Jeremiah C. Denney was born in Mallow, Ireland about 1834, and emigrated to the United States at an early age. He enlisted in Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry on March 15, 1855, as the newly-created regiment initially filled its ranks. A 22 year old currier, he was enlisted by Lieutenant Buford in Louisville, Kentucky for a term of 5 years. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 5” tall, with fair hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. He was promoted to corporal in November of the same year before transferring to the regimental band. Denney was appointed Chief Bugler of the regiment on August 1, 1858.
Chief Bugler Denney was reenlisted at Camp Cooper, Texas on January 15, 1860 by Lieutenant Richard S. Lord. Four months later, he was appointed the regimental sergeant major, and served in that capacity during the regiment’s exodus from Texas when that state seceded the following year.
During the summer and fall of 1861, he participated in General Patterson’s Shenandoah campaign, seeing action at Falling Waters, Martinsburg and Bunker Hill. He served with the regiment training in the defenses of Washington, D.C. during the winter of 1861.
In March of 1862, he and his regiment moved to the peninsula with the rest of the Army of the Potomac. He was engaged in the nearly daily skirmishes during the army’s advance toward Richmond following the battle of Williamsburg in early May.
He was so badly wounded during the regiment’s fatal charge at Gaines’ Mill in July that he was transferred to the general service and assigned duties as a clerk in the War Department. Upon recovery from his wounds, however, he returned to the regiment. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 5th Cavalry to date from July 17, 1862, and promoted to first lieutenant to date from the same day. These promotions took time to be approved and forwarded to the regiment, however.
He physically returned to the regiment itself, as opposed to its rolls, in September 1862, in time for the Rappahannock and Maryland campaigns. Following the battle of Antietam, he saw action at Halltown, Upperville, Markham’s Station, Barbee’s Crossroads and Amissville. Lieutenant Denney was assigned as a 2nd Lieutenant in Company H until October 16, 1862, when he was assigned to Company B at the same rank until February 19, 1863.
Assignments didn’t always match duties, however. Lieutenant Denney served as company commander for Company B and acting regimental quartermaster during the winter of 1862 near Falmouth, Virginia. He left on a sick leave of absence from April until June, returning before the battle of Brandy Station. He fought with his regiment throughout the Gettysburg campaign and subsequent pursuit, including the second battle at Brandy Station on August 1st.
Once his promotion orders were received by the regiment, he returned to Company H as a 1st lieutenant, and served there until August 31st. He was then transferred to Company G, where he was assigned for the remainder of the war.
In September he led a detachment from the regiment to Point Lookout, Maryland, where he served until July 1864, when he and the detachment returned to the regiment in time for the battle of Deep Bottom.
First Lieutenant Denney commanded the entire regiment, minus the three companies serving as escort to General Grant, during numerous engagements with the Reserve Brigade in the Shenandoah Valley from July 28 to August 31, 1864. He also earned a brevet of captain at the battle of Cedar Creek for gallant and meritorious service on October 19, 1864.
Lieutenant Denney served near Winchester during the winter of 1864, and participated in Sheridan’s expedition to rejoin the Army of the Potomac in the spring of 1865, as well as the pursuit from Petersburg toward Appomattox. He was captured in the battle of Five Forks on March 30, 1865, and reported himself as a paroled prisoner of war on April 3rd.
He rejoined the regiment on May 1st, and remained in command until June 25th. He marched with the regiment to Cumberland, Maryland in June, where it remained until January 1866. On July 28, 1866, he was promoted to captain and assigned command of Company A. Captain Denney joined his new company on reconstruction duty in North Carolina in August. He served in Raleigh, Kingston, Asheville and Morganton until September 1868, when the regiment was transferred to Kansas.
After action in three different engagements in October, Denney fell seriously ill. He was in hospital at Fort Wallace, Kansas from November 1, 1868 to February 3, 1869. During the fall, he was recommended by Generals Merritt and Emory for a brevet of major gallant and meritorious service during the Gettysburg campaign, but it was never approved. At some point during this winter, his wife died, and her loss hit Denney particularly hard. He rejoined his company at Fort Lyon, Colorado and marched with it to Fort McPherson, Nebraska, fighting skirmishes at Beaver Creek and Spring Creek along the march.
Against the judgment of his superiors, he accompanied the Republican River expedition of 1869. Although somewhat impaired mentally from the loss of his wife, it was hoped that active field service would restore his health. This unfortunately proved not to be the case, and he was relieved from command of his company and escorted back to Fort McPherson.
Captain Jeremiah Denney died at Fort McPherson, Nebraska on June 12, 1869, and is buried in Fort McPherson National Cemetery, in present day Maxwell, Nebraska. His pension was claimed by his minor dependent and presumed stepson, John Bolin, on June 6, 1873, according to pension records.
A contemporary described Denney as “a man of generous impulses, faithful to his friendships, and esteemed by those who knew him as a gallant officer and courteous gentleman.”
Price, George F. Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry. Pgs 409-411.
Heitman, pg 367
Henry, Volume I, pg 146
Regimental Muster Rolls
U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, as accessed on Ancestry.com