WITH CUSTER'S MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE IN THE CIVIL WAR
BY J.H. KIDD
FORMERLY COLONEL SIXTH MICHIGAN CAVALRY AND BREVET
BRIGADIER GENERAL OF VOLUNTEERS
IONIA, MICHIGAN SENTINEL PRINTING COMPANY 1908
COPYRIGHTED 1908 BY JAMES H. KIDD (All rights reserved)
THE SENTINEL PRESS IONIA, MICHIGAN
TO MY WIFE AND SON
TO MY COMRADES OF THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE
IS AFFECTIONATELY DEDICATED
In preparing this book it has not been the purpose of the author to write a complete historical sketch of the Michigan cavalry brigade. Such a history would require a volume as large for the record of each regiment; and, even then, it would fall short of doing justice to the patriotic services of that superb organization. The narrative contained in the following pages is a story of the personal recollections of one of the troopers who rode with Custer, and played a part—small it is true, but still a part—in the tragedy of the civil war. As such it is modestly put forth, with the hope that it may prove to be "an interesting story" to those who read it. The author also trusts that it may contribute something, albeit but a little, toward giving Custer's Michigan cavalrymen the place in the history of their country which they so richly earned on many fields.
Doubtless many things have been omitted that ought to have been included and some things written in that it might have been better to leave out. These are matters of personal judgment and taste, and no man's judgment is infallible. The chapters have been written in intervals of leisure during a period of more than twenty years. The one on Cedar Creek appeared first in 1886; the Gettysburg campaign in 1889; Brandy Station, Kilpatrick's Richmond expedition, the Yellow Tavern campaign, Buckland Mills, Hanovertown and Haw's Shop, The Trevilian Raid and some other portions have been prepared during the current year—1908. While memory has been the principal guide, the strict historical truth has been sought and, when there appeared to be a reasonable doubt, the official records have been consulted, and the writings of others freely drawn upon to verify these "recollections."
The Memoirs of P.H. Sheridan and H.B. McClellan's Campaigns of Stuart's Cavalry have been of especial value in this respect; the latter helping to give both sides of the picture, particularly in the accounts of the battles of Buckland Mills and Yellow Tavern. Wade Hampton's official reports were put to similar use in describing the battle of Trevilian Station.
So far as mention is made of individual officers and men there is no pretense that the list is complete. Those whose names appear in the text were selected as types. Hundreds of others were equally deserving. The same remark applies to the portraits. These are representative faces. The list could be extended indefinitely.
It was intended to include in an appendix a full roster of all the men who served in the Sixth Michigan cavalry and in the other regiments as well; but this would have made the book too bulky. By applying to the adjutant general of Michigan the books published by the state giving the record of every man who served in either of the regiments in the brigade can be obtained.
The Roll of Honor—a list of all those who were killed in action, or who died of wounds received in action—is as complete as it was possible to make it from the official records. In a very few cases, men who were reported "missing in action," and of whom no further record could be found, were assumed to have belonged in the list, but these are not numerous enough to materially affect the totals.
For the rest, the author cannot claim that he has done justice to either of these organizations, but he has made an honest effort to be fair and impartial, to tell the truth as he saw it, without prejudice. How well he has succeeded is not for him to say. "It is an interesting story," said an officer who served with distinction in the Fifth Michigan cavalry. If that shall be the verdict of all the comrades who read it, the writer will be satisfied.
I A NATIONAL AWAKENING 1
II AN EVENTFUL WINTER 12
III RECRUITING IN MICHIGAN 23
IV THE SUMMER OF 1862 29
V JOINING THE CAVALRY 35
VI IN THE REGIMENTAL RENDEZVOUS 46
VII THE DEPARTURE FOR WASHINGTON 69
VIII THE ARRIVAL IN WASHINGTON 72
IX THE STAY IN WASHINGTON 79
X FIELD SERVICE IN VIRGINIA 87
XI IN THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN 113
XII FROM GETTYSBURG TO FALLING WATERS 161
XIII FROM FALLING WATERS TO BUCKLAND MILLS 191
XIV THE BATTLE OF BUCKLAND MILLS 212
XV WINTER QUARTERS IN STEVENSBURG 227
XVI THE WILDERNESS CAMPAIGN 261
XVII THE YELLOW TAVERN CAMPAIGN 278
XVIII YELLOW TAVERN TO CHESTERFIELD STATION 307
XIX HANOVERTOWN AND HAW'S SHOP 318
XX THE TREVILIAN RAID 337
XXI IN THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY 373
XXII THE BATTLE OF CEDAR CREEK 403
XXIII A MYSTERIOUS WITNESS 434
XXIV A MEETING WITH MOSBY 444
LIST OF MAPS
1. ROUTE OF THE MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE IN THE GETTYSBURG CAMPAIGN Opposite Page 113
2. BATTLEFIELD OF TREVILIAN STATION JUNE 11-12, 1864 Opposite Page 337
3. BATTLEFIELD OF WINCHESTER SEPTEMBER 19, 1864 Opposite Page 385
PORTRAIT OF AUTHOR Frontispiece
AUSTIN BLAIR Opposite Page 18
THORNTON F. BRODHEAD 24
JAMES H. KIDD (in 1864) 37
JACOB O. PROBASCO 41
GEORGE GRAY 51
RUSSELL A. ALGER (in 1862) 54
GEORGE A. CUSTER (in 1863) 129
GEORGE A. CUSTER (in 1864) 132
DAVID MCMUTRIE GREGG 139
WILLIAM D. MANN 148
GEORGE G. BRIGGS 150
LUTHER S. TROWBRIDGE 153
CHARLES H. TOWN 156
JUDSON KILPATRICK 165
AARON CONE JEWETT 175
PETER A. WEBER 187
CHARLES E. STORRS 201
GEORGE A. CUSTER (about 1872) 211
DON G. LOVELL 219
