23 March 2008 by Published in: Union Cavalry 14 comments

Last night, in order to answer a question that someone sent via e-mail, I pulled out the H. E. Howard regimental history of the 16th Virginia Cavalry. After checking the roster to answer the question I’d been asked, I decided to have a look to see what the book might have about Monocacy, as the 16th Virginia was part of McCausland’s Brigade, which fought all day at Monocacy on July 9, 1864. There’s not much, a couple of paragraphs. However, there was a map that caught my eye.

This map indicated that there was a skirmish on July 7 between the men of McCausland’s Brigade and troopers of the 4th U.S. Cavalry at Hagerstown, after which the town was ransomed. This really puzzled me–not because the town was ransomed; I already knew that–but because I was completely unaware of there being any troopers of the 4th U. S. Cavalry still in the Eastern Theater in July 1864. So far as I knew, the entire regiment was serving in Col. Robert H. G. Minty’s brigade in the Army of the Cumberland as of that date. The histories of the other two regiments of McCausland’s brigade–the 14th and 17th Virginia Cavalry regiments–had the same map and even less detail in the narrative.

Consequently, I sent Don Caughey an e-mail asking him if he knew anything about this. Don’s done a great deal of work on the 4th U. S. Cavalry with the thought of a book project, so I figured that if anyone would know, it would be Don. Don wrote back and confirmed what I thought–the regiment was serving in the Western Theater. That, I thought, was that–another example of poor scholarship and poor fact checking in one of the H. E. Howard regimental histories.

Today, J.D. was going through some copies of some documents from the Cavalry Bureau that he’d gotten, and sure enough, he found a letter dated June 22, 1864, by a captain of the 4th U. S. Cavalry, discussing how the large detachment of dismounted cavalrymen from the Army of the Potomac that had accumulated during Grant’s Overland Campaign had been sent to Julius Stahel in the Shenandoah Valley to operate against Early.

So, I’m left with the fascinating question of just who these guys were that McCausland tangled with at Hagerstown on July 7, 1864. I suspect that this is going to be a difficult question to answer, so if any of you have any ideas, I’m more than happy to hear them. Please feel free to pass them along.

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Comments

  1. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 8:56 pm

    Eric,

    Help a brother out.

    Artillery is my special interest, as it played such a crucial role at my battlefield.

    But I’d like to know more about ACW cavalry. Kindly direct me to a single volume cureall for my ignorance. I’m looking for something quite fundamental here with little nuance and more nuts and bolts.

    Best wishes,

    Mannie

  2. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 9:06 pm

    It’s curious, that’s for sure. I’m wondering if they weren’t a collection of various regiments. Why the 4th US only is represented on those maps, I haven’t a clue. It may be right, but seems a mistake – although we know that captain of the 4th US was indeed in the theater.

    We solve this one and I’m buying myself a beer.

    J.D.

  3. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 9:09 pm

    Mannie,
    Very, very hard to suggest one volume, but I’d say either of Longacre’s “Lee’s Cavalrymen” or “Lincoln’s Cavalrymen.” Those are the best we have right now for overviews of both cavalries for the entire war.
    J.D.

  4. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:11 pm

    I’d see it as an opportunity for scholarship. There were at least two composite groups of dismounted cavalrymen in the East. One took part in the fighting at Ft. Stevens and another (?) seems to have been sent off with some 100-Days men to the Valley. They turn up at Snicker’s Ferry. Would be nice to know, if it’s possible to still find out, exactly who these groups were and how strong they were. And of course there was the still-dismounted 25th NY Cavalry.

    I’ve wondered about this m’self but don’t know enough about to US cavalry remount policy to say. Did the US just send back dismounted to to the Washington deport to await remounts? If so it would appear that in the exigencies of the situation in 1864 some gaggles of them were sent out as discrete units. Or not.

  5. Tom Clemens
    Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Hmm. Not a promise, but now that the Washington Country Free Library has indexed the local newspaper for the Civil War years maybe there is something in there about the skirmish. I’ll try to look or call John Frye, (Dennis’ father) who runsthe special collections room. I’ll let you know if I find anything.

  6. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Fred,

    The answer is that the dismounted men were sent back to Giesboro Point for remounting. A bunch of them were sent to fight against Early’s invasion with Benjamin F. Kelley at Martinsburg. I edited the memoir of a sergeant of the 5th Michigan Cavalry who was one of those men, so we have some idea of how it transpired.

    This one is, I think, going to be a challenge to unravel.

    Eric

  7. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Tom,

    That would be fabulous and would be greatly appreciated if you wouldn’t mind doing that for us.

    Eric

  8. Don
    Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:37 pm

    Mannie,

    For your purposes, I’d recommend Stephen Z. Starr’s The Union Cavalry in the Civil War, Volume I. It’s eastern theater specific, and runs from the outbreak all the way through Gettysburg. It should help tie the developing Union cavalry situation into your campaign nicely.

