Monday, December 31, 2007

6th US Cavalry Annual Return for 1861

It seemed appropriate on the last day of the year to post information from one of the annual returns for one of the regiments. Since I've decided to follow the 6th Cavalry through 1862 with a series of posts next year, I decided to use their 1861 returns.

A more detailed introduction to the regiment will follow in a few days, but it had been authorized by presidential proclamation in May of 1861. Recruiting started in earnest in mid-June, and the end of year found the regiment encamped in Washington, D.C.

The regiment had three homes during the year: Camp Scott, just outside of Pittsburgh, PA; Bladensburg, MD; and Camp East of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.
Ten of the regiment's authorized twelve companies were formed, lacking only companies C and L.

By the end of 1861, 34 officers had been assigned to the regiment, 23 appointed from the Army and 11 from civilian life. One lieutenant had died, and seven were promoted during the year.

A total of 1,011 enlisted men had joined the regiment. 993 joined from general depots, and 14 transferred from other units. Many of these transfers later became officers. A total of 19 enlisted men were discharged by year's end. Two were minors who lied initially lied about their age and were subsequently discharged by order. Eight were discharged for disability, and nine were discharged for transfer. Four of these transfers were to other units, and four were discharges for officer appointments. Of the officers, three remained in the regiment: Andrew Stoll (Sergeant, Co. F), Daniel Madden (F&S, Commisary Sergeant), and Samuel M. Whitside (F&S, Regimental Sergeant Major). The fourth, Byron Kirby, was appointed to the 6th U.S. Infantry Regiment.

19 troopers deserted during the year. The first, Nicholas Semple of Company F, deserted in August, but rejoined the regiment the following month. Two of the other eighteen were apprehended and reassigned to other companies. The nineteen deserters were Semple, John Purcell, Charles Northrup, James O'Connell, William Hults, John McClelland, John Boyd, Edward Heakin, Washington Laughlin, William Ferguson, John Schmuckler, Jacob Bock, Thomas Steen, James Warnesut, Lawrence Shay, Thomas Powers, Norman O. Hastings, Patrick Purcell and Charles Jackson. I'm unsure if the two Purcells were related. They were in the same company, but deserted three months apart.

Six troopers from the 6th Cavalry died in 1861, none of them combat-related and all of them at Washington, D.C. J.W. Manson of Company K was the regiment's first casualty, dying in the hospital in Washington on November 6. George Scheide of Company F died in hospital the following day, and Samuel Brocker of Company D on November 10th. James Gargen of Company F died of fever on December 3rd, and Joseph H. Bakeley of Company D also died of fever two days later. Hamilton Hardy of Company B was the regiment's last casualty of 1861, dying of smallpox on December 13th.

Interestingly, horses were not included on regimental annual returns in 1861.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Yea, more references

Thanks to a visit from Santa Higginson, several Amazon elves and various family members, more Civil War reference books arrived over the holidays. Among them were the histories of the 8th New York Cavalry and the "College Cavaliers", so other than a few National Tribune articles that Eric has kindly put me on the trail of, I think I have all of the tools to finish up the Harpers Ferry project.

Among other new arrivals are Volume III of The Union Cavalry in the Civil War (hadn't realized until recently I was missing that one), Beatie's Army of the Potomac series thus far, and a History of the 16th PA Cavalry for 1863. That last one will hopefully add to my knowledge of the St Patrick's Day Battle of Kelly's Ford in 1863.

So much reading, so little time....

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Francis C. Armstrong

Frank Armstrong is one of the unusual few soldiers who had the distinction of leading both Union and Confederate troops into battle during the war.

Francis Crawford Armstrong was born on November 22, 1835, at the Choctaw Agency near Scullyville, Indian Territory. His father, Frank W. Armstrong, was an Army officer serving at the agency until his death during Frank’s childhood. His mother remarried soon after, to General Persifor Smith, a Mexican War veteran. He was educated at Holy Cross Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts, enrolling in his studies on January 19, 1845.

Frank accompanied his stepfather on a military tour of Texas in 1854. During an encounter with hostile Indians in New Mexico Territory near El Paso, Frank so distinguished himself that he was awarded a direct commission into the Army upon his graduation from Holy Cross the following year.

Frank Armstrong was appointed a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Dragoons from Texas on June 7, 1855. He was initially assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, where he served until June, 1857. He later served at Fort Leavenworth and on the Utah expedition until August 1858. Armstrong was promoted to first lieutenant, 2nd Dragoons on March 9, 1859. After a brief leave of absence, he was assigned to Fort Kearny as the aide-de-camp to General Harney until May 1861. Armstrong was promoted to captain, 2nd Dragoons, a month later on June 6th.

Captain Armstrong commanded Company K, 2nd U.S. Dragoons during the first Battle of Bull Run, and was attached to Colonel Hunter’s division. Disillusioned following the battle, he resigned on August 13, 1861 and enlisted in the Confederate Army.

Armstrong served initially as an assistant adjutant general on the staff of General Ben McCulloch until he was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge. Promoted shortly thereafter to Major, he then served briefly on the staff of General James McIntosh. Armstrong was elected Colonel of the 3rd Louisiana Infantry, but served very briefly with them before he was given command of General Sterling Price’s cavalry.

He effectively covered Confederate retreats following defeats at Iuka and Corinth at the end of 1862, and was promoted to brigadier general in the Confederate Army on January 30, 1863.

He served through the majority of 1863 under General Nathan B. Forrest, effectively leading his brigade. He commanded a dismounted cavalry division under Forrest with distinction at the battle of Chickamauga. “The charges made by Armstrong’s brigades while fighting on foot would be creditable to the best drilled infantry,” said Forrest in his report on the battle.

In February 1864, Armstrong requested a transfer to the command of Stephen D. Lee, and was assigned command of a brigade of Mississippi cavalry. This brigade consisted of the 1st, 2nd, 28th and Ballentyne’s Mississippi cavalry regiments, and served under Armstong’s command until the end of the war.

Armstrong’s brigade was very active during the Atlanta campaign, then afterwards during Hood’s Tennessee campaign. He led much of Forrest’s rear guard during the army’s long retreat from its disastrous defeat at Nashville.

His last battle of the war was at Selma, Alabama on April 2, 1865. His hopelessly outnumbered command was overwhelmed by Union cavalry under General James H. Wilson. Armstrong escaped after the battle and later surrendered in Macon, Georgia.

After the war, Armstrong worked with the Overland Mail Service in Texas. He was later a U.S. Indian Inspector from 1885 to 1889, and served as an Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs from 1893 to 1895.

Frank Armstrong died at his daughter’s summer home in Bar Harbor, Maine after a long illness on September 8, 1909. He is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.


Evans, Clement, ed. Confederate Military History, Volume VIII, (Atlanta: Confederate Publishing Company, 1899)

Evans, David. Sherman’s Horsemen. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999)

Foreman, Carolyn Thomas. “The Armstrongs of Indian Territory” in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 31 (

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 292.

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1875)

Warner, Ezra. Generals in Gray. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959), pages 12-13.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Initial Cavalry Training

Well, he's admittedly not quite ready for saber, pistol or carbine yet, but Connor sure seems to like the horse....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I'd like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas from my family to yours. Hopefully you'll enjoy the day with family as I plan to. Best wishes to all of you for a happy 2008 as well.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What Do You Want To See More Of?

As I review my entries for the year, assess the State of the Blog, and make plans for where it's going in 2008, I thought I'd solicit the opinions of my readers on what you would like to see more of here in the future.

All opinions are equally valid, so request away. Ironically enough, one of the things I discovered while reviewing entries is that posts soliciting questions have a pretty poor return rate. However, several bloggers are already taking their "holiday break", so maybe there's a chance.

The Fiddler's Green series seem to be the most popular entries so far, and Brian Downey was even kind enough to make mention of them in his year end entry over on Behind Antietam on the Web. I have some roads to war and lost companies posts to finish up as well as a few other projects (Harry, I'm getting there with the cavalry at 1st Bull Run project, honest), and I've noticed that other than biographical entries I've left the 6th US Cavalry alone so far. But again, I'm looking for what YOU would like to see.

Recommendations for how to improve the site wouldn't hurt my feelings either....

NARA Civil War Researcher For Hire?

Does anyone out there by chance know of a good NARA Civil War researcher for hire? I've come across a few possibilities lately in my research, but don't think I have enough info to know the correct place to look in the online catalog for material.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bates letters - August 10, 1862

Note: In which we learn that the Union Army, or at least those parts of it near McClellan's headquarters, ate quite well during the Peninsula campaign. Seidlity powders and a grand effervescence are also mentioned.

Harrisons Landing Va
August 10th 1862
Dear Home Circle,

I will try to write you a letter, or at any rate a few lines, enough to let you know that I am not well, but still I am worth a dozen dead men yet. I was taken pretty severely with Diarreah but am over it now and in a few days shall “resume my sword” if providence permits. One good effect of my illness has been a change of quarters, for my tent is now right over the water at high tide making it a great deal cooler. For bathing , too, it is much handier, but in this I can’t think, for it is impossible for me to keep my feet and my hands off the bottom at the same time, but it is all for the best perhaps if I could swim. I should get the cramps some-time in deep water. My paddling is played out, as Johnson guessed it would be even if I had not been sick for we have to be ready to start at any time. Part of the troops did start three days ago and took “Malvern Hill” with some loss. I cant get the particulars but you will in the papers. I also hear what you will probably not hear; that Genl McClellan is not pleased with the conduct of his Generals in the affair, and that of Genl Heintzelman especial, but this is only camp talk it may be so and it may not.

