Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fiddler's Green: Albert Coats

Albert Coats is one of those folks who remains largely a mystery other than his wartime service. Born in Ohio, he enlisted in the 1st U.S. Cavalry on December 8, 1856. He served in Company C as a private, corporal and sergeant.

Although appointed as a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 26, 1861, Coats wasn’t notified until November 7th. He joined his new regiment at camp East of the Capitol, Washington on November 20th, and was assigned to Company E. His commander was Captain David McM. Gregg, and his first lieutenant was Benjamin T. Hutchins. Lieutenant Coats served with his company through the winter and the movement to the Peninsula. He was with his company at Ship Point, Virginia in March 1862 when promotions suddenly greatly affected the leadership of the regiment.

Lieutenant Colonel William H. Emory, the de facto regimental commander since the unit’s creation, was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on March 27th. Assigned command of a new formation, First Brigade, Cavalry Reserve, Emory needed to form a staff. He began his appointments the following day. Among the first of them was to make Lieutenant Joseph Audenried, the regimental adjutant, his assistant adjutant general. Major Williams assumed command of the regiment, and Second Lieutenant Coats was selected to replace Audenried for more information on Joseph Audenried, check the entry at Behind Antietam on the Web here).

After two months as the adjutant, Coats had a brief reprieve in June 1862. He returned to command Company E for a month while Lieutenant Hutchins was absent sick. Captain Gregg had moved on to command of the 8th Pennsylvania cavalry in the interim. He was reassigned as the regimental adjutant on July 21, 1862, a position he held until the following summer. As the adjutant, Coats was the recruitment officer sent to Knoxville, Maryland in October and November 1862 to recruit additional troops from volunteer units. Judging from the numbers, he was apparently very successful. He was promoted to first lieutenant in the 6th Cavalry on December 23, 1862.

On May 17, 1863, First Lieutenant Coats was transferred to Company D. He served on detached service with his company and Company K at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the majority of the Gettysburg campaign. After a brief stint commanding the regiment after the disasters at Fairfield and Funkstown, First Lieutenant Coats commanded Company D for most of the remainder of the war.

Coats was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 6th U.S. Colored Cavalry on January 15, 1865. The regiment’s colonel, James F. Wade, was a fellow 6th U.S. Cavalry lieutenant. Coats finished the war this, his third unit of the war.

Lieutenant Coats was brevetted captain, major and lieutenant colonel on March 13, 1865 for gallant and meritorious service during the war. He resigned from volunteer service on January 15, 1866, and from regular service ten days later. At that point he fades off into obscurity, and I’ve been unable to find any additional information.


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

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 292.

Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume II (New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873), pg 254.

Muster Rolls, 6th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Fine Horseflesh

I was reading a New York Times article published on October 20, 1861 last night when I came across this reference to the 6th US Cavalry. The article, written on October 13th, explained how horses were bought and cared for by the army in the vicinity of Washington. I found it interesting enough that I may post other excerpts from it.

The gentlemen the author refers to for inspecting horses are Mr. John Raymond of Pennsylvania and Assistant Quartermaster Rucker. The 6th US Cavalry was under command of Lieutenant Colonel William H. Emory at the time of this article. First Lieutenant Hancock T. McLean was second in command of one of the 6th's companies at this time. parentheses and misspellings are the original author's.

"Under the keen supervision of these competent and experienced gentlemen no unsound or deficient horses can be mustered in; and with proper after-care, our cavalry may be depended upon , as of as good an average as any in military service in the world. The whole six thousand, at the the review of Tuesday, looked exceedingly well; but the finest mount of all was that of the regiment of Col. EMERY. I had the pleasure of paying a visit to his camp at Bladensburgh, on Sunday last, and of examining his whole string carefully. I also had the pleasure, after testing his hospitality, of seeing a six-year-old chestnut gelding by Glencoe, out of a Woodpecker mare, who bore upon his crest the triumph of having beaten a field of six, in his two year form at Lexington. He was owned and ridden by Capt. MCLEAN, (nephew of Judge MCLEAN, of Kentucky,) and looked the picture of courage, pride and breeding. he is, by long odds, the finest horse I have seen in Washington, and at a proper opportunity I shall refer to him again."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Of Flags and Dragoons

