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.

Wanted: A Couple of Good Books

If anyone happens to see either of the following two books at a decent price in their travels, please let me know. Both are rather expensive on Amazon, and I haven’t lucked across them in local libraries or used bookstores. I understand the Price book being expensive, but the Davis book was last published in 1994. I’ll need both of them eventually to pursue this project. Unfortunately the Price book hasn’t been digitized yet.

Davis, Sidney M. Common Soldier, Uncommon War: Life as a Cavalryman in the Civil War. 1994.

Price, George F. Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry. 1883.

Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. I have one line on the Price book at the moment, but it's pretty tenuous.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Joys of Recruiting Duty

As I continue to gather information on the raising of the 6th Cavalry after the war began, I came across a letter from Charles Russell Lowell to his mother in July 1861. At the time he was a newly appointed Captain sent to the “Western Reserve” in Ohio to raise his company, Trumbull County if I'm not mistaken. I’m not one to revel in the misery of others, but this really struck me as amusing. Lowell accepted his appointment in Washington only 21 days earlier, but quickly mastered the tradition of ‘hurry up and wait.’

“I write out of sheer dullness; a mounted officer without a horse, a Captain without a Lieutenant or a command, a recruiting officer without a Sergeant and with but one enlisted man, a human being condemned to a country tavern and familiar thrice a day with dried apples and “a little piece of the beef-steak” --- have I not an excuse for dullness? I am known here as “the Agent of that Cavalry Company” --- and the Agent’s office is the resort of half the idle clerks and dageurreotype artists in town --- but those fellows don’t enlist.”

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Trip to Gaines Mill

Frustrated in attempts to reach Maryland earlier in the weekend, my wife and I hopped in the car and drove to Gaines’ Mill yesterday afternoon. It shouldn’t have taken me this long to travel 40-odd miles, but I wasn’t sure until recently whether there would be anything there to see or not.

Unsurprisingly, there is indeed National Park Service coverage of the battlefield, as well as most of the Seven Days battlefields. What was surprising is how difficult it is to find information on them. For the uninitiated, there is no park dedicated to any of the battles of the Peninsula Campaign. The various Peninsula battlefields are part of Richmond National Battlefield Park. The NPS does have pretty good coverage of the battlefields, it’s simply a matter of knowing where to look. Although Yorktown is covered, the Civil War activities there are addressed only in passing.

The Gaines Mill battlefield is more or less co-located with the Cold Harbor battlefield, or at least the portions owned by the NPS are. There is a small visitor center there which supports both battles. It has a small bookstore, which has several copies of Michael Hardy’s Battle of Hanover Court-House. There is a 180 acre parcel for Cold Harbor which includes both walking trails and a driving tour, while the Gaines Mill portion consists of a 60 acre parcel with a parking lot and walking trails.

The purpose of my visit was to find the site of the cavalry charge by the 5th US Cavalry near the end of the battle. They attempted a long (roughly 275 yards) charge against advancing infantry, and it didn’t turn out well for them. Of the 220 troopers who made the charge, 58 were killed, wounded or captured. There was a good bit of controversy over the charge after the battle and after the war, so I wanted to take a look at the ground.

Unfortunately, the site of the charge isn’t included in the Park Service parcel, but the park ranger on duty was very helpful and went above and beyond in drawing a map for me and showing me how I could get to a vantage point to see where that land is (located on the Adams farm, which is still in the family as it was during the battle). The family's house at the time was located next to where the charge took place, and one of the chimneys is still standing. The ground itself has since sprouted trees, so it is difficult to get a feel for what the area looked like. The picture is taken from north to south, and the charge would have taken place from left to right from the chimney just inside the woods as you look at the picture.

The park ranger, Randy Cleaver, was very knowledgeable about the battlefield, patiently answering my many questions. He greatly improved my understanding of the battle, and his map and explanation made understanding the ground at the time of the battle much easier. He was even kind enough to steer us toward a historic bookseller in Richmond that I hadn’t known of.

Although brief, it was an enjoyable and educational trip. There will be more here about the charge in the coming weeks as I work my way through the material. Thanks again, Randy, for all of your help.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stuart's Successor

I read an intriguing article yesterday in this month’s America’s Civil War by Tonia J. Smith. The article discusses a controversial letter written by Stuart in early 1864 about who should succeed him as the leader of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia. I won’t retell the article here, as I couldn’t do it the justice she did, but I was truck by what occurred after the letter was written.

In a letter to George Washington Custis Lee, aide de camp to Jefferson Davis, Stuart expressed specifically who should succeed him as the cavalry’s leader. Before the letter was acted upon, Stuart was killed at Yellow Tavern. What the article does not explore is why the letter then remained confidential. Lee retained the letter briefly before returning it to Flora Stuart.