I accumulated $270 from my “Spec” and have taken a Treasury check for it. Perhaps I shall have a chance to make some more before long. If I do, I’m in.

I wonder the Horses don’t go crazy with the biting of the flies, for they are terrible think, and as the Irishman said of the Hornet, “their feet are hot as the Devil’s fingers.” They are not the quiet little brown fellows you have at home, but great blue-headed, blood-sucking, back-biting (and for that matter they are not particular about where they bite) sleep-disturbing torments, and like the evil spirits in the swine (or was it in a man) their name is legion.

I received Johnsons last with the postage stamps all right two days since, and am very thankful for them, he gives a sad picture of the morals of Oakville as exemplified in a “wordy war, and a challenge to combat,” among the Abolitionists. If I was down among you now I shouldn’t think myself safe without an edition of Colts “peace maker” in my pocket.

There has been considerable moving among the gun-boats here lately. I don’t know but some-thing is going to be done shortly, at present however “everything is quiet along the lines.”

I shall have to stop for supper I willl just give you my bil of fare for supper, we don’t eat dinner these hot days. 1st then comes tea, then some condensed milk for the tea, soft bread, butter, currant jelly, green peas, ham, preserved fruits of all kinds, cheese, lemons, tamarinds, oysters, lima beans, tomato catsup, and several other things that I can’t see from here and am too lazy to move, to look after, and to settle my stomache after this “small brunch” I have 3 boxes of seidlity powders; you need not think I am going to eat all this, but some of my old stock of goods is on hand yet, and I am going to have some of the luxuries.

The seidlity powders are a clear loss to me, I had four dozen of the boxes and in spite of all the logic I could use to persuade the soldiers they are unhealthy, and needed them to regulate their system they would not be convinced, well let them live in their perversity, or die from want of the “Asserism effervescing draught, invaluable in hot climates,” (so reads the lable) for I have determined to make a grand effervescence in the James river with these same powders.

I expect the next word I hear from home some of you will be drafted, well so be it. The Army is not a prison house or a grave for every-one although many a poor fellow finds it so. If any of my old chums come out here I want them to come right to Genl McClellan’s headquarters and enquire for the Fourth Cavalry, and then in the Fourth for me.

Give my love to all.
I remain your affectionate son
Charles E. Bates

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Adna R. Chaffee

Adna Chaffee’s story is a very interesting one. Despite the fact that he was the first soldier to rise from the rank of private to the position of Chief of Staff of the Army, and the first Army Chief of Staff who had not graduated from West Point, his accomplishments are much less well known than those of his son, the “Father of the Armor Branch.” This Fiddler’s Green entry will attempt to even the score a bit. The picture of Chaffee is from a 1973 oil on canvas painting by Cedric Baldwin Egeli.

Adna Romanza Chaffee was born on April 14, 1842 in Orwell, Ohio, where there is a historical marker documenting his accomplishments. One of twelve children, he was educated at a nearby country school. He determined to join the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War. While on his way to join a volunteer regiment at the outbreak of the Civil War, he encountered a recruiting party for the 6th U.S. Cavalry and enlisted as a private on July 22, 1861. He was promoted to sergeant in October and served in the Peninsular and Antietam Campaigns in 1862. In September 1862, he was promoted to first sergeant of Company K, 6th US Cavalry. Chaffee was promoted to 2nd lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry by direction of the secretary of war on March 13, 1863, but due to administrative delays he wasn’t discharged to receive the appointment until May 12th.

Chaffee was seriously wounded by a gunshot wound to the thigh at the battle of Fairfield during the Gettysburg campaign. He led a dismounted squadron on the left flank of the regiment which was overrun during the battle. Initially captured by the Confederates, he refused parole as a prisoner and they abandoned him when he could not be transported due to his wounds. He was treated by regimental assistant surgeon William Forwood, and returned to duty in early September. Chaffee received a brevet promotion to first lieutenant on July 3, 1863 for gallant and meritorious service during the battle.

On October 11, 1863, the 6th U.S. Cavalry was caught in an exposed position near Brandy Station and engaged by superior numbers of Confederate cavalry. They were able to fight their way back across the Rappahannock, but Lieutenant Chaffee was again wounded while commanding his company.

Lieutenant Chaffee served as the regimental adjutant for the 6th Cavalry from November 11, 1864 to December 12, 1866. He was promoted to first lieutenant, 6th U.S. Cavalry in February 1865. He was brevetted captain for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Dinwiddie Court House, Virginia on March 31, 1865.

Chaffee remained in the Army after the war, and was posted with his regiment initially to Austin, Texas. He briefly resigned his commission while his commanding officer was on leave, but was persuaded to remain in the army upon his superior’s return after only a week as a civilian. Chaffee served as the regimental quartermaster from December 12, 1866 to October 12, 1867, when he was promoted to captain, 6th Cavalry. He fought in the Indian wars against various central plains and southwestern tribes from 1867 to 1894.

In February 1868, Chaffee and I Troop were assigned to Fort Griffin, Texas. On March 7h he was brevetted major for “gallant and effective service in an engagement with Comanche Indians at Paint Creek, Texas.” Later that year, he married Kate Haynie Reynolds on September 19th in Austin, Texas. They had two sons who both died in their infancy before she died the following year. Chaffee served the next three years in Texas pursuing hostile Indians and outlaws.

He spent the next three years on assignments in Kansas, Mississippi and the Indian Territory until the Red River War broke out in 1874. Chaffee and his Troop I were attached to Colonel Nelson A. Miles’ column in actions against the Cheyenne Indians. On August 30, 1874, he was cited for bravery for leading his troops in a charge against a superior number of Cheyenne warriors at Palo Duro Canyon, Texas.

On March 31, 1875 he married his second wife, Annie Frances Rockwell, in Junction City, Kansas. They had a son and three daughters, one of whom also died in infancy.

In the early 1880s, Chaffee moved to Arizona and New Mexico, where he had several engagements with the Apache Indians. He and Troop I bested the Apaches at the battle of Big Dry Wash, Arizona in July 1882, and accompanied General George Crook during his pursuit of the Apaches into Mexico on the Sierra Madre campaign of 1883. Finally, Chaffee co-commanded the 1886 expedition that led to the capture of Apache leader Geronimo.

On July 7, 1888, Chaffee was promoted to major in the 9th Cavalry, and spent the next two years constructing Fort Duchesne in southern Utah. He was brevetted lieutenant colonel on February 27, 1890 “for gallant service in leading a cavalry charge over rough and precipitous bluffs held by Indians on the Red River, Texas on August 30, 1874 and gallant service in action against Indians at the Big Dry Wash, Arizona on July 17, 1882. Chaffee served as the acting inspector general for the Department of Arizona from 1890 to 1893 and for the Department of Colorado until the fall of 1894. In 1895 he conducted the restoration of the Bannock Indians to the Fort Hall reservation in Idaho. He served as an instructor of tactics at the Army’s Infantry and Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth from November 1896 to June 1897.

In June 1897, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Cavalry, and served as commandant of the Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas until 1898. He was promoted to Colonel of the 8th US Cavalry in early 1899.

At the outbreak of the War with Spain, he was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on May 4, 1898 and assigned command of the 3rd Brigade of the 2nd Division of volunteers. His brigade was active in the Santiago campaign and effectively ended the campaign with the capture of El Caney in July, 1898. As a result of his performance during the campaign, Chaffee was promoted to major general of volunteers that same month. At the cessation of hostilities, he served as the chief of staff to the military governor of Cuba, General Leonard Wood, from 1898-1900. Chaffee was honorably discharged from volunteer service and promoted to brigadier general of the regular army on April 13, 1899.

When the Boxer Rebellion broke out in China in June 1900, General Chaffee commanded the 2,500 man U.S. China Relief Expedition sent to rescue Western citizens and put down the rebellion. His second in command was Major General James H. Wilson, another Civil war veteran who had won his first stars when Chaffee was a second lieutenant. The expedition consisted of six troops of the 6th Cavalry, a battalion of Marines, Riley’s Battery of six rifled guns, and the 9th and 14th Infantry regiments. His force played a key role in the rapid advance to the imperial capital of Beijing and its capture on August 14, 1900, relieving the siege of the embassy staffs and other Western nationals. Chaffee’s force was also very active in establishing order and halting looting in the city following its capture. The success of his mission made him somewhat of a celebrity among the Chinese as well as his troops and fellow commanders.

Chaffee was promoted to major general in the regular army on February 4, 1901. From July 4, 1901 until October 1902, he served as the military governor of the Philippines, succeeding General Arthur MacArthur. This period included the beginning of the second phase of the Philippine-American War, and his actions have been criticized in some circles as being less than enlightened. He conducted an Indian-style campaign instead of the “humanitarian warfare” approach used by MacArthur. Chaffee subsequently served as the commander of the Department of the East from October 1902 to October 1903. Following this assignment he helped organize the General Staff Corps of the army.

Chaffee was promoted lieutenant general in January 1904, and served as the Army Chief of Staff from January 9, 1904 to January 14, 1906. During his tenure, he oversaw a far-reaching transformation of doctrine, planning and organization in the Army. He served as grand marshal for President Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade on March 4, 1905, which also included former adversaries such as Geronimo and Quanah Parker. He also went on a good-will tour of Europe on behalf of President Roosevelt. Chaffee also was awarded the honorary civil law degree of LL.D. from Tufts College in 1905.