WESLEY MERRITT 237
LEVANT W. BARNHART AND WILLIAM HULL 253
A.C. LITCHFIELD 258
ANGELO E. TOWER 291
PHILIP H. SHERIDAN 297
FITZHUGH LEE AND STAFF (in Cuba) 313
M.C. BUTLER 323
THOMAS W. HILL 334
WADE HAMPTON 345
MANNING D. BIRGE 357
SERGEANT AVERY 362
MELVIN BREWER 395
CHARLES R. LOWELL 411
THOMAS C. DEVIN 428
WITH CUSTER'S MICHIGAN CAVALRY BRIGADE
A NATIONAL AWAKENING
The war cloud that burst upon the country in 1861 was no surprise to sagacious observers. For many years it had been visible, at times a mere speck in the sky, again growing larger and more angry in appearance. It would disappear, sanguine patriots hoped forever, only to come again, full of dire portent and evil menacings. All men who were not blind saw it, but most of them trusted, many believed, that it would pass over and do no harm. Some of those high in authority blindly pinned their faith to luck and shut their eyes to the peril. Danger signals were set, but the mariners who were trying to steer the Ship of State, let her drift, making slight, if any, efforts to put her up against the wind and keep her off the rocks.
It is likely, however, that the Civil War was one of those things that had to be; that it was a means used by destiny to shape our ends; that it was needed to bring out those fine traits of National character which, up to that time, were not known to exist. Southern blood was hot and Northern blood was cold. Though citizens of one country, the people of the North and the people of the South were separated by a wide gulf in their interests and in their feelings. Doubt had been freely thrown upon the courage of the men who lived north of Mason and Dixon's line. The haughty slave owners and slave dealers affected to believe, many of them did believe, that one southern man could whip five "yankees." It took four years of war to teach them a different lesson.
It was the old story of highland and lowland feud, of the white rose and the red rose, of roundhead and cavalier, of foemen worthy of each other's steel fighting to weld "discordant and belligerent elements" into a homogeneous whole.
But war is not always an unmixed evil. Sometimes it is a positive good, and the Nation emerged from its great struggle more united than ever. The sections had learned to respect each other's prowess and to know each other's virtues. The cement that bound the union of states was no longer like wax to be melted by the fervent heat of political strifes. It had been tested and tempered in the fiery furnace of civil war. The history of that war often has been written. Much has been written that is not history. But whether fact or fiction, the story is read with undiminished interest as the years rush by.
One story there is that has not been told, at least not all of it; nor will it be until the last of those who took part in that great drama shall have gone over to the silent majority. It is the story of the individual experiences of the men who stood in the ranks, or of the officers who held no high rank; who knew little of plans and strategy, but bore their part of the burden and obeyed orders. There was no army, no corps, no division, brigade, or regiment, scarcely a battery, troop, or company, which went through that struggle, or a soldier who served in the field "for three years or during the war," whose experiences did not differ from any other, whose history would not contain many features peculiar to itself or himself. Two regiments in the same command, two soldiers in the same regiment, might get entirely different impressions of the battle in which both participated. Two equally truthful accounts might vary greatly in their details. What one saw, another might not see, and each could judge correctly only of what he, himself, witnessed. This fact accounts, in part, for the many contradictions, which are not contradictions, in the "annals of the war." The witnesses did not occupy the same standpoint. They were looking at different parts of the same panorama. Oftentimes they are like the two knights who slew each other in a quarrel about the color of a shield. One said it was red, the other declared it was green. Both were right, for it was red on one side and green on the other.
On such flimsy pretexts do men and nations wage war. Why then wonder if historians differ also? In the "Wilderness," each man's view was bounded by a very narrow horizon and few knew what was going on outside their range of vision. What was true of the "Wilderness" was true of nearly every battle fought between the union and confederate forces. No picture of a battle, whether it be painted in words or in colors, can bring into the perspective more than a glimpse of the actual field. No man could possibly have been stationed where he could see it all. Hence it came to pass that many a private soldier knew things which the corps commander did not know; and saw things which others did not see. The official reports, for the most part, furnish but a bare outline and are often misleading. The details may be put in by an infinite number of hands, and those features that seen separately appear incongruous, when blended will form a perfect picture. But it must be seen, like a panorama, in parts, for no single eye could take in, at once, all the details in a picture of a battle.
In the winter of 1855-56, while engaged as assistant factotum in a general lumbering and mercantile business in the pine woods of Northern Michigan, one of my functions was that of assistant postmaster, which led to getting up a "club" for the New York Weekly Tribune, the premium for which was an extra copy for myself. The result was that in due time my mind was imbued with the principles of Horace Greeley.
