Month:

January, 2007

Col. Stephen D. Mann normally commanded the 7th Michigan Cavalry. However, Colonel Mann was not in command of the regiment at the end of the Campaign for reasons that remain unclear to me. This is Major Newcombe’s report:

At Hanover, Pa., on the 30th of June, the regiment having the advance of the brigade in its rapid return from Abbottstown was thrown into position on the left of the turnpike to the left and front of Battery M, 2d U. S. Artillery. Two squadrons were dismounted and advanced as skirmishers, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel [Allyne C.] Litchfield. In the progress of the section of the action the regiment was moved to the right of the town as a support to Battery M. The skirmishers, after having advanced beyond the town as a support under command of Major Newcombe, were sent to occupy the town, which they took possession of and held until night, when the enemy withdrew.

At Hagerstown, on July 2d, the regiment, except one squadron, held in reserve, was advanced on the left as dismounted skirmishers.

At Gettysburg, on the 3d of July, on the extended right of our line during the early part of the day the regiment, as reserve and as a support to Battery M, occupied various positions on the field. At about 4 o’clock P. M. the regiment was ordered to charge the advancing line of the enemy’s skirmishers, who were strongly supported by their cavalry reserve. A desperate but unequal hand-to-hand conflict here ocucrred. The regiment being finally obliged to retire twice, rallied under a sharp fire from the enemy, without support or cover, and returned to the charge and held the field until the advance of the 1st Michigan.

At Monterey, on the night of the 4th of July, two companies, under command of Captain Armstrong, were detached to hold the mountain road. The remainder of the regiment fought on the right as dismounted skirmishers.

At Smithburg, July 5th, the regiment supported Battery M and occupied the extreme left.

At Hagerstown, July 6th, the regiment, having supported the battery in the early part of the affair, was afterward advanced on the right nearly past the town, when it was dismounted and thrown forward as skirmishers, driving the enemy beyond the town, and was then recalled.

At Williamsport same day, supported a battery.

July 8th, at Boonsborough, in the early part of the action, supported Battery M on the right of the Hagerstown road. As our line of skirmishers were falling back, Major Newcombe, with his battalion, dismounted and advanced to their support. The line advanced under a heavy fire and drove the enemy from the woods. Reinforcements coming up, a charge was made and the enemy was driven from the field. The remainder of the regiment supported the skirmishers, and was exposed to a heavy fire.

On the 12th of July, the regiment being attached to the 1st brigade, with it entered Hagerstown under a sharp fire from the enemy. In the afternoon the regiment was advanced to support the infantry at the extreme right of the town.

At Falling Waters, July 14th, on coming into action, Major Granger was dispatched to the right, where dismounting a portion of his command, he soon took from the enemy a ten-pounder Parrott gun, which, after having turned against the enemy with great effect, he brought from the field. Another portion of the regiment went to the support of the skirmishers, and the remainder as a support to Battery M. The enemy’s column advancing to charge the battery, that portion fo the right supporting it–seventy sabres–advanced to the charge and brought from the field 400 prisoners, with the battle-flag of the 55th Virginia. The dismounted skirmishers of the 7th captured the colonel of the 55th, with several other officers and a squad of men.

The 7th Michigan made an epic charge on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, but Major Newcombe seems to have given that charge short shrift in this report. I find that extremely interesting.

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This is the report of Col. George H. Gray of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. Gray was a prominent lawyer and railroad man who was assigned to command the newly-formed 6th Michigan Cavalry in the fall of 1862. He had to resign his commission in the spring of 1864 due to health problems, but he was in command of his regiment at Gettysburg. Here is his report of the Gettysburg Campaign:

On the morning of June 30th this regiment, with the 5th, occupied Littlestown, Penn.; while Company A was on a reconnaissance toward Westminster, the remainder of the regiment (nine companies) proceeded to Hanover. On approached the last named place we came upon the enemy’s skirmishers, whom we drove to their guns, which we unexpectedly found posted on our right, supported by a large force of cavalry. Their battery opened upon us, when we withdrew. In making this movement we were completely flaned by another body of the enemy’s cavalry, outnumbering my command at least six to one. I placed two companies (B and F) in position to protect our rear and to check the enemy’s advance. These companies met, by counter charges, three successive charges of the enemy, with a loss on our part of from fifteen to twenty captured and a loss to the enemy of several wounded and captured. The regiment then moved by the left of the road to Hanover, and there reported to General Custer.

