Monday, October 29, 2007

Bates letters - June 27, 1862

Camp Lincoln, Va
June 27th 1862

Dear Parents,

What a mysterious world this is, and what an amount of the world’s share attends this army. Yesterday at this time not a sound of any kind to show that a battle was on the stocks was to be heard. To-day it is very still also, yet within the last twenty four hours one of the hardest fights of the war has been done, and two thousand graves added to the valley of the Chickahominy.

Not half an hour after I finished my letter yesterday the cannonading commenced and kept up a steady roar until 9 Oclock. Then this morning it commenced again and for three hours it was tremendous. Now it has stopped again, but the troops are moving to the front and it will be “seven times hotter” before night. I haven’t time to write much as we get in the saddle ourselves at 12, but I think we will be able to spend fourth of July in Richmond.

I got two letters this morning, one from Johnson, one from Hi Mattoun. Tell Johnson to give my respects to Hi. I shall write as I can to him. That Phoenix bank bill I sent to you was sold given to me by “an intelligent contraband” for southern scrip. I didn’t know it was good but sent it anyway.
I must close for present.
I remain
Charles E. Bates

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fiddler's Green: Moses Harris

Thanks to Chris Swift for posting about Harris last week and bringing this post back to mind.

Moses Harris was born in Andover, New Hampshire on September 6, 1839. He enlisted in Company G, 1st Cavalry Regiment from New Hampshire in 1857, which became the 4th Cavalry Regiment in August 1861. He served in the company as a private, corporal and sergeant in the western theater until 1864.

He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry Regiment on May 18, 1864, and moved to the eastern theater to join his regiment. Harris was promoted to first lieutenant in the same regiment on August 15, 1864, assuming command of a company.

Two weeks later, during an engagement at Smithfield, West Virginia, Harris was serving as the second in command of the regiment’s reserve squadron under the command of a Captain Hoyer. The squadron of approximately 150 troopers was ordered to charge a Confederate cavalry brigade that had broken through the line. Captain Hoyer was mortally wounded during the approach, so Lieutenant Harris assumed command and ordered the charge in a column of fours. His squadron broke and routed the Confederate brigade. Harris was later awarded the Medal of Honor on January 23, 1896 “for most distinguished gallantry in action at Smithfield, West Virginia, August 28, a864, where in an attack on a largely superior force his personal gallantry was so conspicuous as to inspire the men to extraordinary effort resulting in the complete rout of the enemy.”

A month later, Lieutenant Harris was brevetted captain on September 19, 1864 “for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Winchester, Virginia.” His squadron had stubbornly resisted the advance of Confederate General Early’s troops after the VI Corps broke during the early phases of the battle.

Moses Harris remained in service after the war, and was promoted to captain in the 1st Cavalry on June 20, 1872. His post-war experiences were somewhat different than those of many of his peers.

On August 13, 1886, Captain Harris received an unusual order. He was ordered by General Sheridan himself to take his cavalry troop to Yellowstone National Park and assume command of the park from the departing civilian superintendent and his staff. He was charged to protect and administer the park. Elements of the cavalry remained in the park for the next 32 years.

Harris arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs on August 20 at the head of his column. Troop M, 1st Cavalry consisted of himself, two lieutenants, twenty enlisted men, 56 horses, 17 mules, three wagons, and an ambulance. His first order was to combat a wildfire burning nearby. His second was to begin the construction of Fort Sheridan (later renamed Fort Yellowstone) between Mammoth Hot Springs and the Gardiner River.

After his service in Yellowstone, Harris penned two articles for the Journal of the United States Cavalry Association that contain valuable information for Civil War cavalry researchers. With The Reserve Brigade, in 1890 and 1891, was a four part series that covered the service of the Reserve Brigade from July 1864 through Appomatox in detail. The Union Cavalry, published in 1892, is a shorter, more general work covering cavalry service during the entire war.

Moses Harris was promoted to major in the 8th Cavalry Regiment on July 22, 1892. He was retired at his own request on March 7, 1893.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Book Review: Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav

Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., by James Larson. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935.

