Saturday, June 28, 2008

Introducing James H. Cory

I have come across a brief series of letters from another regular cavalry enlisted man, this one from the 6th U.S. Cavalry. This series of six letters will be featured here over the course of the next month. The letters are from the Archives and Regional History Collections at Western Michigan University.

James H. Cory was born in Lenawee County, Michigan in 1842. He was working as a farmer at the outbreak of the Civil War. He was enlisted into Company E, 6th U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant Stephen S. Balk at Adrian, Michigan on September 17, 1861. His enlistment papers describe him as nineteen years old, five feet ten inches tall, with a ruddy complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. One can tell from his letters that James was from a poor farming family, and wasn’t overly literate, but they tell an interesting story nonetheless.

James served with the 6th Cavalry until June 4, 1862, when he was discharged for disability because he had been unfit for duty for 60 days in the previous two months. Lieutenant Benjamin Hutchins was commanding Company E at the time of his discharge.

He wasn’t with the regiment at the time of his discharge, but assigned to the Eruptive Fever Hospital Kalorama in Washington, D.C. The medical reason given by his examiner, acting assistant surgeon Robert J. Thomas, was “atrophy of the deltoid muscle of the right arm, the result of suporation from a large abscess the seguilar of variola confluence.”

Cory wasn’t out of the war yet, however. A year later he returned to service, this time in the navy. He enlisted as a “landsman” on August 27, 1863, and served on the gunboat “Signal.” Apparently he continued to have issues with his arm, because he was discharged again “in accordance with a medical survey” on Deecember 15, 1863 from the receiving ship “Clara Dotson.”

James H. Cory was killed in Chicago, Illinois on August 28, 1865. I haven’t yet discovered the cause of his death.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

6th Cavalry -- June 1862

The regiment continued active campaigning in June, moving up the peninsula as part of the advance guard of the Army of the Potomac. Ironically, by the end of the month the regiment was back in Yorktown. Companies C and L, not yet at full strength, remained in Washington under the command of Captain James Brisbin. The regiment's assigned strength this month was 921 officers and enlisted men.

Of the 42 officers assigned, 20 were listed as present for duty, including Assistant Surgeon J.H. Pooley. Captain August V. Kautz commanded the regiment at month’s end. Three of the regiment’s companies, D, E and F, were led by lieutenants. Captain Abert (D), 1st Lt Hutchins (E) and 2nd Lt Madden (M) were absent sick at “Coal Harbor” with regimental quartermaster 1st Lt John Spangler and the regimental trains at month’s end.

Captain Kautz’ narrative of the month’s activities is listed at the bottom of the month’s muster rolls. The camp is listed as “Camp near Yorktown Va.”

“The Regiment from the 1st until the 25th was engaged in scouting and picket duty in the vicinity of the Chickahominy. Marched and Encamped at various points near Richmond. Left Camp near Coal Harbor on the 25th. Marched toward Hanover and White House from thence to Yorktown on the 28th.”

Several members of the regiment were wounded while serving as the brigade’s provost guard during the battle of Gaines Mill on June 26th. Private H.C. Smith of Company H was wounded at the battle of Hanover Court House on June 27th.

The regiment had 800 enlisted men at the end of the month, but only 535 present for duty. Of the 245 troopers absent, 110 were on detached service. Health conditions continued to take a toll on the regiment’s strength, with 31 troopers sick in camp and 110 sick in hospitals away from the regiment. 23 continued to serve on extra duties away from the regiment, mostly as teamsters for the Quartermaster Department. 65 troopers were absent on leave, and one was absent without leave.

No soldiers died in June. One soldier is listed on the muster rolls, but it was a death from a previous month. Private Samuel Stevely of Company K died of disease at Ship Point, Virginia on April 27, 1862. Nine privates deserted from the regiment this month, five from Company I, three from Company M and one from Company K. Two privates from Company K, Morris Grooms and Clark Lattin, were discharged for disability on June 1st. Five troopers were listed as missing and assumed taken prisoner this month, two corporals and three privates.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Picket Duty - A Squadron Level View

Picket duty during the Civil War is an area that interests me. I found this account of the macro view of picket duty during the Peninsula Campaign in an excerpt of Captain August Kautz’ diary found in Broadfoot Publishing’s Supplement to the Official Records. Unfortunately, I don’t think I have a soldier’s account of the micro view out here in Washington with me.

