Court Martial Insights


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Court martialI first realized the possible value of court martial records when I read Dr. Mark W. Johnson’s excellent book, That Body of Brave Men. Intrigued by what he had to say about the value of the records, I did a bit of investigating.

As I perused the War Department’s General Orders for 1863 and 1864, it struck me that relatively few cavalrymen were court martialed, and even fewer regular cavalrymen. I was able to make copies of a few records on a couple of visits to the National Archives, and friend Bob O’Neill was kind enough to copy another dozen or more. Much to my delight, there is a wealth of information in these files. Nothing book worthy in and of itself, but countless smaller details that bring the larger history to life.

As a case study, let’s take a look at the court martial of Second Lieutenant Peter Rinner of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in January 1864. Rinner was a veteran whose enlisted service started in the Mexican War, and a first sergeant in the regiment when he was commissioned the year before. I will save the other details of his service for a future post. The charge was drunk on guard. The specification was “while on Provost Guard with his squadron did become so drunk as to be unable to perform his duty as an officer. This at or near the town of Culpeper, Va. On or about the 24th day of December 1863.”

To set the stage a bit, during the winter encampment of 1863-1864 the regular cavalry regiments and possibly others rotated on provost guard duty in the town of Culpeper, Virginia. Without going into the details of the testimony, here is a sampling some of the information I discovered from just this one record.

  • A squadron strong, the guard rotated shifts daily. The squadron was responsible for guard posts in town and pickets in vicinity of the town.
  • The headquarters for the squadron on provost guard was a room in the Virginia Hotel. The officers on guard, typically a captain and two lieutenants, slept together in this room.
  • It was not customary for there to be a formal mounting of the guard when the relief happened within the regiment. Guard posts included the hotel, the Orange & Alexandria railroad depot, and “the church.” This was probably St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, built in 1821. Specific identification of guards’ names, ranks and companies validated unit roster.
  • Battery G, 2nd U.S. Artillery was located in Culpeper, and its commander, Lt. William N. Dennison, also had a room at the Virginia Hotel. One of the units of the Horse Artillery Brigade, relations between the officers of the battery and the 2nd U.S. Cavalry were cordial enough that there was a party in Dennison’s room on December 23rd which seven officers attended.
  • It was permissible for an officer of the guard to visit a party, drink and play cards as long as his duties were fulfilled and he did not become incapacitated. In this case his squadron commander was present at the time and it was not considered an offense.
  • Company morning report books were required to be signed by commanders every morning, even when the officer was on guard.
  • The regimental adjutant placed officers in arrest, not the company or squadron commander.
  • Division headquarters appointed general courts martial. Brigade headquarters selected the board members selected from the regiments of the accused’s brigade. Both volunteer and regular officers could sit on the court martial of a regular officer. Court martial duty superseded all other duties, including unit movements. The proceedings of the previous day were read to the accused and the court first thing in the morning after the court convened.
  • The 1st New York Dragoons had already joined the Reserve Brigade before the Christmas of 1863.
  • Justice was swift. The court reached its verdict on January 11th. Only two days later, the proceedings were approved by the division commander and sent to Major General Sedgwick, in temporary command of the Army of the Potomac.
  • The Army of the Potomac was cracking down on professionalism during the winter encampment. By February 18th, army headquarters had already published four general court martial orders since January 1st. Each order encompassed the results of multiple courts. This fourth order included four courts ruling on ten officers for various forms of misconduct. All ten were cashiered.

Not every court martial record contains valuable information, but this is definitely a largely underutilized source of primary source material. Another tool available to bring pieces of history to light.

Source: NARA, Record Group 153: Office of the Judge Advocate General. Folder LL1362: Court-Martial of Second Lieutenant Peter Rinner, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, January 1864.

Thomas Wathey, 6th U.S. Cavalry


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A Union Deserter Settles in Winchester

Wathey grave 6US

Photo courtesy of Krista Al Qirim Thompson

Thomas Wathey was born on February 2, 1841 in Londonderry, Ireland to Thomas and Mary Wathey. His mother was Irish and his father a Scot. In 1855, Mary, Thomas and his younger brother Will emigrated from Liverpool on the ship American Union. The family had a lower deck non-cabin berth. They arrived in New York City on June 16, 1855 en route to Rhode Island. According to the 1860 census, Thomas worked as a machinist in Providence, but by the following year the family moved to Northbridge, MA.

