Sunday, April 29, 2007

New blog: Civil War Musings

Shiloh Nick has recently joined the ranks of Civil War bloggers with an account of a rather extended Civil War battlefield tour on the east coast. The blog is currently named Civil War Musings, but it sounds possible that this may change. The text and the photos are quite enjoyable, and not just for the battlefield commentary. After reading the story of his trip east, I'm definitely re-thinking my route through St Louis! Welcome, Nick.

Road to War: 2nd Cavalry

Actions on Arrival

The regiment had a great deal of work to do when they reached Carlisle Barracks. They were among the first regular army units to return to the vicinity of Washington, and as such their services were in high demand. They arrived with no horses and very little equipment, however. The efforts of the entire regiment, minus Palmer’s squadron already in Washington, were focused on equipping themselves and preparing for the field.

Two more squadrons, consisting of Companies B, E, G and I, departed for Washington as soon as they were mounted to help defend the capital. Although there were numerous officer vacancies due to resignations, they were promptly filled with new appointments. George Thomas remained in command of the regiment, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on April 25th and Colonel on May 3rd.

On May 27th, he reported the remaining two squadrons, Companies A, C, F and K, ready for service. They reported to General Patterson under Colonel Thomas’ command on June 1st to participate in operations in the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry.

The three squadrons in Washington guarded the White House and treasury buildings until May 23rd. On that date, three companies under Major Stoneman crossed the Potomac to assist in the capture of Alexandria. Company E was stationed in Alexandria, and Company I in Arlington. Company B was stationed at Fort Corcoran prior to 2ndLt Charles Tompkins’ reconnaissance to Fairfax Court House on May 31st.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Road to War: 2nd Cavalry

The Second Detachment

By the time the first detachment set sail, the second detachment was already on its way to Indianola. Company K departed Camp Wood, about 40 miles north of present day Uvalde, on March 15, 1861. Captain Charles J. Whiting, who would command the regiment during its ill-fated charge at Gaines’ Mill the following year, commanded the company. Captain James Oakes followed from Fort Inge on the 19th with Company C.

The final and most spirited departure was conducted by Captain Richard W. Johnson and his command. As the senior company commander at the post, he led the evacuation of regimental headquarters at Fort Mason, 80 miles from San Antonio, on March 29th. His command consisted of the regimental band as well as Companies A and F. Relations between the cavalrymen and state forces had become increasingly strained and acrimonious as the time for the command’s departure approached, to the point of couriers being searched and detained. As a result, Captain Johnson chose to turn a blind eye when some of his troopers torched the fort after the command’s departure.

When the command reached San Antonio, Johnson decided that the regiment wouldn’t leave without making a final statement. Ignoring the presence of armed state forces in the city and the state flag flying over former department headquarters at the Alamo, they paraded through the streets of the city with regimental standard and company guidons flying and the band playing patriotic tunes. No violence occurred, and loyal citizens presented them with a large American flag as they exited the city.

They reached Goliad the next day, where they reportedly cut down a state flag and cut it into mule harness streamers. Their march continued to Green Lake, traveling near but not with a company of the 8th Infantry. Each night, the infantry company would pass Johnson’s column before halting for the night. On the final night of the march before reaching Green Lake, Johnson resolved to arrive first. He departed his camp at 3am and arrived at Green Lake several hours before them. As luck would have it, there was a ship waiting at Indianola and his command was ordered forward while the infantry company remained at Green Lake.

The steamship Empire City was too large to enter the port at Indianola, so the troopers and their families were forced to use a smaller boat to ferry them out to the ship. The ship, with the entire second detachment aboard under the command of Captain Whiting, sailed the next day. They stopped briefly in Havana, where they learned of Fort Sumter’s surrender on April 14th, before arriving in New York on April 20th. They moved by train from New York to Carlisle Barracks, where the companies reported for duty on April 27th.

The day after the Empire City departed, state forces under the command of former major of the regiment Earl Van Dorn seized the port. They captured the Star of the West, the same ship that had attempted to resupply Fort Sumter, and several companies of soldiers from the 8th Infantry waiting to embark on her.

