Military Wiki
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

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 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[]

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, they 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; Napperville was the hometown of Levi Shafer, the trooper whose carbine he borrowed to take the first shot.

Total strength and casualties[]

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


  • Colonel John F. Farnsworth- promoted brigadier general on December 5, 1862
  • Colonel William Gamble - mustered out with the regiment.[5]

Other notables[]

  • First Lieutenant Elon J. Farnsworth - promoted in June 1863 to brigadier general as assigned to a brigade command; killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. Nephew of Colonel Farnsworth.
  • Captain George Alexander Forsyth, later a famed Indian fighter in the Old West.
  • Lieutenant Marcellus Jones, would go on to remove the Dupage County records from Naperville, Illinois and take them to Wheaton, Illinois were the present county seat is located.
  • Major John Lourie Breveridge - Promoted to Colonel and commander of the 17th Illinois Cavalry, was Illinois' Governor from 1873-1877.

See also[]



  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

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia (view authors).