On May 25, 1861 Thomas was one of 64 men from Northbridge who enlisted in Company H, 15th Massachusetts Infantry. The regiment mustered into Federal service on July 12, 1861 and moved to Washington the following month. On October 21st the regiment saw its first action at Ball’s Bluff and suffered the heaviest losses of any of the Union regiments engaged. Thomas was wounded in the leg and sent home to recover from his wound. While he was home, he married Harriet Elizabeth Smith in Northbridge, MA on November 23, 1861. Minister William Merrill presided over the ceremony.

The following spring the 15th MA was assigned to the II Corps and accompanied the rest of the Army of the Potomac to the peninsula. The regiment fought at Seven Pines, Savage’s Station, and Glendale with modest losses. One of the last regiments to depart the peninsula in August, the 15th Massachusetts missed the battle of Second Bull Run. Military service agreed with Thomas, and he rapidly progressed through the enlisted ranks from private to first sergeant of Company H.

The regiment was brigaded with the 1st Minnesota, 34th and 82nd New York under Brigadier General Willis A. Gorman during the Maryland Campaign. In heavy fighting at the battle of Antietam it fought against the brigades of Semmes, Early and Barksdale and was savagely flanked by the Confederates not far from Dunkard Church. It suffered 52% casualties, losing 320 killed, wounded or missing of 606 engaged. Eleven men were killed in Wathey’s Company H alone. For the second time in less than a year the 15th Massachusetts suffered the heaviest losses by a Union regiment in a battle.

This was enough for Thomas. A month later he transferred to Company M, 6th U.S. Cavalry on October 24, 1862 in Knoxville, MD. His enlistment documents described him as 5’ 8 ½ ” tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. When the regiment returned to Virginia the following month, he and the other volunteers were sent to a camp of instruction outside of Washington to be mounted and trained.

Private Wathey quickly completed the training and rejoined the regiment. He spent the winter rotating off and on picket duty along the Rappahannock River. Cavalry life evidently agreed with him, as he was promoted to corporal before spring campaigning started.

Corporal Wathey participated in Stoneman’s Raid and the regiment’s heavy engagement at Brandy Station without injury, as well as the long march and skirmishes on the way to Gettysburg. At Fairfield on July 3, 1863, he fought dismounted in Lt. Adna Chaffee’s squadron behind a fence in an apple orchard on the regiment’s left flank. Unable to reach their horse holders when the regiment was overrun, Wathey was one of the majority of his company captured by the Confederates. When his first sergeant conducted roll call the following day, only two privates in the company were present for duty.

Corporal Wathey marched on foot south with the rest of the prisoners to Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley, then travelled by rail the rest of the way to Richmond. After being processed at Castle Thunder in Richmond, they were incarcerated on Belle Isle on the James River. Wathey was fortunate, as Company M’s were in the first group of prisoners paroled and sent north the following month. Wathey returned to duty with the regiment at the beginning of September.

Corporal Wathey was re-enlisted in Company M by Lt. Tullius Tupper on February 8, 1864. The documents say Brandy Station, but more than likely this happened at the Reserve Brigade’s encampment at nearby Mitchell’s Station. His fortunes in battle improved greatly, as he fought in all of the regiment’s major engagements of 1864 and 1865 without incident.

Thomas didn’t serve long after the end of the war. Following the Appomattox campaign, the regiment was sent to Pleasant Valley, MD to recruit and re-fit. As the regiment prepared to head west to the frontier, he deserted on July 23, 1866. He did not return home to Massachusetts, and his first wife Hattie remarried to Frank A. Cross in Northbridge, MA on August 6, 1868.

Oddly enough, the former Union cavalryman returned to the Shenandoah Valley. He settled in Winchester, VA and eventually joined the Masonic fraternity. He married Winchester native Marietta Clark, daughter of Willis B. and Emily Z. (nee’ Pierce) Clark. The couple’s first three children died in their first year, but the next three survived. Their final child also did not survive his first year in 1881.

Thomas remained in the Winchester area of Frederick County for the rest of his life. In 1880 he lived in Stonewall township, in 1890 Shawnee, and in 1900 on his son Thomas Norval Wathey’s farm as a laborer. He moved in with his son following his wife’s death on October 28, 1898.

