Abram V. Race, 6th U.S. Cavalry

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Abram V. Race was born on February 2, 1838 in Belfast, Allegheny county, New York. He worked as farmer on the family farm until the outbreak of the Civil War.

On June 22, 1861, he enlisted into Company I, 42nd New York Infantry on Long Island. He was transferred to Company K the same day. The regiment fought well but lost heavily at Ball’s Bluff before the end of the year, losing 133 killed, wounded and missing. It served during the Peninsula campaign the next spring, losing over fifty men at Glendale during the Seven Days’ battles. At Antietam the regiment was heavily blooded again, losing 181 killed, wounded and missing out of 345 engaged. Most of these were lost during the charge under Gen. Sedgwick.

After the battle of Antietam, Abram transferred to Company K, 6th U.S. Cavalry. He was enlisted by Lieutenant Albert Coats at Knoxville, Maryland. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’6 ½” tall, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion. He apparently didn’t inform his former company of his intentions, as the records of the 42nd NY show him as deserting the regiment on November 5, 1862 at Warrenton, VA.

Abram served well through the winter and during the regiment’s 1863 campaigns. He was one of the few not to be wounded or captured during the fighting at Brandy Station and Fairfield. He completed his original enlistment period on April 24, 1864 at the Camp of the 6th Cavalry near Brandy Station, Virginia. Perhaps tired of Cavalry Corps headquarters escort duty, he chose not re-enlist in the regiment and returned home to New York. Over the summer he undoubtedly read in the local papers of the heavy cavalry fighting in the Overland Campaign and during Sheridan’s raids.

On September 19, 1864, he enlisted into the 1st New York Dragoons at Belfast, NY for one year. He was mustered in Company K as a private on October 1st. Ironically, he was headed right back to the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. He arrived in time for the battle of Cedar Creek on October 19th. He remained with them through the end of the war, mustering out with his regiment at Cloud’s Mill, Virginia on June 30, 1865.

After the war, Abram moved to Michigan, where he married Ann Sissens in 1866. They lived in Kent county, near Grand Rapids, and had five children. He worked as a laborer in Algoma, and they later rented a ten acre farm. In 1890 he filed for an invalid pension, complaining of rheumatism, piles, loss of hearing and sight.

In 1900, Abram is listed a single boarder with a family in Wheatland, Michigan. The following year he married Hanna Widdifield Bryant in Grand Rapids on April 15, 1901. He was 63, and she was 70. On April 18, 1908, he married Harriet McGee in Wheatland, Hillsdale county, Michigan. His age is listed as 71 and hers as 64.

Abram was admitted to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Bath, New York on April 27, 1916. He died there on November 24, 1916, and is buried at Bath National Cemetery, Steuben county, New York.

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Brevets by Torbert, Part 1

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220px-A_T_A_Torbert

Major General Alfred Thomas Archimedes Torbert commanded the Union cavalry in Sheridan’s Middle Military District during the Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1864. I found this document a while back and thought today would be an appropriate day to post it.

This post is part 1 because in this document he only recommends his personal staff for brevets. It was eight days later before he recognized his subordinate commanders and officers. In fairness, those were most likely solicited from the units and took a bit longer to gather. The regular cavalry portion of that document will be posted before the end of the month.

There was apparently no statute of limitations on brevet promotions, as a couple of these go as far back as May of 1864. The entries are a bit repetitive, but I included them all as I thought it interesting just how long some of these officers were on staff away from their regiments.

Headquarters Cavalry, Middle Military Division
Winchester, Va., January 17, 1865

Lieutenant Colonel C. Kingsbury, Jr., Asst. Adjt. General, Army of the Shenandoah

Colonel,
I have the honor to recommend the following named officers for promotion by brevet:

Major Wm. Russell Jr., Asst Adjt. Genl., to be Lieutenant Colonel by brevet to date from September 19, ’64 for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of Opequon Sept 19, Cedar Creek Oct. 19, ’64 and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

Captain E.H. Bailey, 1st New York Cavy, A.A.D.C., to be brevet Major to date Oct. 19, ’64 for gallant and distinguished service at the battles of Opequon Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Oct. 9, & Cedar Creek Oct. 19, ’64 and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

Captain F.G. Martindale,1st N.Y. Cavy., A.A.D.C., to brevet Major to date from October 19, ’64 for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of Opequon Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Oct. 9, Cedar Creek Oct. 19, and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

Captain J.J. Coppinger, 14th U.S. Infantry, A.A.D.C., to be brevet Major for gallant and distinguished service at the battle of Trevillian Station Va. June 11 & 12, ’64 and brevet Lieutenant Colonel for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of Opequon Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Oct. 9, Cedar Creek Oct. 19, ’64 and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

Captain C. McK. Leoser, 2d U.S. Cavy., Inspector General of Cavalry, M.M.D., to be brevet Major for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of Todd’s Tavern Va., May 9 & Yellow Tavern Va., May 11, ’64. And to be brevet Lieutenant Colonel for gallant and distinguished service in the battles of Old Church Va., May 30, Coal Harbor Va., May 31, and Trevillian Station Va., June 11 & 12, ’64.

