E.E. Barker
In a small roadside park stands a granite monument to Pink- a tribute to his bravery during the Civil War, and the undying love a man had for his horse.
The words of General John C. Hammond, inscribed on the monument, ring down not only the corridors of time, but through the portals of one's heart:
Died Sunday, May 25, 1886
Aged 30 years
This horse carried his master 25 years. Was never known to show fatigue while other horses in cavalry and flying artillery were dying from want of food and exhaustion. He was present in 88 skirmishes and 34 battles, notably Winchester, Orange Court House, Second Bull Run, Hanover, Pa., Gettysburg, Hanover, Va., Brandy Plains, Buckland Mills, the Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, North Annee, Ashland, White Oaks Swamp, Reams Station.
John Hammond was elected captain of Co. H, 5th New York Volunteer Cavalry and rose through the ranks. He was wounded twice while commanding the 5th as colonel and returned to Crown Point, with Pink, in 1864, to continue the war effort through his family's iron mining company.
Little did I realize, two decades ago, that I would be relic hunting on some of the very fields that once felt the tread of Pink's hoofbeats... never once did I think I would follow along the path of the 5th New York State Volunteer Cavalry, Company H, on its journey from Crown Point to the fields of northern Virginia.
This monument to the 5th New York Cavalry, at Gettysburg, bears the inscription: July 3rd, 1863 this regiment under command of Major John Hammond here supported Battery "E" 4th U.S. Horse Artillery Lieutenant S.S. Elder, losing 6 men. June 30th, 1863 this regiment met and repulsed a portion of Lee's cavalry under personal command of General J.E.B. Stuart in the streets of Hanover in a hand to hand fight, capturing Lt. Col. Paine and 75 men with a loss of 26 men killed and wounded. July 2nd, 1863 this regiment attacked General Stuart's cavalry at Hunterstown and afterwards made a flank movement to this position.
Following the terrible Union defeat at Manassas Junction, the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861, in which the Confederate cavalry played such a significant part, the United States government put out a call for volunteer cavalry units. Thirty-four year old John Hammond opened a recruiting office to sign up young men from Essex County, New York, for a period of three years service in a cavalry unit. Within 30 days 106 men had enlisted.
This late war 5th N.Y. Cavalry flag was carried across many battlefields in Pennsylvania and Virginia, and is currently in the New York State flag collection.
Each trooper was allowed to select his own mount, and being a good judge of horseflesh, John Hammond selected a bay with a white "star" on his forehead and white "socks" on his front feet and on his right hind foot. His name was Pink. It was the beginning of a journey and relationship that would take them through the carnage of battle and endure for decades.
Looking as though it popped off a Union cavalry uniform yesterday, this beautiful cavalry button still retains almost all its gilt. (Photo courtesy of the American Relic Hunters forum.)
On June 30, 1863, the 5th New York Volunteer Cavalry earned the distinction of being the first regiment to cross swords and exchange fire with the Confederates on free soil. This occurred at Hanover, Pennsylvania, 14 miles from Gettysburg, where Colonel Hammond came up against the forces of General J.E.B. Stuart. The 5th New York bore the brunt of the attack, and then charged again, driving the Confederate cavalry from the field. A few short days later, at Gettysburg, Hammond and his troopers were ordered to support Elder's U.S. Battery. Lieutenant Elder, a born soldier as history recalls, could only ask one question: "Was John Hammond with his famous New York troopers here with him to brave the most daring deeds?" Indeed, the 5th New York played a pivotal part in diverting part of Lee's army during the battle in charges against the Confederate infantry, "over ground today deemed impassable for horses."
This brass sword guard from a Model 1850 staff and field officer's sword was recovered on the battlefield of Brandy Station by Roland and Michelle Hankey. (Photo by Michelle Hankey.)
According to E.E. Barker, whose father was a trooper in Company H, the horses, "...seemed to share the hopes and fears of battle equally with their riders. When sabres were drawn and the troops cheered, the horses gallantly responded. In battle the horses became as excited as their riders, sometimes becoming quite uncontrollable and carrying them beyond where they wanted to go. Such was the case with Pink..."
Captured by the 5th N.Y. Cavalry
From Mosby's Guerrillas, January
1863. Died June 1883.
This regulation Union cavalry spur was found on grounds once visited by the 5th New York. For every complete spur pulled from the ground, a dozen broken ones are recovered. (Photo by Steve Evans.)
Another of the handful of Morgan war horses to survive and return home to Crown Point was Billy, the favorite mount of Colonel James Penfield. Although never wounded in battle, Billy did suffer injury, becoming lame for a few days. His incapacity forced Colonel Penfield to select another horse. The horse was named Cockeye due to his one blind eye and the fact that he carried his head cocked to one side. While leading a charge of Company H troopers at Hagarstown, Cockeye was killed, falling on his rider. Penfield was severely wounded by a sabre stroke to the head, captured, and later confined in Libby Prison. According to E.E. Barker, "In the fall of 1863, Billy was sent home to Crown Point where he lived an honored pensioner for 22 years. His grave on the Penfield farm is marked with a granite monument, suitably inscribed:
Col. James A. Penfield's War Horse
Served in Co. H 5th N.Y. Volunteer Cavalry. Battles:
Winchester, Harper's Ferry, Dranee C. House,
Cedar Mt. Waterloo Bridge, Bull Run, Hanover,
Gettysburg, Monterey Pass.
This elaborately stamped martingale was used to a limited extent, but was eventually discarded as nonessential. This example is identical to one pictured in Francis Lord's Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia and attributed to Colonel John McConnell of the 5th Illinois Cavalry. (Photo courtesy of the American Relic Hunters forum.)
When the 5th New York Volunteer Cavalry was finally mustered out at Hart's Island, New York, July 19, 1865 it was noted that only seven original horses survived the war. The toll of dead, wounded, and captured gives grim testimony to the ordeals faced by the 5th New York V.C. and their war horses.
You know you're really deep into "Cavalry Country" if you are lucky enough to start digging crossed sabre insignia from the ground! (Photo courtesy of the American Relic Hunters forum.)
Names like Prince and Mink... Old Babe and Old Elder... Charley and Sukey... Black Dick, Jane and Black Bess have entered the pages of history as only footnotes, without benefit of granite monuments or tombstones. Most left only their shattered and torn hulks on the battlefields amid their fallen comrades, horse and soldier alike. It was said of the survivors that they seemed never to have forgotten their wartime experiences, as martial music and the sounds of a 4th of July celebration would always excite them.
Any relic hunter would love to have these beautifully conserved Union horse bits in his private collection! Recovered in Virginia they would make a wonderful centerpiece for any cavalry display. (Photo courtesy of the American Relic Hunters forum.)
...and I wonder if Pink, Old Jeff, or Billy, standing mid-meadow, in the waning of their lives and a summer day, ever closed their eyes and dreamt of the times that were... the thunder of the cannon... the bugle calls... the clash of steel...