Monday, January 28, 2008

6th Cavalry - January 1862

The 6th Cavalry remained in camp and trained at Camp East of the Capitol throughout the month of January 1862. The regiment's assigned strength this month was 986 officers and enlisted men, 23 fewer than the previous month.

Of the 42 officers assigned, only 25 were listed as present for duty, including Assistant Surgeon J.H. Pooley. The regimental commander, Colonel David Hunter, was serving as a Major General of Volunteers, and didn't serve a day with "his" regiment during the war. Captain David McM. Gregg of Company E was absent in command of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Captain Brisbin of Company L was in Buffalo recruiting his company, with 1st Lt Henry Tucker also recruiting members for Company L in Cleveland. 2nd Lt Balk of Company D was on recruiting service in Philadelphia. Two officers, Major Williams and Captain Taylor of Company F, were absent serving on the staffs of general officers. Several were still serving in New Mexico and California with their previous commands and had not yet joined the regiment, and the remainder were sick.

The regiment had 944 enlisted men at the end of the month, but only 769 present for duty. A harsh winter was taking its toll, as 91 troopers were sick in the camp and an additional 12 were sick and absent in hospitals from Pittsburgh to Washington. This equates to a bit over 10% of those assigned. 42 were serving on extra duties away from the regiment, mostly as teamsters for the Quartermaster Department. 27 were in arrest or confinement, and three were on leave.

Ten new recruits joined the regiment from rendezvous during the month, but five were rejected for disability. Nine additional privates were discharged for disability. One private, Patrick McCloskey of Company C, was discharged by order of the A.G.O. on January 24, 1862.

Fifteen men deserted from the regiment this month. One sergeant, Thomas E. Mitchell of Company I, deserted in Washington on January 27th. The other fourteen were all privates and all deserted from camp. Company A had the most with four, C, I, K and M all had 2, and B, F and G each had one.

Six privates died of disease in camp during the month, the regiment's only fatalities. Michael Conway of Company F died on January 1st, Thomas C. Dill of Company E on the 3rd, Sebastian Schaffer of Company F on the 13th, and Benjamin Fowler of Company K on the 16th. Warner E, Bradish of Company C and I.M. Baxter of Company K both died on January 31st.

The regiment was a bit short of horseflesh, with only 858 serviceable horses and 49 unserviceable. The majority of the unserviceable horses belonged to Companies F (13), G (10) and I (11).

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Detachment Returns, 5th Cavalry, August 1861

I stumbled across these returns today while looking for something else, but found them interesting enough to post about. This is the "other" detachment of the 5th (2nd before August 10th) Cavalry, not the one that fought at First Bull Run. If memory serves correctly, they were still serving with Patterson's forces at the time of the return. This was the second group of four companies of this regiment to remount, refit and return to the field following their hasty exodus from Texas, so I found this snapshot interesting.

Detachment commander Captain Charles J. Whiting field the return for his detachment, consisting of Companies A, C, F and K. Of the 295 personnel assigned to the four companies, 209 were present for duty.

Only seven of the twelve assigned officers were present for duty. Captain Whiting commanded Company K and the detachment. Captain Richard W. Johnson commanded Company F, and Captain William B. Royall Company C. First Lieutenant J.J. Sweet of Company K was temporarily attached to and in command of Company A. Second Lieutenant John B. McIntosh of Company F served as the detachment's acting assistant quartermaster and acting assistant commissary. Second Lieutenant Thomas B. Anderson served with his assigned Company C.

Captain McArthur of Company A had been absent without leave since August 25th at the (unstated) time of the return. Four lieutenants were on detached service, one per company. Two of these hadn't yet joined their new companies after being promoted. One was newly appointed from enlisted service and hadn't yet joined the regiment. The last, First Lieutenant Wesley Owens, was teaching at West Point. An assistant surgeon, Robert F. Weir, was assigned to the detachment as well.

Tracking the enlisted men was slightly more difficult. Detachment returns aren't quite as detailed as regimental returns, and it appears Captain Whiting used an older form that was out of date but likely the only one available. A bit more searching and a little math revealed the whereabouts of the missing 81 troopers. 33 were on detached service and 18 were on extra duty away from their companies, the returns don't say where. A total of 21 were sick and 6 were in arrest or confinement. The last three were on leave.

The detachment was fully equipped with decent horseflesh, if short on personnel. Each company had more serviceable horses than troopers to ride them. Only four unserviceable horses were reported of the 313 present.

