Fiddler’s Green: Tattnall Paulding


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Given the recent Facebook anniversary of the publishing of our book on the 6th U.S. Cavalry in the Civil War, it seemed appropriate to get things rolling again with something from that regiment. I found a period obituary of Paulding, and it is relayed in full at the end of the post.

Tattnall Paulding was born March 5, 1840 at Huntington, New York. He was the son of Rear Admiral Hiram Paulding and the grandson of Captain John Paulding, one of the captors of Major John Andre’ (more about him here:   ) during the Revolutionary War. He had completed his schooling and was in business at the beginning of the Civil War. Believing the conflict would be over quickly, he initially enlisted as a private into the 7th New York Infantry, a ninety day regiment, and accompanied it to Washington.

He was in Washington when word of his appointment as a second lieutenant in the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, dated May 14, 1861, reached him.  He joined the regiment almost immediately, and by July and August was assisting with recruiting duties in the Franklin and Butler counties of Pennsylvania.

Lieutenant Paulding quickly adjusted to cavalry life, and was mentioned favorably on several occasions by his superiors in the regiment over the winter. When the unit saw its first action at Williamsburg the following May, he was mentioned in his commander’s report for his coolness and gallantry in action. He was selected to lead the regiment’s detachment assigned to the Army of the Potomac’s provost guard under Brigadier General Marsena Patrick following the engagement.

He continued to distinguish himself through the campaigns of 1862, Stoneman’s Raid and the battle of Brandy Station. Although only a lieutenant, Paulding commanded a squadron during the Gettysburg campaign. He led his squadron capably during the battle of Fairfield on July 3, 1863, commanding companies A and G. Although a disastrous defeat for his outnumbered regiment, Paulding received a brevet promotion to captain for “gallant and meritorious service” during the battle.

Following the battle of Fairfield, he was reported by Lieutenant Nicholas Nolan as “missing, and supposed to be in the hands of the enemy.” This was quickly confirmed, and Paulding spent the next nine months confined in Libby Prison. He was a prolific correspondent with his family during his internment, and these letters are very good primary source accounts of both the battle of Fairfield and life in Libby Prison.

August 1864 was a good month for Paulding. Not only was he finally released from Libby Prison, but he was also promoted to captain in the 6th U.S. Cavalry on August 20th. Upon his release, Captain Paulding was assigned to operate the Mounted Recruiting Service station in New York City. Although the station notionally recruited for the army as a whole, the overwhelming majority of these men were sent to bolster the dwindling number of veterans in the ranks of the regular cavalry regiments of the Army of the Potomac. Captain Paulding received brevet promotions to major and lieutenant colonel on November 11, 1865 for meritorious services during the war. He relinquished command of the recruiting station when he resigned his commission on July 1, 1866.

Paulding moved to Philadelphia after his resignation, where his father was the commander of the Naval Asylum, and studied law until 1870. He then became an insurance agent and broker for the company of Carstairs & Paulding in Philadelphia, specializing in fire insurance. He worked in the insurance industry for the next thirty seven years. Tattnall Paulding was the president of the Delaware Mutual Insurance Company of Philadelphia, known today as Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, at the time of his death.

In addition to his professional achievements, Paulding was also a dedicated philanthropist. He served the Saving Fund Society of Germantown, the Mercantile Beneficial Association, the Union League, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and as the director of the Free Hospital for Poor Consumptives.

Tattnall Paulding died in Philadelphia on March 5, 1907, after more than a year of illness of more than a year from rheumatism and other complications. He is buried at St. Luke’s Episcopalian Church in Germantown, Pennsylvania.


I discovered this obituary in the Adjutant General Office records at the National Archives, and include it as I believe it has seldom been seen. Interestingly, it was filed not in Paulding’s records but in those of the author, Brevet Colonel William H. Harrison. It was originally published in a circular of the Headquarters Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS) dated September 12, 1907.


“Tattnall Paulding.

First Lieutenant 6th U.S. Cavalry May 14, 1861; Captain October 20, 1864; resigned and honorably discharged July 1, 1866.

Brevetted Captain U.S. Army July 3, 1863, “for gallant and meritorious services in the Gettysburg Campaign;” Major and Lieutenant Colonel November 11, 1865, “for meritorious services during the war.”

Elected March 6, 1867. Class 1. Insignia 464.

Born July 5, 1840, at Huntington, N.Y.

Died March 5, 1907, at Philadelphia, Pa.


Companion Tattnall Paulding was the son of Rear-Admiral Hiram Paulding, United States Navy, and grandson of Captain John Paulding, one of the captors of Major Andre.

His ancestry of itself would have made him a marked man. It put an interrogation on the value of a distinguished and patriotic lineage. Its inheritance was an inspiration to noble living. It has been well said, “people will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” But when to this is added Companion Paulding’s own distinguished services, it can also be said of him, “who serves his country well has no need of ancestors.” Companion Paulding by inheritance and his own achievement owned and added lustre to an honored name.

At the outbreak of the War of the Rebellion he accompanied the Seventh New York Regiment, S.M., to the City of Washington.

President Lincoln gave him an appointment in the United States Army and he was commissioned First Lieutenant, 6th United States Cavalry, May 14, 1861.

He served continuously with his regiment in the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. In an attack on his regiment near Gettysburg by a largely superior force, it suffered severely in loss of life and prisoners. Companion Paulding was captured and endured for many months the privations and sufferings of prison life. For his gallantry in this engagement he was brevetted Captain United States Army, July 3, 1863, “for gallant and meritorious services in the Gettysburg campaign,” and subsequently Major and Lieutenant-Colonel, November 11, 1865, “for meritorious services during the war.”” Companion Paulding resigned and was honorably discharged July 1, 1866. He came to Philadelphia and made it his home.

He was the first agent in this city of the Commercial Union Assurance Company of London, England, and at the end of twenty years resigned the position to accept the presidency of the Delaware Mutual Insurance Company of Philadelphia, which office he filled at the time of his death, March 5, 1907.

Companion Paulding was a member of a number of civil, military and charitable organizations and a trustee of the Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. He had been a resident of Germantown since 1872.

Tattnall Paulding and Hannah S. Huddell were married November 15, 1872. Two children of this marriage are living, Companion John Tattnall Paulding and Caroline White Paulding.

