150 Years Ago: Trevillian Station

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150 years ago today, the cavalry forces of the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia collided in the largest all cavalry battle of the Civil War at Trevillian Station. For two days the forces went at each other hammer and tongs, in some of the fiercest cavalry fighting of the war.

Rather than craft yet another summary of the battle on its anniversary, I decided to focus on the official report of the battle and on identifying the casualties from the regular regiments.

The official report of Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, commanding the Reserve Brigade, covers the period from May 26th to June 25th, so I’ve chosen to excerpt only those sections relevant to the fighting at Trevillian Station.

“On the 7th the brigade marched with the division, crossing the Pamunkey on the second expedition. On the 8th, 9th and 10th of June the march was continued without event.

“On the 11th the brigade left camp at 5 a.m., moving toward Gordonsville. The Second Cavalry, forming the advance guard, soon encountered the enemy’s pickets, which were driven in and the main body of the enemy engaged. Captain Rodenbough handled his gallant regiment with great skill and unexampled valor, charging and driving the enemy mounted, and forcing him, as usual, to cover. Captain Rodenbough was here wounded, as also Lieutenant Horrigan, of the Second. Here also Lieutenant Lawless, of the same regiment, was killed. He was a fearless, honest, and eminently trustworthy soldier, “God’s truth” being the standard by which he measured all his actions. The entire brigade was soon engaged, the First on the left, and the First New York Dragoons on the extreme right. On the left of this latter was the Sixth Pennsylvania, and next the Second Cavalry, now commanded by Capt. D.S. Gordon. The Fifth Cavalry was held as a support to the battery. The enemy was driven through a thick tangled brushwood for over 2 miles to Trevilian Station, on the Virginia Central Railroad, but not without serious loss to ourselves, though we inflicted heavy punishment on the adversary in killed, wounded, and prisoners. [start pg 850] Among his wounded was General Rosser, commanding Hampton’s old division, and a colonel commanding a brigade was killed, his body, along with most of the enemy’s killed and wounded, falling into our hands. Few less than 200 prisoners, including 6 or 8n officers, were taken by the brigade. The enemy’s retreat finally became a rout, led horses, mounted men, and artillery all fled together in the wildest confusion. Williston, with his battery, took position near by, and did elegant practice with his guns, planting shells in the midst of the confused masses of the retreating enemy. Trevilian Station was thus gained. In this retreat part of the enemy went toward Gordonsville, while fragments were driven off on the road to Louisa Court-House. In their headlong career these latter came in contact with the First Brigade, which, being engaged toward its rear by the advance of Fitzhugh Lee’s division coming from Louisa Court-House, was compelled to abandon some captures it had made from the led horses and trains of the force that was engaging the rest of the First Division, as above described. This brigade soon formed a junction and took position to the left rear of the Reserve Brigade. In the meanwhile, Fitz. Lee’s division advanced on the Louisa Court-House road and took up a line on the left of the Reserve Brigade, his line being perpendicular to the last. The two parts of the line at this time formed a right angle, the Reserve Brigade occupying the right of the line, to the vortex of the angle, the second Brigade on its left, occupying part of the other line, and the First Brigade, with the Second Division, remained in echelon to the left rear, as above mentioned.

“On the night of the 11th the enemy retired from our left front and took up position on the Gordonsville front.

“About 3 p.m. on the 12th the brigade was ordered to attack the enemy’s left, while it was intended that the First Brigade should co-operate on its left, while the Second Brigade of the division was held in reserve. The brigade went in on an open field to its right and attacked the enemy’s left flank vigorously. It was slow work, however, and as the enemy was not pressed on the left he concentrated his force on the brigade, and by large numbers and fresh troops, gave the command as much as it could attend to. Still both officers and men stood up to their work, doing manfully all that their former prowess would lead the most sanguine to expect, holding everything they had gained on the left, where the line was weakest, and driving the enemy on the right before them in expectation of a general advance. In thus advancing the right of the brigade was so swung round as to be exposed to the enemy’s attack on its wing. This he was not slow to take advantage of, when a squadron of the Second Cavalry, my only remaining mounted support to the battery, was thrown in to meet the attack. Here again the Second did nobly. Coming up on the right of the Sixth Pennsylvania, which up to that time had been the extreme right regiment in line, they charged gallantly, and, though few in numbers, by the impetuosity of their onslaught, drove the enemy back and protected the right until relieved by two regiments of the Second Brigade (the Fourth and Sixth New York). After these two regiments got in position this squadron of the Second was withdrawn to again act as support to the battery, which was ordered to advance, a good position having been gained on the right. Right gallantly did the battery come up in the midst of a heavy musketry fire, we being at that time so close to the enemy that their shells all flew far over us. Planting three [start pg 851] guns of the battery in this position, where it dealt the enemy heavy blows, Lieutenant Williston moved one of his brass 12-pounders onto the skirmish line. In fact, the line was moved to the front to allow him to get an eligible position, where he remained with his gun, in the face of the strengthened enemy (who advanced to its very muzzle), dealing death and destruction in their ranks with double loads of canister. It was now dark and I was ordered to retire the brigade, which was done slowly and leisurely, the enemy not advancing. This day the loss of the brigade was heavy for the numbers engaged. The general advance was not made.” (Official Records, Vol. 36, Pt. 1, pgs 850-852)

While I was able to track down the names of almost all the casualties from the battle, I felt that listing all of the wounded made the post overly long. Only the names of those killed are listed, as well as the numbers of wounded and missing. The four officers killed in the battle will be featured separately over the course of the remainder of the month.