Among his other accomplishments as Army Chief of Staff was the creation of campaign medals for the army. The move towards government-issued medals for campaign service actually started in China during the Boxer Rebellion. General Chaffee came into contact with military personnel from other countries who were also involved in the campaign, and was particularly impressed with the campaign medals worn by the British. In 1904, Chaffee wanted to explore the possibility of obtaining similar medals for American soldiers. A proposal was made through the acting Secretary of War to the president to authorize the use of badges to denote the wearer as a veteran of a specific campaign, and that these badges be prescribed and worn as part of the uniform. The important point was that the "badges" were to be designated as part of the uniform, not personal awards for individual veterans. The proposal was approved, and the first Army campaign medals (Spanish-American War; Philippine Insurrection; and the China Relief Expedition) were officially established on January 12, 1905. They were followed by campaign medals for the Civil War and Indian Campaigns on January 21, 1907.

General Chaffee was retired at his own request on February 1, 1906, after a 45 year career. His son, Adna R. Chaffee, Jr., graduated from West Point that same summer. After his retirement, Chaffee moved to Los Angeles, where he was appointed President of the Board of Public Works for the city. He was also named a member of the Board of Visitors of West Point, and served as the first president of the Southwest Museum. Additionally, he was an original member of the District of Columbia Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. He died of typhoid pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on November 1, 1914, and is buried with his second wife at Arlington National Cemetery.


Carter, William G. From Yorktown to Santiago with the Sixth U.S. Cavalry (Austin, TX: State House Press, 1989)

Carter, William G. Life of Lieutenant General Chaffee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1917).

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 292.

Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume I (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1873), pgs 142-143.

Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (

Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, NARA.

Webster’s American Military Biographies (Springfield, MA: Merriam, 1978)

Who Was Who in America, Volume I: 1897-1942, page 206.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bates Letters - July 24, 1862

Note: I'm trying to get the last couple of 1862 letters out this month, so I can start 2008 with 1863 letters. In this installment, Bates goes fishing and makes some plans for settling down. His aversion for African-Americans continues, and remains unexplained.

Harrisons Landing Va,
July 24th 1862
Dear Parents,

I received a letter from Johnson last night and am glad to hear you are doing well. The Union will not find many fighting supporters among you, if they are all like the “blow-hards” Johnson writes about. I forget what your opinion of a nigger is, but suppose a white man is just as good in your eyes if he only behaves himself. I don’t know where my aversion to a nigger comes from, but its of no use for me to try to think of them with the “brotherly regard” H.Gy. recommends. I can’t do it. They don’t look right.

I have been speculating the past two weeks in good old fashioned style. I think the fashion is about as old as the world for Christ found the greater part of his Apostles following the same business big Fishing; I got a net in an old fish house on the bank of the river, and, with five other men, fixed a boat. And went to work. We make six hauls a day, each man having his haul and he whose haul it is has the choice of ground to haul over. You would hardly believe the quantity of fish we catch all of which we find a market for without leaving the river in this way. I have made $17 a day and generally average from $10 to $12. I was offered $100 for the whole fixins, and think I shall sell out, as my stay in the land is uncertain. I might be off for Richmond tomorrow, not very likely, though.

The Pay-master is around, and has humored us with a look at his Benevolent countenance, and the tender of certain paper acknowledgements of the pecuniary indebtedness of the U.S. called “green-backs” Union-plasters. Toad-skins Treasury-notes, which I need not say, were accepted. I have now on hand so much money that I think I shall send some by Adams Express, yes, I will tomorrow. I will sell my net and remit the proceeds to you to-morrow. I want you to look around and see if there is a good chance to invest a few hundred dollars in real estate, for the genius of speculation is on me, and I think I shall make $500 more before my time is up. If you know of a House and land, that is worth about $1000.00 let me know about it, and if you think it a good bargain, engage it I will try to pay for it. To-morrow I shall send by Adams Express Co to this Address

Mr Isaac Bates
Litchfield County

the sum of ($335) three hundred and thirty five dollars. Two hundred and fifty you will please to invest or lay up for me, the rest you can appropriate. I am in good, or rather, in the very best of health and hope this finds you as well.

I remain affcty
Charles E. Bates

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cavalry Journal/ Armor Cumulative Indices 1888-1968

As mentioned below, I located a copy of this work recently and promptly ordered a copy. It arrived yesterday, and after an initial perusal during my lunch hour I am pretty impressed.

The book contains two different indices for every article published in either the Cavalry Journal or its successor, Armor Magazine, from 1888 to 1968. It was compiled by Walter E. Young and edited by John J. Vander Velde. Every single article published during that period is referenced by Author and by Subject/Title.

The scope of the work is very impressive, doubly so when one considers that this was compiled before the availability of computers. The editor states in his preface that this was done by index cards, one article at a time, then cross-referenced onto other index cards.

The only downside of the book that I've noticed so far is that the Subject/Title index may take some digging to find what one is looking for. This isn't that difficult, however, as one simply needs to check several keywords until the right one is found. In the editor's words, "In formulating the subject headings based on keyword approach, it was constantly kept in mind how users of this volume would most likely extract information." If one knows the author, there's is no problem at all.

Overall, I think this is an excellent work. It serves as a great link for directing searches of existing collections at places like USAMHI at Carlisle Barracks. For those of us who employ researchers to gather information for us by proxy, it is very valuable.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Civil War Regimental Snowball Fight

I hadn't planned to post today, but Sarah over at Ten Roads has a great account of a snowball fight between regiments during the Civil War posted in honor of the first snowfall where she is. It's a great account, take a minute to check it out.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Yet another reference

So there I was, wandering internet used book sites this weekend minding my own business, when I stumbled across what may be another quality Civil War reference. I was the Alibris site when I discovered the Cavalry Journal/ Armor Cumulative Indices, 1898-1968.

This work should be a comprehensive index of all of the articles published in the Cavalry Journal (aka Journal of the US cavalry Association) and Armor Magazine during the years mentioned in the title. The reason I find it exciting is that the Cavalry Journal was the professional journal for cavalry during this entire period. Many articles were published by veterans after the Civil War. Among the more well known in my particular field are "With The Reserve Brigade" by Moses Harris.

Given the number of Regular cavalry officers who remained in the army following the war and went on to achieve significant rank, I would imagine there are other articles which will also offer greater insight into mounted operations during the war.

I may be overestimating its significance, but given how little I've seen of such a reference I think there will be new ground to be unearthed perusing this work. Time will tell, and for less than $20 it is certainly worth a look.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Teacher and mentor

Brian Downey had a great entry on Delos B. Sackett over at Behind Antietam on the Web on Tuesday. As always, Brian's post added that little something extra that makes the reader remember the post and the person.

As I was reading the entry, I noticed that Sackett was an Assistant Instructor of Cavalry Tactics at West Point from 1850-1855. I was curious about which future cavalry leaders he might have influenced, so I pulled out the trusty Cullum files and checked to see who went through the academy during this period who later became a cavalry officer.

The list includes six cavalry leaders who reached brevet Major General. Eugene A. Carr, Kenner Garrard and David S. Stanley for those interested in the western theater; August Kautz, David McM. Gregg and William W. Averell for those eastern theater afficionados among us. Among other significant leaders listed at this time (the classes were mandatory) was one Philip H. Sheridan.

It's of course impossible to gauge Sackett's influence on which branch the cadets under his tutelage chose during the period that he was at West Point, but I thought it interesting.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Civil War Regiments

As I was blog-surfing recently, I noticed a link on Ted Savas’ new blog, A Publisher’s Perspective. The link said “Civil War Regiments.” Given my interest in the cavalry, I was naturally intrigued and clicked the link.

To my surprise and delight, it was not a link to regimental histories. Instead it links one to a website where back issues of the now-defunct “Civil War Regiments: A Journal of the American Civil War.” As described on the website:

“Civil War Regiments (CWR) was a quarterly publication created in late 1991 to fill a conspicuous gap in Civil War literature. Although several excellent publications are available, only CWR offered exclusively military coverage of the war (all theaters, all branches, Federal and Confederate) in a lengthy, documented and non-partisan format. Each issue is a book, not a stapled magazine. Each book includes original articles on all aspects of the war, including strategy, tactics, logistics, unit histories, leadership and command issues, and much more. Each book includes original maps and numerous photos and illustrations.

"CWR offers lengthy essays of substance. Reach beyond the glossy photos, short articles and cut-and-paste history. CWR is fresh, original scholarship on topics you will not see covered elsewhere, coupled with the best maps and book reviews in the business. Each book is printed on acid-free 50-lb. paper, and the covers are laminated gloss color stock for long, durable use, with a printed spine for easy library shelf reference.

"Unfortunately, when the underlying book business was sold in 2001, CWR was left without a home and publication ended with Volume Seven, No. 1. These collector's issues are selling out fast, several issues are already sold out, and many more are in short supply.”

Among the various titles on the back issues site are issues on Gettysburg, the Red River Campaign, Chickamauga & Chattanooga, and others. The articles’ authors include many experts in their respective fields, as well as some I was unfamiliar with. The journal looks like an excellent product, and one or more back issues will likely be of interest to readers of this blog. I highly recommend a visit.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Harpers Ferry Update

Okay, I'm back after the long weekend relaxed, recharged and ready to get back to work. The projects continue to bubble up (something we referred to as mission-creep in my former line of work), but I thought I'd revisit one of the ongoing ones that has expanded far beyond the short term status where it originated.

The study of the escape of the cavalry from Harpers Ferry continues. Each time I think I'm nearly finished, more material pops up. Brian Downey was kind enough to send along Allan Tischler's book on the expedition, which I'm still working my way through. It is a very well-researched book, but the way it's laid out makes it very difficult to work through. Virtually every version of the story is examined, with various errors and cases of plagiarism identified in each. Unfortunately, the method of examination doesn't lead to a coherent narrative of what did happen, making the work more of a critical bibliography than a history. A very good reference book, in any case. Thanks again, Brian.