Resignations and absences continued to take their toll. Only 13 of the regiment’s officers accompanied the regiment out of Texas. Among them were captains Palmer, Whiting, Stoneman, Brackett and Johnson, as well as lieutenants Jenifer, Royall, Chambliss, Lowe, Harrison, Kimmel, Arnold and Porter.

The vast majority of the enlisted men remained with the regiment, despite generous offers of good pay and large bounties for joining state units. Desertion rates for this period were no higher than for the year before. I suspect that this was due to the large number of immigrants in the regiment. Secession and states rights would have been an abstract concept, while the regiment was both home and family to them.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Last two installments on Road to War: 2nd Cavalry

There are still two more installments on the 2nd Cavalry's road to war. The first is the account of the second detachment to exit the state. It should post in the morning, since I forgot to bring the material home with me. The second details what happened to them after they reached Carlisle Barracks (those companies that did) until their first battles, and should be out by the end of the week.

I've received a good bit more information this week, so I'm not sure where we're headed after that. I'm about ready to head west for a while, maybe to Dug Springs. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Marcus Reno's papers?

This is somewhat odd given my current round of posts, but does anybody out there have any idea where Marcus Reno's papers or memoirs might be found? I haven't found any record of them, but since virtually everything related to Custer and Little Big Horn have been researched, someone must have found them.

I knew he'd commanded the 5th Cavalry at Kelly's Ford in March 1863, but was unaware until today that he had also commanded the 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry and led a brigade against Mosby late in the war.

Just to maintain the tie-ins to the current thread, though, the 2nd Cavalry became the 5th in August 1861, which Reno led in battle as mentioned above, so it all ties together....

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.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Road to War: 2nd Cavalry

Setting the Stage

The 2nd US Cavalry was one of the first units in the Army to be affected by the secession movement. This article will attempt to chronicle their abrupt exodus from Texas in early 1861, long before the fall of Fort Sumter. In order to understand the trials faced by the regiment during this period, it is necessary to first understand the larger situation.

The majority of the fault for the regiment’s abrupt departure unfortunately lays at the foot of another cavalryman, former Second Dragoon commander Brevet Major General David E. Twiggs. In December of 1860, General Twiggs returned from a leave of absence to command of the Department of Texas. He was second in seniority of the four brigadier generals in the Army, junior only to Brigadier General Wool.

The Texas secession convention assembled in January 1861. On February 1, the ordinance of secession was adopted by the convention, subject to its ratification by the people of Texas on February 23rd. On the 4th, before its ratification, the convention appointed a commission to discuss with General Twiggs the surrender of all army installations and equipment within the borders of the state. Twiggs in his turn appointed a commission to negotiate with the Texas commission. On February 15th, officials demanded the immediate surrender of all government property in the state, which he refused. On the 18th, he was again presented with the demand, and given six hours to return a decision. Citing the desire to avoid fighting between state and national troops, Twiggs ordered all soldiers in the state to surrender their posts and march to the coast.

While he is consistently vilified for his role in the surrender, there are a few factors to consider in the conduct of Twiggs. In the interest of fairness, he had on three different occasions formally requested guidance from Washington on actions to take in the event of Texas’ secession. The guidance he received in return was minimal and vague. He had also asked to be relieved of command of the department on January 13, 1861. Once the request reached the capital, Colonel C. A. Waite was sent to replace him. Twiggs had not, however, been authorized to surrender any government installations or equipment, particularly without a shot being fired. He was dismissed from the army by President Lincoln on March 1st for “treachery to the flag of his country.” He was subsequently appointed a general in the Confederate army, which rank he held until his death the following year.

The Department of Texas at this time contained one fifth of the entire army, including the 2nd Cavalry. Department headquarters was in San Antonio, but the troops were scattered across twenty or more small posts consisting of 50 to 150 men throughout the state. These posts varied in distance from San Antonio from 50 to almost 700 miles, and were commanded by lieutenants or captains.