1st US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT John H. Nichols

1LT Frederick Ogden

Sgt E. Jackson, Co. H

Sgt William Mulcahy, Co. M

Sgt James Rathburn, Co. C

Pvt Henry Lynch, Co. D

Pvt John Normyle, Co. E

Pvt George Ott, Co. K

Pvt H.S.P. Petro, Co. D

An additional 29 enlisted men were wounded, three of them dying of wounds later in the month. Six enlisted men were listed as missing in action.

2nd US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT Michael Lawless, Co. A

Sgt Christian Fisher, Co. M

Pvt Thomas Corbett, Co. A

Pvt Edward Gorman, Co. B

Pvt James Ferris, Co. F

Pvt Ariel C. Chapin, Co. K

Pvt James Levens, Co. L

Pvt Patrick McArdle, Co. E

 

An additional two officers, including regimental commander Captain T. F. Rodenbough and 1st Lieutenant Patrick Horrigan, and 34 enlisted men were wounded. Captain Charles McK. Leoser and two enlisted men were listed as missing in action.

 

5th US Cavalry:

Killed in action:

1LT Joseph P. Henley, Co. I

Corp Charles E. Asher, Co. G

Pvt Patrick Keeney, Co. G

 

An additional two enlisted men were wounded, and two more were listed as missing in action. The 5th US Cavalry’s casualties appear light in comparison to the other two regiments, but over half of the regiment did not participate in the battle.

Fiddler’s Green: Samuel McKee

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It seems appropriate to feature this officer on the 150th anniversary of his death. Due to the heavy fighting in June 1864, there will be several of these features this month.

Samuel McKee was born in St Louis, Missouri in 1835. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy from Utah in 1854 at the age of 19, and graduated 13th in the class of 1858. Upon graduation, he was initially appointed as a brevet second lieutenant of mounted rifles, and served his initial assignment at the Cavalry School for Practice at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He was transferred to the 1st Dragoons on June 22, 1859, and conducted a party of recruits to join his new regiment at Fort Tejon, California.

He was promoted to second lieutenant in the 1st Dragoons on January9, 1860, and continued to serve with the parts of the regiment at Fort Tejon. Later that year he married Matilda Harris Finley, the daughter of Army Surgeon General Dr. Clarence A. Finley.

With the outbreak of the war, promotions accelerated rapidly. Samuel was promoted to first lieutenant in the regiment on May 7th, and appointed regimental adjutant on August 7th. In October tragedy struck the young family, as Matilda died in childbirth on October 31st at the age of 25. Their daughter was named Matilda Finley McKee. Samuel had little time to mourn, as he was relieved as adjutant when he was promoted to captain on November 14th. . The regimental headquarters departed by ship from Los Angeles for Washington, D.C. They arrived and established Camp Sprague in late January 1862, with Captain McKee in command of Company B.

The regiment spent the next two months drilling and preparing for the spring campaign as part of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Reserve. A career fellow officer in the regiment later noted in his memoirs that McKee was “perhaps the best drill officer I have ever known.” He participated with his regiment in the spring’s fighting on the Peninsula, distinguishing himself in the skirmish at Williamsburg on May 4th.

The following month he departed on a leave of absence to serve as lieutenant colonel for the 77th New York Volunteer Infantry, but rejoined the 1st Cavalry in September in time for the Antietam campaign. He served with the regiment through the winter of 1863, Stoneman’s Raid and the Gettysburg campaign.

He was again detached from his regiment on special service with General Ayres at New York City following the draft riots from August 23, 1863 to January 14, 1864. After a brief sick leave in Washington, D.C., he joined the regiment at Mitchell’s Station in February. He was engaged in picket duty and reconnaissance for the remainder of the winter, serving as the regimental commander until April.

Captain Nelson Sweitzer resumed command of the regiment for the spring campaign, but Captain McKee served prominently at Todd’s Tavern and during the fighting during Sheridan’s first raid. He was mortally wounded during the cavalry fighting at Cold Harbor, Virginia on May 31st, and died on June 3rd. He is buried with his wife in Los Angeles, California.

He was well remembered by peers and superiors alike. Catain George Sanford wrote of him that his death “cut short a most promising career and deprived the regiment of one of the finest and best loved officers who ever followed its colors.” His brigade commander, Brigadier General Wesley Merritt, called him “a pure, unaffected, moderate man, a chivalrous, educated, accomplished soldier.” General Alfred T.A. Torbert, his division commander, wrote “a more gallant and accomplished soldier has not given his life for his bleeding country.”

 

Sources:

Cullum, pgs 704-705.

Hageman, E.R., ed. Fighting Rebels and Redskins. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969.

Heitman, pg 438.

Jordan, F. “A Forgotten Captain.” Los Angeles Herald, Volume 37, Number 184, April 3, 1910, page 10.

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Volume 36, part I, pages 806, 814 and 849.

Memorial Day: On the Death of Edward Falkner

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It strikes me as appropriate on Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day for the Civil War dead, to post on a fallen soldier. And I do not think I can do so more eloquently than this family member did in 1863. Jimmy and I both loved this poem and had hoped to include it in our history of the 6th U.S. Cavalry, but unfortunately there wasn’t room.

“Lines on the Death of Mr. Edward Falkner, Jun., of the 6th Regiment U.S. Cavalry, Who fell in a Cavalry Charge at Brandy Station, on the ‘Rappahannock,’ 9th June, 1863.
The freest land the sun illumes,
Resounds with shouts of war;
The South a hostile form assumes
‘Gainst freedom’s sacred law;

And freedom’s sons pour out their life
Her Honour to sustain,
And kindred meet in bloody strife
Upon the battle plain;

And happy homes are rudely shorn
Of all that gave them joy,
For sire and son away are borne
Upon the field to die.