It seems to me that when he was killed, the letter should have been forwarded to General Lee. This could have helped him make a decision on one leader to succeed Stuart instead of the cumbersome system that actually resulted. Although numbers and resources were clearly on the decline in the Confederate cavalry at this point in the war, centralized leadership could have made them far more effective. Given the proximity of the army to Richmond, such a delivery could have been easily effected.

Then again, it is possible that mention of the letter’s contents was made by Custis Lee to his father and General Lee chose not to act on it. Once General Lee made and announced his decision, knowledge of the letter’s existence would have done more harm the good.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

First Clash in Virginia

Credit for the first skirmish in Virginia goes to Second Lieutenant Charles H. Tompkins of Company B, 2nd (later 5th) US Cavalry. He crossed over the Potomac via the Long Bridge on May 24, 1861 and advanced up the Leesburg road towards the Loudoun and Hampshire Railroad, where he captured a passenger train. No shots were fired, and the passengers were released later that afternoon. One week later, he and his men would be involved in the first skirmish of the war in northern Virginia.

2ndLt Tompkins led his company, numbering approximately 50 men, on a scouting mission on the night of May 30th to reconnoiter in the vicinity of Fairfax Courthouse. They departed their camp after 10pm, and approached the town approximately 3am. They were able to surprise and capture the pickets before entering the town.

Unbeknownst to Tompkins, Fairfax at the time was home to three companies of Confederate soldiers under the command of LtCol Richard S. Ewell (late of the 1st Dragoons). A charge by Company B initially drove a company of mounted rifles from town, with the Union cavalrymen passing completely through the town before turning. The other two companies arrived as they passed back through the town, and a brief skirmish took place. Outnumbered, Tompkins made the decision to retreat, and was able to outrace his pursuit.

Casualties were pretty light on both sides. Tompkins reported the loss of nine horses and four men wounded, while capturing five enemy soldiers and two horses. Two of the horses lost were reportedly shot out from under Lt Tompkins, and he injured his foot when one of them fell on him. The Confederates reported one man killed, two wounded (one of them LtCol Ewell), and the loss of four men captured. The Confederate reports included requests for weaponry for the two companies of cavalry involved in the skirmish.

Although seemingly a successful engagement, 2ndLt Tompkins was chastised for exceeding the limits of his orders. In the words of BrigGen McDowell:

“The skirmish has given considerable prestige to our regular cavalry in the eyes of our people and of the volunteer regiments, but the lieutenant acted without authority, and went further than he was desired or expected to go, and frustrated unintentionally, for the time, a more important movement. He has been so informed by me, verbally; and whilst in the future he will not be less gallant, he will be more circumspect.” (OR, Ser I, Vol 2, pg 61)

It is not surprising that Tompkins exceeded his orders. He was appointed a 2ndLt in Company D from civilian life on March 23rd, less than two months before. Although listed throughout the reports (including his own) as a 2ndLt, Tompkins was actually a 1stLt at the time of the skirmish. He was promoted to 1stLt with a date of rank of April 30th and assigned to Company B, vice 1stLt Jenifer who had resigned. Although the reassignment had taken place, the orders (dated May 22nd) apparently hadn’t caught up with the forces in the field. It must have appeared to the casual onlooker that he was promoted as a result of this skirmish.

Things continued to go well for Tompkins during the war. He was appointed an assistant quartermaster with the rank of captain in November 1861, and vacated his regimental commission on July 17, 1862. He had a good reason for doing so, as he’d been serving as the Colonel of the 1st Vermont Cavalry since May 23rd. He assumed command of the regiment following the death of its previous commander, Captain Jonas Holliday of the 2nd Dragoons, in battle near Strasburg in early April. Although he resigned his commission in the 1st Vermont in September 1862, he continued to serve and was a brevet Colonel by the end of the war. Following President Lincoln’s assassination, he too was assigned to the military commission which tried the conspirators.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cavalry Review in Washington, October 8, 1861

I found an account of a Grand Review of troops in Washington DC in the October 26, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly yesterday. McClellan reviewed a large portion of the cavalry and artillery assigned to his army on a broad plain east of the Capitol, some 5,500 cavalry and 18 batteries of artillery. According to the report, there had been an earlier cavalry review approximately one fourth the size of this one had taken place previously. Apparently it hadn't gone as well, as the reporter mentions McClellan stating that on this occasion he "noticed a marked improvement."

In addition to McClellan, the President and Mrs Lincoln, Secretary Seward and several other generals were present. One of them, interestingly enough at this point in the war, was General Hooker, who would later be so integral to the restructuring the cavalry in the Army of the Potomac.

Among the regular cavalry units present for the review were all ten companies of the 5th Cavalry, eight companies of the 6th, two companies of the 4th, and one of the 2nd.

It is surprising that the 6th Cavalry was able to field eight companies at this time, since the orders authorizing the creation of the regiment and the beginning of recruiting were dated June 16, 1861.

