In commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the battle of Gaines Mill on June 27, 1862, I’ll be featuring posts on the regular cavalry’s participation in the battle this week. I won’t focus on the decision-making of Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, as that’s been covered before and likely will be again this week elsewhere. I’ll focus on the stories of the two regular regiments involved, the 1st and 5th U.S. Cavalry regiments. I’ve examined their official reports and monthly returns for information on the battle. Unfortunately, I’m away from home on a work trip for the next month, so I’m not able to provide Chaplain Gracey’s account of the charge of the 5th U.S. Cavalry. He was present on the field with the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry.
I recently came across the court martial proceedings for two cavalrymen from the regulars in 1864, and thought I would share them. As I perused the General Orders for 1863 and 1864, it struck me that relatively few cavalrymen were court martialed, and even fewer regular cavalrymen. I’m curious if there was another way that these results were published, as I have primary source material indicating courts martial in the Reserve Brigade from members of the court during this time, but haven’t been able to find any records of the proceedings. The entries ran a bit long, so I’ll post the first one today and the second one, from the 2nd Cavalry, tomorrow. As is frequently the case, both of these randomly encountered soldiers have ties to other research threads.
General Orders No. 19.
Adjutant General’s Office
Washington, January 12, 1864.
I. Before a General Court Martial, which convened at the Headquarters, Cavalry Reserve Brigade, near Culpeper Court-house, Virginia, November 25, 1863, pursuant to Special Orders, No. 66, dated October 31, 1863, and Special Orders, No. 70, dated November 5, 1863, Headquarters, 1st Cavalry Division, and of which Major H.C. Whelan, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, is President, was arraigned and tried —
1. Private Matthew Hayden, Company “A,” 5th U.S. Cavalry
Charge – “Desertion.”
Specification – “In this; that the said Matthew Hayden, of Company ‘A,’ 5th U.S. Cavalry, being a soldier in the United States service, did desert said service on or about October 17, 1861, at or near Camp Cliffburn, D.C., and was arrested October 9, 1863, at Washington, D.C., by Captain Scheetz; $30 paid for his apprehension. The said Matthew Hayden also acknowledges that he is a deserter.”
To which charge and specification the prisoner, Private Matthew Hayden, Company “A,” 5th U.S. Cavalry, pleaded “Not Guilty.”
The Court, after mature consideration on the evidence adduced, finds the prisoner, Private Matthew Hayden, Company “A,” 5th U.S. Cavalry, as follows:
Of the Specification, “Guilty of so much of the specification as follows, viz: ‘In this, that he, the said Matthew Hayden, of Company ‘A,’ 5th U.S. Cavalry, being a soldier in the United States service, did desert said service on or about October 17, 1861, at Camp Cliffburn, D.C., and was arrested.’”
Of the Charge, “Guilty.”
And the Court does therefore sentence him, Private Matthew Hayden, Company “A,” 5th U.S. Cavalry, “To forfeit all pay and allowances, that are now or may become due him; to be confined at hard labor for the period of (5) five years in a military prison, to be designated by the Secretary of War, wearing a ball weighing (12 lbs.) twelve pounds attached to one of his legs by a chain.”
So who was this fellow?
Matthew Hayden was born in Dublin, Ireland, about 1835. He worked as a laborer after immigrating to the United States, and was 26 years old when he was enlisted into Company A, 5th U.S. Cavalry by Lt. Ogle in New York City on August 21, 1860. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’8” tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a sallow complexion. It is interesting how records differ. His enlistment documents show he deserted on September 16, 1861 and was apprehended on November 10, 1863, versus the information contained in the charges. The regimental returns for November reflect the October desertion date, though he deserted by not returning from furlough and it may have started on September 16th. November 10th was most likely the date he was returned to the regiment’s custody.
If Hayden’s enlistment data and company sound familiar, it is because he was enlisted into the same company as yesterday’s Henry Baker, by the same officer, at the same place, eight days later. It would be a clever tie-in, but I confess that I didn’t find his enlistment records until this morning.
Richard Byrne was born in 1833 in County Cavan, Ireland, and emigrated to New York in 1844. He appears to have initially joined the army in January 1851, but I was unable to find enlistment documents from his first enlistment. He appears only on post returns as a recruit.