The maiden mourns in deep distress
For him she once caressed;
The widow strains the fatherless
Upon her sobbing breast.

Thousands that left their native land,
In search of peaceful toil,
Are stretched by war’s relentless hand
Upon the gory soil.

One home of five left England’s shore
With all she boasts behind,
And crossed the wide Atlantic o’er
A better land to fnd.

These dwelt in peace till age’s frost
Upon the parents came,
And boyhood of their sons was lost,
In manhood’s hardy frame; —

Who fired with zeal for freedom’s cause,
The Federal army join,
And in defence of righteous laws
Confront the Southern line.

The eldest chose the horseman’s ground,
Where swords and lances gleam,
And soon among his comrades found
Respect and high esteem;

For though his rough and stalwart frame
Could fearless meet the foe,
His dauntless heart knew mercy’s name,
And felt for others’ woe.

Long did the starry banner wave,
As emblem of the free,
Where manfully he fought to save
The flag of liberty.

But on the 9th of June he fell
By Rappahannock’s side,
When in a noble charge to quell
The advanced rebel tide.

Two thousand of the choicest horse
From out the Federal band,
Were marched against the Southern force
At General Lee’s command.

The armies met, the fight began,
And tumult filled the air,
While streams of fire like lightning ran,
Midst the conflict there.

Charge! Charge!! my men, their leader cried,
And ere the bugle sounds,
The gallant horsemen fiercely ride
Across the rebel bounds.

Where, through dense clouds of dust and smoke,
The bullets fell like rain,
While the hoarse cannon’s thunder spoke
A requiem for the slain.

But in that charge our hero died,
Pierced by a musket ball,
And o’er his foaming charger’s side
Was lifeless seen to fall.

The missile through his heart had broke,
And did its work too well;
For not a word the soldier spoke
When to the ground he fell.

Swift from its cell, amid the strife,
The soldier’s spirit fled,
Nor lingered long that moral life
‘Twixt dying and the dead.

With willing hands the corpse to save,
From the stern fate of war,
His comrades bore it o’er the wave,
To a more peaceful shore;

And dug with mournful haste a grave,
For him they loved so well,
While tears of manly sorrow strayed,
Down their rough cheeks, and fell

On the uncoffin’d form that lies,
In death’s cold slumber there,
And turned to heaven their tearful eyes,
In mute but earnest prayer.

Thus broke the sacred chain that bound
That home in life and love,
But firmer will its links be found,
That bind that home above.

Green be the memory of the brave
That fought for freedom’s right,
And nobly died her flag to save
From the slave tyrant’s might.

Honour to England’s sons of toil,
That left their native shores,
And fell upon a foreign soil
For freedom’s righteous laws.

J.F.
Birmingham, 1863.”

 

Edward Falkner was born in England in 1838, and was a farmer in New York before the war. He enlisted into Company I, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Rochester, New York on September 7, 1861. He was killed in action as the poem states at Beverly Ford on June 9, 1863.

150 Years Ago: Todd’s Tavern

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After the two days of heavy fighting in the Wilderness, General Grant decided to move around Lee’s flank toward Spotsylvania Court House. In order to get there, his cavalry would have to clear the Brock Road and take the crossroads at Todd’s Tavern to cut the Confederate route to Spotsylvania. General Lee, divining Grant’s intent, tasked his own cavalry to protect the Confederate route to Spotsylvania and slow down the Union advance. This would lead to some of the most intense cavalry combat to this point in the war.

Ironically, Major General Sheridan’s Union cavalry had held Todd’s Tavern during the previous two days of fighting in the Wilderness, but withdrew them on the night of May 6th toward Chancellorsville. This allowed General Fitzhugh Lee’s Confederate cavalry to reoccupy the crossroads and make improvements to earthworks previously constructed by Union forces.

Sheridan planned a two-pronged attack which would meet at the crossroads on May 7th. The First Division would advance south and clear the Brock Road from Catherine Furnace, while the Second Division would advance west up the Catharpin Road. Once the crossroads was seized, the Second Division would continue west and seize Corbin’s Bridge over the Po River, further hindering Confederate efforts to reach Spotsylvania.

General Alfred Torbert required surgery for an abscess in his back, so Brigadier General Wesley Merritt commanded the First Division, while Colonel Alfred Gibbs assumed command of the Reserve Brigade. Major General David McM. Gregg commanded the Second Division.

The Union plan was initially successful. Merritt’s division met Fitz Lee’s Confederates at 3 p.m. about a mile north of Todd’s Tavern. Gibbs, whose Reserve Brigade led the division, dismounted and deployed his lead regiment, the 6th Pennsylvania, as skirmishers to the left of the road. Gibbs’ official report describes the deployment of the rest of the brigade:

“Finding the enemy to be in force, consisting of, it is believed, Fitzhugh Lee’s division of cavalry, the First U.S. Cavalry and First New York Dragoons were deployed as skirmishers, on foot, to the left of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry. The Fifth U.S. Cavalry was deployed similarly on the right side of the road.”

As Merritt engaged the Confederate cavalry, Gregg’s division arrived on their right flank, near Piney Branch Church. Lee conducted a fighting withdrawal to the south. Once Merritt had driven the Confederates south of the crossroads, Gregg advanced as planned toward Corbin’s Bridge. He was met a mile west of the crossroads by Rosser’s brigade of Confederate cavalry from Wade Hampton’s division. In heavy dismounted fighting, Gregg was able to force Rosser back to the bridge, but withdrew to the tavern after Hampton’s remaining two brigades moved to Rosser’s support.

