Sunday, April 22, 2007

Roads to War: 2nd Cavalry

The First Detachment

The regiment was somewhat fortunate in its postings at the time of Twiggs’ surrender. Although spread between eight different forts and camps, the farthest two companies were only about 250 miles from San Antonio. The regiment might have saved a great deal of its equipment had it been able to assemble in northern Texas and march out of the state, but it wasn’t possible to do so. Captains Oakes, Stoneman and Whiting met at Fort Inge to discuss the feasibility of such an attempt. They came to the reluctant conclusion that there were insufficient animals, wagons and stores available to assemble the regiment and move it north through what would then be hostile territory.

In late February the regiment began to evacuate its posts. Prior to this, on January 28th, Captain Albert G. Brackett moved his command from Camp Ives four miles south to Camp Verde, a more defensible position. Pursuant to the Order of Exercises, companies were to marshal at Green Lake, approximately 130 miles southwest of San Antonio. On February 21st, Captain Brackett led Company I from Camp Verde to begin its march. Among the property left behind for the Texans were the 53 remaining camels from the former secretary of war’s experiment and their two Egyptian handlers. They were reportedly used to haul cotton to Mexico to trade to the British for supplies during the war, and sold off to several circuses after it. The same day, Captain Innis Palmer led his squadron consisting of Companies D and H from Camp Cooper, near Abilene. His was the farthest march to Green Lake, nearly 400 miles.

Five days later, on February 26th, Captain E. Kirby Smith led Company B from Camp Colorado to Green Lake by way of Fort Mason. There had been a rather tense stand-off between Captain Smith and Henry McCulloch, who commanded several companies of state troops. McCulloch demanded the immediate surrender of all property of the troopers and the camp, including their side arms. Smith informed him that he would not dishonor his soldiers in such a fashion, and would indeed attempt to cut his way free of the fort if forced to by McCulloch. Smith received notice of Twiggs’ surrender the following day. After negotiating the retention of his soldier’s mounts, weapons, and ten days of rations, he led his men out of the fort.

This was the extent to which duty and honor pervaded the majority of the professional army at the outbreak of the war. Less than a month and a half later, Smith would resign his commission after his command arrived in New York harbor. In the meantime, he was responsible for leading it to safety.

Companies E and G moved by steamboat from their respective posts to Brazos Santiago, at the mouth of the Rio Grande. Captain George Stoneman evacuated Camp Hudson on March 17th with Company E, followed by Company G from “Camp on the Rio Grande” on March 20th. The commander of Company G, Captain William R. Bradfute, did not make the move with his company, resigning his commission the next day. From Brazos Santiago, the two companies moved north up the coast to Indianola, where they joined the other four companies.

These six companies formed the first detachment of the regiment to depart the state. Under the command of Captain Palmer, they boarded the steamship Coatzacoalcos on March 31st in Indianola. They sailed from there to New York by way of Key West and Havana, to be met on their arrival by Major George H. Thomas on April 11th. Captain Palmer and his squadron were ordered immediately to Washington, while the other four companies moved by train to Carlisle Barracks to draw mounts and refit.