December, 2007

Time for another installment of my infrequent series of profiles of forgotten cavalrymen.

John Baillie McIntosh was born at Tampa Bay, Florida, on June 29, 1829. His father, James S. McIntosh, was a Colonel in the United States army, and a native of Georgia. His mother was Eliza (Shumate) McIntosh. He was the grand-nephew of a Revolutionary War general who killed Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Young John was educated at Nazareth Hall, Pennsylvania, at S. M. Hammill’s School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and at Marlborough Churchill’s Military School at Sing Sing, New York, where he received a good education. Demonstrating an inclination toward the military, his family attempted to obtain an appointment to West Point for him. However, he had a brother who was a cadet there, and due to War Department policy, no two brothers of the same family could attend West Point. Instead, upon completing his studies in 1848, the 19-year-old McIntosh entered the navy as a midshipman.

He served on the U.S.S. Saratoga during the latter phases of the Mexican War. In 1850, after two years of service, he resigned. On October 2, 1850, he married Miss Amelia Short, of New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was engaged in various business ventures with his father-in-law between the years 1850-1861.

Soon after the beginning of hostilities in the Civil War, McIntosh was commissioned a second lieutenant of the Fifth United States cavalry, his commission bearing a date of 8th of June, 1861. His brother James M. McIntosh cast his lot with the Confederacy, was commissioned a brigadier general, and was killed in action while commanding an infantry division at the Battle of Pea Ridge in March 1862.

On April 27, 1862, he was promoted to first lieutenant, serving with his regiment on the Peninsula during the summer of 1862. As a consequence of his good service, he received a brevet to major for valor during the Battle of White Oak Swamp during the Seven Days. On September 26, 1862, he was appointed colonel of the 3rd Pennsylvania Cavalry, which he led during the Maryland Campaign, the Fredericksburg Campaign, and then in the spring of 1863.

During the March 17, 1863 Battle of Kelly’s Ford, McIntosh commanded a brigade in Brig. Gen. William W. Averell’s Division. “To the intrepidity,” wrote General Averell, “promptitude and excellent judgment of McIntosh on that occasion our success was chiefly attributable. Although off duty from illness, he voluntarily joined his brigade in the field and displayed all the vigor of an indomitable soldier.” After the battle of Chancellorsville he assumed permanent command of the First Brigade, Second Division, of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac.

During the fighting on East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg, McIntosh’s brigade had a major role, with the colonel himself engaging in hand-to-hand combat. After the end of the battle, during the pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, he won for himself an enviable reputation as a leader. When the fighting at Gettysburg ended, McIntosh’s brigade of cavalry and Brig. Gen. Thomas H. Neill’s of infantry were detached to follow up the line of retreat, while the main body of Meade’s army marched down on the south side of the Blue Ridge. On July 10, 1863, McIntosh fell in with the rebel force at old Antietam Forge, where a brisk engagement ensued. In recognition of his services throughout this entire campaign he was brevetted lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army, having been previously brevetted Major, and in December 1863, he was promoted to the Regular Army rank of Captain.

At 6:30 AM on May 5, 1864, he held Parker’s Store with a single regiment of cavalry, and received the first attack of the enemy in the Battle of the Wilderness, when Ewell’s Corps advanced. McIntosh’s lone regiment withstood the onslaught with all the stubbornness and determination of which so small a force was capable, and was finally driven down to near the intersection of the Brock Road, where it was relieved by a division of the Sixth Corps under George W. Getty. On May 8, McIntosh charged into Spotsylvania Court House with his brigade, took the town and captured many prisoners. Moving forward, he attacked the rear of Longstreet’s corps, and only withdrew upon the order of General Sheridan.

Following up on his defeat of W.H.F. Lee’s command at Hanover Court House on May 3, McIntosh then achieved a brilliant success on the following day at Ashland, where, with only three regiments, he withstood for two hours the combined attack of three brigades of rebel cavalry,
and finally retired with the loss of only a few led horses. For his gallantry here, he was brevetted colonel in the regular service and made brigadier general of volunteers.

