Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fiddler's Green: Samuel M. Whitside

Samuel Whitside was another 6th Cavalry alumnus who progressed from private to general over the course of his career. In the interest of brevity, I have focused this account primarily on his Civil War service. For those interested in learning more about Whitside, I would strongly recommend Samuel Russell’s thesis in the reference section.

Samuel Marmaduke Whitside was born on January 9, 1839 in Toronto, Canada, and grew up in that area. The family later moved to New York, where he attended Careyville Academy and worked briefly as a bookkeeper.

He enlisted into the General Mounted Service on November 10, 1858 at age 19. In the army at this time, there were enlisted positions available in the mounted service outside of the regiments, primarily at the cavalry training school at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He served for three years at Carlisle Barracks, attaining the rank of corporal. His duties there included caring for cavalry mounts and instructing recruits in basic riding and weapons skills before they were assigned to mounted regiments.

Corporal Whitside was assigned to the newly-forming 3rd U.S. Cavalry on July 27, 1861 to fill a vacant noncommissioned officer position. He apparently excelled in his new assignment, as he was promoted to sergeant major of the regiment on August 1 at the tender age of 22. Three months later he was offered a commission, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry on November 4, 1861. He was initially assigned to Company K, where his commander was captain (later brigadier general) Charles Russell Lowell. Among his soldiers in Company K was one Adna R. Chaffee, a future Chief of Staff of the Army.

Lieutenant Whitside helped train his company, and served with it throughout the Peninsula campaign. He was commended for his conduct during a skirmish at Slatersville on May 9th, his second engagement. He fought with his company in all of the regiment’s engagements on the Peninsula, including Malvern Hill, which was to be the last time that he led troops into battle during the war. Following Malvern Hill, he served briefly on the staff of General McClellan as an aide de camp before becoming ill. While the nature of his illness isn’t known, he was on sick leave for more than a month before reporting to General Banks in Washington, D.C.

In September 1862 he was assigned to the staff of Brigadier General Nathaniel P. Banks as an aide de camp, the junior of seven assigned to that position. Shortly thereafter Banks was assigned to the command of the Department of the Gulf, and moved with his staff to Louisiana. Whitside served in the operations before Port Hudson and during the Red River Campaign in Louisiana in 1863. He again became ill and was reassigned to the Military District of Washington on July 2, 1863.

Due to his illness, Whitside was assigned to light duty as an aide de camp to General Martindale, commander of the Military District of Washington. His condition worsened, and he was declared unfit for duty on October 5, 1863. Whitside refused to accept a medical discharge, however, and eventually fully returned to duty. A month later, on November 10th, he was diagnosed with smallpox, and placed on sick leave from November 14, 1863 to January 26, 1864. While he was able to return to duty in January, the fact that he was once again assigned as an aide and did not return to his regiment likely indicates that he was not yet fully recovered.

Whitside was promoted to first lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry on January 25, 1864. He was assigned as an aide de camp to Major General Alfred Pleasonton the following day, four days after he was relieved of command of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac. Pleasonton was reinstated on February 12th, and Whitside continued to serve as his aide until March 11th, when he was again assigned to Washington D.C for medical treatment. He was subsequently reassigned in April 1864 as a mustering and disbursing officer in Providence, Rhode Island, where he served until February 1865.

He was brevetted captain and major, regular army, for faithful and meritorious service during the war on March 13, 1865. Following the surrender at Appomattox, he served as the Chief Commissary of Musters, Army of the Shenandoah, overseeing the mustering out of over 30,000 men.

Whitside returned to service with the 6th Cavalry in Maryland in September 1865, where he was assigned to Company A. He was promoted to captain and command of Company B on October 20, 1866. Samuel Whitside married Carrie McGavock on November 24, 1868, in Bejar County, Texas.

Whitside served for the next twenty years with the regiment on the frontier, including stints in Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and the Arizona and Dakota Territories. He founded the post of Fort Huachuca, Arizona Territory in March of 1877, and served as the post commander until 1881. Today Fort Huachuca is the home of the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Center and School.

After almost twenty four years with the 6th Cavalry, Whitside was promoted to major in the 7th Cavalry on March 20, 1885. He served with the regiment in the Dakota Territory until 1887, when the regiment moved to Fort Riley, Kansas. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the 3rd Cavalry on July 17, 1895, and transferred to the 5th Cavalry on October 15th of the same year. He was promoted to the colonelcy of the 10th Cavalry Regiment on October 16, 1898.

Colonel Whitside was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on January 3, 1901, during the Spanish-American war. He was honorably discharged from volunteer service six months later, on June 20th.

He was promoted to brigadier general in the regular army on May 29, 1902, and retired at his own request eleven days later on June 9, 1902.

Samuel Whitside died in Washington D.C. on December 14, 1904, on his way home following a congressional inspection of the proposed route for the Panama Canal. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.


Carter, W. W., From Yorktown to Santiago with the 6th U.S. Cavalry (Baltimore, the Lord Baltimore Press, 1900).

Coffman, Edward M. The Old Army: A Portrait of the American Army in Peacetime, 1784-1898 (New York: Oxford University press, 1986).

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 1031.

Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publsihing, 1873), pg 219.

Russell, Major Samuel L., “Selfless Service: The Cavalry Career of Brigadier General Samuel M. Whitside from 1858 to 1902.” MMAS Thesis, Fort Leavenworth: U.S. Command and General Staff College, 2002.

6th US Cavalry Muster Rolls, NARA

1 comment:

Don said...

In answer to a private inquiry: Yes, I intentionally did not mention Wounded Knee or his activities during the Spanish-American War. In my opinion it detracts from the focus of the blog post unless there's an angle that I'm trying to highlight. Had I not already posted on General Chaffee, I probably would have addressed them.