Tuesday, June 26, 2012

5th U.S. Cavalry at Gaines Mill – Casualties

The official casualty count of the regiment in the battle was 1 officer and 3 enlisted men killed in action, 3 officers and 27 enlisted men wounded in action, and 2 officers and 19 enlisted men captured or missing in action, for a total of 55 casualties. (OR, Vol. 11, pt. 2, pg. 40)

To the best of my knowledge, no one has listed the names of the casualties, so it seems appropriate to do so for the 150th anniversary of the battle.

The regimental muster rolls for June 1862 reflect the following casualties in the battle. Some of the names could be misspelled, as they are very difficult to read on the return, and I haven’t yet been able to verify them through CWSS or their enlistment documents.

Killed in action:

Lt. John J. Sweet
Pvt. Christopher Baumann, Band
Pvt. Clarence O. Bingham, Co. A
Pvt. Michael Cantor, Co. I

Wounded in action:

Lt. Abraham K. Arnold
Lt. Louis D. Watkins
Lt. Thomas E. Maley

Company A:
Pvt. Ed Horner
Pvt. Jacob Ginsler
Pvt. Frederick Klein
Pvt. David Haas
Pvt. Wm. Conroy

Company D:
Sgt. Wm. Brophy
Pvt. Michael Considine
Pvt. Edward Dolan
Pvt. Edward Gill
Pvt. Albert Saunders
Pvt. Jacob Riis
Pvt. Leonard W. Berner
Pvt. James Comfy

Company F:
Pvt. William A. Rose
Pvt. John Drum

Company H:
Corp. George A. Hess
Pvt. John Coffey
Pvt. James D. Cairns
Pvt. Thomas Crowley
Pvt. Bernhart Miller
Pvt. William Gregory
Pvt. John Fitzpatrick
Pvt. Eugene Gleason
Pvt. Michael Halenhan
Pvt. Thomas McDermott

Company I:
Pvt. Edward C. McGowan
Pvt. Neill Lamont

Missing in action:

Capt. Charles J. Whiting
Capt. William P. Chambliss

Company A:
Pvt. William Flynn
Pvt. Jos. H. Reinholt

Company D:
1st Sgt. Charles Rouen
Sgt. John H. Keane
Sgt. Miles W. Douk
Corp. John J. James
Pvt. Thomas Canavan
Pvt. William Howerr
Pvt. George W. Hicks
Pvt. Patrick Maloney
Pvt. James M. Reno
Pvt. Michael Quinn
Pvt. Peter H. May

Company F:
Corp. Edward Harris
Corp. John J. Moody

Company H:
Sgt. Sheffield Autino
Sgt. Thomas Bennett

The monthly return for June 1862 states a total of 58 missing in action for the regiment for the month. 30 of these were lost at Old Church on the 13th, presumed captured on picket.

There is a discrepancy between the number of wounded enlisted men listed by company on the first page of the return and the names listed on the second page. The numbers of Companies A, D and F match. Company H lists 9 wounded but 10 names wounded in action. Company I lists 4 wounded but only two names.

Listed strength of the companies present for duty listed above in the muster rolls for the end of June 1862:

Co. A: 1 officer, 45 enlisted men
Co. D: 32 enlisted men
Co. F: 1 officer, 44 enlisted men
Co. H: 26 enlisted men
Co. I: 47 enlisted men

The regiment’s mounts suffered in the fight as well. Company A lost no horses, but had 17 unserviceable mounts at the end of the month. Company D lost 29 horses. Company F lost 20 horses, and an additional 4 were unserviceable at the end of the month. Company H lost 18 horses, with an additional mount unserviceable at the end of the month. Company I lost 9 horses, with 4 additional horses unserviceable at the end of the month.

5th U.S. Cavalry at Gaines Mill – Official Regimental Report

Report of Capt. Joseph H. McArthur, Fifth U.S. Cavalry, of battle of Gaines’ Mill.
“Headquarters Fifth U.S. Cavalry
In the Field, July 3, 1862.

Sir: Agreeably to instructions I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of the Fifth U.S. Cavalry in the battle which occurred on Thursday, the 27th of June, 1862, near Woodbury’s Bridge, on the Chickahominy:

It is here proper to state that there were but five companies present, the remaining five acting with General Stoneman to the right and rear.