At the time of the surrender, Twiggs issued an ‘Order of Exercises’ to the various units of the department, detailing the order and routes of their movements out of the state. This order required all commanders to evacuate their posts, surrendering all public property not required to transport them to the coast. Following this, they were to concentrate at Green Lake and surrender any remaining equipment with the exception of their sidearms. The troops were to move to the coast in a directed schedule by small units, with the most distant posts instructed to move first to prevent a troop concentration in the northern part of the state. As he was still the department commander at the time, his order was binding on the army’s officers, despite their feelings on it.

The order came at a particularly bad time for the 2nd Cavalry, as none of the regiment’s senior leadership was present for duty. The regimental commander, Colonel Albert S. Johnston, was in San Francisco serving as the commander of the Department of California. Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee had been ordered to report to Washington DC earlier in the month to meet with Major General Winfield Scott. Both of the regiment’s majors, George H. Thomas and Earl Van Dorn, were on leaves of absence. At this critical juncture, the regiment was without a commanding officer from February 13th to April 11th.

This, then, is where we join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in February of 1861: scattered to the winds and forced to decide at the company level how to react to this chain of events.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Coming soon: The 2d Cavalry's road to war

Yes, I know Civil War Interactive is due to review the blog tomorrow and postings have been brief this week. And I know I said I didn't like the 'coming soon' posting idea. However, two things have led to this post.

First, the topic has turned out to be much more complicated and involved than I'd initially expected. The work is simply taking a great deal more time than I'd initially anticipated. A couple of late-breaking sources almost have me convince it could be worth an article somewhere.

Second, it's our busiest time of year, and I'm just not getting the time I'd like to get the more research-intensive posts together. Combine that with the fact that both computers at home crashed last weekend, and hopefully you can understand why things have slowed a bit. Things will ease up here in another week or so, but until then posts will most likely be shorter and not as frequent as normal (whatever 'normal' is for a blog that's 60 days old!). research continues, it's simply getting it into a palatable format that's taking the time. There's certainly no sign of the end, I have far too much to write about.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Civil War Round Tables

With the recent discussions on Eric's and JD's blogs about Civil War Round Tables, I decided to once again prove to myself just how much I don't know the Civil War, related organizations, and the internet. I've heard about them in passing, but have never talked to a member about one, attended a meeting or event, etc.

A few minutes on the internet confirmed my assumption that CWRTs are organizations "to bring together those who wish to expand and share their knowledge of the Civil War," to quote the website of the Bull Run CWRT.

There are also a lot more of them than I expected. One or two per state east of the Missouri River seemed a reasonable assumption. Maybe a few in the more populous states towards the west coast, with the odd one elsewhere thrown in.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The good folks at The Olde Colony Civil War Round Table of Dedham, Massachusetts are kind enough to maintain a listing of all CWRTs and their websites. Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania and Virginia lead the way with the most CWRTs. North Carolina has 12, and Ohio 10. Surprisingly, several of the former Confederate states have very few. Louisiana has 3, South Carolina 2 and Mississippi only 1. There may be more that simply aren't listed, or those that are may be exceptionally big, I'm simply working from the list. Colorado as expected only has one, and even Hawaii has one. Hawaii? Now there's a stereotype killer.

How do these organizations go about their stated purpose? Naturally it depends on the particular organization, but generally through lectures, research, guest speakers, and field trips. Lots of great field trips, if you happen to live in my area. Wish I'd learned about these a couple of years ago. Trevillian Station this weekend, for the Bull Run CWRT, with Gettysburg next month. The Hershey CWRT has a Gray Ghost Tour coming up here in a few weeks.

And so it goes. Sounds very interesting, now I just have to find the one in my area since they don't have a website....right after I finish this post about the 5th Cavalry's road to war. Hmm, I said that last week also.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Book Review: Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry

Lest people start to think that I only review books after I finish one of Eric's, I'll be featuring a few more titles here over the next couple of months. I'm finally managing to finish some of these titles that I've acquired....

Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry, by George F. Price, is a history of the 5th Cavalry Regiment from its creation in 1855 until the book's initial publication in 1883. It was reprinted in a limited edition of 750 copies by Antiquarian Press Limited in 1959. The book is written in three parts: a narrative history of the regiment, a listing of officers assigned to the regiment, and an appendix.

