Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sergeants Major of the 6th US Cavalry

Jim Jones was kind enough to donate the following article on the sergeants major of the 6th US Cavalry during the Civil War. Much of this was originally posted in comments, but I felt that it truly deserved more visibility. Jim has conducted hundreds of hours of research on the members of the regiment, and has the most complete roster in existence of the regiment’s members during the war.

The majority of these men were subsequently commissioned, and their biographical sketches have either already been posted to Fiddler’s Green or will be in the near future. Any errors or perceived gaps in the account are due to my editing and not Jim’s research.

Although authorized one sergeant major per battalion in addition to the regimental sergeant major by General Order #16, A.G.O., 1861, none of the regular cavalry regiments appear to have done so.

The regiment’s first sergeant major was the famous Samuel M. Whitside, serving as sergeant-major from August 1, 1861 to November 4, 1861. He was subsequently appointed as a second lieutenant in the 6th U.S. Cavalry (Returns from Regular Army Regiments, NARA, Microfilm #744, Roll 61, page 11).

The second regimental sergeant major was James F. Jackson, appointed from Company B . He served in the position until December 8, 1861, when he was discovered to be "Charles" Jackson, a deserter from the General Mounted Service. Jackson had deserted from the General Mounted Service, probably at Carlisle barracks, on August 21, 1861, and enlisted in the 6th US Cavalry on August 30th. Apparently he was favored by the regiment, as he was not court-martialed. He was, however, demoted to the rank of private per Special Order #189, and served in Company K through the remainder of his enlistment (Ibid, page 13. Also, The U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914).

He was succeeded by Sergeant Major John Lee, who served as sergeant major until May 12, 1862. He was then appointed a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Cavalry, the second member of the 6th US Cavalry so honored (Hamersly, L. R. Record of Living Officers of the United States Army (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884).

The fourth sergeant major was Tullius C. Tupper, who held the post through the remainder of the campaign on the peninsula until his appointment as a second lieutenant in the regiment on September 22, 1862 (Returns from Regular Army Regiments, NARA, Microfilm #744, Roll 61, pages 26 and 35).

The fifth sergeant major was not so fortunate. Martin Armstrong’s service as regimental sergeant major came to an abrupt end on December 1, 1862, when he was relieved after failing to properly inspect the arms of the pickets as they returned from duty. After their return to camp, one of them accidentally shot and killed his companion while playing around. The soldier was initially arrested, but subsequently returned to duty . Armstrong returned to duty in Company M (Ibid, page 37. Also: Davis, Sidney Morris. Common Soldier, Uncommon War).

Taking his place was Sergeant Major Hercules G. Carroll of Company B, who held the post from December 1, 1862 to June 23, 1863. While making his rounds inspecting the pickets near Aldie on the latter date, he was captured and sent to Libby Prison. Evidently no one in the regiment was aware that he’d been captured, as he was listed as a deserter on the regiment’s monthly returns. Carroll was subsequently paroled and worked as a clerk in the AGO in Washington, D.C. until after the war (Ibid, pages 41 and 59. Also The U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914).

Taking his place was SGM Patrick Cusack, also of Company B, who appears to have moved back and forth between the 6th US Cavalry and the 4th US Artillery during the first two years of the war. He was transferred back from the 4th U.S. Artillery on the day SGM Carroll went missing. Ironically, he held the position the longest of any during the war, serving until he was appointed a second lieutenant in the newly-organized 6th US Colored Cavalry on January 19, 1865 (Ibid, page 59. Also Hamersly, L. R. Record of Living Officers of the United States Army (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884), and The U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914).

There was a brief interlude in SGM Cusack’s service, when he was allowed a brief furlough to see his family in November 1864. During his absence, regimental commissary sergeant Charles J. Garrard served as the sergeant major, but was not formally promoted to the position.

The final regimental sergeant major was Henry Orsay, sometimes spelled D’Orsay, who closed out the war in the position and subsequently accompanied the regiment to Texas. He served as sergeant major from January 19, 1865 to April 12, 1868 (Returns from Regular Army Regiments, NARA publication, Microcopy #744, Roll 61, page 59. Also The U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914).


Anonymous said...

Having just learned that an ancestor enlisted in the US 6th Cavalry at the age of 48 (yes, he shaved 13 years off when signing up), I would like to trace what he might have experienced/endured as a private in Company D from 31 August 1861 until 30 August 1864. I could certainly spend hours making notes from the rolls on microfilm at the National Archives, but don't want to recreate history if it's already been done. Is there a resource that may have already catalogued the activities for Company D?

Don said...

That resource would be me and possibly one or two others, if you're not interested in going the NARA route. Please email me privately at dccaughey AT aol. DOT com and we'll discuss it. I can't do as well as requesting his pension papers would, but I can give you a decent bit of info on him and the company he served in.

sexy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Don said...


Thank you very much for including me! It's always nice to be recognized (in a positive way).

Anonymous said...

Do you have records showing the US 6th Cav fighting at the battle of Wilson's Creek?

Don said...

This regiment didn't fight at Wilson's Creek. I'm away from home at the moment, but if memory serves correctly, parts of the 4th and maybe 2nd US Cavalry did.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your tireless efforts on this website! Hercules Carroll was my maternal great-grandfather. We heard long ago that he had been imprisoned at Libby Prison, but never saw any evidence of it until we found your web page. What resources are there to support that? Our family has not been able to determine who his parents were or if he had any siblings. No pictures of him exist as far as we know.

John Fox said...

Don, I'm trying to gather primary documents on the experience of the 5th U.S. Cavalry and the 6th U.S. Cavalry defending against Jeb Stuart's mid-June 1862 ride around McClellan's army. Any help you could provide would be appreciated. My email is JohnFoxVa@yahoo.com and I have a website about my work at www.JohnFoxBooks.com
John Fox

Don said...


Other than the O.R., I haven't seen much from the 6th. I have a few mentions in letters home, but not much that would be of specific help.

As far s the 5th goes, I've seen references to William Royall's memoirs and papers, but don't recall where they're stored. You might try a search at AHEC.