Don Enderton was also kind enough to forward copies of his father's personally published The Private Journal of Abraham J. Warner, which should provide some interesting insights and information as well. This is a primary source that I hadn't been able to locate anywhere else, so Don's generosity is greatly appreciated. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

So much research, so little time....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bates letters - July 10, 1862

Editor's note: In which we discover Bates' feelings for a certain New York Times correspondent's coverage of the battles of Malvern Hill and White Oak Swamp. He also provides an account of the battle of Gaines Mill. I'll be checking over the weekend on his allegations of flight by the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, as I don't recall reading of it before. All of the parentheticals save the occasional (sic) were included in the original text.

Harrisons Landing Va.
July 10th 1862
Dear Parents,

I have not written to you for a few days back because I thought you would get all the news in the papers, but if all the papers give the same description of our late fights here, don’t believe anything you read about us. I enclose a few pieces of the “New York Times” July 8th, as sample of the way they will make a mountain of a mole-hill. It seems the correspondent was only with one division, and trusted to guesswork for the details of the rest of the Army. He says, “The great mass of the Army were not apprised until (sic) midnight of Friday of the intention of Genl McClellan to change his base from the York to the James rivers.” Here is mistake No. 1. True the intrenchments (sic) were not evacuated but the “great mass of the Army” were ready for a move long before, but I don’t think the Genl took the trouble to inform the Army what his plans of movement were. He then goes on to say “It commenced to move at 4 Oclock just before the sun” when it was raining in the morning and the sun didn’t appear till late in the forenoon. He speaks of the awful destruction of the Government stores and thinks three millions will hardly cover the loss. I think I could pay for all the property destroyed with one million and have many left after.

He then, after describing the battles of Allans farm, and Savage Station, gets the hype about the wounded left at Savage’s. Now nearly all were removed from there and I doubt secesh got as many hundred as he says thousands. The next piece of absurdity is the description of the battle of Nelsons farm, he seems to think Genl Richardson was commander in chief and had the whole battle to himself nearly. But McClellan himself formed the line of battle and was on the field at “Nelson’s Farm,” or White Oak Swamp, more properly, until he had to go to Haxall’s Landing and look after affairs there leaving Genl Sumner in command at White Oak. The battle of Malvern Hills was fought on the same day, (Monday) and was not the tremendous affair described, on the whole, none of the descriptions are correct, and I think the special correspondent got his news from hearsay, perhaps from the Lieut. Charles Draper, who brought reinforcements to Heintzelman “through a murderous fire,” preferring to keep at a safe distance during the fight, a course followed by a great many of our gallant volunteers who were more interested in looking for the Gunboats or for a pontoon-bridge than in looking for their regiments from this time. I was not on the field where “fights were won” until the battle of “Malvern Hills,” but this was Monday instead of Tuesday, and didn’t commence untill half past four in the afternoon. Instead of the rebs marching up by divisions they stuck to the woods like some of our own volunteers and fighting was all done by artillery. Our Captain picked enough stragglers to form two full regiments and asked permission to take them to the front and give them some fighting to do. He acted as Brigadier General of them himself and supported a battery in good style but didn’t get a chance to do any fighting. The whole squadron were kept busy picking up stragglers or recruiting for McIntyre’s Brigade, as we called it.

I slept soundly on Tuesday on Malvern Hills and wasn’t troubled with the rain which the correspondent says came down in his description of camp on James river.

In conclusion his summary of killed, wounded and missing is one of the biggest lies ever published. I thought at first our loss would be from 12 to 15,000 but now I am positive it is not over 12,000 in all.

While I am in the humor I will write what I know about the affair commencing with Thursday afternoon when I wrote my last letter in Camp Lincoln. I believe I had hardly got the letter in the post-office when the firing commenced on the right. This was McCall’s Division in action, and they stood their ground so well that they were driven out of their camps, and would have been driven off the peninsula but for Porter’s Division which retook the lost ground and held it. That evening Genl McClellan sent word to Porter “to make a stubborn resistance and fall back to the Chickahominy next day.” The answer received was this ---

“I can keep the enemy in check and spare part of my force if you want.” Upon this McClellan rode over to Porter’s and I suppose explained to him what he wanted done. At any rate all the waggons (sic) and property with Porter’s and McCall’s Divisions were immediately sent to the west side of the Chickahominy leaving only troops the other side. Ambulances were also sent for the wounded but most of them stopped to cook breakfast for the drivers and feed the horses so they were late in getting up to the battlefield and about three hundred wounded were left in consequence. The firing commenced at daylight Friday, but I went to sleep after breakfast, being up all night, and when I woke up about 10 Oclock it was as quiet as you please. We packed up everything, and at two Oclock headquarters was moved to Savages Station. Our squadron however was employed in collecting stragglers and sending them back to their regiments for the action had commenced again, and hundreds of runaways were coming across the Chickahominy with stories of their regiments being “cut to pieces.” About one Oclock Porter sent for reinforcements saying he had only a “handful of regulars left.”

“Send the regulars into it and I will let you have reinforcements in two hours,” was the reply. Accordingly the regulars (Sykes brigade) were put to work, and they drove a force that had driven four brigades of our troops, in spite of all the secesh could do; the Fifth New York was also in this brigade. They are men. About five Oclock reinforcements came up and relieved the regulars, and then the secesh took their turn at driving. A battery of ours supported by the 5th Cavalry 7 companies 1st Cavalry 4 companies regulars, and the gallant Colonel Rush’s regiment of Pennsylvania lancers came in danger of being taken when Genl Cooke commanding the cavalry ordered a Charge. The 5th started followed by the 1st, but the Gallant Colonel Rush’s Lancers charged the wrong way and broke a brigade of Infantry in their flight in most ludicrous style. Some of them never stopped running until they got across the Chickahominy. The 5th however saved the battery but failed to do much execution among the secesh. Our troops now commenced to retreat in a hurry, and but for the timely arrival of Meagher’s brigade with some other troops the grand army would have been put to flight. They however checked the enemy until night and withdrew to the west side of the Chickahominy. An assault was also made on the right of our intrenchments (sic) at sundown but it was no use knocking.

In the evening Genl Porter had a talk with Little Mac again, at the beginning of which Mac grasped Porter by the hand and asked him “Well what do you think of your ‘handful of regulars’ now.” (truth)

Send me some postage stamping. I am well.
Charles E. Bates

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New additions

Some of you may have noticed a few new additions on the blogroll to the left of my homepage. I've done a bit of editing lately, and there will be more to come over the holidays as a few of the listed blogs appear to have petered out. There are two new additions that have proven very interesting to me so far.

The first is publisher Ted Savas' A Publisher's Perspective. This is of course not a Civil War specific site, but his first view posts have been very interesting and his publishing house has brought us several great Civil War books in recent years.

The second is Wig-Wags, a blog by Rene Tyree, who is currently a graduate student and started a blog to help her keep her research organized. Although only a few posts old, her entries to date have been both interesting and well thought out.

Welcome to the blogosphere, both of you.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Light Marching Order

I’ve seen cavalry moving in “light marching order” mentioned many times in the course of my research, but not too many descriptions of what this actually entailed. I think the following excerpt by James Larson of the 4th US Cavalry does so rather well.

“Hence the order from the brigade commander was always to move in “light marching order,” which meant that no trooper should carry anything on his horse except what was actually necessary. This order the men of the 4th U.S. Cavalry always carried out more strictly than was really intended by Minty. When stripped for such a march it would be difficult to find an overcoat or extra blanket or clothing of any kind in the regiment. Each man carried only the clothing he wore and, as protection against the rain, only his poncho, which was strapped on the pommel of his saddle. Under the saddle were either two saddle blankets or a saddle blanket and a bed blanket, which served as bed for the trooper whenever time and the condition of the weather would allow him to spread a bad at all, but as no tents or anything to make shelter with was carried, the making of beds depended entirely upon the weather.

“For use in the mess for cooking, a couple of light frying pans were carried in turns by the members, and perhaps also a couple of half gallon tin cups for cooking chickens, ham or coffee, and each man had his little tin cup and knife and fork in the saddle. In the “nose bag” we carried our extra provisions, such as coffee, sugar, salt and whatever we had of bread and meat, so that we were to some extent independent of the pack-mules. We could never rely on them being on hand when wanted. Sometimes we did not see them for several days.

“That was our style in “light marching order” and the style we marched in most of the time during the war. It was very pleasant in fine dry weather, but our condition in rainy and bad weather can easily be imagined. Making the load for our horses lighter was done so as to facilitate our movements, so that we could march quickly without worrying the horses too much.” (Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., pg 167)

In context, Larson is describing maneuvers trying to bring Confederate raiding parties under Forrest to bay after the battle of Stones River, so this order might be a bit lighter than some others.

Original Spin

In fairness to the 6th Cavalry, I went back over the weekend and found the report on the Fairfield engagement in the regimental muster rolls for July 3, 1863. The entry was made by acting adjutant 2nd Lieutenant L. Henry Carpenter and acting regimental commander Stephen S. Balk, the senior remaining officers with the regiment following the engagements at Fairfield and Funkstown. Incidentally, Eric Wittenberg posted an excellent biographical entry on him over on Rantings of a Civil War Historian a couple of weeks ago.

