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.



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



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



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




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.



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.


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.

Escaping General Grant


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One might assume from the title that this post is about a Confederate unit.  It is actually the story of one cavalry company’s experience during the first half of the war, and the extraordinary measures needed to obtain its release from service as General Ulysses S. Grant’s escort to rejoin its regiment.

As Confederate forces opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the two westernmost companies of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons were located at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.  Company K was almost immediately dispatched to Washington, D.C., arriving in time for the battle of Bull Run.  Company C followed the lead company by only days, but it would be over two years before it was reunited with the rest of the regiment. Elements of the regiment stationed nearly 1,000 miles farther west would reach the nation’s capital a year and a half before Company C.

The company was commanded by Captain James Morrison Hawes, with First Lieutenant Francis Crawford Armstrong and Second Lieutenant Solomon Williams assigned as his subalterns.  Forty five enlisted men were present for duty, among them a young sergeant from Massachusetts named Myles Moylan.

Captain Hawes had a distinguished career prior to the Civil War.  Born in Lexington and appointed to West Point from Kentucky, he graduated 29th in the class of 1845.  He received two brevet promotions for gallantry in battle during the Mexican War.  He later served as an instructor at the military academy for infantry tactics, cavalry tactics and mathematics.  He served for three years at the French cavalry school at Samur before his promotion to captain of Company C.  He was the only officer present for duty with the company in April, and resigned on May 9, 1861.

First Lieutenant  Armstrong was awarded a direct commission after graduating from Holy Cross Academy in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1855. Frank Armstrong is one of the unusual few soldiers who had the distinction of leading both Union and Confederate troops into battle during the war.  He commanded Company K, 2nd U.S. Dragoons during the first Battle of Bull Run, and was attached to Colonel Hunter’s division. Disillusioned following the battle, he resigned on August 13, 1861 and enlisted in the Confederate Army.  (more information about Armstrong can be found here.)  In April he was on detached service as an aide to General William S. Harney, a position he had held for nearly two years.

Second Lieutenant Solomon Williams was born in and appointed to West Point from North Carolina.  He graduated 11th in the class of 1858. He commanded the 2nd North Carolina Cavalry as a colonel for nearly a year prior to his death at the battle of Brandy Station.   General Stuart described him “as fearless as he was efficient.” He was forming his command for a charge against the advance of his old regular regiment when he was shot in the head and killed.  He was absent on furlough in April, and resigned on May 3, 1861.

Lieutenant Armstrong was temporarily (later promoted and permanently) assigned to command Company K, leaving no officers present for duty with the company.  The company’s first sergeant was Myles A. Moylan.  Enlisted as a private in Boston in 1857, he had rapidly risen through the company’s ranks.  Sergeant Moylan was promoted to first sergeant of the company on May 17, 1861.  This last promotion proved very important to the company.  During the next two years, it was commanded by eight officers of different regiments, including four infantry officers and two artillery officers.  It would have been the steady hand of the first sergeant that kept the company functioning. (More information about Moylan can be found here. )

The company remained at Fort Leavenworth until June 11th, when it departed with several other companies from the Leavenworth garrison for operations in Missouri.  Second Lieutenant Charles Farrand of Company B, 1st U.S. Infantry was temporarily placed in command of the company.  Farrand graduated 36th in the class of 1857 from West Point.  After a year at Newport Barracks, Kentucky, he had spent the previous four years on the frontier in Texas and the Indian Territory.  He arrived at Leavenworth only two weeks before, part of the column evacuated from Fort Cobb.

They spent the remainder of June and most of July on the march in Missouri, finally arriving at Camp Stanley on July 28th.  After a week’s stay there, they marched to Springfield, arriving on August 6th.  They marched forth as part of Gen. Lyons’ army and fought at the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, on August 10th.  Following the army’s defeat, the company marched by way of Springfield and St. Louis to Paducah, Kentucky.

In Paducah, they were assigned to the command of Brigadier General Charles F. Smith.  They spent the next several months engaged in scouting and escort duty.  They remained under General Smith’s command when Gen. Grant’s forces began to maneuver on Forts Henry and Donelson on February 5, 1862.  According to regimental returns, they “had a skirmish with the enemy in the vicinity of Fort Donelson on the 10th inst., and had another skirmish with them in the same place on the 12th; was engaged in the taking of Fort Donelson from the 15th until the surrender, on the 16th of February.”  Afterward, the company moved south with the rest the army to Nashville, arriving February 28.

