George Hay Covode was born on August 19, 1835 in Covodesville, Pennsylvania. His father, John, was a congressman and abolitionist. He studied at Ligonier Academy and Elders Ridge and went into the mercantile business.
In 1858 he married Annie Earl, who died within the year. He then married Bettie St. Clair Robb, the granddaughter of revolutionary war general Arthur St. Clair. The couple had a daughter, Sarah.
At the start of the war Covode became a private in Company D of the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was recruited in Ligonier. Large and athletic, Covode was elected lieutenant, and later captain. On March 12, 1862 he was promoted to major.
Covode and his regiment were sent to the Peninsula with McClellan’s army and saw action at Malvern Hill. The regiment returned from the Peninsula in time to take part in Second Bull Run and the Maryland Campaign. At the battle of Antietam the 4th Pennsylvania Cavalry supported artillery on the far right of the Union line, losing its colonel, James Childs.
Covode saw action at the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg, becoming known for his strength and complete lack of fear. At Falls Church, Virginia, he led his men in cutting through surrounding Confederates. But he was described as “unusually good natured” when not in battle.
On December 8, 1863, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was promoted to colonel on May 1, 1864.
At the end of Sheridan’s Trevilian Station raid on June 24, 1864, Covode, who was very near-sighted, rode up to a group of Confederate skirmishers thinking they were his men. As he tried to escape he was shot in the arm and stomach. Left in Confederate hands, he died shortly after.
George H. Covode is buried in West Fairfield Cemetery in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.