28 March 2007 by Published in: Union Cavalry 43 comments

Here’s another in my periodic series of forgotten cavalrymen. I wish I had thought to name this series “Fiddler’s Green”, as Don Caughey calls this sort of profile on his blog. Ah, well.

Robert Horatio George Minty was born in Westport, County Mayo, Ireland, on December 4, 1831. His father was born in Ireland and his mother was born in Scotland. His father was in the British Army. In 1848, Minty entered the British Army as an Ensign and served five years in the West Indies, Honduras and the west coast of Africa. On November 11, 1857, he married Grace Ann Abbott of London, Ontario, Canada at St Paul’s Cathedral in Port Sarnica, Ontario, Canada, where his first child, Nan R. G. Minty, was born on September 29, 1858. After Nan’s birth, the family moved to Michigan.

Minty was commissioned a Major in the Second Michigan Cavalry in 1861, Lieutenant Colonel of the Third Michigan Cavalry a few days afterward, and was made Colonel of the Fourth Michigan Cavalry in July, 1862. He commanded the brigade of which the Fourth Michigan formed a part a greater portion of the time during its service in the field. Minty, an Irish-born soldier of fortune, was one of a kind, having learned to use the saber when fighting for the queen in Africa. Consequently, his brigade became known as the “Saber Brigade,” perhaps as a result of two successful mounted charges, both led by Minty, against Joseph Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry, which was trying to hold entrenchments at Shelbyville in June 1863. Minty received a brevet to brigadier general of volunteers in March 1863 in recognition of his brilliant service throughout the war.

Minty conducted one of the most effective covering force actions of the Civil War at first Pea Vine Ridge and then fell back to Reed’s Bridge, across Chickamauga Creek. Minty made a determined stand on Pea Vine that morning, including a section of the Chicago Board of Trade battery, and then covered his retreat across Reed’s Bridge with mounted charges from a battalion of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which was known as the Saber Regiment. Minty’s stand is especially impressive because his brigade fought all day, with 900 men, opposing the four infantry brigades of Bushrod Johnson, numbering roughly 5000 Confederates. His men pulled up the planks to Reed’s Bridge, but the 23rd Tennessee re-planked the bridge (under fire) with siding from Reed’s Barn.

This was a textbook delaying action every bit as effective and every bit as important as that fought by John Buford at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863. Unlike Buford, who could disengage after a couple of hours and let the I Corps take over, Minty’s troopers were engaged from perhaps 10:30 am until at least 4 pm. However, and also unlike Buford’s stand, it got little attention and even less praise, perhaps because Chickamauga was a debacle for the Union while Gettysburg was a signal Union victory. The tactics were identical, and the results nearly so.

After the war he settled in Jackson, Michigan and raised a total of 10 children. Minty was General Superintendent of the Grand River Valley Railroad. In Alameda County, California, on February 6, 1870, he divorced Grace Ann Abbott and subsequently married Laura Abbott in Maysville, Mason County, Kentucky on May 14, 1871.

Robert H. G. Minty died in Yavapai County, Arizona on August 24, 1906 and was buried with full military honors in Ogden, Utah on September 3, 1906.

He was one of the very best Union cavalry brigade commanders but has been largely overlooked because of his service in the Western Theater. Had he fought in the Eastern Theater and accomplished the things he accomplished in the West, he would be in the pantheon of great cavalrymen of the Civil War. He deserves to be included in those exalted ranks.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 12:21 am

    Great post, Eric, and great seeing Minty get some due. I quite agree that he’d have been a staple name had he served in the East.

    Wait, that means there was fighting west of the Mississippi?

    Will wonders never cease 😉

    I’m curious about the Abbott women – do you know if they were related?

    J.D.

  2. Mark Peters
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 5:52 am

    Eric,

    A number of US cavalry regiments were disbanded at the beginning of the war, as they contained a large number of Canadians who were considered sympathetic to the CS cause. Do you know if Minty belonged to one of those prior to the formation of the 2nd Michigan in 1861?