On March 1st, Company C marched south with Grant’s army to Pittsburgh Landing, Tennessee.  During the battle of Shiloh, they fought with Company I, 4th U.S. Cavalry, under the command of James H. Powell, 18th U.S. Infantry. These companies were engaged all day April 6, 1862, in front of their camp, as skirmishers on the right of the Union army.

The company participated in the pursuit of the Confederate army after Shiloh, then were transferred from escorting one general to another.

“Savannah, Tenn., April 20th, 1862

Brig General Geo C. Cullum,

Chief of Staff & Engrs Dept of the Miss.

Pittsburgh Landing, Tenn.


I understand that Genl Halleck has taken as his Body Guard Co’s C of the 2d & I of 4th Regular Cavalry; up to the present time under my command. There are six of these men now with me as my orderlies, shall I send them to report to their companies?

I beg to request that one of these men, Private Sullivan of Co. C, 2d Cav, may be allowed a furlough of thirty-five (35) days to accompany me to New York.

If the request is granted, may the proper papers of furlough & description roll be sent to me?

Very respectfully & truly yours,

C.F. Smith

Maj. Genl.”

The company served as Gen. Halleck’s escort during the advance on Corinth, Mississippi, once again under Captain Farrand’s command.

Unfortunately, when Halleck was ordered east to assume the position of General in Chief, the company did not accompany him.  In September, the company was assigned to the consolidated cavalry command under Colonel John K. Mizner.  Mizner had also been a lieutenant in the regiment at the beginning of the war.

On September 25th, the company marched to Pocahontas Farm, Tennessee, part of a cavalry probe ordered by General Ord to the Hatchie River.  They had a brisk skirmish with Confederate cavalry there, losing five men and eighteen horses taken prisoner.  Captain Farrand was also briefly taken prisoner, but escaped before reaching a Confederate prison.  Leaving Corinth on November 5th, the company made its way to Memphis by January 15th, serving there as General Grant’s escort.

In November, First Sergeant Moylan submitted a request for an appointment as a second lieutenant in the regular cavalry. Although the regimental returns show no officers present with the company, his request is endorsed by Second Lieutenant Charles Lewis “Comdg Co. ‘C’, 2nd Cavly.”  The request was endorsed by Generals C.F. Smith, McArthur and McPherson.

The regiment, meanwhile, was very short-handed in the Army of the Potomac.  It had deactivated three companies in the summer of 1862 in order to consolidate its limited manpower, sending the officers and noncommissioned officers north to recruit fresh companies.  Additional companies authorized the previous fall were still at Carlisle Barracks and had not yet reported for duty.

With another spring campaign on the horizon, Major Charles J. Whiting, the regimental commander, appealed to the Adjutant General to have Company C returned to the regiment.

“Washington D.C., Feby 23d 1863

Gen. L. Thomas

I have the honor to request that Company “C” 2d U.S. Cavalry, now serving with the Dept. of the Cumberland may be ordered to join the reg. It is useless for me to give any reasons.  It is evident that, with the force we have in the field that it is for the interest of the service to have the Reg together.

Very Respectfully

Your Obt Servant

Chas. J. Whiting

Major 2d Cav

Comdg Reg”

The endorsement for the letter on February 26th is unsigned, but presumably from General Thomas: “Gen. Grant requested to order the Co. to the A. of Potomac if he can dispense with their services.”

There was apparently such a shortage of cavalry in the Army of the Cumberland that not a single company could be spared for escort duty for its commanding general.  Nearly a month and a half later, on the eve of Stoneman’s Raid, Major Whiting tried again.  This time he routed his request through the chain of command.

“Headquarters 2d U.S. Cavalry, Camp near Falmouth, Va., April 4th 1863

Brig. General L. Thomas

Adjutant General, U.S.A.


I have the honor to request that Company “C” of the 2d Regiment U.S. Cavalry be ordered to join the regiment if it be not inconsistent with the interests of the service. The monthly return of the company for February shows that it is stationed at Memphis, Tenn.  It has no commissioned officer of the regiment on duty with it, and only forty five enlisted men and twenty three serviceable horses.