Company A having been called in from the Westminster road, joined a portion of the 5th Michigan Cavalry, and later in the day had an engagement with the cavalry force of the enemy.

On reporting to General Custer at Hanover, this regiment was at once deployed as skirmishers, forming a line of battle one mile in length, advanced upon the enemy and drove them until they withdrew.

On the evening of July 2d the regiment encountered the enemy’s cavalry at Hunterstown. Company A, under command of Captain H. A. Thompson, charged a brigade of cavalry, and though suffering great loss, so checked the enemy as to enable our battery to be placed in a position. Three other squadrons then dismounted and with their rifles drove the enemy back, when the guns of our battery caused them to hastily leave the field.

July 3d. At Gettysburg the regiment was ordered to the support of the battery, four companies being pushed forward in front, dismounted, four remaining through a great part of the engagement mounted and immediately to the left of the battery, exposed to the shot and shell of the enemy’s guns. The other companies were engaged as skirmishers to the front and right.

July 4th. At Monterey, when the attack was made on the enemy’s train, this regiment dismounted and deployed as skirmishers; fought the enemy, who were advantageously posted in the woods on either side of the road, and supported by two guns. Here, again, the enemy was driven with great loss on their part and alight on ours.

July 5th. At Smithburg this regiment was employed in supporting the battery.

July 6th. At Hagerstown the regiment, having been in rear of the column on the march, was ordered to the front, but on arriving there General Custer, having driven the enemy, ordered us back.

Same day, at Williamsport, passing the direct range of the enemy’s guns, thereby losing one officer killed, and three wounded, the regiment was posted on the front and to the right of our battery, and connecting with the skirmishers of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, protected our own guns and held the enemy, who was advancing on our right, until the remainder of our command left the position, the 1st and 6th being the last to retire.

July 8th. At Boonsborough this regiment was deployed tot he left of the Hagerstown road, and after a sharp and hotly contested engagement, lasting several hours, repulsed and routed the enemy, and drove him three miles, and until night closed the pursuit. The rebel General Stuart was in preson directing the assault in front of this regiment on that occasion.

July 11th. This regiment was ordered to do picket duty before Hagerstown turnpike on the right, towards Funkstown on the left. Here during the entire day we were engaged skirmishing with the enemy’s sharp-shooters. Our loss was only two wounded. The enemy was seen to carry several of his dead and wounded from his line.

July 12th. Participated in the capture of Hagerstown.

July 14th. At Falling Waters, the regiment being in advance of all others, came upon a division of the enemy’s infantry in a very strong position behind earth-works, on the crown of a hil.. The advance guard (Companies B and F), under Major P. A. Weber, charged them up to and within their fortifications. An entire brigade surrendered to this mere handful of men, when another brigade, drawn up in line in rear of the first, opened a murderous fire upon the gallant little band, in which the others, who had just surrendered, also joined, and the survivors were compelled to withdraw, leaving the bodies of many of their gallant and lamented comrades within rebel works, a witness of their noble and heroic daring. The remainder of the regiment, deployed as skirmishers, then engaged the vastly superior force of the enemy, but, overpowered by numbers, fell back to the cover of a hill, where there were joined by the 1st Michigan Cavalr. These two regiments then marched forward and charged the enemy, who fled with great loss. The flight soon became a rout, and soon nothing was to be seen of that division but the dead and wounded covering the fields and the crowds of prisoners in our hands.

July 20th. The regiment participated in the capture of Ashby’s Gap, and by order of Colonel Town, brigade commander, proceeded rapidly to Berry’s Ford, on the Shenandoah, where we encountered the enemy strongly entrenched on the opposite side of the river. After a skirmish, lasting some hours, there being no means of crossing the river, we were ordered to return. Our loss was three wounded.

July 24th. Engaged in the reconnaissance from Amisville to Newby’s Cross Roads. The regiment, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Foote, was deployed as skirmishers, and occupied the left of the line. After driving the enemy’s line of skirmishers and accomplishing the the object of the reconnaissance, the command was ordered back to Amisville. On the return this regiment, occupying the (then) right, and in a varrow lane, found itself flanked by a brigade of the enemy’s infantry, but succeeded in effecting the movement with but little loss.

