More of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg

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Thousands of visitors to Gettysburg this weekend will hear of the charge of the 1st Minnesota Infantry in the late afternoon of July 2, 1863. Tens of thousands of other visitors have heard the story and seen the three monuments to the regiment on the battlefield. Their guides will tell the story of how II Corps commander General Winfield Hancock, seeing a breach in his line, ordered the regiment to charge against a brigade of Alabama infantry under Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox. Outnumbered nearly 5:1, the gallant regiment plunged into the fray without hesitation, buying Hancock the time necessary for other units to reach the breach and shore up the line. In the process, the regiment suffered nearly 82% casualties, the highest rate suffered by any American unit in combat (yes, cavalry afficionados, higher than the 7th U.S. Cavalry at Little Big Horn).

It’s a great story and one that should be told. It was one of the bravest acts of the war. The regiment knew what would happen if it charged, and plunged in anyway. And it wasn’t the first time they’d been in certain peril. After adjacent units fled near Henry House at First Bull Run, they suffered nearly 20% casualties and were among the last units to leave the field. The previous fall at Antietam, they suffered 28% casualties in fighting near the West Woods under General Sedgwick.

What the guides probably won’t tell the visitors is that more of the men who enlisted in the 1st Minnesota in 1861 were also on the field for the battle. Following the battle of Antietam, 64 transferred to regular army regiments. They came from across the regiment, with only Companies B and D not losing any men. Company I had the most with 12, followed by Company A with 10 and several with 8 or 9. Seven of them had been wounded in previous battles, three at Bull Run, two at Savage Station and two at Antietam.

Just over half joined cavalry units, 30 to the 1st U.S. Cavalry, 14 to the 6th U.S. Cavalry and one to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. They fought the next day, on the Army of the Potomac’s left flank and at Fairfield. The others transferred primarily to artillery batteries, and a handful to engineer companies.

Several of them had already been killed in fighting at Beverly Ford and Upperville. Two more, former corporals James E. Seely and Lucius F. Walden of Company A, were killed in battle within the week. One died while a prisoner of war at Belle Isle and another at Andersonville. And these men definitely understood duty. Of those who didn’t die in battle, only three didn’t finish their enlistment, and one of those was discharged for disability. Only two deserted, a very low percentage for the time. Three even re-enlisted to see the war to its finish.

Here’s to the rest of the 1st Minnesota Infantry soldiers who served at Gettysburg.

Fiddler’s Green: John A. Thompson

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This one has been a LONG time coming.

John A. Thompson was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1832. The family’s holdings were just across the Ohio River from Moundsville, Virginia. He was the son of Colonel John Thompson, of Belmont County, Ohio, and his wife, Sara Ann Walker, both born in Pennsylvania, and whose paternal parents came from County Armagh, Ireland.

John attended Virginia Military Institute in the graduating class of 1850-51. During his senior year, he and several other classmates had an issue with the Second Cadet-Captain. According to one history of the Institute, “Thompson was a great favorite, and the Second Captain was very unpopular – both in his Class and the Corps at large. The issue was joined by Thompson denouncing in unmeasured terms his commanding officer. A court-martial resulted; but his classmates (all but two or three) stood by him, and they were threatened with dismissal for “forming a combination,” in contravention of the Regulations of the Institute. There was great excitement in the Corps which met and adopted resolutions upholding both Thompson and his Class, and condemning the Second Captain. The verdict of the court-martial was generally thought to have been unjust. Thompson left the Institute, but carried with him unmistakable proof of the confidence and admiration of his classmates (except one or two) and of the whole Corps.”

Three years later, June 25, 1855, he received a commission from civil life as second lieutenant in the First United States Dragoons. He reported to Brevet Colonel Charles A. May for instruction at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on July 7th, but was transferred to the newly formed 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment a few weeks later on August 29th. He reported to Colonel Edwin V. Sumner at Fort Leavenworth in time to join the regiment on the Sioux expedition that fall. He was assigned to Captain William D. De Saussure’s company.

In 1857, he was part of the escort of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnston’s expedition to survey the southern boundary of the Kansas territory. The expedition consisted of four companies of the 1st Cavalry and two companies of infantry. Lieutenant Thompson led the pioneer party and preliminary survey line for the expedition.

The following year, Thompson’s company served as part of the advance guard on the march from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake in March 1858. The young lieutenant also served as acting quartermaster and commissary officer for the command. He was relieved on August 6, 1858 and ordered back to Fort Leavenworth, where he arrived in October. He was granted a four month leave of absence later that month after settling his quartermaster accounts. He rejoined his company at Fort Riley, where it had moved during his leave.

Lieutenant Thompson spent the summer of 1859 as part of an expedition along the Arkansas River. The four companies of the 1st Cavalry spent the summer protecting Santa Fe mail trains before returning to Fort Riley in the fall. During that winter he served as the post adjutant of Fort Riley for Major John Sedgwick.

The next spring he accompanied Major Sedgwick on an expedition against the Kiowa and Comanche. That summer he assisted the command in the construction of Fort Wise, Colorado Territory (later renamed Fort Lyon). One of the second lieutenants in the command was James E.B. Stuart. Thompson departed on another four month leave of absence at the end of September. During his leave he married Mary J. Wilson, of St. Louis, Missouri.

Lieutenant Thompson’s return from his leave did not go as planned. He was diverted on his return trip in St Louis to go to Jefferson Barracks and drill infantry recruits. Shortly after organizing a company of 80 men, Thompson was ordered to secure the St Louis Arsenal. He was relieved in early April and ordered to rejoin his company at Fort Wise. He immediately set out for his unit, escorting paymaster Major Brice from Fort Riley to the post.

