Presented by Linda Cunningham Fluharty.
Company "F" of the 17th Virginia Cavalry, known as the "The Nighthawk Rangers," was formed in the counties of Wood, Jackson, Wirt and Roane in Virginia on 23 Sept 1862. These counties were in an area of Virginia that became part of the new state of West Virginia, established 20 June 1863. Company "F" was originally Company "N" of the 14th Virginia Cavalry before its designation as the 17th regiment.
Captain James S. A. Crawford, a 23-year-old attorney, commanded Company "F." He was born in Virginia and received his education in Missouri. His first enlistment was with the "Greenbrier Cavalry" of Greenbrier County, (W.) Va.
Some members of Company "F" were sent to Western Virginia to recruit soldiers from that area. While in Greenbrier County, the home of some of the men, they were presented with a handmade silk and homespun flag for their company. "LIBERTY OR DEATH" was on one side of the flag and "THE NIGHTHAWK RANGERS" was on the other side. The flag was allegedly carried on a mahogany staff with a spear-like point on the top.
The 17th participated in campaigns at Chambersburg, Gettysburg and Appomattox, among others, as well as in many skirmishes. Those who served at Gettysburg were each given Enfield rifles and ten rounds of ammunition with which to fight the famous cavalry battle between JEB Stuart and George Custer. The 17th served as Lee’s guard at the rear during the retreat of the Confederacy from Gettysburg. They were also present during Jubal Early’s invasion of the North, the last time the Rebels invaded the North.
At the battle of Monocacy, Maryland, the "Night Hawk Rangers" lost their flag. In July 1864, the flag was taken from James Mills, the color bearer. He had been shot in the shoulder earlier and while bleeding and weak, the flag and his horse were taken. The men of Company F tried to retrieve the flag but it was carried back to Washington, D.C. during the night. The original flag is on display at the Lew Wallace Museum in Indiana.
Following the Battle of Monocacy, the 17th moved on to the battle of Appomattox. Soon after, the word of Robert E. Lee's surrender reached them and they disbanded.
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