The two companies of the 4th Cavalry were most likely Companies A and E, which had served under McClellan during the Peninsula campaign. Their strength in April 1862 at the beginning of the campaign had been 4 officers and 104 men between the two companies. Captain McIntyre commanded the squadron. This must have been a last hurrah in the eastern theater for these two companies, as they reported back to regimental headquarters in Tennessee later in the month.

I was also very surprised by the following words of the article over a year into the war. In fairness to Stoneman they are a quote of the article and not his words. "In many of the squadrons of the cavalry all the horses were of one color, which will be universally the case as soon as General Stoneman, Chief of Cavalry, can arrange it. He will also brigade the various regiments, and number them as volunteer cavalry, ignoring States."

Obviously neither of these two things ever happened, but the fact that they were considered or mentioned says something about the understanding of the cavalry at this time. Personally, I find it much more likely that this was the reporter's idea than something an experienced cavalryman would consider.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Fiddler's Green: August V. Kautz

August Valentine Kautz was born on January 5, 1828, in Ispringen, Baden, Germany. His parents immigrated to the United States the same year, and settled in Brown County, Ohio in 1832.

He enlisted as a private in the First Regiment of Ohio Volunteers at the outbreak of the Mexican War, and served in this regiment throughout the war. He received an appointment to the United States Military Academy upon his return, and graduated in 1852. He was assigned to the 4th Infantry Regiment as a second lieutenant upon graduation.

He served with the 4th Infantry in the Washington and Oregon territories during the 1850s, where he was twice wounded during engagements with Indians during the Snake River and Rogue River campaigns. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the 4th Infantry in 1855. In July of 1857, he attempted an ascent of Mount Rainier with a party of four soldiers, an Indian guide and the post doctor of Fort Bellingham. They were forced to turn back before reaching the summit. He was commended during this same year for gallantry by General Scott. Kautz traveled in Europe during 1859 and 1860, returning prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

Kautz was appointed a captain in the 6th US Cavalry when that unit formed in 1861. He served with the unit from its formation through the Peninsula Campaign, commanding it during the Seven Days Battles.

On September 2, 1862, Kautz was appointed colonel of the 2nd Ohio Cavalry Regiment, and transferred to the western theater of operations just before the battle of South Mountain. His regiment took part in the capture of Monticello, Kentucky on May 1, 1863, and he was brevetted major in the regular army for actions near that location on the 9th of June. The 2nd Ohio was also engaged in the pursuit and capture of Confederate General John Hunt Morgan in July 1863, preventing him from escaping across the Ohio River. He served under the command of Major General Ambrose Burnside during the Knoxville campaign of September to December 1863.

He returned to the eastern theater in 1864, where he initially served as the assistant chief of the Cavalry Bureau to Brigadier General James H. Wilson. He very briefly served as chief of the bureau when Wilson departed to the Army of the Potomac in April, before receiving new orders himself. He commanded the cavalry division of the Army of the James between April and June 1864, and was appointed brigadier general of volunteers on May 7. Kautz entered Petersburg briefly with his command on June 9, 1864, for which he was brevetted lieutenant colonel.

His command led the advance during the Wilson raid in late June 1864 to destroy track on the two railroads leading into Petersburg from the south. Although the raid caused a great deal of damage, its perpetrators suffered greatly as well. Eventually cut off and surrounded, Kautz and Wilson lost nearly a third of their force as casualties and prisoners before returning to Union lines.

He was brevetted brigadier general in the regular army on March 13, 1865 and assumed command of a division of colored troops, First Division, XXV Corps. He marched them into Richmond April 3rd. His command was active in the pursuit of Lee’s army until the surrender at Appomattox Court House. He was also brevetted brigadier and major general of the Regular Army or gallant and meritorious service in the field during the war.

When President Lincoln was assassinated, President Andrew Johnson ordered the formation of a military commission to try the accused conspirators. Kautz served as one of the nine officers assigned to the commission until they reached their verdict on June 29, 1865. In July 1865 he briefly served as the military governor of New Orleans to quell rioting there before returning to the western states.

Kautz served the remainder of the career in the southwestern United States. He was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 14th Infantry in 1867, and transferred to the 15th Infantry in 1869. He commanded this regiment on the New Mexico frontier until 1874, establishing the Mescalero Apaches on their reservation from 1870 to1871. In June 1874 he was promoted to colonel of the 8th Infantry, and was placed in command of the Department of Arizona in 1875. He served in California from 1878 to 1886, and in Nebraska from 1887 until his retirement.