On the 1890 veteran’s schedule, Thomas listed his service as a sergeant in Company H, 2nd U.S. Cavalry from 1858 to 1866. When he applied for a disability pension on July 25, 1892, he again cited service the wrong regiment and omitted his desertion. Understandably, the processing of his claim was greatly delayed by the inaccuracies of the filing.

Thomas Wathey died after a brief illness of pleurisy in Winchester on March 3, 1907. He had finally received a back payment for his pension of $1,100 just a month before. He was buried in the German Lutheran Church Cemetery next to his wife. His obituary in the Winchester Evening Star read:

“Obituary: Mr. Thomas Wathey, a well-known and highly-respected citizen of Winchester, who had made this city his home ever since the Civil War, passed away about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning at his home on North Kent street, near the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad passenger station, after a brief illness of pleurisy, aged 66 years.”



Adjutant General of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, Volume VII. Boston: Norwood Press, 1931.

Caughey, Donald C. and Jimmy J. Jones. The 6th United States Cavalry in the Civil War. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.: 2013.

Clemens, Thomas G., ed. The Maryland Campaign of September 1862. Vol. II: Antietam. El Dorado Hills: Savas Beatie LLC, 2012.

Ford, Andrew E. The Story of the Fifteenth Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War 1861-1864. Boston: W.J. Coulter Press, 1898.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 6th U.S. Cavalry.

National Archives, Record Group 15, Records of the Veterans Administration, Pension record #67724.

“Thos. Wathey Dead; Just Got Pension.” Evening Star, Winchester, VA, March 4, 1907.

U.S. Federal Census, 1860, 1880 and 1890. Accessed on, March 2020.

Book Review: Bloody Autumn


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Bloody Autumn

Bloody Autumn: The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1864. Daniel T. Davis and Phillip S. Greenwalt. El Dorado Hills: Savas Beatie LLC, 2013. 148 pgs.

This book by Daniel T. Davis and Phillip S. Greenwalt is part of the excellent Emerging Civil War Series by publishing company Savas Beatie. As a rule, the books provide a good summary of the battle in question, with numerous appendices related to driving tours and additional context for the battle. This book exceeds high standards already set by the series.

Davis and Greenwalt do an excellent job in providing a coherent summary of this complicated campaign. The strategic context for both sides flows into opening moves and through the various engagements to its conclusion. The appendices are delightful, providing multiple driving tours and a section on battlefield preservation as well as an excellent essay on the campaign in memory. The work doesn’t attempt to answer every question about the campaign, but provides a solid foundation for further in-depth study of any of the engagements or the campaign as a whole. I found the historical perspective fair and well-balanced, neither lionizing nor vilifying the leaders of either side.

Cartographer Hal Jesperson’s excellent maps are plentiful and easily understood, a rarity in such works. They not only help the reader follow the campaign from home, but the driving tours make it much easier for people to explore the field today.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War, both beginners and those well-versed in the war.


Impatient Buckeyes

I have written on many occasions of volunteers who tired of duty in the infantry by the battle of Antietam and transferred to the regular cavalry thinking to escape the rigors and bloodshed of that life. Recently, however, I came across group of fellows with the opposite problem — they were tired of waiting to get into the war.

Seven members of Company A, 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry transferred to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry on October 27, 1862. They were not veterans serving in Maryland like most of their peers, but newly enlisted volunteers in Columbus, Ohio. All seven were enlisted by Captain Robert Clary into Company A, 2nd U.S. Cavalry. The men, ranging in age from 19 to 23, had enlisted in the volunteer service on the 21st and 22nd of August. Their company was not mustered into federal service until September 16th by Captain J.R. Paxton of the 15th U.S. Infantry at Camp Cleveland, Ohio. Theirs was the only company mustered. Companies B, C and D would follow in November, with the other companies to follow. After over two months of the tedium of drill with no action in sight, the men decided to take matters into their own hands when they encountered Captain Clary.

Ironically, the sergeant who was presumably the ringleader of this idea was the only one not to honorably complete his term of service with the regulars. Sergeant Benjamin F. Rhodes deserted four days after his enlistment On October 31st at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He was a farmer prior to his enlistments, born in Greenport, Ohio. His enlistment documents describe him a 5’ 9” tall, with gray eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion.