The narrative covers the regiment from its creation in 1855 until 1883, when the regiment was stationed in Montana. Price's account provides a good idea of how regular army units were organized and trained prior to the Civil War. His history is 176 pages long, with 5 brief chapters totalling 32 pages covering the regiment's activities during the Civil War. While there are some good nuggets in there, some of the coverage is very skimpy. In one paragraph, for example, Price covers the battle of Gettysburg, the pursuit of Lee's army, re-equipping the regiment at Giesborough Point, and operations at Bristoe Station and Mine Run.

To my mind, the best of the book's information is in the second section. Price lists biographical sketches of every single officer assigned to the regiment throughout its history. This is a gold mine of information, as even the junior officers are covered. It is a very long section and the majority of the book at 406 pages, but to my mind worth every one of them. In some cases there is obvious bias, and some of them are rather lengthy (Albert S. Johnston, for example, nets 18 pages), but overall this is a very valuable resource.

The appendix also contains a wealth of data. Compiled from the regiment's official papers, it includes listings of all field officers, all commissioned and noncommissioned staff members, company officers organized by company, regimental duty stations, the complete battle roster, and more.

Overall, this is an excellent, though hard to find, resource. It is very important to remember, however, that this is a secondary source as far as the Civil War section is concerned. Price was not actually assigned to the regiment during the Civil War, though he is listed as a captain of the 5th cavalry on the title page. He served in volunteer cavalry units in the far west during the war, so the majority of the Civil war information is taken at second hand from unit records and conversations with those who were still serving when he was posted to the regiment.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Innis Palmer

Innis Newton Palmer was born on March 30, 1824, in Buffalo, New York. He was appointed to West Point from New York in 1842. He graduated 38th in the class on 1846 which also produced future leaders such as George B. McClellan, Thomas J. Jackson, and George E. Pickett.

Upon graduation, Palmer was assigned as a brevet second lieutenant in the Regiment of Mounted Rifles on July 1, 1846. He joined his regiment at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on October 29, 1846, and departed with them in December for service in the Mexican War. He was promoted to second lieutenant in the same regiment on July 20, 1847. During the war, he participated in the siege of Vera Cruz, battles of Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Churubusco, Chapultepec, and the capture of Mexico City. He was brevetted first lieutenant in August 1847 for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco. On September 13, 1847, he was brevetted captain for gallant conduct at Chapultepec, where he was severely wounded. He commanded Company B of the police force in Mexico City from December 18, 1847 to June 5, 1848 before returning with his regiment to Jefferson Barracks in July 1848.

Palmer served as the acting regimental adjutant from November 25, 1848 to March 25, 1849, when he was assigned to regimental recruiting service at St Louis. He returned to his regiment at Camp Sumner near Fort Leavenworth in time for its march to Oregon City, arriving there in mid-October. He again served as acting regimental adjutant from October 14, 1849 to May 1, 1850, primarily at Oregon City and Fort Vancouver, then held the actual position until 1854. He and the regiment were back at Jefferson Barracks in 1851. From 1852 to 1854, the regiment participated in Indian campaigns in Texas, assigned at various times to Forts Inge, Ewell and Merrill. He was promoted to first lieutenant January 27, 1853. Palmer was once again on recruiting duty, this time in Baltimore, when he learned that he’d been appointed to the newly organized 2nd Cavalry.

When the 2nd Cavalry was authorized in 1855, Palmer became one of its captains, with a date of rank of March 3, 1855. He joined the regiment at Jefferson Barracks on August 27, 1855 and served in command of Company D. Once the regiment was filled, he marched with the regiment to Texas, arriving at Fort Mason on January 14, 1856. He served there until July, when he and his company were assigned to Camp Verde, about 60 miles northwest of San Antonio. This wasn’t just any frontier post, as it was also home to the camel experiment conducted under Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Other than an expedition to the headwaters of the Brazos and Colorado rivers in January and February 1858, Palmer remained in command of Camp Verde until May 1858.

