Monday, July 30, 2007

6th Cavalry Dead at Andersonville

During the course of my research, I recently discovered 13 troopers of the 6th Cavalry who were captured and died at Andersonville. I haven't yet discovered when they were captured, though the dates make it unlikely that any of them were captured at Fairfield. Since I'm in the process of trying to transcribe that list from the muster rolls now, I should be able to confirm that by the end of next month. The troopers are listed below. I haven't found any data to suggest that the two deaths on the same day were anything other than coincidence.

Bird, Morris H. Private Co. E August 23, 1864
Blossom, Charles Private Co I May 22, 1864
Bradman, Alvah M. Sergeant Co M August 23, 1864
Clifford, Jeremiah Private Co B September 17, 1864
Doney, John W. Sergeant Co C May 21, 1864
Dunn, John Private Co A May 6, 1864
Ferguson, Joseph Private Co E March 13, 1864
Furl, George W. Private Co D July 7, 1864
Johnson, Peter Private Co F May 15, 1864
McClellan, Jonathan Private Co D March 31, 1864
Meadow, John Private Co E June 25, 1864
Miller, Charles H. Private Co E July 5, 1864
Robinson, William R. Private Co H June 30, 1864

6th Cavalry Database Update

After a good bit of fiddling, tweaking, adjusting, reformatting and several other -ings, the 6th US Cavalry database is functional. There is a great deal more information to be added to it, but it's finally in a format that I'm content with (for now) that is searchable. Of the 2800+ names currently in the database, most have at least a little information with them other than name and regiment. The search of volunteer regiments for more names continues. This week it's Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

I discovered that Excel worked well as a format for the enlisted soldiers, but am going with Word for the officers for now. There are two reasons for this. One is that the numbers are much smaller, so it's manageable as a Word document. The second is that there is a LOT more text for each entry with the officers. There's simply more information available on them.

I'd like to take the search to the genealogy forums next, but won't have time to do so for a little while yet.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bates Letters, November 1861

Note: Charlie's describing McClellan's Grand Review in this letter, from a rather opportune vantage point. I hadn't seen a description of the aqueduct bridge over the Potomac before this. I recall quite a number of troops using it for the move toward Manassas, so I was surprised to see it described as so small. I had two questions from this one that I'm hoping readers can answer. "Munson's hill" was my best guess from his handwriting, I'm not sure where it's located. Any ideas? What was "Frank Leslie's" it sounds like some sort of news periodical, perhaps local to Connecticut where Bates is from?

Washington D.C.
Headquarters, 4th Regt Co “E”
Camp Nov. 21st, 1861
Dear Parents,

It is a long time since I have wrote to you, but the reason is I have had nothing to write about. We have the normal amount of rainy days and windy days, but yesterday there was something came off worth writing about. General McClellan reviewed over 70,000 troops. Our company was on the escort of the General so I had a good chance to see them as they passed by. The column started to pass in review before the General at half past twelve, marching two companies abreast, and it was five o’clock when the last went by. They all looked like “Regulars”, everybody was in their place, and what was stranger for Volunteers are generally not very military. Everyone kept time with the music ands looked to the “front” when they passed the reviewing staff. It was the largest column which ever passed in review either in this country or in Europe, and the best (underlined).

I caught an awful cold looking at them, but I would take two more if I could see another such a sight. Our company had the “distinguished honor” of escorting the General back to his Quarters after the review but I had rather not have the honor again. The review was beyond Munson’s (?) hill within three miles of the secesh (sic) pickets, and after it was over the General had to be about an hour telegraphing to different places before he started for home, but when he did start it wasn’t slow riding. We crossed the Potomac river on the Aqueduct bridge. It is fifty feet wide and there is only room for one man to pass at a time.

I saw somebody taking sketches of the staff and troops on the field so you will probably have a chance to see our company pictured out in Frank Leslie’s or Harper’s Weekly. Our position at the time he was taking the sketch was just behind the General, about twenty five yards from him.

I sent my likeness last week, I suppose you have got it. It looks exactly like me everybody says. Give my spects (sic) to all and tell them. I am going to sleep for a couple of hours. Goodbye.

Your Affect. Son,
C.E. Bates

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bates Letters, October 1861

Note: I hadn't intended to use one of the letters for post number 100, but decided in the end that it really didn't make much difference. I enjoyed the descriptions of provost guard duty in this letter, particularly the encounter of Sergeant Frye and his father. Neither Charles Bates nor Sergeant Frye nor presumably his father are listed in the CWSS, so I'll have to look elsewhere for further information on the encounter. I imagine the scouting rides were simply for training and practice, but find it interesting that Bates doesn't mention the constant drill that seems to have been the lot of the other regular cavalry units upon their arrival in Washington.