    Best wishes,

    Mark

  3. Don
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 8:19 am

    Eric,
    Hmm, this theme of Civil War engagements taking place west of the Mississippi keeps cropping up. Great sketch of a fine cavalryman. Glad you like the biography section title, but JD started it with Faded Hoofbeats.
    What was the name of the brigade history of Minty’s brigade that you’d mentioned to me before? Looks like the 4th US was with him for quite a while, so hopefully there will be some good personal accounts.
    I didn’t know of the cavalry regiments disbanding as Mark mentioned above, but do know a great number of Canadians were killed in the fighting on both sides. Michigan and New York sems likely culprits, since the far northeast states had so few cavalry regiments.

    Don

  4. Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 9:47 am

    Don,

    Check Rand Bitter’s book “Minty and His Cavalry: A History of The Saber Brigade and Its Commander” on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Minty-His-Cavalry-History-Commander/dp/B000JLV76G/ref=sr_1_1/103-3931543-6061463?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1175175792&sr=1-1

    There’s also a reprint of “Minty and The Cavalry” by Higginson Books (www.wardhousebooks.com).

    J.D.

  5. Dave Powell
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 10:52 am

    JD

    Do you have a copy of Bitter’s Book? I have not been able to find or borrow one anywhere. Very annoying.

    Dave Powell

  6. Mark Peters
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 1:27 pm

    Don,

    I’ll find out exactly what regiments I referred to earlier, and report back. My recollection is that they may well have been Michigan regiments, and lancers into the bargain. I remember coming across this stuff, a few years ago, when looking at CS and US cavalry regiments that had been issued with lances.

    Best wishes,

    Mark

  7. Don
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks gentlemen!

  8. Sam Elliott
    Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Eric, your trip to Tennessee seems to have done wonders for you.

  9. Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Sam,

    I don’t know if I would go that far. 🙂

    Glad y’all liked this one. I’ve been meaning to pay tribute to Minty for a long time, and only just now got around to it.

    Thanks to Dave Powell for pointing out a couple of factual errors that I made.

    That book on Minty’s brigade by Bitter sounds extremely interesting. It was published in 2006 and is already out of print? What’s up with that?

    Eric

  10. Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Don,

    I don’t have Bitter’s book, and wasn’t aware of its existence until I did some snooping around and located the info on Amazon. Looks like Eric doesn’t have it either. Yes, extremely strange that it only came out last year and no one can get a copy of it. No clue as to how many were printed. The only thing I can think of is to contact the publisher…

    J.D.

  11. Thu 29th Mar 2007 at 11:37 pm

    It’s number 247 in the latest Butternut & Blue catalog. 40 bucks. The press run was only 270. Kind of an odd number to pick.

    http://www.butternutandblue.com/catalog.pdf

  12. Dave Powell
    Fri 30th Mar 2007 at 7:00 am

    I have seen the title before, because I am pretty attuned to stuff that might be Chickamauga-related, but I have never seen the book. I did an ILL on it through worldcat, and they only list one microfiche copy (?) at the Jackson MI library.

    I wanted to see it before I spent the money on it, to make sure it was worth it. I have tracked down a lot of obscure, self-published or limited run stuff over the years to find out it was barely worth the paper it was printed on.

    Not that Butternut and Blue tends to do bad work, but still – caveat emptor.

    I guess I will have to get it sight unseen.

    And, Sam, here’s hoping that we can convince Eric and JD to spend some time on the ‘other’ war, between the mountains and the river.

    Dave Powell

  13. Dave Powell
    Fri 30th Mar 2007 at 12:05 pm

    I looked more closely at the Rand Bitter book. the B&B catalogue says it is ‘based on” a series of articles Minty did in the National Tribune and LA Times. There is a good chance I already have the Chickamauga material, as I have the NT stuff.

    Minty was an extensive correspondent in the Natl Tribune, and penned lots of articles for them explaining his brigade’s actions. He also responded frequently to comments or articles from others, especially if they pertain to his command.

    Sometimes these exchanges became quite humorous.

    For example, there was a Sgt Larson, of the 4th US, who wrote a piece in the NT about how his squad was on picket on the night of September 21st, 1863, and got ‘left behind’ when the brigade withdrew. Minty’s Brigade had the mission of covering Thomas’ withdrawl from Rossville gap that night, back to Chattanooga.