The boys who read the Tribune in the fifties were being unconsciously molded into the men, who, a few years later, rushed to the rescue of their country's flag. The seed sown by Horace Greeley, and others like him, brought forth a rich crop of loyalty, of devotion and self-sacrifice that was garnered in the war.
In the latter part of the year 1860, the air was full of threatenings. The country was clearly on the verge of civil war, and the feeling almost as intense as it was in the following April, after the flash of Edmund Ruffin's gun had fired the Northern heart.
In October, I came a freshman into the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. That noble institution was, even then, the pride of the Peninsula state. A superb corps of instructors, headed by Henry P. Tappan, the noblest Roman of them all, smoothed the pathway to learning which a thousand young men were trying to tread. These boys were full of life, vigor, ambition and energy. They were from various parts of the country, though but few were from the Southern States. The atmosphere of the place was wholesome, and calculated to develop a robust, courageous manhood. The students were led to study the best antique models, and to emulate the heroic traits of character in the great men of modern times. It may be said that nowhere in the land did the fires of patriotism burn with more fervent heat, during the eventful and exciting period that preceded by a few months the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.
The young men took a deep interest in the political campaign of that year, and watched with eager faces for every item of news that pertained to it.
The nomination of Abraham Lincoln was a bitter disappointment to the young Republicans of Michigan. Seward was their idol and their ideal, and when the news came of his defeat in the Chicago convention, many men shed tears, who later learned to love the very ground on which the Illinois "Railsplitter" stood; and who today cherish his memory with the same reverential respect which they feel for that of Washington.
During that memorable campaign, Seward spoke in Detroit and scores of students went from Ann Arbor to hear him. He did not impress one as a great orator. He was of slight frame, but of a noble and intellectual cast of countenance. His arguments were convincing, his language well-chosen, but he was somewhat lacking in the physical attributes so essential to perfect success as a public speaker. His features were very marked, with a big nose, a firm jaw, a lofty forehead, and a skin almost colorless. He had been the choice of Michigan for president and was received with the warmest demonstrations of respect and enthusiasm. Every word that fell from his lips was eagerly caught up by the great multitude. It was a proud day for him, and his heart must have been touched by the abounding evidences of affection.
Seward was looked upon as the embodiment of sagacious statesmanship and political prescience, but how far he fell short of comprehending the real magnitude of the crisis then impending, was shown by his prediction that the war would last but ninety days. His famous dictum about the "irrepressible conflict" did him more credit.
That same year, Salmon P. Chase also spoke in Michigan. There were giants in those days. Chase was not at all like Seward in his appearance. Tall and of commanding figure, he was a man of perfect physique. He had an expressive face and an excellent voice, well adapted to out-door speaking. In manner, he appeared somewhat pompous, and the impression he left on the mind of the listener was not so agreeable as that retained of the great New Yorker.
At some time during the summer of 1860, Stephen A. Douglas passed through Michigan over the Central Railroad. His train stopped at all stations and hundreds of students flocked to see and hear him. He came off the car to a temporary platform, and for twenty minutes, that sea of faces gazing at him with rapt attention, talked with great rapidity, but with such earnestness and force as to enchain the minds of his hearers. His remarks were in part stereotyped, and he made much of his well-worn argument about the right of the territories to "regulate their own domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the constitution." In manner, he was easy and graceful, in appearance, striking. He spoke with no apparent effort. Of massive frame, though short in stature, after the manner of General Sheridan, his head was large and set off by a luxuriant growth of hair that served to enhance its apparent size. His face was smooth, full and florid, the hue rather suggestive. His countenance and bearing indicated force, courage and tenacity of purpose. I was not surprised when he announced that he was on the side of the Union, and believe that, had he lived, he would have been, like Logan, a great soldier and a loyal supporter of Lincoln. He was a patriot of the purest type and one of the ablest men of his time.
A significant incident of the winter of 1860-61, seems worth recalling. That period was one of the most intense excitement. What with the secession of the Southern States, the resignation of Senators and Members of Congress, and the vacillating course of the Buchanan administration, the outlook was gloomy in the extreme. There were in the University a number of students from the South, and they kept their trunks packed ready to leave at a moment's notice. Party feeling ran high, and the tension was painful. William Lloyd Garrison came to Ann Arbor to speak and could not get a hall, but finally succeeded in securing a building used for a school-house, in the lower part of the town. Here he was set upon by a lot of roughs, who interrupted him with cat-calls and hisses, and made demonstrations so threatening, that, to avoid bodily injury, he was compelled to make his exit through a window. The affair was laid to the students, and some of them were engaged in it, to their discredit, be it said. It was not safe for an "Abolitionist" to free his mind even in the "Athens" of Michigan. Harper's Weekly published an illustrative cut of the scene, and Ann Arbor achieved an unenviable notoriety.
One day all hands went to the train to see the Prince of Wales, who was to pass through, on his way to Chicago. There was much curiosity to see the queen's son. He had been treated with distinguished consideration in the East and was going to take a look at the Western metropolis. There was a big crowd at the station, but his royal highness did not deign to notice us, much less to come out and make a speech, as Douglas did, who was a much greater man. But the "Little Giant" was neither a prince nor the son of a prince, though a "sovereign" in his own right, as is every American citizen. Through the open window, however, we had a glimpse of the scion of royalty, and saw a rather unpretentious looking young person, in the garb of a gentleman. The Duke of Newcastle stood on the platform, where he could be seen, and looked and acted much like an ordinary mortal. The boys agreed that he might make a very fair governor or congressman, if he were to turn Democrat and become a citizen of the land of the free and the home of the brave.