Not quite Civil War vintage, but there's been a definite lack of color and pictures lately so I decided to mix it up a little. There's still a Civil War tie-in, of course. The 2nd U.S. Cavalry, currently designated as the 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, has been on continuous active service since 1836, and has a distinguished Civil War history. One of the great things about cavalry units specifically and army units in general is that traditions endure. Despite the redesignations in August 1861, for example, the regiment is still referred to internally as the Second Dragoons.

Versions of this flag have flown over regimental headquarters, wherever in the world that might be, for as far back as anyone that I've contacted can remember. While probably not historically accurate in design (see the excellent flag and guidon post over at Hoofbeats and Cold Steel that JD Petruzzi and Mike Nugent put together some months ago), it's a tradition that endures. This particular picture shows the flag being raised on September 13th of last year as the regiment settled in Baghdad for its second tour in Iraq.

There's just someting warming about seeing red and white cloth....

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How Do You Determine "Best"?

A new friend recently observed to me that he thought the 4th US Cavalry was the best regular cavalry regiment in the Civil War, then offered proof to support his position. I must admit that I initially dismissed the idea, not because of which regiment it was or because he didn't make his case, but from the idea that any of them could be the best. Then I started thinking, and it all went downhill from there.

Is there a way to determine which one was best? There is, of course, no way to prove so definitively, but how strong of a case can be made for a given regiment? In order to do so, there have to be some measurable criteria used to evaluate each regiment. Things specific to each regiment, yet common to all. The purpose of this entry is to attempt to determine what those criteria might be, then to apply them over the next several posts.

Initially, I think the following criteria could be used. Which ones should be used is open for discussion, and if anyone can think of any others, I'm certainly interested in hearing your opinion.

1. Number of engagements. They should come from one source for all of the regiments, so Dyer's Compendium appears to be a good source. We may need an additional qualification of 'engagements' here, though. The 4th, for example, would get credit for all of the Peninsula campaign, when all the companies did was serve as McClellan's HQ escort. The same would be true for the 6th during Trevillian Station and other 1864 battles.

2. Casualties. This is a little tricky, as an argument could be made that lots of casualties don't indicate good leadership. I think for our purposes here, however, we can use them as an indicator of the quantity and difficulty of a regiment's campaigning during the war. Fox is probably as good a common source as any.

3. Number of general officers selected from the regiment. This one also could be problematical, as once the officers were promoted, the were no longer serving with the regiment. An argument could be made that it indicated the quality of a regiment's leadership.

4. Number of volunteer regiment commanders selected from the regiment. Same argument as above.

What other criteria can we use? This is simply an initial lsit, but I'd like to try to soldify it by Friday. I'm not sure if the 4th Cavalry is at an advantage or disadvantage by serving out west away from most of the other regiments. By any criteria, I don't think the 3rd Cavalry can win, but we'll see. It may turn out that we're comparing apples and oranges, but it'll be an interesting mental exercise.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Fiddler's Green - Joseph H. Taylor

Joseph Hancock Taylor was born on January 26, 1836, in Kentucky. His father was Joseph P. Taylor, Commisary General of Subsistence for the U.S. Army during the Civil War. His uncle was President Zachary Taylor, his father’s brother. With such illustrious forebearers it was doubtless no surprise when he was appointed to West Point from Maryland in 1852. He graduated 31st in the class on 1856.

Upon graduation, Taylor was assigned as a brevet second lieutenant to the 1st U.S. Cavalry on July 1, 1856, but didn’t immediately join his regiment. He served at the Cavalry School for Practice, Carlisle, Pennsylvania from 1856 to 1857. He was promoted to Second Lieutenant in the 1st Cavalry while at Carlisle on January 16, 1857. He joined his regiment later in what would be a very busy year for both he and the regiment. After quelling Kansas disturbances and escorting the commissioner for running the southern boundary of Kansas, he spent the remainder of the year conducting other scouting from Fort Leavenworth. By the end of the year, the regiment was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas.