The futures of the officers present contain a few interesting facts. Captain Whiting would command the regiment during its costly charge at Gaines Mill on the Peninsula the following year. Captain Johnson was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers and distinguished himself as a division commander at Stones River, Chattanooga and Nashville. Captain Royall was a brevet colonel by war's end and eventually commanded the 4th US Cavalry in 1882. Captain Joseph McArthur's absence without leave was actually his duty assisting in raising the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry. He achieved the rank of major before being retired for disability in November 1863. Lieutenant John B. McIntosh commanded a division in the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac later in the war.

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

Friday, January 18, 2008

Bates Letters - January 26, 2863

Note: In which we learn about desertions and methods of crossing the Potomac for deserters in the wintertime. I checked for William Gallemoreon on CWSS, but couldn't find any information on him.

Port Tobacco, Md.
Jany 26th 1863
Dear Parents,

I have been so busy since I wrote last Wednesday that writing was out of the question, but if my time has been occupied by duty and mud is in abundance. I have had fun enough to make me amends for everything. Our duty is to scout the country between Great Mills and Piscataway Creek to catch deserters from the other side of the Potomac and stop Smugling (sic). The Smuglers have so perfect an organization that as yet we have only caught one, but judging from the deserters we catch I should say the Army of the Potomac was rather demoralized. We have got two hundred and nine deserters since we came over last Wednesday. They come over every night, some on logs, some on rafts and a few lucky ones have managed to appropriate some of Uncle Sam’s boats and get over in them. There is a suspicion that some of the ferry-boats in Government employ bring loads of them over but as yet we have no proof. And “still they come.” One of our men “surrounded” seven of them in one party last night and marched them into camp. Pretty well done for one man want (sic) it. I think of recommending him for a commission. We are having good weather now but it did rain awful last week and the roads are in good condition for a bootjack.

I forgot to mention in my last that William Gattemore is in the 2nd Cavalry band at General Burnsides, a leter directed to him at “Headquarters Army of the Potomac Washington DC” would reach him.

Given in my last will most likely will be delayed for a short time on account of the mud but it will be true in the course of time. As for our part in the capacity of Body-guard, we can say with Othello, “Our occupation is gone.” The company must have done something wrong while I was away or perhaps Burnside thinks so much of us , he is unwilling to take us into danger; well we are quite willing to be left behind.

We only get a mail every other day and all the army news we get from deserters, so you will have to trust to the papers for news. And here let me recommend the New York Herald for your news budget.

You will please to remember me to all friends. Give my love to all the family and I take my leave for a few days, as

Your Affectionate Son,
Charles E. Bates

P.S. There is no use in writing for a few days I don’t know where I may be when you get this, as soon as we get settled I shall let you know.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Introducing the 6th US Cavalry, Part II

Regimental Orders No. 1 was issued on August 15, 1861. It assigned officers to companies and directed that recruiting begin immediately in Pennsylvania, Ohio and western New York. Camp Scott was organized on the outskirts of Pittsburgh for the new regiment. On September 12th, the regiment moved its camp to Bladensburg, Maryland, where it received its mounts over the following month. On October 12th, it moved to its camp of instruction, known as Camp East of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C., where it remained until the beginning of the Peninsula campaign.

Companies B, D, E, F, G, H, I and K had been organized by the time the regiment reached Washington. Company B was recruited in Pittsburgh. Company D was recruited in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Company E was recruited elsewhere in Pennsylvania. Company F was recruited in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Company G was recruited in Pittsburgh, and Company H in Philadelphia. Company I was wholly recruited in Rochester, New York, and Company K in Rochester and Columbus.

On October 15th, Lieutenant Frederick Dodge arrived from Philadelphia with enough recruits for Company A, which was organized on that date. Company M, also recruited in Pittsburgh, and the regimental band were organized on November 1st. Company C wasn’t organized until December 23rd, due to the absence of all of its assigned officers. Company L, recruited in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, was organized later and didn’t join the regiment until the following summer.

Training progressed quickly, with daily drills conducted at the squadron and regimental level by the end of October. Supplies and equipment were an issue throughout the fall, even such common items as uniform pants. The regiment was initially armed only with sabers and pistols according to the plan. The designated “flank squadron,” Companies B and H, were to be equipped with carbines, but didn’t receive them until the following February.

In addition to the daily drills, the regiment also built its own camp of instruction. When they arrived, “Camp East of the Capitol” was simply an open field near the river. By year’s end, the regiment was ensconced in quarters and stables of their own construction.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Introducing the 6th US Cavalry, Part I

Since readers will be seeing a lot on these folks this year, it seemed appropriate to have something of an introduction to the regiment before we start following them through 1862. Their annual return for 1861 was posted last month, so these next few posts will trace the creation of the regiment and the assignment of its initial officers up to the beginning of 1862.

