Albert J. Vining, 6th U.S. Cavalry


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Albert J. Vining was born in Castalia, Erie County, Ohio in 1843. At the outbreak of the war, he enlisted as a private in Company E, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at Camp Dennison, Ohio on June 22, 1861. The regiment was assigned to General Shields’ division and fought Confederate general Thomas J. Jackson’s forces during the first Shenandoah Valley campaign in 1862. During the battle of Antietam, they fought Confederate general D.H. Hill’s Alabama troops at the “Bloody Lane,” suffering 50% casualties.

Following the battle, Albert was one of seven in his company to voluntarily transfer to the regular cavalry. He enlisted into Company C, 6th U.S. Cavalry at Knoxville, Maryland on October 24, 1862. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 4 ½” tall, with black hair, hazel eyes and a florid complexion. He served with his new regiment during the winter picketing of the Rappahannock, Stoneman’s Raid and the battle of Brandy Station without suffering any wounds.

During the battle of Fairfield on July 3, 1863, Private Vining was part of Lieutenant Tattnall Paulding’s squadron fighting dismounted on the regiment’s right flank. When the Union position was overrun, he was captured trying to reach his horse. He was a prisoner of war at Belle Isle until he was exchanged November 30, 1863. After a brief stay in Annapolis, Maryland, he returned to the regiment for duty at Cavalry Corps headquarters during the winter of 1863. He fought in the opening battles of the spring 1864 campaign before his enlistment expired on June 25, 1864, two weeks after the battle of Trevillian Station.

Albert was not out of uniform for long. He enlisted as a private in Company I, 128th Ohio Infantry on August 22, 1864. Service in this regiment was a bit quieter than he was accustomed to, principally guarding Confederate officer prisoners on Johnson’s Island, Ohio. He mustered out with his regiment at Camp Chase, Ohio on July 13, 1865.

A Bugler By Any Other Name…


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On several excursions through Wyoming, I have stopped at Fort Phil Kearny, home of 2nd U.S. Cavalry troopers during both the Fetterman Massacre and the Wagon Box Fight. On each occasion, I noted sketches of the fort displayed in the visitor center attributed to Bugler Antonio Nicolai of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in June 1867. Tracking down Bugler Nicolai has been on the back burner my to-do list for quite some time, but I think I have managed to find the bugler better known for his pen than his music. As with many cavalry soldiers of this period, it’s a tale of long service both during the Civil War and on the frontier.

It also turned out to be a search for someone else. There is no record of an Antonio Nicolai serving in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, or elsewhere in the Army, between 1860 and 1890. Antonio may have been a nickname or a misunderstanding, but the name of the artist in question is Gustavus Nicolai.

Gustavus Nicolai was born in Berlin, Germany in 1828. After immigrating to America, he lived in Pennsylvania. He was enlisted into Company B, 4th U.S. Artillery as a private by Lieutenant William Royall on November 17, 1856 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His enlistment documents describe him as 5’ 2” tall, with brown hair, hazel eyes and a fair complexion. He was 25 years old, and listed his occupation as musician. He was discharged at the end of his enlistment on November 17, 1861 at Camp Duncan, District of Columbia.

Gustavus was out of uniform only two days before enlisting in Company E, 12th Pennsylvania Cavalry on November 19th. He served in the regiment through the entire war without incident, transferring to Company C at some point. He mustered out with the regiment on July 20, 1865.

Nicolai rejoined the regular army on September 7, 1865. He was enlisted as a bugler into Company D, 2nd U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant McGregor at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. He listed his age as 36, but there were no changes to his description other than his complexion now being dark. He remained in this company as a bugler for the rest of his career.

Bugler Nicolai arrived at Fort Phil Kearny with his company and Company L in January 1867, reinforcing the fort’s garrison following the Fetterman Massacre. This brought the strength of the cavalry garrison to three companies on paper. The remaining 25 men of Company C departed to Fort Laramie the following month. Company L left in March, leaving Company D as the sole cavalry company for the rest of 1867 other than a brief sojourn to Fort C.F. Smith in July.

Although Captain D.S. Gordon officially commanded the company, First Lieutenant James “Teddy” Egan was the senior officer present with the company at Fort Phil Kearny in 1867. The company’s other bugler, Edward L. Train, was mortally wounded in sight of the fort on June 11th, dying two days later. At some point during this month, Nicolai sketched this picture of the fort, looking to the northwest. (Photo courtesy of Wyoming Tales and Trails)


Bugler Nicolai was discharged at the expiration of his enlistment at Duck Creek, Dakota Territory on September 7, 1868. He re-enlisted in the company by Lieutenant Stambaugh at Fort D.A. Russell, present day Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on September 25th.  He served continuously through his next three enlistments in Utah, Montana and Idaho Territory, including the battle of the Rosebud in 1876.

During a patrol along the Yellowstone from Fort Ellis in the summer of 1879, Dr. Weir Mitchell made the following observations about the bugler, in Lippincott’s Magazine and later excerpted in the Army and Navy Journal of May 22, 1880 on page 5:

“Nicolai, the German bugler of Major Gregg’s Company (D, 2d Cavalry), is another of Dr. Mitchell’s characters. “He had been a wood-engraver, and drew very cleverly, but owing to a failure in sight, enlisted in the Army, and has now been twenty-five years a soldier. He was a gay, bright fellow, who never neglected a chance to get just not too drunk to sound the calls with some odd variations. As soon as we were in camp his little wicky-up was built with two or three poles and a blanket-shelter: pretty soon he had a fire blazing and something cooking for dinner. Then his sketch-book would be on his knee, and he, supremely content, would amuse himself with his pencil, rarely talking with the other men, and living a simple, hermit-like life, with apparently not the least desire to better it. On the march he fell in behind the major, for whom he had an almost canine attachment, repaid by such indulgence as seemed only fair toward so old a soldier.”

Bugler Nicolai was discharged from the Army on February 11, 1885, per Special Order 14, Adjutant General’s Office, 1885 while at Boise Barracks, Idaho. He had nearly twenty-nine years in uniform at the time, counting his volunteer service during the Civil War. The order must have concerned disability and retirement, as Nicolai was admitted to the Soldiers Home near Washington, D.C. six days later, on the February 17th. He filed for his military pension on November 27, 1886.