    Larson recorded a lengthy adventure about how he and his men wandered through rebel lines, came upon an enemy detachment at an old mill, etc. All sorts of derring-do.

    Minty read this and was incensed, feeling the idea that he pulled out without bringing in his pickets cast aspersions on him and his old brigade. they would not have been that incompetent, he claimed. Larson and Minty ended up trading articles back and forth several times in the tribune over the incident.

    Minty’s articles are quite good. He was a solid writer, and his pieces are well grounded in fact, so I suspect he had a good collection of his own wartime papers to work from. They can run a bit bombastic, but he was very proud of his command, and they of him.

    He was agressive as hell as a commander. but, unlike Golden-boy GA Custer, I am not aware of him ever getting in too deep in a fight. I confess that I don’t know all that much about his post-Chickamauga career, however.

    Dave Powell

  14. Sat 31st Mar 2007 at 6:09 pm

    Thursday I bought B&B’s copy of Bitter’s book (I believe Jim McClean told me it was his last copy). So, it’s on its way.

    Being so rare I’m glad to have snagged it, but I also hope it turns out to be a useful resource in the future.

    J.D.

  15. Ron Stanton
    Thu 12th Apr 2007 at 11:48 am

    One of my grandparents used to use the term “Like Minty” in the manner of “Like Gangbusters”. Maybe Minty was just well known in Michigan then?
    I’m not a regular here, but have an interest in the Michigan Cavalry, ever since I learned that I had six or more relatives in Co. K of the 6th.
    Today I’m back to my old, delayed, project to find a correct miniature guidon to decorate some of their graves. Any leads here?
    Ron in Michigan

  16. Sun 29th Apr 2007 at 11:21 pm

    Hello gentlemen,

    I stumbled across this discussion of R.H.G. Minty and of my recent book titled “Minty and His Cavalry.”
    I can answer most of the questions addressed above and clarify several innacuracies if desired. The book was privately published last year, primarily in order to meet the timing of commemorating the 100th anniversary of his death. (All copies were thus signed dated and numbered on that date.) The book is a complete biography and includes virtually all of Minty’s own accounts, as well as the storeid post-war life he led. In fact, he did NOT divorce Grace Abott in 1870 (he never did, legally) and he did not marry her sister (long story) in 1871. This data was entirely fabricated. His life story gets more interesting as his life progressed. the book was printed in 3 versions, all similar except for the covers. There were 100 copies in green covers and embossed as “Minty Descendant Edition”s, and another 100 copies bound in blue and embossed as “Seventh Pennsylvania Cavalry Descendant Association Editions.” Finally there were 270 numbered copies also in blue without any special embossed edition. The contents are identical. The Minty Decendant editions sold out in days. Likewise, the 7th Pa edition is offered by a sponsor, Larry Fryer, of Woodstock, MD to members of his association. The remaining generic editions likewise nearly sold out and so I stopped actively marketing the book. I still have a supply of a few dozen copies however, and if someone wishes to obtain one (with or without personal inscription) please contact me and I will be happy to make one available to anyone with the interest. – Rand Bitter rbitter@comcast.net 734-981-9299

  17. Jeff Wright
    Fri 25th May 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I first learned of Col. Robert Minty many years ago while finding out what happened on our land during the war. I grew up where Col. Minty’s troopers brushed with the troops under Gen. Busrod Johnson and Gen. N.B. Forrest at Peavine Creek on Sept. 18 1863.
    Some notes of interest,Forrest escort at this time were the remnants of Gen. John Hunt Morgans command (250 men),the rest captured during the raid in Ohio.
    This column also had the first elements of Longstreet’s Corp to arrive from Virginia, Robertson”s Brigade ( Hood’s old Texas ). And while in line of battle at Peeler’s Mill on Peavine Creek, Hood personnally caught up with the column there and the men of his old Texas Brigade and Hood saw each other for the first time since his wounding at Gettsburg two months before.
    The ruins of the mill are still visible.
    Respectfully Jeff Wright

  18. Sat 11th Aug 2007 at 12:02 am

    Hello,
    I am research Minty at Lovejoy, Georgia on August 20, 1864. The heroic charge of Kilpatrick’s cavarlry division, which was led by Minty, is now the site of new battlefield park, owned by Henry County, Georgia. I led the archaeological survey and identification of key parts of the battlefield and am currently finalizing my report. I am a newbie on the Civil War cavalry. I hope to post my report at our website by late fall at http://lamarinstitute.org/reports.htm

    Any specific info on Minty at Lovejoy is welcomed. Thanks,
    Dan Elliott, President, The LAMAR Institute, Inc.

