Captain William Chambliss, cavalry, Civil War, J.F.K. Mansfield, murder, Washington D.C., William Chambliss
It is interesting how blog posts have a mind of their own sometimes. This post started as a short one entitled “Awkward” when I turned up the report below at the National Archives last summer. The report was misfiled in RG 391 in the records of the 2nd Dragoons/ 2nd US Cavalry instead of where it should have been in the 2nd US Cavalry/ 5th US Cavalry. As an army officer, I can recall occasionally having to send uncomfortable reports to superiors, but I really felt some sympathy for Captain William Chambliss when he had to send this one. And to a general officer, no less.
June 28, 1861
I have the honor to report that Private Kinstler, of my company, confined for killing a private of the 2nd Infantry, last night has made his escape. I had him confined in the cells, the most secure place in this building, but on sending for him for the purpose of complying with your order in regard to his disposition, found that he had removed the bars of a small window in the rear and made his escape in that way. I have reported these facts to the Chief of Police, giving him at the same time a description of the fugitive, and I have also sent my whole Company, in detachments, to look for him throughout the city, and I have directed the noncommissioned officers of these detachments to report the facts to the commanding officers of the camps in this vicinity with the request that the prisoner be apprehended if found in any of the camps.
I am General,
Your obt. Servant,
Captain, 2d Cavalry
Comdg. Company D
Brig Genl J.K.F. Mansfield
Comdg Dept of Washington,
Washington, D.C. “
Captain Chambliss had led his company out of Texas when that state seceded, moved with them by boat to New York, seen them remounted at Carlisle Barracks, and hurried with them to help protect the nation’s capitol, and now this. I confess I’m curious whether Larry Freiheit has come across any mention of this during his current project on Mansfield.
The story piqued my curiosity, so I decided to dig a little deeper. I had come across another 1861 murder at Carlisle a year ago, and wasn’t able to make any further headway. So I checked NARA’s “Register of Deaths in the Regular Army” to see who died in late June 1861. To my surprise, there was no record of anyone dying in the last days of June. So I ran a search on Kinstler, cavalry and Washington, D.C., and turned up the following story on the Library of Congress website, from page 3 of the National Republican on June 29th.
“Homicide in the First Ward – The Guilty Party Still at Large
About ten o’clock the night before last, Sebastian Kinstler, a private in Company B, second cavalry, and a man by the name of Michael Murphy, of the United States Infantry, got into a quarrel in a tavern kept by Jeremiah Crowley, on G Street, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets west, which ended in the former drawing a large heavy revolver from his belt and firing, the ball entering the body of Murphy between the fourth and fifth ribs, and passing through to the skin, causing his death in a very few moments.
It appeared that everything had gone on in a very friendly way between the parties until Murphy was heard to say that he feared no man in the house, with whatever weapon they might use, though he had none with him; at which Kinstler immediately raised his revolver and fired, as above stated.
Coroner Woodward yesterday held an inquest over the body of the deceased, when a verdict in accordance with the above facts was rendered.
Kinstler at first gave himself up, and was placed in the guard room, in the basement of the Treasury building. About noon, however, when the guards went to remove him from thence to the county jail, it was discovered that he had escaped.
A number of scouts were instantly put on the alert, and information given to the police, but he has not yet been arrested.”
So now we have moved from awkward report to awkward death. I must admit, my first reaction after reading this story was “Are you kidding me?” I decided to pursue the thread a little farther and see what I could discover about our two heroes from the news story. It seemed fair to start with the victim. While there were a lot of Michael Murphys in the army at this time, mostly in the artillery, I eventually found the right one.
Our Michael Murphy was born in County Mayo, Ireland in 1837. After immigrating to the United States, he worked as a laborer before joining the army on May 14, 1858 in Rochester, New York. Lieutenant Woods enlisted him into Company K, 2nd U.S. Infantry. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 4 ½” tall, with dark brown hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. Although he was not listed in the official register of deaths in the regular army, his enlistment documents state that he was “shot by a private of Co. D 2d Cav” in Washington, D.C. on June 28, 1861.
The private in question, Sebastian Kinstler, was born in Darmstadt, Germany in 1832. He also worked as a laborer before joining the army on June 12, 1851 in St Louis, Missouri. Captain Sykes enlisted him into Company C, 8th U.S. Infantry. His enlistment documents described him as 5’ 7 ½” tall, with gray eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion. He was still a private when his term of enlistment expired at Fort Davis, Texas on June 12, 1856. The following month, Lieutenant Kenner Garrard enlisted him into Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry in San Antonio, Texas on July 29, 1856. Interestingly, he wasn’t listed as a deserter until July 2, four days after the death of Murphy, with no mention of the incident in his enlistment documents. His escape must have been successful, as I could find no further record of him.
National Archives, Record Group 391
National Archives, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914
National Archives, U.S., Register of Deaths in the Regular Army, 1860-1889
The National Republican, June 29, 1861, page 3, downloaded on April 27, 2014 from www.chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014760/1861-06-29/ed-1/seq-1