During the first part of the engagement the regiment was kept out of fire, prepared to move wherever occasion demanded. Late in the action, and about 6 o’clock in the afternoon, the regiment was moved up and formed in line of battle to support Benson’s battery and another battery on the right. The regiment occupied this position until the battery on the right had ceased firing. The enemy advanced boldly on these batteries, which had opened a murderous fire upon them with the evident intention of carrying them. As soon as the battery on our right ceased firing Captain Whiting, who was at that time in command, gave the order to charge. The regiment charged the enemy’s infantry under a most galling fire until 6 officers out of 7 had been struck down. The column, being left without officers, wheeled to the right, and came off in as good order as could be expected.

I regret to state that Captains Whiting and Chambliss and Lieutenant Sweet have not been seen or heard of since the charge, and I am unable to state whether they are killed or merely wounded and taken prisoners.

Great credit is due to Adjt. Thomas E. Maley, who, although severely wounded, rendered great service to me in assisting to reform the regiment at once in rear of our forces. Lieutenant Watkins was severely wounded and also trampled on by several horses of the regiment. Lieutenant Arnold was slightly wounded.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. H. McArthur
Captain, Fifth Cavalry, Commanding Regiment.
Lieut. James P. Martin.
Acting Assistant Adjutant-General, Cavalry Reserve.

Note -- Those struck down were Captains Whiting and Chambliss, Lieutenants Arnold, Sweet, Watkins and Maley, leaving Capt. J. H. McArthur alone unhurt and in command of the five companies of the regiment engaged.

J. H. McArthur
Captain, Fifth Cavalry, Commanding.”
(OR, Vol. 11, pt. 2, pgs. 46-47)

1st U.S. Cavalry at Gaines Mill, 27 June 1862

For the regular cavalry, the battle of Gaines Mill is best known for the charge ordered by Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke at the end of the battle by the 5th U.S. Cavalry. Although the 1st U.S. Cavalry had a minor part to play in the larger drama of the battle, I felt that someone should tell their story as well.

Report of Lieut. Col. William N. Grier, First U.S. Cavalry, of battle of Gaines’ Mill.
“Headquarters First U.S. Cavalry
Camp near Richmond, Va., June 28, 1862.

Sir: For the information of Col. G. A. H. Blake, First Cavalry, commanding Second Brigade of Cavalry Reserve, I have the honor to make the following report of the part borne in the action of 27th of June, 1862, at or near Gaines’ Hill, on the Chickahominy, by two squadrons of the First U.S. Cavalry. The whole strength of the regiment on that day consisted of two small squadrons, about 125 enlisted men, Captain Reno, First Cavalry, commanding one squadron, and Lieutenant Kellogg commanding the other. During the day the regiment was kept moving from one point to another until in the afternoon it was placed, together with the Fifth U.S. Cavalry and Rush’s Lancers, (volunteer cavalry), on the extreme left, in the support of our artillery.

Late in the afternoon our left wing was driven back by very heavy re-enforcements of the enemy, and after they debouched from the timber in our front were charged by the Fifth Regiment of U.S. Cavalry, my two squadrons directed to be held as a reserve to watch the effect of that charge and act accordingly. The charge of the Fifth having made no visible impression on the overwhelming masses of the enemy and none of them effecting a rally on the reserve, my squadrons retired in good order at a walk in rear of our artillery.

During the afternoon’s engagement the squadrons were subjected to a heavy fire from the enemy, which was met with coolness and steadiness by officers and men. Colonel Blake having been present, and acted with these two small squadrons of the regiment, is fully cognizant of its services during the day, and therefore probably requires no detail of its different movements from point to point during the day.

Wm. N. Grier
Lieutenant-Colonel, First Cavalry, Commanding Regiment.

Lieut. N. W. Kneass,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen., Second Brigade, Reserve Cavalry.” (OR, Vol. 11, pt. 2, pgs. 45-46)

From Lt. Col. Grier’s report, it sounds as though the 1st U.S. Cavalry had a pretty easy day of it, shifting from point to point on the battlefield, watching the charge of the 5th U.S. Cavalry, and never really engaged in the fighting.

Perhaps an examination of the brigade commander’s report will shed more light on the fighting:

“Report of Col. George A. H. Blake, First U.S. cavalry, commanding Second Brigade, of the battle of Gaines Mill.