1st Lieut. Howard H. Goldsmith, 15th New Jersey Volunteers, A.D.C. to be brevet Captain for gallant & distinguished services in the battles of Todd’s Tavern Va., May 9 and Yellow Tavern May 11, ’64. And to be brevet Major for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of Opequon Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Oct. 9, Cedar Creek Va., Oct. 19, and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

1st Lieut. Robt. C. Wallace, 7th Mich. Vol. Cavy., A.A.D.C., to be brevet Captain for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of Todd’s Tavern Va., May 9 and Yellow Tavern Va., May 11, ’64. And to be brevet Major for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of Opequon Va., Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Va., Oct. 9, Cedar Creek Va., Oct. 19, ’64 and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

C.J. Wilson, Asst. Surgeon U.S.A. and Medical Director Cavalry M.M.D. to be brevet Captain for meritorious and distinguished services in the Department in the battles of Todd’s Tavern Va., May 9 and Yellow Tavern Va., May 11, ’64 and other engagements on the Peninsula. And to be brevet Major to date from Oct. 19, ’64 for highly meritorious and distinguished services in the Department in twelve (12) engagements in the Shenandoah Valley where the wounded were well taken of under the most trying circumstances.

1st Lieutenant C.H. Lester, 2d U.S. Cavy., A.D.C., to be brevet Captain to date from July 27, ’64 for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of Todd’s Tavern Va., May 9, Yellow Tavern Va., May 11, Deep Bottom Va., July 27, ’64 and several other engagements on the Peninsula.

Captain G.B. Sanford, 1sst U.S. Cavalry, Mustering Officer, HdQrs. Cavalry, M.M.D., too be brevet Major to date from Oct. 19, ’64 for gallant and distinguished services in the battles of Opequon Sept. 19, Tom’s Creek Oct. 9, Cedar Creek Va., Oct. 19, ’64 and other engagements in the Shenandoah Valley.

1st Lieut. J.Q. Slater, 1st N.Y. Dragoons, Chief Ambulance Officer Cavalry, to be brevet Captain from Sept. 19, ’64 for gallant & distinguished services in the battles of Winchester Seppt. 19, Cedar Creek Oct. 19, and for his excellent management of the Ambulance Depm’t in all the battles in which the cavalry has been engaged.

(signed) A.T.A. Torbert, Brevet Major General, Comdg.

Sources
National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870, File T274, 1864.

Private John Sirrine, 2nd U.S. Cavalry

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John Surine 2nd US Cavalry and 17th NYVI fom Michigan

Photo used with permission of Dale Niesen.

This is the second attempt to post this article to the blog, hopefully I will have better luck this time. I am deeply indebted to Dale Niesen for allowing me to use the image of John Sirrine from his private collection, and to Bob O’Neill for retrieving his pension record from the National Archives to add detail to the post.

John Sirrine was born in Williamsfield, Ashtabula county, Ohio on May 27, 1841. His family was Methodist, and his father a Sunday school superintendent for his church. John noted in his pension record a certificate he received at age seven for learning 73 verses of scripture. During his childhood, his family moved to Paw Paw, Van Buren county, Michigan, just west of Kalamazoo. His father died when he was 10. In his own words,

“My father went to Paw Paw Michigan in the year 1851 and purchased a nice tract of land, but two days later was called from this world to that better one, and where he had laid up greater treasures. Not having paid in full for the land in Michigan, my Mother lost nearly everything. My Mother having several children, I went to live with a neighbor farmer until I should be twenty one.”

At the outbreak of the Civil War John and many of his neighbors tried to enlist as volunteers in the Union Army. The local militia company, known as the La Fayette Light Guard, had formed in Van Buren county in 1859, and its ranks soon swelled with volunteers. The problem was that Michigan had already provided her share of the volunteers requested by President Lincoln. Not to be deterred, the company’s officers persisted in their efforts and the company became Company C, 70th New York Volunteer Infantry. John enlisted in the company on April 25, 1861, five days after his cousin Arthur.

The company departed for New York City on June 13, 1861, and mustered into federal service on June 30th. It remained on Staten Island until boarding a train for Washington July 23rd, arriving the next day. The regiment encamped on Meridian Heights through the winter, and embarked on ships for the peninsula with the rest of McClellan’s army in April 1862. It lost several men to typhoid fever during the winter, and John was nearly one of them. He was so sick that his brother travelled to Washington to care for him while he was in the hospital. He was offered his discharge, but refused it and was back on his feet in time for the spring campaign.

The company was heavily blooded during the spring and summer’s fighting. One hundred twelve men enrolled in the company, including the officers. In its first battle at Williamsburg on May 5, 1862, it lost 8 men killed and 23 wounded and missing. One soldier drowned at Harrison’s Landing, and a few weeks later at Fair Oaks it lost two more men killed and three who would later be discharged due to their wounds. Several more were wounded at Second Bull Run in August and Antietam in September. The company’s losses weighed so heavily on its commander, Captain James M. Longwell, that he resigned on November 21st and returned to Paw Paw.

When the order was published in October that volunteers could join regular army units for the remainder of their enlistments, it is unsurprising that John, his cousin Art, and six others volunteered for what they expected to be easier duty in the regular cavalry. All eight were enlisted into the regiment by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, Virginia on October 28, 1862. John’s enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 5” tall, with light hair, blue eyes and a light complexion. He listed his occupation as a farmer. John and two others, Henry Crandall and Samuel Garver, were assigned to Captain Starr’s Company D. Arthur and the others were assigned to Company B.

All eight survived the heavy fighting of 1863, including the grueling Gettysburg campaign. John thought so much of service with the cavalry that he re-enlisted at Leonardstown, Maryland on March 25, 1864. The Michigan men all survived the intense fighting of the Overland campaign during the summer of 1864 more or less intact. Unfortunately, they did not fare as well in the Shenandoah Valley.