He arrived to some welcome news. He had been promoted to first lieutenant in Company F, 1st U.S. Cavalry in January. He immediately renewed his oath of allegiance with Lieutenant Colonel Sedgwick and in the absence of the assigned captain assumed command of the company. Although appointed from the state of Virginia, he apparently never considered resigning his commission to fight for the Confederacy.

After a week or so he and his company were ordered to Fort Larned, Kansas, where he assumed command of the post. Captain Tyler of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons had spiked the guns and deserted the post as he departed to join the Confederacy. On May 23rd he received notification of his promotion to captain and command of Company K, 1st U.S. Cavalry, but was not yet relieved and remained at Fort Larned.

Captain Thompson was and assigned to survey the route between Fort Larned and Fort Kearny, N.T., and assigned to the latter post. He arrived on June 4th to learn he was one of three officers assigned to the fort. The senior officer, Captain Brockholst Livingston of the 2d Dragoons, was incapacitated. Captain E.W.B. Newby commanded the post, and Captain Thompson served as post adjutant, quartermaster and commissary in addition to commanding his company. After Captain Newby’s relief and arrest by Major General Hunter in November, Captain Thompson commanded the post as well.

In June 1862, Brigadier General James Craig ordered a swap, shifting Colonel E.B. Alexander to Fort Kearny and Captain Thompson with his squadron of Companies F and K, 1st Cavalry to Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie was otherwise garrisoned by volunteer units, and had the important responsibility of safeguarding the overland mail and telegraph lines. Captain Thompson managed the post well, writing afterwards “although it was a difficult matter at first to bring some of the volunteer companies to a proper understanding of discipline.”

In August 1862 the Overland Mail Company shifted its route south to the Bridger Pass road. Since securing the mail routes was one of Fort Laramie’s responsibilities, Captain Thompson was ordered by General Craig to find a location for a new fort on this southern route. He selected the site for what would become Fort Halleck, surveying it and planning the buildings. He then went east to the Cache la Poudre River to superintend hay contracts for cavalry which would garrison the new fort. He made the following observations in his report to General Craig:

“I have selected a beautiful piece of ground for the fort on the north side of the Medicine Bow Mountains. Three streams of clear mountain water run through it, either or all of which can be turned so as to water every part of the garrison without an hours work. There is plenty of the finest timber on the mountains within a mile of the place selected. The government will not be compelled to haul timber either for lumber or firewood more than two miles for many years, in fact the supply is almost inexhaustible. A fine quality of limestone can be found in the mountains half a mile distant, and hay can be had in abundance within twelve miles of the post. I submit for the approval of the Gen’l Comd’g the enclosed plan of buildings for the new post.”

Commended by Craig for his efforts, Captain Thompson was ordered to Washington to report on the state of affairs in the region. While he was away, a mutiny occurred due to maladministration of the post by his successor, Captain Herrington, and Thompson was ordered back to Fort Laramie. There had been a conflict between a lieutenant of the 6th Ohio and men of the 8th Kansas, and Herrington’s assistant adjutant general, Captain Eno, had been compelled to shoot one of the enlisted men.

Thompson was ordered to join his regiment in March 1863, but requested permission to delay the move. His wife had just given birth to their second child, John, and the doctor stated that she was unable to make the 800 mile trip by wagon for eight weeks. Requests to the War Department and Governor Pierpont of what would become West Virginia to delay the move were approved.

Captain Thompson and his squadron were delayed again during their march west. They stopped in St Louis for two weeks to update their arms, and again in Louisville to arm and equip a group of recruits. He joined the rest of the 4th U.S. Cavalry at McMinnville, Tennessee in August 1863, with both companies of his squadron fully equipped and in fine condition.

Thompson served with the regiment through a number of skirmishes in the vicinity of Chattanooga during the late summer and early fall of 1863. He commanded the regiment during the greater portion of the battle of Chickamauga, Captain McIntyre being too unwell to ride. He relinquished command to McIntyre the day before the regiment moved inside the lines at Chattanooga.

I found the following statement in an anonymous tribute written after his death, but could find no evidence to confirm or deny it: “He was present at the battle of Chickamauga, and it was his presence of mind, his personal bravery, and fortitude, and his disobedience of orders (or, rather, his substitution of his own military discretion), that saved the retreat of the Army and its almost total destruction.”

Thompson became very ill with dysentery and fever shortly thereafter, and was granted a 20 day leave of absence to join his family in St Louis and recover. On his arrival in St Louis, however, he was placed on temporary duty as an acting assistant commissary of musters. On November 6th he was ordered to permanently assume the position from Captain Cheek of the 13th U.S. Infantry.

Due to the fact that he had been absent from service with his regiment for such an extended period, Captain Thompson was ordered to appear before a retiring board in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1864. After recounting his military career, he ended his statement to the retention board, “I am well and sound and know of no reason why I should be unfit for duty.” The board, including Major Generals Irwin McDowell and Erasmus Keyes, voted unanimously to retain him in service.

Captain Thompson remained a conscientious cavalryman despite serving far from the action. In July 1864 he wrote to the Army’s Adjutant General concerning the possibility of recruiting newly mustered out volunteers for regular cavalry service. He noted “all I would require is a good noncommissioned officer and one man to look after these men after they have been mustered out – to bring them in after they have spent their money.” Recruiting was authorized three days later.

Captain Thompson returned to duty in the field with his regiment before the war’s end. He commanded the regiment at the battle of Selma on Wilson’s Raid during the closing days of the war. He continued to command the regiment through June, as it moved to Macon, Georgia for occupation duty. When the regiment moved to Texas, he resumed command of his company and the post of Fort Mason, Texas.

On August 25, 1867, he was promoted major of the Seventh Cavalry, though it took time for the news to reach him. He was preparing to move to join his new regiment when he was murdered by desperadoes at Fort Mason, Texas on November 14th.