McIntosh played a significant role during the 1864 Valley Campaign. “Although the main force,” says General Sheridan in his report, “remained without change of position from September 3d to 19th, still the cavalry was employed every day in harassing the enemy, its opponents being principally infantry. In these skirmishes the cavalry was becoming educated to attack infantry lines. On the 13th one of those handsome dashes was made by General McIntosh, of Wilson’s
division, capturing the Eighth South Carolina regiment at Abram’s Creek.” And of the Third Battle of Winchester, fought on September 19, 1864, Sheridan wrote, “Wilson, with McIntosh’s brigade leading, made a gallant charge through the long canon, and, meeting the advance of Ramseur’s rebel infantry division, drove it back and captured the earth-work at the mouth of the canon. This movement was immediately followed up by the Sixth Corps.”

Although the result could not have been better, this victory carried a significant cost for McIntosh. During the heat of battle, he was struck in the leg. The severe wound so mangled his leg that the doctors had to amputate the leg below the knee. “For distinguished gallantry, and good management at the battle of Opequon,” such was the language in which the distinction was conferred, he was promoted to the rank of brigadier general in the Regular Army and major general of volunteers by brevet.

In reviewing his record, Brig. Gen. William W. Averell said: “I beg to remark that there are few subalterns thoroughly capable of leading an advance guard. I do not remember above six in the cavalry, and McIntosh stood at the head of the list. As a brigade commander, either in camp or in action, he had no superior.” And Maj. Gen. George Stoneman said: “His bravery, loyalty, and integrity are equal to his capacity, and all are conspicuous.”

On July 28, 1866, he was appointed lieutenant colonel of the newly formed 42 U.S. Infantry, Veteran Reserve Corps, which position he held until the reduction of the army. In the summer of 1870, he was retired with the Regular Army rank of brigadier general. General McIntosh spent the rest of his days in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He died at the age of 59 on June 29, 1888 and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

Although he had no formal military training, John B. McIntosh was a superb natural soldier and as gifted a cavalryman as donned the Union blue during the Civil War. The terrible wound that cost him his leg also cost the United States Army the services of one of the most promising officers to emerge during the Civil War. Hopefully, he is no longer a forgotten cavalryman.

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This past summer, I helped to lead a tour of the Overland Campaign with Gordon Rhea and Bobby Krick. As a consequence of writing my study of Sheridan’s second raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station, I learned a great deal about cavalry operations during the Overland Campaign. I’ve continued to study those actions and to learn more as I go.

While out walking the fields with Gordon and Bobby, and, in particular, while visiting the battlefield at Cold Harbor, I had a bit of a revelation, and that revelation serves as the cornerstone of my book idea. The combination of terrain features and technological advances meant that cavalry tactics had to change dramatically, because the terrain covered by the Overland Campaign most assuredly was not amenable to classic mounted operations. Further, the firepower of the 7-shot Spencer carbine (and the few Henry rifles scattered throughout the Union cavalry) meant that cavalry tactics had to evolve, often on the fly.

Nowhere is that process of evolution more obvious than it was during the period between May 26 and June 3, 1864. The Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, just back from the May Richmond raid, fought hard, grinding fights almost every day, usually fighting dismounted. This period included the Battles of Haw’s Shop, Old Church, and Matadequin Creek, were later remembered by many veterans as some of the most difficult of the war. The high point of this period occurred on June 1, when Sheridan’s horse soldiers seized and held the critical road junction at Cold Harbor, withstanding heavy attacks by Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke’s Confederate infantry division. The superior firepower of the Spencers made it possible for the outnumbered Federal horsemen to hold that crucial position long enough for reinforcements to come up and relieve them.

This period also marked the ascendance of Wade Hampton to command of the Army of Northern Virginia’s Cavalry Corps. Hampton lacked the sense of fun demonstrated by his late predecessor, Jeb Stuart, but the big South Carolinian was the right man in the right place. Hampton demonstrated tactical genius, as demonstrated by the whipping he administered to Sheridan at Trevilians. I’m not persuaded that Stuart could have made the changes necessary to counter the evolving tactics, whereas Hampton was uniquely qualified for that role, and he filled it very effectively.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a tactical study of these actions will demonstrate the evolution of dismounted cavalry tactics in a way that has never been done previously. Both Gordon and Bobby agreed with me, and I’ve been chewing on doing this as a book length study since. I think i’ve decided to to tackle the project, and will put it on my list. It should be an interesting one. I’ve spent a fair amount of time at Haw’s Shop and Cold Harbor, but I’ve never done anything more than drive by the Matadequin Creek and Old Church battlefields, so I will need to spend some time there. Bobby’s already agreed to show me around, and I will definitely take him up on it.

Stay tuned.