Corporal Thomas G Stradford, born in Philadelphia, worked as a clerk before the war. He served his entire three year enlistment as a private in Company A, leaving the service at St. Louis, Missouri on October 25, 1865. His enlistment documents describe him a 5’ 7” tall, with gray eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion. He filed for an invalid pension on June 22, 1880 and died August 5, 1915 in Washington, D.C.

Amos V. Bailey was the only one of the group to serve as a noncommissioned officer in the regulars, finishing his enlistment as a sergeant at St. Louis in October 1865. Born in Husford County, Maryland, he was a farmer before his enlistment. He settled in Maryland after the war, and died near Churchill, Maryland on September 20, 1917.

Private Andrew Cook left no further records after enlisting into the regulars. He was a farmer before the war, born in Green Township, Ohio. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 10” tall, with hazel eyes, light hair and a ruddy complexion.

Private James G. Crawford was not able to serve long in the regulars before succumbing to disease. By February 1863 he was hospitalized by disease at Carver Hospital in Washington, D.C., and did not return to the regiment. On July 2, 1864 he was transferred to Company B, 2nd Veteran Reserve Corps, where he was promoted to sergeant. Interestingly, I was unable to find evidence of an invalid claim for him after the war. Born in Madison, Ohio, he worked as a miller before the war. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’7’ tall, with gray eyes, light hair and a ruddy complexion.

Private Marion Parker was the only one of the seven not to survive the war. He died of a disease of the lungs on December 27, 1862 at Fort Albany, Virginia. A farmer before the war, he was born in Goshen, Ohio. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 7” tall, with gray eyes, dark hair and a fresh complexion.

Private Benjamin Franklin Stover survived the war and left regular service in October 1865 in St. Louis. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 6” tall, with hazel eyes, light hair and a ruddy complexion. A farmer before the war, he was born in Pennsylvania. He married after the war and settled in Nebraska. Stover filed for an invalid pension on September 11, 1890. He died May 16, 1918 in Omaha, Nebraska and is buried there in Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

As for the 125th Ohio, it was quite some time after these men left before it tasted battle. The regiment fought in the major battles of the western theater from the battle of Chickamauga through the end of the war.

Yellowstone and the Cavalry


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As many of my friends are aware, I made my first visit to Yellowstone National Park a few weeks ago in the company of our Boy Scout troop. While I thoroughly enjoyed the scenic beauty and wildlife of the park, I dimly remembered something about Moses Harris, one of the cavalry regiments, and the parks. Cell and internet service being very sketchy at best in the area, I resolved to look into it when I returned.

Lest one think this simply another manifestation of my determination to find a connection of Civil War cavalry with anything I happen to run across, I will first direct the reader to this article on the Yellowstone NPS webpage, entitled “How The U.S. Cavalry Saved Our National Parks” .

If the name Moses Harris sounds familiar, it should. An enlisted man in the 4th U.S. Cavalry and officer in the 1st U.S. Cavalry during the Civil War, I have previously written about him here. I came across several new items while researching his Yellowstone connections, so there will be an updated biographical sketch of him posted here in the near future.

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, one of the original national parks. As such, there was no inherent program for the administration of the park and the protection of its resources. Civilian superintendents were appointed, but with little instruction or resources to carry out their mandate to protect the park and its treasures. Consequently, the park was under constant threat from those who wanted to exploit its resources. This varied from souvenir hunters and poachers to tourist facilities in and around the geysers and hot springs.

In 1886 the problem came to a head when Congress refused to appropriate additional funds to administer the park. The Secretary of the Interior turned to the Secretary of War for assistance. In August, Captain Moses Harris and the 50 men of his Company M, 1st U.S. Cavalry were ordered from Fort Custer, Montana to the park.

Here is Captain Harris’ account of his time at Yellowstone:

“In August 1886 Captain Harris was ordered to take station with his troop in the Yellowstone National Park relieving the civilian superintendent, and was ordered to report to the Secretary of the Interior for instructions relative to the protection of the Park. Having so reported was directed to perform the duties which had previously been performed by the superintendent of the Park and his assistants. He remained at this station with his troop performing the civil duties of the superintendent of the National Park, and with his troop giving the Park full and efficient protection until June 1889, when he was ordered to take station at Fort Custer. It is proper in connection to state that the reports of the Secretary of the Interior for the years 1887, 1888, and 1889 contain expressions of satisfaction at the efficient manner in which the duty of protecting the park had been performed and its interests cared for during the tour of duty in the Park of Captain Harris and his command.”

