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Petersburg Medals of Honor: “I Was Mad as a Hornet”




Private, Company L. Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry.
Born in Pittsburg, Pa., Sept. 14, 1844.

Incited by the loss of his horse Private Michael Sowers, of Company L, Fourth Pennsylvania Cavalry, fought at Stony Creek Station, Va., December 1, 1864, with such fury and rage that he attracted general attention, and being one of the first to storm the enemy’s stronghold, became the hero of the day.

“It was like this,” Private Sowers says in telling of the incident ; “my regiment and the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry were marched down the public road to a distance of about 500 yards from the fort, which was built of mud and logs. Then we separated, the Sixteenth going to the right, we to the left, to make a simultaneous attack. We charged. All of a sudden my horse dropped forward on his knees to rise no more. That was the third horse killed under me within a short time, I was mad as a hornet and, resolving to make some rebels pay for this last loss, slipped off the back of the gallant little animal, took my Spencer and, running ahead of the encircling cavalry, made for the fort. Of course, I had no right to do that; but I was enraged and had but one object in view, to get even with those infernal Johnnies who were killing my horses. A lot of grape and canister came my way, but not close enough to injure me, so on I went right into the fort. I do not claim that I was the first one to enter upon rebel ground — I was too excited to look about me. I do know, however, that I was one of the first, and that as soon as I was inside of the fort I emptied my gun into the rebels with telling effect. The Sixteenth Pennsylvania stormed the fort from the other side, and together we made ourselves masters of the rebel stronghold.”


On the 1st of December, 1864, Grant sent General Gregg’s cavalry on a reconnoissance to discover whether the enemy were moving troops south. Gregg captured Stony Creek Station, Va., that day, burning 3,000 sacks of corn, 500 bales of hay, a train of cars, and a large amount of ammunition, and brought off 190 prisoners, while his own loss was very small.


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), p. 465
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