John was shot in the right shoulder during the fighting at Winchester on September 19, 1864, and nearly lost his arm. The ball entered two inches below his right clavicle and exited through the deltoid muscle, fracturing the humerus and injuring the nerves controlling the forearm and hand. As he describes the event in his pension records:

“After wounded was next day taken to a church in Winchester, where after examination by a surgeon, was labeled (sic) “Operation.” I saw other surgeons taking men out of back door marked same way, and I investigated what took place in back yard. … I quarreled with the two surgeons who came to take me to the operating table the next day. They said, ‘Then lie there and die if you would rather do that than have that arm amputated.’”

Three days later John was evacuated to McClellan Hospital in Germantown, PA. He was forwarded with the remainder of the regular cavalry wounded to Carlisle Barracks about a month later. He was discharged for disability at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania on December, a week after the other seven were discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office since their volunteer enlistments had expired.

John returned to Paw Paw after his discharge. He filed his pension claim in January 1866. By 1870 he was working as a painter and married to his wife Rosetta, a woman seven years younger from New York. She died childless before the next census, and John never remarried. In 1880 he was working in a furniture store in Paw Paw and living in a boarding house. His mother died there in 1887.

John entered the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on July 21, 1896. At the time he was receiving $8 per month from a disability pension. He was discharged at his own request February 3, 1899 and moved to nearby River Falls. In 1908, his pension was increased by Congress to $30 per month. His cousin Art had passed away the year before at the Michigan Soldiers Home. By 1912 John had returned to live in Paw Paw.

John continued to lobby the government for higher disability payments, without much success. Local doctors would examine him and recommend a higher rate, only to be denied by the Bureau’s surgeons when they examined his records. In one letter he noted bitterly:

“The trouble seems to be with some of us that we enlisted too early in the war, served too long, kept out of hospital too much, didn’t give ourselves up to be prisoners of war, didn’t drink enough “Plantation Bitters” and haven’t drank enough “Personal” or the stuff that made Milwaukee famous since.”

By 1920 John had moved to California. His brother and sister had both died in Paw Paw the year before, so there were few remaining ties to keep him in Michigan. His half-brother, B.W. Bonfoey, lived in Los Angeles. In the 1920 census he was living at 926 Wall Street in Los Angeles, with no occupation listed.

John Sirrine died chronic myocarditis and arterio sclerosis on March 5, 1923 in Los Angeles, California. He is buried in Los Angeles National Cemetery, plot 44 16.

The Civil War service of the other seven members of his company:

Abrams, James E. Resident of Paw Paw, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry May 14, 1861, at Paw Paw, Michigan as a private. Transferred to Company B, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged at the expiration of his term of service on October 28, 1864 as a private. Born Clarendon county, New York. Farmer.

Crandall, Henry. Resident of Keeler, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry May 14, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a private. Transferred to Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office at Camp Russell, Virginia on December 6, 1864 as a private. Born Hillsdale county, MI. Farmer.

Garver, Samuel. Resident of Lawton, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry April 27, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a private. Wounded in action at Williamsburg, VA on May 5, 1862. Transferred to Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office at Camp Russell, Virginia on December 6, 1864as a private. Born Seneca county, Ohio. Farmer.

Reese, Henry. Resident of Porter, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry April 30, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a private. Transferred to Company B, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office at Camp Russell, VA on December 7, 1864 as a private. Born Kalamazoo, MI. Farmer.

Robinson, Lyman. Resident of Paw Paw, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry April 22, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a private. Transferred to Company B, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office at Camp Russell, VA on December 6, 1864 as a private. Born Van Buren county, MI. Cooper.

Ryan, Michael. Resident of Lawrence, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry May 22, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a sergeant. Transferred to Company B, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office on December 6, 1864 as a private. Re-entered service in Company B, 10th Michigan Cavalry, discharged November 7, 1865. Born in Ireland. Wagon maker.

Sirrine, Art. Resident of Paw Paw, MI. Enlisted Company C, 70th New York Infantry April 20, 1861, at Paw Paw, MI as a private. Transferred to Company B, 2nd U.S. Cavalry October 28, 1862 by Captain Samuel Starr in Alexandria, VA. Discharged by order of the Adjutant General’s Office at Camp Russell, VA on December 6, 1864 as a private. Born Trumbull county, Ohio. Farmer.

Sources:

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914.
National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 2nd U.S. Cavalry.
National Archives, Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, Pension record #67724.
Rowland, Captain O.W. A History of Van Buren County Michigan, Volume 1. Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1912. Pages 300-307.

Benjamin Griffin, 6th U.S. Cavalry

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Benjamin Griffin was born in Bradford County, Pennsylvania. He enlisted as a private in Company A, 82nd Pennsylvania Infantry on November 6, 1861. He did not see any major engagements before he was discharged for disability on August 20, 1862. The disability was not stated, but he apparently recovered quickly once he returned home.
Following the battle of Antietam, Benjamin enlisted in Company C, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Knoxville, Maryland on October 28, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 11 ½” tall, with dark hair, gray eyes and a light complexion. He served with his new regiment during the winter picketing of the Rappahannock, Stoneman’s Raid and the battle of Brandy Station without suffering any wounds.

During the battle of Fairfield on July 3, 1863, Private Griffin was part of Lieutenant Tattnall Paulding’s squadron fighting dismounted on the regiment’s right flank. When the Union position was overrun, he was captured trying to reach his horse. He was a prisoner of war at Belle Isle until he was exchanged January 7, 1864.