The San Antonio (Texas) Express, in its issue of November 18, 1867, published this account of the incident:

“An express from Fort Mason arrived in this City on Saturday morning bringing the intelligence of the brutal murder of Major John A. Thompson, Commander of the Post, on Thursday morning last. Major Thompson was out driving with his wife and two children, and, passing by a store about half a mile from the Post, saw a difficulty taking place between some citizens and soldiers. He stopped his ambulance and ordered a sergeant, who was present, to have the parties arrested, when the desperadoes turned upon the Major and his sergeant, shooting the major through the head, killing him instantly, while by his wife’s side, and mortally wounding the sergeant.

“The murderers, having their horses at hand, fled before any attempt for their arrest could be made. [Then followed the names of the gang.] Scouts have been sent in all directions to (if possible) catch the murderers. The officers of the regiment have offered one thousand dollars reward for their arrest, and delivery to the military authorities.”

Sergeant John McDougall of the 4th Cavalry died of his wounds at the fort later the same day.

Fort Mason Assistant Surgeon John A. Hulse, wrote the following account of his murder to his father:

“Fort Mason, Texas, November 14, 1867.
Colonel John Thompson, Moundsville, W. Va.
Dear Sir – It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son, Major John A. Thompson, at this post, this morning, at the hands of desperadoes, while commanding the peace in an affray between them and a party of soldiers just arrived from Fort Chadbourne.
The ball struck the right cheek below the eye, cutting the internal carotid artery, and emerging below the left ear, with fatal hemorrhage in about twenty minutes. I was by his side in a few moments, but my best endeavors to preserve his valuable life were hopelessly futile.
He was universally esteemed here, his many noble qualities winning him a large circle of friends who, with his inconsolable family, and the Army which loses one of its most valuable officers, will ever deplore his irreparable loss.
Accept, dear sir, my most sincere sympathy, in this your sad bereavement.
Mrs. Thompson will leave for St. Louis as soon as proper escort can be secured to accompany her.
Very respectfully,
John A. Hulse, A.A. Surgeon, U.S.A.”

Major General Winfield Hancock, commanding the department, requested and received authority from the War Department to provide transportation and escort for the bereaved family.

There were several tributes written of him after his death, of which I have excerpted three:

“He was universally beloved by his fellow officers and the men under his command. He was very happy in his domestic relations, having one of the sweetest of women for a wife, and two beautiful children.”

“He was scholarly, soldierly, and gentlemanly, with the love of his men, the respect of his fellow officers, and the confidence of his superiors.”

“He devoted the best energies of a noble manhood to his country’s service, and closed an honorable career with that sublimest of offerings, a hero’s life.”

I give you Major John A. Thompson, a gallant cavalryman whose career was tragically cut short.

Sources:

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 639.
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: 4th U.S. Cavalry.
Wise, Jennings C. The Military History of the Virginia Military Institute from 1839 to 1865. Lynchburg: J.P. Bell Company, Inc., 1915. Pages 501-504.
http://www.legendsofamerica.com/wy-forts.html#Fort H.W. Halleck
http://wyoshpo.state.wy.us/NationalRegister/Site.aspx?ID=84

Reserve Brigade’s Final Report

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Among the batch of late posts was this final one by the Reserve Brigade’s commander, Brigadier General Alfred Gibbs, on the final days of the Appomattox campaign. I haven’t broken out the regimental numbers yet, but four regiments consisting of only 437 men is a telling statistic of the effects of the long ride from the Shenandoah and subsequent campaigning.

Report of Brig. Gen. Alfred Gibbs, U.S. Army, commanding Reserve Brigade.

Headquarters Cavalry Reserve Brigade,
Camp near Nottoway Station, April 15, 1865.

Major: In compliance with instructions from headquarters First cavalry division, Cavalry Corps, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of this brigade from the time of leaving Petersburg, March 29, to the 9th of April, inclusive:

The brigade – consisting of the First, Fifth, and Sixth United States and Second Massachusetts Cavalry, in all 437 enlisted men, with 20 officers – left camp in front of Petersburg March 29 at 8 a.m. Marched via Reams’ Station, and camped near Dinwiddie Court-House. On the 30th moved early, brigade being in advance, skirmishing all day with enemy in vicinity Dinwiddie Court-House. The Fifth and Sixth U.S. Cavalry, under Maj. R. Murray Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, commanding, were sent up the road toward the Five Corners to feel and find the enemy. The Second Massachusetts, Col. C. Crowninshield, were sent up plank road to the right, while Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Colonel Leiper, were sent up toward White Oak road and midway between the two before mentioned, with orders to communicate with columns on their respective flanks. All the columns soon felt the enemy, driving their vedettes in upon their supports, and these, in turn, upon their reserves. Major Morris gallantly drove in the large force opposed to him and held his position within a short distance of Five Forks until overpowered by numbers he fell back, losing three officers and 20 men. The Second Massachusetts and Sixth Pennsylvania also met the enemy whom they were unable to drive, but firmly held their position. They were relieved by First Brigade and First U.S. Cavalry and two regiments of the Second Brigade, under Colonel Fitzhugh, and again occupied position near Five Forks. At sunset the whole force was withdrawn and camped near the junction of roads before mentioned.

On the morning of the 31st moved toward Dinwiddie Court-House, and about 1 p.m. took position in the woods at another fork of plank road, the let connecting with brigadier-General Gregg, and right being directed to connect with the other brigades of the division; this, however, was never effected. Dense masses of the enemy’s infantry pressed down the road and entirely cut off these two brigades from us; although few in numbers the brigade desperately held its ground for over two hours, disputing every inch of ground until finally doggedly yielding, when the whole line was driven back by Pickett’s division of infantry, losing 5 officers killed and captured and 15 men. Captain Miller’s battery, Fourth Artillery, did good service on hill in front of the town. Lieutenant Thompson, aide-de-camp on my staff, was severely wounded, and Major Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, also with me, had his horse killed by my side. Brigade camped that night near Crump’s house.