Kautz retired from the army in 1892 and moved to Seattle, Washington. He lived there until his death on September 4, 1895, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

He published several books on army duties and customs during and immediately after the Civil War. These included The Company Clerk (1863), Customs of Service for Non-commissioned Officers and Soldiers (1864), and Customs of Service for Officers (1866).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Roads to War, 1st Cavalry

As mentioned in a previous post, the 1st Dragoons was the farthest and most dispersed of the five mounted regiments in January 1861. Primarily located along the west coast, its companies served in three different departments. As a result, the regiment spent the majority of 1861 involved in skirmishes with hostile indians and consolidating for shipment to the east coast.

The regiment was transferred to Washington DC during November and December 1861, with the exception of Companies D and G. The regiment arrived at Camp Sprague just outside of the city by the end of January 1862. They were eventually assigned to 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Reserve, Army of the Potomac for the Peninsula campaign. As the senior regimental commander, Colonel George A. H. Blake also commanded the brigade. He was the third regimental commander in a year, as Col Fauntleroy resigned in may 1861 and Col B.S. Beall retired in February 1862.

It was two long years before the regiment fought at full strength. Companies D and G remained in New Mexico until June 1863, when the two companies were dissolved. The officers and noncommissioned officers transferred to Carlisle Barracks, where they reorganized the two companies. Both joined the regiment at Camp Buford, Maryland, in October 1863.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Regular Cavalry in the West

There was a good deal of discussion on Rantings of a Civil War Historian last week about cavalry in the Western Theater. While the majority of the Regular regiments served in the Eastern Theater, there was a good bit of Regular action in the west as well, particularly involving the 3rd and 4th US Cavalry. Elements of several regiments were involved in early battles such as Wilson's Creek and Valverde, as companies tried to return to their consolidating regiments.

The 3rd Cavalry served in New Mexico the first two years of the war, then spent 1863 fighting in Tennessee and Alabama. They fought in Arkansas in 1864, then the Chattanooga campaign.

Split between theaters in the early stages of the war, the 4th Cavalry eventually consolidated in the Western Theater and fought the remainder of the war there. Major battles that they participated in (not in order) include: Wilson's Creek, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Atlanta, Franklin, Nashville, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

So the Western Theater will definitely be addressed here, I'm just not sure when.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


In retrospect, I should have labeled one of last week's posts "Coming Soon." There have been delays in several posts in the making, all of which readers should see here in the near future. The initial Fiddler's Green entry on August V. Kautz is nearly finished, for example. There was more information there than I'd expected, including an attempted ascent of Mount Rainier before the war. The comparison of resignations in the two dragoon regiments and the two cavalry regiments is still in the works, as is the road to war entry for the 1st Dragoons/1st Cavalry. All of these are still in the works, they're just not finished yet.

An article that I read on Dimitri Rotov's blog while looking for information on Stephen Sears' To The Gates of Richmond led me to The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. This work is actually available in its entirety online. I must caution the casual explorer, however. Each volume consists of two parts, and all three that I looked at yesterday were greater than 100MB in size. There is some very interesting information in there, though.


Another question that has been puzzling me recently --- where do all of the digital Civil War pictures come from? I know of the online collection at the Library of Congress, but that doesn't seem to account for all of those that I see online.

Is there a copyright issue similar to printed works? Some that I see are attributed, generally to the Library of Congress. Many, however, aren't. The numerous Wikipedia articles, particularly the biographies, come to mind. Is it as simple as a right-click, copy and paste? This doesn't seem right. Or are some folks simply not doing the right thing?

Best single volume battle studies?

The discussion last week on Hoofbeats and Cold Steel about personal libraries caused me to review my shelves a little more closely, and I found them a bit wanting in a few areas. Not wanting as in I can think of a few dozen more that I'd like to own (a permanent condition), but wanting in that there are several large gaps in the war that I have very little reference material on.

The biggest of these is the area of specific battles. I own very few works focused on specific battles or campaigns. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of John Hennessy's Return to Bull Run in a local store this weekend, which started me thinking about the area of specific battles and campaigns. I actually own very few of these. Reference works, unit histories, tomes on the cavalry and the war in general, yes, but very few on specific battles.

Given the quantity of what's available out there, I thought I'd ask for some input on quality. What are the best single volume battle studies out there right now? I'm specifically thinking about the Peninsula campaign and the Wilderness at the moment, but am certainly open to other suggestions. A quick search of Drew Wagenhoffer's site didn't turn up anything specific, although I'm now very interested in Michael Hardy's Battle of Hanover Court House after reading the review posted there.

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*

Friday, March 9, 2007

Muster rolls, 6th US Cavalry

Spurred on Eric Wittenberg's post a couple of days back about rising costs at NARA, I ordered my first set of muster rolls from the National Archives online yesterday before prices could increase. Unit records weren't specifically mentioned in the post, but why take chances. It was a much easier process than I expected. I was able to find the publication number relatively easily, and from that point it was simply a matter of narrowing the search.