The faculty in the University of Michigan, in 1860, was a brilliant one, including the names of many who have had a world-wide reputation as scholars and savants. Andrew D. White, since President of Cornell University and distinguished in the diplomatic service of his country, was professor of history. Henry P. Tappan, President of the University, or "Chancellor," as he was fond of being styled, after the manner of the Germans, was a magnificent specimen of manhood, intellectually and physically. Tall and majestic in appearance, he had a massive head and noble countenance, an intellect profound and brilliant. No wonder that he was worshiped, for he was god-like in form and in mind. Like many another great man, however, it was his fate to incur the enmity of certain others too narrow and mean to appreciate either his ability or his nobility of character. Being on the Board of Regents they had the power, and used it relentlessly, to drive him out of the seat of learning which he had done more than all others to build up and to honor. The University was his pride and glory and when he was thus smitten in the house of his friends he shook the dust from his feet and went away, never to return. It is a sad story. He died abroad, after having been for many years an exile from his native land. The feeling against these men was bitter in the extreme. The students hung one of them in effigy and marched in a body to the house of the other and assailed it with stones and missiles, meantime filling the air with execrations on his head. Both long since ceased to be remembered, even by name, but the memory of Tappan remains as one of the choicest traditions of the University, and it will be as enduring as the life of the institution itself.
AN EVENTFUL WINTER
It was an eventful winter that preceded the breaking out of the war between the states. The salient feature of the time, apart from the excitement, was the uncertainty. War seemed inevitable, yet the temporizing continued. The South went on seizing forts and plundering arsenals, terrorizing union sentiment, and threatening the federal government. The arming of troops proceeded without check, and hostile cannon were defiantly pointed at federal forts. Every friend of his country felt his cheek burn with shame, and longed for one day of Andrew Jackson to stifle the conspiracy while it was in its infancy. One by one the states went out, boldly proclaiming that they owed no allegiance to the government; but the leaders in the North clung to the delusion that the bridges were not all burned and that the erring ones might be coaxed or cajoled into returning. Concessions were offered, point after point was yielded, even to the verge of dishonor, in an idle attempt to patch up a peace that, from the nature of the case, could have been but temporary, if obtained on such terms. The people of the Northern States had set their faces resolutely against secession and, led by Lincoln, had crossed the Rubicon and taken up the gage of battle, which had been thrown down by the South.
There was, then, no alternative but to fight. All other schemes were illusive. The supreme crisis of the Nation had come, and there was no other way than for the loyalty of the country to assert itself. The courage of the people had to be put to the proof, to see whether they were worthy of the heritage of freedom that had been earned by the blood of the fathers. For fifty years there had been no war in this country, except the affair with Mexico, so far away that distance lent enchantment to the view. The Northern people had not been bred to arms. The martial spirit was well-nigh extinct. Men knew little of military exercises, except such ideas as had been derived from the old militia system, that in many states was treated by the people rather with derision than respect, and in most of them was, in the impending emergency, a rather poor reliance for the national defense. Southerners, trained in the use of firearms and to the duello, did not attempt to conceal their contempt for their Northern brethren, and feigned to believe that north of Mason and Dixon's line lived a race of cowards.
It did not take long to demonstrate that the descendants of the Green Mountain Boys and of the western pioneers were foes worthy of the mettle of the men who came from the states of Sumter and Marion, and "Light Horse Harry Lee." The blood of their heroic ancestry ran in their veins, and they were ready and willing to do or die when once convinced that their country was in deadly peril. The people, indeed, were ready long before their leaders were. Some of the ablest men the North had produced were awed by their fear of the South—not physical fear, for Webster and Douglas and Cass were incapable of such a thing—but fear that the weight of Southern political influence might be thrown against them. Many of the party leaders of the North had come to be known as "dough-faces," a term of reproach, referring to the supposed ease with which they might be kneaded into any form required for Southern use. They might have been styled very appropriately "wax-nosed politicians," after the English custom, from the way they were nosed around by arrogant champions of the cause of slavery.
Conciliation was tried, but every effort in that direction failed. A tempest of discussion arose over the "Crittenden compromise resolutions," the last overture for peace on the part of the North. It was generally conceded that it would be better to have war than to give up all for which the North had been contending for so many years. There was a feeling of profound indignation and disgust at Buchanan's message to Congress, in which he virtually conceded the right of secession and denied the power of the federal government to coerce a state. The course of General Cass in resigning from the Cabinet, rather than be a party to the feeble policy of the President, was applauded by all parties in Michigan, and the venerable statesman resumed his old-time place in the affections of the people of the Peninsula state. Governor Blair voiced the sentiments of Democrats and Republicans alike, when he practically tendered the whole power of the state to sustain the federal government in its determination to maintain the Union. All the utterances of the "War Governor" during that trying period breathed a spirit of devoted patriotism and lofty courage. The people were with him and long before the call to arms was sounded by President Lincoln, the "Wolverines" were ready to do their part in the coming struggle.
