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Petersburg Medals of Honor: Attracted General Custer’s Attention




Lieutenant, Company H, 1st W. V. Cav.
Highest rank attained: Capt.
Born in Bristol, Pa., July 1841.

At the battle of Five Forks, Va., April 1, 1865, Lieutenant Wilmon W. Blackmar, of Company H, First West Virginia Cavalry was brigade provost-marshal on the staff of General Capehart, commander of the First Brigade of General Custer’s Cavalry Division. General Capehart’s Brigade had been ordered to join in the general charge and follow what seemed to be the main body of the Confederates. The order was carried out. Presently Lieutenant Blackmar saw the flankers being driven in and riding to their assistance made the startling discovery that the brigade was in pursuit of a small detachment only, the main body of the enemy being posted in another direction. He also observed that the enemy were about to take advantage of the mistake and by a bold move push their troops between the cavalry and infantry in the Union line of battle. He rode rapidly after and overtook his brigade commander, hastily told what he had discovered and was ordered to ride back at once and form the brigade in line of battle (facing the enemy’s position) as rapidly as it should be turned back to him. He formed a new line of battle on the edge of a deep ditch facing in the new direction. The situation was highly critical, and no one realized the danger more keenly than Lieutenant Blackmar. He had no authority to give orders to advance, nevertheless he assumed the responsibility, not waiting for the arrival of the larger portion of the brigade now moving rapidly toward the new line, and with the brigade colors and that portion of the brigade which had arrived, he ordered a charge, jumped the ditch and a most brilliant and impetuous charge was thus begun. The charge was made so irresistibly that the Confederates fled in great confusion; the brigade pursued for more than five miles, picking up prisoners, cannon, wagons and ambulances from the utterly demoralized enemy.

General George A. Custer, happened to be an eye-witness of this incident and riding to Lieutenant Blackmar’s side he laid his hand on his shoulder and called him captain, at the same time joining in the charge. Recommendations from Generals Custer and Capehart promptly brought Lieutenant Blackmar commission as captain of cavalry.



Maj. and Quartermaster, U. S. V.
Highest rank attained:
Brevet-Colonel. U. S. Volunteers.
Born in Portland. Maine, December 22, 1837.

On the 31st of March, 1865, Sheridan’s Cavalry Corps developed two divisions of Confederate infantry and one of cavalry near Five Forks, Va., and Major Horatio King, chief quartermaster of the first division, feeling that he could safely leave his train in charge of the senior brigade quartermaster, tendered his services to General Devin as a volunteer aide on his staff and was granted permission to accompany him. Owing to the wooded character of the country the cavalry fought dismounted. The ground was stubbornly contested until about four P. M., when a report was brought from the Seven[teen]th Pennsylvania Cavalry that the Federal line was driven back. At this time Major King was the only staff officer remaining with General Devin, commanding the division, and he was requested to hunt up the reserve brigade under General Gibbs and hurry them to the aid of the Second Brigade. The reserve was somewhere on the extreme left of the line, so, following the direction of the firing with all possible speed for about three-quarters of a mile, the major found General Gibbs, delivered his orders, and proceeded with him at once to the critical position where the brigade was deployed. They arrived just in time to repel a charge of the Confederate infantry and save the line from serious disaster, Major King accompanying General Gibbs and participating in the charge.

The fighting continued until dark, when, finding that the troops he had were unequal to the task of dislodging the Confederates from their strong works, General Devin withdrew his forces to the neighborhood of Dinwiddie Court House. On the following day, in consequence of the imminent danger of the train, General Sheridan directed Major King to return and resume charge.


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), pp. 511-512
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