He assembled with his company and the rest of the regiment at Fort Belknap in June 1858 for a march to Utah, but the order was revoked. The regiment dispersed to its various forts and camps, but Palmer remained at Fort Belknap until January 1859. He was ordered to Washington and assigned to special duty from January to May 1859 before receiving a leave of absence to visit Europe. He returned to duty in October of 1860, and conducted a detachment of recruits from depots to Texas before rejoining his company at Camp Cooper on January 5, 1861.

Texas seceded very soon after this, and the regiment began its exodus from the state. Palmer started with his company from Camp Cooper on February 21, 1861, and marched to Green Lake. He was joined there by five other companies of the regiment, which formed the first detachment to leave the state. Palmer assumed command of the battalion and moved it to the port of Indianola, a small port 120 miles south of Galveston. They embarked there on a steamship and arrived in New York harbor on April 11, 1861. He proceeded to Washington immediately with his squadron of Companies D and H, where he was employed guarding the Treasury buildings and assisting with the city’s defenses.

Palmer succeeded to a majority in the regiment two weeks later, on April 25, 1861. He commanded the battalion of Regular Cavalry in the campaign of First Manassas, and was brevetted lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious services during the Bull Run campaign. Following the battle, he served on a board convened at Washington for examination of officers reported as unable to perform field service in August 1861. He commanded the regiment in the defenses of Washington from August 28 to September 26, 1861. Palmer was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers on September 23, 1861, and continued to serve in the defenses of Washington until March 1862.

During the Peninsula campaign, he commanded a brigade of infantry in Couch’s division of Keyes’ IV Corps, fighting at the siege of Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Pines, Glendale and Malvern Hill. Later that autumn, he organized and forwarded regiments of New Jersey and Delaware volunteers, as well as supervising camps of drafted men at Philadelphia.

From December 1862 until the end of the war he was assigned to various duties in the state of North Carolina. These included at various times command of a division of XVIII Corps, the corps itself, the New Bern defenses, the District of Beaufort, and the Department and District of North Carolina. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 2nd Cavalry in December 1863. In March 1865, he participated in the movements of Sherman’s army with his command, and was engaged at Kinston.

In March 1865 he was awarded all the brevet ranks through brigadier general in the Regular Army for “gallant and meritorious service in the field during the war” and major general of volunteers for long and meritorious service. He mustered out of volunteer service on January 15, 1866, and joined his regiment at Fort Ellsworth, Kansas on May 21. He commanded the regiment from May to September, and then took a leave of absence until December. He rejoined the regiment at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and commanded it from January to August 1867 and again from November 1867 to July 1868.

In 1868, he succeeded to the colonelcy of the 2nd Cavalry, and he spent the remainder of his career on the frontier in what is now Wyoming and Nebraska. He also served on several cavalry boards, including boards for cavalry tactics in 1868, cavalry equipment in 1874, and a new cavalry cartridge in 1875.

Palmer took a leave of absence due to illness from 1876 to 1879, and retired from the Army at his own request on March 20, 1879. Although engaged for a time in civil pursuits in Denver, he spent the majority of the remainder of his life near Washington. Innis Palmer died in Chevy Chase, Maryland on September 9, 1900. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Mystery at Shirley, Part II

A short drive down the peninsula brought us across the Chickahominy river and down the James to Shirley, just a few miles upstream from Harrison’s Landing.
Shirley Plantation, still in the Carter family, continues as a working farm as well as a tourist destination. The house described by Sanford, pictured above, offers tours of the first floor while family members dwell on the levels above. The grounds still contain several outbuildings open to the public, including the kitchens, a tool shed, the smokehouse and a dovecote. It is a beautiful place, and hopefully my pictures do it justice.

Tour guides are very knowledgeable about the history of the family and the property. When I mentioned the material that I had found to our tour guide, he knew exactly the timeframe that I was talking about. The family still owns the safe passage written by General McClellan following Sanford’s visit, and it is on display on the first floor of the house. He also informed me that the Carter family received a similar pass from General Butler and his Army of the James in 1864. Interesting, considering Butler’s reputation for civil dealings with civilians in areas that his forces occupied.

