Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Discussion" Groups

Most people who pay attention to Civil War news are aware of the recent controversy at Gettysburg concerning Dr. Latschar. He was apparently resigning from a prominent job with the National Park Service to become head of a large local group supporting the park. There was some discussion of ethics and a possible conflict of interest, and Dr. Latschar withdrew from consideration. I'm being deliberately vague here, because my point doesn't concern the details of the matter or my opinion.

To my mind, however, a "discussion" group by its very nature implies that everyone does not share the same opinion. On such a group or forum, I would expect that people with opposing views could respectfully disagree and state their opposing views, preferably with some evidence supporting their arguments. This does not necessarily imply agreement being reached, as sometimes those with strong differing views simply have to state their case and agree to disagree. It's one of those great things about this country, you have the right to your opinion and the right to state it as long as it doesn't endanger others or infringe on their right to do so.

This could be confusion on my part, but my perception to this point is that moderators in such areas exist to ensure the rules of the discussion group are followed, that people are decent to one another, and that things don't get out of hand. When wearing their moderator hat, they're neutral and objective. I fully admit that this view may be overly simplified or even naive, but other groups that I've participated in such as the Civil War Discussion Group seem to follow this model. I think Joe Avalon at Civil War Interactive's forums does this particularly well. Maybe he's just spoiled me -- as I've stated numerous times I'm fairly new to this game.

I recently joined the Gettysburg Discussion Group. My thinking was that the group would probably have lots of great information and discussions about various aspects of the battle which I find interesting. If there's one battle upon which people have an opinion in the Civil War, it's usually Gettysburg (with no offense to those western theater afficionados out there). And I must say that it appears to be a group of very learned folks who know a great deal about the battle.

This issue with Dr. Latschar has stirred some pretty strong sentiment on both sides. Given the group's focus, it was no surprise to me when it drew a good deal of discussion on GDG. Two opposing views were stated, somewhat strongly but not to my mind offensively. Opposing arguments were stated, levels of experience were compared, and the two individuals agreed to disagree. Respectfully, it seemed to me. At this point, a moderator stepped in with a long, somewhat emotional tirade about the view he didn't support, questioned its relevance, and stated that anyone who didn't agree with him wasn't "for" Gettysburg preservation.

This gave me pause. So if anyone who doesn't agree is against the entire park and its preservation? I'm not a big fan of all or nothing arguments. Maybe I'm just not rigid enough in my thinking. Discussion, as long as it doesn't descend into personal attacks and such, is the point of such groups. So if we can't have differing opinions, what's the point? Is it a discussion group or a fan site?

It wasn't, however, my site, and the owner/ moderator of each site can run it as he/ she/ they choose. So I quietly unsubscribed from the group. Their site, their rules. But it bothered me enough that I felt I needed to post about it. Not as an attack on the GDG. There have been other good discussions there where I learned a good bit. As I said, it seems to be a place where some very smart folks can discuss the battle. I've seen the same "problem" (my view, others may not have an issue with such an approach) in other places, this is simply the most recent example which prompted me to write about it.

I think discussion groups are a valuable resource, and excellent source of inquiry into historical events. Cases are often made, and not always agreed with. But the evidence behind the arguments and the discussion of sources from which they came is more than worth the price (generally free) of admission. And that's not even mentioning the eloquence oftentimes expressed by "amateur" historians.

Just my two cents. And for the sake of the comments, please note that my topic is discussion groups, not the Latschar situation. That lies close enough to politics that I'll keep my opinion to myself.

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).

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fiddler's Green: Edward Fitzgerald

Edward Fitzgerald was born in County Limerick, Ireland in 1837. He immigrated to the United States, and was working as a laborer in New York when he joined the army. He was enlisted into Company E, 1st U.S. Cavalry in Albany, New York by Lieutenant Johnston on January 9, 1858, at the age of 21. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’8 1/2” tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.

Fitzgerald served in Company E with the 1st, then 4th U.S. Cavalry for the next five years, earning promotions to corporal, sergeant and first sergeant of the company. At the beginning of the Civil War, he served in a squadron consisting of his company and Company A in the Army of the Potomac until the winter of 1862. Once the peninsula campaign started, they served the majority of that time as the headquarters escort for the Army of the Potomac and Major General McClellan. As the company first sergeant, Fitzgerald was responsible for the company’s discipline. This was sometimes a less than popular position with his soldiers, as exhibited in one of Charles Bates’ letters here.