After a brief stay in Annapolis, Maryland, he returned to the regiment for duty at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the winter of 1863. He fought in the battles of the spring 1864 Overland campaign and the initial skirmishes of Sheridan’s Shenandoah Valley campaign before his enlistment expired on September 17, 1864. He was discharged at Berryville, Virginia and presumably returned home for the remainder of the war.

Fiddler’s Green: William B. Royall

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This is the first of several posts this month focusing on Civil War soldiers who fought on the frontier against Indians after the war, either in 1866-67 or the 1876 Sioux campaign.

William Bedford Royall was born in Virginia on April 15, 1825. His family moved to Missouri when he was at a very young age. During the Mexican War, he was appointed a first lieutenant in Company D, 2nd Missouri Infantry on July 31, 1846. Royall served creditably at the battle of Canada, the skirmish at Embudo and capture of Puebla de Taos in New Mexico, serving under the command of his uncle, Colonel Sterling Price. Upon the expiration of his regiment’s term of service, he was first lieutenant and adjutant of the Santa Fe Battalion on August 14, 1847. After a year of recruiting service back in Missouri, he was escorting his recruits to Santa Fe when he had a skirmish with Comanche Indians on June 18, 1848 near Coon Creek in Kansas. Royall’s command arrived in Santa Fe as the war ended, and he subsequently assigned with his recruits to escort duty with now-General Price on his return to Missouri. Royall was honorably mustered out of volunteer service on October 28, 1848.

When the Army expanded by the creation of two new cavalry regiments in 1855, Royall was appointed the senior first lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry on March 3, 1855. He received his appointment at Columbia, Missouri, and proceeded immediately to recruiting service for his regiment in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until July. He joined the regiment at Jefferson Barracks and served with Company C. Following a month of recruiting duty in Columbia, Missouri, he marched with his regiment to Texas in October and arrived at Fort Mason, Texas on January 14, 1856.

He was recognized for gallantry in action against the Comanches during skirmishes that summer, before reporting to Philadelphia for recruiting duty until November 1858. After leading his recruits from Carlisle barracks to Camp Radziminski, Texas, he assumed command of Company C. He commanded the company from December 31, 1858 to February 10, 1860. He was highly commended for conspicuous gallantry during fighting on May 13, 1859 in regimental reports and by General Winfield Scott. He was granted a leave of absence from June 1860 to February 1861.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Royall chose to side with the Union, despite his southern birth and his uncle, now a Confederate general. During the regiment’s evacuation of Texas, he led his company from Fort Inge to Indianola, where it embarked on the steamship Empire City. He and his company arrived at Carlisle Barracks on April 27, 1861, where he learned he had been promoted to captain on March 21st.

Captain Royall and his company served under General Patterson in the Shenandoah Valley during the summer and fall of 1861, seeing action at Falling Waters, Martinsburg and Bunker Hill. He and his regiment drilled as part of the Cavalry Reserve in the defenses of Washington during the winter of 1861-1862.

During the Peninsula campaign in the spring, he and his regiment were active on the right flank of the army as it advanced toward Richmond. They saw action at the siege of Yorktown and the battle of Williamsburg in April and May. He again distinguished himself at the battle of Hanover Court House on May 27, 1862, receiving a brevet promotion to major for gallant and meritorious service there.

Captain Royall was commanding two squadrons of the regiment on the extreme right of the army when he fought an engagement against a cavalry brigade under Confederate Brigadier General J.E.B. Stuart on June 13, 1862 near Old Church, Virginia. This was the only significant fighting during Stuart’s ride around the Army of the Potomac. Royall’s command, heavily outnumbered, was overwhelmed after a stubborn fight and routed. He was again brevetted for gallantry, this time to lieutenant colonel, but at a heavy price. Royall received six saber wounds during the fighting: two contusions on the right side of the head, a cut two inches long on the forehead, a long cut on the left cheek, a cut dividing a tendon on the right wrist, and an incised fracture of the left parietal bone. These wounds disabled him from active field service for the rest of the war.

Royall was offered the colonelcy of the 27th New Jersey Volunteers in September 1862, but declined due to the effects of his wounds. When he returned to light duty in October, he was assigned to duty as a mustering and disbursing officer in Louisville, Kentucky until March 1864. He was promoted to major in the 5th U.S. Cavalry on December 7, 1863, but would not return to the regiment for nearly two and a half years.

After two months at the Cavalry Bureau in the spring of 1864, Major Royall was assigned as the superintendent of the Mounted Recruiting Service at Carlisle. He assumed command of the post on May 19, 1864. Like the two officers who had preceded him, Royall was another very experienced cavalryman. He also served as the commander of the drafted camp for his district, and much of his correspondence during this period refers to difficulties maintaining sufficient guards for the draftees, especially during Confederate General Early’s advance from the Shenandoah during the summer of 1864. Major Royall was ordered to send out his permanent company and recruits to scout Early’s advance, leaving him no capable soldiers for duty on the post. He served in this position until April 1866. He was brevetted colonel on March 13, 1865 “for arduous and faithful services in recruiting the Army of the United States.”

Major Royall next rejoined his regiment in Nashville, Tennessee, where he commanded four companies until November when he was relieved by the regiment’s lieutenant colonel. He continued to serve there until April 1867. Ryall was next assigned to North Carolina, where he worked as a cavalry inspector in the 2nd Military District and later Chief of the Bureau of Civil Affairs there. This was followed by duty at Morganton, N.C., where he oversaw execution of the reconstruction acts of Congress in fifteen counties of western North Carolina.