Washington D.C.
October 14th, 1861
Dear Parents,

I know that I have been ungrateful to you lately, but I shall try to make up for my neglect by writing very often in future. The reason of my long silence is explained by one word. Laziness (underlined). Yes it is laziness and no mistake, for there is plenty of time for me to write now. Our company is quartered within a thousand yards of the Capitol and form a part of the Provost guard for Washington city. We have to patrol the streets every other day and arrest every soldier found without a pass. It is laughable to see us sometimes give chase to a party of half drunk Sogers (sic, underlined) through back alleys and into cellars, sometimes on foot, but generally we manage to overhaul them without dismounting.

If they allow themselves to be arrested quickly there (sic) are kept overnight in the Guard house and released the next morning without further punishment but if they try to run away they are favored with a cold water shower bath three times a day for a few days before getting their liberty. Many a curse is given to us by the poor victims, but it is orders and “duty must be done,” as Sergt Frye said when he took his Father to the Guard house.

It is a great benefit to the citizens to have the patrols about the streets. Be fore they started the streets were filled with drunken Soldiers at all hours and in many cases the houses too. Now the streets are empty from nine O.clk at night until 6 in the morning and through the day they are put in limbo if they get drunk.

The provost guard now consists of three Companies of Cavalry and nine of Infantry, and the mounted patrols go in parties of 6 men and a commissioned Officer. The foot patrols have 12 men.

We have an occasional scout into Maryland but they never last more than three days, so I expect we will remain in our present quarters until spring. I shall write often to you in future and expect to hear from you soon. I have just recieved (sic) Johnson’s letters and am glad to hear that your (sic) all well. It is the first one I have had for so long, I can’t remember when. Give my love to my little niece. Tell Julia, but never mind I shall write to her tomorrow. Good bye for the present. Give my love to all.
I remain
Charles E. Bates

P.S. I almost forgot to tell you that the name or number of our regiment is changed. Direct to
Compy “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry
Washington D.C.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thoughts on Cavalry Raids

I was reading David Evans' excellent work Sherman's Horsemen this morning when I started pondering the differing natures of cavalry raids between opposing sides and the different theaters over the course of the war.

During the Atlanta campaign, Sherman made excellent use of his cavalry to force the Confederate forces in front of him to extend their lines or reposition. He often had difficulties getting his subordinate cavalry leaders to do what he wanted them to, but I freely admit I hadn't given him credit for the adept use of his mounted arm. Their immediate objectives were generally destructive in nature (bridges, railroads, factories, mills, etc), but his objectives for them was to shift enemy forces so he could maneuver his army. The differences between tactical and strategic objectives, to use the proper terminology.

Confederate raids in the western theater seem to me to have focused on destruction of supplies and infrastructure to inconvenience their opponents, but lacking this strategic focus. Forrest's, Morgan's, and Wheeler's raids all caused damage, but I can't recall their actions being tied to strategic moves by their higher headquarters. Admittedly, this is not my area of expertise. Please feel free to speak up if you think I'm in error.

The raids conducted by the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac also at first glance appear to be nearly universally destructive or combative in nature. Stoneman's raid, Sheridan's raids and his Valley campaign all targeted destruction of infrastructure or enemy forces. Like those of Sherman's subordinates, they were tied to strategic objectives of the army's commander. In Hooker's/ Stoneman's case, they weren't necessarily well thought out, but they did have a strategic objective.

Grant's use of his cavalry during the Overland Campaign of 1864 seems similar to Sherman's, though I haven't to date examined it from the army's standpoint instead of the cavalry's. (But I'd like to: any suggestions for a good single-volume source on the campaign?) Certainly Grierson's raid earlier in the war was planned and executed with a higher purpose in mind.

The "raids" of the cavalry of the Army of Northern Virginia, however, seem different to me. I can't think of a single one that was not tied to strategic decisions and/or moves to be made by the army. They almost invariably seem to be focused on reconnaissance, however, and not on destruction of enemy forces or equipment. Yes, the odd supply dump was looted when encountered in the course of a raid and extra mounts were always desirable, but that generally wasn't the object of the raid in the first place. True, later in the war they were generally fighting better-equipped, more numerous foes. I can't help wonder, however, what might have happened had Stuart attempted earlier in the war what Sheridan did in early 1864 --- seek out the enemy's cavalry for the purpose of forcing a fight and defeating it. He didn't, of course, so the point is moot.