For those interested, one of Captain Harris’ annual reports to the Secretary of the Interior can be found here. 

At first, the soldiers lived in temporary frame buildings at what was initially called Camp Sheridan at the foot of the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces. After five cold, harsh winters, the Army realized there was no end in sight to this assignment and requested funds from Congress for a permanent post. These funds were granted in 1890, and the post renamed Fort Yellowstone.

The first buildings of Fort Yellowstone were finished by late 1891, though Company M had been replaced by a different company by then. An almost identical set of wooden buildings was finished in 1897 to house a second troop. In 1909, sandstone buildings were constructed, increasing the fort’s capacity to four troops (approximately 400 men). The stone for these buildings was obtained from a local quarry. At its height in 1910, over 300 soldiers manned the park between the fort and outlying posts.

In 1916, the National Park Service was created and assumed control of the park. After a brief return the following year, the Army departed the park for the final time in 1918. Fort Yellowstone became the administrative center of the park for the new organization. Over the 32 years of its tenure, troops from 10 different cavalry regiments served in the park: the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 11th and 13th U.S. Cavalry Regiments.

Ironically, I didn’t get to see Fort Yellowstone while I was in the park. Maybe on my next visit.

Fairfield Dead – William Mottern


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156 years ago yesterday, the 6th U.S. Cavalry had its biggest fight of the war a few short miles from Gettysburg, outside the small town of Fairfield, Pennsylvania. The understrength regiment had a brief fight with an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry which did not go well for the bluecoats. Among the dead from the battle was Private William Mottern of Company H.
William Mottern was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1833. Prior to the Civil War he worked as a boatman. He enlisted into Company H on August 12, 1861 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His enlistment documents describe him a 5’ 6 ½” tall, with light hair, blue eyes, and a fair complexion.
Private Mottern served in the regiment’s “flank squadron,” the only squadron equipped with carbines until after the battle of Antietam. On July 3, 1863, his company was partnered with Company C under 2nd Lieutenant and former first sergeant Joseph Bould as the regiment’s reserve. When the Confederate cavalry broke the through the regiment’s thin defensive line, Bould countercharged to stem the attack. Priavte Mottern was killed in the melee.
Private William Mottern is buried alongside his regimental comrades in the cemetery at Gettysburg.


Jared R. DeRemer, 6th U.S. Cavalry


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I nearly titled this post “Down the Rabbit Hole.” It started as a brief, quick post about a private from the 6th Cavalry, but quickly assumed a life of its own. A story started in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it spends much of its time in my home of Colorado. A long weekend later, it is finally complete.

Jared Russell DeRemer was born on July 2, 1843 in Milesburg, Pennsylvania. He was the second child and eldest son of Isaac and Matilda DeRemer, both born in New Jersey. The family moved around Pennsylvania as Jared grew up, his father working as a carpenter. In 1850 they lived in Mauch Chunk, Carbon county, according to the census. In 1860 they lived in Dennison township, Luzerne County. Jared, age 17, was working as a machinist and living with his parents.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Jared joined the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry. It was a somewhat unusual regiment, in that it originally had 15 companies. Company N was raised in Luzerne county, and Jared enlisted on August 30, 1861. The regiment received its initial training at Oxford Park in Philadelphia, and was serving in the area of Harpers Ferry before the end of the year. It spent the majority of its time before the battle of Antietam serving in this region. The regiment suffered heavily at Antietam, with 266 casualties. On October 28, 1862, the 147th Pennsylvania Infantry was formed from five companies of the 28th Pennsylvania and three new companies. All assigned personnel from these companies were transferred to the new regiment, but DeRemer had departed days before.

On October 25, 1862, Jared transferred to Company B, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Knoxville, Maryland. His enlistment documents describe him as 19 years old and 5’ 10” tall, with blue eyes, light hair, and a light complexion.

Private DeRemer’s service with the 6th U.S. Cavalry was brief but eventful. Once he left the dismount camp and joined the regiment, his company served as General Sumner’s escort during the battle of Fredericksburg in December. After a long winter of picketing fords across the Rappahannock, he was part of Stoneman’s Raid in May 1863. The following month he fought at Brandy Station, and then several weeks of fighting and hard riding on the way to Gettysburg. Jared was one of the very fortunate few to not be killed, wounded or captured in the regiment’s fatal encounter at Fairfield, Pennsylvania on July 3rd. He continued to serve with the regiment during the pursuit back to Virginia and on Cavalry Corps headquarters escort duty for the remainder of the year, including a second fight at Brandy Station in August. The cumulative effects of this campaigning took their toll, however. DeRemer was discharged due to disability on December 18, 1863 at McClellan Hospital, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He applied for an invalid pension on February 13, 1864, and received his certificate.