Before the charge at Falling Waters, Major Peter Weber, who was killed in action that day, had told his friend Capt. James H. Kidd, that what he really wanted was a chance to lead a saber charge in battle. The gallant Weber got his wish and died in the process.

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In 1981, while looking for something to read that I could take with me to the summer camp where I spent the summer as a counselor, I discovered a series of three paperback books called “The Brotherhood of War” by W. E. B. Griffin. Telling the story of the U. S. Army in the North African and European Theatres of World War II and some of the fighting in Korea, these novels were riveting, and I gobbled them up. Griffin is veteran of the Korean War, and has to be close to 80. His son co-authored one of his recent titles, and is apparently being groomed to carry the torch when the father’s time comes. Hopefully, the son will do a better job of it than Jeff Shaara has done with his father’s legacy.

Before long, I was completely hooked. Whenever a new Griffin novel was published, I bought it and read it, usually to the exclusion of anything else I happened to be reading. The books are extremely formulaic: strong character development, lots of manly men getting lots of manly sex and doing lots of manly things. The good guys always prevail. It’s like book crack. It’s addictive and I can’t put it down. Griffin–a pen name; his real name is William E. Butterworth, III (hence the W.E.B.)–has published close to 40 novels in six different series. Five of the six deal with military topics. The sixth deals with Philadelphia police detectives. I have read every single one of his books in the five series of military-related books.

While at Costco today, I noticed a brand-new Griffin title, and I had to buy it. It’s sitting in the kitchen calling my name. I guess it’s time to indulge one of my very favorite guilty pleasures…..

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After Col. Russell A. Alger and his lieutenant colonel were both wounded, and after the senior major, Noah Ferry, was killed on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, the next senior officer was Maj. Crawley P. Dake. Dake put together an extremely cursory review of the activities of the regiment for the rest of the campaign–an itinerary, really. E. A. Paul published it in The New York Times, and it also appears in Michigan in the War. It has been published twice since then, once by me as an appendix to At Custer’s Side: The Civil War Writings of James Harvey Kidd, and it also appears in the Broadfoot Supplement to the Official Records. In spite of its recent publication, I will nevertheless include it here.

July 9th. Remained quietly at Boonsborough during day and night.

July 10th. Proceeded to the right of Funkstown and picketed the right during day and night.

July 11th. Still on picket and support for the battery.

July 12th. Moved towards Hagerstown; charged through the city, everywhere driving the enemy. Lieutenant Colonel Gould was wounded in the charge. Two squadrons dismounted on the left of the city and drove a superior force from its position. Picketed during the rest of the day and night.

July 13th. The regiment remained on picket in and around the city during the day and night.

July 14th. Moved out of Hagerstown in the advance to Williamsport, charged into the town, met no considerable force, moved to the right of the town, and up the river bank, and drove a small force of the enemy’s rear guard across the river, capturing a considerable number of prisoners. Rejoined the brigade at Falling Waters.

July 15th. Marched to Boonsborough.

July 16th. Marched to Berlin, on the Potomac, and remained day and night.

July 17th. Crossed to Purcelville and Snicker’s Gap, arrving at the latter place about noon. Dismounted and deployed as skirmishers. After skirmishing some time, took possession of and held the Gap for the night. Several prisoners were captured.

July 18th. Remained in possession of the Gap all day, and then returned to Purcelville.

July 19th. Marched from Purcelville to Upperville.

July 20th. Moved toward Ashby’s Gap; dismounted, deployed as skirmishers, and moved up into the mountains–the advance resisting a cavalry charge while the skirmishers, driving the enemy from the Gap, took possession of it. Returned to Upperville same night.

July 21st. Still at Upperville. On the 22d moved to Manassas Railroad.

July 23rd. Moved to Newby’s Cross Roads, in advance, ten squadrons dismounting to fight; deployed as skirmishers and moved on the right. Two squadrons mounted, remained in line in front. After some skirmishing obeyed orders to fall back.

What’s interesting is that most of the Union officers don’t seem to have considered the Gettysburg Campaign ended until the armies returned to their original starting positions astride the Rappahannock River, which did not happen until the end of July. Modern historians have arbitrarily chosen to call it ended with the crossing of the Potomac, but there was still quite a bit of fighting to be done.

