I would be less than objective in reporting on the Regulars if I didn’t include the bad information along with the good. Everyone, of course, didn’t admire the Regulars or hold a high opinion of them.
Following the Gettysburg campaign, in October 1863, the 1st New York Dragoons was added to the Reserve Brigade. In their regimental history, published in 1900, I found some less than approbatory commentary about some of the the regular regiments of the brigade at the battle of Bristoe Station on October 17, 1863.
“The cowardly regulars, instead of supporting us in the charge, fell back as soon as the firing began, leaving the (New York) dragoons to contend all alone with three times their number, while those miserable paltroons went into camp without firing a shot. From what we have seen of the regulars they are a foul-mouthed set of blackguards, and our boys are disgusted at being brigaded with such trash.” (Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, pg 102)
Then-bugler Bowen was rather unimpressed, to put it mildly. In order to present this objectively, however, a few other things should be considered. This was the 1st NY Dragoons’ first fight, as they had left camp to join the brigade only 4 days before. I don’t recall any such commentary from the historians of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and they fought with the regulars for the majority of the war. This was the perception of a bugler, and while undoubtedly what he saw, make not be what actually transpired. I’ll go back and check the OR, but I don’t recall any censure on the regulars from this fight. During which, incidentally, the brigade commander, Alfred Gibbs, was also the commanding officer of the 1st New York.
As to the identity of the regiments involved, it was likely the 1st and 5th US Cavalry. The history of the 6th US doesn’t mention it, and I beleieve they were assigned to Cavalry Corps Headquarters at this time. The fight isn’t mentioned in the histories of the 2nd US. I don’t have a contemporary history of the 1st US Cavalry, but here’s the very little mentioned in Price’s Across the Continent With the Fifth U.S. Cavalry: “The regiment then rejoined the army at Centreville, and, under the command of Captain Arnold, participated in the engagement at Bristoe Station (where Captain Ash made a daring individual reconnaissance within the enemy’s lines), Kettle Run, and in the Mine Run operations,…” (pg 119)
This might make the first sentence of this post disingenuous, but I think the observation and its context are both important. I’ll check the OR and post more if there’s relevant information, since I’m sure the brigade commander will have an opinion on how his brigade performed in the action.The reader can make his or her own decision.