I rarely get excited about anything, but this is one of those times. After reviewing the publication info (Publication number M-744, Returns From Regular Army Cavalry Regiments 1833-1916, for those curious), there should be an incredible amount of information on this microfilm roll when it arrives.

According to the guide, "some of the information obtainable from the regimental monthly return is as follows:
Names of regimental commanders
Names of all officers and reasons for loss or gain, if applicable
Names of company commanders
Stations of the regiment and companies
Names of absent enlisted men, 1857-1904, and reason for absence
Names of enlisted men lost and gained, 1821-1914, and reasons
Names of enlisted men on extra or daily duty, 1857-1873, and nature of duty
Record of events information, 1832-1916
Total strength of both officers and enlisted men by rank, 1819-57
Total strength of horses by company, 1846-1916"

If this is indeed the case, the entire Civil War record for the 6th Cavalry should be contained on this roll, since it runs from the regiment's inception through 1867. Since it formed after the war started, every soldier, non-commissioned officer and officer assigned to the regiment should be listed. basically what many of us hoped to find when we delved into the volumes of the Supplement to the OR devoted to volunteer units.

There are two problems with the order, however. First, I don't know how long it will take to get here. Today would be nice, but is pretty unlikely since the online tracking status says they're still servicing the order. Patience is supposed to be a virtue, so I'm sure the waiting will be good for me.

Second is the matter of printing the returns. This is unfortunately a multifaceted problem that I spent a good deal of time pondering the mechanics of yesterday evening. The muster rolls are of course on a roll of microfilm. I will check this weekend, but I'm pretty sure that places like Kinko's and Staples and such don't print from that medium. I'm sure the university libraries do, but cost per copy is liable to be fairly high and I don't know how thrilled they'll be about the number of pages. Conservatively estimating a two page report per company leads to a very large number of pages on this roll (2 per company x 12 companies + 3 pages for the regiment each month, x 12 months, x 4 years, plus any additional get the idea). Another possible but unlikely issue is page size, but I think digital imaging will hopefully be able to fix one. The returns were on printed forms 23" wide x 18" long until 1862, then they were changed to 24" wide x 18" long.

Printing the entire contents isn't absolutely necessary, of course. Worst case scenario has me spending a good bit of quality time in a library with some eyestrain and a headache, a small sacrifice in the grand scheme of things. I greatly prefer hardcopy, though, so we'll see how it works out. And once I get this one straight, there are only 7 more rolls to get the records of the other five regiments. At least a dearth of material isn't a concern at this point.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Fiddler's Green

Fiddler’s Green is a poem that discusses where cavalrymen go when they die. Not heaven, perhaps something like Valhalla or Elysium. It seems to me an appropriate title for biographies of dead cavalry leaders. This led to another thread, however. Where did it come from?

As mentioned previously, I first came across it during an assignment to a cavalry regiment in Louisiana. It was one of many items of cavalry lore, tradition and warfighting that troopers aspiring to earn their spurs had to memorize and demonstrate during a grueling 24-48 hour “spur ride.”

A few months later I was in an Irish pub (The Irish Rover in Louisville, to be precise) and heard a song called Fiddler’s Green about fishermen dying and going to heaven. Well, so much for originality, but I still like the poem. So where did it come from?

Fiddler’s Green is indeed heaven for fishermen, an opposite of Davy Jones’ locker, which probably came across with English or Irish immigrants to the US sometime in the early 1800s. At some point, the term was stolen and turned into this poem about the cavalry. Given how many immigrants served in the Army during this period, it’s not too surprising. 'Garryowen' of Custer's 7th cavalry is still associated with that regiment and the US Cavalry as a whole. No one seems to know exactly when or how, although I have seen references attributing it to the 6th and 7th Cavalry in the late 1800s.

Its first appearance in print was in 1923, in The Cavalry Journal. An article in the November/December 1965 issue of Armor Magazine by Paul M. Crosby explores “The Legend of Fiddler’s Green”, but I haven’t as yet discovered a copy. Another explanation followed in the January/February 1968 issue of the same magazine by Leendert Verhoeff. Whatever its origins, here’s the poem:


Halfway down the road to hell,
In a shady meadow green,
Are the souls of all dead troopers camped
Near a good old-time canteen.
And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddler's Green.

Marching past, straight through to hell,
The infantry are seen,
Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marine,
For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddler's Green.

Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene,
No trooper ever gets to hell
Ere he's emptied his canteen,
And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddler's Green.

And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,
Or in a roaring charge or fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,
And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,
And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddler's Green.

Unravelling threads and stalkers

Sorry, folks, this entry doesn't focus on who was where when doing what. While important for setting stages and understanding why things happened the way they did, the simple fact of the matter is that trying to cover too much too quickly results in shallow work. When I read my own entry and then ask myself, "Yes, but so what?", there's an issue. So, while feverish material gathering continues, I'll be taking a little more time for analysis.