For those interested in the Shoot-out at the Okay Corral, Crawley P. Dake became the U. S. marshal for the Arizona Territory. Dake was the one who commissioned both Virgil and Wyatt Earp as marshals. Dake was known for his effective use of special posses. He is inexorably tied to western lore.

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Col. Russell A. Alger commanded the 5th Michigan Cavalry for much of the war. Alger, of course, went on to become Secretary of War in the McKinley Administration, where he oversaw the Spanish-American War. According to Alger, he wrote a contemporaneous report of the 5th Michigan’s role in the Gettysburg Campaign, but that the report was lost. Consequently, in 1882, John Robertson, the adjutant general of Michigan, requested that Alger re-create his report. The 1882 report appears here:

In compliance with the former request from your predecessor, General Townsend, asking for a report of the 5th Michigan Cavalry Vols., for the “Gettysburg Campaign,” as none for the regiment is on file in the War Department, I have the honor to submit the following, believing it to be entirely correct, as far as it goes:

I find letters written by me to my wife of the following dates, giving our movements quite fully: Fairfax Court House, Va., June 24th, 1863; Frederick, Md., June 26th, 1863; Gettysburg, Pa., June 28th, 1863; Hanover, Pa., July 1st, 1863; Emmettsburg, Md., July 4th, 1863; Boonsborough, Md., July 8th, 1863; Frederick, Md., July 10th, 1863.

I have also official copies of the reports of General Custer commanding our brigade, and General Kilpatrick commanding our division, covering the same period, kindly furnished me by your office. I have also had the assistance of General L. S. Trowbridge, then a major in my regiment, and afterwards colonel of the 10th Michigan Cavalry, and brevet major general.

June 25th, 1863, at 3 o’clock A.M., my regiment which was brigaded with the 6th Michigan Cavalry, Brigadier General Copeland commanding, marched from Fairfax Court House, and during that afternoon crossed the Potomac river at Edward’s Ferry, and encamped during the night at Poolsville, Md.

June 26th. March to Frederick, Md., where we received a grand and loyal welcome from the citizens, thousands of whom were on the streets and in their windows, waving Union flags and making other demonstrations of joy.

June 27th. We march from Frederick to Emmettsburg, Md., and encamped.

Sunday, June 28th, we marched from Emmettsburg to Gettysburg, Pa., where I arrived with my regiment in the morning, capturing a few straggling rebels, and learned that the enemy’s cavalry had just vacated the town, and that their main army was supposed to be moving towards the interior of Pennsylvania. General Copeland, with his staff and the 6th Michigan Cavalry, arrived a few hours later.

Such demonstrations of joy as we witnessed, made by the good people of Gettysburg upon our arrival, it has never been my privilege to witness, either before or since; they almost literally covered my soldiers with flowers. How little they realized the terrible scenes that were to be enacted near their homes so soon thereafter. My regiment was greatly delighted with the honor of being the first to enter that place and learn definitely of the whereabouts of the enemy.

June 29th. We marched back to Emmettsburg. During the day General Copeland was relieved of his command, which was turned over to me temporarily.

June 30th. We marched to Littlestown, Pa., where the Michigan Cavalry Brigade, being 2d Brigade, 3d Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, consisting of the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th Michigan Cavalry, and Captain Pennington’s Battery of the U. S. Regular Artillery, was formed and placed under the command of Brigadier General G. A. Custer. From Littlestown we marched to Hanover, Pa., where my regiment had its first serious encounter with the enemy. General Stuart’s cavalry being near that place, I was left with my regiment to intercept him, should he move upon the road I was left to guard. Towards evening the enemy attacked me in quite a large force. I charged him, driving him some distance, dismounted my command fought him on foot, killing and capturing quite a number. My loss was quite severe.

It is proper here to state that my regiment was armed with the Spencer rifle, being the only regiment in the brigade, and I think in our division, then provided with that weapon. Consequently I was then and afterwards required to do very much fighting on foot.

July 2d. Was at the fight at Hunterstown, Pa., but I was not engaged, except in slight skirmishing; sustained no loss.