    Don

  9. Billy
    Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 10:39 pm

    Eric, I will try to get to the library tomorrow or Tuesday and rifle through the microfilm of the 4th Cavalry’s regimental returns for that period. Those should have definitive data on who was where (well, they mostly do anyway.)

    Billy

  10. Sun 23rd Mar 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Tom and Billy – that would be terrific. Let us know if you turn up anything.

    Don, good suggestion about Starr – but I’d say if one wanted just one volume on the whole war (and depending which side of cavalry you wished to concentrate on) I’d go with either of those Longacre volumes.
    J.D.

  11. Mon 24th Mar 2008 at 8:04 am

    Large detachment of dismounted cavalry? Oh, this may open the door for thousands of, shall we say, “authenticity challenged” reenactors who prefer to participate in the events, sans-equine.

  12. Mon 24th Mar 2008 at 11:08 am

    Both sides had substantial dismounted units, not so much out of choice as for lack of horseflesh. Some Southern regiments had a “Company Q” made up of dismounted horsemen. One of the ironies of the Ft. Stevens fight was that you had the 25th NY Cav, which was unmounted, fighting the 62 VA, which was mounted infantry.

    Eric, would the Martinsburg group be the same as the Ft. Stevens or Snicker’s Ferry group, or another one? Yes, I’d say some unraveling is needed here.

  13. Andrew Ballard
    Wed 26th Mar 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Official Records, Series I, Vm. XXXVII, p. 337-339 talks about the 6th US Cavalry defending Hagerstown and no mention of the 4th US:

    Major J. S. SCHULTZE,

    Assistant Adjutant-General.

    MUTTONTOWN, MD., July 8, 1864.

    I moved with command to the edge of Hagerstown this evening and sent an officer and thirty men into the town and beyond. There were a few rebels in the town that we chased out. I discovered one of their camps of about 200 men about one mile from town on the Sharpsburg road. Some reliable citizens told me that there was another camp on the Funkstown road of a large force, and the men that passed through the town belonged to several different commands, and I suppose there is a much larger force in the vicinity than we are aware of. The enemy burned the hay and engine-house, and also some of the grain. I did not have time to find out what other damage was done except the plundering of several stores. Lieutenant Torrence, of the Fourteenth Pennsylvania Cavalry, the officer who was in command of the twenty-five men that were captured when I was forced out, in he town, badly wounded; also two of my men unable to be moved. The citizens say that about twelve of the men that were captured escaped from the rebels. I have been trying to do as much as I could with my little command and am now completely fagged out, both men and horses; many of my horses have given out entirely. The many roads that I have to picket and patrol keeps more than half of the command out all the time. Please send me more rations, also a ration of whisky for my men.

    H. T. McLEAN,

    First Lieutenant, Sixth U. S. Cavalry, Commanding

  14. Fri 28th Mar 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Gentlemen: My great-grandfather was in the Fourth Regiment United States Cavalry from his enlistment in 1859 at age 19, until his discharge
    at First Sergeant, Company I, January 1, 1872. For the past three years I
    have been compiling a history of the 4th Regiment. As a novice to the Civil War, I decided to start by creating a timeline of dates, places, events, and commands, affecting Company I and the 4th Regiment. Most of this
    has been done by researching through the published works of the historians of the Civil War, which led me to both Vale’s and Rand Bitter’s
    work on Minty’s Cavalry, Sipes book on “The Saber Regiment”, Sergeant
    Larson’s book, and other fascinating publications. Rand had some great
    information he shared with me and I recently began corresponsponding
    with Don Caughey who has also been very generous. My first “rough draft” of about 325 pages is done. Along the way I’ve gotten a handle on
    the Western Theater and the activities of the Regiment. Now that I have the outline, I’m going to take Rand Bitter’s advice, start again at the beginning, and research each day, month, and event – this time with the
    Official Records and any other primary source material I can find. I would
    certainly welcome any recommendations or suggestions from those of you who have an interest in the Regular Cavalry – especially the 4th Regiment!

    I do not believe there were any 4th Regulars in the Eastern Theater in
    July, 1864. At that time the 4th was part of Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign
    in Robert Minty’s “Saber Brigade” – 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, Cavalry
    Corps, Army of the Cumberland. Companies L & M were “created in the
    field” at Nashville, November, 1862.

    Companies A & E had been assigned to Headquarters, Army of the Potomac as personal escort to General McClellan, April – December 1862
    and were “loaned” to Burnside during the Battle of Fredericksburg, December `3, 1862. They rejoined the Regiment in Nashville in late
    December. All 12 Companies of the Regiment participated in the Battle of
    Franklin, Tenn., April 10, 1863.

    Does anyone know the name of the 4th Regiment officer in question?
    Many times, officers of the Regular Cavalry were assigned to help train
    new volunteer companies.

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