“June 18. -- Early this morning I was detailed to report at 9 o’clock, with my own and Captain Sander’s squadron. We were ordered to relieve Captain Magruder on picket at Haw’s. We reached Haw’s about noon and the afternoon was devoted to disposing our pickets. I visited all the points and made the connection with General Stoneman’s right. The position is a pleasant one. We get plenty of cherries, berries and vegetables from the inhabitants. I placed my reserve at Haw’s and placed my videttes on the only two roads there are to approach on. Six contrabands came in from Hanover Court-House. They report pickets there but no force.

“June 19. -- I made a small map and sent a report showing how the videttes are posted to General Cooke this morning. In the afternoon I sent for some papers and the mail....” (Supplement to the Official Records, Volume 2, pages 125-126).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bates Letters -- December 12, 1863

Note: This is the last of Charlie’s letters for 1863. It will be the final one posted this summer. I haven’t decided yet when to start posting the 1864 letters. In this missive, we find Charlie enamored of Huntsville and planning on voting for McClellan.

Huntsville Alabama
December 12th 1863

Dear Parents

I believe we are “settled down” for the winter, and I don’t want to be in a better place than this for the cold weather. Huntsville is a very pretty city and formerly contained about nine thousand inhabitants. It is celebrated for the “big spring,” and the healthy climate in its vicinity. The spring is a stunner, affording more water than the Pomperary river (in dry weather) and the location of town is so remarkably healthy that the citizens had to borrow a corpse to start a graveyard with. Our camp is situated on a beautifully wooded knoll, just such an one as Cooper would delight in assigning for the picturesque camp of some Indian tribe, or Walter Scott would select for some story of Scottish chivalry. From the top, a fine view of Huntsville is obtained, and thanks to the warm climate of the sunny south, we are comfortable. I received a letter from you three days ago, but had to go on guard one day, and spent two days in fixing my quarters, so your letter had to wait a reply. I now have a very comfortable little snuggery built about ten feet square with fire-place, chimney, and all the modern --- Modern Improvements, and intend to take a good comfortable winter rest. General Grant is doing things up in a hurry, and may interupt my pleasant fancies but I hope not.

There is considerable rain here, three days out of four we have been here it has rained but I dont think such weather can last forever we must have some pleasant days, and even the rain does not make the roads as muddy as the used to in Virginia. Speaking of Virginia brings me to the Army of the Potomac again and I see that Meade is at some of the incomprehensible strategy of all the other Generals; falling back to allow Lee to reinforce Longstreet, of a surety we have some chivalrous Generals they scorn to take a mean advantage of a man and when they have the Rebs at a disadvantage they hold up to show fair play. Bully for them. I suppose before you get this McClellan will be nominated for president at least I hope so. Not that I expect to see him elected for that I judge to be out of the question with as many candidates in the field as there will be for the Democratic party, but give him a try for it anyhow. I am going to vote for him a dozen times if I can.

In Mothers letter to me she says the banks only take four hundred a year on deposit. Will you tell me how it is, I always thought a bank would receive any amount. I am in hopes of getting a few day furlough this winter if we stay here, and shall pay you a visit if possible, but dont think it is certain for I hardly think I can have so much luck. However get a barrel of cider ready, for I might.

I cant write about the war news as we dont get it till long after you do, and the other news is not obtainable so excuse my short letter, better luck next time perhaps.

I remain affectionately
Charles E. Bates

Sunday, June 15, 2008

R.I.P. This Week In Blogs

I noticed a post at Civil War Interactive this week that their weekly column “This Week In Blogs” has been discontinued. This column, written by the very dedicated and talented Laurie Chambliss, reviewed 35-40 of the most active Civil War blogs every week and summarized their postings. It was a quality column, and written with style. There were several occasions when I thought Laurie’s summary was more entertaining than my actual posts.