July 3d. At 10 A.M. our brigade, being on the right of the army, the enemy’s cavalry under General Stuart appeared in our front in large force. I was ordered to dismount my regiment to dismount and attack him, which I did, driving him back about half a mile and into a thick wood. Here he rallied, and attacked me and was repulsed, but with a heavy loss to my regiment as well as to him. Again he attacked me, moving round on my left flank, but was again repulsed. In this last attack I also sustained a serious loss, including the gallant Major Noah H. Ferry (brother of U. S. Senator Ferry), of my regiment.

Being unable to hold my position any longer, my ammunition being nearly exhausted, and while the enemy were diverted by a charge of the 7th Cavalry, Colonel Mann, on my right, I fell back and mounted my regiment. While mounting, the enemy charged past my right flank about forty rods distant, driving the 7th Michigan back in confusion; at that moment, having mounted a portion of my command, I directed Major Trowbridge to take it and charge the enemy, which he did gallantly, having his horse shot and killed under him in so doing.

A few moments later the balance of the regiment was engaged, and the enemy checked and driven from the field, only, however, to rally and come down upon our brigade in still greater numbers. This charge was met by Colonel Town with his 1st Michigan, which had been held in reserve until now, who charged, checked, and broke the enemy’s ranks, driving him from the field in confusion, assisted by the other regiments of the brigade.

I cannot pass the notice of this charge of the 1st Cavalry without adding a word to its already recorded well-earned praise. I do not believe it had its equal during the war, if ever. The squadrons, with almost faultless alignment, were hurled upon the largely superior numbers of the enemy, and as each squadron came up it was broken and forced out on either flank of the succeeding one, which filled its place, until over one-half of the regiment was broken up. But the rebels could not stand such terrible and rapid blows, and were forced to leave the field in haste and confusion, while the broken squadron of the gallant 1st formed as best they could in the rear of their regiment and joined in the pursuit.

This left our brigade in possession of that hotly contested field, and night having closed in, this terrible battle ended; and at our left, where the roar of cannon and musketry had been kept up all day, all was now quiet except occasional desultory firing along the line. My loss in killed and wounded was very severe. Major Ferry, who was cheering his battalion to hold its ground, was instantly killed. His death cast a deep gloom upon the whole brigade. He was a gallant soldier and an exemplary man, and his loss was a great blow. July 4th at 10 o’clock A.M, our division marched from Gettysburg battle-field to intercept the enemy, who was retreating along the South Mountain road towards Williamsport. We marched via Emmettsburg up the road leading to Monterey, a small place, as it appeared in the night, on top of South Mountain range, the 5th Michigan Cavalry being in the advance. As we approached the summit of the mountain about midnight (the night being very dark) we were surprised by the enemy opening fire upon us with two howitzers, charged with grape shot, at close range. The confusion following was only for a moment, and they were soon driven off and the command moved forward. Arriving at the summit of the mountain, the trains of the enemy could be distinctly heard moving along down the road which intercepted the line of our march—the road leading down the west slope of the mountain toward Williamsport. Near the junction of the two roads and between us and the trains of the enemy, was a bridge over a deep stream swollen by the heavy rains of the afternoon of the 4th, which was guarded by one thousand of the enemy’s infantry. This bridge the 5th Cavalry charged across, forming its line on the opposite side of the bridge by the flashes of its guns (the regiment being dismounted) and moved forward at a double quick upon the enemy, and was followed by the mounted escort of General Kilpatrick. This charge resulted in the capture of about fifteen hundred prisoners and a large train of wagons, the latter extending from the top to the base of the mountain, which were mostly burned, and the mules attached to them turned over to the quartermaster. I cannot speak in terms of too high praise of the behavior of my regiment in this engagement. It was the most trying place it had passed through up to that time, if not during its organization.

July 5th. We had some skirmishing with the enemy’s cavalry, who followed us, but nothing serious. We camped near Boonsborough, Md.

July 6th. We marched with the division to Hagerstown, Md. Had some skirmishing with the advance of the rebel army. From that place we marched down the turnpike to near Williamsport. My regiment being in advance, I was ordered by General Kilpatrick to charge into Williamsport, but just as we had drawn sabers and I had given the order to “Trot, march!” the order was countermanded and I formed my regiment in a sheltered place behind some rocks on the left of the road, and at the same time the enemy opened fire upon us with a battery of artillery in front. Near this place we remained until near night, skirmishing some in front with dismounted men, when it was discovered that the advance of the enemy’s infantry was close upon us.