In the meantime Merritt, aided by Davies’ brigade of Gregg’s division advancing on Lee’s right flank on the Piney Branch Road, forced Fitzhugh Lee’s division farther south. Two miles south of the tavern, Lee established a new defensive line in some existing log barricades. Merritt attacked him there in the late afternoon in the deadliest phase of the battle. The Reserve Brigade’s deployment remained the same, adding, “The Second U.S. Cavalry was held mounted on the extreme left, while Williston’s battery came into position on a high ridge in rear, where they did excellent service, silencing the enemy’s battery and killing and wounding several of their men and horses. After a sharp engagement, lasting until dark, the enemy were driven off, leaving many of their dead and wounded upon the field.”

400px-Spotsylvania_Court_House_May_07

***The map of the fighting taken from Hal Jespersen’s excellent map site at http://www.cwmaps.com/freemaps.html

Merritt succeeded capturing the fortifications at dusk, but withdrew back toward Todd’s Tavern after dark, concerned for the security of his flanks. Fitzhugh Lee lost no time in reoccupying the position. Gregg encamped his division at the crossroads.

General Meade, meanwhile, had begun his army’s advance toward Spotsylvania, with Warren’s Fifth Corps leading the march. Orders to Sheridan to clear the Brock Road all the way to Spotsylvania apparently miscarried, and he reached the tavern about midnight to discover Gregg’s troops encamped there. Furious, he ordered Merritt to finish clearing the road to Spotsylvania Court House and Gregg to seize Corbin’s Bridge and hold it to protect the army’s right flank.

Advancing, Merritt discovered that Fitz Lee’s troops had made good use of the night’s hours to reinforce their position of the previous afternoon. Attacking dismounted on both sides of the road, he eventually forced Lee’s men from the position but was unable to advance further. His men’s carbine ammunition was exhausted, and they were reduced to firing their pistols. The heavy woods prevented the employment of the battery.

General Robinson’s infantry division of the Fifth Corps passed through them and pushed the Confederates back to within two miles of Spotsylvania before they were reinforced by the lead elements of the First Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. The Confederate cavalry had delayed the Union army long enough for Lee to win the race to Spotsylvania.

Losses were heavy, particularly in Merritt’s division. “In this severely contested action our loss in both officers and men was heavy. Ten officers were wounded and 4 taken prisoners, besides 141 enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing,” wrote Gibbs of his brigade. The Reserve Brigade suffered 198 of the 315 casualties in the division, compared to 62 in the First Brigade and 55 in the Second Brigade. The relatively inexperienced 1st New York Dragoons suffered the highest loss of any cavalry regiment in a single engagement during the war, with 20 enlisted men killed in action and 91 total casualties. This was a source of some bitterness during the remainder of their service with the brigade, but the other regiments were hard hit as well. The 6th Pennsylvania had three officers wounded, including their commanding officer, and 31 enlisted casualties. Two of the regular regiments suffered losses of almost 10 percent. The 2nd U.S. lost one officer wounded and 24 enlisted men killed, wounded or missing. The 1st U.S., suffered 45 casualties, including six or the eight officers present for duty wounded. Only the diminished 5th U.S. was relatively unscathed, with one officer killed in action and two enlisted men wounded.

Declaring a victor for the battle is somewhat problematic. Both sides lost heavily. While the Confederate cavalry was forced to yield its positions successively to the Union cavalry, it did fulfill its mission of delaying the Union advance and enabling Lee to reach Spotsylvania first. The Union cavalry’s tactical successes, however, made the race a near thing and denied Lee the opportunity to improve his position before the next battle. They also inflicted heavy casualties on the Confederate cavalry it could ill afford.

Sources:

OR, Vol. 36, Pt. 1, pages 115, 128, 811-812 and 845-847.

Price, George F. Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry, pages 123-124.

Rhea, Gordon. The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, pages 30-42.

Rodenbough, Theophilus. From Everglade to Canyon, pages 304-305.

Welcher, Frank, The Union Army, pages 531- 532.

 

Starting the 1864 Campaigns

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150 years ago today, the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps engaged in its first battle of 1864 at Todd’s Tavern. Before looking at the battle itself, I thought it would be helpful to look at the state of the three regular regiments in the Reserve Brigade as the campaign began. Listing the numbers may seem tedious, but it will go a long way to help the reader visualize the effects of the year’s battles on these understrength regiments. 1864 was an absolutely brutal year for these regiments, and one would be combat ineffective by year’s end.

On April 28th, the regiments of the Reserve Brigade moved out of their winter camps near Mitchell’s Station and encamped about 1.5 miles from Culpeper. At this time the brigade consisted of the 1st, 2nd and 5th U.S. Cavalry, the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and the 1st New York Dragoons. Colonel Alfred Gibbs, commander of the 1st New York Dragoons, commanded the brigade, as Brigadier General Wesley Merritt was in temporary command of the First Division.

The 1st U.S. Cavalry was commanded at the beginning of May by Captain Nelson B. Sweitzer. This Pennsylvania native was the most experienced of the three commanders. An 1853 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, he had served in the regiment his entire career. It had 8 officers and 487 enlisted men present for duty of an authorized 42 officers and 1,189 enlisted men. Its twelve companies averaged 40 enlisted men each. On the April 1864 return, the regiment requested 356 recruits to bring it up to full strength.

The 2nd U.S. Cavalry started 1864 campaigning under Captain Theophilus F. Rodenbough. A civilian appointee from his native Pennsylvania in 1861, Rodenbough was by now a veteran, his only absence from the regiment a brief stint as a prisoner of war after Second Manassas. The regiment had eight officers and 271 enlisted men present for duty, with another 131 enlisted men on extra duty. Its twelve companies averaged only 21 enlisted men each. On the April 1864 return, the regiment requested 559 recruits to bring it up to full strength.