I'll stray briefly from the original purpose of this post to pursue one more thought. I wonder if a case could be made that the Union cavalry came of age because they were allowed to. I don't think they were ever specifically targeted by Lee or Stuart. Given the perceived dominance of Stuart's cavalry going into the winter, there would appear to have been an opportunity there, even with the rotation of some brigades to other areas for better forage. While there was a great deal of self-imposed rigor, as they were strung out over dozens of miles of pickets for the army's main body, I don't think they were harassed or attacked much by Confederate forces at all. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why Fitzhugh Lee's raid at Hartwood Church was so effective.

Enough fuzzy musings for now, back to research.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bates Letters, July 1861

Note: This is the first detailing that I've seen of exactly how the 1st (soon to be 4th) Cavalry conducted their march to Washington from Fort Leavenworth.


Camp on Arlington heights,
Va. July 16th, 61

Dear Parents,

It is nearly an age since I have written to you --- so long indeed that I am ashamed to acknowledge the cause of my silence which is laziness. To be sure there has not been a day since the 23rd of last April but I was on some duty or other, still I might have found some time to write to you only for my laziness.

I suppose you have heard or read before now of our exit from Ft Smith and of our march across the country to Ft Leavenworth under the command of Col Emory, so I will not detail it to you, but I will explain to you how I came to be along.

The morning of the 23rd April my sentence came to fort Smith, which was six month ball and chain and along with it an order from the secretary of war for my sentence to be remitted. So I was released and that night we left.

After we arrived at Ft Leavenworth the company was employed in marching from place that I was too tired to think of anything except sleeping every chance I could get, and you can imagine that I was anything but sorry when the company was ordered to get ready for a trip to Washington.

We started from Ft Leavenworth on the 2nd of July, went by boat to Jatan (?) from there to St Joseph by cars rested two hours and went to Hannibal city, by cars from there to Quincy by boat, then after three hours rest aboard the cars again and on to Detroit. From there we had a splendid trip across some lake to Cleveland, and from there to Washington stopping at Pittsburg, Harrisburg, and Baltimore to feed the horses. By the way, I have missed Chicago when we stopped between Quincy and Detroit and I was left behind for a few minutes but caught up in an express train.

We got to Washington on the 9th.

We have busy times here but the troubles will all be over in few days I think. There have been several fights but I have not had a chance to pull trigger on a secessionist yet. We are going to start in about three quarters of an hour for Manassas gap perhaps I shall have better luck this time.

Hoping to have a chance to do some fighting this trip.
I must say goodbye.

Affect yours
Charles E. Bates

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Bates letters, March 1861

Fort Smith, Ark. March 8, 1861

Dear Parents,

When I wrote my last letter to you I did not think that it was to be my fate to become what I now am, a General prisoner, but here I am in a cell 10 feet long by 4 wide, and my feet connected with a chain eighteen inches long and about as many pounds in weight.

And what, you say, have I done!! I will tell you. I have acted like a man, and an action which no honest one would blame me for has made me what I am, a prisoner.

The night before last some of the secessionists in town hoisted a flag opposite of the gate of the fort bearing for a device 8 stars and a pistol and bowie knife crossed. This appeared to be an insult to the soldiers and union so I went out and pulled it down and on being ordered by my captain to put it up again I tore it into ribbands the dirty flag that’s what I am in for chained like a murderer.

But I can’t write any more now so goodbye
My love to all

Pray for your most unfortunate

Updated Links

Finally got around to updating the Related Links section of the blog. I realized last night that there were several sites that I've been visiting for months that I always access from someone else's page. This has now been corrected, though there are more updates to be made.

No, I haven't been stalling just to tease, these job search things take time. The first Bates letter will be posted later today.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Introducing Charles E. Bates, 4th US Cavalry

In the course of my explorations of the Virginia Historical Society, I encountered the Civil War letters of Charles E. Bates. I've decided to periodically post his letters in the interest of improving the human interest aspect of this blog. Bates' observations are entertaining and often humorous, and his squadron served in both theaters over the course of the war.

Born in 1844 in Connecticut, nearly all of the correspondence is with his parents. He apparently ran away and enlisted in the cavalry in 1858, at age 14. The first letters that I found are from Secretary of War John B. Floyd to the Honorable W.D. Bishop, a Connecticut member of the House of Representatives. Mr. Isaac Bates, one of his constituents, had sent him an application for a discharge from the Army for his son, who was a minor. Orders were accordingly forwarded by Adjutant General Samuel Cooper to Fort Leavenworth on May 1, 1858 directing his discharge. I haven't made up my mind yet on what the continued service of a 14 year old says about the army of the time. The charitable will assume he was large and mature for his age.