Part of the problem is that there's so much material that turns up once one starts looking. I don't seem to have a thread or two to trace, I have that ball of yarn that the cat's been playing with. Sometimes, though, it seems like a thread is looking for you instead of you for it. We'll take as an example one August V. Kautz, once of the 6th US Cavalry during the Civil War.

I first came across Kautz on US Regulars Archive, where I saw his Customs of Service for Officers of the Army and Customs of Service for NonCommissioned Officers and Enlisted Men. Interesting, but not what I was looking for at the time, so I moved on.

Last week when driving home from a business meeting, I saw the sign for the Five Forks battlefield visitor center and turned in. On the bookshelf was a book on Sheridan (I think) and Kautz' cavalry raid of 1865. Hm, Kautz again, I thought. But I was in a hurry to get home. I didn't linger long and I didn't buy the book.

Last weekend as I was thumbing through the War Department's General Orders from 1861 and 1862, he found me again. This time it was in the list of appointments for the original officers of the 6th US Cavalry. There, in General Orders No. 65, August 23, 1861, is the appointment to captain of First Lieutenant August V. Kautz from the 4th US Infantry. Hmm, there he is again. Odd, I wonder who he was. But I was trying to finish the 1st/4th Cavalry and start the 1st Dragoons, so I moved on.

Yesterday, I'm in the university library on my lunch hour looking through the Supplement to the Official Records. It's an unwieldy, cumbersome resource, but there are occasional gems in there. As I'm paging through additions to the records from early 1862 on the battle of Valverde, I discovered a diary extract. Not just one, but several, that cover most of 1862 at a minimum. Whose? Why my stalker friend August Kautz, of course. So at this point I decided that I have two choices: either research the guy or get a restraining order against him. Since Option B isn't viable, you'll be reading about him here in the near future.

I've come across several officers so far that I'd like to look into more. Many interesting fellows served during the war in the Regulars, and several of them deserve attention. I wanted to think of a tag line for the biographies before I started them, however. JD Petruzzi has a Faded Hoofbeats section at Hoofbeats and Cold Steel, which I think is a great label. Then I remembered Fiddler's Green, a poem troopers had to memorize during their spur rides in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. I'll post about it more later, but suffice for now to say that it is a place where dead cavalry troopers go. Perfect. So now there's a concept, we just need more entries. Back to work.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Roads to War, Starting Points

This next series of entries will examine the paths taken by each of the different regiments from January 1st, 1861 to their first battles. Consolidation of the regiments themselves will likely be discussed at a later date, as I know of at least one of the initial five that didn't have all of its companies together until the battle of Middleburg in June, 1863.

As states seceded and the likelihood of war increased, the nation's cavalry and infantry regiments were thinly spread on small posts throughout the west. The only regular army units east of the Mississippi at the beginning of 1861 belonged to the artillery. As one looks at the distribution of the various regiments below, it is important to note that regimental commanders did not necessarily command their entire regiment. The authority of the department commander superseded that of the regimental commander. The two companies of the 2nd Dragoons in New Mexico, for example, belonged to the Department of New Mexico commander, not to Colonel Cooke. Colonel Cooke at the time commanded both the 2nd Dragoons and the Department of Utah. Both dragoon regiments were spread across three departments, and the others were each contained within one.

The 1st Dragoons were stationed primarily in the far west, with regimental headquarters and four companies in the Department of Oregon. Companies C, E and I were at Fort Walla Walla, Washington, and Company H was relatively nearby at Fort Dalles, Oregon. Four more companies (A, B, F and K) served in the Department of California. Companies B and K were at Fort Tejon, California and Company F served at Fort Crook, California. Company A was located at Fort Churchill, Utah (which is within 100 miles of Reno, Nevada). The Department of New Mexico commanded Companies D and G, who were both stationed at Fort Breckinridge, New Mexico (I'm still looking for this one).

The Department of Utah was headquartered at Camp Floyd, Utah. Colonel Cooke changed the name to Camp Crittenden on February 6, 1861. Three companies of the 2nd Dragoons (B, E and H) were stationed there with him. Companies G and I served in the Department of New Mexico at Taos. The remaining four companies served in the Department of the West, which comprised roughly the ground between Independence, Missouri and the Rockies. Companies C and K were stationed at Fort Scott, Kansas (later Nebraska). Companies D and F served at Fort Laramie, Nebraska (later Wyoming), with Company A at Fort Kearny, Nebraska.

The entire Regiment of Mounted Rifles served in the Department of New Mexico. Four companies were at Fort Union (D, E, H and K), with two each at Fort Craig (A and F) and Albuquerque (G and I). Company B served at Fort Stanton, and Company C at Hatch's Ranch.

