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.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

SOS - Mapmaker Needed

We've had a very positive response from a publisher on our 6th U.S. Cavalry manuscript, and they're ready to send contracts, but we find ourselves in a rather desperate need of a cartographer for the work's maps. The publisher couldn't recommend one.

Does anyone know of anyone who does this for a reasonable price? For that matter, can anyone tell me what a reasonable price is? We're basically looking at two battle maps, a map of part of the Rappahannock, and six or seven campaign maps. Nothing earth-shattering, but definitely beyond Jim's and my ability to produce.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Of Poems and Roundtables

Poetry isn't a usual feature on this blog, but I recently unearthed this poem by Joseph Mills Hanson and thought it was worth sharing. It was in the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, Vol. 49, July-August 1911, page 142. It was originally published in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, date unknown.

The Cavalry Veteran

This sabre-cut on my forehead scored?
I picked it up at Beverly Ford
The day we turned “Jeb” Stuart’s flank
And hurled him from the river bank.
It was parry and thrust with a hearty will
As we fought for the guns on Fleetwood Hill,
While over the fields and through the pines
Backward and forward surged the lines;
Twelve thousand men in a frenzied fray;
Charge and rally and mad melee ---
Oh, the crash and roar as the squadrons met,
The cheers and yells --- I can hear them yet!
But we’d forced the fords, so our work was done,
And we galloped away ere set of sun.

This welt of a bullet across my arm?
It’s a scratch I caught at McPherson’s farm
That morning our outposts chanced to strike
Hill’s solid corps on the Cashtown pike.
Hour by hour or thin ranks stood
Stubbornly holding each fence and wood,
Till, down the road where the wheat-fields grew
And the spires of Gettysburg pierced the blue,
WE saw a column of dust arise,
A welcome sight to our anxious eyes,
And into the hell of the battle’s roar
Reynolds marched with the old First Corps;
But the field where the rebel flood was stayed
Was held by the stand that Buford made.

This limp I got as my horse went down
When Fitz Lee ran us through Buckland town.
Out of the woods with a spurt of flame,
Driving backward our van, he came.
Custer struggled to turn the thrust,
But they whirled him off like a fleck of dust;
Davies, shattered in front and flanks,
Took to the fields with flying ranks,
And off we scampered, like boys at play,
Over the hills and far away.
Crack! A shot through my good steed’s knee;
Down he tumbled on top of me,
And I crawled to a thicket, right glad to lie
Till the jubilant rebels had thundered by.

This scar on my neck was a bayonet blow
From a stalwart Johnnie sat Waynesboro,
Where we routed Early from hill to hill
And tossed him over to Charlottesville,
Clearing the valley, all seamed and scored
By waste and pillage and fire and sword,
Down we galloped like Attila’s Huns,
Capturing trenches and flags and guns,
Bagging the foe ere the fight began.
(That was a habit with Sheridan!)
I seized a flag, but the color guard
Passed my parry and thrust me hard ---
Though we made it up and were friends for aye
When I shared my rations with him next day!

As often happens, this thread led somewhere unexpected. Reading the poem, it sounds as though the rider was a veteran of Buford's 1st Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac, most likely a volunteer from either the 1st or 2nd Brigade. A quick check of the NPS Soldiers & Sailors database didn't turn up a cavalryman by that name, so I did a generic internet search.

Here's what I turned up in a biography on a South Dakota State Historical Society website (look here for the remainder of the biographical sketch)

"In later years, deriving from his enthusiasm and expertise in military history, especially Civil War history, the National Park Service hired Joseph as Historical Assistant. He compiled maps for battles at Petersburg, Antietam, Kennesaw Mountain, and Richmond. He had a short stint as archeologist at Jamestown, from which he believed himself unqualified. His final assignment with the National Park Service placed him as first superintendent of the newly established Manassas Battlefield Park in Virginia where he was instrumental in researching, mapping and designating historical signage and landmarks throughout the park.