The directed discharge apparently didn't happen. The next item I found was a set of orders dated March 27, 1861 from Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas to the commanding officer of Fort Smith, Arkansas. These orders directed the discharge of "Charles E. Bates, private, Company E, 1st Cavalry, who was enlisted when a minor, without the consent of his parent or guardian." The order went on to list the various conditions enabling the commanding officer to suspend the discharge, and directed him to immediately report all of the facts pertaining to the case to the War Department. Unfortunately for Bates' parents, Charles had met one of those criteria before his discharge orders reached Fort Smith.

Friday, July 13, 2007

More Regular Volunteers

I continue my efforts to track down as many as possible of the soldiers from volunteer units who transferred to the Regular Cavalry in 1862, primarily from infantry units. I spent some time yesterday and today with a few Pennsylvania and Ohio regiments, and found another 31. Not all of them from the 6th, of course, but the idea is to work on all six regiments.

Rather than work completely at random, I decided to make a list of the regiments in the Army of the Potomac from about this time period (the majority seem to be November-December 1862). I was helped in my choice by the remarks section for two privates from the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry: "wounded at Antietam, transferred to US Cavalry." The timeframe being about right, I quickly navigated my way over to Brian Downey's excellent Antietam On the Web site and checked his order of battle listings for the Army of the Potomac. To be sure, all of the AoP didn't fight at Antietam, but it's a solid starting point.

Using this listing, I've since been chasing muster roll lists. The best site for this that I've found is Pennsylvania in the Civil War. The organization and detail of the site is absolutely fantastic. I really like the format, and will likely use something similar as I complete each regiment. I found a good Ohio site as well, but haven't had any luck as yet with the New York regiments.

Not all regiments had people volunteer for the cavalry, though they appear to have been targeted by particular branches of service. In the 27th Pennsylvania, for example, every soldier but one who volunteered for Regular service chose the artillery (1st or 2nd Regiment) except one. In the 28th, nearly all chose the cavalry. In several Ohio regiments, many transferred to the navy.

It's slow and tedious, but progress is being made. And I'm almost happy with the officer database format. Other than that, I've simply been transcribing a number of manuscripts, but that's a post for another time.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Curwen B. McLellan

Curwen Boyd McLellan was born on April 7, 1829, in Merton Hall, Wigtonshire, Scotland. He immigrated to the United States by 1849, enlisting as a private in Company B, 3rd US Infantry on November 17th of that year.

He progressed from private to corporal to sergeant to first sergeant in Company B before transferring to Company A, 1st US Dragoons. On August 7, 1854, he transferred to Company H, 2nd US Cavalry as a private. He was promoted to sergeant in the same company and served there until June 11, 1861.

He received an appointment as a second lieutenant in Company B of the newly forming 3rd Cavalry on May 14, 1861, and accepted the appointment on June 11th. He joined his company in Bladensburg, Maryland on August 26, 1861, according to the regimental muster rolls. His company commander was one Captain August V. Kautz.

McLellan served as the regimental adjutant from October 1 to November 30, 1861 before a transfer to Company C. He commanded the company from January to February 1862 in the absence of the assigned captain and first lieutenant. He accompanied the regiment when it deployed to the Peninsula campaign in March, temporarily assigned to Company A from March to August 1862. and served there with distinction. He was made a brevet first lieutenant on May 5, 1862 for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Williamsburg, where he was wounded. He was evacuated to a hospital in New York to recover from his wounds, where he remained until September. He was promoted to first lieutenant in Company L on July 17, 1862, and joined his company in October.

He was assigned to General Pleasonton’s staff in January 1863, returning to his company the following month. In March he was temporarily assigned to command Company C in the absence of all of its assigned officers. He was made a brevet captain on July 3, 1863 for gallant and meritorious service in the Gettysburg campaign, when he was once again on General Pleasonton’s staff through October. He eventually made his way back to the regiment.

McLellan received a brevet promotion to major for gallant and meritorious service at the Battle of Dinwiddie Court House on March 31, 1865. A few days later, during the battle of Sailor’s Creek, he was ordered to seize a strongly held group of log huts in a dismounted charge. Seeing his men hesitate, McLellan faced them and said, “Men, let us die like soldiers.” Every one of the men reportedly charged with him, and the huts were seized with a loss of only three wounded.