Byrne was enlisted as a private into Company G, 1st (later 4th) U.S. Cavalry by Lt. Robert Ransom on May 21, 1856 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His occupation is listed as soldier, and he’s described as 5’10 ½” tall, with black hair, gray eyes and a fair complexion. He was promoted to corporal and sergeant within Co. G, and by early 1861 was the regimental sergeant major.
On May 14, 1861, Sergeant Major Byrne was appointed a 2nd lieutenant in the 17th Infantry. He applied for a transfer back to the cavalry, which was endorsed by his former commander, now Brigadier General Edwin V. Sumner, and was transferred to the 5th U.S. Cavalry on September 21st. He remained attached to the 4th Cavalry until October 1861, when he joined his company in Washington, D.C.
He served with the 5th U.S. Cavalry throughout the Peninsula campaign, seeing fighting at Williamsburg, Hanover Court House, Ashland, Old Church and White Oak Swamp. Byrne was promoted to first lieutenant on July 17, 1862. During the Maryland campaign, he saw action at South Mountain, Antietam, Shepherdstown, Halltown and Martinsburg.
Massachusetts Governor John Albion Andrews appointed Byrne colonel of the 28th Massachusetts Infantry on September 29, 1862. On October 16, 1862, he was granted an indefinite leave of absence from the 5th U.S. Cavalry to accept the appointment, and assumed command of his new regiment two days later at Nolan’s Ferry. The following month, the regiment was assigned to Colonel Thomas Francis Meagher’s Irish Brigade, Hancock’s Division, II Corps.
Colonel Byrne led his regiment against Marye’s Heights at Fredericksburg, where they lost 157 men killed, wounded and missing of 720 engaged. He fought at the regiment’s head during the Chancellorsville and Gettysburg campaigns.
He was sent back to Massachusetts during the winter of 1863 and spring of 1864 to recruit for the regiment’s depleted ranks. By the opening of the Overland Campaign he had returned to the regiment, and as senior officer present assumed command of the Irish Brigade.
Colonel Byrne was mortally wounded while leading an attack on the Confederate entrenchments at Cold Harbor on June 3, 1864. He was transported to Washington, D.C., where his wife joined him. Richard Byrne died on June 12, 1864. His appointment as a brigadier general of volunteers had been signed by President Lincoln, but he died before it could be officially presented to him. He was buried in Calvary Cemetery, Queens, New York with military honors.
One of the Irish Brigade’s officers, D.P. Conyngham described Byrne as “brave almost to rashness, he always led his men, who knew no fear under his eye; a strict disciplinarian, just to each and all in the exercise of his authority, he commanded the respect and esteem of those under him, and to his efforts is mainly due the high reputation for steadiness and discipline which the Twenty-eighth enjoyed.”
Conyngham, D.P. The Irish Brigade and its Campaigns. New York: William McSorley & Co. Publishers, 1867.
Heitman, pg 272.
Price, pgs 495-496.
U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914, RG 94, NARA.
U.S. Army, Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916, RG 94, NARA.
As a former commander of Company C, 2nd U.S. Dragoons (at the time in the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, currently designated the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, but still on continuous active service since 1836), it’s always gratifying to turn up information on one of the company’s soldiers. Little did I suspect, however, where following Moylan’s life would lead me. Shiloh, Gettysburg, Little Big Horn, Wounded Knee — Myles Moylan was definitely born to be a cavalryman. Despite controversy shrouding his career more than once, the quality of the 36 years of his service speaks for itself.
Myles Moylan was born at Amesbury, Massachusetts on December 17, 1838. His father was Thomas Moylan and his mother was Margaret Riley, both born in Ireland. Educated in local schools, he worked as a shoemaker prior joining the army. He was enlisted as a private in Company C, 2nd U.S. Dragoons by Lieutenant McArthur in Boston, Massachusetts on June 8, 1857. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’9 ½” tall, with black hair, gray eyes and a ruddy complexion. For some reason he listed Galway, Ireland as his place of birth on his enlistment paperwork.
Army life apparently agreed well with young Myles. He was promoted to corporal on October 1, 1858, and sergeant exactly two years later. During this time, he served in the Utah expedition of 1857-1858 and later in Kansas and Nebraska. He fought in an engagement with Indians at Blackwater Springs, Kansas on July 11, 1860. Sergeant Moylan was promoted to first sergeant of the company on May 17, 1861.