Headquarters Second Cavalry Brigade
Camp, Harrison’s Landing, James River, Va., July 3, 1862

Sir: In compliance with orders from the headquarters cavalry division I have the honor to report the movements of this brigade on the 26th instant and its engagement with the enemy on the following day.

The brigade consisted of two small squadrons of the First U.S. Cavalry, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Grier, and the provost guard of the division, consisting of 39 men, under the command of Lieutenant Balk, Sixth U.S. Cavalry. On the 26th instant information was received of the approach of the enemy, who we were informed were seen upon the road to our rear. The brigade was immediately formed. About 12 o’clock m. we took up our line of march and reached Cold Harbor, where we remained for the night.

About 7 o’clock upon the following morning (June 27) the line of march was again resumed, and we proceeded to a point which was then occupied for the time by General F. J. Porter as his headquarters, on the road leading to No. 8 Bridge. The brigade was placed in position, and about 11 o’clock the engagement commenced. A short time after the brigade was moved to the left and rear of the house occupied by General F. J. Porter as his headquarters. Late in the evening, when our infantry retired before the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, the brigade was ordered upon the hill in rear of the Fifth U.S. Cavalry, with orders to act as a reserve to the Fifth U.S. Cavalry, who were ordered to charge the enemy, and, if successful, to take advantage of it and follow it up. The fire of the enemy was so destructive that a charge was not effected. The command fell back with the artillery in good order and occupied a position about 600 yards from our former position. We were again ordered to the front, and acted as a support to a body of infantry who had rallied at the bottom of the hill and were holding the enemy in check. When our artillery was posted on the hill in rear we were ordered to retire, so as to be out of his fire. We fell back a short distance and remained until 1 o’clock a.m. on the 28th instant, when the command retired across the Chickahominy, near Savage Station.

I am indebted to Lieutenant-Colonel Grier, Captain Reno, Captain Kellogg, Lieutenant Feilner, Lieutenant Allen (dangerously wounded), all of the First U.S. Cavalry; Lieutenant Balk, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, and Lieutenant Kneass, acting assistant adjutant-general Eighth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, for the prompt and cheerful assistance given me on the field. Lieutenant Balk and myself were slightly struck during the engagement, but not of sufficient importance to notice further.
A list of casualties will be furnished when received.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

George A. H. Blake,
Colonel First Cavalry, Commanding Brigade.

Lieut. James P. Martin.” (OR, Vol. 11, pt. 2, pg. 44)

Colonel Blake’s report provides a bit more detail on the regiment’s actions, but not much indication of the severity of the fighting beyond mentioning the one officer wounded.

In actuality, the regiment’s casualties for the battle consisted of 4 enlisted men killed in action, 1 officer mortally wounded, 18 enlisted men wounded in action, and 2 enlisted men missing, for a total of 25. (OR, Vol. 11, pt. 2, pg. 40) 20% of the force engaged is normally considered heavy casualties, though it pales in comparison to the 5th Cavalry’s losses in the fight.

Lt. Col. Grier, an officer of great experience, probably has an understated writing style. This is refreshing given the hyperbole of many battle reports. His entry on the regimental muster rolls for June 1862 has only this to say of the battle:

“The Regiment consisting of 4 Companies (A, C, F & H) under the command of Lieut. Colonel Wm. N. Grier were engaged in the action of 27th of June at Gaines Mill Va., loss in killed wounded and missing – 1 officer and 23 enlisted men.”

The mortally wounded officer was 1st Lieutenant Robert Allen, Jr. The regiment’s July 1862 return lists him as “died of wounds received in action in the Battle of Gaines Mill, Va June 27, 1862.” The names of the enlisted men killed and wounded in action are not listed in the monthly returns, and I’m still looking for the 1862 annual return for the regiment.

For those curious about the rest of the regiment, Companies B, E, I and K were at Fortress Monroe during the battle. The other squadron, Cos. D and G, were fighting in New Mexico.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Gaines Mill week

In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862, I'll be featuring posts on the regular cavalry's participation in the battle this week. I won't focus on the decision-making of Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, as that's been covered before and likely will be again this week elsewhere. I'll focus on the stories of the two regular regiments involved, the 1st and 5th U.S. Cavalry regiments. I've examined their official reports and monthly returns for information on the battle. Unfortunately, I'm away from home on a work trip for the next month, so I'm not able to provide Chaplain Gracey's account of the charge of the 5th U.S. Cavalry. He was present on the field with the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Murder in the Cavalry?