The 5th U.S. Cavalry was commanded at this time by Captain Abraham K. Arnold. Another Pennsylvanian, Arnold graduated from West Point in 1859. He missed the regiment’s ill-fated charge at Gaines Mill, serving as an aide de camp to General McClellan until March of the previous year. He distinguished himself multiple times during the Overland Campaign, earning a Medal of Honor. Only seven of the regiment’s twelve companies were present for duty, as Companies B, F, K and L served as escort to General Grant’s headquarters, and Company D served at Point Lookout, Maryland. Indeed, the regiment had 23 of its assigned officers and 263 enlisted men on detached service, at army headquarters and elsewhere. The seven companies present mustered only 6 officers and 206 enlisted men, an average of 29 men each. On the April 1864 return, the regiment requested 630 recruits to bring it up to full strength.

Unfortunately, I don’t presently have unit strengths for the 6th Pennsylvania and the 1st New York Dragoons. The 1st New York a relatively inexperienced unit, but the 6th Pennsylvania had served in every 1862 campaign of the Army of the Potomac, and its numbers reflected its veteran status.

The three regiments combined for a present for duty strength of 22 officers and 964 enlisted men, of an authorized strength of 126 officers and 3,567 enlisted men. Officer strength was 17.4% and enlisted strength was 27%. And the hardest year’s campaigning was about to begin.

Murder in the Capitol

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It is interesting how blog posts have a mind of their own sometimes. This post started as a short one entitled “Awkward” when I turned up the report below at the National Archives last summer. The report was misfiled in RG 391 in the records of the 2nd Dragoons/ 2nd US Cavalry instead of where it should have been in the 2nd US Cavalry/ 5th US Cavalry. As an army officer, I can recall occasionally having to send uncomfortable reports to superiors, but I really felt some sympathy for Captain William Chambliss when he had to send this one. And to a general officer, no less.

“Treasury Buildings

Washington, D.C.

June 28, 1861

 

General,

I have the honor to report that Private Kinstler, of my company, confined for killing a private of the 2nd Infantry, last night has made his escape. I had him confined in the cells, the most secure place in this building, but on sending for him for the purpose of complying with your order in regard to his disposition, found that he had removed the bars of a small window in the rear and made his escape in that way. I have reported these facts to the Chief of Police, giving him at the same time a description of the fugitive, and I have also sent my whole Company, in detachments, to look for him throughout the city, and I have directed the noncommissioned officers of these detachments to report the facts to the commanding officers of the camps in this vicinity with the request that the prisoner be apprehended if found in any of the camps.

I am General,

Very respectfully,

Your obt. Servant,

W.P. Chambliss

Captain, 2d Cavalry

Comdg. Company D

 

Brig Genl J.K.F. Mansfield

Comdg Dept of Washington,

Washington, D.C. “

 

Captain Chambliss had led his company out of Texas when that state seceded, moved with them by boat to New York, seen them remounted at Carlisle Barracks, and hurried with them to help protect the nation’s capitol, and now this. I confess I’m curious whether Larry Freiheit has come across any mention of this during his current project on Mansfield.

The story piqued my curiosity, so I decided to dig a little deeper. I had come across another 1861 murder at Carlisle a year ago, and wasn’t able to make any further headway. So I checked NARA’s “Register of Deaths in the Regular Army” to see who died in late June 1861. To my surprise, there was no record of anyone dying in the last days of June. So I ran a search on Kinstler, cavalry and Washington, D.C., and turned up the following story on the Library of Congress website, from page 3 of the National Republican on June 29th.

“Homicide in the First Ward – The Guilty Party Still at Large

About ten o’clock the night before last, Sebastian Kinstler, a private in Company B, second cavalry, and a man by the name of Michael Murphy, of the United States Infantry, got into a quarrel in a tavern kept by Jeremiah Crowley, on G Street, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets west, which ended in the former drawing a large heavy revolver from his belt and firing, the ball entering the body of Murphy between the fourth and fifth ribs, and passing through to the skin, causing his death in a very few moments.

It appeared that everything had gone on in a very friendly way between the parties until Murphy was heard to say that he feared no man in the house, with whatever weapon they might use, though he had none with him; at which Kinstler immediately raised his revolver and fired, as above stated.

Coroner Woodward yesterday held an inquest over the body of the deceased, when a verdict in accordance with the above facts was rendered.

Kinstler at first gave himself up, and was placed in the guard room, in the basement of the Treasury building. About noon, however, when the guards went to remove him from thence to the county jail, it was discovered that he had escaped.

A number of scouts were instantly put on the alert, and information given to the police, but he has not yet been arrested.”

 

So now we have moved from awkward report to awkward death. I must admit, my first reaction after reading this story was “Are you kidding me?” I decided to pursue the thread a little farther and see what I could discover about our two heroes from the news story. It seemed fair to start with the victim. While there were a lot of Michael Murphys in the army at this time, mostly in the artillery, I eventually found the right one.

Our Michael Murphy was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1837. After immigrating to the United States, he worked as a laborer before joining the army on May 14, 1858 in Rochester, New York. Lieutenant Woods enlisted him into Company K, 2nd U.S. Infantry. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 4 ½” tall, with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. Although he was not listed in the official register of deaths in the regular army, his enlistment documents state that he was “shot by a private of Co. D 2d Cav” in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1861.

The private in question, Sebastian Kinstler, was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1832. He also worked as a laborer before joining the army on June 12, 1851 in St Louis, Missouri. Captain Sykes enlisted him into Company C, 8th U.S. Infantry. His enlistment documents described him as 5’ 7 ½” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. He was still a private when his term of enlistment expired at Fort Davis, Texas on June 12, 1856. The following month, Lieutenant Kenner Garrard enlisted him into Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry in San Antonio, Texas on July 29, 1856. Interestingly, he wasn’t listed as a deserter until July 2, four days after the death of Murphy, with no mention of the incident in his enlistment documents. His escape must have been successful, as I could find no further record of him.