I am very respectfully

Your obt servant

Chas. J. Whiting

Major 2d U.S. Cav

Commg Regiment”


The endorsements on this letter read like a Who’s Who of the Army of the Potomac:

“Hd Qrs Cav Reserve, April 3d 1863

Respectfully referred to Corps Hd Qrs asking that steps be taken for the return of the company.

Jno Buford, BG Vols, Cmdg”

“Headquarters Cavalry Corps, April 9/ 1863

Approved & resptly forwarded.

George Stoneman, Maj Genl, Comg”

“Headquarters, Army of the Potomac, April 11/ 1863

Respectfully forwarded with the request that this company may be ordered to join the regiment.

Joseph Hooker, Maj Gen, Commg”

And finally:

“Respectfully submitted to the General in Chief. On February 26 General Grant was directed to send this company to its regiment in the Army of the Potomac as soon as its services could be dispensed with, as measures were being taken to have all detached companies to join their regiments.  March 3rd, an order was issued by authority of the General in Chief, ordering the different detached companies to join their regiments without delay.  In the enumeration this company was not mentioned in view of the letter to General Grant above referred to.

As nothing has been heard from General Grant on the subject, and as it is of great importance the company should be with its regiment, it is respectfully recommended that it be at once relieved and ordered to join its regiment in the Army of the Potomac.

E.D. Townsend

Asst Adjt General”


General Halleck’s response was very succinct.


“Approved. The horses will not be transferred.  April 15th 1863.

H.W. Halleck

Genl in Chief”


Once the decision was made, things moved rapidly for the orphaned company.  By the end of the month, they were already in Washington, D.C., though without mounts.  The company was commanded during the movement by Second Lieutenant Myles Moylan, whose appointment to the 5th U.S. Cavalry was approved the previous month.  Only 25 men remained present for duty in the company, the majority of the losses from expiration of their terms of service.  In May, still without horses, the company was moved to the regiment’s camp of the previous winter near Falmouth, where it spent the remainder of the month.  In June, during the march from Beverly Ford to Aldie, the company rejoined the regiment.  It had 22 enlisted men present for duty, with 24 serviceable horses.

General Grant’s preference for a regular cavalry escort did not fade with time.  Shortly after his move to the east as General in Chief, four companies of the 5th U.S. Cavalry were assigned as his escort, and served in this capacity through the end of the war.


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.

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

NARA, RG 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870.

NARA, RG 94, Register of Enlistments.

NARA, RG 94, U.S. Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916

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

NARA, RG 391.3.2 Records of 1st-6th Cavalry Regiments

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

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

The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.


6th U.S. Cavalry: Barr letters #3


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The third and final Barr letter discusses the Confederate shelling of the cavalry camps between Westover and Harrisons Landing on July 31, 1862.  While I’ve seen several accounts of the incident that we included in our book, I don’t recall an account of the punitive expedition that crossed the river afterwards. Burning every house sounds like a bit of exaggeration.

It seems unlikely that this would be Barr’s last letter to the paper over the next two years of his enlistment.  At a minimum I would have thought the band’s detachment from the regiment and attachment to Pleasonton’s headquarters would have drawn comment.   I haven’t been able to locate any additional letters, however.


Columbia Spy     August 18, 1862                page 2

Head Quarters 6th U.S. Cavalry,

Harrison’s Landing, Va., Aug. 4, ‘62


Friend Spy,

Again I send you a few items of news, which I hope will be interesting to your readers.  War news have  been a little below par with us for some time.  On the night of the 31st of July, at about twelve o’clock, we were aroused from our peaceful slumbers by the booming of artillery.  We turned out of our tents in “double quick,” and found the shot and shell coming into our camp as thick as hail.  The Rebels had opened on us from the other side of the river, from five different points.  Every person was taken by surprise.  Soldiers and civilians were seen flying in every direction, filling up every safe place that could be found.  Some were in groups behind bales of hay, while others were behind trees; the firing was kept up for an hour, when they were finally compelled to retire, no doubt by the appearance of two or three gun-boats, which threw a few hundred pound shells in among them.  The only damage done in our camp was one horse killed, some few tents ripped, &c.; what was done to other camps I have not been able to hear, but it is supposed to be slight.

