Sunday, June 3, 2007

Volunteer Reinforcements, Part II

It appears that I mis-titled the first part of this series. Closer reading of JD's initial post brought the realization that he didn't say Starr's men went with him to the 6th Cavalry, he said they came back to service in the Regular Army with him.

I've had a lot of fun chasing this particular thread down. I was able to find a copy of the classic New Jersey in the Civil War online (misplaced the website, will post the link tomorrow), which contains the muster rolls for the 5th New Jersey. Starr was recalled to regular service in October 1862 (the entry, of course, doesn't say why. From Everglade to Canyon says he resigned, but also doesn't say why.). That same month, 90 members of his regiment were "discharged to join the Regular Army." The majority of them probably thought they were following Starr back to his old regiment, the 2nd Cavalry, as did he.

Of the 90, 50 enlisted in the 2nd Cavalry, in Companies A, B and D. Five enlisted in the 14th US Infantry, and two in the 2nd US Artillery. One each enlisted in the 1st and 6th Cavalry regiments, and three are listed for both the 2nd and the 6th US Cavalry in the CWSS. The remaining 27 names had no record or had names so common that they couldn't be reliably attributed to a unit without the gaining unit's muster rolls (lots of John Browns and William Smiths out there).

Companies A, B and D of the 2nd Cavalry were broken up in July 1862, their privates sent elsewhere in the regiment and the officers, noncommissioned officers and buglers detached for recruiting duty. Apparently some of them found a welcome home recruiting in Starr's regiment. I'll check in the morning, but I believe Starr was assigned to one of these companies before he came to the volunteers.

At least some of this had to be due to his popularity. A quick check of another regiment in his brigade, the 6th New Jersey, showed only four men leaving for regular service in October 1862, and seven over the course of the war. Three of the first four went to the 2nd Cavalry, and there was no record of the fourth person. One of the remaining three went to the 2nd Cavalry, one to the 16th Infantry, and one had no record. As time permits, I'll check the other two regiments in the brigade (7th and 8th NJ).

Starr was promoted and transferred to the 6th Cavalry in the spring of 1863. I haven't as yet had time to check the muster rolls of the regiment, but I'm willing to bet at least three of the men (John Murphy, George C. Curtis, and James Campbell) transferred from the 2nd to the 6th with him. Apparently strict disciplinarians are quite popular in some quarters during time of war, and the regiment had performed very well under his leadership.

Where, then, did the 6th Cavalry's reinforcements come from? I don't know yet, but at least I have an idea or two fo where to look.

Private Sidney Davis, of F Company, 6th Cavalry, had this to say of the War Department orders mentioned in the last post: "In consequence of this curious order there was a terrific rush from the volunteer infantry to the regular cavalry and artillery -- two branches of service then popularly believed to be a sort of sinecure, if there be such a thing as sinecure in a common soldier's life. [break[ The strength of the regiment was about doubled under this order, being reiforced by some five hundred and fifty men. However, no actual benefit was derived from them for several months afterward, as they had yet to be mounted and drilled. When the next campaign began they were sent to Washington by rail, where they went into camp." (Common Soldier, Uncommon War, pg 235)

I'll just keep pulling on this thread and see where it goes. If time permits, I'll print the October and November 1862 returns this week, but free time's a bit short with the movers coming on Thursday.


Rich said...

I am very interested in the muster rolls that you have obtained. The Sidney Davis that you refer to is my great-great-grandfather. I was searhing for info on the 6th US Cavalry when I came across your blog. Can I get the muster rolls from you?

Don said...


Just saw your other comment and went looking for this one. The 6th is a pet project of mine at the moment. Send me your email address: mine is dccaughey AT aol DOT com. Would be happy to steer you in the right direction on the muster rolls.