The remaining years before the outbreak of the Civil War were spent crisscrossing the frontier. Taylor participated in the Utah expedition in 1858, returning to first Fort Leavenworth, then Fort Riley later in the year. 1859 brought a march to the Arkansas River. Taylor’s 1860 began with a march conducting recruits to Texas, then expeditions against Kiowa and Comanche Indians. He was engaged near Bent’s Fort, Colorado on July 11, 1860 with his company. They remained in the vicinity after the skirmish, one of the four companies who constructed and dwelt in Fort Wise, Colorado under Major John Sedgwick that winter.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Taylor’s company was one of those immediately ordered east. They marched first to Leavenworth, then to Washington. Taylor was promoted to First Lieutenant in his regiment on April 22, 1861.

Three weeks later he was promoted again, this time to Captain in the newly-forming 3rd U.S. Cavalry on May 14, 1861. The regiment was redesignated the 6th U.S. Cavalry on August 3rd, and he took command of Company F on August 22, 1861. He remained with the company through their training and marches to first Bladensburg, Maryland and then Camp East of the Capitol, Washington.

One of the privates in his company, Sidney Morris Davis, left his impression of his first commanding officer in his memoirs. He described Captain Taylor as “a small-waisted, slightly built, cross-looking man, with a voice that astonished us --- so fierce, and sounding so like the yelp of a bull-dog when he gave us orders on drill. Although our first impression of Captain Taylor was not assuring, yet time showed he was one of the kindest officers in the service.”

Taylor remained with the regiment until late November, 1861. He left his company on November 27, 1861 to serve as an acting assistant Adjutant General for General Edwin V. Sumner’s Division. This assignment isn’t too surprising when one considers that Sumner had been his regimental commander in the 1st Cavalry. He remained on General Sumner’s staff until March 14, 1862, when he was assigned as the acting assistant Adjutant General of the Second Corps, Army of the Potomac. He served with the Second Corps in this role throughout the Peninsula battles, earning a brevet to Major of volunteers on June 1, 1862 for gallant and meritorious service in the battle of Fair Oaks.

After a month’s sick leave of absence from June 24th to July 24th, he returned to his position with the Second Corps. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Staff, of Volunteers on August 20, 1862, and earned a brevet to Lieutenant Colonel, U.S.A., on September 17, 1862 for gallant and meritorious service in battle of Antietam. He remained with Second Corps until November 1862, when he was assigned as the assistant Adjutant General for the Right Grand Division. After the battle of Fredericksburg, he returned to the cavalry, albeit still as a staff officer.
He served as the Assistant Inspector General of Cavalry during Stoneman’s Raid, from April 29 to May 8, 1863. Following the raid, he was reassigned as an assistant Adjutant General for the Department of Washington on June 1, 1863, where he served the remainder of the war.

Joseph Taylor married Mary Montgomery Meigs, the daughter of Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs, in Washington on March 30, 1864. He received a brevet to Colonel of Volunteers on March 3, 1865 for faithful and meritorious service during the war March 3, 1865. Interestingly, he was wasn’t one of the many who received brevet promotions on March 13, 1865. Taylor was promoted to Major, Staff, Assistant Adjutant General, Regular Army on March 30, 1866. He was breveted Colonel, U.S. Army August 13, 1866 for faithful and meritorious service during the war.

On May 24, 1869, Major Taylor left Washington at last, serving as the Assistant Adjutant General (AAG), Department of the South, until December 6, 1873. He then served as the AAG, Department of Texas (January 30, 1874 to February 4, 1878), the AAG, Department of the East (February 11, 1878 to March 31, 1879), the AAG, Department of the South (April 1, 1879 to September 1, 1882), and the AAG, Department of the Platte.