Gustavus Nicolai died in Hampton, Virginia, just outside of Fort Monroe, on January 21, 1897. He is buried in plot 733a of Hampton National Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia.


Works Cited

“A Civilian at Fort Ellis,” Army and Navy Journal, Volume XVII, Number 42, May 22, 1880, page 5, column 3.

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

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Army Post Returns, 1806-1916: Fort Phil Kearny, Wyoming.

National Archives, Record Group 94, U.S. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 2nd U.S. Cavalry.

Illustration: The 1867 image of Fort Phil Kearny is from Wyoming Tales and Trails. Used with thanks.

What’s up with Civil War Roundtables?

Very good questions. Interesting that ours in Denver has really close o the numbers of these examples from metropolitan areas in the South.

Fredericksburg Remembered

From John Hennessy:

I have done some speaking on the Civil War Round Table circuit lately. The public reaction to all these things has gotten me thinking, and I offer up a few observations.

A couple years ago I made a short circuit through the Deep South, speaking at a couple of Civil War Round Tables. They treated me exceedingly well, and I enjoyed myself. But (you knew that was coming) the experience made an impression on me for other reasons.  Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, conferences and invitations to speak at Civil War Roundtables were rampant. I think one year, before Return to Bull Run came out, I received something like 180 invitations to speak at various places.  And wherever I or one of the others who commonly rode the cannonball circuit went, the audiences were large and sometimes (though not always) enthusiastic . (At one appearance…

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Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company…L


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Yes, I know that’s not how the song goes, though music afficionados can access the original 1956 song by the Andrews Sisters here.

The song of course must be about a cavalry unit, but we won’t get into that.

I have an affinity for buglers. The idea of someone, frequently someone too young to manage a saber or carbine, brave or foolish enough to ride a horse around a battlefield drawing attention to himself by blowing on a horn is amazing. It is not surprising, then, that the following anecdote by Wesley Merritt from Theophilus Rodenbough’s From Everglade to Canyon with the Second Cavalry is one of my favorites. The incident took place on August 1, 1863, during the ‘second’ battle of Brandy Station.

“There had been for some time “attached” to one of the companies a little waif of an urchin scarce twelve years old, who, by his constant attendance about the company kitchen in camp, as well as his equal fondness for the “front” upon a march, had endeared himself to the rollicking blades of our common Uncle. He had managed to pick up a few bugle-calls on an old battered trumpet, and to mount himself upon an equally battered and diminutive quadruped (another waif). Where he came from or why he was there no one knew – none cared to enquire.

“But the kind-hearted sabreurs asked no questions. They wanted a pet of some kind, and “Johnnie” was adopted by the troop (M).

“On the memorable 1st of August, at Brandy Station, “Johnnie” was cavorting about on his fiery untamed – and ungroomed – mustang, for our upon the skirmish-line, his face a picture of mischief and good-humor, where smiles struggled stoutly with dirt – and won; now stopping to chat with an “enlisted” friend, now rushing to the rear with orders to bring up the Lieutenant’s spare horse to replace one just disabled, or anon dismounting to pick up a trophy in a sabre without any hilt, or to explore the recesses of an abandoned haversack.

“Unconscious of the deadly missiles which whistled by or fell around him, but feeling that he was having a good time, the little Arab suddenly came upon two Confederate soldiers who had lost their bearings, become separated from their comrades, and straggled within our lines. They had evidently just discovered this, and were quietly waiting an opportunity to slip back under cover of the timber.

“To dash upon them with a huge pistol at full-cock, and “the pony” bristling under the solitary spur of his rider, was the work of a moment with this audacious youth. “Drop them guns!” he coolly remarked, and under the influence of the surprise and the undoubted size of “Johnnie’s” revolver, the guns referred to were “dropped.” “Now git right along in front o’ me” – “Quick!” said their captor, as he saw the men hesitate. This was the smallest “Yank” they had yet seen, and – they took one more look at the pistol, and moved sullenly in the direction indicated.

“Whar you tak’n us?” at last enquired one of the twain as they came in sight of the main road. “Down there” was the laconic response, with a nod supposed to designate the division headquarters, where the little warrior triumphantly turned over his prisoners, and was greeted with cheers and shouts of laughter as he came in sight. Scarcely waiting to receive the congratulations of his comrades and the pleased smile of General Buford, the waif hurried back to his favorite spot with the skirmishers. Subsequently he was taken in hand by some of the officers of the Second, and ultimately became a bugler and an excellent soldier.”

There you have it. An amusing tale of no particular consequence, since the young lad in question is not identified. Unless someone were able to find him.

This would be a task for the truly obsessed, if not for the near-requirement by publishers that regimental histories contain rosters to improve their attraction. This requirement, discovered late in the process for my last book, which my co-author superbly assembled, has consumed far more hours than expected in preparations for my next book. Particularly over the last couple of months. Occasionally one must escape the drudgery of endless enlistment documents and look at something else, unless one is Rick Allen, whose herculean roster efforts serve as a standard of measure. So when I re-read the above anecdote while seeing if there was anything I wanted to write about this month from this time period, the thought occurred to me. “There weren’t THAT many buglers in the regiment during the war, and I know who most of them are. Maybe I can find this guy.” Over 30 investigated buglers later, only one seems to fit the criteria for age and enlistment date.

Our lad couldn’t be from Company M. The English-born Whitworth brothers were the only two buglers to serve in the company during the war. James and Nelson, 19 and 18 years old respectively, enlisted on December 27, 1862 and served until December 1865.

By the time the bugler enlisted, Merritt was long gone from the regiment, as was Rodenbough himself. So they can be excused for being slightly off on the eventual company of the young man – given the information available at this point, “boy” doesn’t seem appropriate.

