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Joseph E. McCabe, Archibald H. Rowand, Jr.,
TWO OF SHERIDAN'S SCOUTS
THE thrilling adventures of two of General Sheridan's scouts form
an interesting chapter of the episodes of the War of the
Rebellion. One of the scouts was Joseph E. McCabe, a sergeant in
the Seventeenth Pennsylvania Cavalry ; the other, Archibald H.
Rowand, a private in Company K, First West Virginia Cavalry, the
former being the general's chief scout.
Among the many achievements of these two men, the capture of the
Confederate general, Harry Gilmor, and staff was the most
brilliant and consequential. The occurrence dates at the time
when General Sheridan had his headquarters at Winchester during
the winter of 1864. It was Rowand who first got onto the trail
of the Confederate general, who in a mansion near Moorefield, W.
Va., was nursing his wounds received at the battle of Winchester.
He imparted his information to General Sheridan, who at once
formulated plans for the capture of the wounded commander. The
task was entrusted to McCabe, chief scout, Major Henry H. Young
with a detachment of thirty cavalrymen, and Rowand, who acted as
guide. After a ride of forty miles the party-all dressed as
Confederates-reached the general's place of abode at daybreak.
Approaching the house cautiously, Rowand went ahead, overpowered
the sentinel and made him prisoner. McCabe and Major Young
followed and demanded the surrender of the general and his staff.
Resistance being out of question the order was readily complied
with, and thus the two daring scouts were able to report the
complete success of their mission to General Sheridan and turn
over to him the Confederate commander.
McCabe was the leading scout in still another important
capture-that of General Rufus Barringer.
It was on the morning of April 6,1865, when McCabe and five
companions, all attired in Confederate uniforms, were riding
along on their way to Danville, Va. Presently they met a group
of four Confederates, whom they halted and engaged in
conversation. The Confederates said they belonged to a North
Carolina brigade, and McCabe and his comrades pretended to be men
of the Ninth Virginia. They rode along together till they were
joined by a Confederate officer of apparent high rank. He
revealed himself during the course of the conversation as General
Barringer. McCabe drew from the unwary rebels much valuable
information, when, without any previous warning, he presently
informed the general and his men of his identity and demanded
their surrender. His determined attitude completely nonplused
the Confederates, who were too greatly surprised to make even a
show of resistance. Only one rebel escaped. For this clever
capture of General Barringer McCabe was awarded the Medal of
Rowand's other great feat was the delivery of a message from
General Sheridan to General Grant in 1865.
Sheridan had been ordered to pass around to the west of Richmond
and effect a junction with Sherman in North Carolina, but owing
to heavy rains and swollen streams he had been delayed until the
Confederates had time to throw a heavy force in his front and
prevent his advance, a fact of which it was important that Grant
should be notified. Rowand and his comrade, James A. Campbell,
volunteered to deliver the message, and shortly thereafter,
dressed as Confederates, they each received a copy of the message
written on tissue paper and tightly rolled in the form of a small
pellet inclosed in tin foil. Their orders were to deliver the
message, but in case of capture to swallow the pellets before
giving them up to the enemy.
The journey began on horseback and for forty-eight hours they
were in the saddle, during which time they entered the
Confederate lines and were within eight miles of Richmond. They
met and conversed with a chief of Confederate scouts and were
within five miles of the James River when some of the scouts of
the enemy recognized them and gave chase. Rowand and Campbell
put the spurs to their horses and reached the river ahead of
their pursuers. Here they abandoned the horses and plunging into
the river seized a floating skiff and with their hands paddled so
rapidly, going diagonally with the current, that they reached the
opposite shore just as the enemy reached the south bank. The
fugitives were ordered to halt and shots were sent after them,
but it only stimulated Rowand and his comrade to greater
exertions. And so, with the enemy coming behind, the two made a
run, afoot, of about ten miles, when they reached the Union
The lieutenant in charge of the picket refused to accept their
statement that they were messengers from Sheridan and was
inclined to treat them as spies. Finally, however, he consented
to take his prisoners to the Colonel, who at once forwarded them,
under escort, to Grant's headquarters. While sitting at Grant's
desk waiting for the general to appear, they both fell asleep-the
first time in over two days. Grant coming in, awakened Rowand by
tapping him on the shoulder, and after receiving and reading the
dispatches ordered that every attention be paid to the two young
Source: Deeds of Valor, p. 402