Sunday, March 11, 2007

Officers of the 2nd/5th US Cavalry in 1861

No, this isn't the launch of another series of posts listing officers. The purpose of this post is to illustrate attrition among the officers of the 2nd (later 5th) US Cavalry during 1861. I've found the numbers thus far intriguing. Complaints about Secretary of War Davis filling the two cavalry regiments with southerners appear to be justified. I'm still working on the two dragoon regiments, but resignation numbers appear to be significantly higher within the cavalry regiments.

The 2nd Cavalry was hit particularly hard by resignations, and arguably had the highest concentration of military talent of any army regiment at the outbreak of the war. A list of those assigned on January 1, 1861 follows at the end of the post. Of the 34 officers assigned to the regiment, eighteen resigned and one died during the regiment's exodus from Texas. Another, 1stLt Kenner Garrard, was captured and subsequently prevented from serving with the regiment due to the terms of his parole until 1862. He was then appointed LtCol of the 146th NY Infantry, and merely occupied a captain's billet on the rolls.

Twelve of the eighteen officers who resigned from the regiment later became generals in the Confederate Army. Among their number were Albert S. Johnston, Robert E. Lee, John B. Hood, Earl Van Dorn, Fitzhugh Lee and Edmund K. Smith. Another commanded a brigade, but was only promoted to Colonel.

Of the fifteen who remained with the regiment, four were generals of volunteers by the end of the year: George H. Thomas, George Stoneman, Innis N. Palmer and Richard W. Johnson. Another, Albert G. Brackett, served as Colonel of the 9th Illinois Cavalry and was away from the regiment. By year's end, only six of these fifteen officers were still present for duty with the regiment.

Eben Swift's entry on the regiment in Rodenbough's 1896 The Army of the United States told the tale of officers in the Regular cavalry regiments quite well.

"A regular regiment, during the war, was under many disadvantages. Its field officers, and many others, were commanding volunteers and serving on important duty elsewhere. The Fifth Cavalry, with the exception of a few months, was commanded by captains and lieutenants. The command of the regiment changed thirty-four times, and, curiously enough, it frequently served under men who had been in its ranks not very long before. It was often difficult to get one officer to a squadron."

Officers assigned to the 2nd US Cavalry on January 1, 1861 (* indicates resignation later in the year):

Col (Brevet Brig Gen) Albert S. Johnston*
LtCol Robert E. Lee*
Major Earl Van Dorn*
Major George H. Thomas
Company A
Captain (unknown)
1stLt George B. Cosby*
2ndLt A. Parker Porter
Company B
Captain Edmund K. Smith*
1stLt Walter H. Jenifer*
2ndLt Fitzhugh Lee*
Company C
Captain Innis N. Palmer
1stLt William B. Royall
2ndLt Wade H. Gibbes*
Company D
Captain James Oakes
1stLt William P. Chambliss
2ndLt George A. Cunningham*
Company E
Captain George Stoneman
1stLt James B. Wetherell
2ndLt Joseph F. Minter*
Company F
Captain Richard W. Johnson
1stLt John T. Schaaf*
2ndLt Charles W. Phifer*
Company G
Captain William R. Bradfute*
1stLt Kenner Garrard
2ndLt Manning M. Kimmel*
Company H
Captain Nathan G. Evans*
1stLt Robert N. Eagle
2ndLt James E. Harrison
Company I
Captain Albert V. Brackett
1stLt Charles W. Field*
2ndLt Wesley Owens
Company K
Captain Charles J. Whiting
1stLt John B. Hood*
2ndLt James A. Major*


Philip Wilson said...

Douglas Alexander Murray (Scottish cavlaryman who emmigrated to US).

From 1861 he served with the 3rd Ohio Cavalry, and this part of his career is well documented. However, it is not known when he arrived in the States, or what happened before 1861.

The only clue is the following statement: "On October 22 [1861?] our lieutenant colonel, Douglas A. Murray, joined the regiment, promoted from the Second United States Cavalry. A man of fine appearnace, he was to be our authority on cavalry tactics. As his name indicates, he was a Scotchman and had a very peculiar brogue, rolling his r's in a wonderful fashion" from a History of the 3rd Ohio Cavalry. I have read that until 1861 the 5th Cavalry was called the 2nd US Cavalry. I would really like to find out more about my ancestor.

Don said...


I have a reference or two that might work, will just have to dig one of them out of storage. Please email me at dccaughey AT aol DOT com and we'll see what we can put together.