8th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry

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8th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry
Flag of Illinois.svg
Illinois flag
Active September 18, 1861, to July 17, 1865
Country United States
Allegiance Union
Branch Cavalry
Engagements Battle of Williamsburg
Battle of Fair Oaks
Battle of Antietam
Battle of Fredericksburg
Stoneman's Raid
Battle of Brandy Station
Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Monocacy
Battle of Opequon
Battle of Fort Stevens

The 8th Regiment Illinois Volunteer Cavalry was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War. The regiment served the duration of the war, and was the only Illinois cavalry regiment to serve the entire war in the Army of the Potomac. They also aided in the hunt for John Wilkes Booth and served as President Lincoln's honor guard while he lay in state under the rotunda. Lincoln gave them the nickname of "Farnsworth's Abolitionist Regiment" when he watched them march past the White House.


The regiment was commissioned on August 11, 1861, and was assembled for service in St. Charles, Illinois, on September 18, 1861, at the site donated by Colonel Farnsworth called Camp Kane. They were sent out on July 17, 1865, in Chicago, Illinois.

Battle of Gettysburg[edit]

During the Gettysburg Campaign, the 8th Illinois Cavalry was in the division of Brig. Gen. John Buford. They deployed west of Gettysburg on June 30, 1863, under the command of Colonel William Gamble, and waited for oncoming Confederates that arrived early the following morning. The first shot of the subsequent battle was fired by Lieutenant Marcellus E. Jones of Company E, who borrowed a carbine from Sergeant Levi Shafer and fired at an unidentified officer on a gray horse over a half-mile away. The 8th, along with the rest of the brigade, performed a fighting withdrawal towards McPherson's Ridge, delaying the Confederate division of Henry Heth for several hours and allowing the Union I Corps to arrive.[1][2]

Two decades after the war ended, veterans of the regiment dedicated a monument to the 8th Illinois along the crest of McPherson's Ridge.[3] Lt. Jones would also erect a monument in recognition of the first shot he fired on the location of the shot next to the Whistler's home just east of Marsh Creek on the Chambersburg Pike. The stone was quarried from Naperville limestone; Naperville was the hometown of Levi Shafer, whose carbine Jones borrowed.

Total strength and casualties[edit]

The regiment suffered a total of 250 fatalities; seven officers and 68 enlisted men killed in action or died of their wounds and one officer and 174 enlisted men died of disease.[4]


Other notables[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pfanz, Harry W., Gettysburg – The First Day, University of North Carolina Press, 2001, pp. 52-56.
  2. ^ Martin, David G., Gettysburg July 1, rev. ed., Combined Publishing, 1996, pp. 63-64.
  3. ^ Virtual Gettysburg: a photo of the monument.
  4. ^ The Civil War Archive website after Dyer, Frederick Henry. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. 3 vols. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959.
  5. ^ Illinois in the Civil War website after Illinois Adjutant General's muster rolls