William Larned GoreWilliam Larned Gore
When William Larned Gore was 13 his father died. William and his brother, George, were left the responsibility of farming the 120 acres and tending the blacksmith trade to support his blind mother and his two youngest sisters. Six years later, when the Civil War broke out, both young men decided to enlist.
George went to the recruiting station across the state line to enlist in the 100th Indiana Volunteer Infantry. When William arrived at the same office, he found the ranks already filled so returned home very disappointed. His wait was not long. Two weeks later he enlisted in the 6th Michigan Cavalry and was mustered into Company L, the same Company that his cousin John C. Gore was placed.
The unit drilled and trained at Fort Kellogg, Grand Rapids, Michigan. On November 1, 1862, they arrived in Washington, D.C., and were attached to the brigade of General Banks, which was at that time defending the area around the capital.
The brigade marched with the rest of the Army of the Potomac into Virginia, early in 1863. and wintered near Fairfax, Virginia. On June 25, 1863, the 6th Michigan marched first with General Hooker and then with General Meade as they sought to find Lee's army in Pennsylvania.
William Gore and his unit, the 6th Michigan, were at Littletown, Pa. at sunup on the thirtieth of June. They were bringing up the rear behind the division's artillery. At about ten o'clock the van made contact with the Rebels near Hanover. The 6th Michigan under the command of Colonel George Gray, provided Lee a most formidable opposition and prevented him from aiding Chamblis, who was engaging the Federals at the initial contact point. Gray lacked battle experience but fought well against heavy odds. The Colonel and his men finally slipped away to Hanover across fields and joined with Alger's 5th Michigan. In Gray's rear, he left a single squadron, under Major Peter A. Weber- augmented by armed farmers from the vicinity- to cover the withdrawal. Weber's men repulsed three assaults while withstanding a withering cannonade. Heavy losses were taken, but they held the ground until nightfall and withdrew to rejoin Gray by the next morning.
Almost the same day the Regiment became part of the command of General George Custer. It was on the eve of the decisive conflict at Gettysburg, that General Meade promoted three young captains of cavalry, just out of West Point, to the rank of generals- Farnsworth, Merritt, and Custer. On June 29, 1863, renown Michigan soldier, Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer, was assigned to command the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. From that time forward, the fame of the brigade and its commander are inseparably interwoven.
General Custer and his Wolverines were deployed northwest of town on a hill known as Bunker Hill. As the cannon engaged the Confederates, the 5th, 6th, and part of the 7th Michigan gradually moved closer to Lee's position, between Gettysburg and Littlestown roads. They held the extreme Union right.
Late in the afternoon, Custer, in his first action as a brigade commander, moved toward Lee's front west of Hanover. He dismounted about six hundred of Colonel Gray's troopers, including Long John Gore, and directed fire against Lee's cannon, which were playing effectively on other Michigan regiments. This was the first time the 6th Michigan had seen Custer at close range. They were soon as impressed by his fighting style as they were amused by his attire.
Gray's six hundred men snaked through the underbrush toward the Littlestown Pike. Much of the distance was covered on hands and knees. They edged up a steep ridge to within three hundred yards of the enemy guns. The Wolverines commenced an intensive fire with pistols and Spencer rifles. The Rebs were taken by surprise and rushed to the rear.
Lee ordered for reinforcements and they pushed Gray back to his original position. There Custer rallied the men and moved them against the guns on the ridge again. Once more they failed to seize the position, but took up vantage points that caused Lee and Stuart to fear the safety of that flank. Custer and the 6th Michigan Cavalry had proved themselves a combination to be reckoned with!
On the third day of the battle at Gettysburg, General Lee ordered Jeb Stuart to attack the rear of the Union line. When Stuart ordered Hampton to execute a charge, he was met head on by Custer and his Michigan Wolverines. Stuart was matched and outmatched for the first time in the war, by the brigades of Custer, McIntosh, and Gregg. This battlefield, east of Gettysburg would be the end for 254 Federals and almost 200 Confederates when the armies retired that last day.
The Union cavalry pursued Lee's army as it retreated south. At around 10 PM, on the night of July 4th, the 6th Michigan caught up with the rear column of the Rebel army at Monterey Springs. Under heavy fire, they took up positions near a bridge and returned fire. They were ordered to advance several times but were repeatedly repulsed with a hail of gunfire. The enemy eventually faded into the shadows.