At 6 o’clock P.M., August 1st, two or three regiments of infantry, cavalry, &c., were landed on the other side of the river, just opposite our camp.  They had not been there many minutes until every house on the river bank was burned to the ground, the burning timbers and stone chimneys coming down with a crash.  The yelling of the soldiers could be heard for miles.

Today, August 4th, we have news from the other side of the river of the capture of some few prisoners, five pieces of artillery, and the destruction of a rebel camp.  Soldiers could be seen marching up and down the banks with turkeys, chickens, geese, &c., suspended from their bayonets.  Col. Tyler’s battery of five siege guns are now planted on the river bank, about two hundred yards in rear of our camp, which I think, will send them to the last hole if ever they try it again.  All is quiet at present along the river, the only enemies we have to contend with now are the flies and mosquitoes; they march in upon us in whole brigades, while “Old Sol” comes down with a vengeance.

I am told that “Bowery” is coming out with a company.  Michael, can’t you manage to send a keg of lager with him; and let him stop at the quarters of the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regimental Band? He will find the happiest set of boys he ever beheld.  Oh, whew! But it’s hot! And our friend Lewis Trodenick, is sweating as much as any of us.  Lewis is as jolly as ever, and has come to see the sights.


6th U.S. Cavalry: Barr letters #2



The second installment of the Barr letters covers the movement of the regiment from the York River side of the peninsula to Harrison’s Landing on the James River.


Columbia Spy     August 2, 1862   page 2

Head Quarters 6th U.S. Cavalry,

Harrison’s Landing, Va.,

July 15, 1862


Friend Spy,

Since my last letter, we have had to “skedaddle.”  Doubtless, your readers have heard of the  retreat , of a part of Gen. Stoneman’s forces, therefore, I think it is hardly necessary to give a full account of it, only, that we made good our retreat to Camp Hamilton, near Fortress Monroe, arriving there on the Fourth of July.  We remained there until the 11th, when orders were received to march to Fortress Monroe, arriving there at 7 o’clock A.M., we embarked on the steamer Thomas A. Morgan, one of the most beautiful boats now on the James River.  At 10 o’clock we left the dock and steamed up Hampton Roads.  On arriving at Newport News it began raining, making the trip very unpleasant.  About 10 miles above Newport News is Jamestown, which consists of some half-dozen houses, and the corner of an old church, which, it is said, has been standing since the first settlement.

When about five miles above Jamestown, we met a gun-boat, the Captain of which took up his trumpet and told our commander to keep his men low, as the Rebels were drawn up in line on the banks of the river.  That instant the boys were seen flying in every direction over the boat, filling every hole and corner that could be found, some rolled up in small heaps on the cabin floor, while your correspondent struck a bee line for the lower deck, expecting every minute to hear the dogs of war sending forth their missiles of death; but we passed unmolested.

Our gun-boats are shelling the banks every day.  A good many steamers coming up the river at present, have their pilots protected from the rebel sharp-shooters, who are lurking around the river, by placing bales of hay around the pilot-houses.

We arrived at our destination, at 5 o’clock P.M., disembarked, and marched to Harrison’s landing.  Business of every description is going on as lively as ever.  The songs of the contraband can be heard throughout the camp, as they pitch the “hard bake” and the “old jake,” from the boats.  Mr. Editor, we have a regular “Tow Hill” here, “Sawneytown,” nothing to compare to it.

On the 15th I paid a visit to Company K, of the 5th P.R.V.C., and found them all in good spirits; also the 23d P.V., who are now in the front.  Some I found busy throwing up entrenchments.  They think of nothing but success, under “Little Mac.”

Good bye,



6th U.S. Cavalry: Benjamin F. Barr letters


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The first post of the New Year will introduce the Benjamin Barr letters.  As noted elsewhere on this blog and in our book, the Mount Joy Brass Band was enlisted into the 6th U.S. Cavalry in toto by Stephen S. Balk in 1861 as the regimental band.  They were apparently very talented, as the band was detached by Gen. Pleasonton for service at Cavalry Corps headquarters, and remained there under Gen. Sheridan through the end of the war.  One of the members of the band, Benjamin Barr, wrote at least three letters home to the hometown paper, The Columbia Spy, during the war.  Thanks to Vince Slaugh for bringing these to my attention.