April 1, moved forward through Dinwiddie Court-House and participated in attack on enemy’s works near Five Forks. About 2 p.m. the whole line moved gallantly forward upon the enemy’s breast-works, the whole brigade being on foot except First U.S. Cavalry, which, under Capt. R.S.C. Lord, gallantly charged the flying masses of the enemy with reckless fury far beyond the advance of the rest of the brigade. At 5 p.m. the whole line was ours, with large numbers of prisoners, arms, and other material. In this most desperate conflict I have again to record the loss of 2 officers killed and wounded and 14 men. On the 2d of April the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, detailed for temporary duty at the headquarters cavalry brigade, moved toward South Side Railroad, of which it destroyed half a mile of track, and moved west, overtaking enemy’s infantry near Exeter Mills. Skirmished with enemy until dark; bivouacked on the skirmish line. On the 3d moved in rear of Third Division to near Deep Creek, but did not meet enemy that day. April 4, overtook enemy’s infantry and relieved the other brigades on picket; moved out again at 10 p.m. and marched all night, via Dennisville, and reached Jeffersonville [Jetersville?], on the Danville railroad, at 2 p.m.; formed on left of division and remained in line of battle until dark, when brigade was moved over to right and camped in rear of infantry.

On the 6th moved out and attacked enemy’s train at Sailor’s Creek; after a stubborn fight, slowly advancing, the brigade was withdrawn and moved to left, and about 10 p.m. drove in the pickets of rear of mahone’s division of infantry. While watching enemy were attacked and sharply shelled, losing four men, and bivouacked in the woods half a mile in rear. On 7th moved through Prince Edward Court-House, the advance being at Prospect Station and Walker’s Church to near Appomattox Station; met Third Cavalry Division engaged with enemy, and went on its right; skirmished till 10 p.m., and picketed with whole brigade on the right front and across Appomattox Court-House road.

On the memorable 9th of April attacked enemy dismounted, on the Appomattox Court-House road. The Fifth U.S. Cavalry were sent in mounted and down a road (on the left) in their front, but were met by a brigade of enemy’s infantry, and retired with a loss of four men. The brigade was then mounted and ordered to charge on the right of General Custer’s command, which was done in rapid style; but on arriving on the extreme right I was informed that a flag of truce of surrender had passed within our lines, and hostilities were ordered to be suspended. The brigade camped for the night at a wood near martin’s house, one mile in rear of Appomattox Court-House.

I have the honor herewith to inclose a nominal list of the officers killed, wounded, and captured, and a numerical list of enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing.

To the officers of my staff, the commanders of battery and regiments, and to the officers and men of the command generally, my most hearty thanks are due for the unwavering gallantry, fortitude, courage, and pertinacity with which they sustained the fatigues and hardships of this memorable campaign, the exercise of which only could have enabled them to take the distinguished part that they have done. It will always be a source of pride to them to feel that they, too, were in Sheridan’s army in the campaign of 1865.

I am, major, your obedient servant,
Alfred Gibbs,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: OR, Volume 46, part 1, pgs 1127-1129

Back to Work

After an extended absence due to family health scares and my computer on the fritz, I’m back in action. I’ll be back later today and this weekend with several of the posts that have waited for posting for the last month and a half.

Death of Thomas Drummond

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Thomas Drummond was a Virginian who chose to stay with the Union during the war. He will be featured more completely later in the year in a Fiddler’s Green post, but I thought it appropriate to post this account of his death on its 150th anniversary. Captain Drummond commanded the majority of his regiment (minus the battalion serving as General Grant’s escort) at the battle of Five Forks, having rejoined them from a leave of absence only the day before during fighting at Dinwiddie Court House.

George F. Price wrote in his history of the regiment, “He was strongly impressed with the belief that he would be killed at Five Forks, and appeared at the head of the regiment wearing his best uniform, so that, as he expressed himself, he would present a respectable appearance in death.”

Charles A. Humphreys was the regimental chaplain for the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry from 1863 through the end of the war. I previously posted his account of the death of Charles Russell Lowell here. As the chaplain, part of his duties were to recover the wounded from the battlefield during a fight. In his postwar history of the regiment, Field, Camp, Hospital and Prison in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Humphreys chronicles Drummond’s passing.

“Soon I came upon one of our brigade, a wounded captain of the Fifth United States Cavalry. We wrapped him like the rest, in a blanket, and bore him toward the rear to get out of the range of the musketry. But oh, it was sad to see the struggling of that soul, tossed as it was by a tempest of doubt and fear! While yet we were bearing him along, I could see by his ejaculations that he was trembling with apprehension before the awful mystery of death and expected judgment. His conception of God was evidently of a being terrible in wrath, inexorable to entreaty, arbitrary in his judgments, and unmoved by anything akin to human pity; and he dreaded to come into such a presence. His faithful men who were carrying him so tenderly tried to comfort him by telling him he would probably get well from his wound; but he was already grappling with death, and their suggestions of earthly hope were as idle words, and he said, “I wish I could see a chaplain.” I did not yet reveal myself to him, for we were still amid the noise and confusion of the battle. When we came to the ambulance-station we laid him down upon the ground and the surgeon bent over him to bind up his wounds; but the captain was more anxious about his soul than about his body, and said to the surgeon, “I wish you would send for a chaplain.” Then I revealed myself, and told him that I had been with him all the time, and spoke a few words of good cheer. And he said, “Chaplain, I wish you would pray with me.” Then I knelt and with his hand in mine I prayed, thanking God that he had put it into the heart of his young servant to give himself to his country, and that He had sustained him through so many hardships and trials, and now in this last, greatest trial I prayed that God would still sustain and cheer him, and lead him gently through the valley of the death-shadow to the bright regions of heavenly peace. As I finished he said, “Chaplain, I have been a bad man, a very bad man; but do you think God will be merciful?” I said, “Are you willing to die for your country?” He answered: “Oh yes! I am willing.” Then out of the fullness of my faith, and the sure prophesy in my soul that God was a God of mercy, I said, “With such sacrifices God is well pleased, and they will cover a multitude of sins.” This thought seemed to give him some foundation for a brighter faith. For though faith have wings like a dove, it yet needs some solid ground to stand upon, as the dove let loose from the ark soon returned because it found no place to rest its feet. But this soldier’s trembling faith found a sure support in the thought that he had done one thing at least, had made one sacrifice, which the great God, whom before he had known only to fear, would accept as a fitting service. Then I repeated the Twenty-third Psalm – “The Lord is my shepherd,” and at its close said, “It is sweet and pleasant to die for one’s country.” Upon the word his face lit up with an almost unearthly brightness, as he felt the uplifting glory of a willing sacrifice, and he exultantly repeated the old motto in the Latin original – “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – a line which he had probably translated as a task at school, but which now he was translating eagerly into immortal life.