Late afternoon on the 8th of July, after the Union cavalry had probed and harassed the Confederates all day, Jeb Stuart ordered his troops to withdraw to Funkstown. They were running low on ammunition. This action only encouraged the Federal troops and they surged forward, almost leaving their division commander, Buford behind. He would later declare: "These boys beat anything in the world in a foot skirmish." A Michigan soldier exulted: "I guess they (the Confederates) will get sick of this side of the Potomac."
The morning of July 11th, Custer's brigade lead the charge up the road to Funkstown where they chased the last of the Confederate cavalry and foot soldiers from the village.
Early in the morning of July 14th, Custer's brigade was racing toward Falling Waters, hoping to engage or capture stragglers. The 6th Michigan was in the advance and encountered the Rebel rear guard about two miles from Falling Waters. The Wolverines pushed the foot troops steadily toward the river. At 7:30 they came up to a formidable breastwork held by a battery and Pettigrew's Rebel troops. Peter Weber was ordered to take two companies of the 6th Michigan and lead a saber charge. At his signal one hundred men went galloping down the road to the works.
At first the Rebs thought the approaching cavalry was a squadron of Stuart's. The Federals hit the line in full stride. Weber cut right and left with his saber and cheering on his men, pierced the first line. The Rebs quickly recovered from their surprise and blasted Weber's men along their line at close range. Weber and his second in command. Lt. Charles Bolza fell dead. Thirty of their men were killed, wounded or captured.
Custer sent in the rest of Colonel Gray's regiment on foot, but Pettigrew's men forced it back. Reinforced by the 1st Michigan, the 6th returned to battle and inflicted some loss on the Confederate infantry. Even so, the Wolverines were held back until the bulk of the Rebel rear had escaped across the river.
General Grant was brought East to assume command of the Army of the Potomac. He appreciated the usefulness and firepower of Cavalrymen with Spencer carbines and turned General Sheridan loose harassing the Confederates in the Shanandoa Valley. Custer and his Wolverines were almost constantly on patrol or in a skirmish.
General Sheridan was bent on destroying the Confederate railroads, which supplied Lee's army. On the eighth of June 1864, he led his cavalry toward the tracks of the Virginia Central. General Lee sent General Hampton and his cavalry to intercept Sheridan and stop him.
The Battle of Trevilian Station was the greatest and bloodiest, all cavalry battle, of the War Between the States. There were no infantry units engaged, only cavalry; 5000 Confederate and about 8000 Union troops. There was a tactical error made by General Custer, when he underestimated the enemy; reminiscent of a similar error he would make years later at the Little Big Horn, Montana. This was the fight in which William's cousin, Long John Gore, was captured and taken south as a prisoner of war.
At sunrise on the morning of June 11, 1864, the 6th Michigan was camped near Buck Chiles, north of the Virginia Central Railroad tracks and north east of Trevilian Station, Virginia. General Sheridan planned to rip up the tracks that day, but General Wade Hampton had other ideas on the matter. His army of Confederate horse troops had arrived the previous day, rested and were advancing on the main body of Federals from the south on foot. Hampton had left his wagons and 800 horses south of the station.
When the sound of fighting commenced, Custer advanced his brigade south on a road east of Trevilian Station and managed to flank the Confederate right flank unmolested until they were deep in Hampton's rear and stumbled on his wagons, horses, and baggage, which they were all too pleased to claim with little resistance.
However, Hampton immediately broke off the attack and sent Rosser and his mounted troops dashing from the left flank and charged Custer and his Michigan troops. Almost simultaneously, Fitz Lee hit them from the east. Custer's brigade was surrounded. Rosser and his men charged with sabers and pistols and a melee ensued. The Michiganders were obliged to abandon what they had won. In addition to their spoils, Custer lost his headquarters wagon with his wife's love letters, four caissons, and nearly an entire regiment of men was taken prisoner. Most likely it was in this action that William's cousin, Long John Gore, was captured.
Three months later, William was driving a team in an ordinance train when he was captured by the Confederates on the road near Winchester, Va. He was taken prisoner between Berryville and Charles-Town on 8 September 1864 and was sent to Libby Prison at Richmond where he remained until he was sent to the crowded Danville Va. prison on the 20th. By the 24th of September they were moved to the converted cotton mill at Salisbury, N. C. It was here that he remained in terrible conditions for the next six months, through a miserable winter without proper clothing, food, medicine or common sanitary conditions.