Taylor was still serving with this last department when died due to an unnamed disease that he contracted in the line of duty in Omaha, Nebraska on March 13, 1885. He is buried with his wife at Arlington National Cemetery.

Cullum, Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the US Military Academy, pgs 660-661.
Davis, Sidney Morris. Common Soldier, Uncommon War, pgs 25-26
Heitman, pg 947
Powell, Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Army

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bates Letters - Undated, February 1863

Note: This is the last of Bates' letters from the Eastern Theater, and the last for the month of February 1863. It appears that young master Bates will be a bit busy for the next week or so with the move, given his new position.

Port Tobacco Md

Dear Parents,

I was just thinking of the remarkable and interesting Widow Bedett and her “Kant Kalkulate” stanzas, this morning’s sun rose on as here at home and with no thought of leaving for the summer, but to-morrow’s will find us on our way to Tennessee to join the army of General Rosecrans. I have only a few minutes to spare in writing but it is quite sufficient to give you all the news in it amounts to this.

1st an order from General Halleck came in this morning directing us to go to Genl Hookers Headquarters and turn our horses and equipments over to the Quartermaster there, and then proceed with as little delay as possible to the Army of the West there to join the rest of the regiment now serving with Genl Rosecrans, we start from here at six oclock tomorrow. And if nothing but good luck overtakes us we shall be in the field with the remainder of our boys in a week.

We caught Captain Harris, the man who burnt up the Island belle of our navy and then deserted to join the secesh; he had a sort of curiosity to see his old home I suppose, and came over from the land of cotton to make a visit. Upon his person was found a pass signed by a General in the Southern army at Richmond, giving his rank as private in the rebels, he was arrested by a Sergeant of ours today.

I am acting as Commissary Sergeant today and probably shall remain in office while we are on our trip to Tenn.

My time is run out so good bye, my love to all.
Charles E. Bates

Monday, February 11, 2008

Milestone Reached

At some point earlier today, this blog received its 10,000th visitor. I didn't think this would be a milestone that would be reached that quickly, but I guess it just shows that you never can tell. Hopefully a few of those 10,000 will be return visitors....

Thank you one and all for your visits, support and commentary.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bates Letters - February 9, 1863

Note: The local historical society will likely be none too happy about the contants of this letter, but at least they'll now have an idea of what happened to the courthouse records. It doesn't seem to have occurred to Bates that Maryland is officially loyal Union territory.

Port Tobacco Md.
February 9 1863

Dear Parents,

Another week has gone by towards the three year stone I see in the distance, and Sunday might find me at the dame desk and occupation of last Sabbath. I spent all last Friday afternoon in writing letters, but as there is but three mails a week leaving here, viz. – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This will go in the same mail; the only bit of news I have for you is that the Ninth Army Corps is going on bad of transports at Acquia Creek now. And we have captured two thousand dollars worth of contraband goods with two smuglers (sic); by “we,” I mean “us,” that is, the 4th U.S. Cavalry Esq. I spent the forenoon in exploring the garret of the courthouse, and truly it was “a pursuit of knowledge under difficulties,” for my head would afford a fine study for a phrenologist to feel the “bumps,” but I have my reward in about nine cartloads of old records and papers, a sample of which I will send you. Ask Johnson to read the writing on the old plan of the courthouse I enclosed. There is about two hundred and fifty large books, all written full in just about as legible a style as the sample and I mean to read them all.

You must remember me to all the folks and be satisfied with this short letter for this time. Give my love to all the family and I remain

Charles E. Bates

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

6th US Cavalry - February 1862

The 6th Cavalry remained in camp and trained at Camp East of the Capitol throughout the month of February 1862 also. The regiment's assigned strength this month was 1,008 officers and enlisted men, 22 more than the previous month.

Of the 42 officers assigned, only 28 were listed as present for duty, including Assistant Surgeon J.H. Pooley. 12 of the missing 14 were on detached service. Captain Brisbin of Company L was in Cleveland this month, still recruiting his company, along with with 1st Lt Henry Tucker. 2nd Lt Balk of Company D finally returned from recruiting service in Philadelphia on February 22nd. Captain George Cram was sick in Washington.