This last promotion proved very important to the company, as all of its assigned officers resigned at the outbreak of the war. Company C left Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on June 11, 1861, under the command of Lieutenant Farrand of the 1st U.S. Infantry. It didn’t rejoin the rest of the regiment until June 1863. During these two years, it was commanded by eight officers of different regiments and corps, including four infantry officers and two artillery officers. It would have been the steady hand of the first sergeant that kept the company functioning.
First Sergeant Moylan led his company through engagements at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri, Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. He re-enlisted at Pittsburgh, Tennessee on April 1, 1862, just days before the battle of Shiloh. He continued to serve with the company through that battle and the subsequent siege of Corinth. During the winter of 1862-1863, they served as the escort for General Grant for several months at Memphis, Tennessee. First Sergeant Moylan remained with the company until March 28, 1863, when he was discharged at Memphis, Tennessee. He was appointed a second lieutenant in the 5th U.S. Cavalry on February 19th, but it took over a month for the news to reach him.
Lieutenant Moylan joined his new regiment in Virginia in May, and was assigned to Company D. He immediately assumed command of the company upon his arrival due to a shortage of officers with the regiment. He commanded the company through engagements at Brandy Station, Aldie, Middletown, Upperville, Gettysburg, Williamsport, Boonsboro, Funkstown, Falling Waters, Manassas Gap, Front Royal, and Brandy Station again in August. The regiment moved with the rest of the Reserve Brigade to Giesboro Point, D.C. for remounting and refitting from August to October 1863. His final battle with the regiment was the engagement at Morton’s Ford, Virginia on October 11th, as part of the diversion for Kilpatrick’s raid.
His commission was revoked and he was dismissed from the service on October 20, 1863 for an unauthorized visit to Washington, D.C. and failing to report to military district headquarters. Sympathetic biographers have on several occasions referred to this as a “trifling offense,” but given the length of his service he should have known better. In his defense, officer absenteeism was a common problem subject to periodic crackdowns during the war, and he may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
He didn’t stay out of action long, however. He enlisted in Company A, 4th Massachusetts Cavalry at Malden, MA under the fictitious name of Charles E. Thomas on December 2, 1863. Despite using a nom de guerre, he received a $325 bounty for enlisting. Given his experience, it is unsurprising that he was a sergeant in the company by December 26th, and appointed first lieutenant a month later on January 25, 1864.
Lieutenant Moylan led his company through engagements on John’s Island, South Carolina in July, 1864, and near Jacksonville, Florida in October before his regiment was assigned to the forces besieging Petersburg. He was promoted to captain of Company K on December 1, 1864, and served briefly on the staff of Major General John Gibbon. He commanded a squadron of the regiment at the headquarters of the XXIV Corps during the Richmond campaign, and on April 9, 1865 received a brevet promotion to major of volunteers for gallant and meritorious services during the campaign in Virginia. He was honorably mustered out of service with his regiment on November 14, 1865 at Richmond, Virginia.
After the holidays, Moylan was back in uniform, this time once again under his own name. He enlisted in the general mounted service at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania as a private on January 25, 1866, and on March 10th was promoted to corporal.
Corporal Moylan was assigned to the new 7th U.S. Cavalry when it was formed on August 20, 1866, and his fortunes soared again. He was noticed by the regiment’s Lieutenant Colonel Custer, and was appointed the regiment’s first sergeant major on September 1, 1866. The two had briefly served together in the 5th Cavalry prior to Gettysburg. Moylan would serve in the 7th Cavalry for the next 26 years.
Custer encouraged his new sergeant major to apply for a commission once again. He was appointed a first lieutenant, 7th U.S. Cavalry on July 28, 1866, but was initially unable to accept it because he failed the appointment examination. Custer obtained permission to administer a second test, however, and tutored him to pass the examination the second time.
Such patronage was not without its costs. The new lieutenant was not initially admitted into the junior officer’s mess, though whether this was due to his prior enlisted service or Custer’s favoritism is unclear. Lieutenant Moylan served as the regimental adjutant from February 20, 1867 to December 31, 1870, when he was relieved at his own request. He served in the 1868 Washita campaign, following which he was also assigned as an acting assistant adjutant general of the troops serving in Kansas from 1868 to 1869. Lieutenant Moylan was assigned on recruiting service from January 1871 to January 1873.