In September 1868, Major Royall was at last reassigned to frontier service with a detachment of four companies of the 5th U.S. Cavalry. He led them to Fort Harker, Kansas by September, and was then assigned to Fort Riley. Major Royall served during several campaigns in the vicinity of the Republican River in Kansas, Nebraska and northeastern Colorado over the next year.

On December 22, 1869, he was assigned with a detachment of the regiment to Fort D.A. Russell, Wyoming. He commanded the detachment of up to seven companies at different periods until March 1872, when he was reassigned to Camp Grant, Arizona. He served in various capacities in Arizona and southern California until May 1875, when he marched with the regimental headquarters and six companies of the regiment to Fort Lyon, Colorado, where the command was divided amongst several forts. Royall established the regimental headquarters at Fort Hays, Kansas.

After a brief leave of absence, he assumed command of Fort Dodge, Kansas, and a few days later was promoted to lieutenant colonel of the 3rd U.S. Cavalry on December 2, 1875. The promotion had to be bittersweet, as it ended nearly 21 years of service in the 5th Cavalry. He was transferred to the Department of the Platte at Fort Sidney, Nebraska. From January to March 1876, he served as a member of a board examining Army supplies and the best method of issuing them in the west for the War Department in Philadelphia. While he was there, General Crook applied for him to command the cavalry during the upcoming campaign against the Sioux in the summer of 1876. He returned to the department, and spent April and May purchasing horses for the campaign.

Lieutenant Colonel Royall joined the expedition on May 18, 1876, and commanded his regiment in the field. The regiment’s colonel, John J. Reynolds, was under a court martial for actions the previous December. Some speculate that he resented Crook because of this, but it seems unlikely since he wasn’t present during the incident, and the result of a personal request from the commander was a field command rather than continued staff work in Philadelphia. A battalion of the 2nd Cavalry was added to his command once the expedition was under way, giving him command of 14 companies of cavalry.
Royall had command of these companies during the battle of the Rosebud on June 17, 1876. He took personal command of several companies during the fight and made an independent attack without informing General Crook, which caused some difficulties in managing the battle. After the expedition disbanded in Nebraska in October, he was appointed an acting assistant inspector general for the Department of the Platte until September 1882. After a brief reunion with his regiment at Fort Whipple, Arizona, he was promoted colonel of the 4th U.S. Cavalry on November 1, 1882.

Five years later, Royall retired with the rank of brigadier general on October 19, 1887. On February 27, 1890, he was granted a brevet of brigadier general for gallant service in action at the battle of the Rosebud, fourteen years after the engagement. William Bedford Royall died in Washington, D.C. on December 13, 1895. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Sources:
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 563.

Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume 1. New York: George W. Carleton, 1869. Page 178.

National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870.

National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Commission Branch, 1863-1870.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 5th U.S. Cavalry.

Price, George F. Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry. New York: D. Van Nostrand, Publisher, 1883. Pages 292-298.

 

 

Albert J. Vining, 6th U.S. Cavalry

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Albert J. Vining was born in Castalia, Erie County, Ohio in 1843. At the outbreak of the war, he enlisted as a private in Company E, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Dennison, Ohio on June 22, 1861. The regiment was assigned to General Shields’ division and fought Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson’s forces during the first Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1862. During the battle of Antietam, they fought Confederate general D.H. Hill’s Alabama troops at the “Bloody Lane,” suffering 50% casualties.

Following the battle, Albert was one of seven in his company to voluntarily transfer to the regular cavalry. He enlisted into Company C, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Knoxville, Maryland on October 24, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 4 ½” tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and a florid complexion. He served with his new regiment during the winter picketing of the Rappahannock, Stoneman’s Raid and the battle of Brandy Station without suffering any wounds.

During the battle of Fairfield on July 3, 1863, Private Vining was part of Lieutenant Tattnall Paulding’s squadron fighting dismounted on the regiment’s right flank. When the Union position was overrun, he was captured trying to reach his horse. He was a prisoner of war at Belle Isle until he was exchanged November 30, 1863. After a brief stay in Annapolis, Maryland, he returned to the regiment for duty at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the winter of 1863. He fought in the opening battles of the spring 1864 campaign before his enlistment expired on June 25, 1864, two weeks after the battle of Trevillian Station.

Albert was not out of uniform for long. He enlisted as a private in Company I, 128th Ohio Infantry on August 22, 1864. Service in this regiment was a bit quieter than he was accustomed to, principally guarding Confederate officer prisoners on Johnson’s Island, Ohio. He mustered out with his regiment at Camp Chase, Ohio on July 13, 1865.

A Bugler By Any Other Name…

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On several excursions through Wyoming, I have stopped at Fort Phil Kearny, home of 2nd U.S. Cavalry troopers during both the Fetterman Massacre and the Wagon Box Fight. On each occasion, I noted sketches of the fort displayed in the visitor center attributed to Bugler Antonio Nicolai of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in June 1867. Tracking down Bugler Nicolai has been on the back burner my to-do list for quite some time, but I think I have managed to find the bugler better known for his pen than his music. As with many cavalry soldiers of this period, it’s a tale of long service both during the Civil War and on the frontier.

It also turned out to be a search for someone else. There is no record of an Antonio Nicolai serving in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, or elsewhere in the Army, between 1860 and 1890. Antonio may have been a nickname or a misunderstanding, but the name of the artist in question is Gustavus Nicolai.

Gustavus Nicolai was born in Berlin, Germany in 1828. After immigrating to America, he lived in Pennsylvania. He was enlisted into Company B, 4th U.S. Artillery as a private by Lieutenant William Royall on November 17, 1856 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 2” tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion. He was 25 years old, and listed his occupation as musician. He was discharged at the end of his enlistment on November 17, 1861 at Camp Duncan, District of Columbia.