Fitzgerald’s enlistment expired at a camp near Falmouth, Virginia on January 8, 1863, shortly before the squadron returned to the rest of the regiment in the western theater. By the time the squadron reached the regiment, however, he was back in uniform.

First Sergeant Fitzgerald was appointed a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Cavalry on February 19, 1863, and assigned to Company I. He served with his company and regiment throughout the campaigns of 1863 and 1864, receiving a promotion to first lieutenant on May 9, 1864.

Lieutenant Fitzgerald was wounded while charging against a battery of three enemy guns at the front of his company on December 17, 1864 during fighting near Franklin, Tennessee. He never recovered from his wounds, and died on February 16, 1865.


Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 422.

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 90.

Muster Rolls, 4th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744

U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914

New Blog: Interning Learning

Hat tips to Brett Schulte and John David Hoptak for mentioning this on their blogs. Jared Frederick, a student at Penn State pending an internship at Gettysburg National Military Park this summer, has started a new blog, found here.

Once I got over my initial spate of jealousy (what an amazing opportunity!), I found several interesting posts there already, with the promise of more to come. Welcome to the blogosphere, Jared!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Fiddler's Green: Joseph Rendlebock*

Joseph Rendlebock was born in Rickbinghaus, Prussia in 1823. He enlisted in Company A, Regiment of Mounted Rifles on May 22, 1851, at the age of 28. He served with the Mounted Rifles for the next five years, earning promotions to corporal, sergeant and first sergeant of the company prior to his discharge in May 1856.

A few months later, he was enlisted into Company G, 1st U.S. Cavalry at Fort Leavenworth by Lieutenant (later Confederate Major General) Robert Ransom, Jr. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’10 ½” tall, with brown hair, grey eyes and a florid complexion. Rendlebock served the majority of the rest of his career with this company.

Rendlebock was once again the first sergeant of his company when he was reenlisted at Fort Wise, Colorado Territory by Lieutenant Warren on July 13, 1861. This ended that winter, however, when he was appointed a second lieutenant in the same company of the 4th Cavalry on November 29, 1862 at Nashville, Tennessee. Sergeant Martin Murphy succeeded him as the first sergeant of Company G.

Lieutenant Rendlebock distinguished himself on several occasions during the rest of the war. He was active and mentioned in reports on the battle of Stones River in January 1863. He was brevetted first lieutenant for gallant and meritorious service in the cavalry action at Franklin, Tennessee on May 10, 1863. Leading his company’s charge, he succeeded in overrunning and capturing two guns of Freeman’s Battery. Unfortunately, the guns were spiked and lost later in the battle during a counterattack by Forrest. A few months later he was brevetted captain at McMinnville, Tennessee on October 4, 1863, again for gallant and meritorious service.

Joseph was promoted to first lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Cavalry on December 15, 1863. He continued to serve with his regiment through the remainder of the war. He was brevetted major in the regular army for gallant and meritorious services at the capture of Selma, Alabama on April 2, 1865.

After the war, Lieutenant Rendlebock accompanied the regiment to the frontier, where he served as the regimental quartermaster from August 20, 1866 to August 13, 1867. His promotion to captain freed him from this duty, and he returned to Company G as its commander that same day. He served the remainder of his career commanding his company in Texas.

Captain Joseph Rendlebock was retired on July 23, 1879 for disability incurred in the line of duty. He died ten years later, on March 13, 1889.


Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903), page 823.

Hamersly, L. R. Record of Living Officers of the United States Army (Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1884), page 428.

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 328.

Muster Rolls, 4th U.S. Cavalry, NARA, M744

* Note: His last name is listed in various places as Rindlebock, Rindlebrook, Rendelbrock, Rendelbock and Rendlebrook.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dragoon Base moves to new location

Dragoon Base, one of the websites for the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Association, has moved to a new web location. The address for the new site is The word is still getting around, but many alumni seem to have found it already.