"In 1935, Joseph, along with 3 other Civil War enthusiasts from Manassas formed a group calling themselves the Battlefield Crackpates. In 1952, the group formally organized and expanded into the Civil War Roundtable of Washington D.C. Joseph was one of 18 as a founding member. The Roundtable promotes the preservation of Civil War historical fields and landmarks. Joseph and the members of the Roundtable actively lobbied and successfully prevented the federal government from building part of the interstate highway through the Manassas Battlefield. In 1957, Joseph received the Roundtable’s Gold Medal Award for distinguished achievement in Civil War history. One of the original Crackpates, artist Garnet Jex, painted Joseph’s portrait for the National Park Service at the Manassas Battlefield Park. In 1953, Joseph’s last book, Bull Run Remembers, was published, compiled from his extensive research for the Manassas Battlefield Park. Joseph retired from the National Park Service in December 1947 and lived with his second wife, Rosamond, in Manassas until his death on February 11, 1960. He is buried next to his parents in the Yankton Cemetery."

I will refrain from nominating any new members for the Battlefield Crackpates.

From poetry to the birth of the Civil War Round Table in one brief entry. I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Fiddler’s Green: Richard Byrne, Regular Cavalryman in the Irish Brigade

Richard Byrne was born in 1833 in County Cavan, Ireland, and emigrated to New York in 1844. He appears to have initially joined the army in January 1851, but I was unable to find enlistment documents from his first enlistment. He appears only on post returns as a recruit.

Byrne was enlisted as a private into Company G, 1st (later 4th) U.S. Cavalry by Lt. Robert Ransom on May 21, 1856 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His occupation is listed as soldier, and he’s described as 5’10 ½” tall, with black hair, gray eyes and a fair complexion. He was promoted to corporal and sergeant within Co. G, and by early 1861 was the regimental sergeant major.

On May 14, 1861, Sergeant Major Byrne was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the 17th Infantry. He applied for a transfer back to the cavalry, which was endorsed by his former commander, now Brigadier General Edwin V. Sumner, and was transferred to the 5th U.S. Cavalry on September 21st. He remained attached to the 4th Cavalry until October 1861, when he joined his company in Washington, D.C.

He served with the 5th U.S. Cavalry throughout the Peninsula campaign, seeing fighting at Williamsburg, Hanover Court House, Ashland, Old Church and White Oak Swamp. Byrne was promoted to first lieutenant on July 17, 1862. During the Maryland campaign, he saw action at South Mountain, Antietam, Shepherdstown, Halltown and Martinsburg.

Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrews appointed Byrne colonel of the 28th Massachusetts Infantry on September 29, 1862. On October 16, 1862, he was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the 5th U.S. Cavalry to accept the appointment, and assumed command of his new regiment two days later at Nolan’s Ferry. The following month, the regiment was assigned to Colonel Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade, Hancock’s Division, II Corps.

Colonel Byrne led his regiment against Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, where they lost 157 men killed, wounded and missing of 720 engaged. He fought at the regiment’s head during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns.

He was sent back to Massachusetts during the winter of 1863 and spring of 1864 to recruit for the regiment’s depleted ranks. By the opening of the Overland Campaign he had returned to the regiment, and as senior officer present assumed command of the Irish Brigade.

Colonel Byrne was mortally wounded while leading an attack on the Confederate entrenchments at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. He was transported to Washington, D.C., where his wife joined him. Richard Byrne died on June 12, 1864. His appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers had been signed by President Lincoln, but he died before it could be officially presented to him. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York with military honors.

One of the Irish Brigade’s officers, D.P. Conyngham described Byrne as “brave almost to rashness, he always led his men, who knew no fear under his eye; a strict disciplinarian, just to each and all in the exercise of his authority, he commanded the respect and esteem of those under him, and to his efforts is mainly due the high reputation for steadiness and discipline which the Twenty-eighth enjoyed.”


Conyngham, D.P. The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns. New York: William McSorley & Co. Publishers, 1867.
Heitman, pg 272.
Price, pgs 495-496.
U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, RG 94, NARA.
U.S. Army, Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916, RG 94, NARA.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Fiddler's Green: David S. Gordon

I recently received a request to check into David Stuart Gordon, and unearthed a very interesting cavalryman’s career.

David Stuart Gordon was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania on May 23, 1832, four years to the day before the birth of the regiment in which he would spend the majority of his career. Prior to the war, he moved to Leavenworth, Kansas, where he worked as a merchant and the city auditor.

