While I’ve covered bits and pieces of regular cavalry recruiting in the past, an in depth look at the post returns for Carlisle Barracks during the war revealed a wealth of information on how and where this recruiting was accomplished. This not the be-all, end-all for this topic. It’s a blog post, after all, not a journal article. There are several bits of information that could be of tremendous help, such as the location of the recruiting station in Buffalo, and any newspaper coverage of it. But I think it is the most comprehensive examination of the process to date.
The theory behind cavalry recruiting changed little with the advent of the war. The process was relatively simple. Mounted regiments were tasked to provide officers, noncommissioned officers and sometimes musicians to man recruiting stations at selected cities in the United States. Periodically these recruits were forwarded from the recruiting stations to Carlisle Barracks. Here the “Permanent Company,” a training cadre, provided them basic instruction as a cavalryman. Once the troopers could demonstrate a reasonable aptitude in both the mounted and dismounted tasks of the “School of the Trooper,” as defined in the Cavalry Tactics manual, they were dispatched in detachments to their designated regiments. This movement was frequently supervised by the same officers and soldiers who originally recruited them. While this process did not change noticeably in substance during the war, it changed significantly in scope.
Whereas prior to the war only one or two recruiting stations were active at a time, during the course of the Civil War nineteen different cities had stations active at various times. These were in addition to the stations utilized for the initial recruiting of the twelve companies of the 6th U.S. Cavalry in 1861, which did not fall in the purview of Carlisle Barracks. It also did not cover the recruiting of volunteers in their camps which occurred near Harpers Ferry in the Eastern Theater in October 1862. It did, however, include the additional companies, usually designated L and M, added to existing regiments during the war, as well as companies consolidated within the regiments and sent to Carlisle to refit.
Recruiting for the mounted regiments was the responsibility of the “Mounted Recruiting Service.” This was a purely administrative command, as Congress had not authorized such an organization outside the scope of the existing regiments. As with all such taskings, the required officers and soldiers were taken “out of hide” from the regiments in the field. The post commander of Carlisle Barracks had the additional title and responsibilities of the “Superintendent, Mounted Recruiting Service.” Before the war, this was a major’s position, but during the war it was held by a captain and briefly by a lieutenant.
The commander at the outbreak of the war was Major Lawrence Pike Graham of the 2nd Dragoons. Graham was something of a legend in the mounted forces. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 2nd Dragoons in 1837, and spent the next several years in the Seminole Wars in Florida. During the Mexican War, he commended the other company in Captain Charles May’s squadron during the famous charge at Resaca de la Palma. During the Sioux campaign of 1854-55, he commanded a squadron of his own.
Other than the post commander, only the surgeon and the chaplain were permanently assigned to the post. Surgeon Burton Randall served as the post surgeon until September 1861, when he was assigned to a hospital in Annapolis. A Maryland native, Randall graduated as a physician from University of Pennsylvania in 1828. He entered service as an assistant surgeon in 1832, and was promoted to surgeon in 1838. He served as one of the principal military surgeons of the Mexican War while assigned to the 5th U.S. Infantry. Surgeon and assistant surgeon were ranks for doctors, and this denoted pay grade, not level of skill or ability. A civilian physician, D.A. Mahon, served as post surgeon until May 1862, when he was replaced by Assistant Surgeon Joseph Jefferson Burr Wright. J.J.B. Wright was appointed an assistant surgeon in 1833, and served as the medical director for the Department of Missouri prior to his assignment to Carlisle Barracks. James A. Ross served as the post chaplain throughout the war.
At least two lieutenants were placed on extra duty from their regiments and assigned temporarily to Carlisle Barracks. One of these normally served in charge of the permanent company, and the other was in charge of the current group of unassigned. Equally important, and probably consuming far more of their time, were their additional duties. One served as Acting Assistant Quartermaster and Acting Assistant Commisary of Subsistence for the post, while the other served as the post adjutant.
1861 was a relatively quiet year for the depot. The regiments were too busy trying to reach their assigned destinations to worry about replacements, and there were too few experienced officers and noncommissioned officers present to detach many for recruiting duty. Three recruiting stations were opened in 1861, Boston, Cincinnati and New York City. Training at the depot continued and small detachments were forwarded once trained. Only three events of significance took place at Carlisle.
The first was the arrival of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in April following their exodus from Texas. They spent April and part of May remounting the regiment and filling their ranks, gaining 174 recruits from the depot in April. They temporarily emptied the depot, but it put a nearly full strength cavalry regiment into the field near Washington D.C.
The second was the assignment of newly appointed cavalry officers to Carlisle Barracks to undertake their initial training as well. New subalterns who were experienced noncommissioned officers remained with their regiments, while those appointed from civilian life reported for various lengths of time to receive their initial training as well. While veterans like John Mix, Thomas Dewees and Samuel Whitside stayed in the field, others like Theophilus Rodenbough, Isaac Dunkelberger and George Sanford were put through their paces by the permanent company.
The third event was the first wartime change of command at Carlisle Barracks. On September 4, 1861, Major Graham was appointed a brigadier general of volunteers, and reassigned to Washington. He was succeeded by Captain David H. Hastings of the 1st U.S. Cavalry. Hastings was another seasoned veteran. An Irish immigrant, he enlisted in 1837 and worked his way through the ranks to serve as a first sergeant in infantry, artillery and engineer companies prior to receiving a commission in the 1st Dragoons in 1848. Severely wounded near Mexico City and again severely injured when his horse fell pursuing Indians in New Mexico in 1857, Captain Hastings was of far more use to the Army for his mind than his body at this point in his career.