Benjamin Franklin Barr enlisted in the 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 15, 1861, at the age of 23.  He was born in Columbia, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1837.  He was discharged at the expiration of his term of service at Strasburg, Virginia on October 15, 1864.

I have looked, but haven’t been able to find any information about the Bowery or Buck Beer.  Below is the first of the letters.


Columbia Spy     July 5, 1862         page 2

Headquarters 6th U.S. Cavalry,

In the Field, near Richmond, Va.,

June 22, 1862


Friend Spy,

None of the boys attached to the 6th U.S. Cavalry Regimental band has written one word to the Spy since their departure, so I take the liberty to do so. —

On the 28th of October, 1861, the Mount Joy Brass band, to which are attached three Columbia boys, viz: Barr, List and McAnall, was sworn into the United States service at Mount Joy and left for the war.  We are now encamped about eight miles from Richmond, close by a large pine woods, where the wood ticks are quite as numerous as the mosquitoes.  We are stopping to rest while Gen. McClellan is preparing a dose to be administered to the skulking scoundrels.

The invincible Sixth have been in the advance since the evacuation of Yorktown; we have been in several skirmishes and heard the whiz of shot and shell in close proximity.  The booming in front of Richmond foretells the downfall of the Rebel cause and its advocates.  This thunder is heavy and shakes the earth on which we lay.  Old Seth, or California Jo as he is called, is at his post picking the rebels from their guns with that coolness which he exhibited at Yorktown.  He is of the regular backwoods stamp: is about fifty years of age, his hair, which he parts in the centre, hangs down over his shoulders with very heavy whiskers which makes him look fierce.  He carries a Sharp’s rifle on which he places his dependence.  He is a hard looking chap — looks as though he has seen many hardships.  Your correspondent had a chat with him and heard him tell some very interesting stories about the rebels at Yorktown.  A hand, or anything that size, at a distance of a thousand yards is sufficient for his sharp eye, and it is very seldom he fails to hit his mark.  Jo has taken a dislike to the army of the Potomac on account of the “tarnal wood ticks.”

Mr. Editor they are worse than the itch.

They are about the size of a “bed-bug,” and when they get inot the flesh it is with great difficulty that they are extracted, often leaving their heads stick in your skin, which gets very sore.  We retire at eight o’clock thinking to get a good night’s rest: we are hardly asleep when away go the blankets and away goes the inmate.  In a moment the boys are all up to know the cause of the disturbance when we are told that a wood-tick is in the shanty.  Well, such faces you never saw.  You may know men aroused from their slumber would naturally d— the “tarnal critters.”  Our boys are healthy and enjoy soldiering very well.  There has nothing of importance transpired since the 14th of June.  At or about eight o’clock on the morning of the 14th, a messenger came galloping through the camp to Gen Cook’s [editor: Brigadier General Philip St. George Cooke, commanding the Cavalry Reserve] headquarters: in five minutes from his arrival the bugle sounded “boots and saddles.” Well, such flutter you never saw.

The report was that the enemy was in our rear, the command, “forward, Sixth Cavalry,” was given, so we struck off at a double quick towards Old Church, but we were too late, the rebels had gone by.  We laid there all night, and at three o’clock the next morning we were after them hot foot, but saw nothing of them, so we returned to camp on the 15th at three P.M., pretty well roasted.  After everything was fixed in its place, we partook of some refreshments which consisted of pork and beans, after which we took a smoke.  Whew! But it is hot!  We often wish for a glass of Bowery’s “Buck Beer.”  Everything is very quiet around here at present, with the exception of the booming of cannon at night, which keeps the boys gaping through the day from their loss of sleep.  There is a mail going out, so by-by, till the next time.


More on Enlisted Appointments


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As chronicled here and elsewhere, General Orders No. 33 from the Adjutant General’s Office on June 18, 1861 allowed for up to one third of new Regular Army officers to be appointed from deserving noncommissioned officers in existing regiments.  This of course was an excellent opportunity for advancement, and a great number of these former enlisted men served with great distinction during the war.