In the evening of the day when Fort Sumter was fired upon, the students marched in a body to the house of Chancellor Tappan and called him out. His remarks were an exhortation to duty, an appeal to patriotism. He advised against haste, saying that the chances were that the country would be more in need of men in a year from that time than it was then. The University would put no hindrance in the way of such students as might feel impelled by a sense of duty to respond to the call for troops, but, on the contrary, would bid them God speed and watch their careers with pride and solicitude. The speech was calm but filled with the loftiest sentiments.
Professor Andrew D. White was also visited and made a most memorable and significant speech. Standing on the porch of his house, in the presence of several hundred young men, he declared his opinion that one of the greatest wars of history was upon us, which he believed would not end in a day, but would be a protracted and bloody struggle. "I shall not be surprised," said he, "if it turns out to be another 'Thirty Years War,' and no prophet can predict what momentous consequences may result from it, before a Gustavus Adolphus shall arise to lead the armies of the Union to victory." He made a rousing union speech that was loudly cheered by the throng of young men who heard it. Dr. Tappan also addressed an immense mass meeting, and all things worked together, to arouse the entire people to a high pitch of enthusiastic ardor for the cause of the Union.
At once, the town took on a military air. The state militia companies made haste to respond to the first call for three months' service and were assigned to the First regiment of Michigan infantry, stationed in Detroit. The ranks were filled to the maximum, in an incredibly short space of time. Indeed, there were more men than munitions for the service, and it was more difficult to equip the troops than to enlist them. The "position" of private in the ranks was much sought. As an illustration of this: On the afternoon before the First regiment of Michigan three-months men was to leave Detroit to march to Washington, my room-mate, William Channing Moore, a member of the Freshman class, came hurriedly into the room and, aglow with excitement, threw down his books, and extending his hand, said:
"Good-by, old boy; there is a vacant position in the Adrian company. I have accepted it and am off for the war. I leave on the first train for Detroit and shall join the company tomorrow morning."
"What is the position?" I asked.
"High private in the rear rank," he laughingly replied.
Moore was in the Bull Run battle, where he was shot through the arm and taken prisoner. He was exchanged and discharged and came back to his class in 1862. His sense of duty was not satisfied, however, for he enlisted again in the Eighteenth Michigan infantry, in which regiment he rose to be a captain. He survived the war and returned to civil life, only to be drowned several years later while fording a river in the South.
"Billy" Moore, as he was affectionately called, was a young man of superb physique, an athlete, a fine student, and as innocent of guile as a child. He is mentioned here as a typical student volunteer, one of many, as the record of the Michigan University in the war amply proves.
Two other University men, worthy to be named in the list with Moore, were Henry B. Landon and Allen A. Zacharias. Landon was graduated from the literary department in 1861. He immediately entered service as adjutant of the Seventh Michigan infantry—the regiment which led the advance of Burnside's army across the river in the battle of Fredericksburg. He was shot through the body in the battle of Fair Oaks, the bullet, it was said, passing through both lungs. This wound led to his discharge for disability. Landon returned to Ann Arbor and took a course in the medical department of the University, after which he reentered service as assistant surgeon of his old regiment. He survived the war, and became a physician and surgeon of repute, a pillar in the Episcopal church, and an excellent citizen. Landon was a prince of good fellows, always bubbling over with fun, drollery, and wit; and, withal, a fine vocalist, with a rich bass voice. In the winter of 1863-64, he often came to see me in my camp on the Rapidan, near Stevensburg, Virginia, and there was no man in the army whose visits were more welcome.
Zacharias was graduated in 1860. He went to Mississippi and became principal of a military institute. Military schools were numerous in the South. It will be remembered that General W.T. Sherman was engaged in similar work in Louisiana. "Stonewall" Jackson was professor of military science in Virginia. The South had its full share of cadets in West Point, so that the opening of hostilities found the two sections by no means on an equality, in the matter of educated officers. Zacharias came north, and went out in the Seventh Michigan infantry, in which he was promoted to captain. He was mortally wounded in the battle of Antietam. When his body was recovered on the field, after the battle, a letter addressed to his father was found clasped in his hand. It read as follows:
"I am wounded, mortally, I think. The fight rages around me. I have done my duty; this is my consolation. I hope to meet you all again. I left not the line until nearly all had fallen and the colors gone. I am weak. My arms are free, but below my chest all is numb. The enemy is trotting over me. The numbness up to my heart. Good-by to all. ALLAN."
The reference, in a previous paragraph, to General Cass, recalls the name of Norval E. Welch, a student of law, who was remarkable for his handsome face and figure. It is related of him that on an occasion when he was in Detroit, he happened to walk past the residence of General Cass, who was then, I believe, one of the United States senators from Michigan. The latter was so much impressed with the appearance of Welch, that he called him back and inquired his name, which was readily given. After a few moments' conversation, Cass asked Welch how he would like to be his private secretary, and, receiving a favorable response, tendered him the appointment on the spot. Welch served in that capacity until Cass went into the Cabinet of President Buchanan, when he came to Ann Arbor and took up the study of the law. When the Sixteenth Michigan infantry was organized, he was commissioned major, and was killed when leaping, sword in hand, over the confederate breastworks at Peebles's Farm, September 30, 1864. He had, in the meantime, been promoted to the colonelcy of his regiment.