At that moment orders were received to fall back at once, which we did under cover of the twilight, passing along within two hundred yards of the enemy’s infantry for more than a quarter of a mile, while they, with stacked arms in the road where we had passed down, saw us march by unmolested, evidently supposing we belonged to their army. This moved away much earlier, but being on our extreme right the orders had not reached me until was found that my command was missing. I was holding a position to guard the front only, supposing others were attending to the rear. We marched back to Boonsborough that night and encamped.

July 7th. We remained in camp.

July 8th. About 10 o’clock A.M. we met the enemy in large force between Boonsborough and Hagerstown, about three miles from Boonsborough. Here, again, on account of some stone walls, I was ordered to dismount my command and charge the enemy who was strongly posted in a piece of wood. We attacked him vigorously, driving him out of his lines and far beyond. In this last charge I was seriously wounded and carried from the field and did not join my command again until September, on the day our cavalry drove Stuart’s command out of Culpeper Court House.

My regiment participated in the engagement at Hagerstown on the 12th, when Lieutenant Colonel Gould was seriously wounded while leading a charge at Falling Waters July 14th, and at the subsequent battles and skirmishes had with the enemy during is retrograde movement.

I regret exceeding, that my official report, made soon after this campaign, is missing. It contained many accounts of personal bravery and daring which I cannot now relate, and to particularize at this remote date might do much injustice to many whose names would not be mentioned as they deserve.

I cannot, however, close this report without adding that in every engagement both officers and men filled their places as they should, and earned well the reputation which they always sustained, and of which any command might well be proud.

Maj. Crawley P. Dake assumed command of the regiment after both Alger and Lt. Col. Gould were wounded. Dake filed a brief report of the balance of the campaign that is really just an itinerary. That itinerary was published in the New York Times, and I will reproduce it here tomorrow.

Alger returned to duty in the fall of 1863. He served for another year and then resigned his commission in the fall of 1864 while under threat of being court-martialed for being away without leave. It apparently didn’t harm his political career after the war.

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This is the extensive excerpt of the report on the role his regiment, the 1st Michigan Cavalry, played in the Gettysburg Campaign. It’s the first of five posts that I will make, ending with the report of Brig. Gen. George A. Custer.

At Hanover, Pa., June 30th, the regiment was not actively employed. It was ordered to support Battery M, 2d Artillery, which was in position on a hill in rear of the town, until a late hour in the afternoon, when the battery was ordered to a new position. The regiment was ordered to hold the hill (the old position) by order of General [Elon J.] Farnsworth, since deceased.At the battle of Hunterstown, July 2d, the regiemtn was put in line of battle on the right of the road, near the village. One squadron, under command of Captain A. W. Duggan, was detached to hold a road leading into the town from the right front of it. One platoon was employed as skirmishers on the left of the road leading into the town from the rear. The platoon was actively engaged and did good service.

On the 3d of July the regiment, with others composing the 2d Brigade, was ordered to repel an attack on General Meade’s right. The position of the regiment was frequently changed during the day, but without meeting the enemy until about 4 P.M., when the 7th Michigan Cavalry, which had been deployed as skirmishers, was rapidly driven in by the enemy’s cavalry (Hampton’s brigade). The duty devolved upon the 1st Michigan of saving Battery M, and the day, which was then going against us. Nobly did the “Old 1st” do its duty. Charging in close column, the troopers using the saber only, the host rebel myrmidons were immediately swept from the field. Never before in the history of the war has one regiment of National cavalry met an entire brigade of Confederate cavalry (composed, as this brigade was, of regiments each of which equaled in point of numbers the 1st Michigan) in open field in a charge and defeated them. By the blessing of God this was done by the 1st Michigan. The enemy were not only defeated, but they were driven from the field in great confusion, and this regiment held the ground until the ground until ordered to a new position. I cannot say too much in praise of the officers and men of my command upon this occasion. That each did his duty is verified by the fact that the loss of the regiment in ten minutes was six officers and eighty men.