The captain now was quite calm, and permitted the doctor to dress his wound. Then he bade an affectionate farewell to his men, who, he said, had always been faithful to him; and we lifted him into an ambulance. As I was about to depart, he said, “I wish you would stay with me a little longer; I shall not need you long.” Then as I sat alone with him in the ambulance he said, “I wish you would administer to me the sacrament.” I answered: “There is no need of a sacrament. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.” And again he caught the inspiration of the thought, and took the words from my lips, and continued – “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Then again he was calm, and gave me messages for his wife and little ones. He would have his sabre given to his boy; and if, when he grew up, his country should have need of his services, he would have him to be a soldier too. He gave me his two rings, — one for his wife, the other for his little girl. He said they would know which was for each. Then I took him by the hand and bade him “Good-bye, keep up good courage,” and his last, brave words were, “Tell them I was willing to die for my country.”

Price also wrote of Drummond: “He was a brilliant young officer, and, although somewhat restive under the restraints of military discipline, was held in high estimation for his ability, judgment, and courage. He was the last officer of the regiment who fell in battle during the rebellion against the United States.”

For more information on the battle of Five Forks, see Brooks Simpson’s post yesterday on the battle’s anniversary here, and Craig Swain’s post from Charles wainwright’s diary here.

Sources:

Humphreys, Charles A. Field, Camp, Hospital and Prison in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Boston: Geo. H. Ellis Co., 1918. Pages 247-250.

Price, George F. Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry. New York: D. Van Nostrand,Publisher, 1883. Pages 369-370.

The Court Martial of Charles Bates

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I first started posting the exploits of Charles E. Bates of the 4th U.S. Cavalry here back in 2007. He initially enlisted in 1858 at the age of 14 without the consent of his parents and somehow managed not to be discharged. Unlike many who fled home to join the army, however, Bates was a relatively steady correspondent to his family about his exploits. Given that I have already posted several of his letters as well as biographical sketches of both his first sergeant and commander on the blog, when I learned of the existence of this court martial record I couldn’t resist adding this. Special thanks to Bob O’Neill, who was kind enough to retrieve the record from the National Archives.

Camp Lincoln, Va
18 June 1862, Day 4 9 A.M.

The Court then proceeded to the trial of Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry, who being called into court and having heard the order convening the court read, was asked if he had any objections to any of the members named therein, to which he replied in the negative.
The Court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the presiding officer of the court, in the presence of the accused, and Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry was arraigned of the following charge and specifications, viz.:
Charge: Violation of the 9th Article of War
Specification: In this that Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry did positively refuse to take care of a horse belonging to Company “E” 4th Cavalry, when ordered to do so by 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, (the Sergeant Fitzgerald being in the execution of his office at the time) saying I will not take care of the horse, or words to that effect. This in camp near New Bridge Va on or about the 30th of May 1862.

(signed) J.B. McIntyre
Capt 4th Cavalry
To which charge and specification the prisoner pleaded as follows,
Not Guilty, to the Specification
Not Guilty, to the Charge
Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn.
Question by Judge Advocate. What do you know of the prisoner, Corporal Bates, having refused to obey an order?

Answer. I am 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry and on or about the evening of the 30th of May 1862 I ordered Corporal Bates to take care of a horse, he said he would not take care of the horse that I had mentioned, it was a horse that he had been recently riding that I had reference to.

Question by Judge Advocate. Were you both on duty at the time, and at what camp did this happen?

Answer. At camp near New Bridge to the best of my knowledge, and we were both on duty at the time.

Question by Prisoner. Is it not customary for surplus horses in the cavalry to be taken care of by the squads to which they belong?

Answer. According to the routine of duty I believe it is, and an enlisted man who rides a government horse is supposed to take care of him.

Question by Prisoner. Was the horse properly assigned to me and was I responsible for him?

Answer. He was not properly assigned to him to my knowledge, but it is my opinion he was responsible for grooming and feeding him as long as he used him.

Question by Prisoner. Would using a horse a week make a man obliged to clean him for the remainder of his enlistment?

Answer. According to circumstances or until he got another horse assigned to him.

Question by Prisoner. Did you not order me to see that somebody took care of that horse?

Answer. Yes I ordered him to see that somebody took care of the horse, and I afterwards ordered him to take care of the horse himself.

Question by Judge Advocate (note: miswritten, actually by prisoner): Did I not reply before he ordered me to take care of him, “the horse does not belong to my squad”?

Answer. I do not recollect about it.

Question by Prisoner. Did I use the horse on that day or not?

Answer. I do not know, I don’t recollect whether he used the horse on that day or not.

Question by Prisoner. Did I not express a desire to go and see the Captain before obeying your order?