Companion Paulding was gifted with a manly presence, and to this was added a poise and quiet dignity of manner crowned by a rare modesty, which gave grace and charm to his conversation and companionship.

Such a personality had its hidden spring deep down below the surface, a reserve of helpfulness and strength, which though possessed by few is acknowledged by the many as an ideal to be cultivated as well as admired.

It is these qualities of mind and heart, these character builders, that we shall miss as the days pass and Companion Paulding is no longer a presence in the councils and reunions of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

William H. Harrison, Brevet Colonel U.S. Volunteers.

Jackson McElmell, Chief Engineer, U.S. Navy

William F. Potter, Captain, 3d Penna. Cavalry.


By command of

Captain John P. Green, U.S.V. Commander

John P. Nicholson, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel U.S.V. Recorder.”



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

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

Henry, Guy V. Military Record of Civilian Appointments in the United States Army, Volume 2. New York: George W. Carleton, 1869. Page 165.

Milgram, James W. “The Libby Prison Correspondence of Tattnall Paulding,” The American Philatelist. 89 (December 1975).

Morris, Charles, ed. Men of the Century. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1896.

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. Returns from Regular Army Non-infantry Regiments, 1821-1916: 6th U.S. Cavalry.

Obituary. Circular No. 29, Series of 1907. Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, Commandery of the State of Pennsylvania. September 12, 1907.

Obituary. The Germantown Guide. March 9, 1907.

Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, Series I, Volume 25, pages 156, 575, and 440. Also Volume 27, Part 1, page 948.

Bugler Adolph Metzger


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Adolph Metzger was born in Balingen, Wurtemberg, Germany about 1834. He immigrated to the United States as a young man and settled in Philadelphia, where he worked as a laborer.

On May 29, 1855, he was enlisted into Company C, Regiment of Mounted Rifles by Lieutenant Burns. His enlistment documents describe him as 21 years of age, 5’ 5” tall, with brown hair, blue eyes and a dark complexion. After service with his regiment in the southwest, he was discharged at the expiration of his enlistment at Hatch’s Ranch, New Mexico as a private on May 29, 1860.

Civilian life apparently didn’t resonate with Adolph, and he re-entered the army a few months later. On November 14th he was enlisted into Company C, 2nd U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant Wilkins as a bugler. He was working in Newport, Kentucky as a laborer at the time of his enlistment, and it is unclear whether he was east- or westbound at the time. Miraculously, he aged only three years in the five and a half years since his first enlistment, listing his age as 24. He served through the various campaigns of the Civil War without major incident, and was discharged the day prior to his third enlistment at Light House Landing, Virginia shortly after the regiment’s return from the battle of Trevilian Station.

Bugler Metzger was enlisted into Company C, 2nd U.S. Cavalry by Lieutenant Robert Lennox on July 12, 1864. Although he had grown three inches since his last enlistment, he had aged only a single year. A few weeks later, probably during a furlough granted due to his reenlistment, Adolph married Fredericka Cooper. The ceremony took place on August 2nd, at the German Evangelical Church in Washington, D.C. The bride was only 15 or 16 at the time of the wedding, and Adolph apparently did not inform his parents back in Germany of his changed marital status.

He remained with his company through the end of the war and its subsequent recruiting and refitting in Maryland. When the regiment moved west in October 1865, his wife remained behind. Due to the numerous changes of post and their attendant dangers, this was probably a wise choice.

In November 1866, the company was assigned to Fort Phil Kearny, Dakota Territory, in present day Wyoming. Second Lieutenant Horatio S. Bingham was the company’s commander and sole officer for the assignment. Bingham, who had served as a captain in the 2nd Minnesota Cavalry during the Civil War, had been appointed an officer in the regiment in February. Lieutenant Bingham was killed in an engagement with Indians on December 6, 1866 when he and a small group of soldiers were decoyed away from the main body while attempting to assist a woodcutting party which was under attack.

On December 21st, twenty six members of the company, including Bugler Metzger, rode out of the fort to assist another woodcutting party. A mixed party of infantry and cavalry sortied from the fort under the command of Brevet Lieutenant Colonel William J. Fetterman. The force was drawn into a trap out of view of the fort and wiped out in less than twnety minutes by over a thousand Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. The only survivor was a gray cavalry horse named Dapple Dave, badly wounded by both bullets and arrows. The horse was probably Metzger’s, as it was the practice in that unit to mount buglers on white or gray horses to make it easier to find the commander during a battle.

Metzger was one of only two soldiers whose body wasn’t mutilated by the victorious Indians. The other was Sergeant James Baker, also a Civil War veteran of Company C. According to several verbal accounts from Indians who participated in the battle, Bugler Metzger fought to the very last. Once his ammunition was exhausted, he continued to fight using his bugle as a bludgeon until overcome.

The bugle is now part of the collection of the Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum, who very kindly granted me one-time permission to publish a photo with this post. It was found around 1935 by early homesteader Christian Hepp, who ran cattle near the grounds of the ruins of the fort. Since Metzger was the only bugler in the expedition, it seems extremely likely that it was his.

Photo courtesy of Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum.

Photo courtesy of Jim Gatchell Memorial Museum.

The dead from the fight were brought back to Fort Phil Kearny, and initially interred there. After the fort was abandoned and when Custer National Cemetery was created at Little Big Horn, they were moved there. They now lie there in graves numbered 15-49 and 108-144.

Headstone, Custer National Cemetery.

Headstone, Custer National Cemetery.

Metzger’s wife Fredericka drew his pension. This was later disputed by his mother, who contacted the American consulate in Stuttgart to press her claim. She maintained that Adolph could not possibly have been married without informing his family in Germany. Her claim was later rejected.


1. One account from a soldier in Company C mentions a man named Footer as the company’s bugler, but there was no such person assigned to the cavalry company or the 18th Infantry at the post at this time. Since the account was written several years later, it seems likely he confused the name of the bugler. Some accounts describe the bugler as a teenager, but there’s no evidence to support this.
2. Historian John H. Monnett maintains that the story of Metzger and the bugle is apocryphal. For more information, see his very detailed book Where A Hundred Soldiers Were Killed. He makes a very strong case.


