Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fiddler's Green: Henry Baker

There hasn't been a Fiddler's Green post in far too long. I thought a regimental color bearer from one of the most famous cavalry charges of the war would be an appropriate choice for the blog's record of forgotten cavalrymen.

Henry Baker was born in Kent, England in 1839. After immigrating to the United States, he worked as a clerk prior to serving in the army. He was enlisted into the 2nd (later 5th) U.S. Cavalry by Lt. Ogle in New York City on August 13, 1860. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’6 ½” tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a ruddy complexion.

He served as a private, corporal and sergeant in Company A. He served in Texas until the state seceded, when he accompanied the second detachment of the regiment to Carlisle Barracks, by way of Indianola and New York City. He reached Carlisle on April 27, 1861.

Sergeant Baker participated in General Patterson’s Shenandoah campaign of 1861, and was engaged in the action at Falling Waters and in skirmishes near Martinsburg and Bunker Hill. During the winter of 1861-1862 he served in the defenses of Washington. The following spring he accompanied his regiment to the Peninsula, where he served during the advance on Richmond, the battle of Hanover Court House and the reconnaissance toward Ashland.

By June 1862, Baker served as the regimental color sergeant. During the battle of Gaines Mill, he “carried the standard with conspicuous gallantry in the famous charge which the regiment made at that place,” according to the regiment’s post-war history, Across The Continent With The Fifth Cavalry. Surprisingly, he was not even wounded in the charge, according to the regiment’s monthly returns. He also fought at Savage Station, Malvern Hill and White Oak Swamp. Baker was promoted to regimental sergeant major on August 1, 1862, and accompanied his regiment as part of the army’s rear guard during the evacuation of the Peninsula.

During the Antietam campaign, he served in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, and the skirmish near Shepherdstown. On September 22, 1862, he was notified of his appointment as a second lieutenant in the regiment, effective July 17th. After joining his company, he participated in engagements at Halltown, Union, Upperville, Markham Station, Barbee’s Crossroads and Amissville. Following the battle of Fredericksburg, he served on picket duty with his company in the winter camp near Falmouth.

Lieutenant Baker was promoted to first lieutenant on April 13, 1863, and participated in Stoneman’s raid the following month and the battle of Brandy Station in June. In September 1863, he became an aide de camp to General Pleasonton, and served with his headquarters until June 1864. He then served on special duty at First Cavalry Division headquarters for the remainder of the war, including the Central Virginia, Shenandoah and Appomattox campaigns. He was brevetted to captain and major for gallant and meritorious service during the war, to date from March 13, 1865.

First Lieutenant Baker served at the headquarters of the Department of West Virginia from May to August 1865. He then joined the detachment of the regiment serving on escort duty with general Grant in Washington, where he commanded a company.

On November 5, 1865, Baker was granted a twenty day leave of absence. He failed to return for duty at the expiration of his leave, and was dropped from the Army’s rolls on January 12, 1866. I have not been able to find any information on him following his dismissal.

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