While on recruiting service, Myles Moylan married Charlotte Calhoun on October 22, 1872 at Madison, Indiana. Charlotte, or Lottie as she was known, was the 19 year old sister of First Lieutenant James Calhoun. Lieutenant Calhoun also served in the 7th Cavalry, and was married to Custer’s half sister, so this further cemented Moylan’s ties to the Custer family.
Moylan was promoted to captain in the 7th U.S. Cavalry on March 1, 1872, and assigned to command of Company A when he returned to the regiment. He commanded Company A and at times a squadron during the Yellowstone and Black Hills expeditions of 1873 and 1874.
Captain Moylan commanded his company at the battle of Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, and was one the few officers of the regiment to survive the fight. He participated in the fight of Major Reno’s column in the valley, and later the Reno-Benteen defense on the bluff. Moylan lost both his patron and his brother in law during the battle. Interestingly given his ties to Custer, he later wrote a controversial letter defending Reno’s actions during the battle. He was part of the burial detail after the fight, and several months later wrote to Libby Custer of how he’d found her husband’s body on the battlefield.
Captain Moylan again led his company in the campaign against the Nez Perce the following year, when he earned the Medal of Honor. After a forced march of several days, the cavalry column successfully overtook a camp of the elusive tribe near Bear Paw Mountain, Montana on September 30, 1877. During the subsequent battle, he “gallantly led his command in action against Nez Perce Indians until he was severely wounded,” according to the award citation. He was reportedly wounded in the right thigh while at the head of his company charging at a full gallop. His was one of nine medals of honor awarded for the battle. He was brevetted major in the regular army for the battle on February 27, 1890, and his medal of honor was awarded November 27, 1894.
In 1880, Captain Moylan commanded his company and Fort Meade, Dakota Territory, according to census data. He commanded a battalion of three companies of cavalry during the summer Little Missouri River campaign of 1881, and his own company during an engagement with Crows in Montana Territory on November 5, 1887. He continued to serve on the frontier through the fighting at Wounded Knee in 1890.
Captain Moylan was promoted to major in the 10th U.S. Cavalry on April 8, 1892. He retired a year later, on April 15, 1893, after a career of almost 36 years. He and his wife moved to California, where he settled in San Diego with his wife. They had no children.
Major Myles Moylan died of stomach cancer in San Diego, California on December 1, 1909. Lottie survived him by seven years, dying March 29, 1916. The couple had no children, and are buried together in Greenwood Memorial Park, San Diego.
Hammer, Kenneth. Men With Custer, Biographies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry. Fort Collins: Old Army Press, 1972.
Hatch, Thom. The Custer Companion. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2002.
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 733.
Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Army and Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume I. New York: D. Van Nostrand Publishing, 1873. Page 172.
Index to Compiled Military Service Records (accessed at http://www.ancestry.com on May 14, 2009)
Powell, William H. Records of Living Officers of the United States Army. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1890.
Price, George F. Across the Continent with the Fifth Cavalry. New York: Antiquarian Press, Ltd., 1959.
Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914. (accessed at http://www.ancestry.com on May 15, 2009)
Utley, Robert. Life in Custer’s Cavalry. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987.
Wert, Jeffry D. Custer. New York, Simon & Schuster, 1997.
The day after the battle, Captain James E. Harrison’s squadron (Companies B and E) continued to round up prisoners from the battle. Accompanied by Brigadier General Emory’s aide de camp, Lieutenant Elbert, Harrison brought in two entire companies of the 28th North Carolina Infantry with their arms and ammunition. In his report, Harrison claims a total of 99 prisoners, including two captains, a lieutenant and 96 privates.
Given this similarity to yesterday’s post, I had to go back to the OR and verify the numbers and that they were actually from different squadrons on different days.
Two squadrons of the 5th US Cavalry were active at the battle of Hanover Court House on May 27, 1862 — one before and during the battle and one following it. For those interested in the battle in depth, I recommend Michael Hardy’s excellent work on the battle, found here.