  19. Sat 11th Aug 2007 at 12:06 am

    Hello,
    I am research Colonel Robert H.G. Minty at Lovejoy, Georgia on August 20, 1864. The heroic charge of Kilpatrick’s cavarlry division, which was led by Minty, is now the site of new battlefield park, owned by Henry County, Georgia. I led the archaeological survey and identification of key parts of the battlefield and am currently finalizing my report. I am a newbie on the Civil War cavalry. I hope to post my report at our website by late fall at http://lamarinstitute.org/reports.htm

    Any specific info on Minty at Lovejoy is welcomed. Thanks,
    Dan Elliott, President, The LAMAR Institute, Inc.

  20. Rand Bitter
    Fri 31st Aug 2007 at 8:59 pm

    Dan,

    I have information on the Lovejoy charge, much of which is in my book on Minty. My email is at the end of my previous posting. How may I contact you?

  21. Wed 02nd Apr 2008 at 2:32 pm

    It is very illuminating indeed to read these comments and the original account of Robert Minty’s service in the US Civil War. When I was a teenager, my stepmother, Dorothy Minty (b. Prescott AZ 31 Jul 1908; d. 4 NYC 4 Jul, 1986), who informed me of her ancestry, gave me a copy of a book with the title something like “Photo History of the Civil War,” in which Robert H.G. Minty had at least a paragraph, and a photo. Dorothy Minty was a concert violinist, who premiered the Barber Violin Concerto in NYC; she taught at Julliard, and was an influential presence in the Lingelbach family.

  22. Curtis Allen
    Wed 03rd Sep 2008 at 11:16 am

    I am researching RHG Minty along with other CW veterans buried in Utah. He died in Arizona but was buried in Ogden Utah. Does anyone know why he was buried there?

  23. Mon 06th Oct 2008 at 9:35 am

    I have a relative by the name of Stephen L. Olmstead who rode with the 7th Pa. Cavalary. Trying to make email contact with someone from the 7th Pa. Cavalry Decendants Association to find out about becoming a member and honoring my relative through participation with others who have similar interests. Thanks for any help you can send my way.

    Al Olmstead
    bucktail@copper.net al.olmstead@sabic-ip.com

  24. Megan Minty
    Thu 26th Feb 2009 at 11:14 pm

    I’m pretty sure I’m the great great grandaughter of this commander. Does anybody know anything else about him?

    Thanks

  25. Rosemary McGuirk
    Sun 15th Mar 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Megan —

    Check with Rand Bitter — he did an extensive family tree on Minty. His
    address is attached to the end of his note dated on April 29, 2007.

  26. Mon 27th Apr 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Megan, I believe my stepmother Dorothy Minty was RHG Minty’s granddaughter, did you have any luck with your query from February? feel free to write me at the email address associated with my website under my name on this note. Dorothy was quite proud to have him as an ancestor, and she may have inherited his derring-do, or leadership, as she was a very strong woman and dedicated violinist. She played violin at Ansel Adams’ wedding and grew up in Arizona and California.

  27. Melanie
    Tue 26th May 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Hi, just stumbled on this website. Robert H.G. Minty was my great great grandfather. He did NOT divorce his wife Grace. He died before Grace ever knew he had taken up with her sister. He fathered children with both sisters. My mother was very close to her grandmother (Ethel) would never even speak of her father for what he did to his family. I wish some one would correct this error.

  28. War of Northern Aggression
    Sat 24th Apr 2010 at 11:44 am

    Didn’t Minty lead two calvary regiments in one of the very last actions of the war? Known as Wilson’s Raid, General Wilson Marched from Columbus, GA to Macon, GA via Thomaston, GA.