I finally finished this book last night and enjoyed it very much. James Larson was an enlisted man in Company H, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment when the war broke out in 1861. He accompanied his regiment east from the frontier to the western theater, where he served for the duration of the war. The book was published by his daughter after his death in 1921 in a limited edition of only 300 copies.

This book is valuable for the insight it provides into service by the common cavalryman in the western theater during the war. Larson's modest, candid writing style makes it easy for the reader to visualize the incidents that he describes, without much of the hyperbole often found in first-person accounts of the war. I have posted a few of these over the last several weeks, and a few more will follow in the future.

Larson provides excellent accounts of the departure of resigning officers at the war's outbreak, details of the long march east to the fighting, service with Minty's brigade, the opening skirmishes of the battle of Chickamauga, the battle of Nashville, and Wilson's 1865 raid to Selma and Macon. His narrative provides an enlightening view of the war from the perspective of an enlisted cavalryman.

This work provides little insight into grand strategy or macro views of battles, as Larson didn't have those views of the fights in which he was engaged. He does an excellent job of staying within the purview of what he saw and heard. What limited speculation that he does make is clearly labelled as such.

Overall, I think this book adds to the body of knowledge on the war, despite the overabundance of books on the subject, and merits publication in a second, larger edition if such a thing could be arranged.

A Call for Assistance

I try not to venture off-topic too much, but I received this via the association newsletter today and posting it seemed appropriate. This is the same regiment whose alumni include John Buford, Wesley Merritt and many others, still on continuous active service since its formation in 1836. Regardless of one's feelings about the war, those families who lose loved ones will still need assistance.

The following was posted yesterday by Reunion Coordinator and Association Webmaster Chris Skylion:

News From Baghdad: 2d Cavalry is the"Hammer"

I am going to step out of my role as ReUnion Coordinator and speak to you as a former 2d Cavalry Officer and a veteran of the Vietnam conflict. Something I rarely if ever do.I recently wrote to you to provide access to the latest news from Baghdad. NEWS

Much of that news is about the courageous and audacious soldiers that are the quick reaction force in the middle of Baghdad, our 2d Cavalry. If you read that news you know that the price to the 2d Cavalry is the sad reality of numerous casualties amid the grizzly business of bushing the extremists out of the capital. I am writing to you this evening knowing that at this very moment our fellow Dragoons are on the bloody point of the spear. They are engaged in a battle that is the fiercest and deadliest form of warfare - urban, door to door combat. Your association is working hard to support, comfort and sadly memorialize the men and women of the 2d Cavalry. We need you to step up and help us do that. Please go to our registration website and donate to our general fund so that we will have the resources to support our brothers. I want you to give to our troops at least the cost of a dinner in your local restaurant - $25. With your support we can make a difference - please help us help them! Go to the ReUnion Registration Website now and scroll down to Donations. Give what you can and we will do the rest. Click on the following: Donate to Support Our Brothers!
Thank you in advance for your support.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mid-war Regular Reenlistments

I found this account of mid-war Regular Army reenlistments in the western theater and thought it worth sharing. I found it interesting that the time of the account that follows was late summer of 1864. In other words, in the middle of campaign season instead of during the winter break in major campaigns.

“Congress had, by this time, passed an act by which all soldiers who were enlisted in the regular army for a term of 5 years and had less than one year of that enlistment still to serve, could re-enlist for another term of three years, the remainder of the 5 year term to be cancelled and a furlough for 30 days would be granted at once. Besides this they could credit themselves to any of the loyal states and receive the state bounty.

“About 80 of us, all from the 4th Cavalry, took advantage of the offer and re-enlisted. There were some ten or fifteen more that could have done the same but they preferred to stay the 5 years out and then quit Uncle Sam. My object was not the bounty, but I needed some rest.” (James Larson, Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav., pg 269)

An officer set up a tent the following morning and wrote out the enlistment papers for those re-enlisting. After signing their new enlistments, the men turned in all of their government equipment before boarding a hospital train headed north.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

First CWRT Meeting

I went to my first Civil War Round Table meeting on Thursday night, and found it to be both very informative and very enjoyable. I joined the Rocky Mountain CWRT a couple of months ago when I moved back to Colorado from Virginia (where I very foolishly never experimented with CWRTs), but hadn't been able to make it up to Denver to meeting until last week.

