On July 19th, Company I, 2nd Cavalry was elected for General McDowell’s escort, Company E was attached to General Heintzleman’s division, the company of 2nd Dragoons was attached to General Hunter’s division, and the remaining squadrons – one of the First Cavalry and Companies B and G of the Second Cavalry – under the command of Major Innis Palmer, were attached to Colonel Andrew Porter’s brigade of General Hunter’s division. By the 21st, all seven companies were consolidated as a battalion under Major Palmer.
These companies were chiefly employed during the battle as supports for artillery batteries. Those with General Hunter’s division crossed Bull Run at one of the upper fords and assisted in turning the enemy’s left flank. On August 3, 1861, the regular army’s mounted regiments were redesignated in order of seniority, the 2nd U.S. Dragoons becoming the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, and the 2nd U.S. Cavalry became the 5th U.S. Cavalry.
The following troopers from the 2nd/ 5th U.S. Cavalry were wounded in the battle: Privates James Brierly and Charles P. Thurston of Company B, Privates James Dowd and William McGee of Company E, two privates, names unknown, of Company G, and three privates, names unknown, of Company I. Twenty horses were killed as well.
James Dowd was enlisted into Company E by Lieutenant Robert Eagle in New York City on January 8, 1861. According to his enlistment documents, he had gray eyes, fair hair, a ruddy complexion, and stood 5’5” tall. Born in Galway, Ireland, he worked as a laborer before enlisting. He was discharged for disability as a private at Camp Cliffbourne, D.C. on December 28, 1861, most likely a result of his wound.
Charles P. Thurston was enlisted into Company B by Lieutenant Magruder in Baltimore, Maryland on September 20, 1859. Born in Fishkill, New York, he worked as a machinist prior to his enlistment. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’6” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a fair complexion. He was discharged for disability as a private at Camp Cliffbourne on May 2, 1862.
William McGee was enlisted into Company E at the age of 17 by Captain George Stoneman on May 30, 1860 in Edinburg, Texas. Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he worked as a laborer prior to his enlistment. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’4” tall, with blue eyes, light hair, and a fair complexion. He was dishonorably discharged in the field by sentence of a general court martial on June 15, 1862, per Special Order 50, Cavalry Division, as a private.
Only James Brierly served through the war. He was enlisted into Company B by Lieutenant Anderson in Louisville, Kentucky on December 21, 1860. Born in Maysville, Kentucky, he worked as a cabinet maker prior to his enlistment. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’8 ½” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. He reenlisted as a private at City Point, Virginia on July 1, 1864. After the war, he was enlisted into the 7th U.S. Cavalry by Captain O’Connell in Cincinnati, Ohio on July 24, 1867, and was discharged on April 5, 1869. On June 29, 1875, he enlisted again. This time he was sworn into Company G, 17th U.S. Infantry by Lieutenant Cunningham at Newport Barracks, Kentucky. Infantry life apparently did not appeal to the veteran cavalryman, as he deserted on October 1, 1876.
Sources: George F. Price, Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry, pages 102, 103 and 668.
National Archives, U.S. Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 (accessed on Ancestry.com)