Jared returned to his family, who had moved to Hampton, New Jersey. In 1869, he married Nancy Macrina Wass. She was born in April 1857, a native of Easton, Pennsylvania. After several years, Jared and his brother James Richard Deremer left the family in New Jersey and moved to Colorado to seek their fortunes.

The two were very successful, and moved most of the rest of the family to Pueblo, Colorado over the following years. James Richard was a very prominent civil engineer and real estate investor. He built Pueblo’s first opera house, which burned to the ground several years later, and the DeRemer Hotel. This building still stands, and is currently the home of Schwabe Real Estate at 230 South Union Avenue.

Jared, on the other hand, worked for the railroads on survey crews, and lived across the state. Jared and Nancy welcomed their son, named James Silas after his brother, in 1880. In 1885, Jared and Nancy lived in Chaffee County, according to the state census. In 1887, Jared was assigned to oversee the construction of the South Pacific Railroad Company railroad through Glenwood Canyon, and the family moved to Glenwood Springs.

Glenwood Springs was very good to the DeRemer family, and Jared decided to put down roots. In 1893, he built a house at 1008 Colorado Avenue in Glenwood Springs that is still in use today as an apartment building.

Jared not only was able to complete the difficult railroad survey through the canyon, he was the locator and mastermind behind the Shoshone hydroelectric plant in Glenwood Canyon. This power plant is still in operation today, with the oldest and biggest water right on the upper Colorado River. It provides fifteen megawatts of electricity and is a cornerstone of the management of the upper Colorado River. In Colorado, precedent of water rights is determined by age, not size. Even though small by today’s power plant output measurements, Shoshone has the right to its water flow. This ensures that it retains flow even with the water diverted from the Colorado basin to supply Denver and eastern Colorado.

The family resided here during the 1900 census. In 1904, his son married Josephine Agnes Heichner, born in Colorado of German parents.

In 1908, he patented the DeRemer Ball Bearing Water Wheel, a valve used in hydroelectric plants. He subsequently formed the DeRemer Water Wheel Company with his son and served as its manager and president until 1916.

His wife Nancy died on March 24, 1910 in Glenwood Springs, according to the local newspaper and the Colorado Springs Gazette. She was initially buried in Rosebud Cemetery in Glenwood Springs, then later moved to be with her husband. According to the 1910 census in June, Jared was a widower, with his son and daughter in law residing with him.

In 1916, his son accepted a position in Salida, Colorado working as an engineer for the Durango & Rio Grande Railroad. With nothing left to tie him to Glenwood Springs, Jared sold his house to a promising young lawyer and returned to the family homestead in New Jersey the following year.

Jared Russell DeRemer died in Hampton, New Jersey in 1918. He is buried next to his wife in Union Brick Cemetery, Blairstown, New Jersey.

William H. Burns, 6th U.S. Cavalry


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William H. Burns was born in Toronto, Canada in 1839. He and his family moved to Wisconsin during his childhood. At the beginning of the Civil War, Burns enlisted as a sergeant in Company A, 3rd Wisconsin Infantry in Watertown, Wisconsin on April 18, 1861.

The 3rd Wisconsin was a very active unit during the first year of the war. Their first engagement was a skirmish with forces under Turner Ashby on Bolivar Heights on October 16, 1861. They fought in the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862, and at Cedar Mountain in August. The battle of Antietam was particularly hard on the regiment, fighting near the Cornfield. The 3rd Wisconsin lost 27 enlisted men killed and 173 wounded of 340 engaged, as well as 8 of 12 officers wounded. Sergeant Burns, wounded slightly from a gunshot wound in the left leg during the battle, had seen enough of the infantry.

He transferred to Company C, 6th U.S. Cavalry as a private on October 23, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him with hazel eyes, brown hair, a florid complexion and 5’6” tall. He served on picket duty along the Rappahannock during the winter after training as a cavalryman in the regiment’s dismounted camp. He must have performed well, as he was promoted to corporal prior to Stoneman’s Raid in May 1863.

