Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2nd US Cavalry in the Maryland Campaign

Friend Larry Freiheit emailed me recently with a query about the regular cavalry in the Maryland Campaign. It’s not a campaign that the regular cavalry was particularly active or effective in, so the little available information is somewhat obscure. In examining the 2nd Cavalry in particular, the question of regimental and company strength is confusing at best, and baffling at worst.

The regiment began the campaign with only four companies: E, F, H and K, and a small headquarters staff. Co.’s A, B and D were broken up in July 1862, with their privates sent to other companies and the sergeants, buglers and officers sent to recruit in New York City, Carlisle barracks and Morristown, PA, respectively. Co.’s C, G and I were still in the western theater, on their respective journeys to rejoin the regiment from the beginning of the war. L and M Companies had only been authorized a month or so before and had just started recruiting. By year’s end 11 of 12 companies would be present on the Rappahannock, but for this campaign there were only four.

The regiment was commanded by the senior company commander present for duty. His staff consisted of permanently assigned positions. For this campaign they consisted of regimental adjutant, 2nd Lt. James McQuesten, the regimental sergeant major, Sgt. Maj. Robert Lennox, and the regimental quartermaster sergeant, Sgt. Edward J. Spaulding.

The regiment disembarked ships from the Peninsula on August 25th, and went into camp in Centerville, VA. On September 1st, it was assigned as the Provost Guard for the General Headquarters, Army of the Potomac. Parts of the regiment, as well as a squadron from the 4th U.S. Cavalry, had performed similar duties during the preceding campaign.

The present for duty strengths of the four companies from the end of September 1862 monthly return are listed below. Bear in mind that the authorized strength of a cavalry company at this time was roughly 100 men, with a captain, first lieutenant and second lieutenant each.

Co. E 1 officer /22 enlisted men (1st Lt. William H. Harrison)
Co. F 2 officer /36 enlisted men (Cpt. John Green, 2nd Lt. Paul Quirk)
Co. H 1 officer /24 enlisted men (2nd Lt. Michael Lawless)
Co. K 2 officers /30 enlisted men (Cpt. George A. Gordon, 2nd Lt. Peter Rinner)
Co. L 1 officer on detached service with Co. F (2nd Lt. Robert Lennox)

These officer numbers are a little tricky, however, as a number of noncommissioned officers of the regiment were approved for appointments as second lieutenants on July 17th. This news unfortunately did not reach the regiment until after the battle on September 24th. These promotions distort the already understrength numbers above. The promotions affecting the companies of the Maryland portion of the regiment are below.

E: 1stLt. William H. Harrison (news of promotion to 1stLt arrives 25 Sep)
F: Cpt. John Green
2ndLt. Paul Quirk (1stSgt of Co. F until news arrives 24 Sep. Date of rank 17 July)
2nd Lt. of Co. L on detached duty with Co. F (Regt SGM until news arrives 24 Sep)
H: 2ndLt. Michael Lawless (1Sgt of Co. H until news arrives 24 Sep)
K: Cpt. George A. Gordon
2ndLt. Peter Rinner (1Sgt of Co. K until news arrives 24 Sep)
Regt HQ: 2ndLt. Edward J. Spaulding (Regt QM Sgt until news arrives 24 Sep)

So the more accurate strength for the battle is:

Co. E 1/22 (2nd Lt. William H. Harrison)
Co. F 1/37 (Cpt. John Green)
Co. H 0/25
Co. K 1/31 (Cpt. George A. Gordon, also commanding regiment)
HQ 1/2 (2nd Lt. James McQuesten)

Regimental present for duty strength for the battle of Antietam for Captain George A. Gordon’s 2nd U.S. Cavalry was 4 officers and 117 enlisted men, just over one company in strength.

I thought I had posted this entry several days ago, so I suppose posting it today is somewhat of a lame birthday present for Brian Downey of Behind Antietam on the Web as well. Happy Birthday Brian!


Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With the Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999. (reprint of 1936 original, when Lambert was regimental adjutant)

Returns from Regular Regiments, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, September 1862

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. (reprint of 1876 original. Lt Rodenbough was in the regiment but off recruiting for Co.'s L & M during the Maryland campaign.)


Anonymous said...

Great research, Don. I'm still wondering about the band though. And aggregate numbers reveal how many on the rolls were PFD! I guess it shows that regulars were more in demand?


Mark said...

Very cool blog! I reenact in California, but one of our units is the 2nd Mass cavalry who had a hundred volunteers from CA on the Union side.