Enter Charles M. Elliott. Charles was enlisted into Company L as a bugler by Lieutenant Blanchard at the regiment’s camp at Point of Rocks, Maryland on March 25, 1865. Born in Philadelphia, his enlistment papers describe him as 15 years old, five feet tall, with blue eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion. He stated that he worked as a clerk prior to his enlistment. He was later transferred to the regiment’s Field & Staff, still a bugler. He left the army at the expiration of his term of service on March 25, 1868 at Fort McPherson, Nebraska. Based on the anecdote, I would imagine postwar service wasn’t exciting enough for him.



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: 2nd U.S. Cavalry.

Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon With the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Page 298.

A Missing Sergeant Major


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I posted quite a while ago about the sergeants major of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. Recently, however, I discovered that I missed one. Those who read the previous entry can see the missing time period in the list, but there was no record that I could find of whether there was anyone in the position during that period. Between Thomas Burton and the first entry for Daniel Mount should be an entry for Benjamin Engel.

Engel, born in Munich, Germany, originally enlisted in Company F, 1st Dragoons on February 11, 1851. He was enlisted in Rochester, New York, where he worked as a laborer, by Captain Hatch. His enlistment documents describe him as 21 years of age, with black hair, dark eyes and a dark complexion. He re-enlisted into Company D, 2nd Dragoons at the end of his enlistment in May 1856 at Fort Craig, New Mexico, then again in the same company at Fort Crittenden, Utah in March 1861. At this point in his career he was still a private.

Engel was appointed sergeant major of the regiment on November 1, 1861, technically the day before Burton’s appointment as a second lieutenant and vacated the position. Seeing the opportunity offered to Burton and others, he decided to try for a commission of his own.

“Headquarters 2nd Cavalry, Park Hotel, Washington, D.C., November 4, 1861

To the Hon. Secretary of War.


I most respectfully forward for your consideration the following application for a commission in the Regular Cavalry of the United States together with endorsements of the officers, under whom I have served.

I am a native of Germany, twenty-eight years of age, and unmarried.

I have served in the regular Cavalry of the United States, on the frontiers, since February 1851, where I have been taught the practical duties of a soldier under Generals Sumner, Cooke and Garland and other able Officers, with whom I have served in nine different engagements with Indians.

Respectfully submitted,

Benjamin Engel. Sergeant Major, 2nd Regiment, U.S. Cavalry.

Through the Commanding Officer of the Regiment.

1st Endorsement: I have served with the applicant since 1855. I served with the applicant during the arduous Utah campaign – during all this time he was always a most efficient soldier – I most cheerfully recommend him for a commission. G.A. Gordon, Captain 2nd Cavalry.

2nd Endorsement: I have served with Sergeant Major Engle since 1858, know him to be a god and faithful soldier and cheerfully recommend him for a commission. W.P. Sanders, Captain 6th Cavalry.

3rd Endorsement: I cheerfully endorse the within application. Thos. Hight, Captain 2nd Cavalry.

4th Endorsement, Hdqrs. 2nd U.S. Cav. Harrison’s Landing, Va. August 4th 1862: Approved and respectfully forwarded – concurring with the other officers in the recommendation. Chas. E. Norris, Captain, 2nd Cav. Commanding Regt.

5th Endorsement: Office Provost Marshal General Army Potomac, Aug. 4, 1862. Approved and respectfully forwarded. W.H. Wood, Major, 17th Infantry, Actg. Provost Mar. Genl.

6th Endorsement: Headqrs., Army of the Potomac, August 5, 1862. Respectfully forwarded to the Adjutant General recommend to favorable consideration. G.B. McClellan, Major General Commanding. S. Williams, Asst. Adjutant General.”

I was puzzled by the long delay between endorsements. Then-major Alfred Pleasonton commanded the regiment in November 1861 and through the majority of the Peninsula campaign. Why would it take nine months to get an endorsement, particularly when I have several others for company first sergeants submitted by Pleasonton before and after the date of this letter.

The regimental returns revealed a likely solution. He didn’t hold the position long. Sergeant Major Engel was reduced to private and assigned to Company K by regimental Special Order No. 35 less than a month later, on December 4th. At that point Pleasonton, a notoriously harsh taskmaster, most likely considered the matter settled. He was succeeded in command of the regiment by Captain Charles E. Norris, who was apparently much softer hearted. Engel is one of the very few soldiers assigned to the regiment not submitted for commendations or a commission in July and August, and this endorsement is likely why.

Unfortunately for Engel, even an endorsement by General McClellan wasn’t enough to do the trick. A number of now Brigadier Pleasonton’s recommendations received notice of their appointments in September 1862, but he wasn’t one of them. Engel, who had worked his way back up to corporal by this time, decided to revisit the matter.

“Office of the Provost Marshal General

Army of the Potomac, Camp near mouth of Antietam, Sept. 29, 1862.


The undersigned would most respectfully lay the following statement before the General:

In July last while at Harrison’s Landing, Va., the Officers of my Regiment recommended me among other Non Commissioned Officers of the 2nd Cavalry for promotion, said recommendation met the approval of the Acting Provost Marshal General, and the Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac and were forwarded to the War Department. Seven of the Non Commissioned Officers recommended as above stated, received their appointments as 2nd Lieutenants the other day, but nothing has been heard in regard to my application, which dated November 4, 1861 (“at which time I held the position of Sergeant Major of the Regiment”) but had not been forwarded until July last.

I would therefore respectfully request, that the General will use his influence in my behalf.

I have served the United States faithfully for twelve successive years, most of that time as a Non-Commissioned Officer, and all of that time on the frontiers, not speaking of services on the Peninsula and elsewhere, during all of said time I was never arraigned before a Court Martial, and always had the good will of my superiors. The General himself has known me for five months.

The General will please pardon the liberty I have taken in addressing him, but I would most respectfully call his attention to the fact, that as an enlisted man, I am denied the privilege of addressing the Hon. Secretary of War.

This statement is respectfully submitted for the favorable consideration of the General.

I am, General, Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Benjamin Engel

Corporal 2nd Cavalry and Chief of Orderlies at Hdqrs. Provost Marshal General A.P.

To Brigadier General A. Porter, Provost Marshal General, Army of the Potomac, Harrisburg, Pa.