After Lincoln was elected president, Senator James H. Lane of Kansas offered him a bodyguard of men from Kansas to protect him during his trip to Washington. Lincoln declined the offer, but Lane sent the men to Washington anyway. They organized themselves as a company known as the “Frontier Guard,” and established their headquarters at the Willard Hotel. Senator Lane was the company’s captain, and David S. Gordon was its first sergeant. Four days after the surrender of Fort Sumter, the company was asked by the Secretary of War to secure the White House. The company remained on duty there for several weeks before they were honorably discharged.

It is not surprising, then, that Gordon was in the first round of civilian appointments of officers to replace resignations in the regular army’s regiments. Senator Lane likely had something to do with this, since he was appointed to the Army from Kansas and not his native Pennsylvania. He was appointed second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry on April 26, 1861, and accepted the appointment the next day. Companies from the regiment were at that time arriving at Carlisle Barracks, PA from their evacuation of Texas. As soon as the first companies were refitted, they were dispatched to Washington, D.C. to defend the capitol. Gordon joined them when they reached Washington. He does not appear on the regiment’s muster rolls in April, May or June 1861.

On May 31, 1861, he accompanied Lt. Charles Tompkins and his company on a raid to Fairfax Courthouse (see here for details). Following the raid, and probably as a result of the hubbub surrounding it, Lt. Gordon was appointed an aide de camp to General Keyes. He was captured while serving in this position on July 21, 1861, during the battle of Bull Run.

Gordon was quite well-travelled as a prisoner, as the Confederate government struggled to establish a system for handling prisoners of war. Initially sent to Libby Prison in Richmond, he was subsequently incarcerated at Castle Pinckney, Charleston, SC; Columbia jail, SC; and Salisbury, NC. He was not exchanged until August 1862.

In the meantime, the U.S. cavalry regiments were redesignated the month after Bull Run. The 2nd Cavalry became the 5th Cavalry, and the 2nd Dragoons became the 2nd Cavalry. So Gordon emerged from captivity to service in a new regiment of the same name. Such was the confusion over which regiment Gordon was assigned to that he appears in George Price’s Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry only in Charles Tompkins’ entry. He served for several months as the inspector of the U.S. Army’s Parole Camp at Annapolis, MD before joining the regiment just before the battle of Fredericksburg.

Following the battle of Fredericksburg, Lt. Gordon was assigned to the staff of General Schenk, commander of the Middle Department at Baltimore, MD. He served as an acting assistant adjutant general to General Schenk through the Gettysburg campaign. On April 25, 1863, he was promoted to captain in the 2nd US Cavalry, and on paper assigned to Company D, though still listed on detached service. He received a brevet to major, U.S. Army for gallant and meritorious service at the battle of Gettysburg.

He rejoined his regiment during the pursuit from Gettysburg, seeing action at Manassas Gap, Rappahannock Station, and Culpeper Courthouse.

In 1864 he served with regiment during the Wilderness campaign and Sheridan’s two raids. He commanded the regiment on the second day of the battle of Trevillian Station when Capt. T.F. Rodenbough was seriously wounded on June 11. He commanded the regiment through the battle of Deep Bottom on July 27-28, 1864, and during the majority of the Shenandoah campaign from August to October 1864.

In late October he was assigned to Carlisle Barracks for recruiting duty, as were officers from all the regular cavalry regiments. He was further assigned to Cincinnati, OH, where he recruited for his regiment from October 1864 to January 1865.

His regiment did not participate in the Appomattox campaign, and as the senior officer present he assumed command when he rejoined it at Point of Rocks, MD from March to November 1865.

At that point the majority of the brevetted officers returned from duty with volunteer regiments, and Gordon made the long slide down to once again commanding his Company D. The regiment was assigned to duty on the frontier In November, and began the long march to Fort Leavenworth, KS. Once the regiment reached Kansas, Gordon and Company D were further assigned to Fort Lyon, CO, where they remained until October 1866.