I found proceedings from a third court martial from the regulars in 1864, and found it even more interesting than the first two. Regrettably, I didn’t find this one in time for the book. Our manuscript is already in the editing process, so we won’t be able to add this to our history of the 6th U.S. Cavalry. It just goes to prove that there’s always another piece of information out there.

I have the relevant portions of the order for this case, but omitted the data for the other four courts martial included in the order. All four were volunteers tried for desertion, and all four were sentenced to be shot dead by musketry.

“Orders No. 67. War Department
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington, February 22, 1864.

III. Before a General Court Martial, which convened at the Headquarters, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, September 30, 1863, pursuant to Special Orders, No. 169, dated September 29, 1863, Headquarters, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac, and of which Colonel GEORGE A.H. BLAKE, 1st United States Cavalry, is President, was arraigned and tried ---

Private Edward Brandingham, Company “G,” 6th U.S. Cavalry

Charge I. – “Murder.”

Specification – “In this; that he, the said Private Edward Brandingham, Company ‘G,’ 6th U.S. Cavalry, did strike and stab with a knife Sergeant Frank Schurzzers, Company ‘K’, 6th U.S. Cavalry, thereby causing the death of the said Sergeant Schurzzers. This at Headquarters, Cavalry Corps, near Culpeper, Va., on the evening of September 29, 1863.”

Charge II. – “Drawing and lifting up a weapon, and offering violence against his superior officer, being in the execution of his office.”

Specification -- “In this; that he, the said Private Edward Brandingham, Company ‘G,’ 6th U.S. Cavalry, did draw and lift up a knife against his superior officer, Sergeant Frank Schurzzers, Company ‘K’, 6th U.S. Cavalry, while in the execution of his office, and did therewith offer violence against the said Sergeant Schurzzers while in the execution of his office, and did with the said knife strike and stab the said Schurzzers while in the execution of his office, thereby causing the death of the said Sergeant Schurzzers. This at Headquarters, Cavalry Corps, near Culpeper Court-house, Va., on the evening of September 29, 1863.”

To which charge and specification the accused, Private Edward Brandingham, Company “G,” 6th U.S. Cavalry, pleaded “Not Guilty.”


The Court, having maturely considered the evidence adduced, finds the prisoner, Private Edward Brandingham, Company “G,” 6th U.S. Cavalry, as follows:

Charge I.

Of the Specification, “Guilty.”
Of the Charge, “Guilty.”

Charge II.

Of the Specification, “Guilty.”
Of the Charge, “Guilty.”


And the Court does therefore sentence him, Private Edward Brandingham, Company “G,” 6th U.S. Cavalry, “To be hung by the neck until he is dead, at such time and place as the Commanding general may direct: two-thirds of the members of the Court concurring therein.”

So who were these fellows, and what was going on in Culpeper?

The victim, Sergeant Frank “Schurzzers,” was actually Sergeant Frank Schweigus, a farmer from Germany who enlisted in Co. K, 6th U.S. Cavalry in Rochester, New York on August 15, 1861. Regimental returns list him as mortally wounded at Culpeper, Va., on September 29, 1863.

Edward Brantingham was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1839. He worked there as a laborer, and was 22 years old when he was enlisted into Company K, 6th U.S. Cavalry there by Lt. James F. Wade on July 21, 1861. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’5” tall, with blue eyes, light hair and a ruddy complexion.

The 6th U.S. Cavalry was not a part of the Reserve Brigade, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac at the time of the incident. As a result of heavy losses during the Gettysburg campaign and subsequent pursuit, they were assigned to duty at cavalry Corps Headquarters in late July 1863.

I have found no other mention of this incident anywhere, so we don’t know what actually happened. Sgt. Schweigus died that day, and Pvt. Brantingham was accused of killing him. The evidence wasn’t totally compelling, as only two-thirds of the court’s members concurred with the sentence. Two-thirds was the minimum necessary, but one of the other four courts-martial was unanimous in the sentencing.

So what happened?

Pvt. Brantingham was in confinement at the regimental camp on the equivalent of death row from the date court martial on September 30th to the date the order was published on February 22, 1864. To say that it was a miserable winter would probably understate the situation. The apropos portions of the order continue below.