"3rd. The 6th Cavalry were Ordered by Genl Merritt to Move on the Road leading to Fairfield, while the remainder of the Brigade moved on the Road leading to Gettysburg, passing near Tanytown (sic) --- The Regiment under Comd of Maj. Starr marched through Fairfield and Encountered the Enemy a mile beyond consisting of Genl Beverly Robison (Robertson) and Jones Brigades of Rebel Cavalry, and at least a Battery of Inf. guns (field pieces) (ed. author's parentheses). After fighting obstinately fighting more than a half-hour during most of which time the Regiment steadily drove a superior. --- The Enemy succeeded in bringing up reinforcements in overwhelming numbers, and was Enabled to flank us on the right and left. --- This compelling the Regiment to retreat. The Enemy were repulsed however with one third greater loss than our own. = Loss. Commissioned officers. Killed 1st Lieut balder, Co F, 6th Cavalry. Wounded major Starr, Lieut Wood Chaffee Tucker --- Asst Surgeon Notson. Missing in action. Captain Cram, 1st Lt Paulding, 2nd Lt Bould --- Also Asst Surg Forwood. Of the latter, Lt Bould was enabled to escape the hands of the Enemy and capt Cram was paroled. --- Enlisted men Killed & Missing 231. Returned to Emmittsburg."

I found it interesting that there was no mention made of the wagon train that caused the regiment to be sent to Fairfield, though whether this was because Lieutenants Carpenter and Balk didn't know of it or intentionally omitted it due to limited writing space we can't know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Changing Perceptions and Spin

One of the things I find interesting as an amateur historian is how history changes over time according to one's perspective. Related to this is how events and facts are 'spun' over time until the original event bears little or no resemblance to its 'history.'

I found an excellent example of this last night. I was reading through one of the initial printings of the Army Lineage Series, published by the Office of the Chief of Military History in 1969. I was reading one of the volumes on Armor-Cavalry, and naturally enough turned to the entry for the 6th Cavalry. Much to my surprise, I discovered the following quote pertaining to the unit's history:

"At Fairfield the unit engaged two enemy brigades of cavalry, completely neutralizing them and saving the supply trains of the Army, but in the process was literally cut to pieces." (pg 157)

I found this very interesting in an official unit history, as it is a good bit different from what I've read in various accounts of the engagement. The unit was engaged at Fairfield, and from all accounts it was definitely cut to pieces. There was a supply train involved, although it was a Confederate train that the unit was sent to intercept by Brigadier General Merritt and not the supply trains of the Union Army. They were only engaged with one brigade, "Grumble" Jones' Laurel Brigade. Not that one brigade wasn't enough, since that put the odds against the 6th at roughly 4 to 1. Given that Jones reported only 58 total casualties for the encounter, his brigade only appears to have been neutralized in that they spent much of the rest of the day rounding up the more than 200 members of the 6th US who were captured.

I don't post this as an attempt to tarnish the reputation of the 6th Cavalry or what they were able to accomplish at Fairfield, but simply as an illustration of how perception changes and legend grows over time. To this day Fairfield is considered one of the premier engagements in the regiment's long history. Similarly, this is not intended as a jab at the Office of the Chief of Military History, which does a lot of great work.

For those interested in more information on the battle, I highly recommend JD Petruzzi's excellent article in the July 2007 issue of America's civil War magazine and Paul M. Shevchuk's article "Cut to Pieces" from February 1985 which is available from USAMHI.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What's with all of the bio's?

Yes, I will admit there has been a definite surge in the number of Fiddler's Green posts of late. There are several reasons for this. The biggest one is that the majority of my research on the officers of the 6th US Cavalry is complete, and they thus make relatively easy entries. Second is a scarcity of posting time due to work and study time requirements. The third is that it's simply what I've been in the mood to write about lately. Biographical posts will continue over the remainder of the month, though hopefully not quite so prevalently. There are some posts on the opening scenes from Chickamauga in preparation for later this month as well. And I'm always interested in "what about ____?" feedback.

Fiddler's Green: Ira W. Claflin

Ira Wallace Claflin was born in Vermont in 1834. He was appointed to West Point from Iowa in 1853. He graduated 27th in his class on July 1, 1857, when he was promoted to second lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Riflemen. He continued to serve at West Point as an Assistant Instructor of Cavalry from October 3, 1857 to May 13, 1858. He was ordered to join his regiment on the frontier, and was promoted to second lieutenant when he arrived at Albuquerque, New Mexico on June 14, 1858. Claflin accompanied his unit on several scouting expeditions over the next three years, serving the majority of his time at Fort Union, New Mexico. In 1859, he participated in an expedition against the Tuni-cha Navajos.

Lieutenant Claflin was still serving at Fort Union at the outbreak of the Civil War. He received a promotion to first lieutenant in the newly-created 3rd U.S. Cavalry on May 14, 1861 (re-designated 6th US Cavalry on August 3rd), but was unable to join his regiment due to ongoing operations in New Mexico. As one of the few professional soldiers in the region, he was directed by his old regimental commander to lead an artillery battery of four 12 pound mountain howitzers. He did so with distinction, earning a brevet to captain for gallant and meritorious services at the battle of Val Verde on February 21, 1862. He also fought in the action at Peralta, New Mexico on April 15, 1862 before heading east to join his new regiment on the Peninsula.

He served on the Peninsula at Yorktown from June to August 1862, then as the regimental commissary officer from August 27th to September 5th. Claflin was temporarily assigned to Company A in September, then assumed command of the dismounted Company C and spent the next two months manning and equipping the company. In December he rejoined the regiment in camp at Falmouth, fully manned and mounted. He was promoted to captain on December 23, 1862.

Claflin continued to command Company C until April 1863, when he was assigned command of Company H upon the resignation of Captain John Savage. He remained with this company of and on for the rest of his career.

During the Gettysburg campaign, he once again served as the regimental commissary until the disaster suffered by the regiment at the battle of Fairfield. He assumed command of the remaining 200-odd troopers of the regiment, and led it into battle four days later at Funkstown, Maryland, where he was severely wounded in the shoulder on July 7, 1863. He was later brevetted major effective that date for gallant and meritorious services during the Gettysburg campaign. Claflin was absent on sick leave recovering from his wound until September. He resumed command of the regiment upon his return, which he held until May 1864. He commanded Major General Sheridan’s escort during the Shenandoah and Richmond campaigns from May 4, to November 11, 1864. He was then appointed a Special Instructor of Cavalry in the Department of West Virginia until July 21, 1865.

After the war, Claflin had a brief stint at West Point as an Assistant Professor of Geography, History and Ethics. He served in that position from August 31, to October 6, 1865, when he rejoined his regiment in Austin, Texas and took command of Troop H. He remained there until June 1866, when he took his troop on an inspection of frontier posts that lasted three months and stretched nearly 1,400 miles. He continued to serve in Austin with the regiment upon his return until January 20, 1867, when his troop moved to Mount Pleasant, Texas.

Ira Claflin died of yellow fever at Mount Pleasant, Texas on November 18, 1867 at the age of 33.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Thomas W. Simson

Thomas White Simson was born in New York. On October 19, 1858, he enlisted into Company I, 1st Cavalry Regiment, which became the 4th Cavalry Regiment in August 1861. He served as a private and a corporal in the same company until March 27, 1863.

He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regiment on February 27, 1863, but did not immediately move to the eastern theater to join his regiment. He was badly wounded in action with the 4th Cavalry at Franklin, Tennessee on April 10, 1863, and never fully recovered. Lieutenant Simson didn’t join the 6th Cavalry until August 1863. He was detached from the regiment on recruiting duty from April 1864 to February 1865. Simson was promoted to first lieutenant on February 3, 1865. He was retired on February 22, 1865 for incapacity resulting from wounds received in battle. Simson died October 26, 1865 in Elmira, New York of complications resulting from his wounds.

Civil War Elections

Given that election day was Tuesday here locally, I thought this passage appropriate this week. I hadn't known that soldiers weren't permitted to vote before this time. I suppose it make sense from the standpoint of keeping the military out of the political process, which was probably initially the intention behind the law.

"So time passed and the month of November came, and with it , the election for President of the United States, and I cast my vote for Abraham Lincoln. This was a new feature in army life, as soldiers are otherwise not allowed to vote, but because the voters were nearly all in the army, an act of Congress was passed for that purpose." (Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., pg 275)

Monday, November 5, 2007

March 13, 1865 "Black Friday"

As I continue my research of Regular army cavalry officers and enlisted men during the Civil War, one bit of information is contained in almost every entry. Apparently every single officer in the Union Army received one or more brevet promotions on March 13, 1865.

Such a statement, of course, makes one suspicious of hyperbole. However, if you go back and check the Fiddler's Green entries in this blog, JD Petruzzi's Faded Hoofbeats entries at Hoofbeats and Cold Steel, and Eric Wittenberg's biographical posts at Rantings of a Civil War Historian, you will quickly note this common thread.

I'm not sure why this happened. The 'when' I understand, as the Confederacy was clearly on its last legs by the middle of March 1865. But why every officer? An honorary appointment isn't much of an honor if everyone gets one. I do know it was a source of consternation and mockery in the Regular army for decades after the war, creating all sorts of problems of precedent. It became known among officers as "Black Friday." August Kautz had a sarcastic but rather humorous article in one of the MOLLUS books after the war about brevet promotions, if I recall correctly.

Do any of my learned readers out there have any insight into this?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Fiddler's Green: William S. Abert

William Stretch Abert was born in Washington, D.C. on February 1, 1836. He was the son of Colonel John J. Abert, the Army’s Chief of Topographical Engineers for many years prior to the Civil War. William was commissioned directly into the army from civilian life as a second lieutenant in the 4th Artillery on June 18, 1855.

