In a recent trip to the National Archives, friend Samuel Russell came across this letter from his ancestor, Samuel M. Whitside, and was kind enough to pass it along with his permission to post it. While it doesn’t necessarily shed any new light on Whitside’s career beyond what we included in our book on the 6th U.S. Cavalry, I think it’s very interesting as a junior officer’s firsthand account of the war.
In February 1865, 1st Lt. Samuel M. Whitside was ordered to appear before a medical retiring board to determine if he was fit for duty with his regiment. In the file, Whitside provides a six page letter to the board detailing his service in the Army from November 1858 up to the date of the board. I have left all punctuation as I received it, but added clarification in parentheses. Part 1 covers from his enlistment through the end of 1862, and Part 2 will cover the remainder of the war.
January 31st, 1865
Major General W. B. Franklin President of the Retiring Board Wilmington, Del.
I have the honor to submit the following as a report of my Military History since entering the service of the United States.
I enlisted in New York City November 28th, 1858, as a recruit for the General Mounted Service. I was sent to Carlisle Barracks, Pa., with a detachment of recruits about Dec. 1st, where I was immediately assigned to a company, and instructed in the drill of the Cavalry branch of the service. After being drilled about three months, I was transferred to the Permanent Company, and appointed a corporal in the company, and in the Spring of 1859, I was selected by Capt. A. Gibbs of the Mtd. Rifles, to instruct new recruits in the Manual of Arms and in the Mounted Drill. About August of the same year, I was relieved from duty at Carlisle and ordered to report to 1st Lieutenant W. T. Magruder, 1st Dragoons and Recruiting Officer, at Baltimore, Md. I remained on the Recruiting Service in Baltimore until about August 1860, when I was relieved by directions of the Dept. of the Mounted Recruiting Service, and ordered to return to my company for duty at Carlisle, where I was again assigned to duty as instructor of new recruits and continued on this duty until November 1860 when I was ordered to report to 1st Lieutenant Geo. B. Anderson, Recruiting Officer, for duty as Clerk at Louisville, Ky. In May 1861 the recruiting party, under the command of Lieut. N. B. Sweitzer, Recruiting Officer, was ordered to open a recruiting office in Cincinnati, Ohio. In June I was appointed Recruiting Sergeant of the party by the Supt.
About the 15th July, by special orders from the War Dept. Adjutant General’s Office, I was transferred from the General Service to the 3rd Reg. Cavalry (now 6th Cavalry). I reported to Lieut. Colonel Wm. H. Emory Commanding the Regt. with Headquarters at Pittsburg, Penn., who immediately appointed me Sergeant Major of the Regiment. About Sept. 1st 1861, the regt. was ordered to Bladensburg, Md. At which place the men were mounted and drilled, about Oct 1st, Colonel Emory recommended very strongly to the Secretary of War for a commission as Lieutenant in the Regiment. About Oct 15, the regt. was ordered into Winter quarters at Camp East of the Capitol Washington, D.C. Nov. 4th 1861 I received an appointment from the Secty of War of Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Cavalry and on the following day I was appointed Adjutant of the Regt. which duty I performed for about two months, when I was at my own request relieved from the duty of Adjutant and assigned to Co. K. March 10th 1862 the regiment was ordered in Virginia and assigned to the regular Brigade under the command of General Cook. The regt. advanced into Virginia as far as Warrenton Junction, when it was ordered to return to Alexandria and embarked with the Army of the Potomac to the vicinity of Yorktown, where we remained in camp until the evacuation of the place by the Rebels about May 2d.
At this time the 6th Cav. Was ordered to the front and was put in the advance of our army, and closely followed the rebels in their retreat, and drove them pell-mell into the fortifications in front of Williamsburg. My regt. charged up to within one hundred yards of Fort Magruder, when the Rebels turned their guns on us, which caused us to retreat from the field with a loss of some fifteen men. After the battle of Williamsburg, the 6th Cav was again ordered to take the advance and move forward rapidly after the retreating Rebels. We had orders to keep close to the Rebels, but not to bring on a general engagement. About May 10th we came up to a large force of the Rebels at Slatersville and three companies of my Regt charged into two Regiments of Virginia Rebel Cavalry and drove them from the field. One lost about eighteen men in this charge, the Rebels about forty-five. For my services in this action General Stoneman mentioned me in his report and I was informed that he afterwards recommended me for a brevet. On the following day I was directed to take part of my company and to open communications with General Franklin at West Point, which I succeeded in doing, and in capturing 4 Rebel infantrymen of Whitings Division. On or about May 24th my Regt took part in the battle of Hanover Court House. During the seven days fighting I was with General Stoneman, who was cut off from the Army, and retreated down the Peninsula by way of the White House. The command arrived at Fortress Monroe July 2d where we rested till about 8th when we embarked in transports and arrived at Harrisons Landing on the 9th and went in camp near the River or Westover House. July 15th I was confined to my tent by a severe attack of fever. I was on the sick report till about Aug 7th when my regt was ordered to report to Genl Hooker. Was in the second battle of Malvern Hill on the 10th. I was again taken down with the fever, and was sent to the Hospital near Hd Qrs Army of the Potomac. Aug 12 received a sick leave for twenty days. Sept 3rd I again reported to my regt for duty. Sept 6th while on the march through Maryland I was taken very sick with the bilious fever and a severe pain in my left side.
I was sent from Poolsville, Md. By Asst Surg Duboise U.S.A. to Washington D. C. and reported to Surgeon Barns U.S.A. for medical treatment. About Sept 20 I was able to do light duty and by special orders from Hd Qrs Army of the Potomac I was assigned to duty at Headquarters Defences of Washington as A.A.D.C. to the General Commanding. About Nov 10th I was relieved from duty in Washington by special orders and directed to report to Major General N. P. Banks at New York City as Aide-de-Camp on his staff. Dec 4th 1862 we sailed from New York City in the steamer North Star, arrived in New Orleans, Dec 14th.