Morris B. Wells was a graduate of the law department. He went into the war as an officer of the same regiment with Welch, but was subsequently promoted to be lieutenant colonel of the Twenty-first Michigan infantry. He was killed at Chickamauga.
No two men could be less alike in appearance than Norval Welch and Morris Wells. One was the embodiment of physical beauty, ruddy with health, overflowing with animal spirits, ready for a frolic, apt with the foils, dumb-bells or boxing gloves, but not particularly a student; the other, tall, rather slender, with an intellectual cast of countenance, frank and manly in his bearing, but somewhat reserved in manner and undemonstrative. Both were conspicuous for their gallantry, but the one impelled by that exuberant physical courage which is distinctive of the leonine type; the other an exemplar of that moral heroism which leads men to brave danger for a principle. They gave everything—even their lives—for their country.
The list might be indefinitely extended, but more is not needed to illustrate the spirit of the college boys of 1861-62.
But the students did not all go. Many remained then, only to go later. The prospect of danger, hardship, privation, was the least of the deterrent forces that held them back. To go meant much in most cases. It was to give up cherished plans and ambitions; to abandon their studies and turn aside from the paths that had been marked out for their future lives. Some had just entered that year upon the prescribed course of study; others were half way through; and others still, were soon to be graduated. It seemed hard to give it all up. But even these sacrifices were slight compared to those made by older men and heads of families.
And there was no need to depopulate the University at once. The first call filled, those who were left behind began to prepare for whatever might come. The students organized into military companies. Hardee's tactics became the leading text-book. There were three companies or more. These formed a battalion and there was a major to command it. One company was styled "The Tappan Guard," after the venerable President, and it was made up of as fine a body of young men as ever formed in line. Most of them found their way into the federal army and held good positions. The captain was Isaac H. Elliott, of Illinois, the athlete, par excellence, of the University, a tall, handsome man and a senior. "Tom" Wier, a junior, was first lieutenant and the writer second lieutenant. Elliott went to the war as colonel of an Illinois regiment of infantry and was afterwards, for many years, adjutant general of that state. Wier went out in the Third Michigan cavalry and became its lieutenant colonel. At the close of the war he was given a commission as second lieutenant in the Seventh United States cavalry, Custer's regiment, was brevetted twice for gallantry, and after escaping massacre with his chief at Little Big Horn, died of disease in New York City in 1876.
RECRUITING IN MICHIGAN
Ann Arbor was not the only town where the fires of patriotism were kept burning. It was one of many. "From one learn all." The state was one vast recruiting station. There was scarcely a town of importance which had not a company forming for some one or other of the various regiments that were organizing all through the year. Before the close of the year, aside from the three months men, three regiments of cavalry, eleven regiments of infantry, and five batteries were sent out, all for three years. There was little difficulty in getting recruits to fill these organizations to their maximum standard. No bounties were paid, no draft was resorted to. And, yet, the pay for enlisted men was but thirteen dollars a month. The calls of the President, after the first one for seventy-five thousand, were generally anticipated by the governor, and the troops would be in camp before they were called for, if not before they were needed. The personnel was excellent, and at first great pains were taken to select experienced and competent officers. Alpheus S. Williams, Orlando B. Wilcox, Israel B. Richardson, John C. Robinson, Orlando M. Poe, Thornton F. Brodhead, Gordon Granger, Phillip H. Sheridan and R.H.G. Minty were some of the names that appeared early in the history of Michigan in the war. Under their able leadership, hundreds of young men were instructed in the art of war and taught the principles of tactics, so that they were qualified to take responsible positions in the regiments that were put in the field the following year.
I remember going to see a dress parade of the First Michigan cavalry at Detroit in August. It was formed on foot, horses not having yet been furnished. It was a fine body of men, and Colonel Thornton F. Brodhead impressed me greatly because of his tall, commanding figure and military bearing. He distinguished himself and was killed at Second Bull Run.
Among the other officers was a spare, frail looking man named Town. He was at that time major and succeeded to the colonelcy after the death of Brodhead. He always sought death on the battle field, but never found it, and came home to die of consumption after the war was over. He was a modern Chevalier Bayard, and led his regiment at Gettysburg in the grandest cavalry charge of the war. I have no doubt that Meade's right was saved, July 3, 1863, by the superb courage of Charles H. Town and his brave followers. History is beginning to give the cavalry tardy justice for the part it played in that, one of the few great, decisive battles.
One of the most interested spectators of the parade was the venerable statesman and Democratic leader, Lewis Cass. He was then seventy-nine years of age, and few men had occupied a more conspicuous place in State and Nation. He was not without military experience, having been prominent in the frontier war of 1811, and in the war of 1812 he served as an aid to General Harrison. Soon thereafter, he was appointed brigadier general in the United States army, and was Secretary of War in the Cabinet of President Jackson. He also served as Territorial governor of Michigan, under the administrations of Madison, Monroe and John Quincy Adams. The fact of his resignation from the Cabinet of James Buchanan has already been referred to. I confess that I was, for the time being, more interested in that quiet man, standing there under the shadow of a tree, looking on at the parade, than in the tactical movements of the embryotic soldiers. There was, indeed, much about him to excite the curiosity and inflame the imagination of a youngster only just turned twenty-one.