Answer. I cannot recollect of having heard him say so.

Captain J.B. McIntyre 4th Cavalry a witness for the defense was duly sworn.

Question by Prisoner. What is my general character as a soldier in the company since you have been with it?

Answer. I am a captain in the 4th Regiment of Cavalry, Company “E” of which the prisoner is a corporal. I joined the company last August. Corporal Bates has been on duty with the company every day since. And up to this difficulty, no better soldier was in the company. The former captain of the company when I relieved him of the command of it gave his character the same as I have stated it. It is on record with the War department that he was the first man to pull down the secession flag in Arkansas.

The prisoner having no further testimony to offer made the following statement in his defense.

It was not my intention to disobey any order at all. When I was first ordered to see the horse taken care of I thought that the 1st Sergeant had made a mistake, by supposing that the horse belonged to my squad. He then ordered me to take care of him. I was taking care of another horse at the time. I expressed it as my intention to see the Captain before taking care of him, as I did not consider it my duty to take care of a horse until he was assigned to me.

The court was then closed for deliberation on the testimony adduced.

After mature deliberation the court finds the prisoner Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry as follows.

Of the specification, Guilty.
Of the charge, Guilty.

And the court does therefore sentence him Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, to be reduced to the ranks, and to forfeit ten dollars of his pay per month for twelve months.

(signed)
Alfred G. Smith                                  W.H. Wood
1st Lt 8th Inf                                     Major 17th Inf
Judge Advocate                                Presdt G.C. Martial

The court adjourned at half past two o’clock P.M. to meet again at 9 o’clock A.M. on Thursday June 19th 1862.

Alfred G. Smith
1st Lt 8th Inf
Judge Advocate

The character of Bates’ service to date did influence the members of the court, it simply didn’t change the fact that he had, by his own admission, violated the 9th Article of War. The following was on the next page of the court martial file:

We the undersigned members of the General Court Martial in view of the good character given to Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cav by his company commander, beg to recommend that his sentence be remitted.

(signed by all)
W.H. Wood
Maj 17th Infty

J.B. McIntyre
Capt 4th Cav

James H. Forsyth
Captain 18th Infantry

R.T. Frank
Capt 8 Infy

C. Ford Trowbridge
1st Lt 16th Infty

While this seems like a pretty trivial matter to go to a court martial over, Bates at the time of this court martial was just barely 18 years of age, and firmly convinced that he was in the right. See here for his letter to his parents about the court martial after his sentencing.

For more information on Edward Fitzgerald, see here. For more information on John McIntyre, simply scroll back a few posts.

The Guns of Roselawn

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Roselawn Chronicles, part 2

Author’s note: The research for this post is not mine. It comes in its entirety from the inestimable Craig Swain, Civil War artillery expert extraordinaire. If you haven’t visited his blog at To The Sound of the Guns it is well worth a visit or ten. I don’t normally post about artillery, but after mentioning them in the last post it would be rude not to follow up with the photos.

As one enters Roselawn Cemetery, there is a memorial to the left side of the entrance. The Civil War memorial was erected in 1902 by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. The woman who spearheaded this effort is buried a few dozen feet away next to her husband.

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The two cannon are iron 24-pounder flank howitzers. They were not battlefield pieces, as they were too heavy. They were normally placed in the bastions of forts to cover the interior angles – the dead space near the walls not covered by cannon with longer range. They typically fired grapeshot and cannister across the moat of the fort to repel infantry assaults rather than dueling opposing artillery with solid shot.

Early in the war the Confederates tried placing them on field carriages and using them in the field, but the iron howitzers were simply too heavy to be easily used at roughly 1,500 pounds. The 12-pounder howitzer was frequently used in the field, as it was half of that weight and much more maneuverable.

Both of these howitzers were cast at Cyrus Alger’s foundry in Boston, Massachusetts. The one on the right side of the photo was cast in 1847. Its registry number was 198, and it weighed 1,495 pounds. The left howitzer, registry number 277, was cast in 1849 and weighed 1,503 pounds.

The initials “J.W.R.” underneath the muzzles on both guns are those of the army ordnance officer who inspected it for quality, then-Major James Wolfe Ripley. He later achieved the rank of brigadier general and served as the army’s Chief of Ordnance for the first half of the Civil War. He was criticized during the war for being slow to adopt new technological innovations. On the other hand, Craig points out, he supervised a budget of $46 million at a time when ten cent cigars only cost a nickel.

The photos below are of the left howitzer, as an inconsiderate bird had defaced the muzzle of the one on the right side at the time of my visit.

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LftSideMuzzle277JWR

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For more information on the 24-pounder flank howitzer, look here: https://markerhunter.wordpress.com/2009/11/04/24-pdr-flank-howitzers/

An Unexpected Find in Pueblo

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Roselawn Chronicles, part 1

“No kidding there I was…”

This is a slightly cleaned up version of how nearly every Army story I’ve ever heard starts, but in this case it happens to be true. I was in Pueblo with my wife last weekend to visit her great aunt. After lunch, they decided they wanted to stop by Roselawn Cemetery to look in on their relatives laid to rest there. As the family has been in town for several generations, rather a lot of them are buried there.

As we drove through the entrance to the cemetery, I saw two old cannon on the left side of the car. “Oh, that’s the Civil War section of the cemetery,” my wife’s great aunt said. I took note of the remark, but being a good husband I stayed with the group and we duly checked on various deceased family members.

On the way out I resolved to stop – just for a minute – and take a couple pictures of the cannon. I didn’t recognize them, and thought they might make an interesting question for Craig Swain over at To The Sound of the Guns. So I parked the car, hopped out, and strolled over to the cannon with my camera. I looked the cannon over, then spied an veteran’s headstone behind them. Curious, I walked over to it. It marked the grave of a former member of the 122d Illinois Infantry. That’s odd, I thought, that regiment was never anywhere near Colorado during the war. No one in the car was honking the horn yet, so I decided to look at a few more of the headstones.