1st Endorsement, Oct. 3, 1862: Respectfully forwarded to the Hon. E.M. Stanton, Secretary of War. I recommend strongly the appointment of Corporal Engel, he is brave, industrious and energetic and I am satisfied would be an excellent commissioned officer if appointed. A. Porter, Brigadier General Pro. Mar. General Army of Potomac.

2nd Endorsement, AGO, Oct. 27, 1862: Respectfully referred to the Commanding Officer of the 2nd Cavalry. J.P. Garesche, Asst. Adjt. Genl.

3rd Endorsement, Hdqrs. 2nd U.S. Cav. Camp near Berlin, MD Oct. 30, 62: Respectfully returned with the enclosed copy of Major Pleasonton’s letter. As Corporal Engel’s name does not appear in the list of recommendations, I cannot at present recommend him for a commission. Chas. J Whiting, Major, 2nd Cav. Commanding Regt.”

Captain Norris was placed on sick leave before the battle of Antietam, and Major Whiting would have superceded him in command of the regiment in September anyway. I don’t believe they saw one another in passing, and it doesn’t appear that they discussed Corporal Engel’s situation.

Engel finished out his enlistment, then re-enlisted as an Ordnance Sergeant in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 1864. He was discharged as an ordnance sergeant August 1, 1865 by AGO Special Order #402, but re-enlisted again two days later as a private in the General Mounted Service.

Private Engel was discharged a final time on June 1, 1866, this time to accept an appointment as a clerk in the Adjutant General’s Office. He requested copies of his commission requests from the AGO on January 13, 1887, most likely for his pension file.


National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870.

National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Commission Branch, 1863-1870.

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: 2nd U.S. Cavalry.

Averell’s Ride and Good Fortune

I should long since have posted on this. I have decided to use Averell’s official report rather than the longer version from his memoirs, as I think it less likely to contain embellishment. Not that this report isn’t told to put himself in the best light, but I considerable it more reliable. While the report itself is interesting reading, what I find more interesting is the subsequent chain of events that led to this relatively obscure lieutenant of Mounted Rifles commanding a volunteer cavalry regiment.

Lieutenant William Woods Averell graduated the U.S. Military Academy in 1851. After a stint teaching cavalry tactics, he proceeded to join the Regiment of Mounted Rifles in New Mexico. In the pursuit of learning his duties as a subaltern, he was involved in several engagements with hostile Indians.

Lieutenant Averell was newly arrived in Washington, D.C. in April 1861. He was just returning to duty from a very serious gunshot wound to the thigh received during a fight with Indians in New Mexico. Not yet ordered to return to his regiment for duty, he was thus eligible for a delicate assignment for General Winfield Scott. Averell’s mission was to carry an evacuation order to Lieutenant Colonel William H. Emory to remove all Federal troops and supplies from the Indian Territory. The order was delivered by Major Fitz John Porter and Captain James B. Fry.

 “Washington, D.C., May 31, 1861

Col. L. Thomas, Adjutant-General U.S. Army:

Sir: I have the honor to report that, having returned to duty on the 16th of April from an unexpired sick leave, I received the following order on April 17, viz:

Lieut. William W. Averell, Mounted Riflemen, Washington City:

Sir: You will, by order of the General-in-Chief, proceed at once to Fort Arbuckle and deliver the accompanying letter to Lieut. Col. W.H. Emory, or the senior officer present, receive from him communications for the Government, and return to this city.

I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E.D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant-General.


Upon the back of the order was the following indorsement, viz:

Headquarters of the Army, Washington, April 17, 1861.

The General-in-Chief directs the quartermaster at Fort Smith to extend every facility to Lieutenant Averell to enable him to execute his orders with promptitude.

F.J. Porter, Assistant Adjutant-General.

Providing myself with a rough travelling suit of citizen’s clothing, I left Washington a 2.45 p.m. on the 17th of April, by the Baltimore and Ohio Railway. At Harper’s Ferry, where the train stopped for a few minutes, I saw Capt. Roger Jones, commanding a detachment guarding the arsenal at that point, who informed me of his apprehension of an attack by the Virginians, and that, aware of the insufficiency of his force to defend the public property, he had made arrangements to destroy it and withdraw his small force into Maryland. The towns and villages through which my journey to Saint Louis was made were alive with agitated people turning out volunteers in response to the call of the President. I arrived at Saint Louis on the evening of the 19th, and left on the morning of the 20th by the first train to Rolla, Mo., where I arrived, 115 miles distant, at 5 in the afternoon. Leaving Rolla by the first stage coach at 5 a.m. the 22d, with several prominent Southern gentlemen as fellow passengers, I proceeded, with changing horses, mails, and passengers, toward Fort Smith, through towns wild with secession excitement and rumors of war. He unruly temper of the people and their manifest readiness to embrace any pretext for violence made it necessary for the safety of my dispatches and their successful delivery that my name and character should remain unknown. Having assumed a name and purpose suitable to the emergency, I experienced no great difficulty in passing safely through several inquisitions. I was obliged to drive the stage a greater part of the distance between Cassville and Bentonville, on account of the drunkenness of the driver, there being no other male passenger. At Evansville I met the intelligence, which monumentally astounded me, that Fort Smith had been captured by a force of secessionists 800 strong, which had come under the command of Colonel Borland from Little Rock. Near the foot of Boston Mountain, on the southern side, the rumor was confirmed by passengers of a coach from Fort Smith which we met, happily in a pitch dark night, which prevented my recognition by some of the lady passengers, wives of army officers who might have known me.