The 1st Cavalry occupied only four posts in Kansas, Arkansas, and the Indian Territories (modern day Oklahoma). Four companies (F, G, H and K) and the regimental headquarters were at Fort Wise, Kansas. Companies D and E served at Fort Smith, Arkansas. The other four companies were stationed in the Indian Territories, with a squadron of cavalry each at Fort Arbuckle (A and B) and Fort Washita (C and I).

Last in seniority was the 2nd Cavalry, which served entirely within the Department of Texas. A squadron each served at Fort Mason (A and F) and Camp Cooper (D and H), with the rest on company-sized posts. Company B was stationed at Camp Colorado, Company C at Fort Inge, and Company K at Camp Wood. Company E occupied Camp Hudson, Company I Camp Ives, and Company G served at "Camp on the Rio Grande." This regiment was the first to move east in its entirety, as they were forced to depart rather summarily when Texas seceded.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Coming this week

I'm a little leery of posts forecasting upcoming events, but will try one and see how it turns out. This week I'll be exploring the roads to war taken by the various regiments from January 1861 to their first battles. I initially didn't think there would be too much info on the Regulars in 1861 since there were so few battles, but once one starts pulling on a thread....

I'll continue to look at officer turnover in the other regiments, but each won't receive the in detail treatment that the 1st/4th did. Preliminary looks show that the dragoon and mounted rifles regiments fared better with resignations than the two cavalry regiments, but this was to be expected given the accusations of preference for southerners in the 1st and 2nd Cavalry.

I've also discovered that the first time the Regular cavalry fought together was not on the Peninsula in the McClellan's Cavalry Reserve, but at Bull Run in a Regular cavalry battalion under Major Innis Palmer. I don't think there's a great deal of information there, but we'll explore what there is. And at the end of the week the first batch of info from the researcher at Carlisle should appear.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Officers of the 1st/4th US Cavalry in 1861, Part IV

June was a quiet month for the regiment. 2ndLt Charles C. Campbell, one of the West Point graduates from the first class of the year, was dismissed from the service for “resigning his commission in the face of the enemy.” This was apparently different from other resignations, as it was listed under dismissals instead of resignations in War Department General Orders No. 62. Joseph C. Audenreid, a cadet from the second class of 1861, replaced him on June 24th. Audenreid subsequently vacated the commission for an appointment as a 1stLt in the forming 6th US Cavalry.

Captain John A. Thompson transferred from Company K to command of Company F on July 1st, in place of Captain Eli Long. Long, though still nominally assigned to the regiment, had been appointed Colonel of the 4th Ohio Cavalry earlier in the year. Captain Frank Wheaton of Company A was appointed LtCol of the 2nd Rhode Island Infantry on July 10th. Companies A and E participated in the crossing of the Potomac and first battle of Bull Run later in the month. On July 31st, Captain Henry B. Davidson of Company H was dropped from the army’s rolls for absence. He started leave on July 1st and never returned.

August was another turbulent month for officers of the regiment. On August 3rd, the regiment became the 4th US cavalry by an act of Congress consolidating all six mounted regiments under one arm. Two days later, three more civilians were appointed second lieutenants in the regiment. Copley Amory of Massachusetts and Anson O. Doolittle of Wisconsin joined Company B. Joseph Hedges of Ohio filled the vacant second lieutenant position in Company A. Two second lieutenants were assigned to Company B because the 1stLt, George G. Huntt, was assigned as the regimental adjutant the same month. Captain William N.R. Beall of Company A resigned on August 20th. George Bayard assumed this position the same day, his first lieutenancy in Company D filled by Tillinghast L’Hommediu of Company E.

Three of the regiment’s officers were appointed brigadier generals of volunteers in August as well. Major Samuel D. Sturgis was first on the 10th, followed three days later by Major George Stoneman through presidential appointment. Colonel John Sedgwick followed on August 31st. All three continued to be carried on the regiment’s rolls. Two of the regiment’s companies fought in the battle of Wilson’s Creek in August as well.

George Bayard departed in September to accept the colonelcy of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry. Eugene B. Beaumont was promoted to 1stLt of Company B on September 14. Two enlisted men were commissioned second lieutenants in October. First Sergeant William O’Connell of Company B was assigned to Company E, and First Sergeant Henry Gordon of Company C was assigned to Company H. LtCol Wood and Captain David S. Stanley of Company C were appointed brigadier generals of volunteers on October 11 and September 28 respectively

The regiment didn’t feel Wood’s loss too keenly, as he was promoted to Colonel of the 2nd US Cavalry on November 12th. He was replaced by LtCol James Oakes of the 5th US Cavalry. Oakes had also been appointed as a brigadier general of volunteers on May 17th, but turned down the appointment due to the lingering effects of injuries received fighting Indians prior to the war.

