I first started posting the exploits of Charles E. Bates of the 4th U.S. Cavalry here back in 2007. He initially enlisted in 1858 at the age of 14 without the consent of his parents and somehow managed not to be discharged. Unlike many who fled home to join the army, however, Bates was a relatively steady correspondent to his family about his exploits. Given that I have already posted several of his letters as well as biographical sketches of both his first sergeant and commander on the blog, when I learned of the existence of this court martial record I couldn’t resist adding this. Special thanks to Bob O’Neill, who was kind enough to retrieve the record from the National Archives.
Camp Lincoln, Va
18 June 1862, Day 4 9 A.M.
The Court then proceeded to the trial of Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry, who being called into court and having heard the order convening the court read, was asked if he had any objections to any of the members named therein, to which he replied in the negative.
The Court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the presiding officer of the court, in the presence of the accused, and Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry was arraigned of the following charge and specifications, viz.:
Charge: Violation of the 9th Article of War
Specification: In this that Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry did positively refuse to take care of a horse belonging to Company “E” 4th Cavalry, when ordered to do so by 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, (the Sergeant Fitzgerald being in the execution of his office at the time) saying I will not take care of the horse, or words to that effect. This in camp near New Bridge Va on or about the 30th of May 1862.
(signed) J.B. McIntyre
Capt 4th Cavalry
To which charge and specification the prisoner pleaded as follows,
Not Guilty, to the Specification
Not Guilty, to the Charge
Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn.
Question by Judge Advocate. What do you know of the prisoner, Corporal Bates, having refused to obey an order?
Answer. I am 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry and on or about the evening of the 30th of May 1862 I ordered Corporal Bates to take care of a horse, he said he would not take care of the horse that I had mentioned, it was a horse that he had been recently riding that I had reference to.
Question by Judge Advocate. Were you both on duty at the time, and at what camp did this happen?
Answer. At camp near New Bridge to the best of my knowledge, and we were both on duty at the time.
Question by Prisoner. Is it not customary for surplus horses in the cavalry to be taken care of by the squads to which they belong?
Answer. According to the routine of duty I believe it is, and an enlisted man who rides a government horse is supposed to take care of him.
Question by Prisoner. Was the horse properly assigned to me and was I responsible for him?
Answer. He was not properly assigned to him to my knowledge, but it is my opinion he was responsible for grooming and feeding him as long as he used him.
Question by Prisoner. Would using a horse a week make a man obliged to clean him for the remainder of his enlistment?
Answer. According to circumstances or until he got another horse assigned to him.
Question by Prisoner. Did you not order me to see that somebody took care of that horse?
Answer. Yes I ordered him to see that somebody took care of the horse, and I afterwards ordered him to take care of the horse himself.
Question by Judge Advocate (note: miswritten, actually by prisoner): Did I not reply before he ordered me to take care of him, “the horse does not belong to my squad”?
Answer. I do not recollect about it.
Question by Prisoner. Did I use the horse on that day or not?
Answer. I do not know, I don’t recollect whether he used the horse on that day or not.
Question by Prisoner. Did I not express a desire to go and see the Captain before obeying your order?
Answer. I cannot recollect of having heard him say so.
Captain J.B. McIntyre 4th Cavalry a witness for the defense was duly sworn.
Question by Prisoner. What is my general character as a soldier in the company since you have been with it?
Answer. I am a captain in the 4th Regiment of Cavalry, Company “E” of which the prisoner is a corporal. I joined the company last August. Corporal Bates has been on duty with the company every day since. And up to this difficulty, no better soldier was in the company. The former captain of the company when I relieved him of the command of it gave his character the same as I have stated it. It is on record with the War department that he was the first man to pull down the secession flag in Arkansas.
The prisoner having no further testimony to offer made the following statement in his defense.
It was not my intention to disobey any order at all. When I was first ordered to see the horse taken care of I thought that the 1st Sergeant had made a mistake, by supposing that the horse belonged to my squad. He then ordered me to take care of him. I was taking care of another horse at the time. I expressed it as my intention to see the Captain before taking care of him, as I did not consider it my duty to take care of a horse until he was assigned to me.
The court was then closed for deliberation on the testimony adduced.
After mature deliberation the court finds the prisoner Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry as follows.
Of the specification, Guilty.
Of the charge, Guilty.
And the court does therefore sentence him Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, to be reduced to the ranks, and to forfeit ten dollars of his pay per month for twelve months.
Alfred G. Smith W.H. Wood
1st Lt 8th Inf Major 17th Inf
Judge Advocate Presdt G.C. Martial
The court adjourned at half past two o’clock P.M. to meet again at 9 o’clock A.M. on Thursday June 19th 1862.
Alfred G. Smith
1st Lt 8th Inf
The character of Bates’ service to date did influence the members of the court, it simply didn’t change the fact that he had, by his own admission, violated the 9th Article of War. The following was on the next page of the court martial file:
We the undersigned members of the General Court Martial in view of the good character given to Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cav by his company commander, beg to recommend that his sentence be remitted.
(signed by all)
Maj 17th Infty
Capt 4th Cav
James H. Forsyth
Captain 18th Infantry
Capt 8 Infy
C. Ford Trowbridge
1st Lt 16th Infty
While this seems like a pretty trivial matter to go to a court martial over, Bates at the time of this court martial was just barely 18 years of age, and firmly convinced that he was in the right. See here for his letter to his parents about the court martial after his sentencing.
For more information on Edward Fitzgerald, see here. For more information on John McIntyre, simply scroll back a few posts.