On June 9, 1863, Corporal Burns was again in a pitched battle, this time at Brandy Station, Virginia. His old unit was there as well, as the 3rd Wisconsin and the 2nd Massachusetts both fought on the Union right wing near Beverly Ford during the battle. Burns was again wounded, this time with a gunshot wound in the left breast. Fortunately his companions helped him from the field, and he was sent to Washington, D.C. with the other seriously wounded. After a long and difficult recovery, he was discharged because of disability from Lincoln Hospital on December 26, 1863. His disability pension was $10.14 per month.

Burns returned to Wisconsin after living briefly in St. Louis. By 1882, he was once again residing in the Milwaukee area, alternating between Wauwatosa and Milwaukee. His wound continued to cause him issues periodically, and he spent time in and out of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, North-western Branch, in Milwaukee between 1882 and 1890. He worked as a watchmaker and jeweler before and after this period.

William H. Burns died in Milwaukee in April 1913. He was survived by his wife Eliza. He is buried in Forest Home Cemetery, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

A Christmas Raid – Gordonsville, 1864


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After the bloodiest year of the war for the 2nd U.S. Cavalry and the Reserve Brigade, troopers must have been looking forward to going into winter camp near Winchester in time for the holidays. After all, they had weathered hard fighting in multiple major battles in two different campaigns in two different areas over the course of the year. General Early’s army had been soundly defeated, and there were no Confederate forces of any strength remaining in the Shenandoah Valley the week before Christmas. Imagine their surprise, then, when the following order was received:

“Field Orders, Headquarters First Cavalry Division, December 18, 1864

The command will be prepared to march early to-morrow morning. Four Days’ rations will be issued and carried on the horses. Each man will be supplied with eighty rounds of carbine ammunition and the usual supply of pistol ammunition.

The Second Brigade will take along one section (rifled) of its battery, the best horses being selected for the march. Camp guards consisting of the dismounted men, and those mounted on unserviceable horses, will be left in camp in each brigade under charge of a field officer. The ranking field officer will take charge of the entire division camp, picketing and making other necessary dispositions for its safety.

No other wheels save those mentioned above will accompany the expedition, save the following: Six ambulances, two wagons to division headquarters, one wagon to brigade headquarters, three wagons for commissary supplies.

These preparations must all be made at once. Further instructions will be given as to the time of march, &c.

By command of Brevet Major General Merritt:

A.E. Dana, Assistant Adjutant-General.”

And so began ten miserable days of winter campaigning. Although General Sheridan had written somewhat dismissively to General Grant on the usefulness of cutting the Central Railroad to interdict Confederate supplies between the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond, he ordered the raid. In case there were any Confederate forces in the area, he ordered General Custer to take his division south through the Valley at the same time Torbert was departing with the other two divisions of the cavalry. General Torbert’s report is a pretty detailed account of the raid.