What had not previously occurred to me was the logistics behind these promotions.  Every officer promotion or new appointment in the Regular Army had to be approved by the Adjutant General’s Office and Congress, since it controlled the Army’s purse strings, then officially published by the Adjutant General’s Office.  The inevitable delays of this system frequently resulted in officers learning of their appointments or promotions months after their effective dates.

What was the method for prioritizing requests for new officer appointments before they reached the A.G.O.?  It apparently did not exist early in the war.  Consider this response I recently found written by the Adjutant General himself on a cavalry sergeant major’s appointment recommendation in the spring of 1862.

“Respectfully referred to Maj. Gen. McClellan for the reports of intermediate commanders, through whom this letter should have passed.  There are on file 150 recommendations, like this, for the promotion of noncom’d officers in the regular army.  Of course, it is impossible to appoint all, or even one half, or one fourth of the number.  And it is both an insidious and a difficult task for the Adjt. Gen’l. to make selection among them.  They should be classified, first by their regimental commanders, & again by the commanders of the brigades, divisions and of the Army in which they are serving.  It is only after a careful comparison of the merits of all, conscientiously made by those [who] are best acquainted with them, that justice can be done to all.

[signed] L. Thomas, Adjt. Gen’l.”

One would have thought this a blinding flash of the obvious, but it evidently took a very frustrated Adjutant General to bring it to pass.

Here is a brief snapshot of the process.  The regimental adjutant writes the request for appointment of Sergeant Major X, which is approved and signed by the regimental commander in the field.  A second piece of paper is wrapped around the first and signed by each level in the chain of command, all the way up to the Army’s Adjutant General Office.  The requests are carried by horseback up to army level, then most likely by train to Washington, a process of weeks at the best of times.  Up to this point in the war, such endorsements normally read, “Respectfully forwarded.”  By regulation at the time, such a request had to be forwarded to the Adjutant General’s Office, whether the recommendation was approval or disapproval.  Such noncommital endorsements placed the A.G.O. in a quandary, as described above.  I have a mental image, probably wholly inaccurate, of a clerk standing before the Adjutant General’s overflowing desk, saying, “Sir, I have 19 lieutenant vacancies in the infantry regiments, and over 100 recommendations for appointment to fill them.  How would you like me to proceed?”

This was much less of a problem later in the war, though it is unclear whether this was because of fewer vacancies or fewer qualified noncommissioned officers to fill them.

Battle of Slatersville, May 9, 1862


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On May 9, 1862, the 6th U.S. Cavalry engaged in its second battle, just days after the skirmish at Williamsburg.  No official report of the encounter was ever published, as the regiment was part of the vanguard of the Army of the Potomac and in near constant motion for the next several weeks.  Friend Bob O’Neill was kind enough to bring this report to my attention.  He found it at the National Archives, and we weren’t aware of its existence when our history of the regiment went to print.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that it has been published.  What follows is part of a draft of the report of Major Lawrence Williams, who commanded the regiment during the engagement, dated May 20, 1862.

“…report in relation to an engagement between the 6th Regular Cavalry and that of the Rebels which occurred at Slatersville on the 9th Inst. The advanced Guard of the army arrived at this point about 3 o’clock p.m. During a short halt for the column to be closed up supposing the enemy from the skirmishing that had taken place, to be in force, it was intimated by the General Commanding in a report of Lieut. [Farquahar], his aid, that a detachment of the Rebel Cavalry consisting of 25 or 30 might be cut off, by a detour upon the town. A portion of Capt. Lowell’s Squadron consisting of 55 men and Capt. Sander’s Company of 32 men, were ordered out for this purpose. The force was large in proportion to the work to be performed, but it was so from fear of accident. In fifteen minutes after the head of the column was put in motion, it arrived nearly to the point where its road debouched upon the undulating ground before the hamlet. Here a vidette of the enemy was discovered partially concealed by the woods, which skirted the right of the town. On approaching hearer, he was discovered to be one of a troop of cavalry, wheeled to the right about, on the signal given by him of our advance, supposing this to be the party referred to by Lt. Farquahar, the column was put to the gallop, and on reaching the open was ordered to charge, led by Capt. Lowell; the impetuosity and gallantry of the men and officers to perform this order, was only equaled by the rapidity of the enemy’s retreat. This was on a road which ran between a rail fence and the woods before alluded to, and in the direction of some out houses, although the firing from these buildings on the enemy’s reaching them, was for a moment very rapid, and in volleys, leading to the belief that Infantry was in ambush; and another troop of cavalry suddenly discovered on the right showed that this force was underrated, the gallantry of our men and the speedy retreat of that portion of the enemy already encountered, was reassuring. At this moment, and before Capt. Sanders company had fully emerged from the woods, another squadron of the rebel cavalry heretofore concealed suddenly appeared on the left[.  Fearing it would make a junction with the force with which Capt. Lowell was engaged and enable it to rally Capt. Sander’s company was suddenly diverted from the road through a gap in the fence, and ordered to charge it. It was scarcely necessary to give the order; It was as boldly, as gallantly and as successfully as the first, although it was apparent that the force of the enemy was greater than our own, even at this juncture, that conviction became startling on the appearance of still another squadron which rushed forth in full career to the support of that so successfully put to flight. The whole cavalry force now on the field was 87 Federal and about 400 Rebels. So great however was the consternation of the first squadron, charged by Capt. Sanders & Lowell they were incapable of mutual support. Fearing that the handful of men now in hot pursuit of the enemy, would be taken in the rear by the squadron which had so unexpectedly come to his (the enemy’s) support, Capt. Sanders’ company was immediately diverted, wheeled about and gallantly charged the advancing relief.