Brady, Cyrus Townsend. Indian Fights and Fighters. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press: 1971.
Fort Phil Kearny/ Bozeman Trail Association. Portraits of Fort Phil Kearny. Banner, WY: 1993.
Guthrie, John. “Fetterman Massacre,” Annals of Wyoming 9 (October 1932): 714-718. Accessed via Internet Archive on August 30, 2015.
Lambert, Joseph. One Hundred Years With the Second Cavalry. San Antonio: Newton Publishing Company, 1999.
Monnett, John H. Where A Hundred Soldiers Were Killed. Albuquerque: University of New mexico Press, 2010.
National Archives, Record Group 94, Letters Received by the Office of the Adjutant General, 1861-1870.
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.
National Archives, Record Group 94, Civil War Widows Pensions. Accessed via on August 30, 2015.
Rodenbough, Theophilus F. From Everglade to Canyon with the Second United States Cavalry. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000.
Utley, Robert M. Frontier Regulars. Lincoln: Univeristy of Nebraska Press: 1973.
Watson, Elmo Scott. “The Bravery of Our Bugler is Much Spoken Of,” Old Travois Trails 1 (1941): 139.

Book Review: Masters of the Field


Masters of the Field, The Fourth United States Cavalry in the Civil War

Hardcover, 256 pages, with 13 black & white photos and maps, Schiffer Publishing Ltd.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must begin this review by stating that I have seen this project in various stages over the last ten years, and have corresponded with the author for the better part of a decade. That said, I have done my best to be as impartial as possible in this review.

In Masters of the Field, author John Herberich tells the tale of the 4th United States Cavalry Regiment in the Civil War. Herberich’s work is the first of its kind on the regiment. While there have been volumes written on Minty’s brigade as a whole, and a couple of the other regiments individually, no one until now has published a Civil War history of the regiment.

The author sets the stage well with an explanation of the regiment’s beginnings in 1855 and status as the war began. He then follows the regiment as it fights through the majority of the major battles of the Western Theater, and a few of the Eastern Theater, until the final cavalry charge with General Wilson at Selma, Alabama. Each year of the war has its own section, as the regiment is followed through battles such as Wilson’s Creek, Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga and the Tullahoma and Atlanta campaigns.

The author spent nearly twelve years researching this book, and the depth of research is easily apparent. I am confident he found every record of substance with information on the regiment, and used them wherever possible to tell the regiment’s story in the words of the participants. There are extensive quotes from the letters and memoirs of enlisted men such as James Larson, Charles Bates, and James Wiswell, as well as National Tribune articles from others. These help flesh out the official reports and officer narratives quite nicely. Thirty seven pages of endnotes ensure the reader looking for more information will be easily able to find it, though many of the sources are very rare. The bibliography appears short at first glance, before one considers that the majority of the material comes from army records at the National Archives and several letter collections.

A robust section of appendices follows the narrative, including a full roster of the regiment’s soldiers. Other sections focus on the regiment’s officers, including field commissions and those from before the war who later became general officers for either the C.S.A. or the U.S.A.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hal Jesperson’s maps, which provided an excellent aid to following the progression of the various campaigns. Some individual battle maps would have been nice, but I am certainly in the category of military history reader who always desires more maps.

The author has an understandably pro-regiment bias, as his great-grandfather served in the unit throughout the war. Herberich is forthright about the matter, addressing it in the prologue and the epilogue, and I did not find it a distraction. He certainly accomplishes his goal of capturing the service of the regiment for posterity and honoring its members. The overwhelming majority of quotes were from Union sources, however. It would have been helpful to see more Confederate accounts, particularly during the battle sequences.

I reviewed a digital version of the book, so I can’t speak to the physical characteristics of the book, such as quality of binding.

Overall, this book is an excellent addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in the Western Theater of the Civil War, particularly those interested in cavalry operations and the Army of the Cumberland.

More of the 1st Minnesota at Gettysburg


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Thousands of visitors to Gettysburg this weekend will hear of the charge of the 1st Minnesota Infantry in the late afternoon of July 2, 1863. Tens of thousands of other visitors have heard the story and seen the three monuments to the regiment on the battlefield. Their guides will tell the story of how II Corps commander General Winfield Hancock, seeing a breach in his line, ordered the regiment to charge against a brigade of Alabama infantry under Brigadier General Cadmus Wilcox. Outnumbered nearly 5:1, the gallant regiment plunged into the fray without hesitation, buying Hancock the time necessary for other units to reach the breach and shore up the line. In the process, the regiment suffered nearly 82% casualties, the highest rate suffered by any American unit in combat (yes, cavalry afficionados, higher than the 7th U.S. Cavalry at Little Big Horn).

It’s a great story and one that should be told. It was one of the bravest acts of the war. The regiment knew what would happen if it charged, and plunged in anyway. And it wasn’t the first time they’d been in certain peril. After adjacent units fled near Henry House at First Bull Run, they suffered nearly 20% casualties and were among the last units to leave the field. The previous fall at Antietam, they suffered 28% casualties in fighting near the West Woods under General Sedgwick.

What the guides probably won’t tell the visitors is that more of the men who enlisted in the 1st Minnesota in 1861 were also on the field for the battle. Following the battle of Antietam, 64 transferred to regular army regiments. They came from across the regiment, with only Companies B and D not losing any men. Company I had the most with 12, followed by Company A with 10 and several with 8 or 9. Seven of them had been wounded in previous battles, three at Bull Run, two at Savage Station and two at Antietam.

Just over half joined cavalry units, 30 to the 1st U.S. Cavalry, 14 to the 6th U.S. Cavalry and one to the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. They fought the next day, on the Army of the Potomac’s left flank and at Fairfield. The others transferred primarily to artillery batteries, and a handful to engineer companies.

Several of them had already been killed in fighting at Beverly Ford and Upperville. Two more, former corporals James E. Seely and Lucius F. Walden of Company A, were killed in battle within the week. One died while a prisoner of war at Belle Isle and another at Andersonville. And these men definitely understood duty. Of those who didn’t die in battle, only three didn’t finish their enlistment, and one of those was discharged for disability. Only two deserted, a very low percentage for the time. Three even re-enlisted to see the war to its finish.

Here’s to the rest of the 1st Minnesota Infantry soldiers who served at Gettysburg.

Fiddler’s Green: John A. Thompson


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This one has been a LONG time coming.