My luck being what it is, two headstones later I came across a former member of the 6th U.S. Cavalry. It was nearly halfway into the earth, with the unit nearly obscured by the grass. First Sergeant Louis C. Hartman, Co. G, 6th U.S. Cavalry.

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“Why on earth is he here?” I wondered. In the course of our research for our book on the regiment during the Civil War, my co-author and I came across former members of the regiment buried all over the country. There’s even one in an unmarked grave in Cripple Creek who apparently died there as an old man during the gold rush, but Pueblo seemed an odd spot to find one. After the war the regiment served in Texas and later in Arizona against the Apache Indians, but to the best of my knowledge the unit never passed through Pueblo. I vaguely recalled a Hartman or two from our regimental roster, so I took a couple of pictures of the headstone and hurried back to the car.

“What did you find?” my wife asked.
“A guy from the 6th Cav,” I replied.
“Here? Really?”

I scribbled myself a note on one of my omnipresent 3×5 cards and resolved to look into the matter once we got home.
Louis was a bit more difficult about the matter than I expected. I checked the roster in our book, and discovered that while two Hartmans served in the regiment during the war neither was named Louis or assigned to Company G. A bit more searching revealed at least part of the man’s story.

Louis C. Hartman enlisted in Company C, 78th New York Infantry as a private on November 8, 1861. He was born in Berlin, Prussia in 1841, and worked as a clerk prior to his enlistment. Company C was one of three raised in New York City. They were originally intended to be part of the 1st Regiment, Eagle Brigade, but merged with the Lochiel Cameron Highlanders to become the 78th New York Infantry in New York City on April 26, 1862.

The regiment shipped out a few days later. After a brief stay in the defenses of Washington, they were assigned to Harpers Ferry. Its first major engagement was at Cedar Mountain, followed by Antietam, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. It was transferred to Tennessee in October 1863, and fought in numerous engagements around Chattanooga that fall and winter. The following spring it fought under General Sherman in the advance on Atlanta at Resaca and around Kennesaw Mountain.

On July 12, 1864, due to depleted ranks, the 78th’s remaining soldiers were transferred to the 102nd New York Infantry, where they completed the remainder of their enlistments. They had nearly completed Sherman’s march to the sea when Hartman was discharged as a sergeant at the expiration of his enlistment on November 8, 1864.

Louis returned to New York City, but didn’t stay long. Despite a very impressive service record, he apparently had not yet seen enough of war. On December 1, 1864, he enlisted as a private in Company K, 18th New York Cavalry in New York City. His muster card describes him as 5’10” tall, with brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. He joined the regiment in the field in Louisiana, and served there and in Texas until the company mustered out in Victoria, Texas on May 31, 1866.

Not until 1868 did Louis Hartman join the 6th U.S. Cavalry. He was enlisted into Company G by Captain Tullius C. Tupper, the regiment’s former sergeant major, on June 3, 1868 in New Orleans, Louisiana. With his wartime experience, it is not surprising that he rose quickly through the ranks and was the company’s first sergeant when his enlistment expired in 1873. He re-enlisted into the same company on June 10, 1873 at Fort Dodge, Kansas, and was still the first sergeant when his second tour expired in 1878. He re-enlisted in the company a third time at Camp Grant, Arizona Territory on June 10, 1878. He was discharged the following year by Special Order 277 of the Adjutant General’s Office. He was a sergeant vice the first sergeant, but his service was characterized as excellent so it was most likely not a disciplinary issue.

It isn’t clear what Louis did for the next several years, as the next time he surfaces is in 1884. He filed a pension claim as an invalid on January 2nd in Kansas. On June 30th, he joined Lewis Post No. 294 of the Grand Army of the Republic in Dodge City, Kansas. He claimed his service in the 78th New York as his basis for GAR membership, but listed the 78th New York, the 18th New York and 6th U.S. Cavalry on his pension application.
The following year Hartman moved to Pueblo, Colorado. According to the state census, he was boarding at the home of Benjamin Ott while working as a bookkeeper in Pueblo on June 1, 1885. He married soon after. I could not determine the date of his death, but his widow Lizzie submitted a pension claim on July 25, 1894.

Craig, I apologize. After seeing the headstone, I forgot all about the cannon, but I’ll get a picture when I return there later this week. This section of Roselawn Cemetery isn’t overly large, but I suspect there are more Civil War stories there.

Sources:

Carter, W.H. From Yorktown to Santiago with the Sixth U.S. Cavalry. Austin: State House Press, 1989.
Caughey, Donald C. and Jimmy J. Jones. The 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2013.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 437.
Kansas G.A.R. Bound Post Records, 1866-1931, Lewis Post No. 294, June 30, 1884. Accessed on Ancestry.com on February 1, 2015.
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: 6th U.S. Cavalry.
Phisterer, Frederick. New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd. ed. Albany; J.B. Lyon Company, 1912.

Fiddler’s Green: Thomas Hood McCormick

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It’s ironic that this Fiddler’s Green entry follows the last one of James McIntyre. These two officers were virtually inseparable throughout their cavalry service during the war, though their careers ended rather differently. Contrary to appearances from the frequent mention of McCaffertys, McCormicks and McIntyres, there were a number of non-Irish officers in the 4th U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War.

Thomas Hood McCormick was born on February 24, 1836 at Mill Hall, Clinton County, Pennsylvania to Saul and Catharine Hood McCormick. He graduated Lafayette College with a law degree in 1855, and according to census information was living with his mother and family and working as an attorney in Lock Haven in 1860.