There was nearly a full house for the meeting, I was pleased to see, some 35-40 people. I don't know if this is usual, but that seemed to be the case. I was welcomed by several people, and was pleased to see the meeting start on time.

After the preliminaries, the RMCWRT President, Mike Lang, gave a presentation on the battle of Antietam, followed by a documentary film that he made following the RMCWRT study group's trip to Antietam this year (for many great photos from this trip, check Nick's excellent Battlefield Wanderings at the top of the blog list to the left). Mike did a great job with the presentation, and the film appeared to my admittedly uneducated eye to be professional grade.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and I look forward with anticipation to next month's meeting.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Bates letters - June 22, 1862

Editor's note: In which we learn that the idea of enlisting negro soldiers in the Union Army was not initially popular in some quarters at this point in the war.

Camp Lincoln, Va
June 22nd, 1862

Dear Parents,

I will again try to write a few lines, but the heat makes it doubtful whether I can sit still long enough. It my be my fancy, but it seems hotter to me now than it did in Fort Cobb two years ago when the thermometer rose to 115 degrees in the shade. I know it aint (sic) so hot here but it seems hotter.

We have had no rain for several days and the roads are getting very dusty. The secesh profit by this as every movement of our troops is marked by clouds of dust, which makes it easy for them to annoy us with their conchology offerings. As a general thing the Rebels have the firing all to themselves but last night they “put their foot in it,” our shovels have about got their part in the siege “played out” and I am a false prophet if this week passes by without a grand battle. Perhaps before you receive this you will hear of battles lost or won in this part of the country.

I see that some amalgamating senator has introduced a bill to have niggers enlisted in the army. If such a thing is ever done, I can only say with Othello, “my occupation’s gone.” My worst wish for this officious senator is that he may be a private in some company where a sable son of Ethiopia is orderly sergeant, that’s all.

I have to succumb to the heat, or laziness, or both but shall write again soon. Give my love to all. I remain in health.

Your Affect. Son
Charles E. Bates

Delays Explained

My apologies for the dearth of posts over the last week. I've just started a new job that is quite a distance from my home, and things have been a bit hectic. I expect to return to normal posting frequency by the end of the week.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Regular Cavalry in the Civil War, A Partial Bibliography

Larry left a comment a few days ago asking about sources on the Civil War history of the Regular cavalry regiments. Although this is generally more in the parameter of some of the excellent blogs listed to the left, such a specific list is definitely applicable to this blog.

For general information on all the regiments, I highly recommend Stephen Z. Starr’s three volume The Union Cavalry in the Civil War. This remains in my mind the definitive comprehensive work on the subject, allowing other authors to focus on specific battles, campaigns, regiments, etc. It has just been released in a new paperback edition and is now readily available. Edward Longacre’s Lincoln’s Cavalrymen also provides general information on the 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th Cavalry regiments in passing. Eric Wittenberg’s excellent The Union Cavalry Comes of Age provides much more information on these regiments specifically focused on the first half of 1863. For the western theater, David Evans’ outstanding Sherman’s Horsemen provides information on the 4th Cavalry during the Atlanta campaign.

The list that follows is far from comprehensive, and seeks only to provide a few titles to introduce the reader to the experiences of a particular regiment. Magazine articles and letters are not listed in the interest of time and space. Except as noted, these titles are available through Amazon, Alibris and other sites.

1st Cavalry

Sanford, George B. Fighting Rebels and Redskins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. Offers good first person account of the first half of the war from the perspective of a company level officer. Sanford was often a staff officer during the second half of the war, and his insights there are educational as well.