John A. Thompson was born in Belmont County, Ohio in 1832. The family’s holdings were just across the Ohio River from Moundsville, Virginia. He was the son of Colonel John Thompson, of Belmont County, Ohio, and his wife, Sara Ann Walker, both born in Pennsylvania, and whose paternal parents came from County Armagh, Ireland.

John attended Virginia Military Institute in the graduating class of 1850-51. During his senior year, he and several other classmates had an issue with the Second Cadet-Captain. According to one history of the Institute, “Thompson was a great favorite, and the Second Captain was very unpopular – both in his Class and the Corps at large. The issue was joined by Thompson denouncing in unmeasured terms his commanding officer. A court-martial resulted; but his classmates (all but two or three) stood by him, and they were threatened with dismissal for “forming a combination,” in contravention of the Regulations of the Institute. There was great excitement in the Corps which met and adopted resolutions upholding both Thompson and his Class, and condemning the Second Captain. The verdict of the court-martial was generally thought to have been unjust. Thompson left the Institute, but carried with him unmistakable proof of the confidence and admiration of his classmates (except one or two) and of the whole Corps.”

Three years later, June 25, 1855, he received a commission from civil life as second lieutenant in the First United States Dragoons. He reported to Brevet Colonel Charles A. May for instruction at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri on July 7th, but was transferred to the newly formed 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment a few weeks later on August 29th. He reported to Colonel Edwin V. Sumner at Fort Leavenworth in time to join the regiment on the Sioux expedition that fall. He was assigned to Captain William D. De Saussure’s company.

In 1857, he was part of the escort of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph E. Johnston’s expedition to survey the southern boundary of the Kansas territory. The expedition consisted of four companies of the 1st Cavalry and two companies of infantry. Lieutenant Thompson led the pioneer party and preliminary survey line for the expedition.

The following year, Thompson’s company served as part of the advance guard on the march from Fort Bridger to Salt Lake in March 1858. The young lieutenant also served as acting quartermaster and commissary officer for the command. He was relieved on August 6, 1858 and ordered back to Fort Leavenworth, where he arrived in October. He was granted a four month leave of absence later that month after settling his quartermaster accounts. He rejoined his company at Fort Riley, where it had moved during his leave.

Lieutenant Thompson spent the summer of 1859 as part of an expedition along the Arkansas River. The four companies of the 1st Cavalry spent the summer protecting Santa Fe mail trains before returning to Fort Riley in the fall. During that winter he served as the post adjutant of Fort Riley for Major John Sedgwick.

The next spring he accompanied Major Sedgwick on an expedition against the Kiowa and Comanche. That summer he assisted the command in the construction of Fort Wise, Colorado Territory (later renamed Fort Lyon). One of the second lieutenants in the command was James E.B. Stuart. Thompson departed on another four month leave of absence at the end of September. During his leave he married Mary J. Wilson, of St. Louis, Missouri.

Lieutenant Thompson’s return from his leave did not go as planned. He was diverted on his return trip in St Louis to go to Jefferson Barracks and drill infantry recruits. Shortly after organizing a company of 80 men, Thompson was ordered to secure the St Louis Arsenal. He was relieved in early April and ordered to rejoin his company at Fort Wise. He immediately set out for his unit, escorting paymaster Major Brice from Fort Riley to the post.

He arrived to some welcome news. He had been promoted to first lieutenant in Company F, 1st U.S. Cavalry in January. He immediately renewed his oath of allegiance with Lieutenant Colonel Sedgwick and in the absence of the assigned captain assumed command of the company. Although appointed from the state of Virginia, he apparently never considered resigning his commission to fight for the Confederacy.

After a week or so he and his company were ordered to Fort Larned, Kansas, where he assumed command of the post. Captain Tyler of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons had spiked the guns and deserted the post as he departed to join the Confederacy. On May 23rd he received notification of his promotion to captain and command of Company K, 1st U.S. Cavalry, but was not yet relieved and remained at Fort Larned.

Captain Thompson was and assigned to survey the route between Fort Larned and Fort Kearny, N.T., and assigned to the latter post. He arrived on June 4th to learn he was one of three officers assigned to the fort. The senior officer, Captain Brockholst Livingston of the 2d Dragoons, was incapacitated. Captain E.W.B. Newby commanded the post, and Captain Thompson served as post adjutant, quartermaster and commissary in addition to commanding his company. After Captain Newby’s relief and arrest by Major General Hunter in November, Captain Thompson commanded the post as well.

In June 1862, Brigadier General James Craig ordered a swap, shifting Colonel E.B. Alexander to Fort Kearny and Captain Thompson with his squadron of Companies F and K, 1st Cavalry to Fort Laramie. Fort Laramie was otherwise garrisoned by volunteer units, and had the important responsibility of safeguarding the overland mail and telegraph lines. Captain Thompson managed the post well, writing afterwards “although it was a difficult matter at first to bring some of the volunteer companies to a proper understanding of discipline.”

In August 1862 the Overland Mail Company shifted its route south to the Bridger Pass road. Since securing the mail routes was one of Fort Laramie’s responsibilities, Captain Thompson was ordered by General Craig to find a location for a new fort on this southern route. He selected the site for what would become Fort Halleck, surveying it and planning the buildings. He then went east to the Cache la Poudre River to superintend hay contracts for cavalry which would garrison the new fort. He made the following observations in his report to General Craig:

“I have selected a beautiful piece of ground for the fort on the north side of the Medicine Bow Mountains. Three streams of clear mountain water run through it, either or all of which can be turned so as to water every part of the garrison without an hours work. There is plenty of the finest timber on the mountains within a mile of the place selected. The government will not be compelled to haul timber either for lumber or firewood more than two miles for many years, in fact the supply is almost inexhaustible. A fine quality of limestone can be found in the mountains half a mile distant, and hay can be had in abundance within twelve miles of the post. I submit for the approval of the Gen’l Comd’g the enclosed plan of buildings for the new post.”

Commended by Craig for his efforts, Captain Thompson was ordered to Washington to report on the state of affairs in the region. While he was away, a mutiny occurred due to maladministration of the post by his successor, Captain Herrington, and Thompson was ordered back to Fort Laramie. There had been a conflict between a lieutenant of the 6th Ohio and men of the 8th Kansas, and Herrington’s assistant adjutant general, Captain Eno, had been compelled to shoot one of the enlisted men.