Prior to the battle, Captain Abraham K. Arnold’s squadron of Companies I and K, were sent to reconnoiter the road from Hanover Court House to Ashland. They found the Confederates advancing in force and returned to the Union main body without pursuit. Upon their return, they were ordered to take position on the left side of the Union line of battle. Arnold later moved his squadron to the right following enemy attacks to his front and left. His squadron was under fire throughout the battle, losing two men and several horses. Privates Leo Hentz and James Lason of Company I were killed, and four horses were wounded in Company K. The squadron took nine prisoners during the battle.
Following the repulse of the attacking Confederates, Captain William B. Royall’s squadron of Companies C and A was ordered forward as far as possible on the main road leading from the battlefield to Hanover Court House. The squadron proceeded about a mile past the courthouse, capturing five prisoners, before waiting for the rest of the regiment to arrive. After they were joined by the regiment, they were deployed to the right side of the road as skirmishers. A short time after the advance resumed, they discovered a large body of Confederate infantry in a wheat field. They quickly surrounded and captured 73 men, including a major, two captains and a lieutenant.
Setting the Stage
The 2nd US Cavalry was one of the first units in the Army to be affected by the secession movement. This article will attempt to chronicle their abrupt exodus from Texas in early 1861, long before the fall of Fort Sumter. In order to understand the trials faced by the regiment during this period, it is necessary to first understand the larger situation.
The majority of the fault for the regiment’s abrupt departure unfortunately lays at the foot of another cavalryman, former Second Dragoon commander Brevet Major General David E. Twiggs. In December of 1860, General Twiggs returned from a leave of absence to command of the Department of Texas. He was second in seniority of the four brigadier generals in the Army, junior only to Brigadier General Wool.
The Texas secession convention assembled in January 1861. On February 1, the ordinance of secession was adopted by the convention, subject to its ratification by the people of Texas on February 23rd. On the 4th, before its ratification, the convention appointed a commission to discuss with General Twiggs the surrender of all army installations and equipment within the borders of the state. Twiggs in his turn appointed a commission to negotiate with the Texas commission. On February 15th, officials demanded the immediate surrender of all government property in the state, which he refused. On the 18th, he was again presented with the demand, and given six hours to return a decision. Citing the desire to avoid fighting between state and national troops, Twiggs ordered all soldiers in the state to surrender their posts and march to the coast.
While he is consistently vilified for his role in the surrender, there are a few factors to consider in the conduct of Twiggs. In the interest of fairness, he had on three different occasions formally requested guidance from Washington on actions to take in the event of Texas’ secession. The guidance he received in return was minimal and vague. He had also asked to be relieved of command of the department on January 13, 1861. Once the request reached the capital, Colonel C. A. Waite was sent to replace him. Twiggs had not, however, been authorized to surrender any government installations or equipment, particularly without a shot being fired. He was dismissed from the army by President Lincoln on March 1st for “treachery to the flag of his country.” He was subsequently appointed a general in the Confederate army, which rank he held until his death the following year.
The Department of Texas at this time contained one fifth of the entire army, including the 2nd Cavalry. Department headquarters was in San Antonio, but the troops were scattered across twenty or more small posts consisting of 50 to 150 men throughout the state. These posts varied in distance from San Antonio from 50 to almost 700 miles, and were commanded by lieutenants or captains.
At the time of the surrender, Twiggs issued an ‘Order of Exercises’ to the various units of the department, detailing the order and routes of their movements out of the state. This order required all commanders to evacuate their posts, surrendering all public property not required to transport them to the coast. Following this, they were to concentrate at Green Lake and surrender any remaining equipment with the exception of their sidearms. The troops were to move to the coast in a directed schedule by small units, with the most distant posts instructed to move first to prevent a troop concentration in the northern part of the state. As he was still the department commander at the time, his order was binding on the army’s officers, despite their feelings on it.
The order came at a particularly bad time for the 2nd Cavalry, as none of the regiment’s senior leadership was present for duty. The regimental commander, Colonel Albert S. Johnston, was in San Francisco serving as the commander of the Department of California. Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee had been ordered to report to Washington DC earlier in the month to meet with Major General Winfield Scott. Both of the regiment’s majors, George H. Thomas and Earl Van Dorn, were on leaves of absence. At this critical juncture, the regiment was without a commanding officer from February 13th to April 11th.
This, then, is where we join the 2nd Cavalry Regiment in February of 1861: scattered to the winds and forced to decide at the company level how to react to this chain of events.