 

Sources:

National Archives, Record Group 391

National Archives, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914

National Archives, U.S., Register of Deaths in the Regular Army, 1860-1889

The National Republican, June 29, 1861, page 3, downloaded on April 27, 2014 from www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014760/1861-06-29/ed-1/seq-1

Officers of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry

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I have pieced together all of the officers who served in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War with the help of the regimental monthly returns and annual Army Registers. Readers will quickly note the large number of resignations. The 2nd was the hardest hit of the five cavalry regiments by resignations at the beginning of the war, with 19. Of these, 10 went on to become general officers in the Confederate Army and four others reached the rank of colonel. Nineteen officers who served in the regiment were general officers of either regulars or volunteers in the Union Army by the end of the war. Twenty one of these officers were commissioned from the ranks. Of the field grade officers listed here, only Pleasonton and Whiting actually served in the field with the regiment during the war.  Readers will note the scarcity of second lieutenants by the end of the war. The 1865 Army Register shows only one, Patrick Horrigan, and he was promoted to first lieutenant on January 5, 1865.

 

Colonels

Philip St.G. Cooke           promoted to Brigadier General November 12, 1861

Thomas J. Wood

 

Lieutenant Colonels

Marshall S. Howe                    transferred Colonel 3rd U.S. Cavalry

Enoch Steen                             retired September 23, 1863

Innis N. Palmer

 

Majors

Charles A. May                         resigned April 20, 1861

Lawrence P. Graham               transferred Lieutenant Colonel 5th U.S. Cavalry

William N. Grier                        transferred Lieutenant Colonel 1st U.S. Cavalry

Washington I. Newton             retired October 26, 1861

John W. T. Gardiner                 retired November 14, 1861

J. W. Davidson

Alfred Pleasonton

Charles J. Whiting                    dismissed November 5, 1863

Frank Wheaton

 

Captains

Henry H. Sibley                       resigned May 13, 1861

Reuben P. Campbell                resigned May 11, 1861

William Steele                          resigned May 31, 1861

Richard H. Anderson               resigned March 3, 1861

James M Hawes                       resigned May 9, 1861

William D. Smith                      resigned January 28, 1861

Samuel H. Starr                       transferred Major 6th U.S. Cavalry

John Buford                             transferred Army Staff

Charles H. Tyler                      dismissed June 6, 1861

Beverly Robertson                   dismissed August 8, 1861

Jonas P. Holliday                     KIA April 5, 1862 (as Colonel 1st Vermont Cavalry)

Charles E. Norris

Thomas Hight                          resigned April 27, 1863 (later Colonel, 31st Maine Infantry)

George A. Gordon

Francis N.C. Armstrong              resigned August 13, 1861

Henry Brockholst Livingston      retired August 25, 1862

John Green

Lewis Merrill

John K. Mizner

Charles J. Walker

Wesley Merritt

Theophilus F. Rodenbough

Charles W. Canfield                      KIA June 9, 1863

Robert E. Clary                              dismissed February 13, 1864

David S. Gordon

Robert S. Smith                              resigned January 25, 1865

Charles McK. Leoser

James F. McQuesten                      KIA September 19, 1864

George O. Sokalski

Henry E. Noyes

 

First Lieutenants

George B. Anderson                resigned April 25, 1861

John Pegram                            resigned May 10, 1861

John B. Villepigue                   resigned March 31, 1861

John Mullins                            resigned April 24, 1861

Ebenezar Gay                          transferred to Captain, 16th U.S. Infantry

George Jackson                        resigned June 1, 1861

William P. Sanders                   transferred to Captain, 6th U.S. Cavalry

Charles H. Gibson                     resigned May 30, 1864

Edward Ball

James W. Duke                          died October 28, 1862

Thomas W. Burton                     dismissed October 24, 1862

William Blanchard

John Mix

Thomas B. Dewees

William H. Harrison

Lewis Thompson

Frederick W. Schaurte

James G. Potter                            resigned April 27, 1863

Frank Burnham                             dismissed November 25, 1863

Robert Lennox

Michael Lawless                            KIA June 11, 1864

Edward J. Spaulding

Elijah R. Wells

Paul Quirk                                     retired January 5, 1865

Charles H. Lester

James Cahill

Charles McMaster                         KIA October 25, 1864

James Egan

Patrick W. Horrigan

 

Second Lieutenants

Thomas J. Berry                      resigned January 28, 1861

Solomon Williams                     resigned May 3, 1861

James C. Snodgrass                 resigned June 13, 1861

Francis H. Parker                      transferred to 3rd U.S. Artillery, then Ordnance Corps

Edwin M. Coates                      transferred to 12th U.S. Infantry

Peter Rinner                             cashiered February 13, 1864

Charles Lewis                          dismissed June 3, 1864

Daniel Flynn                             retired September 30, 1863

Theodore M. Spencer               dismissed December 5, 1863

George DeVere Selden             died September 17, 1863

Stephen DeW. C. Beekman       died July 7, 1864

 

 

Resources:

Cullum, George W. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, Volume 2. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891.

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903.

Henry, Guy V.  Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, 2 volumes.  New York: George W. Carleton, 1869.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 2nd U.S. Cavalry

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

U.S. Army Registers, 1861-1865

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Blue. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964.

Warner, Ezra J. Generals in Gray. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959.