The guide, Francis Carpenter, informed me that he had copious notes on the time period at home, as well as access to Hill Carter’s diary if necessary. He said the young Confederate officer was most likely one of two family members serving in the army at that time. He couldn’t remember which of them would have been in the area at that time, but took my contact information and promised to contact me as soon as he found the material.

So the mystery remains for at least a few more days. The trip wasn’t wasted, however, for it was a beautiful day for a drive. A bald eagle was even kind of enough to stop by for a brief visit as we were touring the grounds. Hopefully I'll have another post solving the mystery here soon.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

A Mystery at Shirley, Part I

I recently came across the following passage while reading Fighting Rebels and Redskins by George B. Sanford. Sanford was an officer in the 1st Cavalry during the Civil War, and a career Army officer. The incident that he refers to occurred during the Peninsula campaign in 1862, after McClellan had moved his army’s headquarters to Harrison’s Landing on the James River. The story appealed to me because of the courteous, gentlemanly way the situation was handled. The quotes are somewhat lengthy, but I think them necessary to fully appreciate the situation.

“At that period of the war and more especially in the Potomac Army while under McClellan’s command, it was not the policy of the government to interfere with the citizens of the Southern States when they were not actually aiding the enemy, and while their slaves were not actually forbidden to enter our lines, it was well understood in that army that they were not wanted. The result was that on most of those noble estates, life went on very much as it did before the attack on Fort Sumter, and the opportunity of observing it even superficially was one of which I eagerly availed myself.

“One of the finest of these beautiful places was “Shirley” belonging to the Carters, among the most distinguished of the old Virginia families. It was situated on the James river on the left bank and not far below City Point. It was between our lines and the enemy’s and exposed of course to the depredations of marauders from either army. Mr. Hill Carter the proprietor must have been at that time not far from sixty years of age, a thorough gentleman of the old school, loyal to his state, but quite willing to live at peace with our people provided they would allow him to occupy his property. Gen. McClellan was determined that the rights of property owners should be respected, as long as they remained quiet and obedient to the laws, directed that an officer should be sent up there to examine the condition of affairs and report as to their appearance. I was accordingly ordered up on this duty, and Lieut. Sumner of my regiment --- now Lt. Colonel Sumner of the 8th Cavalry (1893) offered to accompany me.”

After this Sanford continues with descriptions of the house and grounds before describing his encounters with the Carter family that evening.

“Mr. Carter received us with great courtesy and introduced us to the ladies of his family, who were polite but reserved, and I thought seemed singularly anxious. At first I attributed this only to embarrassment at meeting those whom they of course regarded as the enemies of their country, but later I found they had a much more serious cause of disturbance. We were shown over the grounds and a portion of the estate, which extended for miles along the river. Afterwards we were invited to dinner, which was elegantly served, and a most delightful change from the rough comforts of camp life, to which we were accustomed. I ascertained from Mr. Carter that he was occasionally visited by small parties of our soldiers and that as a rule they were civil enough in their manner, and quite willing to pay for any supplies they took. But of course it kept the family in a state of anxiety and he would be glad if Gen. McClellan would furnish him with a small guard for the purpose of protection. He was quite willing to promise that they should be exempt from any molestation by the enemy, and that he would himself live at peace with the Government; but he said nothing about taking the oath of allegiance and indeed did not attempt to conceal the fact that he considered his first duty as due to his State.