Thompson was ordered to join his regiment in March 1863, but requested permission to delay the move. His wife had just given birth to their second child, John, and the doctor stated that she was unable to make the 800 mile trip by wagon for eight weeks. Requests to the War Department and Governor Pierpont of what would become West Virginia to delay the move were approved.

Captain Thompson and his squadron were delayed again during their march west. They stopped in St Louis for two weeks to update their arms, and again in Louisville to arm and equip a group of recruits. He joined the rest of the 4th U.S. Cavalry at McMinnville, Tennessee in August 1863, with both companies of his squadron fully equipped and in fine condition.

Thompson served with the regiment through a number of skirmishes in the vicinity of Chattanooga during the late summer and early fall of 1863. He commanded the regiment during the greater portion of the battle of Chickamauga, Captain McIntyre being too unwell to ride. He relinquished command to McIntyre the day before the regiment moved inside the lines at Chattanooga.

I found the following statement in an anonymous tribute written after his death, but could find no evidence to confirm or deny it: “He was present at the battle of Chickamauga, and it was his presence of mind, his personal bravery, and fortitude, and his disobedience of orders (or, rather, his substitution of his own military discretion), that saved the retreat of the Army and its almost total destruction.”

Thompson became very ill with dysentery and fever shortly thereafter, and was granted a 20 day leave of absence to join his family in St Louis and recover. On his arrival in St Louis, however, he was placed on temporary duty as an acting assistant commissary of musters. On November 6th he was ordered to permanently assume the position from Captain Cheek of the 13th U.S. Infantry.

Due to the fact that he had been absent from service with his regiment for such an extended period, Captain Thompson was ordered to appear before a retiring board in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1864. After recounting his military career, he ended his statement to the retention board, “I am well and sound and know of no reason why I should be unfit for duty.” The board, including Major Generals Irwin McDowell and Erasmus Keyes, voted unanimously to retain him in service.

Captain Thompson remained a conscientious cavalryman despite serving far from the action. In July 1864 he wrote to the Army’s Adjutant General concerning the possibility of recruiting newly mustered out volunteers for regular cavalry service. He noted “all I would require is a good noncommissioned officer and one man to look after these men after they have been mustered out – to bring them in after they have spent their money.” Recruiting was authorized three days later.

Captain Thompson returned to duty in the field with his regiment before the war’s end. He commanded the regiment at the battle of Selma on Wilson’s Raid during the closing days of the war. He continued to command the regiment through June, as it moved to Macon, Georgia for occupation duty. When the regiment moved to Texas, he resumed command of his company and the post of Fort Mason, Texas.

On August 25, 1867, he was promoted major of the Seventh Cavalry, though it took time for the news to reach him. He was preparing to move to join his new regiment when he was murdered by desperadoes at Fort Mason, Texas on November 14th.

The San Antonio (Texas) Express, in its issue of November 18, 1867, published this account of the incident:

“An express from Fort Mason arrived in this City on Saturday morning bringing the intelligence of the brutal murder of Major John A. Thompson, Commander of the Post, on Thursday morning last. Major Thompson was out driving with his wife and two children, and, passing by a store about half a mile from the Post, saw a difficulty taking place between some citizens and soldiers. He stopped his ambulance and ordered a sergeant, who was present, to have the parties arrested, when the desperadoes turned upon the Major and his sergeant, shooting the major through the head, killing him instantly, while by his wife’s side, and mortally wounding the sergeant.

“The murderers, having their horses at hand, fled before any attempt for their arrest could be made. [Then followed the names of the gang.] Scouts have been sent in all directions to (if possible) catch the murderers. The officers of the regiment have offered one thousand dollars reward for their arrest, and delivery to the military authorities.”

Sergeant John McDougall of the 4th Cavalry died of his wounds at the fort later the same day.

Fort Mason Assistant Surgeon John A. Hulse, wrote the following account of his murder to his father:

“Fort Mason, Texas, November 14, 1867.
Colonel John Thompson, Moundsville, W. Va.
Dear Sir – It becomes my painful duty to inform you of the death of your son, Major John A. Thompson, at this post, this morning, at the hands of desperadoes, while commanding the peace in an affray between them and a party of soldiers just arrived from Fort Chadbourne.
The ball struck the right cheek below the eye, cutting the internal carotid artery, and emerging below the left ear, with fatal hemorrhage in about twenty minutes. I was by his side in a few moments, but my best endeavors to preserve his valuable life were hopelessly futile.
He was universally esteemed here, his many noble qualities winning him a large circle of friends who, with his inconsolable family, and the Army which loses one of its most valuable officers, will ever deplore his irreparable loss.
Accept, dear sir, my most sincere sympathy, in this your sad bereavement.
Mrs. Thompson will leave for St. Louis as soon as proper escort can be secured to accompany her.
Very respectfully,
John A. Hulse, A.A. Surgeon, U.S.A.”

Major General Winfield Hancock, commanding the department, requested and received authority from the War Department to provide transportation and escort for the bereaved family.

There were several tributes written of him after his death, of which I have excerpted three:

“He was universally beloved by his fellow officers and the men under his command. He was very happy in his domestic relations, having one of the sweetest of women for a wife, and two beautiful children.”

“He was scholarly, soldierly, and gentlemanly, with the love of his men, the respect of his fellow officers, and the confidence of his superiors.”

“He devoted the best energies of a noble manhood to his country’s service, and closed an honorable career with that sublimest of offerings, a hero’s life.”

I give you Major John A. Thompson, a gallant cavalryman whose career was tragically cut short.


Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1903. Page 639.
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: 4th U.S. Cavalry.
Wise, Jennings C. The Military History of the Virginia Military Institute from 1839 to 1865. Lynchburg: J.P. Bell Company, Inc., 1915. Pages 501-504. H.W. Halleck

Reserve Brigade’s Final Report


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Among the batch of late posts was this final one by the Reserve Brigade’s commander, Brigadier General Alfred Gibbs, on the final days of the Appomattox campaign. I haven’t broken out the regimental numbers yet, but four regiments consisting of only 437 men is a telling statistic of the effects of the long ride from the Shenandoah and subsequent campaigning.

Report of Brig. Gen. Alfred Gibbs, U.S. Army, commanding Reserve Brigade.