The division to which this regiment is attached moved early on the morning of the 4th of July to Emmettsburg; from thence it proceeded toward Monterey. Before reaching that place the enemy was discovered in force upon the hills to the right of the road. At Fountaindale, a small village some miles this side of Monterey, this regiment–being advance of the column–was sent on a road leading to the right of the town to Fairfield Gap. Upon reaching the Gap, the enemy was found occupying it. A charge was made by Lieutenant Colonel [Peter] Stagg, with one squadron, which, with the aid of the other portion of the regiment deployed as skirmishers, was successful in driving the enemy from the Gap. The regiment held the position until the entire column and train had passed, though the enemy made a strong effort, with superior numbers, to drive it out.

My command sustained a heavy loss here. Lieutenant Colonel Stagg, leading the charge, had his horse killed under him, and falling was seriously injured. Captain William R. Elliott, while bravely leading his company, was mortally wounded and died the next morning. Lieutenant James B. McElhenny, at that time commanding Company G, was killed instantly at Captain Elliott’s side. Seventeen men were also lost in this engagement. I must embrace the present opportunity of paying a party tribute to the memory of the noble men whose names I have mentioned above. Both of them had volunteered, impressed with the idea of the justness of the cause of the Union. They devoted their whole time to their duties, ever ready and faithful in their discharge. They died as the Union soldier loved to die, leading in the charge. They died, too, earnestly endeavoring to perpetuate the beloved institutions of our country on the anniversary day of its birth. Two officers and six men were lost the same evening at Monterey.

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On the 14th this regiment was first to come to the relief of the 6th Michigan Cavalry which had just engaged the enemy near Falling Waters. The brave [Major Peter] Weber [with a squadron of the 6th Michigan Cavalry] had just made his gallant charge as the regiment came up, joining with the 6th fighting on foot. The enemy were soon driven from the field. It was here that the Michigan brigade led by the general commanding (Kilpatrick) in person, did noble work. Each regiment vied with the other in deeds of daring. Five hundred prisoners, one gun, two caissons, three battle flags, and a large quantity of small arms attest the labor done. The 1st Michigan had the honor of capturing two of the three flags, and the 47th Regiment Virginia Infantry as well, at least so much as was on the field, being 56 men and and five officers.

This engagement was the last in which the regiment participated under my command. Since that time Major Brewer has had the command of it. Permit me here to speak of the late Captain Charles J. Snyder of my regiment, who was mortally woundedwhile gallantly leading a squadron of the 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, in the streets of Hagerstown on the 6th of July, and died of his wounds July 21st following. He had been detailed from the regiment for some days as an aid for General Kilpatrick, and was ordered by that officer to assist in the charge. Fearlessly he went upon his duty, and, as an eye witness informed me, nobly did he discharge it. Meeting six sturdy Confederates he engaged them single handed, cutting three of them out of the saddle and putting the rest to flight, though he received a pistol shot which caused his death, and a sabre cut upon the head as well early in the melee. The memory of this brave and noble hearted man will ever be cherished with brotherly fondness by officers and men of the 1st Michigan Cavalry.

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It was Sergeants Alfonso Chilson and James B. Lyon, of the 1st Michigan, who captured the 47th Virginia colors, together with a major and 70 men, at Falling Waters. The 47th was deployed, the major and 40 men were standing together in a hollow, when Sergeant Chilson marched up to the flag-bearer and seized the flag, at the same time Sergeant Lyon ordered the whole party to surrender, which order was very quickly obeyed, the rebels throwing down their arms. Passing then to the rear, Sergeants Chilson and Lyon captured 20 more men of the same regiment, all of whom they safely escorted to the rear. Privates Edward Ives and Edward Clark in the same battle captured the colors of the 40th Virginia Regiment, near the pontoon bridge, and while the rebels were destroying the bridge.

A couple of notes:

1. Colonel Town was in the end stages of tuberculosis, and was quite ill. He died in early 1864. That’s the reason why he was away from his command.

2. I find it fascinating that Town’s report doesn’t even mention Custer. Given Carhart’s ridiculous theory that Custer saved the Union on East Cavalry Field, you would think that some mention of the great hero would have been made, but it wasn’t. Likewise, Town does not mention that David M. Gregg ordered the charge of the 1st Michigan and not Custer.

3. “Myrmidon” means “a faithful follower who carries out orders without question.” That was a new one on me.

Fascinating.