"The result considering the numbers of that this handful of men had so gallantly engaged was ridiculous. The enemy was thrown in the wildest confusion, and retreated pell mell toward its supports in town.

"Whilst our column was in hot pursuit, Lt. Farquahar reported to me that he had discovered some Rebel Infantry in the woods which menaced a successful return of our little force, the recall was therefore immediately ordered to be sounded and Capt. Sanders’ company was withdrawn, Capt. Lowell in the meantime had pursued his foe through the town, and so far, as to be beyond the reach of the bugle call, but, with a prudence equal to his bravery also withdrew his command, and our troops retired in good order from the field. [The enemy ?? to discover] the paltry number before which he had so disgracefully fled. The officers of the Regiment engaged in this affair were, Capts Sanders and Lowell, Lieut Hutchins, Whiteside and Coats, their coolness combined with the most fearless disregard of life was what won the day. Nothing could exceed the conduct of the men, though most of them had never been under fire before, they were not only fearless, daring and determined in their attack, but as self possessed and as easily handled as veterans upon drill.

“The following is a list of the casualties

Killed: Private Kline Company K, Private Merkel, Irish and Ohara Company E         Total 4

Wounded:  Cpl Campbell and Morris Company E, Private Ortott, Kennedy, McDowell, Palmer, Neff Company E and Carothers Company K

Missing:  Private Ellis, Craig & Finch Company E

Total Killed 4, Wounded 8 Missing 3         Grand Total 15

Rebel loss 1 officer killed 1 wounded, 5 men killed & about 20 wounded.

“The two successive and successful charges of Capt Sanders with his 32 men upon two squadrons of the enemy, was particularly plucky, deserves the highest praise, and contributed greatly to the success of the day.

“It was reported by some of the Negroes in the town that two of our men who were killed, were first taken prisoners and afterwards shot in consequence of not being able to follow when the enemy retreated from the town. Their bodys certainly showed evidence of this, and it is mortifying to report that in one instance the fingers of one man were cut off for the trifling value of his rings. The rebels were well mounted, but their horses were not in very good condition, more of them were armed with double barreled shotguns, loaded with buckshot, besides pistols and sabres.

“Capt Lowell’s clothes showed evidence of many an unsuccessful aim

“Lt. Hutchins received a slight contusion from the falling of his horses

“Lt. Farquahar of the Engineers behaved with great gallantry and coolness

“Lt. Whiteside’s conduct was equally commendable with the rest of the officers”

The officers the report refers to are Captain William P. Sanders, Captain Charles Russell Lowell, Lieutenant Benjamin Hutchins, Lieutenant (former regimental sergeant major) Samuel Whitside, and Second Lieutenant Francis Ulric Farquhar of the engineers, a 1861 graduate of the military academy.

Source: National Archives, RG 391: Records of the US Regular Army Mobile Units, 6th Cavalry, Regimental Letters Sent 1861-1864, Vol 1 of 12, NM-93, Entry 814


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