Headquarters Cavalry Reserve Brigade,
Camp near Nottoway Station, April 15, 1865.

Major: In compliance with instructions from headquarters First cavalry division, Cavalry Corps, I have the honor to make the following report of the operations of this brigade from the time of leaving Petersburg, March 29, to the 9th of April, inclusive:

The brigade – consisting of the First, Fifth, and Sixth United States and Second Massachusetts Cavalry, in all 437 enlisted men, with 20 officers – left camp in front of Petersburg March 29 at 8 a.m. Marched via Reams’ Station, and camped near Dinwiddie Court-House. On the 30th moved early, brigade being in advance, skirmishing all day with enemy in vicinity Dinwiddie Court-House. The Fifth and Sixth U.S. Cavalry, under Maj. R. Murray Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, commanding, were sent up the road toward the Five Corners to feel and find the enemy. The Second Massachusetts, Col. C. Crowninshield, were sent up plank road to the right, while Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, Colonel Leiper, were sent up toward White Oak road and midway between the two before mentioned, with orders to communicate with columns on their respective flanks. All the columns soon felt the enemy, driving their vedettes in upon their supports, and these, in turn, upon their reserves. Major Morris gallantly drove in the large force opposed to him and held his position within a short distance of Five Forks until overpowered by numbers he fell back, losing three officers and 20 men. The Second Massachusetts and Sixth Pennsylvania also met the enemy whom they were unable to drive, but firmly held their position. They were relieved by First Brigade and First U.S. Cavalry and two regiments of the Second Brigade, under Colonel Fitzhugh, and again occupied position near Five Forks. At sunset the whole force was withdrawn and camped near the junction of roads before mentioned.

On the morning of the 31st moved toward Dinwiddie Court-House, and about 1 p.m. took position in the woods at another fork of plank road, the let connecting with brigadier-General Gregg, and right being directed to connect with the other brigades of the division; this, however, was never effected. Dense masses of the enemy’s infantry pressed down the road and entirely cut off these two brigades from us; although few in numbers the brigade desperately held its ground for over two hours, disputing every inch of ground until finally doggedly yielding, when the whole line was driven back by Pickett’s division of infantry, losing 5 officers killed and captured and 15 men. Captain Miller’s battery, Fourth Artillery, did good service on hill in front of the town. Lieutenant Thompson, aide-de-camp on my staff, was severely wounded, and Major Morris, Sixth U.S. Cavalry, also with me, had his horse killed by my side. Brigade camped that night near Crump’s house.

April 1, moved forward through Dinwiddie Court-House and participated in attack on enemy’s works near Five Forks. About 2 p.m. the whole line moved gallantly forward upon the enemy’s breast-works, the whole brigade being on foot except First U.S. Cavalry, which, under Capt. R.S.C. Lord, gallantly charged the flying masses of the enemy with reckless fury far beyond the advance of the rest of the brigade. At 5 p.m. the whole line was ours, with large numbers of prisoners, arms, and other material. In this most desperate conflict I have again to record the loss of 2 officers killed and wounded and 14 men. On the 2d of April the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, detailed for temporary duty at the headquarters cavalry brigade, moved toward South Side Railroad, of which it destroyed half a mile of track, and moved west, overtaking enemy’s infantry near Exeter Mills. Skirmished with enemy until dark; bivouacked on the skirmish line. On the 3d moved in rear of Third Division to near Deep Creek, but did not meet enemy that day. April 4, overtook enemy’s infantry and relieved the other brigades on picket; moved out again at 10 p.m. and marched all night, via Dennisville, and reached Jeffersonville [Jetersville?], on the Danville railroad, at 2 p.m.; formed on left of division and remained in line of battle until dark, when brigade was moved over to right and camped in rear of infantry.

On the 6th moved out and attacked enemy’s train at Sailor’s Creek; after a stubborn fight, slowly advancing, the brigade was withdrawn and moved to left, and about 10 p.m. drove in the pickets of rear of mahone’s division of infantry. While watching enemy were attacked and sharply shelled, losing four men, and bivouacked in the woods half a mile in rear. On 7th moved through Prince Edward Court-House, the advance being at Prospect Station and Walker’s Church to near Appomattox Station; met Third Cavalry Division engaged with enemy, and went on its right; skirmished till 10 p.m., and picketed with whole brigade on the right front and across Appomattox Court-House road.

On the memorable 9th of April attacked enemy dismounted, on the Appomattox Court-House road. The Fifth U.S. Cavalry were sent in mounted and down a road (on the left) in their front, but were met by a brigade of enemy’s infantry, and retired with a loss of four men. The brigade was then mounted and ordered to charge on the right of General Custer’s command, which was done in rapid style; but on arriving on the extreme right I was informed that a flag of truce of surrender had passed within our lines, and hostilities were ordered to be suspended. The brigade camped for the night at a wood near martin’s house, one mile in rear of Appomattox Court-House.

I have the honor herewith to inclose a nominal list of the officers killed, wounded, and captured, and a numerical list of enlisted men killed, wounded, and missing.

To the officers of my staff, the commanders of battery and regiments, and to the officers and men of the command generally, my most hearty thanks are due for the unwavering gallantry, fortitude, courage, and pertinacity with which they sustained the fatigues and hardships of this memorable campaign, the exercise of which only could have enabled them to take the distinguished part that they have done. It will always be a source of pride to them to feel that they, too, were in Sheridan’s army in the campaign of 1865.

I am, major, your obedient servant,
Alfred Gibbs,
Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Source: OR, Volume 46, part 1, pgs 1127-1129

Back to Work

After an extended absence due to family health scares and my computer on the fritz, I’m back in action. I’ll be back later today and this weekend with several of the posts that have waited for posting for the last month and a half.

Death of Thomas Drummond


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Thomas Drummond was a Virginian who chose to stay with the Union during the war. He will be featured more completely later in the year in a Fiddler’s Green post, but I thought it appropriate to post this account of his death on its 150th anniversary. Captain Drummond commanded the majority of his regiment (minus the battalion serving as General Grant’s escort) at the battle of Five Forks, having rejoined them from a leave of absence only the day before during fighting at Dinwiddie Court House.

George F. Price wrote in his history of the regiment, “He was strongly impressed with the belief that he would be killed at Five Forks, and appeared at the head of the regiment wearing his best uniform, so that, as he expressed himself, he would present a respectable appearance in death.”