“VI. The proceedings of the Court in the case of Private Edward Brandingham, Company “G,” 6th U.S. Cavalry, have been submitted to the President of the United States for his action thereon. The findings of the Court upon the first charge are disapproved by the Major General commanding. The sentence awarded the accused is disapproved by the President. The prisoner will be released from confinement and returned to duty.”

Come again? Returned to duty?

The rest of the story is that none of the five were executed. The commanding generals in each case (our old friend Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton in the case of Pvt. Brantingham) recommended clemency, and President Lincoln’s policies concerning capital punishment for soldiers has been discussed elsewhere. Of the five accused, one was discharged, two were sentenced to confinement at hard labor on Dry Tortugas, Florida during the war, and Brantingham and one other were returned to duty.

Regardless of one’s views concerning capital punishment, the return to duty is mystifying. Also mystifying is that I’ve not been able to find a mention of it in letters home from several collections of letters from officers of the regiment during this period. Apparently the evidence against Brantingham simply wasn’t compelling enough to convince the general and the President of his guilt.

Edward Brantingham continued to serve in Co. G, 6th U.S. Cavalry until his discharge at the expiration of his period of service at the regiment’s camp on January 25, 1865 as a private. He returned to Columbus, where he worked as a stableman and teamster and lived the rest of his life. His wife Martha submitted a claim for his pension on October 26, 1889.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Fiddler’s Green: Richard Wall

Here’s the profile of another cavalryman from the southwestern theater of the war, Richard Wall of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry. I thought I would have this posted several days ago, but he kept popping up in the regimental monthly returns as I worked my way through them. Robert, thanks for your inquiry, and I hope this answers some of your questions.

Richard Wall was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1827. He immigrated to the United States, and was working as a miner in San Antonio, Texas when he was enlisted into Company C, Regiment of Mounted Rifles by Lieutenant Alfred Gibbs on December 1, 1855. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’7” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. During his first enlistment, he was promoted to corporal and sergeant in the same company. On December 1, 1860, he was re-enlisted into Company C by Captain Dabney Maury at Fort Marcy, New Mexico.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Sergeant Wall remained with his company and regiment, and was soon promoted to first sergeant. 1861 was a year of long marches but relatively little fighting for the company. According to the regiment’s annual return, they marched 1,147 miles, but had only three small engagements with Indians and a lone skirmish against invading Texans north of fort Thorn, NM on September 25, 1861.

First Sergeant Wall was placed on special duty as an acting second lieutenant with his company in January 1862, one of three noncommissioned officers so assigned. This was an unorthodox assignment, made necessary by the lack of officers present for duty. Several officer appointments had made, but the new officers hadn’t reached new Mexico yet, and five of the six companies in the field had no officers.

On February 21, 1862, acting lieutenant Wall fought with his company at the battle of Valverde. Major Thomas Duncan commanded the regiment on the field, and commended Wall in his official report on the battle for actions “characterized by the greatest zeal and coolness.”

Following the battle, Company C was ordered north to Fort Union. They mustered only 26 enlisted men under Wall’s command. During the march, they were attacked by Indians on the night of March 3rd in Comanche Canon, NM. Wall and Bugler Piggot were wounded, and Private Patrick Hart was killed. They fought at the battle of Glorietta Pass later in the month, in a squadron with Company K under Captain Joseph Tilford.

Not long after the battle, the regiment was ordered to march to the western theater of the war, joining the General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee in November. Wall was officially appointed a second lieutenant on July 17th, but word of the promotion did not catch up with the regiment until December 17th, when he was discharged to receive the appointment at Memphis, TN. He was assigned to Company E.

Lieutenant Wall fought with his regiment in Tennessee and Alabama in 1863. He earned a brevet promotion to first lieutenant on November 15, 1863 for gallant and meritorious service in action near Tuscumbria, AL. He received an official appointment to first lieutenant three months later, on February 15, 1864.
The following month, the regiment was transferred to St Louis, MO. They spent the summer of 1864 fighting in the Department of Arkansas, where they remained through the end of the war. Lieutenant Wall was promoted to captain on December 24, 1866.

Shortly thereafter, the regiment was reassigned to duty in New Mexico. Captain Richard Wall died in Santa Fe of unknown causes on July 28, 1868, and was buried the same day in Santa Fe National Cemetery, section C, site 479.