The 6th US Cavalry was a unique regiment during the Civil War for many reasons. It was the only cavalry regiment added to the regular army during the war. The selection of its officers was conducted differently than that of its sister regiments when they were created. The largest of the regular cavalry regiments when active campaigning started in 1862, it was the smallest at war's end, with only 2 officers and 62 enlisted men present for duty on the April 1865 muster rolls.

On May 3, 1861, President Lincoln issued a proclamation which directed the addition to the regular army of one regiment of cavalry, one of artillery, and eight of infantry. The following day, the Adjutant General's Office issued General Order No. 16, which laid out the plan of organization for the new regiments.

According to the plan, the new cavalry regiment would be organized into three battalions. Each battalion would be composed of two squadrons of two companies each. Thus the new regiment would would 12 companies, designated A through M, two more than the existing regiments.

The same order also provided that two-thirds of the company officers (captains and lieutenants) should be appointed in the same manner as other new regiments in the regular army, and the remaining third would be taken from noncommissioned officers already in the army. These sergeants would be recommended by the colonel of the regiment, and approved by the general commanding the brigade in which the regiment was serving.

Previously, company officers for new regiments were appointed nearly evenly from already serving officers and civilians. This new provision enabled the regiment to initially develop more quickly and train more effectively than other new cavalry regiments. The 6th Cavalry began its existence with a number of lieutenants across the regiment already thoroughly trained in company-level drill and administration, as well as active campaigning experience, something other new cavalry regiments sorely lacked during the first months of their existence.

The Adjutant General's Office announced the organization of the Third Regiment of Cavalry in General Order No. 33, on June 18, 1861. It joined five other mounted regiments: the 1st and 2nd Dragoons, the Regiment of Mounted Rifles, and the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Regiments, in order of seniority. This order also listed the initial contingent of assigned officers and directed the regiment's colonel to assign the officers to battalions and companies. Recruiting was directed to commence at once, from the regiment's assigned headquarters of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

On August 3, 1861, in an attempt to simplify regimental designations, Congress ordered that the six mounted regiments would all henceforth be designated as cavalry, and renumbered in order of seniority. The 3rd Cavalry, as the most junior regiment, became the 6th US Cavalry.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Andrew Olmsted update

I'm still receiving hundreds of hits from people seeking more information about Andrew Olmsted's death. More information on exactly what happened was released this morning, and can be found here.

Thank you to those who have expressed their condolences, both publicly and privately.

Regular posting will resume here on Thursday.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Devastating Loss

The world is a little darker place today, as one of the best people that I have ever known is no longer in it.

Major Andrew Olmsted was killed by small arms fire in an ambush while leading his Mobile Training Team in Diyala province, Iraq on Thursday. He was one of my best friends.

In accordance with his last wishes and my own inclinations, there will be no political commentary here. It would be inappropriate. I simply want to take a few minutes and utilize my forum to remember my friend.

I wish I could post something worthy of the man and his life, but I lack his eloquence. As he would smile and point out, however, it is what it is.

Andy was quite simply one of the best people that I've ever met. We met just before OIF started, commanding companies in the same battalion at Fort Carson. He was one of those people that no one disliked --- pleasant, funny, self-effacing. He was a great leader because when at work two things were uppermost in his mind at all times, determination to do his job well and to take care of his folks while he was doing it. Even to the point of growing a mustache that he absolutely detested because he read that Iraqi men were suspicious of men without facial hair and thought it might interfere with his ability to help them. Such was Andy the soldier.

But Andy the human being was so much more. He was a writer. He wanted to be a professional writer, and he was well on his way. He was one of the most prolific and dedicated blog writers that I've known. He had to stop his personal blog in February when he went back on active duty. He posted under a pseudonym for a couple of months, as not blogging was bugging him. Since last May, he'd been writing a blog with the Army's permission on his experiences in Iraq for the Rocky Mountain News (the blog link is here). He was quite good at it, and getting noticeably better over time.

It is ironic that Andy was killed on the day of the Iowa Caucuses, because he loved politics. Not in any kind of rabid or obnoxious way, but through well-reasoned discussion. His countless blog posts illustrate this far better than I could. While I didn't always agree with him, I could never deny the logic of his thought process. I was really looking forward to hearing his insights on the races as they progressed.

Andy and his wife loved Disney World, and visited at least once every year. This was the dedicated Red Sox fan since childhood who finally got to see his team win the World Series. I'd say twice, but he was too busy to be able to catch all of the games this year. He was absolutely dedicated to his wife, and it was obvious to any observer that they were extremely close and very much in love.

As I thought back on it last night after I heard the news, I kept thinking how often Andy was around or had input on significant happenings in my life the last few years. Andy was the guy who helped me craft the strategy for the marriage proposal to my wife during our many drives from El Paso to Colorado Springs. The same drives that sparked what we jokingly referred to as "The Don and Andy Show." He had a wonderful, droll sense of humor, and we'd spend hours poking fun at each other. And Andy, should you somehow be able to see this, Gina finally admitted last night that we WERE funny...sometimes.

