Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Brief Hiatus

Not that I've been posting more than once or twice a week anyway, but I have just been informed that I will be making an unscheduled trip starting this weekend and ending in late July that will leave me without internet access. Expect no further posts here until July 22nd.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Brandy Station letter

In honor of the 146th anniversary of the Battle of Brandy Station, I decided to post this little known letter from one of the Regular participants. Lieutenant Christian Balder of the 6th U.S. Cavalry fought with the Reserve Brigade on the Beverly Ford side of the battle. After reading the letter several times, I still don’t know why he’s so upset with the 6th Pennsylvania cavalry, save perhaps that they received more honors in the newspapers. Lieutenant Balder would be killed just a few weeks later on July 3rd, at the battle of Fairfield, where his friend Lieutenant Paulding was captured.

Camp 6th Cavalry Near Catletts Station, Va.
June 12th, 1863

My dear Paulding

As I have today a few moments to spare, I will drop you a few lines. You have undoubtedly read in the Chronicle of yesterday the account of our fight with the rebs. Don’t believe the half of it. I for one will never believe newspaper accounts for they are all stating falsehoods either directly or indirectly. It appears from the Chronicle that the 6th Pa. supported by the 6th Regulars done all the hard licks, when the Pa.s “god save mark” ran like sheep.

I will try to give you an account of as much as came under my observation. Col. Davis’s Brig. went over the river first. They had little difficulty in crossing, because the rebs were a little surprised and did not expect us. Davis drove them slowly but poor fellow, he was nearly one of the first who were killed. The rebs contested every inch of ground manfully, and the fight grew beautifully larger & larger. The Reserve Brig. And Elders Battery had a position in an open field with thick heavy woods to our front and left, and being subjected to a heavy fire from a hill to our right and front. That hill should have been occupied by us, and we could have gotten it very early in the day but “somebody” thought it was of no consequence. We remained in this field till after 12. Elders Battery fireing but little. In coming from water with Co. F. Priv. Viall had the top of his head carried away by a round shot from a battery on the hill above alluded to. He died instantly. Finally we were ordered to advance through the woods to our front. Brisbine & Claflin’s Squadron having been sent to some other point we had only four squadrons remaining. The 2d. Cav. took the lead, then followed the 6th Pa. then our Regt. I being Off. Of Day brought up the rear with 15 men of the guard. The 1st Cav. Did not cross the river till late in the afternoon. The 5th was on some other part of the field. We advanced through the woods in column of squadrons. When I got half ways through the woods. I heard cheering & shouting as if the infernals had broke loose from the lower regions. Now, thinks I, my bravy Mackerals are giving it to the rebs. On emerging from the woods I saw about one Regt. Of Cav. I thought they were our men, for they were dressed the same. They soon thought me different, however, when they commenced firing at me and my brave Mackerals, and then they made several attempts to but did not do it. I looked in vain for the 2d, 6th Pa. and ours, but they had commenced a hurried advance towards Washington. The 6th Pa. had indeed made a charge, so I heard but a great many jumped into a ditch, got stuck and were taken prisoners. Why the 2d & 6th Regulars run is impossible for me to say, and I think it is a great shame. On my retreating in the woods I seen cavalries without hats, scratched noses, and the axes of our pioneers bumping against their backs like forty. The rebs were shelling the woods all the time and Madden was wounded by a shell, not dangerous, and he is now in Washington doing well. Kerin was taken prisoner. On arriving again in our first field, I found the 6th had partially rallied and I went to my squadron. What little accidents occurred from then to about 2 O’clock is not worth mentioning. We were continually skirmishing and having little charges repeatedly with more or less success. The rebs fought bravely. At one place the 2d had about 1 good squadron charging a host of rebs, driven them for a while and then the rebs driving them. Brisbine having by this time joined, he and Wade tried them with their squadrons, but with little better success. I and Ward went in next, drove the rebs from the place, then they drove us back. We rallied drove them again to near the edge of a wood, they firing a shower of bullets at us and we at them, being only about 30 yards apart. My mare was hit through her hind leg, but not hurt her much. My blood got up. I wanted my squadron to charge with me. Ward & Tupper done the same, but could not get those cowboys to come on. They all fight very well with the carbine & Pistol, but have no confidence in the sabre. I was in front of the squadron, waving my sabre, and entreating and cursing them alternately, trying to get them on, when all of a sudden, a rebel officer came dashing at me, at full speed, making a tremendous right cut at me, but fortunately, I just perceived him in the nick of time. I parried his cut successfully and striking his sabre clean out of his hand. He fled by me, and one of my men shot him through the heart. We stood fully 15 or 20 minutes opposite each other, the rebs afraid to charge, and only firing at us. I then seen about a regiment of rebs coming through a field on our right and I thought it time to retire. But poor Ward had been killed. He worked like a Trojan to get his men to go in with the sabre, but could not succeed. About half an hour after that Stoll was killed while skirmishing with a part of that Regt. I had seen coming on my right. So you see we lost about 1/3 of our officers in killed, wounded & missing. Out of about 280 men, we lost about 50. I never gave the rebs so much credit before, but I must now say, they go in with a will. Is it not strange now that the papers never say anything about the 2d and 6th who fought fine in the afternoon, no matter, what they done in the morning. Their list of killed & wounded speak for themselves.

My Dear Paulding, I must now stop. Write to me soon. My love to Nichols.

Yours truly


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fiddler’s Green: John Savage

Another of the lesser known officers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry was Captain John Savage of Company H. He is yet another cavalry officer native to Philadelphia, a city that spawned many prominent cavalry leaders during the Civil War. He remains a mystery in many ways. While many “wants” have been found, there are precious few “whys.” Thanks to Jim Jones for permitting me to edit this and post it here.

John Savage, III came from a very prominent Savage family line who settled in Philadelphia during the late 18th century. His great grandfather was Edward Savage, who became a famous painter and engraver. He painted the first panorama in Philadelphia, The Congress Voting Independence, and many other political and historical paintings. His grandfather, John Savage, was a shipowner and through his trades became a very wealthy merchant. He settled in Philadelphia, and was very active in his community, including service as a chief justice and a manager of the Almshouse.

John Savage, III was born in 1832 in Washington County, Maryland. His father, John Savage, II of Philadelphia and his mother , Adelaide H. Hughes of Maryland, were married in Washington County, Maryland on December 30, 1830. According to census records, by 1850 the family had moved to Philadelphia, along with nine other person sin the household. Savage’s father died in 1853, leaving his entire estate to his son, minus an annuity for his wife.

John, III married Isabella Swift Fitzhugh of New York in 1855. Isabella was the daughter of Dr. Daniel Hughes Fitzhugh, who was a surgeon in the fleet of Commodore Perry at the battle of Lake Erie, and also a pioneer of Bay City, Michigan. Prior to the Civil War, the couple had two children: John Savage, IV in 1857 and Anne Dana Savage in 1859. In 1860, his mother Adelaide was living with him along with eight other persons, who held such job titles such as domestic, waiter, and coachman. John’s occupation was listed as “Gentleman,” and his total estate value was $250,000 dollars! (a hefty sum by 1860 standards).

At the outbreak of the Civil War, John secured himself a commission as a captain in the newly forming 3rd U.S. Cavalry Regiment (later to be renumbered the 6th) on May 14, 1861. He immediately began recruiting for his Company H at the Girard House on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. He quickly obtained his quota of men, and, therefore, was also the first company to reach the regiment’s second camp at Bladensburg, Maryland. At Bladensburg, he was officially assigned to and took command of his company on August 21, 1861. As the first two companies to complete recruiting, his company, along with Captain August V. Kautz’ Company B, was denoted the 1st Squadron. They were also selected as the flank squadron, which was the only squadron in the regiment initially equipped with carbines and acted as the advance squadron during regimental movements. The remaining squadrons were armed only with pistols and sabers.

Captain Savage trained with his regiment through the winter of 1861 at Camp East of Capitol, D.C., near the Congressional Cemetery. He accompanied the regiment upon its initial campaign in March 1862, and served uninterrupted until July 21, 1862, when he took five days of leave. His company, under the squadron command of Captain Kautz, literally led the advance of the Army of the Potomac on its advance from Yorktown toward Richmond as the advance squadron the army’s advance guard. After his return from leave, he served during the remainder of the Peninsula Campaign. On September 9, 1862, as the regiment departed the peninsula, he took sick leave. In October and November, he was listed as “supposed to be in Philadelphia,” and in December, he was listed as “absent without leave since October 10, 1862”on the regimental returns. What the regiment was unaware of was that Captain John Savage resigned on December 23, 1862. The reason for his resignation is a mystery, as he doesn’t appear to have distinguished himself in an overly positive or negative fashion during the campaign. A third child, Daniel Fitzhugh Savage, was born to the family at some point during his service. Perhaps he simply didn’t care for the rigors of active campaigning in the cavalry. The regiment didn’t learn of his resignation until February 1863, while at winter camp. His name doesn’t appear again in records during the war. His mother released her claim to her annuity to John in December 1863.

In 1868, John sold his inherited estate. By June 10, 1870, according to census records, the family moved to Bay City, Michigan – the city her father helped create – and settled at 412 North Jackson Street. John was listed as “without occupation,” and a net worth of $11,000, which if not invested in property likely did not reflect the money from the sale of his estate. A fourth child, Adelaide Hughes Savage, was born in 1867, perhaps named after his mother.

By June 1880, John and his family, along with his mother were living together. His youngest daughter, Anne, died on January 5, 1879. John also employed one elderly servant lady. John was listed as “retired.”
In 1890, John was living at 908 North Jackson Street and employed as the county register. He is listed on the Veteran’s Schedule of Bay City as a captain in the 6th U.S. Cavalry. Interestingly, it listed him as having been captain of company B, and having served a full three years, from May 24, 1861 to May 24, 1864.

John, III died in Bay City, Michigan on April 18, 1896. His wife died in the same city seven years later, on October 27, 1903. John Savage, John II and his wife Adelaide, John III and his wife Isabella, and their daughter Anne Dana Savage, were all buried at Ronaldson’s Philadelphia Cemetery, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This cemetery was removed in the 1920s to Forrest Hills, 101 Byberry Road, Philadelphia, and denoted the Philadelphia Cemetery.