William Abert was a well-traveled individual as he accompanied his unit during its assignments in the years preceding the Civil War. He served at Fort Ontario, New York until October, 1856, when he accompanied his company to Florida. He was promoted to first lieutenant on March 31, 1857, and continued to serve in Florida until September. He participated in the Utah expedition with his company March 1858 to April 1859. Abert served training recruits at Governor’s Island, New York harbor until June 1859. His company was stationed at Fort Randall, Nebraska until April 1860, when they moved to Fort Monroe, Virginia. Abert remained there until April, 1861, when he was placed on detached service under orders of General Scott.

He was promoted to captain in the newly-organized 3rd US Cavalry on May 14, 1861, re-designated as the 6th US Cavalry on August 3, 1861. He joined regiment at Poolesvile, Maryland later that month, and assumed command of Company D on September 9, 1861. He served with the regiment through its initial training and the opening battles of the Peninsula Campaign. He commanded a squadron at the battles of Williamsburg and Hanover Court House, and received a brevet promotion to major on May 27, 1862 for gallant and meritorious service during the latter battle.

Captain Abert was detailed to serve as an aide-de-camp to Major General George McClellan in July, 1862. He continued to serve in this position until McClellan was relieved from command of the Army of the Potomac on November 7, 1862. He received a brevet of lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious service as an aide during the battle of Antietam, and was commended by McClellan after he was relieved for the quality of his service.

After McClellan was relieved, Abert was assigned to the staff of Major General Nathaniel Banks as his Assistant Inspector General, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He held this position from November 17, 1862 to October 6, 1864, serving primarily in New Orleans, Louisiana with the Department of the Gulf.

On December 3, 1864, he was promoted to colonel of volunteers and assigned command of the 3rd Massachusetts Volunteer Heavy Artillery regiment. He commanded his regiment in the defenses of Washington for the remainder of the war, and was mustered out of volunteer service with his regiment on September 18, 1865.

Although he received a brevet promotion to brigadier general of volunteers for gallant and meritorious service during the war on March 13, 1865, Abert reverted to his rank in the regular army at the war’s end. He rejoined the 6th US Cavalry in Texas when the 3rd Massachusetts Artillery was mustered out. He served with the regiment in Texas until February, 1867, when he was assigned as the Assistant Inspector General, Department of Texas. He held that position until August.

Abert was promoted to major in the 7th US Cavalry in June 1867 following that regiment’s disaster at Little Big Horn, but held the position only two months. William S. Abert died of yellow fever in Galveston, Texas on August 25, 1867 at the age of 31. He is buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 2, 2007

'New' Biographical Reference

I found a new (for me) biographical reference yesterday. While doing some research on George Myers' reenlistment officer, Thomas W. Simson, I came across an entry on a Google search from a reference I hadn't seen before. The work was Guy Vernor Henry's two volume Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army , published in New York in 1873.

Henry compiled the work in attempt to capture the service of military officers who did not graduate from the military academies, feeling that their service and contributions were not being preserved for the future. From a scholarly standpoint, some of the information could be considered suspect, as Henry solicited the officers or their survivors to provide his information and some of it cannot be verified. He didn't let this lead to hyperbole, however, and the vast majority of the entries are very concise. For a unit like the 6th US Cavalry, the majority of whose officers were not military academy graduates, the books are very helpful.

One part of the first volume that I was very happy to discover was the section on medical officers of the regular army. I had previously unearthed very little information on surgeons and assistant surgeons appointed and assigned to the regular army.

The two volumes vary slightly in organization. The first volume attempts to list officers by branch of service, while the second simply lists them alphabetically. Only on rare occasions in the first volume is someone listed under the wrong branch of service. Both volumes are indexed, however, and information is easily located.

Overall, I think Henry's work is a valuable research tool, and a good companion for Heitman's and Powell's works. And although the files are quite large (42MB for Volume I and 30 MB for Volume 2), as a free download you can't beat the price.

Fiddler's Green: George P. Myers

I am deeply indebted to two descendants of George Myers, Kimberly Branagan and Ola Myers Eikrem, for sharing his pension records and other information that made this entry possible. This all too rare glimpse into the life of a regular cavalry enlisted man would not have been possible without their assistance. Hopefully I have done their diligent research work justice.

George P. Myers was born in Canada on May 9, 1835. His father, Phillip, was born in Ireland and his mother, Margaret Smith, was born in New Brunswick. The family immigrated to the United States in 1846, settling near Rochester, New York.

He enlisted as a private in Captain Irvin Gregg’s Company G, 6th US Cavalry on August 13, 1861 in Rochester, New York. His enlistment documents describe him as a 26 year old laborer, 5’6” tall, with light hair, gray eyes, and a fair complexion. He was not able to write, and made his mark on his enlistment documents.

George Myers served through the first two years of the war without incident. He was briefly listed as “missing on Stoneman’s Raid” on the April 1863 muster rolls, but was again present for duty the following month. It is quite likely that like many troopers on this raid, his horse went lame during the raid and he had to make his own way back to Union lines.

Such good fortune did not last through his regiment’s fateful engagement at Fairfield, Pennsylvania on July 3, 1863. Myers was captured during the engagement, and moved by foot and rail through the Shenandoah Valley to Richmond. He was confined at Belle Isle Prison in Richmond on July 21, 1863. Myers was paroled at City Point, Virginia on December 28, 1863, and moved by boat to Camp Parole, Maryland, near Annapolis. The regimental muster rolls list him as “joined from missing in action January 7, 1864.” He was so weakened by malnutrition at the time of his release that he was nearly blind and had to be physically led off of the steamboat, according to Patrick Cullen, who had enlisted with him in the same company in Rochester and met his boat at City Point. He remained at Camp Parole for several months recovering from his ordeal before he was sent to the Cavalry Corps’ “Dismounted Camp, Va” on May 13, 1864. The documents are vague, but this was probably the cavalry depot at Giesborough Point. He continued to serve until he was honorably discharged at the expiration of his enlistment on August 13, 1864.

Health issues from his imprisonment continued to plague Myers, though he was able to continue to serve in the Army. An account from a fellow private in Company G states that Myers had to be relieved from picket duty as soon as the sun went down because he couldn’t see in the dark. He described him as having bad eyesight, with eyes that were red and inflamed, “caused by moon-blindness.”

The term ‘moon-blind’ surfaces again and again in Myers’ pension records. The term generally refers to a horse disorder. It is an inflammation of the vascular structures of the eye. It is called moon blindness because of the recurring nature of the disease that was once thought to coincide with the phases of the moon. The actual medical term for the condition is Equine recurrent uveitis, or ERU. ERU is thought to be an immune-mediated disease process that can be triggered by many different causes. The weakening of Myers’ immunity system due to malnutrition would certainly have made him more vulnerable to the disease. Each episode is usually painful, and characterized by red and inflamed eyes with excessive tearing and sometimes light sensitivity or photophobia. Quiescent stages, when the eye seems normal and the disease in remission, may last from weeks to months before another episode occurs. Unfortunately, each attack of ERU leads to more damage to the eye and eventually blindness develops.

Like many soldiers of the Regular Army during the late summer of 1864, Myers was given the opportunity to return home and reenlist in the state of his choice. He returned home and reenlisted for three years in Rochester, New York. He changed companies, and was reenlisted by Second Lieutenant T.W. Simson into Company F, 6th US Cavalry on September 12, 1864. He again didn’t sign, but made his mark. His enlistment was credited to the town of Sweden, Monroe County, 28th Congressional District of New York. After a brief furlough, he rejoined his regiment by November.

Myers served with his regiment through the remainder of the war with little incident. He was promoted to corporal in Company F on February 21, 1865. He apparently didn’t desire to continue his service after the war ended and the regiment was dispatched to service in Texas. The regimental muster rolls list him as “Deserted Aug 8, ‘65, a private.” The date of his reduction from corporal to private has been lost. His records were later amended to read, “discharged May 17, 1890, to date August 8, 1865, by order of the Secretary of War, and by reason of desertion, a private.”

After leaving the army, Myers returned home to Brockport, New York where he lived the remainder of his life working alternately as a farmer and a street laborer, according to census records. He married Anna S. Woods on October 25, 1866 at Clarkson Corners, Monroe County, New York. She was born in County Cavan, Ireland on May 5, 1850, and had immigrated to the United States the year before.

George Myers’ health declined drastically after the war, most likely as a result of his wartime imprisonment. He petitioned for a pension on several occasions, with statements from fellow members of Company G who knew him before and after his time in prison. Joseph O’Connor described him as a “sound, healthy man” before he was taken prisoner, and called him “deaf and ‘moon blind’” afterwards. He initially had difficulties receiving a pension for disability, and was forced to provide numerous statements from relatives and former comrades in arms to verify his health problems and when they happened. One of the factors responsible for his difficulties was that Myers was apparently a hard worker who didn’t complain. Despite the difficulties with his eyes, he was far from a malingerer and didn’t show in any of the muster rolls as absent because of sickness. This lack of evidence of disability in his service records made it more difficult to obtain his pension.

George P. Myers died of tuberculosis in Brockport, New York on October 30, 1915. He was buried the next day in Brockport Cemetery, Sweden Township, Brockport, Monroe County, New York. He was survived by his wife and six children.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bates letters - June 27, 1862

Camp Lincoln, Va
June 27th 1862

Dear Parents,

What a mysterious world this is, and what an amount of the world’s share attends this army. Yesterday at this time not a sound of any kind to show that a battle was on the stocks was to be heard. To-day it is very still also, yet within the last twenty four hours one of the hardest fights of the war has been done, and two thousand graves added to the valley of the Chickahominy.