  29. Dayle Thomas
    Tue 01st Jun 2010 at 12:59 pm

    My family has had the honor of standing before General Minty gravsite several times for the last several years. On Memorial Day, we make sure he has a well-deserved flag placed at his headstone. This year, the Veterans did one better and placed this article on a large poster board for exhibit. We too have wondered why he was buried in Ogden, Utah. We are only guessing, but after Miliary retirement, Minty worked for the railroad and Ogden was a very large metro area with a main train depot and strategic military bases. Perhaps someone was looking down the road to future history. My family is interested in learning more who is resting next to my family’s resting area.

  30. Uta Mike
    Thu 03rd Jun 2010 at 2:13 pm

    Didn’t divorce Grace, left her in California, but took up with her sister in Kentucky, and had kids by both….the little devil.
    Why buried in Utah? Someone has got to know the answer to that one.

  31. LCDR Scott McGuirk
    Mon 06th Sep 2010 at 11:17 am

    Just another descendent, and there are many, checking in. Thank you for your website.
    1. Not mentioned in your excellent article is the capture of Jefferson Davis by the 4th Michigan Cavalry. JD surrendered to Minty and gave him his pistol which remained in the family until it was given to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. Originally the display expressed thanks to the Minty family for the contribution. I am advised that this sign has been removed. I am advised that Minty wrote a long letter describing the capture.
    2. One of my cousins has one of Minty’s British army jackets. I believe it is mess dress and red.

  32. REED BITTER
    Wed 30th Nov 2011 at 7:34 pm

    Gen. Minty was buried in Ogden because he buried his 2nd son with Laura Abbott there in 1891. His name was
    Glen Allen Minty, age 18 and who died of a form of paralysis–see page 443 of my son’s biography of the General: “Minty and His Cavalry-a History of the Sabre Brigade and Its Commander”, 2006, by Rand K. Bitter.
    Following his death in Jerome, AZ, Laura felt it best to keep the family together so he was brought back to Ogden where they had spent 12 years (1885-1897). Others buried on this plot at Aultorest Cem. besides the general and his son are wife Laura and son Courteney’s 2nd wife, Mary Josephine Luker. Courteney himself is buried in California.

  33. REED BITTER
    Wed 30th Nov 2011 at 7:55 pm

    If anyone is interested in contacting Rand K. Bitter regarding his biography of General Minty it is:
    rbitter@comcast.net

  34. Wayne Root
    Tue 07th Feb 2012 at 5:50 am

    Unless it has been changed since the 19th century, the name is Port Sarnia, not Sarnica, and it directly across from Port Huron, Michigan.

  35. walrus
    Fri 11th Jan 2013 at 12:57 am

    Interesting Man, this Col. Minty. Wonder how the war would have gone if men like him had fought with the Confederacy?

  36. Dennis Loewenstein
    Mon 02nd Feb 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Just thought you should know that Minty is said to have had S role in the capture / theft of confederate gold at the end of civil war. Story just broke here in Michigan. This link provides details that may benefit from comments from this forum.

  37. Christopher Jacobs
    Sun 11th Sep 2016 at 1:57 am

    No doubt some of that Confederate gold is sitting somewhere but only some of it. The bulk of it was divided among Davis’ cavalry escort – the 4th Tenn. Cav. Reg’t. Col. Minty led a dawn charge in 1863 surprising some Confederate videts and capturing my Ggrandfather in who was exchanged/paroled and later rejoined his unit – the 4th Tenn. Ironically, my Ggrandfather surrendered to Minty’s troopers again in 1865 in Georgia as part of Davis’ escort but the gold he secreted home to Tennessee. I doubt Minty ever obtained any of it.

  38. Fri 30th Dec 2016 at 10:08 pm

    You have the birth places of his mother and father reversed. It was his father who was born in Scotland and his mother that was born in Ireland. She was born in Westport, the same town as Minty.

  39. Anne Lepesant
    Fri 13th Jan 2017 at 3:08 pm

    Rob, I attended Aunt Dottie’s memorial service in New York with her youngest sister, my grandmother, Florence Minty. They were amazing women, all of them.

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