Prisoners at Salisbury Prison, when compared to some of the other Confederate Prisons, were slightly better off, but even then nearly 12,000 Union soldiers died of disease there in less than a year's time. Typhoid and Dysentery ran rampant through the prison.
William managed to stay alive for over 6 months until they were freed by Stoneman's U.S. Cavalry in April 1865. William was sent to Cox's Wharf, where he received emergency treatment and was transported to the hospital of the First Army Division at Annapolis.
Will Gore was given a convalescent furlough home but was so feeble he was not able to return to the base where he was to be discharged. The records from the hospital show him to be suffering from "Typhoid Fever, Rheumatism, Chronic Diarrhea and Disease of the Stomach". He was finally mustered out in July 1865, three months after the war was over, during which time he had remained at home under the care of the local doctor, his mother, and his childhood sweetheart, Ann Eliza Eldridge. For more than a year he was fed barley gruel and eventually soft food when his digestive system had partially recovered.
Here was a young veteran at age 22, ready to be married, but unable to do any manual labor over the next two years. He spent much time reading while making plans for his future with Ann Eliza.
On 27 June 1868 William Gore and Ann Eliza Eldridge were married at her home in York Twp, Steuben County, Indiana, a few miles from Billingstown. They took up residence at the Silas Gore farm with the mother Elizabeth Roberts Gore, and it was said Ann Eliza was the kindest, most efficient homemaker ever born.
Will Gore was teaching school in York Twp, over the line in Indiana--and had a certificate issued by the county in 1871. He continued to teach school both in Steuben county and in his own Williams County Ohio for more than 15 years. Among his pupils were his own daughter Jessie and her first and only love, Edwin R. Powers who lived down the road to the south of the school.
Also among his talents was his ability to train horses. It was said there was not a horse that Will Gore could not turn into a lady's driving horse, and many a farmer brought his colt there to receive bridle and halter training. He was popular as a fiddler at the "kitchen dances", having a fine voice and excellent memory for all the square dance tunes.
Music played an important part of his life, as he remained a partial invalid all his life as a result of his war service. He played cornet and other brass instruments, organized bands locally and participated in several bands of renown in both counties across the state line.
William Gore was a charter member of the "Union of Veterans Union"--a forerunner of the Veterans Administration as we know it. Headquartered in Washington, he was listed on the letterhead in 1905 as Brig. Gen. William Gore, Judge Advocate General of the Montgomery, Michigan area. We must note though that it took him 38 years to get his pension approved! His records disappeared at the time he was taken prisoner, no listing was given for many of those at Salisbury, and after years of petitions and affidavits from Doctors and fellow prisoners he was able to locate, it was found that his name had been carelessly written by a scribbling clerk and misread as "William Grove of Co L Mich. 6th Cav Vol" etc!! He lived to collect on that disability pension only ten years more after it was approved in 1902.
By the time his two children were born, things were becoming more and more difficult on the farm. With little income, he started selling off parcels of the original 150 acres, and finally by 1891 according to the Williams County Court Records, the farm was sold in a delinquent tax sale. It was at this time that Will and Ann Eliza moved into the little house across the road at the edge of the cemetery where his parents rested.
When their health failed, Will and Ann Eliza moved about ten miles west to live with their daughter Jessie Powers in her home at Angola, IN. Here they enjoyed their only grandchild, Clarissa Louise Powers. Ann Eliza died 24 Nov 1908 and Will continued to live on in "the city" but insisted on returning to Billingstown for a few days every summer to "fix things up." He died of heart failure and was buried beside his wife in the Gore plot in Billingstown Cemetery.
William Gore was dark of complexion, with black hair and hazel eyes. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Gore Family manuscript by Barbara Goodwin Avery
The Media Research Bureau
History of Calhoun County; Washington Gardner, 1913
The Cavalry at Gettysburg, Edward Longacre, 1986
The Custer Album, Lawrence Frost, 1964
National Archives/Service Records
Battle of Trevilian Station, Walbrook Davis Swank, 1994
Eyewitness to War, Allen Rice, Submitted by Nancy Ronemus, America's Civil War,