Not half an hour after I finished my letter yesterday the cannonading commenced and kept up a steady roar until 9 Oclock. Then this morning it commenced again and for three hours it was tremendous. Now it has stopped again, but the troops are moving to the front and it will be “seven times hotter” before night. I haven’t time to write much as we get in the saddle ourselves at 12, but I think we will be able to spend fourth of July in Richmond.

I got two letters this morning, one from Johnson, one from Hi Mattoun. Tell Johnson to give my respects to Hi. I shall write as I can to him. That Phoenix bank bill I sent to you was sold given to me by “an intelligent contraband” for southern scrip. I didn’t know it was good but sent it anyway.
I must close for present.
I remain
Charles E. Bates

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Moses Harris

Thanks to Chris Swift for posting about Harris last week and bringing this post back to mind.

Moses Harris was born in Andover, New Hampshire on September 6, 1839. He enlisted in Company G, 1st Cavalry Regiment from New Hampshire in 1857, which became the 4th Cavalry Regiment in August 1861. He served in the company as a private, corporal and sergeant in the western theater until 1864.

He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Regiment on May 18, 1864, and moved to the eastern theater to join his regiment. Harris was promoted to first lieutenant in the same regiment on August 15, 1864, assuming command of a company.

Two weeks later, during an engagement at Smithfield, West Virginia, Harris was serving as the second in command of the regiment’s reserve squadron under the command of a Captain Hoyer. The squadron of approximately 150 troopers was ordered to charge a Confederate cavalry brigade that had broken through the line. Captain Hoyer was mortally wounded during the approach, so Lieutenant Harris assumed command and ordered the charge in a column of fours. His squadron broke and routed the Confederate brigade. Harris was later awarded the Medal of Honor on January 23, 1896 “for most distinguished gallantry in action at Smithfield, West Virginia, August 28, a864, where in an attack on a largely superior force his personal gallantry was so conspicuous as to inspire the men to extraordinary effort resulting in the complete rout of the enemy.”

A month later, Lieutenant Harris was brevetted captain on September 19, 1864 “for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Winchester, Virginia.” His squadron had stubbornly resisted the advance of Confederate General Early’s troops after the VI Corps broke during the early phases of the battle.

Moses Harris remained in service after the war, and was promoted to captain in the 1st Cavalry on June 20, 1872. His post-war experiences were somewhat different than those of many of his peers.

On August 13, 1886, Captain Harris received an unusual order. He was ordered by General Sheridan himself to take his cavalry troop to Yellowstone National Park and assume command of the park from the departing civilian superintendent and his staff. He was charged to protect and administer the park. Elements of the cavalry remained in the park for the next 32 years.

Harris arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs on August 20 at the head of his column. Troop M, 1st Cavalry consisted of himself, two lieutenants, twenty enlisted men, 56 horses, 17 mules, three wagons, and an ambulance. His first order was to combat a wildfire burning nearby. His second was to begin the construction of Fort Sheridan (later renamed Fort Yellowstone) between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Gardiner River.

After his service in Yellowstone, Harris penned two articles for the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association that contain valuable information for Civil War cavalry researchers. With The Reserve Brigade, in 1890 and 1891, was a four part series that covered the service of the Reserve Brigade from July 1864 through Appomatox in detail. The Union Cavalry, published in 1892, is a shorter, more general work covering cavalry service during the entire war.

Moses Harris was promoted to major in the 8th Cavalry Regiment on July 22, 1892. He was retired at his own request on March 7, 1893.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav

Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., by James Larson. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935.

I finally finished this book last night and enjoyed it very much. James Larson was an enlisted man in Company H, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment when the war broke out in 1861. He accompanied his regiment east from the frontier to the western theater, where he served for the duration of the war. The book was published by his daughter after his death in 1921 in a limited edition of only 300 copies.

This book is valuable for the insight it provides into service by the common cavalryman in the western theater during the war. Larson's modest, candid writing style makes it easy for the reader to visualize the incidents that he describes, without much of the hyperbole often found in first-person accounts of the war. I have posted a few of these over the last several weeks, and a few more will follow in the future.

Larson provides excellent accounts of the departure of resigning officers at the war's outbreak, details of the long march east to the fighting, service with Minty's brigade, the opening skirmishes of the battle of Chickamauga, the battle of Nashville, and Wilson's 1865 raid to Selma and Macon. His narrative provides an enlightening view of the war from the perspective of an enlisted cavalryman.

This work provides little insight into grand strategy or macro views of battles, as Larson didn't have those views of the fights in which he was engaged. He does an excellent job of staying within the purview of what he saw and heard. What limited speculation that he does make is clearly labelled as such.

Overall, I think this book adds to the body of knowledge on the war, despite the overabundance of books on the subject, and merits publication in a second, larger edition if such a thing could be arranged.

A Call for Assistance

I try not to venture off-topic too much, but I received this via the association newsletter today and posting it seemed appropriate. This is the same regiment whose alumni include John Buford, Wesley Merritt and many others, still on continuous active service since its formation in 1836. Regardless of one's feelings about the war, those families who lose loved ones will still need assistance.

The following was posted yesterday by Reunion Coordinator and Association Webmaster Chris Skylion:

News From Baghdad: 2d Cavalry is the"Hammer"

I am going to step out of my role as ReUnion Coordinator and speak to you as a former 2d Cavalry Officer and a veteran of the Vietnam conflict. Something I rarely if ever do.I recently wrote to you to provide access to the latest news from Baghdad. NEWS

Much of that news is about the courageous and audacious soldiers that are the quick reaction force in the middle of Baghdad, our 2d Cavalry. If you read that news you know that the price to the 2d Cavalry is the sad reality of numerous casualties amid the grizzly business of bushing the extremists out of the capital. I am writing to you this evening knowing that at this very moment our fellow Dragoons are on the bloody point of the spear. They are engaged in a battle that is the fiercest and deadliest form of warfare - urban, door to door combat. Your association is working hard to support, comfort and sadly memorialize the men and women of the 2d Cavalry. We need you to step up and help us do that. Please go to our registration website and donate to our general fund so that we will have the resources to support our brothers. I want you to give to our troops at least the cost of a dinner in your local restaurant - $25. With your support we can make a difference - please help us help them! Go to the ReUnion Registration Website now and scroll down to Donations. Give what you can and we will do the rest. Click on the following: Donate to Support Our Brothers!
Thank you in advance for your support.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mid-war Regular Reenlistments

I found this account of mid-war Regular Army reenlistments in the western theater and thought it worth sharing. I found it interesting that the time of the account that follows was late summer of 1864. In other words, in the middle of campaign season instead of during the winter break in major campaigns.

“Congress had, by this time, passed an act by which all soldiers who were enlisted in the regular army for a term of 5 years and had less than one year of that enlistment still to serve, could re-enlist for another term of three years, the remainder of the 5 year term to be cancelled and a furlough for 30 days would be granted at once. Besides this they could credit themselves to any of the loyal states and receive the state bounty.

“About 80 of us, all from the 4th Cavalry, took advantage of the offer and re-enlisted. There were some ten or fifteen more that could have done the same but they preferred to stay the 5 years out and then quit Uncle Sam. My object was not the bounty, but I needed some rest.” (James Larson, Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., pg 269)

An officer set up a tent the following morning and wrote out the enlistment papers for those re-enlisting. After signing their new enlistments, the men turned in all of their government equipment before boarding a hospital train headed north.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First CWRT Meeting

I went to my first Civil War Round Table meeting on Thursday night, and found it to be both very informative and very enjoyable. I joined the Rocky Mountain CWRT a couple of months ago when I moved back to Colorado from Virginia (where I very foolishly never experimented with CWRTs), but hadn't been able to make it up to Denver to meeting until last week.

There was nearly a full house for the meeting, I was pleased to see, some 35-40 people. I don't know if this is usual, but that seemed to be the case. I was welcomed by several people, and was pleased to see the meeting start on time.

After the preliminaries, the RMCWRT President, Mike Lang, gave a presentation on the battle of Antietam, followed by a documentary film that he made following the RMCWRT study group's trip to Antietam this year (for many great photos from this trip, check Nick's excellent Battlefield Wanderings at the top of the blog list to the left). Mike did a great job with the presentation, and the film appeared to my admittedly uneducated eye to be professional grade.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and I look forward with anticipation to next month's meeting.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bates letters - June 22, 1862

Editor's note: In which we learn that the idea of enlisting negro soldiers in the Union Army was not initially popular in some quarters at this point in the war.

Camp Lincoln, Va
June 22nd, 1862

Dear Parents,

I will again try to write a few lines, but the heat makes it doubtful whether I can sit still long enough. It my be my fancy, but it seems hotter to me now than it did in Fort Cobb two years ago when the thermometer rose to 115 degrees in the shade. I know it aint (sic) so hot here but it seems hotter.

We have had no rain for several days and the roads are getting very dusty. The secesh profit by this as every movement of our troops is marked by clouds of dust, which makes it easy for them to annoy us with their conchology offerings. As a general thing the Rebels have the firing all to themselves but last night they “put their foot in it,” our shovels have about got their part in the siege “played out” and I am a false prophet if this week passes by without a grand battle. Perhaps before you receive this you will hear of battles lost or won in this part of the country.

I see that some amalgamating senator has introduced a bill to have niggers enlisted in the army. If such a thing is ever done, I can only say with Othello, “my occupation’s gone.” My worst wish for this officious senator is that he may be a private in some company where a sable son of Ethiopia is orderly sergeant, that’s all.

I have to succumb to the heat, or laziness, or both but shall write again soon. Give my love to all. I remain in health.