Curwen McLellan was promoted to captain in the 6th Cavalry on July 28, 1866. He married Susan E. Carmack in Frederick County, Maryland on Christmas day of the same year. He accompanied his regiment to the frontier, where he served with distinction. The first Mrs. McLellan died their without issue in 1869.

On July 6, 1870, Captain McLellan set out from Fort Richardson, Texas with a troop of 56 men from four companies of the 6th Cavalry. He was dispatched in pursuit of a group of Indians who had attacked a mail stage. On July 12th, he encountered a war party of approximately 250 Kiowas led by Kicking Bird near the north fork of the Little Wichita River. After a brief skirmish, McLellan led his men on a fighting retreat in the direction of the fort. He conducted this defensive engagement so skillfully that he lost only two men, and the Kiowas abandoned their chase of the badly outnumbered column the next day. Thirteen Medals of Honor were eventually issued for heroic conduct during the engagement.

McLellan married a second time in 1872, to Alice Gilbert. They had three children, two girls and a boy, before she died in Arizona in 1879. He was again recognized for an engagement with hostile Indians in the San Andreas mountains of New Mexico on April 7, 1880.

He was promoted to Major of the 10th Cavalry on December 30, 1881. He was made a brevet lieutenant colonel on February 27, 1890 for gallant service in actions against Indians near the Red River, Indian Territory and the aforementioned engagement in New Mexico. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 3rd Cavalry on May 6, 1892, and transferred to the lieutenant colonelcy of the 1st Cavalry three weeks later.

McLellan retired from the army on April 7, 1893, with over 43 years of service. He married a third time, this time to Margaret Kelso, who bore him another son and daughter. He died August 24, 1898 in St. Louis, Missouri, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife Margaret.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Staff Woes

I came across a picture recently of General Alfred Pleasonton and his staff taken in Warrenton, Virginia in October of 1863 (the picture itself can be found at and the Library of Congress). I'm not personally a fan of Pleasonton, but as I read the caption something jumped out at me.

Of the 21 officers listed on his staff, 7 were Regulars. They included the Colonel of the 1st Cavalry (who surely had something better to do, like leading his regiment), 2 lieutenants of the 5th Cavalry, and a captain and 3 lieutenants of the 6th Cavalry. Additionally, there was a lieutenant colonel, a captain and a lieutenant from the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. To say the least, the Reserve Brigade was well-represented, composing half of his staff. No wonder the regular regiments were constantly short officers, as Pleasonton was hardly the only officer doing this.

Interestingly enough, he didn't have any officers from his own regiment (as much as it pains me to admit it, he was an officer in the 2nd Cavalry throughout the war) on his staff at this time. I wonder why....

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Skirmish at Funkstown

Today is the anniversary of the skirmish at Funkstown, Maryland between the 6th US Cavalry and the 7th Virginia Cavalry on July 7, 1863.

Thoroughly defeated at the battle of Fairfield a few days before, the 6th Cavalry consisted of about 200 troopers under the command of Captain Ira Claflin. Claflin had been serving as the regimental commisary prior to the disaster at Fairfield. With him was Lieutenant James F. Wade's squadron of Companies D and K, who had also missed the battle of Fairfield while serving at Cavalry Corps headquarters, as well as the remaining veterans of Fairfield.

The 6th Cavalry was dispatched on a reconnaissance along the Funkstown Road. On arriving in the vicinity of the town, they encountered elements of the 7th Virginia Cavalry, one of their foes from Fairfield. Captain Claflin drove in the enemy's pickets and deployed the regiment for battle, seeing his unit outnumbered by large numbers of the enemy in the town. He positioned himself with the advance guard about 150 yards in front of the main body of the regiment.

Two companies of the 7th Virginia were initially sent forward against the skirmishers of the 6th U.S., who fired a volley and then fell back upon their battleline. During this part of the engagement, Captain Claflin was wounded in the shoulder, and Second Lieutenant Nicholas Nolan of Company B assumed command as the senior remaining officer present. Ironically, he had rallied and retreated with the remnants of the regiment as the senior remaining officer at Fairfield.

The 7th Virginia then charged as a regiment, striking the 6th U.S. both on its front and on its right flank. Nolan describes the remainder of the action in his official report as follows.