Viola, Herman J., ed. The Memoirs of Charles Henry Veil. New York: Orion Books, 1993. Veil’s primary claim to fame was as the person who saved General John Reynolds’ body from capture during the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. He was subsequently appointed a lieutenant in the 1st US Cavalry at the family’s request to the Secretary of War, and joined the regiment in April 1864. His memoirs provide some insight into Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley campaign and the Appomattox campaign, both from the perspective of a regimental line officer and a brigade staff officer. Veil appears somewhat prone to embellishment, and some statements should be taken with a grain or three of salt.

2nd Cavalry

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade To Canyon With The Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Rodenbough was an officer of the regiment during the war, and even commanded it in a few engagements as a captain. The section of the book on the Civil War contains chapters by several different authors who served in the regiment during the war. Among them are Rodenbough, Leoser, Harrison and Wesley Merritt. An excellent picture of the regiment’s service from several different viewpoints. Even the service of the companies separated from the regiment during the first half of the war in the western theater are covered.

Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With The Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999. This work was commissioned by the regimental commander on the regiment’s 100 year anniversary in 1936. Lambert was then a major in the regiment, and it was compiled by him with the assistance of the Fort Riley librarian, who he married shortly after the manuscript’s completion. Of necessity a secondary source, Lambert did have access to all of the regimental records, and the work contains information I haven’t seen elsewhere. An appendix lists every officer assigned to the regiment during the period, listed by rank held and period of service. The second printing in 1999 was authorized and edited by the author’s three children. This may be a difficult work to find, I purchased my copy at the regimental museum shortly after its publication.

3rd Cavalry

I have yet to find a work covering this regiment specifically during the Civil War period.

4th Cavalry

Larson, James. Sergeant Larson, 4th Cav. San Antonio: Southern Literary Institute, 1935. An excellent and unvarnished account of the regiment’s service in the western theater during the war from a common soldier’s viewpoint. It was published by his daughter shortly before his death in a very limited run of 300 numbered copies. It will probably be necessary to order this work through InterLibrary Loan, as the copies I have seen for sale cost hundreds of dollars. It is well worth the effort to find a copy, however.

5th Cavalry

Arnold, James R. Jeff Davis’s Own. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000. The majority of the book focuses on the period between the regiment’s organization in 1855 and the outbreak of the Civil War, but Arnold does an excellent job of covering the regiment’s abrupt departure from Texas following the state’s secession and General Twiggs’ surrender.

Hunt, H. Draper, ed. Dearest Father, The Civil War Letters of Lt. Frank Dickerson, A Son of Belfast, Maine. Unity, Maine: North Country Press, 1992. Hunt is a University of Southern Maine professor who did a masterful job editing the 77 letters from a young lieutenant to his father during the war. Dickerson received his appointment in 1862, and served with the regiment through most of the war.

Price, George F. Across The Continent With The Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press, 1959. Another good regimental history, somewhat biased since it is written by an officer of the regiment. Price didn’t serve in the regiment during the war, but it’s apparent that he gathered a large amount of his information from veterans’ accounts following the war. The book has very good biographical sketches following the narrative history that encompass all of the officers assigned to the regiment in varying detail.

6th Cavalry

Carter, William H. From Yorktown To Santiago With The Sixth U.S. Cavalry. Austin: State House Press, 1989. Carter provides a very readable and entertaining history from the regiment’s creation at the outbreak of the Civil War through the Spanish American War. From a researcher’s standpoint, the book is very frustrating, as there are no footnotes and thus no means to tell where Carter found his information or verify it.

Davis, Sidney Morris. Common Soldier, Uncommon War. Baltimore: Port City Press, 1994. This is my favorite reference, though Larson’s work is a close second. Davis enlisted at the beginning of the war, so he provides a first person account of the initial organization and training of a cavalry regiment. He served in every engagement until the Gettysburg campaign, when he was captured. He also provides a detailed account of his imprisonment in Belle Isle. Davis’ tongue in cheek writing style provides a very detailed and entertaining account from the viewpoint of the common soldier.

Hopefully this provides a good starting point. Any comments on other sources are certainly welcome, as always. And if anyone knows how to get Blogger to underline, PLEASE let me know.