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Rene Tyree has an excellent series of posts on his blog that began about a week ago on the causes of the Civil War. Tonight’s installment is part 8 of the series, and it’s really very well done and very insightful. I highly recommend the entire series to you, and wish that Dixie Dawn would take the time to read these posts, as the series constitutes one of the best and most concise analyses of the causes of the war I have yet seen.

Keep up the very good work, Rene.

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17 Dec 2007, by

The Details

Ted Savas is working on our retreat manuscript, getting it ready for publication. Apparently, superscripts wig out his software. Unfortunately, Word takes things like 2nd and makes the “nd” a superscript. We had to get rid of all of those superscripts for Ted. JD took the first cut at the 1200 or so endnotes and more than 800 entries of the bibliography, and I just finished taking the second run at them. It’s mind-numbing, dull work, but it’s stuff that has to be done. It took me the better part of two hours to get through all of it, but I did.

This is the sort of formatting work that I really and truly hate to do. It’s right up there with doing an index on my list of things I hate to do, but it has to be done, and it had to be done early in order to avoid any delays in what is already a short production timetable to get this book out in May.

The best part about it is that the job is now finished. 🙂

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16 Dec 2007, by

So, What Next?

Having finished the retreat book–I sent the illustrations and some of the maps to Ted Savas on Thursday, and JD sent the rest out the same day–and having finished the Dahlgren book and found a home for it, I’m regularly being asked what next?

I thought I would take a moment to answer the question. First, and foremost, I have a couple of articles to finish up. We’re doing an article on Monterey Pass for next year’s Gettysburg edition of Blue and Gray magazine, and we’re also wrapping up an article on Lt. Col. Benjamin Franklin Carter of the 4th Texas Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the fighting for Little Round Top on July 2, 1863, and who then had quite an ordeal. That article will be submitted to Gettysburg Magazine. Finally, I need to finish the article on Capt. William H. Boyd of the 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry for Gettysburg Magazine that I started earlier this year and then set aside to finish up these other projects.

When those are done, which should be shortly, I then have a project under contract with Westholme Publishing for a tactical study of John Hunt Morgan’s great Indiana and Ohio raid of 1863. The research is pretty much done, but I have one more battlefield to visit. I’ve driven the entire Ohio route, and have walked the Buffington Island battlefield several times.

Finally, JD and I have our three-volume study of cavalry operations in the Gettysburg Campaign to assemble.

I’d have to say that that’s enough to keep me busy for a while…..

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Today is a very sad day for the National Pastime. Former Senator George Mitchell’s 408 page report on the use of steroids in Major League Baseball was released today. The entire report can be downloaded for free in any number of places.

Some of the game’s biggest names were implicated in the report. 85 players were named, including MVP’s, 31 All Stars, Cy Young Award winners, and, most interestingly, 16 members of the New York Yankees. Sadly, the most famous name (beside Barry Bonds, that is) is that of the Rocket–yes, Roger Clemens himself. Clemens, with 7 Cy Young Awards, more than 350 victories, and often considered to be THE greatest pitcher of the modern era, has long been a favorite of mine. I can no longer root for him, even though his lawyer has loudly protested his innocence and has proclaimed how unfair the whole thing is.

I always knew that the Yankees were the best team that money could buy. Now, it appears that they were also the best team dope could build. If Bud Selig has any guts–and I can only hope he does–he will strip the Yankees of any World Series championships during the pertinent period of time, including making the dope fiends turn in their championship rings. Perhaps then, and only then, will these cheaters learn that there is a serious price to be paid for their cheating.

Unless Selig is willing to do something that serious, it will come across as a slap on the wrist, and it will also come across as an unwillingness to take steps to restore integrity to the game.

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A few minutes ago, I got off the phone with Dan Hoisington, the head honcho at Edinborough Press. At the suggestion of two friends, Bill Christen and fellow blogger Jim Schmidt, I submitted the Dahlgren bio manuscript to Dan. After making some revisions suggested by Steve Sears, I resubmitted a couple of pieces of the book, and Dan just informed me that he has accepted it for publication.

That’s great news. My research indicates that Dan, who has a master’s degree in history, is extremely selective about what he takes. He only puts out about four books per year, but all are quality works by good authors, and I’m flattered to have my work considered as such, particularly since I know that there are a lot of aspects of this book that are guaranteed to trigger controversy. Dan also puts out an aesthetically pleasing book, so I know that the production values will be good, too.