Obtaining a position near where he stood, I studied him closely. He was not an imposing figure, though of large frame, being fat and puffy, with a heavy look about the eyes, and a general appearance of senility. He wore a wig. The remarks he made have gone from my memory. They were not of such a character as to leave much of an impression, and consisted mostly of a sort of perfunctory exhortation to the troops to do their duty as patriots.
It was with something of veneration that I looked at this man (standing on the verge of the grave he appeared to be), and, yet, he outlived many of the young men who stood before him in the bloom of youth. He did not seem to belong to the present so much as to the past. Fifty years before I was born, he had been a living witness of the inauguration of George Washington as first President of the United States. He had watched the growth of the American Union from the time of the adoption of the Constitution. He had been a contemporary of Jefferson, Madison, the Adamses, Burr and Hamilton. He had sate in the Cabinets of two different Presidents, at widely separated periods. He had represented the government in the diplomatic service abroad, and had served with distinction against the enemies of his country. He had seen the beginning of political parties in the United States and had been a prominent actor through all the changes. He was a youth of twelve when the Reign of Terror in France was in full blast, and thirty-three years of age when Napoleon Bonaparte was on the Island of St. Helena. He had witnessed the downfall of Pitt and the partition of Poland. He was, indeed, a part of the dead past. His work was done, and it seemed as if a portrait by one of the great masters had stepped down from the canvas to mingle with living persons.
When the young men from the South, who were in the University felt compelled to return to their homes, to cast in their lots with their respective states, the students in a body escorted them to their trains, and bade them good-by with a sincere wish for good luck to attend them wherever they might go, even though it were into the confederate military service. The parting was rather with a feeling of melancholy regret that the fates cruelly made our paths diverge, than one of bitterness on account of their belief in the right of states to secede.
There was a humorous, as well as a pathetic side to the war. Soldiers or students, young men were quick to see this. The penchant which boys have to trifle with subjects the most grave, gave rise to a funny incident in Ypsilanti (Michigan). There were two rival schools in that town—the "State Normal" and the "Union Seminary." The young men in these two flourishing institutions were never entirely at ease except when playing practical jokes upon each other. Soon after the secession of South Carolina, some of the Seminary boys conceived the idea of compelling the Normal people to show their colors. The first-named had put up the stars and stripes, a thing that the latter had neglected to do. One morning when the citizens of the town arose and cast their eyes toward the building dedicated to the education and training of teachers, they were astonished to see, flying from the lightning rod on the highest peak of the cupola, a flag of white, whereon was painted a Palmetto tree, beneath the shade of which was represented a rattle snake in act to strike. How it came there no one could conjecture, but there it was, floating impudently in the breeze, and how to get it down was the question.
I believe that the authorities of the school never learned who it was that performed this daring feat, but it will be violating no confidence, at this late day, to say that the two heroes of this daring boyish escapade, which was at the time a nine-days' wonder, served in the war, one of them in what was known as the "Normal" company, and are now gray-haired veterans, marching serenely down the western slope, toward the sunset of their well-spent lives.
THE SUMMER OF 1862
The summer of 1862 was one of the darkest periods of the war. Though more than a year had elapsed since the beginning of hostilities, things were apparently going from bad to worse. There was visible nowhere a single ray of light to illumine the gloom that had settled down upon the land. All the brilliant promise of McClellan's campaign had come to naught, and the splendid army of Potomac veterans, after having come within sight of the spires of Richmond, was in full retreat to the James. The end seemed farther away than in the beginning. Grant's successful campaign against Forts Henry and Donelson had been succeeded by a condition of lethargy in all the Western armies. Notwithstanding the successes at Pittsburg Landing and at Corinth, and the death of Albert Sidney Johnston, who had been regarded as the ablest of all the officers of the old army who had taken service with the confederates, there had been a total absence of decisive results. McClellan had disappointed the hopes of the people; Grant was accused of blundering and of a fondness for drink; the great ability of Sherman was not fully recognized; and the country did not yet suspect that in Sheridan it had another Marlborough. Stonewall Jackson was in full tilt in Virginia, and Robert E. Lee had given evidence that he could easily overmatch any leader who might be pitted against him. With more of hope than of confidence, the eyes of the Nation were turned towards Halleck, Buell, and Pope.
It was a dismal outlook. Union commanders were clamoring for more men and the Union cause was weak, because of the lack of confidence which Union generals had in each other. The patriotism of the volunteers, under these most trying and discouraging circumstances, was still the only reliance. Big bounties had not been offered and the draft had not yet been thought of, much less resorted to. War meetings were being held all over the state, literally in every school house, and recruiting went on vigorously. During the year 1862, Michigan equipped three regiments of cavalry, four batteries, two companies of sharpshooters, and fifteen regiments of infantry, which were mustered into the service of the United States.