Your Affect. Son
Charles E. Bates

Delays Explained

My apologies for the dearth of posts over the last week. I've just started a new job that is quite a distance from my home, and things have been a bit hectic. I expect to return to normal posting frequency by the end of the week.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Regular Cavalry in the Civil War, A Partial Bibliography

Larry left a comment a few days ago asking about sources on the Civil War history of the Regular cavalry regiments. Although this is generally more in the parameter of some of the excellent blogs listed to the left, such a specific list is definitely applicable to this blog.

For general information on all the regiments, I highly recommend Stephen Z. Starr’s three volume The Union Cavalry in the Civil War. This remains in my mind the definitive comprehensive work on the subject, allowing other authors to focus on specific battles, campaigns, regiments, etc. It has just been released in a new paperback edition and is now readily available. Edward Longacre’s Lincoln’s Cavalrymen also provides general information on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th Cavalry regiments in passing. Eric Wittenberg’s excellent The Union Cavalry Comes of Age provides much more information on these regiments specifically focused on the first half of 1863. For the western theater, David Evans’ outstanding Sherman’s Horsemen provides information on the 4th Cavalry during the Atlanta campaign.

The list that follows is far from comprehensive, and seeks only to provide a few titles to introduce the reader to the experiences of a particular regiment. Magazine articles and letters are not listed in the interest of time and space. Except as noted, these titles are available through Amazon, Alibris and other sites.

1st Cavalry

Sanford, George B. Fighting Rebels and Redskins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. Offers good first person account of the first half of the war from the perspective of a company level officer. Sanford was often a staff officer during the second half of the war, and his insights there are educational as well.

Viola, Herman J., ed. The Memoirs of Charles Henry Veil. New York: Orion Books, 1993. Veil’s primary claim to fame was as the person who saved General John Reynolds’ body from capture during the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. He was subsequently appointed a lieutenant in the 1st US Cavalry at the family’s request to the Secretary of War, and joined the regiment in April 1864. His memoirs provide some insight into Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign and the Appomattox campaign, both from the perspective of a regimental line officer and a brigade staff officer. Veil appears somewhat prone to embellishment, and some statements should be taken with a grain or three of salt.

2nd Cavalry

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade To Canyon With The Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Rodenbough was an officer of the regiment during the war, and even commanded it in a few engagements as a captain. The section of the book on the Civil War contains chapters by several different authors who served in the regiment during the war. Among them are Rodenbough, Leoser, Harrison and Wesley Merritt. An excellent picture of the regiment’s service from several different viewpoints. Even the service of the companies separated from the regiment during the first half of the war in the western theater are covered.

Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With The Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999. This work was commissioned by the regimental commander on the regiment’s 100 year anniversary in 1936. Lambert was then a major in the regiment, and it was compiled by him with the assistance of the Fort Riley librarian, who he married shortly after the manuscript’s completion. Of necessity a secondary source, Lambert did have access to all of the regimental records, and the work contains information I haven’t seen elsewhere. An appendix lists every officer assigned to the regiment during the period, listed by rank held and period of service. The second printing in 1999 was authorized and edited by the author’s three children. This may be a difficult work to find, I purchased my copy at the regimental museum shortly after its publication.

3rd Cavalry

I have yet to find a work covering this regiment specifically during the Civil War period.

4th Cavalry

Larson, James. Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935. An excellent and unvarnished account of the regiment’s service in the western theater during the war from a common soldier’s viewpoint. It was published by his daughter shortly before his death in a very limited run of 300 numbered copies. It will probably be necessary to order this work through InterLibrary Loan, as the copies I have seen for sale cost hundreds of dollars. It is well worth the effort to find a copy, however.

5th Cavalry

Arnold, James R. Jeff Davis’s Own. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000. The majority of the book focuses on the period between the regiment’s organization in 1855 and the outbreak of the Civil War, but Arnold does an excellent job of covering the regiment’s abrupt departure from Texas following the state’s secession and General Twiggs’ surrender.

Hunt, H. Draper, ed. Dearest Father, The Civil War Letters of Lt. Frank Dickerson, A Son of Belfast, Maine. Unity, Maine: North Country Press, 1992. Hunt is a University of Southern Maine professor who did a masterful job editing the 77 letters from a young lieutenant to his father during the war. Dickerson received his appointment in 1862, and served with the regiment through most of the war.

Price, George F. Across The Continent With The Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press, 1959. Another good regimental history, somewhat biased since it is written by an officer of the regiment. Price didn’t serve in the regiment during the war, but it’s apparent that he gathered a large amount of his information from veterans’ accounts following the war. The book has very good biographical sketches following the narrative history that encompass all of the officers assigned to the regiment in varying detail.

6th Cavalry

Carter, William H. From Yorktown To Santiago With The Sixth U.S. Cavalry. Austin: State House Press, 1989. Carter provides a very readable and entertaining history from the regiment’s creation at the outbreak of the Civil War through the Spanish American War. From a researcher’s standpoint, the book is very frustrating, as there are no footnotes and thus no means to tell where Carter found his information or verify it.

Davis, Sidney Morris. Common Soldier, Uncommon War. Baltimore: Port City Press, 1994. This is my favorite reference, though Larson’s work is a close second. Davis enlisted at the beginning of the war, so he provides a first person account of the initial organization and training of a cavalry regiment. He served in every engagement until the Gettysburg campaign, when he was captured. He also provides a detailed account of his imprisonment in Belle Isle. Davis’ tongue in cheek writing style provides a very detailed and entertaining account from the viewpoint of the common soldier.

Hopefully this provides a good starting point. Any comments on other sources are certainly welcome, as always. And if anyone knows how to get Blogger to underline, PLEASE let me know.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Recruit Training -- Mounting Up

I found this account of initial recruit training and thought it worth sharing. The recruits at this point had completed several weeks of dismounted drill, and had just been introduced to their mounts. The author was somewhat small of stature, to the point of initially being enlisted as a bugler and not a regular trooper.

“The riding school was simply a large ring marked out on the ground and a trail following the outside margin in which the horses should always move while marching. Our riding outfit was simply a blanket strapped on the horse’s back with a surcingle and a bridle and then a pair of the small sharp pointed cavalry spurs on the heels. Stirrups were not used with beginners. They had to learn to mount their horses by a vault. Not like the farmer or others generally do by springing up and throwing the breast over the horse’s back and then the legs. In a cavalry vault the right leg must pass over the horse’s back before the cavalryman’s breast passes over the horse’s shoulder. That was not easy for a small fellow like me to do, as Uncle Sam’s horses are of the largest size.

“We kept up the vaulting exercise for several days with tolerably good success, as we supposed, but apparently not quite satisfactorily to our drill-master. The sharp pointed spurs we were obliged to wear gave us endless trouble. To complete the training in vaulting we were finally issued saddles, but without the stirrups and from then on we had to vault into the saddle, which made it even more difficult, and at last we were ordered to appear on drill under arms, with waist belt, cartridge box, saber, carbine and sling belt, and from that time on we had to vault into the saddle with all the rig that belongs to a cavalryman except the revolver, which had not yet been issued.

“If the vaulting exercise had been difficult before, it was now still more so; in fact, it had reached its climax. The heavy carbine was attached to the sling belt by an iron swivel and hung, muzzle down, when the trooper was mounted, but when dismounted and standing to horse ready to mount, it was thrown over the right shoulder and hung down his back. The saber was attached to the waist belt by two narrow straps, one a little longer than the other and always hung loose in them except when worn on foot drill, when it was hooked up on the waist belt.

“With that rig, and in the style just described, we stood the day after the order was given, by our horses, ready to mount if we could, but it certainly didn’t look like it was possible. We had to overcome the difficulties in vaulting into the saddle and believed ourselves well on the way to perfection in that part of mounted drill, but when I stood by the side of my horse that morning looking at the long saber by my left side, the lower part of the scabbard resting on the ground about two and one-half feet behind me and the upper part of the scabbard wit the hilt of the saber projecting out at least one foot in front of me, and the carbine hanging down the middle of my back with the butt end just opposite the back of my head, I wondered if it was possible for me to make a spring with such force as to bring myself and those loose and dangling weapons up on the back of my horse.

“That there was fun on the drillground that morning when the first sergeant, after having explained the rules in the new exercise, gave the necessary commands to mount, can be imagined. Few, if any of us expected to be able to execute the command in proper style, and when the command fell there followed a scramble and a terrible rattling of sabers along the line, but only a few could be seen on top of their horses when the commotion was over. The others were either lying on the ground or standing by their horses with a disgusted look on their faces, I being among the last named. It took several days fo that kind of vaulting exercise before Sergeant O’Connel allowed us to begin exercise in the riding ring. Even then we had to turn out “under arms” at every drill hour and make several vaults with the whole rig on before we were allowed to take off our belts, “stack” carbines and take the ring.” (James Larson, Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., pgs 96-97)

If this sounds amusing to you, as it did to me, I urge you to attempt the cavalry vault if you have the opportunity. I’m tall and reasonably athletic, and was able to successfully complete the vault without equipment after a few attempts on a well-broken horse. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be in full equipment. The saber Larson describes sounds like the Model 1840 heavy cavalry saber, known as the “Old Wristbreaker”, not the lighter and shorter Model 1860 cavalry saber. The Model 1840 was 42” long overall, and weighed just over 5 pounds. The carbine mentioned was the Sharps, which at least one battalion of the regiment had received during fall of 1860. It was 39” long overall, and weighed 8 pounds. The horses, while broken to the saddle, were not yet trained cavalry mounts and undoubtedly thought little of the exercise.