The 2nd US Cavalry was reassigned to the Department of the Platte under pre-war commander Philip St. George Cooke at the end of the year, and the regiment’s companies were reassigned to forts in what is today Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Capt. Gordon and his company spent only a few weeks at their new post of Fort Laramie, Dakota Territory when they once again received marching orders. Following news of the Fetterman massacre, a column of infantry and cavalry was dispatched to the relief of Fort Kearney in January 1867. Gordon commanded a squadron of his own company and Company L in support of four companies of the 10th Infantry. An impromptu winter march across Nebraska must have been a challenging mission. Once they reached the fort, the majority of the column returned to Fort Laramie, but Gordon and his company garrisoned the fort until it was closed the following July.
Gordon’s next post was Fort D.A. Russell, Wyoming Territory, where he and his company served from August 1868 to May 1869. During this period his service is described as “engaged with hostile Indians and escorting mail and government trains.” Gordon later published an account of this expedition in the Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States in 1911.

Gordon’s company conducted an extended scouting expedition of the Wind River valley from May to September 1869, engaged multiple times with hostile Indians before moving to Fort Bridger, Wyoming Territory in October. They were engaged in the affair at Miner’s Delight, WT on May 4, 1870, but I could not locate any information on said affair. They were then assigned to Camp Douglass, WT, where they spent the next five years.

At this point Gordon’s career becomes very cloudy. He was steadily promoted, so it’s unlikely any seriously untoward happened at Miner’s Delight, but there is no mention of further postings. He was promoted in the regiment to major on June 25, 1877 and lieutenant colonel on November 20, 1889.

In 1892, he was assigned to command Fort Myer, Washington, D.C. He finally left his regiment on July 28, 1896, when he was promoted to colonel and command of the 6th U.S. Cavalry. Gordon was promoted to brigadier general upon his retirement on May 23, 1896.

Brigadier General David S. Gordon died on January 30, 1930, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Gordon, David S. "The Relief of Fort Phil Kearny," Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States, Volume 49, September-October 1911, pages 280-284.
Henry, Volume 1, page 153
Heitman, page 465
Lambert, Joseph. One Hundred Years With the Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999.
New York Times articles, December 29, 1895 and January 28, 1912.
Price, George F. Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press, Ltd, 1935.
Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
Speer, John. The Life of General James H. Lane.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Will the Real John Dolan Please Stand Up?

One of the joys of studying history is chasing down odd threads to see where they lead. I recently came across one such thread as I was cross-referencing information between regiments. I chanced upon an account of a former noncommissioned officer in George Price’s Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry that touched on three different regular cavalry regiments. Price’s account is the only more or less contemporary account of the regiment during the Civil war and on the frontier. It’s a decent reference as long as one keeps in mind that it has a very friendly bias (he was one of the regiment’s officers) and is entirely anecdotal in nature.

The individual in question, First Sergeant John Dolan, at the time of his death, “had been in continuous service for nearly thirty years, and had served more than twenty years as a first sergeant.”

A perfect soldier to profile, I thought. Given the information laid out by Price, there should be a wealth of information available on this fine soldier. Alas, trying to corroborate Price’s information in some areas proved to be quite challenging. A quick check of the National Park Service's database revealed no less than ten John Dolans in regular cavalry regiments during the Civil War, from 5 of the 6 regular cavalry regiments. Two were for a first sergeant of Company B, 4th US Cavalry.

Price’s coverage begins at the beginning of Dolan’s career. “He served two enlistments in the First Dragoons from 1850 to 1860, and during his first enlistment was on active service against hostile Indians and was distinguished for bravery and good deportment. He participated during his second enlistment, in many expeditions, and was frequently engaged in combats with the Apaches in Arizona and New Mexico.”

The only records that I can find for a John Dolan in a mounted regiment through regimental muster rolls or enlistment documents prior to the Civil War are for the 2nd Dragoons, not the 1st Dragoons. According to his enlistment documents, Dolan was born in Longford, Ireland, and was described as 23 years old, 5’ 10” tall, with grey eyes, dark hair and a ruddy complexion. He was enlisted in Company B, 2nd Dragoons by Captain James Oakes in Pittsburgh on April 6, 1853. He reenlisted in the same company as a private at Fort Riley, Kansas Territory on February 6, 1857. 1st vs 2nd Dragoons is an easy enough mistake, so perhaps it was the same person.

