Thursday, March 29, 2007

Errors in Dyer’s Compendium

The discussion Drew Wagenhoffer and I had about regimental numbering a week or so ago made me wonder if any of the regimental histories were effected by the change. Sure enough, one was.

For those who didn’t know, Congress ordered the mounted regiments consolidated into a single arm of cavalry on August 3, 1861. The War Department issued the appropriate orders on August 10, the same day as the Battle of Wilson’s Creek. Prior to the order, each of the three arms were treated as separate entities for assignments, promotions, etc. If you were a dragoon, you stayed a dragoon and could only be assigned to one of the two dragoon regiments. The same for the two cavalry regiments formed in 1855. Those in the single regiment of mounted rifles were apparently stuck with one another (there was briefly a second regiment of mounted rifles, but it didn't survive the Mexican War).

As a result of the order, all five regiments (and the 3rd Cavalry, which was recruiting at the time) were numbered sequentially as cavalry regiments in order of seniority. The 1st Dragoons became the 1st cavalry, 2nd Dragoons the 2nd Cavalry, the Mounted Rifles the 3rd Cavalry, the 1st Cavalry the 4th Cavalry, the 2nd Cavalry the 5th Cavalry, and the new 3rd Cavalry became the 6th Cavalry. As one might imagine, this created a good bit of confusion for records keepers.

Checking Dyer’s Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, I found that Volume 1 was correct for all six regiments. In Volume 3, there was an error in the 1st Cavalry entry. It shows Companies A and E in the advance on Manassas and the Battle of Bull Run in July 1861. This is incorrect. It should read Companies A and E of the 4th Cavalry. The farthest east any of the 1st Dragoons/Cavalry were in July 1861 was the Department of New Mexico, where Companies D and G served before they were disbanded and reformed later in the war.

Quibbling? Possibly, but listings are supposed to contain the unit’s history, not the history of the unit’s title. As you can see, it’s confusing enough already.

I apologize for not answering any comments to this post promptly, but I’ll be away from computers from early this afternoon until Sunday.

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