"I immediately proceeded to the front, where my advance guard was posted, when I saw the enemy preparing to charge my command. I then made preparations to meet them, but, being overpowered by superior numbers, was forced to fall back; inflicting, however, great damage to the enemy in a running fight of 4 1/2 miles, my command losing 59 men in killed, wounded, and missing; 10 of the above men were brought in dead by the First U.S. Cavalry same afternoon."

The 7th Virginia maintained the pursuit until reaching the area occupied by Buford's 1st Cavalry Division, where they drew up and fired a volley. The volley was answered by a charge, and the 7th Virginia then withdrew at the double-quick, pursued by Union troopers. Buford's troopers gave up the chase when the 7th Virginia was joined by reinforcements from the 11th Virginia.

The actual losses of the 6th Cavalry were 85 killed, wounded and missing. Outnumbered and overwhelmed twice in four days, the remnants of the regiment participated in the battles at Boonsboro, Funkstown and Falling Waters. Interestingly enough, Lieutenant Nolan was appointed assistant inspector general of the Regular Reserve Brigade in brigade Special Order number 43 on August 11, 1863.

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes (many times this week, it seems), the best laid plans go awry. I'd planned a fantastic Civil War weekend this weekend that was to start yesterday with a visit to Harper's Ferry to look at the cavalry breakout during the Antietam campaign. It was to be followed with a visit to Gettysburg today, the opportunity to finally meet JD in person, and my first visit to the battlefield of Fairfield. Tomorrow was to be my first visit to the Antietam battlefield on the way home, for which Brian Downey had been good enough to provide tips on the best way to see it. I'd taken everything into account, even managing to find a hotel near Gettysburg on this busiest of weekends there.

What I didn't consider was my mount. On Thursday afternoon, my car died. Completely. Off it was towed to the dealership, who said they probably wouldn't be able to get to it until Monday. So ended the trip. I could have rented a car and drove up, but really hadn't budgeted for that this trip.

But there is an upside to this. The time that I would have spent on the road I can now spend on research. A friend loaned me a car and I will be able to get back to the Virginia Historical Society today for some manuscripts that I really wanted to take back to Colorado from this trip. And Gettysburg and Antietam will still be there when I come back at the end of the month.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gettysburg Collector's Show

I was speaking with one of the owners of Owens & Ramsey Historical Booksellers (an excellent bookstore, by the way) in Richmond yesterday when he mentioned the big collector's show up in Gettysburg this weekend. A brief check of the web shows it to be an annual event and a pretty big deal. Has anyone out there been to it, and if so, is it worth spending valuable battlefield stomping time on?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

6th Cavalry Information

I received a couple of comments over the last couple of weeks from a reader that I didn't notice until this evening. Moving and babies are somewhat plausible excuses, but I completely missed them.

Rich, if you'll email me (dccaughey AT aol DOT com), I'd be happy to steer you in the right direction for the muster rolls. I'd also love to hear more about your ancestor, as his book is one of my favorite accounts of the war.

A Visit to the VA Historical Society

I took a trip to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond on Saturday afternoon. It was a short trip, but one I'd put off for months for one reason or another. I'd learned that the manuscripts of Philip St George Cooke were housed in the reference library there, and hoped to find some good information for an upcoming Fiddler's Green entry.

I had no problems finding the place, as the directions listed on the website (and on Mapquest) were very clear and specific. A minor ($5) fee permits access to those who aren't VHS members. Within minutes of entering the library, I was briefed on the rules of the library and was seated at a table while one of the research librarians retrieved the manuscripts. The rules of the library are reasonable, and firmly oriented around preventing theft or damage to library materials. I found the staff extremely patient and helpful, particularly since they have to make all photocopies of manuscripts.

One tip for researchers: look through the library's excellent online catalog before your visit so that you know what you're looking for. I had printed off the call numbers and brief descriptions of the selections that I was looking for, which made things much easier for the staff and I. Consequently, the vast majority of my time was spent with the material instead of waiting for it. It is a closed circulation library, so no materials may be checked out.

The manuscripts were all that I'd hoped for and more. Much of the information will be featured here in future posts. I was surprised to learn that Cooke and Sherman exchanged several letters after the war, and that Cooke had closely followed Merritt's post-war career. It was particularly special as a former member of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment to see and touch the commission appointing Cooke Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Dragoons, signed by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and President James Buchanan. I was surprised to note that the presidential signatures on all of the commissions looked as though they were signed in pencil.

With my usual luck, last night as I was paging through my notes I found a notation on another set of manuscripts held in the same library that will be potentially be far more valuable to my research. Fortunately, there's still time for another visit later in the week. Given this last experience, I'm looking forward to it.