Headquarters Cavalry Corps, Army of the Middle Military Division

Winchester, Va., December 28, 1864

Sir: I have the honor to report that I started from Winchester on the 19th of December, with the First and Second Divisions of Cavalry, without artillery, about 5,000 men, across the Blue Ridge. On the night of the 19th I camped in Chester Gap, having marched about twenty-two miles, via Front Royal, crossing both branches of the Shenandoah River. It rained nearly all day. December 20, crossed the Blue Ridge, marched via Little Washington, Gaines’ Cross-Roads, and Sperryville, in the direction of Criglersville; marched about twenty-nine miles, Second Division camping on the Hughes River and the First Division on the Hazel. This night it hailed and sleeted all night. During the day the enemy’s vedettes were driven before the advance. December 21, at daylight the march was resumed, in a hail and snow storm which lasted all day, via Criglersville, to Madison Court-House, over one the worst roads I ever traveled. The First Division went to Madison Court-House, had an engagement with Jackson’s brigade of rebel cavalry, driving them from the town, with slight loss. Second Division camped on Robertson’s River near Criglersville. December 22, at daylight the march was resumed, Second Division leading, on the pike in the direction Liberty Mills and Gordonsville. The enemy’s cavalry – Generals Jackson’s and McCausland’s brigades, General Lomax commanding – were driven rapidly before my advance and across the bridge over the Rapidan, at Liberty Mills. On my advance reaching the bridge, which they did under a severe fire from men behind breast-works on the opposite bank, they found some of the flooring of the bridge had been removed. Immediately after reaching the river the bridge was fired by an explosion and soon destroyed. The ford, wich was a bad one, was barricaded and defended by men in rifle pits and artillery in position behind earth-works. It was impossible to effect a crossing in front. Some delay was caused by having to send through the country to find parties who knew the roads to fords above and below Liberty Mills, so that I could cross and flank them out of their position. Finally two columns were started, one to the right and one to the left. Two brigades of the First Division – First and Second, Second Brigade leading, commanded by Colonel Kellogg, 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry – were to cross at Willis’ Ford, about two miles above Liberty Mills, and come down on the Stanardsville and Orange Court-House road. One brigade Second Division, Colonel Capehart commanding, was to cross at Cave’s Ford, about three miles below Liberty Mills, and come up on the Orange Court-House and Stanardsville road. It was represented that both of these fords were good, and that the detour of these columns would be about four miles, when, in fact, the column at Willis’ Ford could only cross by twos and had to march about eight miles before getting to Liberty Mills, and the column by Cave’s Ford could only cross by file and had to march about seven miles before getting to Liberty Mills. This caused an unexpected delay, and it was not until just dark when the right column came in sight and immediately charged the enemy, driving them across the Gordonsville pike and in the direction of Orange Court-House; here they were met by my left column, and the enemy withdrew by a country road in the direction of Gordonsville. The fighting was all after dark, and not being able to tell friend from foe, and my own men having fired into each other, the firing was ordered to cease and hold their positions for the night. This day and night was intensely cold. December 23, at daylight the enemy was again engaged and all their artillery – two pieces – taken from them, and driven to within two miles and a half of Gordonsville to the top of the gap in Southwest Mountain. Here the pass was narrow and the enemy were strongly posted behind rails and earth breast-works, where a few men could hold three times their number in check. I attacked the position with nearly half of my force, but could not carry it, and I immediately started a column to flank them on the left by crossing the mountain several miles to the north. While waiting to hear from this column, which had got well on its way, the cars were heard about ten o’clock to arrive at Gordonsville, and about an hour after infantry was seen to file into the breast-works and relieve the cavalry. After becoming fully satisfied of the presence of infantry (Pegram’s division), I concluded it was useless to make a further attempt to break the Central railroad. I had at this time six or eight men killed and about forty wounded, more than I could transport, and the worst cases were left behind. I decided to withdraw and at once crossed to the north bank of the Rapidan. That afternoon and evening I marched to Madison Court-House and Robertson’s River. About thirty prisoners were taken, but having no provisions, and it being very difficult, if not impossible, for them to keep up, I paroled them. The guns, two 3-inch rifled, were brought to camp. December 24, at daylight started from Madison Court-House, marched, via James City, Griffinsburg, and Stone-House Mountain, to near Rixeyville. December 25, at daylight marched to the Fauquier White Sulphur Springs, crossing in the meantime the Hazel and the Rappahannock Rivers, the former with great difficulty indeed. December 26, march resumed at daylight, Second Division leading. On reaching Warrenton the Second Division went in the direction of Salem and Piedmont, camping near Paris. At Warrenton the First Division marched in the direction of New Baltimore, Georgetown, White Plains, and Middleburg, camping near the latter place. December 27, the Second Division marched, via Paris, Ashby’s Gap, to Millwood. December 28, First Division marched to camp near Winchester.

The country through which we passed was thoroughly cleaned of stock and forage. The command was obliged to live on the country for six days. Altogether it was an extremely hard trip on men and horses on account of the intense cold and bad weather. For six days out of the ten it either rained, hailed, or snowed, and sometimes all three.

A.T.A. Torbert,

Brevet Major General, Chief of Cavalry, Commanding.

To Brevet Brigadier General Forsyth, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Army of the Shenandoah.”

Total casualties from the raid were 7 killed, 38 wounded, 47 missing, 10 accidentally hurt, for an aggregate of 102. Torbert does not mention frostbite injuries, but there were over two hundred cases in his force, which was half as large and whose raid was half the duration of Torbert’s. Two hundred fifty eight horses were lost, over five percent of the total, showing the effects of weather and distance on the mounts.


Official Records, Volume 43, Part I, pages 677-679 and Part II, page 803.