“After dinner he excused himself for a few moments, first inviting us to smoke our cigars in a beautiful glass enclosed porch overlooking a noble stretch of grass and woodland bordered by the beautiful waters of the James. Sumner and I were deeply impressed with the beauty of the scene and were commenting on it with enthusiastic admiration when a door opened, and a young man not much older than ourselves, but dressed in the full uniform of an officer of the Confederate army appeared. He looked very pale and weak and was evidently taken by surprise at seeing us. For a moment he seemed about to withdraw, but changing his mind, came forward and apologized for disturbing us, disclaiming any knowledge of our presence. He went on to say that we must pardon him for not attempting to entertain us, as we could see ourselves that he was weak and wounded, and he would leave us to ourselves. Then bowing to us both, he went back as he had come. Sumner and I were struck with astonishment. Here was a situation. Ought we to arrest this man --- evidently an officer of the enemy --- and take him back with us to camp? That would seem the first thing to do; but on the other hand, we were these people’s guests, had been kindly entertained by them, and were to a certain extent prevented by the claims of hospitality. The gentlemen was evidently a son of the family, who had been wounded in one of the recent battles and had returned to his home for the care and treatment which would be given to him there. I for one was entirely determined to let the matter alone, at all events until I could get advice from my Colonel, and Sumner agreed with me. In a few moments Mr. Carter returned, but made no allusion to what happened. Indeed I am satisfied that he had no knowledge of what had occurred. Of course we said nothing, and shortly afterward we bade him good-bye, and returned to our camp. I had no doubt, after thinking it over, that the young officer hearing his father leave the room after dinner, supposed we had accompanied him out into the grounds, and had accordingly gone into the smoking room where he found us, supposing he would be safe from observation. I felt bound to report the matter to my commanding officer, but was very glad that he did not think it necessary to carry the matter farther. Probably the young fellow returned to his command very soon. At all events I never heard anything more of him, though a safe guard was sent to Mr. Carter’s place as he had requested.”

Who was this young Confederate officer? The footnote on that page says that the editor of the book, Professor E.R. Hagemann of my alma mater, University of Louisville, was unable to identify the officer. Since Shirley plantation is nearby and open to the public, Gina and I will venture out there today to see if we can solve this mystery and perhaps report more on the plantation itself.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Book Review: Rush’s Lancers

Since the beginning of this project a couple of months ago, there has been a great deal of the acquisition and reading of material on Civil War cavalry, both primary and secondary sources. Once or twice a month, I will take the opportunity to review selected sources. This entry will focus on Eric Wittenberg’s Rush’s Lancers.

Regimental histories aren’t currently much in vogue, most likely because of the perception that a single regiment’s scope of experience was too limited to be of much historical value. Far more attention has been paid to various armies of the Civil War, and more recently to brigades in military histories. Rush’s Lancers illustrates the errors of this perception.

Wittenberg does a wonderful job of telling the tale of how a Civil War regiment was raised and trained, and describing the difficulties in keeping mounted troopers in the field. There are countless details derived from the words of soldiers of all ranks from the regiment, without bogging the reader down in minutiae. He skillfully blends many personal accounts into a single story without losing the story of the regiment as a whole in the many individual points of view. Although obviously a labor of love, his history of the unit is both even-handed and painstakingly complete. He tells the entire story of the regiment and its soldiers, not simply lingering on the high points and the regiment’s successes.

The enormous amount of time and research are clearly evident in the many endnotes listed in the book. It averages nearly 100 endnotes per chapter; many of them previously unpublished personal accounts. The book is richly illustrated with photographs of dozens of the regiment’s soldiers taken from both public and private collections. Once again Blake Magner’s excellent maps provide the reader easy clarity for the prose accounts of movements and battles.

On the whole, this is an excellent book. The style of writing is very easy to follow, and the pace of the book makes it a joy to read. I think this work will serve for years to come as an essential reference for the study of Civil War cavalry.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

1,000? Already?

Not such a milestone when compared to more established and successful blogs, but I just noticed that the sitemeter for Crossed Sabers went over 1,000 visits this afternoon. That wasn't a number that I thought I'd see for quite a while yet. Thanks to all of my visitors, and I hope you enjoy what there is to read here.

Christmas in April

It's been a very good couple of days for new books and resources around here, so much so it seems like the holidays. Four of my recent book orders (Sherman's Horsemen, Glory Enough For All, The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan and The Cavalry at Appomattox) all showed up day before yesterday, courtesy of the postal service. Another delivery from my researcher at USAMHI at Carlisle arrived yesterday, including a couple of interesting first person accounts.