Crossing the Arkansas River on a ferry boat we reached Fort Smith at 9 o’clock on the morning of the 27th. The town was in a political frenzy. The fort had been evacuated by Captain Sturgis, with four companies of the First Cavalry, four or five days before, and the post quartermaster, on whom I had an order for transportation, was a prisoner in the guard-house. Secession troops were having a “general training” and target practice. It was perilous to make inquiries regarding our troops, and the only information obtainable of them was that they had gone westward, that pursuit up the Arkansas and from the direction of Texas was on foot, and that bridges had been burned and the streams were swollen from recent rains. Exchanging my gold watch and a little money for a horse, saddle, and bridle with a man whose principal incentive to the trade was his apprehension of losing his horse by public seizure, I mounted for the remainder of my journey. It was 260 miles to Fort Arbuckle. Having been out of the saddle two years on account of my wound, and having just completed a toilsome, jolting journey of 300 miles in a coach, I was in poor condition for the (end pg 494) struggle before me. The horse was unbroken to the saddle, and after a fierce but unsuccessful effort to throw me ran wildly away through the successive lines of drilling troops, but I managed to guide him in a westerly direction and mastered him before reaching the Poteau River. This stream, 100 yards wide, was bank full and the bridge destroyed. Removing my heavy black overcoat, I swam the horse across, after a fearful struggle, in which I lost my overcoat and also suffered some injury from being struck by the horse. Twenty miles west of Fort Smith the road forks, the right hand going to Fort Arbuckle and the left to Fort Washita, these points being separated by sixty-five miles. Between the two routes the volcanic protrusion called the San Bois Mountains rise in several ranges about 1,500 feet high and gradually sink to the level of the undulating prairie seventy-five miles west of the fork. The deep trail showed that Sturgis had taken the left-hand road to Washita; therefore I went forward on the other the distance of about a mile to establish my own trail in case of pursuit and then crossed over to the other road. The next morning I was overtaken at Holloway’s Overland Station, fifty-four miles west of Fort Smith, by four mounted desperadoes, but my would-be captors, finding me wearing the light blue uniform overcoat of a private soldier, which I had obtained at a station to replace the black one lost in the river, were easily persuaded that they had missed their man and I was not the one they wanted, but a rancorous secessionist like themselves who was going to fetch a sister from the army on account of the prospective troubles. Permitted to pursue y way, and quitting the road a few hours later to graze my horse, the same party, undeceived by a study of trails, passed me in hot pursuit. Resuming the road after them, a friendly wayfarer, who had met them and heard their inquiries, informed me of their wrathful purpose to shoot me on sight. With the intention to reach the trail crossing to the Arbuckle rad at the western end of the mountains, if possible, and to avail myself of the sheltering woods which covered their southern slopes if necessary, I rode cautiously forward. But ere the desired trail was reached the party was descried returning, whereupon I took to the woods and was fired upon and ordered to halt. Realizing that I could make a trail faster than they could find it my course was taken directly across the mountains and my escape made good. The Arbuckle road was found about two hours after midnight, after experiencing considerable trouble in keeping my horse, which I was obliged to lead during the night in the woods through howling packs of wolves. The next day I was headed off by the same party on that road and pursued. After another troublesome night in the woods among wolves and impassable ravines I found a Cherokee cabin, some food for myself and horse, and a guide to the Arbuckle road, ten miles west of Perryville.

Another weary day and night brought me near to Cochrane’s ranch, forty miles from Arbuckle. Here it was ascertained that our troops had left Arbuckle and were concentrating at Washita, forty miles to the southward. Obtaining a fresh horse and an Indian guide we set out for Washita, but toward night were overtaken by a blinding storm of wind and rain, in which the Indian lost the way and I lost the Indian. Making my way to the Big Blue River I swam it in the dark and unsaddled, tied my new horse to one stirrup, and running my arm through the other lay down and slept until morning. Upon awaking the Indian, who found me, informed me that we were not far from the road between Washita and Arbuckle and about ten miles west of the former place. When arrived at the road a deep double trail made in the mud of the previous evening disclosed the fact that a heavy body (end pg 495) of mounted troops had moved westward. Following it about six miles we came upon the First U.S. Cavalry and the First U.S. Infantry breaking camp, the infantry already stretched out on the road toward Arbuckle. Riding to Colonel Emory, who was already mounted, I delivered the dispatches. They were soon communicated to his officers. It was made known to me that the enemy was concentrating upon and had taken possession of Fort Washita the previous evening, and that I should have found myself again in his hands but for the storm which had prevented me from reaching that point the previous night. In an ambulance I accompanied Colonel Emory’s command to Fort Arbuckle, where we arrived May 3, and found Major Sacket, Captains Crittenden, Williams, and others who had been left with a small force in charge of the post while the main body went to Washita. The trains were loaded to their utmost capacity, and on the 4th of May the flag was lowered with military honors, Fort Arbuckle was abandoned, and we marched northward, conducted by the Indian guides Possum and Old Beaver. We were pursued by a body of Texans two or three days, but ceased to be annoyed after the capture of their advance guard of about thirty men by Captain Sturgis, in which undertaking I accompanied him by permission of Colonel Emory. I left Colonel Emory’s command on the march for Leavenworth at El Dorado, in Kansas, and reached Washington yesterday and endeavored to report at once to you. Finding you engaged with the Secretary of War, I went to his house, but as you were unable to see me I avail myself of this my first opportunity to report.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Wm. W. Averell

Second Lieutenant, Regiment Mounted Riflemen”


While Averell’s mission had not been successful in warning Emory to move his troops, the rigors of the trip and its accomplishments had brought him to the attention of some very influential people in Washington. Both the Secretary of War and the President were informed of the exploit.

 A few days later, Averell was invited to dinner with General Winfield Scott, and a week later assigned to duty mustering volunteer units at Elmira, NY. Less than a month later, he was ordered to “report immediately to General McDowell at Arlington, Virginia.” He arrived to learn that McDowell’s chief of staff was the same James B. Fry who dispatched him on his wild ride. Fry saw him assigned as an Assistant Adjutant General to the brigade of regular troops in McDowell’s army. The brigade commander was Colonel Andrew Porter of the 16th Infantry, who was formerly the captain of Company F, Regiment of Mounted Rifles when Averell was a second lieutenant in the same company.