Such a column by its very nature was extremely time-consuming, however, and it has been decided that that time can be put to better use elsewhere. The column is still available on the website, and now provides brief descriptions of all of the featured blogs. Thanks for all of your hard work, Laurie, and best of luck with future endeavors at Civil War Interactive and elsewhere.

The Travelling Blogger

My apologies for the scarcity of posts over the last week or two, but we’ve reached that time of year when those who teach young college and university cadets to become army officers must head to the great northwest to train them at summer camp. Things have been a bit hectic getting settled and prepared for the summer’s events, but I am now more or less comfortably ensconced in my hotel (not, fortunately, the one with the bedbug problem) and ready to resume posting. I don’t have all of my resources due to space and airline weight restrictions, but posting will resume at a rate of one to two posts per week as time permits. The last Charles Bates letter for 1863 will post tomorrow, to be followed by several Fiddler’s Green entries, monthly updates on the 6th Cavalry in 1862, and another series of letters by an enlisted man in a different regiment. At least one book will be reviewed as well, as soon as my Father's Day present makes it from JD to Gina to me out here in Washington. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Bates Letters - November 5, 1863

Brownsville, Ala Nov 5th

Dear Parents

It is so long since I have written to you that I suppose you have long since thought me in the Richmond Prisons, or perhaps in the grave, but thank God I am still in “the land of the free,” and in as good health as any mortal is privileged to enjoy. Since writing to you last (at Salem, Tenn.) my adventures have been rather of the fatiguing order, and nothing marvelous has fallen to my own particular lot, if I except my capture by the “rebs” and escape from bondage, all of which hapned (sic) since last Sunday.

I was with the advance of Gen. Stanleys Cavalry last July on its advance into Alabama, and have been with the regiment ever since. At the beginning of the famous Chickamauga battle my brigade, commanded by Colonel Mintty was the first in action, loosing 198 men the first day skirmishing. And my Regiment was the last to enter Chattanooga, being on the rear guard.

When Wheeler crossed the river at Washington to make his “raid” around our army my regiment was the first to encounter his force, (and the first to run away) and we perserveringly followed him until he recrossed the river at Rogersville. I charged on two “rebs” singlehanded and captured both, horses, revolvers and one rifle being the “spoils of war” accrueing to Government from my exploit.

My old War-horse, Jayhawker, got shot in the foreleg and disabled at McMinnville, and I have since been riding “common stock.” I got a very good horse from one of my captive rebs, but lost him last since by getting myself taken prisoner. I heard $800.00 offred for him (in secesh money) and refused the same day. I am now without a horse, and no prospect of getting another speedily.

The Secesh got possession of all my clothing at McMinnville, and I was left without a change of shirt but hope to make them pay for it some time. We are living on the country most of the time, having only been --- issued with eighteen days rations in two months, but we manage to exist even without “hard-tack.” I am so far from any news dept that newspapers are fifteen days old before they get here and news is out of the question here. It may be news to you to learn that 33,000 men from the Army of the Mississippi under command of General Sherman are within one days march of here at present, and coming up to join the Army of the Cumberland at Chattanooga. They are in fine condition as I hear from some of our men who were with them yesterday, and I expect that Something is going to be done soon.

It is so long since I have written any that my fingers get cramped up so I shall say good bye for the present. Give my love to all and write to me at earliest opportunity.

I am affectionately

Charles E. Bates
Co E 4th U.S. Cavalry
Maysville, Ala.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Offical reports vs private journals

It is sometimes interesting to compare what people say in their official reports to what they may record in their diaries or letters home. Two such accounts of the same event by the same person are pretty rare, but I’ve come across a case on this same day in 1862.