The regiment had 966 enlisted men at the end of the month, but only 781 present for duty. A harsh winter continued to take its toll, as a total of 76 troopers were sick in the camp and another 11 were absent in hospitals from Pittsburgh to Washington. 42 continued to serve on extra duties away from the regiment, mostly as teamsters for the Quartermaster Department. 16 were in arrest or confinement, and 38 recruits from the recruiting depot were temporarily attached to Company C. Two troopers were absent on leave.

Thirty new recruits joined the regiment from rendezvous during the month, and two deserters returned to the regiment. Private Thomas Steen of Company H surrendered himself to Lt Balk in Philadelphia on the 5th, and Private McCracken of Company K returned to Camp East of the Capitol on the 20th. One soldier was newly-assigned to the regiment, but oddly his name is not listed. Two privates were discharged for disability.

Nine men deserted from the regiment this month. One corporal, Rudolph Kuppisch of Company I (yes, the same company that had a sergeant desert in Janaury), deserted on February 10th. The other eight were all privates and all deserted from camp. Companies A, C and M had two each, and B and G each had one. No soldiers died in February.

The regiment continued to be short of horseflesh, with only 828 serviceable horses and 26 unserviceable. The majority of the unserviceable horses belonged to Companies F, I and M this month, with five each.

Coming next month: off to the Peninsula

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ohio 6th Cav Volunteers

Over the weekend I found another 37 volunteers who joined the regular cavalry regiments in October 1862. All of these were members of the 7th and 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (O.V.I.)regiments. The majority of them joined the 6th US, though I've also noted a number who joined the 2nd US. I still haven't found that regiment that Sidney Morris Davis claimed in his autobiography yielded over a hundred volunteers at about this same time, but I'm still looking.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Bates Letters - February 1, 1863

Note: In which Charles provides a local history lesson of Port Tobacco.

Port Tobacco Md
February 1st 1863
Dear Parents,

I am “at home” here again. My company has moved into quarters at this place, and the old court-house (built 1819 as a tablet in front says) where for aught I know the most eminent men of the country here stood, or sat, is now the abode of the undersigned and his company; the room I stop in was the Grand-Jurors room, and the desk I am writing this on was once used by the Hon. Thomas Stone, son of the Thomas Stone, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The house he lived in is about two miles from here and is now used and owned by John Stone, nephew of the Senior. The room which was occupied by George Washington when he (several words too faint to read) from the Stones’ mansion, and was owned by a relation of the Lees. The room is still in the same condition it was in when last used by Washington. In his journeys to Virginia Washington used to come here from the Capitol the first day, and spend the evening with Thomas Stone, and the night at Rose Hill.

Port Tobacco looks like a place which had seen its best days long before I saw my first. It is, to use an expression common among us, “played out.” The three hotels which occupy three sides of the public square, have “played out” by desperate opposition, and the town-pump in the centre of the square is now the only place of resort for its citizens; as for the pump, it has been converted into a hydrant, and now it furnishes a steady stream of clear water to the village.

The court-house where we live, it is a large, two story brick buildingand has been lately renovated, inside and out, and it looks with its newly painted walls as if it was trying to get away from the vulgar gaze of the three hotels, which occupy the other side of the square.

We did not get here until late last night, so I have not had time to get an acquaintance with the inhabitants, but I expect they are a queer, old-fashioned party, and I think if we are left here we can do some easy “Sogerin”

I wish you would write to me now and direct here. Give my love to all, I am going to meeting.
Good bye.
Charles E. Bates

New Civil War Blog

Rob Wick, one of the contributors to TOCWOC, has decided to start a blog of his own. It's called One Man's Rebellion Record. If his entries here are as good as the ones he wrote for TOCWOC, visitors are in for a treat. Welcome to the blogosphere, Rob.