 Lieutenant Averell did well in his new position at the battle of Bull Run. Early in the battle the division commander, Colonel David Hunter, was wounded and Porter succeeded to command of both his brigade and the division. In his official report on the battle, Porter stated:

 “Acting Assistant Adjutant General W.W. Averell sustained the high reputation he had before won for himself as a brave and skillful officer, and to him I am greatly indebted for aid and assistance, not only in performing with the greatest promptitude the duties of his position, but by exposing himself most fearlessly in rallying and leading forward the troops, he contributed largely to their general effectiveness against the enemy. I desire to call the attention of the Commanding General particularly to him.”

 Averell stayed with Porter when the latter was assigned as Provost Marshal for Washington at the end of July 1861. He was offered the lieutenant colonelcy of an Illinois volunteer cavalry regiment in early August, but declined, preferring to stay near the excitement and influence of the capitol.     

 Following a disciplinary issue with Young’s Kentucky Cavalry, a regiment newly arrived from Pennsylvania, General Scott reportedly asked if there were anyone who could command the regiment. Averell responded that he could. Very shortly thereafter, on October 7, 1861, the Adjutant General’s Office issued Special Order #272:

 “Leave of absence until further notice is granted 1st Lieutenant W.W. Averell, 3d Cavalry, to enable him to take command of the 3d Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry – late Young’s Cavalry.”

In six months William Averell had successfully progressed from a lieutenant to regimental command with powerful supporters.



Cullum, George W. Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1891. 

Eckert, Edward K. and Nicholas J. Amato, editors. Ten Years in the Saddle: The Memoir of William Woods Averell, 1851-1862. San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1978.

 Official Records, Series I, Volume 2, page 386 (Porter’s report on Bull Run)

 Official Records, Series I, Volume 53, pages 494-496 (Averell’s report)

2nd U.S. Cavalry on the Peninsula


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154 years ago today, the 2nd U.S. Cavalry was serving on the Peninsula. The regiment had not participated in the Battle of Gaines Mill, and was sent by General McClellan to find a route for the army to the James River. No great battle narratives in here, but I was surprised how big a role it played in the initial consolidation. Pleasonton has been known to blow his own horn, but I think he would have been called out if he exaggerated on this one.

Headquarters Second Cavalry

Camp at Harrison’s Landing, James River, Va., July 4, 1862

General: I have the honor to submit the following report of services of my command, the Second Cavalry and the McClellan Dragoons, 489 strong, in executing the orders of General McClellan, from the 28th of June to the 3d of July:

On the evening of the 28th of June I received orders to escort Lieut. Col. B.S. Alexander, Corps of Engineers and aide-de-camp, in a reconnaissance to determine the best position for the army on the left of White Oak Swamp to cover the movement to James River. The command started from Savage Station at 8 o’clock p.m., and was all night on the road through White Oak Swamp, owing to the difficulties and obstructions on that route. Next morning at 7 a.m. I reported to Colonel Alexander, who was then beyond the White Oak Bridge, and we immediately proceeded to examine the country in front of Keyes;’ corps, at that time in the advance, and a line of battle was suggested covering the junction of the Quaker, New Market, and Charles City roads, and extending up the latter beyond the debouche of the road through the swamp, over which Sykes’ division had passed. We were occupied in this duty until near 1 o’clock, when learning the commanding general had arrived on the field, the colonel reported to him what had been done.

The general then ordered us to proceed to James River, open communication with the gunboats, and examine the country for a suitable location to establish the army. After a march of 18 miles, in which every precaution was taken to repel an attack, the command reached the James River, near Carter’s Landing, on the evening of the 29th June, at 5.30 o’clock. No gunboats were in sight, but Colonel Alexander proceeded immediately down the river in a small boat in search of one. Upon inquiring I learned that a force of the enemy had been in that vicinity that morning. I therefore kept my command ready to mount, and extended my pickets 1 ½ to 3 miles on the right, front, and left. More than an hour elapsed and Colonel Alexander did not return, (end pg 47) and knowing how necessary it was to have the plans of the general commanding carried out at an early moment, I availed myself of the kind offer of Captain Been, of the gunboat —–, who had just come down the river, and went off to the Galena, Commodore Rodgers’ flagship, which was lying 4 or 5 miles above us. The commodore offered us every assistance, and directed the Port Royal, Captain Morris, to cover our position at Carter’s Landing. Colonel Alexander returned about 8 o’clock with the steamer Stepping Stones, and having dispatched an express to General McClellan, repaired on board the Galena. I then returned to my command, which remained saddled all night in a strong position, ready for service at a moment’s notice.

Early next morning, the 30th of June, my pickets reported the arrival of the advance troops of Keyes’ corps; but in the mean time the sick, wounded, stragglers, and trains of wagons and ambulances from different corps came rapidly in on us. The former repaired in great numbers to the steamer Stepping Stones, which was at the wharf, and so great was the rush that I was obliged to clear this vessel three different times of all persons except such wounded and sick as the medical officers in attendance declared ought to be sent to Fortress Monroe. This vessel left about 11 o’clock a.m. with 500 or 600 of the worst cases of sick and wounded. To the generous kindness of the Navy were we indebted for this opportune assistance; and in connection with this subject it is proper to record the valuable services of Capt. George U. Morris, of the Port Royal, in furnishing subsistence and supplies, besides giving his own personal attention and exertions to the care of the sick and wounded.

Throughout both days, the 30th of June and the 1st of July, the sick, wounded, and stragglers kept coming in, and I can only estimate their numbers by the means I adopted to supply their wants, for they were without food or organization. The sick were established in camps according to their respective divisions, and as the different medical officers came in I assigned them to duty with the divisions to which they belonged. The wounded were sent to the Carter house to be attended to by the surgeons at that place. The stragglers were organized into two commands, viz, those with arms and those without. Captain Hight, Second Cavalry, had charge of those with arms, and they numbered over 2,000 men. The party without arms was more numerous. The trains of wagons and ambulances were parked in convenient positions to water and forage.

On the 30th of June beef and salt were issued to those who asked for them, and 1,000 rations of bread obtained from the Navy were also issued. On the 1st of July the steamer Spaulding arrived with supplies, when 8,000 additional rations of coffee, sugar, bread, salt, and meat were issued; besides, 15 head of cattle were killed and distributed by my command. From these facts there must have been 10,000 or 12,000 men in sick, wounded, and stragglers at Carter’s Landing during the 30th of June and the 1st of July. There were also some 800 wagons and 300 ambulances.

On the morning of the 2d of July I was apprised of the army being ordered to move to apposition covering Harrison’s landing, and in consequence I ordered all the trains of wagons and ambulances, with all the sick and wounded capable of moving, to start immediately for that place. My command covered the rear of all of these parties, and I have the satisfaction of reporting to the general commanding that all of these large trains of materiel and personnel reached their several destinations in the army in safety. When the state of the weather, the (end pg 48) roads, and the near approach of the enemy at that time are remembered, the duties required of all concerned for the successful accomplishment of this undertaking will be understood. Besides these arduous duties, I caused the country in the neighborhood of the Chickahominy to be explored to observe the enemy.

Captain Norris, with his squadron, performed this duty on the 30th of June, and Captain Green with an equal force went within 4 miles of the Chickahominy on the River road, while one of his detachments passed as far as Charles City Court House on the Charles City road. There was no enemy visible on either occasion, and the fact was reported by me at the time to General Marcy, chief of staff.

The squadron of McClellan Dragoons under Major Barker rendered good and efficient services in the above-named movements, and the major himself was conspicuous for the energy and activity he displayed in keeping the road clear on the march from Carter’s Landing to this place.

In conclusion, I desire to recommend to the favorable notice of the general commanding the following-named officers of the Second Cavalry, for the zeal, gallantry, and activity they have displayed in the discharge of their duties: Capts. Charles E. Norris, Thomas Hight, and John Green. Captains Norris and Green were charged with destroying two bridges over the Chickahominy after our army had crossed, and the services performed by them were highly satisfactory. Three caissons of one of our batteries having been left on the other side of the Chickahominy, Captain Green crossed with some of his men, threw the ammunition into the river, and set fire to the caissons.

First Lieut. James F. McQuesten, adjutant, and Second Lieut. Edward Ball, regimental quartermaster, have discharged their duties with great credit and ability, and are very deserving officers.

The faithful services and good conduct of the noncommissioned officers and privates of the Second Cavalry in the campaign of the last three months in this Peninsula have been a source of the highest gratitude and pride to all the officers of the regiment. I do not think this appreciation can be better expressed than by naming two of the most deserving of them to the general commanding for such promotion as the exigencies of the service will permit. I am satisfied that Sergt. Maj. Robert Lennox and Quartermaster Sergt. Edward J. Spaulding will show themselves worthy of any advancement in their profession it may be deemed proper to bestow upon them.

I remain, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. Pleasonton,

Major, Second Cavalry, Commanding.

General S. Williams, A.A.G., Hdqrs. Army of the Potomac.

Source: Official Records, Volume 11, part 2, pgs 47-49)

Recommendation: Small but Important Riots

I realized this morning that I had not yet endorsed Bob O’Neill’s recently opened blog “Small but Important Riots,” so I am immediately addressing the problem.

Named after the excellent but unfortunately out of print book of the same name, the blog focuses on the cavalry engagements between June 10th and 27th, 1863. Activities in Loudoun and Fauquier counties throughout the war are addressed, and his most recent post focused on the plight of Southern families in the area caught between the armies during the winter of 1863.

Bob is the recognized authority on these battles and this area, having published both the book that shares the title and “Chasing Jeb Stuart and Mosby, the Union Cavalry in Northern Virginia from Second Manassas to Gettysburg.”

For those of my friends who share an interest in the Indian Wars, Bob also had a very good feature article on the Rosebud last year in Blue & Gray Magazine.

His content is thought provoking and very well researched, I highly recommend that you take a look at your first opportunity.

GainesMill Relations


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For the 154th anniversary of the battle of Gaines Mill. I thought I would post in a different direction than revisiting the 5th US Cavalry’s charge, the casualties suffered there or the controversy afterwards as to its propriety or effectiveness. In this case the cordial and not so cordial relations and relationships of opponents during the battle.

The account below is from former Confederate Captain J.T. Hunter of Company H, 4th Texas, who was a staff officer as a lieutenant in General Whiting’s division for the battle.

“Just before the 4th Texas reached the cannon there was an attempt by a squadron of Yankee cavalry to protect their guns. This squadron was commanded by Major Whiting, a cousin of our general, and he was badly wounded. General Whiting went to see him next morning and told him that if while a prisoner he should need any financial aid to supply his necessities to call on him, and he would supply him, but further he would have nothing to do with him. One of the companies of the squadron was commanded by Captain Chambliss, of the 2d United States Cavalry, General Hood’s old regiment, and he and Captain Chambliss were warm friends and discussed the pending war before hostilities commenced. Chambliss’s sympathies were with the South, but he said he was a soldier by profession and thought there were better prospects for promotion in the Union; so he and Hood separated to meet on the bloody field at Gaines’s Mill, Hood a brigadier general and promoted to major general for his gallantry and success on this field; while Chambliss was only a captain. Chambliss and four or five of his men and their horses were all shot down in a space of only a few yards square, Chambliss having three wounds. Whilst lying on the field, surrounded by dead men and horses, he heard General Hood’s voice (and surely no one who ever heard that voice could forget it); and the first soldier who came along (a singular coincidence) was Sergeant McAnery, who had served in Chambliss’s company in the 2d Cavalry and had been seeking revenge for real or fancied bad treatment while under Chambliss’s orders, having said that if he ever had an opportunity he would kill Chambliss. Here the opportunity presented itself, but instead of doing the man an injury he hastened to carry a message to General Hood informing him of Captain Chambliss’s condition. General Hood told McAnery to take three men and carry Chambliss to the temporary hospital and see that he had medical attention and to tell him that he would come as soon as his duties permitted. General Hood told me that his meeting with Chambliss was very affecting. Chambliss was sent to Richmond and given special attention, and he recovered, but never entered the service any more.”

The Confederate general was the Union major’s first cousin. William Henry Chase Whiting was born in Biloxi, Mississippi and graduated the US Military Academy first in the class of 1845. He served in the Army Corps of Engineers until resigning his commission in February 1861. Gaines Mill was the pinnacle of his career, as he was replaced after the Seven Days Battles by General Hood. He died of dysentery March 10, 1865.

Then-captain Charles Jarvis Whiting recovered from his wounds and after some difficulty was individually paroled.  He was back in command of the regiment by August 12, 1862. He was promoted into the 2nd Cavalry and commanded that regiment from October 1862 to June 1863, then the Reserve Brigade at the battle of Brandy Station. Afterwards he commanded the draft stations in Portland, Maine from July to November 1863 when he was dismissed for disloyalty and using disrespectful and contemptuous language against the President of the United States.

Captain William P. Chambliss was born in Virginia, and his family moved to Tennessee in his youth. He fought as a lieutenant in the Tennessee volunteers during the Mexican War. He served as a member of the Tennessee legislature and practiced law before receiving his appointment in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry in 1855. The regimental history says he was wounded six times at Gaines Mill. Regardless, his health was shattered and he was sent to St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. When he left the hospital, he served as an assistant instructor of cavalry at West Point from October 1862 to August 1864.  He then served as a special inspector of cavalry in the Military Division of the Mississippi until the end of the war. He was promoted to major in the 4th U.S. Cavalry on March 30, 1864 and after the Civil War served with his regiment until he resigned in November 1867.

I could not find any record for Sergeant McAnery or any reasonable permutation of the name in the enlistment records.


Cunningham, S.A. ed. Confederate Veteran, Volume XXVI. Nashville: Confederated Southern Memorial Association, 1918. Pgs. 112-113.

Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 512.

Price, George F. Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry. New York: D. Van Nostrand,Publisher, 1883. Pages 331-334 and 351-352.

Battle of Wilson’s Creek report


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The majority of the attention paid to the regular cavalry during this battle quite rightfully goes to the 4th U.S. Cavalry, but I wanted to post this report for inclusion in the record as well. Company C, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Charles Farrand of the 1st Infantry also participated in the battle as well. At least one of the enlisted men mentioned will be appearing in a future post.

Camp near Rolla, Mo., August 17, 1861

Captain: I have the honor to report that on the evening of the 9th of August I received verbal orders from General Lyon to report with my company for duty to Colonel Sigel. I reported to the latter at 6 o’clock that evening, and by his order formed with my company the rear guard of his column, which immediately proceed towards the (end pg 90) enemy’s camp. While on the march Colonel Sigel directed me to act on the right when the enemy should be engaged. Afterwards, however, this order was countermanded, and I was directed to take my position on the left.

Nothing of importance occurred on the march until about 4.30 in the morning, when several prisoners were tuned over to the guard. One of these stated to me that their army was expecting re-enforcements from Louisiana, and that they had mistaken us for their re-enforcements. We were now very near the enemy’s camp, and continued to take prisoners in small numbers, most of whom said they were out in search of something to eat. At about 5 o’clock I was ordered with my company to the front. Soon after I reached the head of the column, a small party of men and horses was discovered in a ravine through which we were approaching the enemy’s camp. These I was ordered to take, as they were supposed t be the enemy’s picket. I advanced with a small party upon them. They discovered me ata distance, and mounted their horses. I did not succeed in taking the party prisoners, but cut them off from their camp, which was now in plain sight. I with my company now took my position on the extreme left, and the command moved steadily forward without having been discovered by the enemy, although very near, and at some points in plain sight of, their camp.

The attack was opened by the infantry on the center and left, and soon responded to by the artillery. It was but a moment before the camp was entirely cleared, and as we passed through it I saw many dead bodies and quantities of arms of al descriptions lying on the ground. Many of the latter I caused my men to destroy. There were in their camp a wagon load of Maynard rifles, of the regular rifled muskets, and several boxes of United States regulation sabers, all new.

There being no enemy in sight, I was ordered to move along the south side of camp. I was in a few minutes after ordered to return and support Colonel Sigel’s battery. When I reached the battery I discovered an immense body of the enemy’s cavalry forming in a field about 7000 yards in front of our position. The battery immediately opened on them with considerable effect, and forced them to retire. A large body of the enemy’s cavalry, who had dismounted and deployed in the brush on the south side of the field, were driven back and obliged to leave their horses. My company was on the field until Colonel Sigel’s forces retired, but as circumstances were such as to render it impossible to use cavalry, we did no particular service.

Upon finding myself with the company alone, I retired in a southerly direction, and accidentally meeting one of the guides who had been employed in taking us to the enemy’s camp, I forcibly detained him until I could collect some of the troops, whom I found scattered and apparently lost. I halted my company, and got quite a number together, and directed the guide to proceed to Springfield, via Little York. Affter proceeding a short distance we came upon one of the pieces which had been taken from Colonel Sigel. Although the tongue of the limber was broken, one horse gone, and one of the remaining three badly wounded, we succeeded in moving it on. Some distance in advance f this we found a caisson, also belonging to Colonel Sigel’s battery. I then had with me Sergeant Bradburn, of Company D, First Cavalry; Corporal Lewis and Private John Smith of own company (Company C, Second Dragoons). My company being some distance in advance, I caused the caisson to be opened, and on discovering that it was full of ammunition, I determined to take it on. I and the three (end pg 91) men with me tried to prevail upon some of the Germans to assist us in clearing some of the wounded horses from the harness, but they would not stop. After considerable trouble, my small party succeeded in clearing the wounded horses from the harness, hitching in two more and a pair of small mules I obtained, and moving on, Corporal Lewis and Private John Smith driving, while Sergeant Bradburn and I led the horses. After reaching the retreating troops again I put two other men on the animals, and joined my company with my three men.

Before reaching Springfield it became necessary to abandon the caisson in order to hitch the animals to the piece. The was done after destroying the ammunition it contained. Lieutenant Morris, adjutant of Colonel Sigel’s command, assisted me in procuring wagons, which we sent back on the road after the wounded.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

Chas. E. Farrand,

Second Lieut., First Infantry, Comdg. Co. C, Second Dragoons (OR, Vol 3, pgs 90-92)