Captain August V. Kautz was directed to take an expedition consisting of his squadron (Companies B and H) of the 6th U.S. Cavalry and two squadrons of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry to burn the ferries across the Pamunkey River and arrest Doctor Carter W. Wormley. At this time his was the only squadron in the regiment armed with carbines. Listed below are his official report of the event from the Official Records, and an excerpt from his journal for these two days, published in the Supplement to the Official Records by Broadfoot Publishing.

The official report, submitted to brigade headquarters:

“Camp near Richmond, Va.,
June 3, 1862

Sir: In obedience to instructions received I have to report that I proceeded with my squadron, armed with carbines, and two squadrons of Lancers to New Castle, on the Pamunkey River, yesterday afternoon, where I found the ferry-boat destroyed by some previous party. I ascertained the same to be true at Bassett’s and Pipingtree, farther down the river, by sending a squadron of Lancers to each point. I arrived at Wormley’s Ferry so late last evening that I could do nothing, as the boats were on the opposite side of the river, as is also Dr. Wormley’s residence, where I expected to find him. I therefore returned to New Castle and encamped.

Through information obtained last evening and the aid of a slave recently escaped I was enabled to find the ferry-boat belonging to Dr. Wormley’s ferry concealed in a creek near by on the north side of the river, together with the sloop Golden Gate, about 25 tons, from Norfolk, eight wooden boats, and one metallic life-boat, each capable of carrying from 20 to 30 persons. The ferry-boat would carry two teams with their horses. All these were rendered entirely useless. The sloop was burned.
A small canoe enabled me to send Lieutenant Balder and 6 men, who succeeded in arresting Dr. Wormley. I sent him immediately to the provost-marshal-general by Lieutenant Balder, who was directed also to report in person at headquarters the result of the expedition, as I was delayed several hours in destroying the boats. These boats were about a mile above New Castle by the road, on Dr. Wormley’s farm, and were concealed, as the entrance of the creek was hidden by the foliage of newly-felled trees. The river was flooded and still rising to-day, and troops could not be crossed without fixing a line.

I could collect no satisfactory information that a force was organizing or existed on the north side of the river, as I supposed in my instructions. Having complied with my instructions I returned to camp with my command this afternoon.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Captain, Sixth Cavalry, Commanding Expedition.

Lieut. J. C. Audenried,
Sixth Cavalry, Acting Asst. Adjt. Gen., Cavalry Brigade."

And the entry from his journal for the same period:

“June 2. --- The morning was spent in camp. After dinner an order came for me to take my squadron and two squadrons of lancers and proceed to the Pamunkey River and burn the ferries and destroy all communications across the Pamunkey above Pipingtree to Doctor Wormley’s Ferry, to arrest Doctor Wormley and to ascertain all I could about a force organizing in King William County. The ferry’s having already been destroyed or removed, I could do nothing this evening except to camp. I sent one squadron to Pipingtree to ascertain if the ferry was destroyed. We ordered supper with Mr. Patterson, the overseer, and I devoted myself to hunting up information for the work to-morrow. Through Dennis, Captain Savage’s servant, I learned all that is necessary for tomorrow.

"June 3. --- It rained very hard last night, and I was driven to take shelter under the porch of the overseer’s house. I sent the other squadron of Lancers down to Bassett’s Ferry to see if it could be used, whilst I took a contraband and proceeded to Doctor Wormley’s Ferry, with my squadron. We sent a man across the stream, where he found a canoe in which Lieutenant Balder crossed with five or six men and proceeded to arrest Doctor Wormley, whilst we proceeded to destroy the ferry boat and a sloop of twenty-five tons, the Golden Gate of Norfolk and eight yawl boats and one metallic life boat, which we found concealed in the mouth of little creek near by. The doctor was very violent. I sent him to the Provost Marshal General and returned to camp with my command and wrote my report. More rain….”

In this case, it appears the two accounts are very close. The only differences, that Captain Savage’s servant actually obtained the information and a trooper had to swim the Pamunkey to get the canoe, are pretty minor.

Official Records, Series I, Volume 11, Part I, pages 997-998.

Supplement to the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 2, page 123.