He was appointed second lieutenant in the 1st U.S. Cavalry on March 27, 1861. As one of the early appointees he was quickly promoted as resignations thinned the regiment’s officer ranks, achieving first lieutenant less than a month and a half later on May 7, 1861.

Lieutenant McCormick quickly completed his initial training as a cavalry officer at Carlisle Barracks over the summer, and was assigned to the squadron of the regiment in Washington, D.C. Although only a first lieutenant, he assumed command of Company A, 1st U.S. Cavalry, which was redesignated the 4th U.S. Cavalry in August. The commander of Company E and the squadron of the 4th U.S. Cavalry as a whole was Captain James McIntyre. In addition to his other duties, McCormick also served as an acting assistant quartermaster for the squadron, as the remainder of the regiment was serving in the western theater.

He requested additional recruits to bring his company to full strength in September, and appears to have served well over the winter in the defenses of Washington. As the Army of the Potomac prepared to embark on the Peninsula Campaign, the squadron was assigned as Major General McClellan’s escort. It served in this position throughout this campaign, assigned to the army headquarters. The squadron’s men saw little action other than the odd artillery shelling when the general moved too close to the action. McCormick was promoted to captain and retained command of Company A on August 7, 1862.

The day after the battle of Antietam he recommended his first sergeant, Neil J. McCafferty, for a commission in the regiment. The two had been together since McCormick joined the company, first McCafferty was the quartermaster sergeant, then he was promoted to company first sergeant in October 1861. Captain McCormick wrote in his recommendation, “The highest compliment I can pay to the excellence of his character and his soldierly qualities is to request that if he should receive a commission he may be attached to my company.” Captain McIntyre, still commanding the squadron, endorsed the request, and McCafferty was commissioned a short time later.

The squadron finally rejoined the rest of the regiment during the winter of 1863-1864, and the following spring saw its first active campaigning of the war. Captain McCormick apparently had no issues with the adjustment. He was commended for his actions during fighting at Franklin, TN on April 10, 1863. According to the report of Captain James McIntyre, who commanded the regiment during the battle, “No officer could have behaved more gallantly than Captain McCormick, who with the rear squadron repulsed the enemy who in force attempted to surround and cut off our retreat to the ford.” He served through the remaining campaigning of 1863 and 1864 without reported incident.

Captain McCormick took a leave of absence during the winter of 1864-1865. He saw a doctor while at home in Lock Haven and requested an extension of twenty days on February 24, 1865 for “congestion of the liver,” which was granted. This is the first clue in his records that something may have been wrong.

On June 18, 1865, Captain McCormick’s cavalry career came to an abrupt and unpleasant end. According to the report of acting regimental commander Captain John A. Thompson:

“I have the honor to state that at about 5 o’clock last evening Capt. Thos. H. McCormick 4th U.S. Cav was driven into this camp in an ambulance in a beastly or insensible state of intoxication – he was lying on his back on two seats with his head hanging down and totally unconscious of where he was or his condition. I believe several of the men saw him. Myself and Lieut. W.W. Webb saw him and conversed with the driver.

“The driver said he had been taken out of the cars in that condition by Col Eggleston and himself aided by others at the depot.

“His condition was such that I could not permit him to be taken out in presence of the command and ordered the driver to take him to Wilson Hospital.”
The regimental surgeon, Assistant Surgeon Merritt S. Jones, concurred with Captain Thompson’s assessment, describing McCormick’s condition as “insensible from intoxication. He was so entirely helpless that he had to be carried into the ward on a stretcher.”

Correspondence then followed fast and furiously on the subject of McCormick’s dismissal. Brevet Major General James H. Wilson recommended immediate dismissal for habitual drunkenness. “This is no new thing in his conduct,” he wrote. “His public disgrace by drunkenness is a matter of notoriety in service tho’ hitherto he has managed to escape punishment. A Court Martial cannot well be convened to try him, and the credit of the public service, as well as its discipline and good order demands his summary dismissal.” Major General George H. Thomas concurred and forwarded the recommendation. It was approved by Lieutenant General U.S. Grant on July 12th, and by the Secretary of War on July 21st. McCormick was dismissed on July 25, 1865, and returned home to Lock Haven.

Thomas Hood McCormick died in Lock Haven on March 30, 1866. He is buried in Highland Cemetery, Lock Haven, PA.

A thorough examination of McCormick’s personnel records revealed no clues as to what may have happened other than the surgeon’s certificate on his request to extend his leave. While it was far from infrequent for there to be issues with alcohol for officers on the frontier following the war, examples such as this during the war were pretty infrequent and seldom drew such high-ranked ire. General Wilson’s evident disgust may have been the result of extended service by the regiment as his escort during that spring’s campaigns.

I give you Thomas Hood McCormick, gallant in battle, but all too human in the end.

Sources:
Coffin, Selden Jennings. Record of the Men of Lafayette. Easton, PA: Skinner & Finch, Printers, 1879.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 430.
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: 4th U.S. Cavalry.

Research for Hire

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Fair warning, this is a shameless plug for a new enterprise I am instituting this year. Those interested in research help can now visit the Research for Hire link at the top of this page.

Over the last several years, I have had many requests for research assistance. While I thoroughly enjoy investigating these leads and assisting people to learn of their ancestors or people of interest, the simple fact of the matter is that they delay the book projects on which I’m working. While some queries can be dealt with in an hour or two, several last year spread into multiple weeks.

Like most amateur historians, I pursue writing and research in my spare time. And no history writer I know has enough time for research. This is simply a means of financing my research and justifying the expenditure of my limited research time on your project. Since my ‘business’ only generates a book every two to three years at the best of times, it will also prove to my accountant and the tax folks that all of those research costs actually do occasionally result in income.

The process is fully controlled by the patron, and proceeds at their pace and direction. There are no hidden fees, and what I discover is available to the patron as I turn it up – no “I found more information but it will cost you another $50 to see it.”

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