Gustavus was out of uniform only two days before enlisting in Company E, 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry on November 19th. He served in the regiment through the entire war without incident, transferring to Company C at some point. He mustered out with the regiment on July 20, 1865.

Nicolai rejoined the regular army on September 7, 1865. He was enlisted as a bugler into Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant McGregor at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He listed his age as 36, but there were no changes to his description other than his complexion now being dark. He remained in this company as a bugler for the rest of his career.

Bugler Nicolai arrived at Fort Phil Kearny with his company and Company L in January 1867, reinforcing the fort’s garrison following the Fetterman Massacre. This brought the strength of the cavalry garrison to three companies on paper. The remaining 25 men of Company C departed to Fort Laramie the following month. Company L left in March, leaving Company D as the sole cavalry company for the rest of 1867 other than a brief sojourn to Fort C.F. Smith in July.

Although Captain D.S. Gordon officially commanded the company, First Lieutenant James “Teddy” Egan was the senior officer present with the company at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867. The company’s other bugler, Edward L. Train, was mortally wounded in sight of the fort on June 11th, dying two days later. At some point during this month, Nicolai sketched this picture of the fort, looking to the northwest. (Photo courtesy of Wyoming Tales and Trails)

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Bugler Nicolai was discharged at the expiration of his enlistment at Duck Creek, Dakota Territory on September 7, 1868. He re-enlisted in the company by Lieutenant Stambaugh at Fort D.A. Russell, present day Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on September 25th.  He served continuously through his next three enlistments in Utah, Montana and Idaho Territory, including the battle of the Rosebud in 1876.

During a patrol along the Yellowstone from Fort Ellis in the summer of 1879, Dr. Weir Mitchell made the following observations about the bugler, in Lippincott’s Magazine and later excerpted in the Army and Navy Journal of May 22, 1880 on page 5:

“Nicolai, the German bugler of Major Gregg’s Company (D, 2d Cavalry), is another of Dr. Mitchell’s characters. “He had been a wood-engraver, and drew very cleverly, but owing to a failure in sight, enlisted in the Army, and has now been twenty-five years a soldier. He was a gay, bright fellow, who never neglected a chance to get just not too drunk to sound the calls with some odd variations. As soon as we were in camp his little wicky-up was built with two or three poles and a blanket-shelter: pretty soon he had a fire blazing and something cooking for dinner. Then his sketch-book would be on his knee, and he, supremely content, would amuse himself with his pencil, rarely talking with the other men, and living a simple, hermit-like life, with apparently not the least desire to better it. On the march he fell in behind the major, for whom he had an almost canine attachment, repaid by such indulgence as seemed only fair toward so old a soldier.”

Bugler Nicolai was discharged from the Army on February 11, 1885, per Special Order 14, Adjutant General’s Office, 1885 while at Boise Barracks, Idaho. He had nearly twenty-nine years in uniform at the time, counting his volunteer service during the Civil War. The order must have concerned disability and retirement, as Nicolai was admitted to the Soldiers Home near Washington, D.C. six days later, on the February 17th. He filed for his military pension on November 27, 1886.

Gustavus Nicolai died in Hampton, Virginia, just outside of Fort Monroe, on January 21, 1897. He is buried in plot 733a of Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.

 

Works Cited

“A Civilian at Fort Ellis,” Army and Navy Journal, Volume XVII, Number 42, May 22, 1880, page 5, column 3.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Post Returns, 1806-1916: Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming.

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

Illustration: The 1867 image of Fort Phil Kearny is from Wyoming Tales and Trails. Used with thanks.

What’s up with Civil War Roundtables?

Very good questions. Interesting that ours in Denver has really close o the numbers of these examples from metropolitan areas in the South.

Fredericksburg Remembered

From John Hennessy:

I have done some speaking on the Civil War Round Table circuit lately. The public reaction to all these things has gotten me thinking, and I offer up a few observations.

A couple years ago I made a short circuit through the Deep South, speaking at a couple of Civil War Round Tables. They treated me exceedingly well, and I enjoyed myself. But (you knew that was coming) the experience made an impression on me for other reasons.  Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, conferences and invitations to speak at Civil War Roundtables were rampant. I think one year, before Return to Bull Run came out, I received something like 180 invitations to speak at various places.  And wherever I or one of the others who commonly rode the cannonball circuit went, the audiences were large and sometimes (though not always) enthusiastic . (At one appearance…

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Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company…L

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Yes, I know that’s not how the song goes, though music afficionados can access the original 1956 song by the Andrews Sisters here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mm1wuKvrxAw

The song of course must be about a cavalry unit, but we won’t get into that.

I have an affinity for buglers. The idea of someone, frequently someone too young to manage a saber or carbine, brave or foolish enough to ride a horse around a battlefield drawing attention to himself by blowing on a horn is amazing. It is not surprising, then, that the following anecdote by Wesley Merritt from Theophilus Rodenbough’s From Everglade to Canyon with the Second Cavalry is one of my favorites. The incident took place on August 1, 1863, during the ‘second’ battle of Brandy Station.

“There had been for some time “attached” to one of the companies a little waif of an urchin scarce twelve years old, who, by his constant attendance about the company kitchen in camp, as well as his equal fondness for the “front” upon a march, had endeared himself to the rollicking blades of our common Uncle. He had managed to pick up a few bugle-calls on an old battered trumpet, and to mount himself upon an equally battered and diminutive quadruped (another waif). Where he came from or why he was there no one knew – none cared to enquire.