Sergeants Major of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry

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A careful examination of the regimental monthly returns revealed that the lists of regimental sergeants major found in Heitman and Lambert are incorrect. While only five men held the position, they did so over seven different periods of time. Their performance was inconsistent, with two ending their tenure through appointments as officers and one being reduced to the ranks – multiple times.  They did share one thing in common.  Without exception, they all worked as clerks prior to enlisting in the army, or at least claimed they had.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate a picture of any of them.

Thomas W. Burton was born in Albany, NY in 1829. He was enlisted into Company G, 2nd U.S. Dragoons by Captain McLane at Baltimore, MD on March 26, 1852. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8 ½” tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a ruddy complexion. He served this entire enlistment in Company G, reenlisting as a private at Fort Riley, Kansas Territory on January 26, 1857. His second enlistment was much more successful, as he quickly moved through the ranks in Companies G, C, A and E. He was promoted to regimental sergeant major on March 12, 1860.

Captain Alfred Pleasonton, commanding the regiment at the time, requested Sergeant Major Burton’s appointment as a second lieutenant in the regiment on October 29, 1861. Pleasonton’s request was accompanied by a group recommendation stating that he had “shown himself in the discharge of the duties of his office to be an energetic and efficient soldier, an excellent and capable man and welll worthy of promotion to the position as an officer.” The group included Captains John Buford and George A. Gordon, Lieutenant William P. Sanders and regimental adjutant Wesley Merritt. The appointment was quickly approved, and Lieutenant Burton accepted his commission at regimental headquarters in the Park Hotel, Washington, D.C. on November 2nd.

Daniel Mount was promoted to be the regiment’s second Civil War sergeant major on January 5, 1862. He served as a sergeant in Company H prior to his promotion. Mount was born in West Meath, Ireland in 1827, and had served in the regiment nearly twelve years at the time of his promotion. He originally enlisted into Company H on March 22, 1850 in New York City. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8 ¾” tall, with brown hair, gray eyes and a ruddy complexion. He reenlisted the first time in February 1855 at Fort Leavenworth and the second time in February 1860 at Camp Floyd, Utah Territory. Mount’s tenure as sergeant major was brief, as he was reduced to the ranks into Company E only a month later.

First Sergeant Robert Lennox of Company D succeeded Mount as the third sergeant major. Robert Lennox was born in Sligo, Ireland in 1833. He originally enlisted into Company D on October 16, 1854 in New York City, where he had worked as a clerk. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8” tall, with sandy hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He reenlisted in Company D on August 15, 1859 at Fort Kearny, Nebraska Territory. He served as sergeant major through the Peninsula and Antietam campaigns, until September 23, 1862, when he received notification of his appointment as a second lieutenant in the regiment on July 17th. His recommendation for appointment had been submitted in January and again in June 1862, as a “brave, intelligent and energetic young man, and has seen some eight years of continual active service as a noncommissioned officer of this regiment.”

Sergeant Thomas Delacour, also of Company D, became the regiment’s fourth sergeant major the following day. A large number of the regiment’s first sergeants were promoted the same day as Lennox, and an equal number of sergeants promoted to fill the gaps. Delacour was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1837, and worked as a clerk. He was originally enlisted into the regiment by one of its legends, Captain Charles May, on April 22, 1857. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 8 ½” tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion. He reenlisted as the sergeant major on December 15, 1862 in camp near Falmouth, and served in that position through all the fighting of 1863.

Wesley Merritt related an incident involving Sergeant Major Delacour in Rodenbough’s From Everglade to Canyon. During the battle of Brandy Station on June 9, 1863, Sergeant Major Delacour was riding to the assistance of Lieutenant Robert Lennox, who had been wounded and unhorsed. A Confederate cavalryman rode up and fired at Lennox, who exclaimed “Don’t shoot; I’m wounded!” With an oath the rebel horseman emptied another barrel of his revolver near Lennox’s head. Delacour then drew his pistol and shot the man out of his saddle, remarking, “And now you are wounded.”

Captain George A. Gordon, serving as regimental commander, requested a commission for Sergeant Major Delacour on July 17, 1863. In part, Gordon’s recommendation read, “He has already been recommended by the officers of the regiment for promotion and has been mentioned several times in orders for gallantry and good conduct in action. He is a man of good habits, gentlemanly in his deportment and I am confident that he would do honor to the service.” An endorsement by his brigade commander, Brigadier General Wesley Merritt noted that Delacour “elicited the admiration of all connected with him by his coolness and gallantry in action, and his zealous attention to duty at all times.” Despite approval by Major Generals Pleasonton and Meade, Delacour never received the appointment.  On February 4, 1864, he was transferred to first sergeant of Company G by Special Order No. 15. It is unclear why the transfer occurred, but had it been for misconduct he would have been reduced to the ranks. Delacour served ably as the first sergeant through the hard fought campaigns of 1864.

Chief Bugler Charles Polk succeeded Delacour as the regiment’s fifth sergeant major. Polk was born in Hanover, Germany and worked as a clerk before joining the army. He originally enlisted into Company H in Philadelphia, PA on November 22, 1856. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’4” tall, with light hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion. He reenlisted into Company H as a bugler on November 15, 1861 in Washington, D.C. He was promoted through the ranks in the company to sergeant prior to his appointment as the regiment’s chief bugler on May 23, 1863. Polk served as the sergeant major through Sheridan’s raids and the Shenandoah Valley campaign until the expiration of his term of service on November 15, 1864.

Thomas Delacour was again promoted to sergeant major the same day, and served in that position through the winter of 1864. On March 18, 1865, he was reduced to quartermaster sergeant in Company E.