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When I was working on my study of the fighting on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, I came across a tantalizing little tidbit. It has intrigued me for a long time, and it was, until last night, a source of great frustration for me.

If you look at the report of George A. Custer that’s included in volume 27 of the Official Records of the Civil War, it contains little useful information and is really only an itinerary of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. The same thing is true of the reports of the regimental commanders of Michigan Brigade. I think I know why. Custer’s personal possessions, including all of his papers, were captured at Trevilian Station in June 1864, and it’s possible that his actual report of the East Cavalry Field was lost.

Most of the regimental reports were actually published in an article by a correspondent of the New York Times named E. A. Paul in August 1863, and those can be found. However, it doesn’t appear that the portions published in Paul’s article are the entire reports, but rather pieces of them.

A teasing, tantalizing tidbit of a more detailed report can be found in an earlier biography of Custer, by Frederick Whittaker. It’s only a portion of this report, and there are no clues where the rest of it might be found. I spent several years searching for the thing, and had to content myself with the fragment when I did my study of East Cavalry Field. I published the fragment as an appendix to one of my two volumes of the writings of Bvt. Brig. Gen. James H. Kidd of the 6th Michigan Cavalry.

I actually gave up on finding the thing, and never figured I would find it. Until last night.

Last night, I was looking at some of my materials to cobble together one of my profiles of forgotten Union cavalrymen, and I pulled down the reprint of John Robertson’s Michigan in the War, a book published by the State of Michigan to commemorate its contributions to the Union victory in the Civil War. Each regiment and battery raised by Michigan has a brief history included in the book, and there is one for the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. When I looked at the entry for the Michigan Cavalry Brigade last night, what did I find? The full report by Custer, as well as the full reports of the commanders of the four regiments of the brigade. Never mind that I’ve owned a copy of this book for about five years. Never mind also that I’ve looked at parts of it extensively. I just never bothered to look at the section on the Michigan Brigade.

So, there it was, hiding right in front of my eyes, right there in my own library, just waiting to be found. It was, of course, totally fortuitous that I found it, as I really wasn’t looking for it at all. So far as I know, no modern treatment of the fighting on East Cavalry Field has ever used the entire report, and none have used the detailed reports of the regimental commanders. Certainly, Carhart didn’t use this material when he failed to do thorough research in writing his intellectually dishonest, festering pile of turds.

So, in the hope of promoting the public interest and making sure that this information is, in fact, made generally available, for the next several days, I will be using this blog to post these five reports verbatim here. Stay tuned. I hope you will find them interesting.

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I hope everyone enjoyed a safe and enjoyable New Year’s Eve last night. With Susan not yet a month post-surgical, we kept it pretty calm and pretty quiet.

2006 was quite a year, both for me and for this country. On the national front, the electorate spoke and did something about trying to put the brakes on the dictatorial presidency. Don Rumsfeld finally resigned. And hopefully, George W. Bush realized that things get pretty lonely out there on the fringes.

As for me, 2006 was an unprecedented year. I changed jobs, hopefully bettering my lot in life. I had three books published this year, all to critical acclaim. One of them fulfilled a twelve year labor of love that I can only hope did the boys of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry justice. Another was the fulfillment of my own need to study and learn about an obscure battle about which little has been written. The third marks my successful and enjoyable collaboration with J. D. Petruzzi, the first what will, I’m sure, be many similar projects. We had a front-cover article published in Civil War Times and our book was the featured review in America’s Civil War. All things considered, it was a really remarkable year.

It was a year in which not a lot of really good Civil War books were published, but a fair amount of really mediocre stuff was. I can only hope that’s a temporary situation and not a permanent one. The volume of good new works on the Civil War seems to be decreasing, and that this changes dramatically in 2007. If not, our beloved field of pursuit and interest is in trouble.

2007 will not lead to the publication of anywhere close to the volume of material that was published in 2006. I will have an article in the next issue of North & South, which was actually written about six years ago, and which has been awaiting publication ever since, as well as an article by J. D. and me in the next issue of Gettysburg Magazine. Hopefully, I will finish up Dahlgren and move on, but don’t expect another burst of books from me in 2007, because it won’t happen.

I have only made one resolution this year: not to make a resolution. Other than that, I’m just going to take things as they come.

Again, Susan joins me in wishing all of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007.

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