“But the kind-hearted sabreurs asked no questions. They wanted a pet of some kind, and “Johnnie” was adopted by the troop (M).

“On the memorable 1st of August, at Brandy Station, “Johnnie” was cavorting about on his fiery untamed – and ungroomed – mustang, for our upon the skirmish-line, his face a picture of mischief and good-humor, where smiles struggled stoutly with dirt – and won; now stopping to chat with an “enlisted” friend, now rushing to the rear with orders to bring up the Lieutenant’s spare horse to replace one just disabled, or anon dismounting to pick up a trophy in a sabre without any hilt, or to explore the recesses of an abandoned haversack.

“Unconscious of the deadly missiles which whistled by or fell around him, but feeling that he was having a good time, the little Arab suddenly came upon two Confederate soldiers who had lost their bearings, become separated from their comrades, and straggled within our lines. They had evidently just discovered this, and were quietly waiting an opportunity to slip back under cover of the timber.

“To dash upon them with a huge pistol at full-cock, and “the pony” bristling under the solitary spur of his rider, was the work of a moment with this audacious youth. “Drop them guns!” he coolly remarked, and under the influence of the surprise and the undoubted size of “Johnnie’s” revolver, the guns referred to were “dropped.” “Now git right along in front o’ me” – “Quick!” said their captor, as he saw the men hesitate. This was the smallest “Yank” they had yet seen, and – they took one more look at the pistol, and moved sullenly in the direction indicated.

“Whar you tak’n us?” at last enquired one of the twain as they came in sight of the main road. “Down there” was the laconic response, with a nod supposed to designate the division headquarters, where the little warrior triumphantly turned over his prisoners, and was greeted with cheers and shouts of laughter as he came in sight. Scarcely waiting to receive the congratulations of his comrades and the pleased smile of General Buford, the waif hurried back to his favorite spot with the skirmishers. Subsequently he was taken in hand by some of the officers of the Second, and ultimately became a bugler and an excellent soldier.”

There you have it. An amusing tale of no particular consequence, since the young lad in question is not identified. Unless someone were able to find him.

This would be a task for the truly obsessed, if not for the near-requirement by publishers that regimental histories contain rosters to improve their attraction. This requirement, discovered late in the process for my last book, which my co-author superbly assembled, has consumed far more hours than expected in preparations for my next book. Particularly over the last couple of months. Occasionally one must escape the drudgery of endless enlistment documents and look at something else, unless one is Rick Allen, whose herculean roster efforts serve as a standard of measure. So when I re-read the above anecdote while seeing if there was anything I wanted to write about this month from this time period, the thought occurred to me. “There weren’t THAT many buglers in the regiment during the war, and I know who most of them are. Maybe I can find this guy.” Over 30 investigated buglers later, only one seems to fit the criteria for age and enlistment date.

Our lad couldn’t be from Company M. The English-born Whitworth brothers were the only two buglers to serve in the company during the war. James and Nelson, 19 and 18 years old respectively, enlisted on December 27, 1862 and served until December 1865.

By the time the bugler enlisted, Merritt was long gone from the regiment, as was Rodenbough himself. So they can be excused for being slightly off on the eventual company of the young man – given the information available at this point, “boy” doesn’t seem appropriate.

Enter Charles M. Elliott. Charles was enlisted into Company L as a bugler by Lieutenant Blanchard at the regiment’s camp at Point of Rocks, Maryland on March 25, 1865. Born in Philadelphia, his enlistment papers describe him as 15 years old, five feet tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He stated that he worked as a clerk prior to his enlistment. He was later transferred to the regiment’s Field & Staff, still a bugler. He left the army at the expiration of his term of service on March 25, 1868 at Fort McPherson, Nebraska. Based on the anecdote, I would imagine postwar service wasn’t exciting enough for him.

 

Sources

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914

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. Page 298.

A Missing Sergeant Major

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I posted quite a while ago about the sergeants major of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Recently, however, I discovered that I missed one. Those who read the previous entry can see the missing time period in the list, but there was no record that I could find of whether there was anyone in the position during that period. Between Thomas Burton and the first entry for Daniel Mount should be an entry for Benjamin Engel.

Engel, born in Munich, Germany, originally enlisted in Company F, 1st Dragoons on February 11, 1851. He was enlisted in Rochester, New York, where he worked as a laborer, by Captain Hatch. His enlistment documents describe him as 21 years of age, with black hair, dark eyes and a dark complexion. He re-enlisted into Company D, 2nd Dragoons at the end of his enlistment in May 1856 at Fort Craig, New Mexico, then again in the same company at Fort Crittenden, Utah in March 1861. At this point in his career he was still a private.

Engel was appointed sergeant major of the regiment on November 1, 1861, technically the day before Burton’s appointment as a second lieutenant and vacated the position. Seeing the opportunity offered to Burton and others, he decided to try for a commission of his own.

“Headquarters 2nd Cavalry, Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., November 4, 1861

To the Hon. Secretary of War.

Sir:

I most respectfully forward for your consideration the following application for a commission in the Regular Cavalry of the United States together with endorsements of the officers, under whom I have served.

I am a native of Germany, twenty-eight years of age, and unmarried.

I have served in the regular Cavalry of the United States, on the frontiers, since February 1851, where I have been taught the practical duties of a soldier under Generals Sumner, Cooke and Garland and other able Officers, with whom I have served in nine different engagements with Indians.