I was fortunate enough to find a copy of George Price's Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry in a nearby library yesterday, so I have a couple of weeks to see how much information I can wring out of it. I'm finally starting to feel like I'm getting somewhere in gathering sources for this project. Counting Price's work, that gives me regimental histories for the 2nd (2), 4th, 5th and 6th US Cavalry. These and the personal accounts from USAMHI should definitely get me started.

As if this wasn't enough, I discovered the internet whereabouts of George Cullum's Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the United States Military Academy on Brian Downey's blog, who had in turn received it from Harry Smeltzer at Bull Runnings.

Now, if only it was holiday break so I had extra time to read through all of this....

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Resignations by Regiment

I finally managed to winnow through all of the resignations and compare them by regiment. Some of the results were interesting.

Of the 171 officers assigned to the three mounted arms at the beginning of 1861 (1 brigadier general and 34 officers assigned to each regiment), a total of 74 resigned, or 43%. Three of the five regiments lost 50% or more of their officers, and these were the last two regiments to reach the major theaters of fighting.

Despite claims in 1855 (and later) that they were formed to accommodate southern officers, the two cavalry regiments were not the hardest hit by resignations. The most resignations came from the 2nd Dragoons/2nd Cavalry with 19. Interestingly enough, the least number of resignations came from the other dragoon regiment with 9. As I derived these numbers only from 1861, I have to wonder how many 1st Dragoon/1st Cavalry officers wanted a free ride home from the west coast before tendering their resignations. The regiment didn't completely close on Washington DC until the end of January 1862.

The results by regiment:
1st Dragoons/1st Cavalry: 9 of 34
2nd Dragoons/2nd Cavalry: 19 of 34
Regiment of Mounted Rifles/3rd Cavalry: 10 of 34
1st Cavalry/4th Cavalry: 17 of 34
2nd Cavalry/5th Cavalry: 18 of 34

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Why Novice Regular Recruiters?

Last week’s post about Charles Russell Lowell’s trials as a recruiter in Ohio piqued my curiosity about recruiting for regulars. Why on earth would Lowell, someone who was a civilian a mere three weeks before and a “Regular” in name only, be sent to raise a company for a regiment of regulars?

‘Why’ was the question, not how. How is easy, since it was basically the same way that the volunteer regiments were raised. For the raising of the new cavalry regiment in 1861 (and Companies L and M for each of the other five regiments in 1862), the primary difference in the mechanics of raising a unit between regulars and volunteers was that the officers had already been determined. Units were assigned a city location for the headquarters of the forming unit, then surrounding counties or states from which to recruit their personnel. As the 6th Cavalry formed, for example, the regimental headquarters was Pittsburgh, and recruiting was authorized in the states adjoining Pennsylvania.

A bit of investigating turned up the following section from War Department General Orders No. 48, dated July 21, 1861.

“That the enlistments for the regiments authorized by this act shall be in the charge of the officers detailed for that purpose who are appointed to said regiments from civil life; and that in the meantime the officers appointed to the same from the regular army, shall be detailed by the commanding general to such service in the volunteer regiments now in the field, as will, in his judgment, give them the greatest military instruction and efficiency; and that the commanding general may, in his discretion, employ said officers with any part of the regular forces now in the field until the regiments authorized by this act shall have been fully recruited, and detail any of the officers now in the regular army to service with the volunteer regiments now in the field, or which may hereafter be called out, with such rank as may be offered them in said volunteer regiments, for the purpose of imparting to them military instruction and efficiency.”

This, then, is how a gentleman from Massachusetts with neither military experience nor even a horse to his name finds himself dwelling in a tavern in Ohio recruiting cavalrymen. It would seem to be a matter of simple military efficiency. Newly-appointed, inexperienced officers recruited while more experienced officers focused on training volunteer units already in the field. Once units were filled and available to train and fight, these officers returned to duties with their assigned regiment.

In Lowell’s defense, he went on to serve very well with the 6th Cavalry on the Peninsula. Despite his relative youth and inexperience, he led a squadron with distinction before his appointment as Colonel of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry. And ironically he was back with the regulars in command of the Reserve Brigade as well as his volunteer regiment when he was killed in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864.