Charles A. Humphreys was the regimental chaplain for the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry from 1863 through the end of the war. I previously posted his account of the death of Charles Russell Lowell here. As the chaplain, part of his duties were to recover the wounded from the battlefield during a fight. In his postwar history of the regiment, Field, Camp, Hospital and Prison in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Humphreys chronicles Drummond’s passing.

“Soon I came upon one of our brigade, a wounded captain of the Fifth United States Cavalry. We wrapped him like the rest, in a blanket, and bore him toward the rear to get out of the range of the musketry. But oh, it was sad to see the struggling of that soul, tossed as it was by a tempest of doubt and fear! While yet we were bearing him along, I could see by his ejaculations that he was trembling with apprehension before the awful mystery of death and expected judgment. His conception of God was evidently of a being terrible in wrath, inexorable to entreaty, arbitrary in his judgments, and unmoved by anything akin to human pity; and he dreaded to come into such a presence. His faithful men who were carrying him so tenderly tried to comfort him by telling him he would probably get well from his wound; but he was already grappling with death, and their suggestions of earthly hope were as idle words, and he said, “I wish I could see a chaplain.” I did not yet reveal myself to him, for we were still amid the noise and confusion of the battle. When we came to the ambulance-station we laid him down upon the ground and the surgeon bent over him to bind up his wounds; but the captain was more anxious about his soul than about his body, and said to the surgeon, “I wish you would send for a chaplain.” Then I revealed myself, and told him that I had been with him all the time, and spoke a few words of good cheer. And he said, “Chaplain, I wish you would pray with me.” Then I knelt and with his hand in mine I prayed, thanking God that he had put it into the heart of his young servant to give himself to his country, and that He had sustained him through so many hardships and trials, and now in this last, greatest trial I prayed that God would still sustain and cheer him, and lead him gently through the valley of the death-shadow to the bright regions of heavenly peace. As I finished he said, “Chaplain, I have been a bad man, a very bad man; but do you think God will be merciful?” I said, “Are you willing to die for your country?” He answered: “Oh yes! I am willing.” Then out of the fullness of my faith, and the sure prophesy in my soul that God was a God of mercy, I said, “With such sacrifices God is well pleased, and they will cover a multitude of sins.” This thought seemed to give him some foundation for a brighter faith. For though faith have wings like a dove, it yet needs some solid ground to stand upon, as the dove let loose from the ark soon returned because it found no place to rest its feet. But this soldier’s trembling faith found a sure support in the thought that he had done one thing at least, had made one sacrifice, which the great God, whom before he had known only to fear, would accept as a fitting service. Then I repeated the Twenty-third Psalm – “The Lord is my shepherd,” and at its close said, “It is sweet and pleasant to die for one’s country.” Upon the word his face lit up with an almost unearthly brightness, as he felt the uplifting glory of a willing sacrifice, and he exultantly repeated the old motto in the Latin original – “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” – a line which he had probably translated as a task at school, but which now he was translating eagerly into immortal life.

The captain now was quite calm, and permitted the doctor to dress his wound. Then he bade an affectionate farewell to his men, who, he said, had always been faithful to him; and we lifted him into an ambulance. As I was about to depart, he said, “I wish you would stay with me a little longer; I shall not need you long.” Then as I sat alone with him in the ambulance he said, “I wish you would administer to me the sacrament.” I answered: “There is no need of a sacrament. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.” And again he caught the inspiration of the thought, and took the words from my lips, and continued – “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Then again he was calm, and gave me messages for his wife and little ones. He would have his sabre given to his boy; and if, when he grew up, his country should have need of his services, he would have him to be a soldier too. He gave me his two rings, — one for his wife, the other for his little girl. He said they would know which was for each. Then I took him by the hand and bade him “Good-bye, keep up good courage,” and his last, brave words were, “Tell them I was willing to die for my country.”

Price also wrote of Drummond: “He was a brilliant young officer, and, although somewhat restive under the restraints of military discipline, was held in high estimation for his ability, judgment, and courage. He was the last officer of the regiment who fell in battle during the rebellion against the United States.”

For more information on the battle of Five Forks, see Brooks Simpson’s post yesterday on the battle’s anniversary here, and Craig Swain’s post from Charles wainwright’s diary here.


Humphreys, Charles A. Field, Camp, Hospital and Prison in the Civil War, 1861-1865. Boston: Geo. H. Ellis Co., 1918. Pages 247-250.

Price, George F. Across the Continent With the Fifth Cavalry. New York: D. Van Nostrand,Publisher, 1883. Pages 369-370.

The Court Martial of Charles Bates


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I first started posting the exploits of Charles E. Bates of the 4th U.S. Cavalry here back in 2007. He initially enlisted in 1858 at the age of 14 without the consent of his parents and somehow managed not to be discharged. Unlike many who fled home to join the army, however, Bates was a relatively steady correspondent to his family about his exploits. Given that I have already posted several of his letters as well as biographical sketches of both his first sergeant and commander on the blog, when I learned of the existence of this court martial record I couldn’t resist adding this. Special thanks to Bob O’Neill, who was kind enough to retrieve the record from the National Archives.

Camp Lincoln, Va
18 June 1862, Day 4 9 A.M.

The Court then proceeded to the trial of Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry, who being called into court and having heard the order convening the court read, was asked if he had any objections to any of the members named therein, to which he replied in the negative.
The Court was then duly sworn by the Judge Advocate, and the Judge Advocate was duly sworn by the presiding officer of the court, in the presence of the accused, and Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry was arraigned of the following charge and specifications, viz.:
Charge: Violation of the 9th Article of War
Specification: In this that Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th U.S. Cavalry did positively refuse to take care of a horse belonging to Company “E” 4th Cavalry, when ordered to do so by 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, (the Sergeant Fitzgerald being in the execution of his office at the time) saying I will not take care of the horse, or words to that effect. This in camp near New Bridge Va on or about the 30th of May 1862.

(signed) J.B. McIntyre
Capt 4th Cavalry
To which charge and specification the prisoner pleaded as follows,
Not Guilty, to the Specification
Not Guilty, to the Charge
Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, a witness on the part of the prosecution was duly sworn.
Question by Judge Advocate. What do you know of the prisoner, Corporal Bates, having refused to obey an order?