Price continues: “His third enlistment was with the First (now Fourth) Cavalry, and during the year 1860 he participated in an expedition against the Kiowas and Comanches. He served, with his regiment, during the early operations of the war of the Rebellion, participating in the battles of Springfield and Shiloh, and the fall of Corinth.”

This is possible, but would have required Dolan to move between units a bit. In 1860, B Company, 2nd Dragoons, commanded by Captain John Buford, was in Utah on the Mormon Expedition, not fighting Indians. Transfers of soldiers and noncommissioned officers between companies within the regiment were not unheard of, however, if not an everyday occurrence. There were companies from the regiment in New Mexico and Colorado, and their movements east toward the war would have brought them into contact with the 4th Cavalry in Missouri at about the time of the battles mentioned. Indeed, the only regular cavalry representatives at the battle of Shiloh were Company C, 2nd Dragoons and Company I, 4th Cavalry, commanded by an infantry lieutenant. These two companies remained together through the fall of Corinth.

At this point, our two Dolans diverge. 2nd Dragoon Dolan must have continued east with his regiment. He was in Carlisle, Pennsylvania when he was sworn in for his third enlistment, according to his enlistment papers, into Company M, 2nd Cavalry on May 28, 1862 as a private. During their long march west, the regiment had been redesignated as the 2nd Cavalry. His enlistment documents describe him as 32 years old, 5’ 11” tall, with grey eyes, dark hair and a ruddy complexion, matching our previous description.

“He distinguished himself in the battles of Perryville and Stone River; commanded his company at Stone River, and had a horse killed under him during the pursuit of General Bragg; also had a horse killed under him and was severely wounded while commanding the advance-guard at the battle of Snow Hill,” according to Price.
Official reports verify this. In the regimental commander’s report on the battle of Murfreesboro, or Stones River, Captain Elmer Otis notes, “First Sergt. John Dolan, Company B, captured a captain and received his sword.” (OR, Vol. 20, part I, page 650)

“He was recommended for a commission in 1863, but declined an examination; was again recommended in 1864, but failed to pass the required physical examination because of the wounds received at Snow Hill.”

Entirely possible, as several first sergeants in the 4th Cavalry, many of them the same ones mentioned in the report from Stones River for gallantry while leading their companies, received commissions as second lieutenants in the regiment. Given his wounds, it is entirely possible that he wasn’t able to pass the examination. Another 4th Cavalry first sergeant who was appointed a lieutenant in the 6th US Cavalry waited several months to report to his new regiment while his wounds healed.

“He served with General Sherman’s army in Georgia, and afterwards joined the army under General Thomas and participated in the battle of Nashville, where he had a horse killed under him, was captured and sent to Andersonville, where he remained four months, when he was exchanged, and rejoined his regiment in July 1865.”
This describes the course of the remainder of the 4th US Cavalry’s campaigns during the war, and logically makes sense. Unfortunately, I could find no reference to a John Dolan from the 4th US Cavalry in any records from Andersonville, and there is a pretty significant existing database. There was a John Dolan from the 1st Massachusetts Cavalry, but he perished from diarrhea, and the only regular army John Dolan was from the 19th US Infantry.

Meanwhile, Dragoon Private Dolan again reenlisted at Carlisle, PA on April 11, 1865. This time he enlisted in Company I, 2nd Cavalry. His enlistment documents describe him as 35 years old, 5’11” tall, with grey eyes, brown hair and a ruddy complexion. He reenlisted a final time at Fort D.A. Russell, Dakota Territory on April 11, 1868, into the same company. Other than his age, his description in the documents is unchanged. He was discharged as an orderly sergeant from the 2nd Cavalry at the same post on May 24, 1869 in General Order #26, Department of the Platte and disappears from any further records.

As for Price’s Dolan, “he was in constant service, after the war, in Georgia and Texas until December 1870, when he was discharged for disability resulting from the breaking out of old wounds; after his wounds had again healed he enlisted in the Sixth Cavalry in November 1871, and had active service in the Indian Territory and Arizona until the expiration of his fifth period of service, when he joined the Fifth Cavalry, in 1876, on his sixth enlistment.”

All quite possible, and accurate descriptions of units and locations, but I was unable to locate any documents confirming the information.

“..was again recommended in 1878, and when he met his death in battle a bill was pending in Congress authorizing the President to appoint him a second lieutenant and place him on the retired list. It was favorably reported upon after the gallant soldier was dead.”

First Sergeant John Dolan, Company F, 5th U.S. Cavalry was killed in action at Milk Creek, Colorado on September 29, 1879. Price eulogized him as “a model first sergeant, and perfect in the duties of his office. He commanded, under all circumstances, the respect and good-will of his officers.”

Where does this leave us? With not one but two John Dolans, each of whom served in regular cavalry regiments over 25 years, including the entire Civil War. Surely that’s worth a memory and a few minutes of your time?


Price, George F. Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press Ltd., 1959. Page 682.

Returns from Regular Army Regiments, 1821-1916 (accessed via

U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 (also accessed via

Civil War Soldiers and Sailors database, National Park Service

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion (as noted in text)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

4th U.S. Cavalry Tribute

I stumbled across a tribute to the 4th U.S. Cavalry in the National Tribune while researching something totally unrelated. Unfortunately, I only have part of one column of the article on the page I received from USAHEC.

The author was a former volunteer cavalryman, and among other topics he seems to primarily write about actions around Corinth in October 1862.

"The 4th U.S. Cav. was as fine a regiment as was ever organized in any war. The discipline, the gallantry, the bravery and prowess of that regiment was not excelled by any regiment in any department of the armies of the United States"

He continues to write about other units who participated in the fight, including the 72nd Indiana Mounted Infantry, 5th Kentucky Cavalry, 3rd Illinois Cavalry, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Tennessee Cavalry, and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. The last regiment was apparently instrumental in saving the day.

It seems all things these days are somehow connected to the 6th U.S. Cavalry, and I just realized this article has one, too. The commander of the 5th Kentucky Cavalry aat this time was none other than William Sanders, former captain of the 6th U.S. Cavalry and cousin of Jefferson Davis.

The article, for those who would like to look into this further, is the May 28, 1891 issue of the National Tribune, page 3, column 4 and possibly others (mine was in column 2).

Monday, February 14, 2011

Book Review - Distant Bugles, Distant Drums

In Distant Bugles, Distant Drums, author Flint Whitlock conducts an in-depth analysis of the New Mexico campaign of 1862. Previous works have related primarily the Confederate viewpoint of the campaign, due in large part to the availability of primary source material from the campaign. Mr. Whitlock presents a more Union-centric approach, with a careful blend of primary accounts of both sides. The principal narrators of this story are the leaders and members of the 1st Colorado Volunteers. Through exhaustive research in the Colorado state archives, he has pieced together a narrative as enjoyable and accurate as it is compelling.

Too often in historical writing, accuracy and an enjoyable writing style are mutually exclusive. This is definitely not the case for this book. Whitlock provides a very lively and entertaining account of the campaign, from its roots to its culmination. He weaves firsthand accounts of the campaign into very accurate and coherent narration of the campaign’s skirmishes and battles. Unlike many books of this sort, there are actually enough maps to enable the reader to easily follow the action. Surprisingly, the author created them himself, and they greatly assist the reader to follow the individual engagements and the campaign as a whole.

This is far from a simple battle book, however. Whitlock develops his characters as well as many fiction writers, presenting them with both their strengths and foibles. The overwhelming majority of them are multi-faceted, with the possible exception of Henry H. Sibley. Although told from a primarily Union viewpoint, the author carefully blends in the situation and decisions of both sides as the campaign develops.

At the end of the campaign, Whitlock’s summary of the major players’ careers through the remainder of the war and modern descriptions of the locations of the book was both entertaining and enlightening. Given the depth of information about the 1st Colorado, a roster for the regiment would not have been out of place, but this was a campaign study and not a regimental history.

If I had one issue with this book, it would be that at times it seems a bit too 1st Colorado-centric. The efforts of the New Mexico volunteers are dismissed outright, and I would have liked to see more of the point of view of the Regular Army units and leaders. This may simply be due to the information available to the author, however, as official reports from the Official Records often don’t offer such insight. It is a minor issue that does not detract from the book, however. This is an excellent read, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in examining this generally poorly understood theater of the war.