Respectfully submitted,

Benjamin Engel. Sergeant Major, 2nd Regiment, U.S. Cavalry.

Through the Commanding Officer of the Regiment.

1st Endorsement: I have served with the applicant since 1855. I served with the applicant during the arduous Utah campaign – during all this time he was always a most efficient soldier – I most cheerfully recommend him for a commission. G.A. Gordon, Captain 2nd Cavalry.

2nd Endorsement: I have served with Sergeant Major Engle since 1858, know him to be a god and faithful soldier and cheerfully recommend him for a commission. W.P. Sanders, Captain 6th Cavalry.

3rd Endorsement: I cheerfully endorse the within application. Thos. Hight, Captain 2nd Cavalry.

4th Endorsement, Hdqrs. 2nd U.S. Cav. Harrison’s Landing, Va. August 4th 1862: Approved and respectfully forwarded – concurring with the other officers in the recommendation. Chas. E. Norris, Captain, 2nd Cav. Commanding Regt.

5th Endorsement: Office Provost Marshal General Army Potomac, Aug. 4, 1862. Approved and respectfully forwarded. W.H. Wood, Major, 17th Infantry, Actg. Provost Mar. Genl.

6th Endorsement: Headqrs., Army of the Potomac, August 5, 1862. Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant General recommend to favorable consideration. G.B. McClellan, Major General Commanding. S. Williams, Asst. Adjutant General.”

I was puzzled by the long delay between endorsements. Then-major Alfred Pleasonton commanded the regiment in November 1861 and through the majority of the Peninsula campaign. Why would it take nine months to get an endorsement, particularly when I have several others for company first sergeants submitted by Pleasonton before and after the date of this letter.

The regimental returns revealed a likely solution. He didn’t hold the position long. Sergeant Major Engel was reduced to private and assigned to Company K by regimental Special Order No. 35 less than a month later, on December 4th. At that point Pleasonton, a notoriously harsh taskmaster, most likely considered the matter settled. He was succeeded in command of the regiment by Captain Charles E. Norris, who was apparently much softer hearted. Engel is one of the very few soldiers assigned to the regiment not submitted for commendations or a commission in July and August, and this endorsement is likely why.

Unfortunately for Engel, even an endorsement by General McClellan wasn’t enough to do the trick. A number of now Brigadier Pleasonton’s recommendations received notice of their appointments in September 1862, but he wasn’t one of them. Engel, who had worked his way back up to corporal by this time, decided to revisit the matter.

“Office of the Provost Marshal General

Army of the Potomac, Camp near mouth of Antietam, Sept. 29, 1862.

General:

The undersigned would most respectfully lay the following statement before the General:

In July last while at Harrison’s Landing, Va., the Officers of my Regiment recommended me among other Non Commissioned Officers of the 2nd Cavalry for promotion, said recommendation met the approval of the Acting Provost Marshal General, and the Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac and were forwarded to the War Department. Seven of the Non Commissioned Officers recommended as above stated, received their appointments as 2nd Lieutenants the other day, but nothing has been heard in regard to my application, which dated November 4, 1861 (“at which time I held the position of Sergeant Major of the Regiment”) but had not been forwarded until July last.

I would therefore respectfully request, that the General will use his influence in my behalf.

I have served the United States faithfully for twelve successive years, most of that time as a Non-Commissioned Officer, and all of that time on the frontiers, not speaking of services on the Peninsula and elsewhere, during all of said time I was never arraigned before a Court Martial, and always had the good will of my superiors. The General himself has known me for five months.

The General will please pardon the liberty I have taken in addressing him, but I would most respectfully call his attention to the fact, that as an enlisted man, I am denied the privilege of addressing the Hon. Secretary of War.

This statement is respectfully submitted for the favorable consideration of the General.

I am, General, Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Benjamin Engel

Corporal 2nd Cavalry and Chief of Orderlies at Hdqrs. Provost Marshal General A.P.

To Brigadier General A. Porter, Provost Marshal General, Army of the Potomac, Harrisburg, Pa.

1st Endorsement, Oct. 3, 1862: Respectfully forwarded to the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War. I recommend strongly the appointment of Corporal Engel, he is brave, industrious and energetic and I am satisfied would be an excellent commissioned officer if appointed. A. Porter, Brigadier General Pro. Mar. General Army of Potomac.

2nd Endorsement, AGO, Oct. 27, 1862: Respectfully referred to the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Cavalry. J.P. Garesche, Asst. Adjt. Genl.

3rd Endorsement, Hdqrs. 2nd U.S. Cav. Camp near Berlin, MD Oct. 30, 62: Respectfully returned with the enclosed copy of Major Pleasonton’s letter. As Corporal Engel’s name does not appear in the list of recommendations, I cannot at present recommend him for a commission. Chas. J Whiting, Major, 2nd Cav. Commanding Regt.”

Captain Norris was placed on sick leave before the battle of Antietam, and Major Whiting would have superceded him in command of the regiment in September anyway. I don’t believe they saw one another in passing, and it doesn’t appear that they discussed Corporal Engel’s situation.

Engel finished out his enlistment, then re-enlisted as an Ordnance Sergeant in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 1864. He was discharged as an ordnance sergeant August 1, 1865 by AGO Special Order #402, but re-enlisted again two days later as a private in the General Mounted Service.

Private Engel was discharged a final time on June 1, 1866, this time to accept an appointment as a clerk in the Adjutant General’s Office. He requested copies of his commission requests from the AGO on January 13, 1887, most likely for his pension file.

Sources:

National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870.

National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Commission Branch, 1863-1870.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914

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