Answer. I am 1st Sergeant Edward Fitzgerald of Company “E” 4th Cavalry and on or about the evening of the 30th of May 1862 I ordered Corporal Bates to take care of a horse, he said he would not take care of the horse that I had mentioned, it was a horse that he had been recently riding that I had reference to.

Question by Judge Advocate. Were you both on duty at the time, and at what camp did this happen?

Answer. At camp near New Bridge to the best of my knowledge, and we were both on duty at the time.

Question by Prisoner. Is it not customary for surplus horses in the cavalry to be taken care of by the squads to which they belong?

Answer. According to the routine of duty I believe it is, and an enlisted man who rides a government horse is supposed to take care of him.

Question by Prisoner. Was the horse properly assigned to me and was I responsible for him?

Answer. He was not properly assigned to him to my knowledge, but it is my opinion he was responsible for grooming and feeding him as long as he used him.

Question by Prisoner. Would using a horse a week make a man obliged to clean him for the remainder of his enlistment?

Answer. According to circumstances or until he got another horse assigned to him.

Question by Prisoner. Did you not order me to see that somebody took care of that horse?

Answer. Yes I ordered him to see that somebody took care of the horse, and I afterwards ordered him to take care of the horse himself.

Question by Judge Advocate (note: miswritten, actually by prisoner): Did I not reply before he ordered me to take care of him, “the horse does not belong to my squad”?

Answer. I do not recollect about it.

Question by Prisoner. Did I use the horse on that day or not?

Answer. I do not know, I don’t recollect whether he used the horse on that day or not.

Question by Prisoner. Did I not express a desire to go and see the Captain before obeying your order?

Answer. I cannot recollect of having heard him say so.

Captain J.B. McIntyre 4th Cavalry a witness for the defense was duly sworn.

Question by Prisoner. What is my general character as a soldier in the company since you have been with it?

Answer. I am a captain in the 4th Regiment of Cavalry, Company “E” of which the prisoner is a corporal. I joined the company last August. Corporal Bates has been on duty with the company every day since. And up to this difficulty, no better soldier was in the company. The former captain of the company when I relieved him of the command of it gave his character the same as I have stated it. It is on record with the War department that he was the first man to pull down the secession flag in Arkansas.

The prisoner having no further testimony to offer made the following statement in his defense.

It was not my intention to disobey any order at all. When I was first ordered to see the horse taken care of I thought that the 1st Sergeant had made a mistake, by supposing that the horse belonged to my squad. He then ordered me to take care of him. I was taking care of another horse at the time. I expressed it as my intention to see the Captain before taking care of him, as I did not consider it my duty to take care of a horse until he was assigned to me.

The court was then closed for deliberation on the testimony adduced.

After mature deliberation the court finds the prisoner Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry as follows.

Of the specification, Guilty.
Of the charge, Guilty.

And the court does therefore sentence him Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cavalry, to be reduced to the ranks, and to forfeit ten dollars of his pay per month for twelve months.

Alfred G. Smith                                  W.H. Wood
1st Lt 8th Inf                                     Major 17th Inf
Judge Advocate                                Presdt G.C. Martial

The court adjourned at half past two o’clock P.M. to meet again at 9 o’clock A.M. on Thursday June 19th 1862.

Alfred G. Smith
1st Lt 8th Inf
Judge Advocate

The character of Bates’ service to date did influence the members of the court, it simply didn’t change the fact that he had, by his own admission, violated the 9th Article of War. The following was on the next page of the court martial file:

We the undersigned members of the General Court Martial in view of the good character given to Corporal Charles E. Bates of Company “E” 4th Cav by his company commander, beg to recommend that his sentence be remitted.

(signed by all)
W.H. Wood
Maj 17th Infty

J.B. McIntyre
Capt 4th Cav

James H. Forsyth
Captain 18th Infantry

R.T. Frank
Capt 8 Infy

C. Ford Trowbridge
1st Lt 16th Infty

While this seems like a pretty trivial matter to go to a court martial over, Bates at the time of this court martial was just barely 18 years of age, and firmly convinced that he was in the right. See here for his letter to his parents about the court martial after his sentencing.

For more information on Edward Fitzgerald, see here. For more information on John McIntyre, simply scroll back a few posts.

The Guns of Roselawn


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Roselawn Chronicles, part 2

Author’s note: The research for this post is not mine. It comes in its entirety from the inestimable Craig Swain, Civil War artillery expert extraordinaire. If you haven’t visited his blog at To The Sound of the Guns it is well worth a visit or ten. I don’t normally post about artillery, but after mentioning them in the last post it would be rude not to follow up with the photos.

As one enters Roselawn Cemetery, there is a memorial to the left side of the entrance. The Civil War memorial was erected in 1902 by the Women’s Auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic. The woman who spearheaded this effort is buried a few dozen feet away next to her husband.


The two cannon are iron 24-pounder flank howitzers. They were not battlefield pieces, as they were too heavy. They were normally placed in the bastions of forts to cover the interior angles – the dead space near the walls not covered by cannon with longer range. They typically fired grapeshot and cannister across the moat of the fort to repel infantry assaults rather than dueling opposing artillery with solid shot.

Early in the war the Confederates tried placing them on field carriages and using them in the field, but the iron howitzers were simply too heavy to be easily used at roughly 1,500 pounds. The 12-pounder howitzer was frequently used in the field, as it was half of that weight and much more maneuverable.

Both of these howitzers were cast at Cyrus Alger’s foundry in Boston, Massachusetts. The one on the right side of the photo was cast in 1847. Its registry number was 198, and it weighed 1,495 pounds. The left howitzer, registry number 277, was cast in 1849 and weighed 1,503 pounds.

The initials “J.W.R.” underneath the muzzles on both guns are those of the army ordnance officer who inspected it for quality, then-Major James Wolfe Ripley. He later achieved the rank of brigadier general and served as the army’s Chief of Ordnance for the first half of the Civil War. He was criticized during the war for being slow to adopt new technological innovations. On the other hand, Craig points out, he supervised a budget of $46 million at a time when ten cent cigars only cost a nickel.

The photos below are of the left howitzer, as an inconsiderate bird had defaced the muzzle of the one on the right side at the time of my visit.




For more information on the 24-pounder flank howitzer, look here: