Of the many companies that made up the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War, only the Oneida Independent Company, Cavalry, served as an independent nonregimentally assigned unit throughout the conflict. The company never lost its identity but did become commonly known as the Oneida Cavalry.
The Oneida Cavalry holds a unique position in the war’s history. It is the only unit to have served at the headquarters of every commanding general of the Union Army of the Potomac. The company furnished the escort, orderlies and couriers for the commander and his staff. The men of the Oneida cavalry served at the headquarters of Generals George B. McClellan, Ambrose E. Burnside, Joseph Hooker and George Gordon Meade. A detachment of 22 men from the Oneida Cavalry, under the command of 2nd Lieutenant Almond L. Clark, was assigned to duty at General Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters at City Point, Virginia, from 1864 until the surrender of the Confederate Army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865.
The men of the company experienced more than the routine work of orderlies. Although they were well known among the generals of the Army of the Potomac for their remarkable success in delivering dispatches and messages, quickly and reliably, they were also used on picket, raiding, reconnaissance, patrol and military police work.
The Oneida Cavalry was formed and organized in the Village of Oneida, Madison County, New York, by Daniel P. Mann. He was a businessman living in the village. At the time, he was 49 years old, married and father of three children. He was granted permission to form a company of cavalry by the U.S. War Department on August 2, 1861. The men of the company were to enlist for three years and be ready to move within 30 days.
The company was easily raised in the time allotted. The company consisted of 89 men. They were from all walks of life. They were farmers, laborers, mechanics, carpenters, glass blowers, canalers, blacksmiths, clerks, merchants, teachers and students. Most of them were native born, but some were immigrants from Ireland, Germany and France. The majority of them were from Madison County, New York. Of the 55 men from Madison County, 22 were from the Village of Oneida.
The company was mustered into service on September 4, 1861. On September 6, the men were on a train heading to Washington, D.C., for outfitting and training. This was the beginning of a long tour that finally ended on June 13, 1865. At that time, the men were discharged and the company disbanded. The men of the Oneida Cavalry had served the Army of the Potomac during 18 major battles and it final victory at Appomattox.
In 1905, New York State erected and dedicated a monument in honor of the Oneida Cavalry at the National Battlefield Park at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to acknowledge the company’s part in the battle. It was the last of the New York State monuments and the only one solely dedicated to a company. The original flag of the Oneida Cavalry is being displayed this year (2005) at the Visitor’s Center in the National Battlefield Park at Appomattox.
W. Robert Mayer of Oneida is currently writing a book on the Oneida Independent Company, Cavalry, based on his original research. He welcomes anyone with materials or documents relating to the Oneida Cavalry and its men to contact him by mail at 381 Genesee St., Oneida, NY 13421-2611.