When we discovered in the middle of a deployment to Louisiana that I'd been promoted three days before, Andy was the guy who happily renewed my oath and pinned on my oak leaf. He and Amanda flew back east because he'd never been to Gettysburg, and we spent two days touring the battlefield. He and his wife attended our wedding, and they came to our welcome home party that unexpectedly became a party celebrating the birth of our son just before he deployed. It was the last time that I saw him.

He was always there, always positive, always supportive. He would gently point out errors in logic or provide advice, always available yet never pushy. He was, quite simply, an excellent friend.

As one who knew him might expect, Andy of course managed to have the calm, well-reasoned and eloquent last word. The link to his final blog post, left with a friend before he deployed, is linked here. I confess to not being in the most objective state of mind at the moment, but I was touched by its eloquence.

His words concerning his won death speak for themselves: "On a similar note, while you're free to think whatever you like about my life and death, if you think I wasted my life, I'll tell you you're wrong. We're all going to die of something. I died doing a job I loved. When your time comes, I hope you are as fortunate as I was."

Fare thee well, my friend. You will be sorely missed.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

New resource

I found another resource for gathering information on soldiers yesterday. It's been around a while, but it's new to me.

Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in the War for the Suppression of the Rebellion, 1861-1865, by Samuel M. Evans, lists all of the army and navy volunteers from Allegheny County who fought in the Civil War. Entries include name, rank, company, regiment, type of service, and which tablet number the individual is listed on in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh.

It is available here through the University of Pittsburgh Digital Research Library. It is based on a printed work of the same title published in Pittsburgh in 1924.

There's some great information here. Much to my delight, I've found lists of three companies from the 6th US Cavalry, as well as discovering that scores of the members of the 1st MD Cav, 1st and 5th WV Cav, and 70th NY Inf were in fact Pennsylvanians.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2008: A Way Ahead

No, sorry, no deep, emotional reflections on the year past. I just wanted to take a few minutes after having a week or so to review 'the state of the blog,' and look at where I'd like to see it go in 2008.

2007 was very enlightening, as I started on this new project with very little preparation. I think it's been reasonably successful thus far, though there's definitely room for improvement. Thanks to Eric Wittenberg, J.D. Petruzzi, Brian Downey, Drew Wagenhoffer and a host of others who have provided tips, comments and other support, both publicly and privately. Special thanks to those family members who have been gracious enough to send information on your ancestors. It was greatly appreciated, and hopefully I did them and you justice with my posts.

I ended the year with 176 posts and 7,543 visits. I must conclude I did something right, because at least a few of you keep coming back. 8^) I would like to get the visits up from 25-30 per day, and the best way that I can think of is to improve the content.

I decided over the holidays that I'd like to be a little more deliberate in my approach to the blog in 2008, for my own piece of mind with a very busy schedule and also in hopes of gaining and retaining readers. So in addition to the topics that just seem to pop up, there will be some planned offerings as well.

The Fiddler's Green series will continue. They have been the most popular posts on this blog by far, and they're a lot of fun to research and write. I may implement the "three day rule," however, since almost without exception new material pops up within that period no matter how diligent my research has been. I'll finish the officers of the 6th Cavalry this year, as well as some others at random. I haven't yet decided which regiment will be next, most likely the 2nd or the 4th.

The Charles E. Bates series of letters will continue. There are ten letters for 1863 and a few others for 1864, so that project will definitely finish this year.

A new series will begin this month following one of the regular cavalry regiments through each month of a year of the war, primarily via theirregimental muster rolls. 2008 will feature the 6th U.S. Cavalry in 1862. I'll introduce the regiment in a few days, and then begin following their activities in January 1862. I'm also doing this as a forcing function to make myself thoroughly review the binders of material that have somehow accumulated over the last year or so.

I plan to do more exploring of the western theater of the war this year, particularly with the 4th Cavalry, but also with the 3rd. I lacked the references to do so effective;y last year, but my library has made some serious strides in that direction over the last few months.

I also hope to investigate the summer of 1864 and how it affected the Regular Brigade. This was a critical time for the regiments, and saw their strength numbers plummet due to expiring enlistments. This seriously limited their contributions through the remainder of the war.

The Harpers Ferry and First Bull Run projects continue, and will hopefully also wrap up soon.

Hopefully this year will bring more interesting and more engaging posts. Together we'll find out. Thank you as always for stopping by, and I'll see you on the high ground.

Happy New Year

From my family to all of my readers and theirs, we send best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2008. 2007 was a really good year, and we look forward to many improvements this year.