Delacour was replaced by Daniel Mount, who had meanwhile earned promotions back through the ranks to first sergeant. The entry in the regimental returns is difficult to read, but he was first sergeant of either Company K or M. Mount served as sergeant major until June 1st, when he was once again reduced to the ranks, this time into Company K, by Special Order No. 39.

The same order restored Delacour as sergeant major, where he served until his enlistment expired on December 16, 1865. He was succeeded again by Daniel Mount, who lasted only two weeks this final time, before being replaced by William Search on January 1, 1866.

 

References:

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903.

Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With the Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999.

NARA, RG 94, M619, Letters Received by the Adjutant General’s Office, 1861-1870

NARA, RG94, M1064, Letters Received by the Commission Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1863-1870.

NARA, RG 94, Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914

NARA, RG 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Regiments, 2nd U.S. Cavalry

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

Medal of Honor: Edward Hanford

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Edward Raymond Hanford was born in Ohio in 1845, the second of three children. He grew up in Allegany County, New York. He worked on the farm of William Guilford near Belfast, New York prior to the Civil War.

Edward enlisted as a private in the 93rd New York Volunteer Infantry at Belmont, New York on a three year enlistment. He was mustered into Company E on January 30, 1862. Although only 16, he listed his age as 21 on his enlistment documents.

After service with his regiment during the New Bern and Antietam campaigns, Edward transferred to the regular army. He was one of more than two dozen members of his regiment to enlist in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in October 1862. He was enlisted into Company H by regimental adjutant James McQuesten at Harpers Ferry, Virginia on October 22, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’7” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He again listed his age as 21.

There was nothing particularly noteworthy about Private Hanford’s service over the next two years. He served as a private through all of the grueling campaigns of 1863 and most of 1864 without incident or wound.

This changed in the Shenandoah Valley on October 9, 1864 during fighting near Woodstock, Virginia, or the “Woodstock Races,” as they became known to the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Private Hanford captured the flag of the 32d Battalion Virginia Cavalry in hand to hand fighting. In General Orders dated October 14, 1864, Hanford was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism. Interestingly, he was not promoted following the award.

Private Hanford was discharged from the army at the expiration of his term of service at Hagerstown, Maryland on January 31, 1865. After the war, he moved to Calaveras County, California. In 1880, he roomed at Egan’s Hotel in Sheep Ranch, California, where he worked as a miner. He married Emma Viana Nunes later that year, on November 4th. Records of their life together are scarce, but in 1888 Hanford was registered as a farmer in nearby Rich Gulch.

Edward R. Hanford died in an accident on January 30, 1890 in Calaveras County at the age of 49, leaving behind a wife and four young children. He is buried in the Mokelumne Hill Protestant Cemetery, Calaveras County, California.

References:

California Voter Registers, 1888 (accessed online March 24, 2014).

Lambert, Joseph I. One Hundred Years With the Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999.

NARA, RG 94, Register of Enlistments in the U.S. Army, 1798-1914

NARA, RG 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Regiments, 2nd U.S. Cavalry

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.

U.S. Census Data, 1850, 1860 and 1880 (accessed online March 24, 2014).

Book Review: The Last Battle of Winchester

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The Last Battle of Winchester: Phil Sheridan, Jubal Early, and the Shenandoah Valley Campaign, August 7 – September 19, 1864.

Savas Beatie Publishing, 2013, hardback, 553 pages

In The Last Battle of Winchester, author Scott Patchan provides a comprehensive examination of the actions leading up to and including the pivotal battle of the Shenandoah Valley campaign.  Painstakingly researched, yet fast-paced and vividly written, I found it thoroughly enjoyable.

I’m always interested to see the evolution of a writer if I’m fortunate enough to read several of his or her works over time.  I enjoyed Patchan’s Shenandoah Summer (and reviewed it here), but to me this book was written on a higher level.

The author masterfully weaves an engrossing narrative on several levels simultaneously.  The book, as advertised, is indeed a battle history – over 200 pages address the battle itself.  Throughout the story, however, Patchan keeps the reader aware at all times of the larger context: within the campaign in the valley, within Grant’s overall strategy in Virginia, and within Lincoln’s political reality with an election looming.  Grasping this context is critical to understanding the battle and the campaign.  That he is able to do this while not bogging down the story is a tremendous feat.

I found the author’s coverage of the campaign very evenhanded.  He went out of his way to provide a thorough yet unbiased groundwork for the narrative.  I thought Early received a fairer treatment of his accomplishments prior to the battle than I had seen in other works.  Similarly, Sheridan’s caution before the battle and aggressiveness following it made much more sense to me after reading the book.

Patchan’s research is as enlightening as it is intimidating.  He obviously has spent years both researching the campaign and walking the ground on which it was fought.  His use of primary sources is remarkable, both for their sheer number and the way he weaves them into his narrative.  The descriptions of individual actions and combat at the regimental and company level bring the battle to life for the reader.

Cudos to Savas Beatie for using footnotes instead of endnotes.  Given the author’s extensive use of soldiers’ quotes to describe the action, footnotes greatly contributed to the book’s readability. And since I’ve mentioned the publisher, I must add that the book is of excellent quality and well worth the cover price.

Hal Jesperson’s maps are both detailed and plentiful, something all too seldom seen in battle and campaign studies.  I’ve previously found operations in the Valley confusing and difficult to follow, but in this book a map to orient myself was never more than a few pages away.  They provide a great support to the narrative.

Extensive citations, seven appendices and a bibliography over twenty pages long should satisfy even the most demanding reader or researcher.  Many of the primary sources appear to be previously unpublished.

This book provides extensive coverage of every move leading up to and including the battle itself.  I think anyone interested in this campaign or the Civil War would appreciate the book, and it is essential for the library of anyone seriously interested in operations in the Shenandoah Valley during the war.

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