At the end of the year, only five of the thirty four officers assigned to the 4th USCavalry are still with the regiment. Three of them were first lieutenants and the other two were second lieutenants at the beginning of the year. The colonel nominally in command of the regiment and both majors were serving with volunteer units. Five of the ten company commanders, technically present with the unit, were also with volunteer units. Lieutenants lead six of the ten companies. Although 34 officers are assigned to the regiment, only 25 are present. Officer assignments as of December 31, 1861 are listed below:

Colonel John Sedgwick (BG, Volunteers)
Lt Col James Oakes
Maj Samuel D. Sturgis (BG, Volunteers)
Maj George Stoneman (BG, Volunteers)
Adjutant (1Lt) George G. Huntt

Company A
Capt George D. Bayard (Col, 1st PA Cav)
1st Lt Thomas H. McCormick
2nd Lt Joseph Hedges
Company B
Capt Frank Wheaton (LtCol, 2nd RI Inf)
1st Lt Eugene B. Beaumont
2nd Lt Anson O. Doolittle
2nd Lt Amory Copley
Company C
Capt David S. Stanley (BG, Volunteers)
1st Lt Charles S. Bowman
2nd Lt Michael J. Kelly
Company D
Capt Eugene W. Crittenden
1st Lt Tillinghast L’Hommediu
2nd Lt Edward D. Baker
Company E
Capt James B. McIntyre
1st Lt Samuel W. Stockton
2nd Lt William O’Connell
Company F
Capt John A. Thompson
1st Lt Thomas B. Alexander
Company G
Capt Elmer Otis
1st Lt Walter Wilson
2nd Lt Edward M. McCook
Company H
1st Lt John A. Wilcox
2nd Lt Henry Gordon
Company I
Capt Eugene A. Carr (Col, 3rd IL Cav)
1st Lt Napoleon B. McLoughlin
2nd Lt Malbone F. Watson
Company K
Capt Eli Long (Col, 4th OH Cav)
1st Lt Clarence Mouck
2nd Lt William W. Webb

Starting in the Hole

I found some interesting information on manning within the Regulars at the beginning of the war in the OR the other night. On page 22 of Series III, Volume 1 is an abstract of returns by arm of service from December 31, 1860. While Robert M. Utley (Frontiersmen in Blue) briefly discussed absenteeism in Regular units on the frontier before the war, to see actual statistics really brought the point home.

The returns for the cavalry included all five mounted regiments and those working at the general recruiting depots. The returns list 82 officers and 3,123 enlisted men present, for an aggregate of 3,205. Even setting aside anyone who might have been stationed at one of the depots or schools, the regiments are badly shorthanded. Quick division renders the numbers to 16 officers and 624 enlisted men per regiment, and one officer and 62 enlisted men per company. The same returns list 100 officers and 482 enlisted men as absent, for an aggregate of 582. This breaks down to 20 officers and 96 enlisted men per regiment, and two officers and nine enlisted men per company. Again, these numbers assume no one from the cavalry at the depots, and so must be considered optimistic.

These averages, while general and somewhat arbitrary, seem to bear out. Company E, 2nd US Cavalry is listed in returns by General McDowell on July 16, 1861 with 4 officers and 56 men present for duty (OR, Ser I, Vol 2, pg 309). Even at the first battle of Bull Run one of the seven companies of Regular cavalry was commanded by a lieutenant. Just before the battle of Wilson’s Creek the four companies of the 1st US Cavalry under Major Sturgis are listed at a combined strength of 250 (OR, Ser I, Vol 3, pg 48).

The true extent of the shortages will be revealed by the muster rolls, but these numbers in the meantime are themselves revealing. And this is before the resignations and battles started.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

US Regulars Archive

I found this site when I first began my research on the Regular cavalry, and have found it to be a treasure trove of information. The researcher, Edward Czarnecki, has created a wonderful site that is in my opinion the single most comprehensive site on the Regulars in the Civil War on the internet.

Mr. Czarnecki has regimental histories for most of the Regular regiments of all three arms from two different sources. The first is Frederick H. Dyer’s A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, and the second is T.F. Rodenbough’s 1896 The Army of the United States. Czarnecki has excerpted unit histories from both of these works, arranged in numerical order by arm. For the infantry regiments, he even has unit rosters.

This site also contains excellent references for tactics of the period. There are locations for contemporary infantry, cavalry and artillery tactics manuals, including Philip St. George Cooke’s 1862 Cavalry Tactics. Additionally, there are references for West Point curriculum for each year of the war, and the officers who served as faculty. Even military administration is addressed, with copies of the 1861 version of US Army Regulations and customs of the service for officers, noncommissioned officers and soldiers. Several manuals for volunteer units are also available on the site.

Overall, Edward Czarnecki has created an easily navigable site full of valuable information to the Civil War researcher, whether researching Regular or volunteer units and tactics.