Most importantly, Dan shares my view of how to market and sell books. Consequently, I feel very comfortable with having the book placed there and knowing that Dan will be selling it.

For those interested, it looks like the book will have a spring 2009 release date, since Dan’s plate for 2008 is already full, in part with Jim Schmidt’s first book, which is scheduled for release in the spring.

Thanks to all for the support you’ve shown this project, as I’ve wrestled my way through it.

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12 Dec 2007, by


Just a note to point out that this is the 600th post on this blog since it began in September 2005. I never figured I’d still be here so many months and so many posts later, but here I am, still standing.

Thanks to all who indulge my rantings. Without you, there would be no point in doing this.

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In: Blogging | Tags:

There are two new blogs that I want to add to the blogroll.

16-year-old Sarah Adler of Hanover, PA maintains an insightful Civil War blog called Ten Roads in recognition of the network of ten roads that comes together in Gettysburg. Sarah volunteers at the Lincoln train station in Gettysburg, and I enjoy her insights. I’ve added a link to her blog.

I have also added a link to Rene Tyree’s blog, called Wig Wags. Rene is a graduate student in military history at American Military University, where I used to teach. The stated objective of the blog is to organize course material, but it seems to go much deeper than that. I find Rene’s insights and observations interesting, so I’ve also added a link to Rene’s blog.

I’ve also deleted the link to Mark Peters’ blog, as it has now been more than two months since the last post.

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10 Dec 2007, by


Many thanks to old friend Harry Smeltzer for bringing this to my attention. From Saturday’s issue of the Hanover Evening Sun newspaper, addressing the burial site of Col. Isaac E. Avery, which I wrote about here late last month:

Man discovers grave experts knew was there
Evening Sun Reporter
Article Launched: 12/08/2007 04:05:28 AM EST

While folklore often describes Confederate Col. Isaac Erwin Avery as writing his dying letter in…
Confederate Col. Isaac Erwin Avery etched one of the most dramatic stories of the Civil War – in his own blood.

Avery, according to the Dec. 14, 1909 issue of the Gettysburg Compiler, served admirably until Union soldiers shot both Avery and his horse as he led his regiment’s charge on the heavily fortified Union position on Cemetery Hill during the second day of the battle.

Pinned under his steed, Avery urged his men to go on, and as he lay dying, he pulled a piece of paper from his pocket and wrote: “Major, tell my father I died with my face to the enemy.”

The Compiler described the note as written in pencil and blotched with the soldier’s blood, but later accounts embellished the story to suggest Avery dipped a stick in his blood to improvise a writing implement.

Hagerstown history buff Richard Clem thought he added another chapter to the story when he recently discovered Avery’s final resting place in Hagerstown’s Rose Hill Cemetery.

Clem’s story caught the attention of The Associated Press and newspapers nationwide, but it turns out he didn’t add a chapter to Avery’s history.

“(Clem)’s not a hero up here,” said Licensed Gettysburg National Military Park Guide Jim Clouse. “We already knew about it.”

Clouse said despite the story’s drama, he usually omits the spot where Avery died from his tours.

That location is not disputed, Crouse said. Avery died on land that now serves as the football field for the Gettysburg Area High School, near Lefever Street, so he rarely takes his tours there.

The few he does take there, he said, usually ask to see the death site because they saw it on an Internet list of often-obscure battlefield locations known as “140 places every battlefield guide should know.”

Other guides at the park shared similar stories, but whether or not guides frequently tell Avery’s story, the location of his grave in Hagerstown’s Rose Hill Cemetery has been in publication for at least 17 years, according to the park’s records.

The park’s library also contained a 1973 letter from an R.L. Brake that concluded – as Clem had – that Avery was buried in a grave mistakenly marked as Col. J. E. Ayer.

That conclusion made it into print in the 1990 book “Wasted Valor: The Confederate Dead at Gettysburg” by seasonal Gettysburg ranger Gregory Coco.

National Park Historian John Heiser said Clem’s discovery didn’t compare to finding King Tut, but “whether the actual family knew (where Avery’s body laid) is up for debate.”

And Clouse said that it was good that Clem brought the grave to the attention of Avery’s family.

After Clem alerted Avery’s descendent, Bruce Avery, of the grave’s location, Bruce Avery dedicated a granite marker there.

Oops. I hate it when that happens.

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