About the time that the college year closed, President Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 more. This call was dated July 2, 1862, the last previous one having been made on July 25, 1861—almost a year before. Under this call, Congressman Francis W. Kellogg, of the then Fourth congressional district of Michigan, came home from Washington with authority to raise two more regiments of cavalry. This authority was direct from Secretary Stanton, with whom, for some reason, Mr. Kellogg had much influence, and from whom he received favors such as were granted to but few. He looked like Mr. Stanton. Perhaps that fact may have accounted, in part at least, for the strong bond of friendship between him and the great War Secretary. Under similar authority he had been instrumental, during the year 1861, in putting into the field the Second and Third regiments of Michigan cavalry. They had made an excellent record and that, likewise, may have counted to his credit with the War Department. Be that as it may, Mr. Kellogg went at this work with his accustomed vigor and, in a very short space of time, the Sixth and Seventh regiments were ready for muster, though the latter did not leave the state until January, 1863. The Fourth and Fifth regiments had been recruited under a previous call.
To show how little things often change the course of men's lives, an incident of personal experience is here related. The Fifth Michigan cavalry was recruited under the title of "Copeland's Mounted Riflemen." One of the most picturesque figures in America before the war was John C. Fremont, known as "The Pathfinder," whose "Narrative," in the fifties, was read by boys with the same avidity that they displayed in the perusal of the "Arabian Nights." Fremont had a regiment of "Mounted Riflemen" in the Mexican war, though it served in California, and the youthful imagination of those days idealized it into a corps d'elite, as it idealized the Mexican war veterans, Marion's men, or the Old Guard of Napoleon Bonaparte. The name had a certain fascination which entwined it around the memory, and when flaming posters appeared on the walls, announcing that Captain Gardner, of the village of Muir, was raising a company of "Mounted Riflemen" for Copeland's regiment, four young men, myself being one of them, hired a livery team and drove to that modest country four-corners to enlist. The "captain" handed us a telegram from Detroit saying that the regiment was full and his company could not be accepted. The boys drove back with heavy hearts at the lost opportunity. That is how it happened that I was not a private in the Fifth Michigan cavalry instead of a captain in the Sixth when I went out, for, in a few days from that time, Mr. Kellogg authorized me to raise a troop, a commission as captain being conditional on my being in camp with a minimum number of men, within fifteen days from the date of the appointment.
The conditions were complied with. Two of the other boys became captains in the Sixth Michigan cavalry; the other went out as sergeant-major of the Twenty-first Michigan infantry and arose in good time to be a captain in his regiment.
The government, during the earlier period of the war, was slow to recognize the importance of the cavalry arm of the service. It was expensive to maintain, and the policy of General Scott and his successors was to get along with as small a force of mounted men as possible, and these to be used mostly for escort duty and for orderlies around the various infantry headquarters. There was, consequently, in the cavalry very little of what is known as "esprit de corps." In the South, the opposite policy prevailed. At the First Bull Run, the very name of the "Black Horse cavalry" struck terror into the hearts of the Northern army, though it must be confessed that it was rather moral influence than physical force that the somewhat mythical horsemen exerted. Southern men were accustomed to the saddle, and were as a rule better riders than their Northern brethren. They took naturally to the mounted service, which was wisely fostered and encouraged by the Southern leaders, and, under the bold generalship of such riders as Ashby, Stuart, Hampton, Fitzhugh Lee, Rosser, Mosby, and others, the cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia surpassed that of the army of the Potomac both in numbers and in efficiency. McClellan says in his book that he often thought he made a mistake in not putting "Phil" Kearney in command of the cavalry. There is no doubt about it. Kearney had just the right sort of dash. If he had been given a corps of horse, with free rein, as Sheridan had it later on, "Phil" Kearney might have anticipated by at least two years the brilliant achievements of "Cavalry Phil" Sheridan. But the dashing one-armed hero was fated to be killed prematurely, and it was not until 1863, that Pleasanton, Buford, Gregg, Kilpatrick, and Custer began to make the Union troopers an important factor in the war; and Sheridan did not take command of the cavalry corps, to handle it as such, until the spring of 1864. Even then, as we shall see later, he had to quarrel with the commander of the army in order to compel recognition of its value as a tactical unit upon the field of battle. It was to Hooker, and not to Meade, that credit was due for bringing the cavalry into its proper relation to the work of the Northern army.
Under the able leadership of such officers as those mentioned, the Federal cavalry took a leading part in the Gettysburg campaign and those which succeeded it, and was able to meet the flower of the South on equal terms and on its own ground. There will be no more honorable page in the history of our country than that on which will be written the record of the cavalry of the armies of the Potomac and of the Shenandoah.
JOINING THE CAVALRY
I finished my sophomore year in June, 1862, and returned to my home full of military spirit and determined to embrace the first favorable opportunity to enter the volunteer service. As second lieutenant of the "Tappan Guard," I had acquired a pretty thorough knowledge of Hardee's tactics and a familiarity with the "school of the soldier" and "school of the company" which proved very useful. Most of the summer was given up to drilling the officers and men in one of the companies of the Twenty-first Michigan infantry, which was in camp near the town, fitting for the field. The officers were new to the business, without training or experience, as volunteer officers were apt to be, and gladly availed themselves of my help, which was freely given. I was offered a commission as first lieutenant in that regiment, but my ambition was to go in the cavalry and it was soon to be gratified.
Late in the month of August my father, coming home from Grand Rapids, met an old friend on the train who told him of Congressman Kellogg's arrival in that place and what his mission was. I wanted to be a second lieutenant and told my father that I preferred that to higher rank in the infantry. So, the next day, he went down to see the Congressman. His application for my appointment was heartily seconded by a number of influential men in the "Valley City," who knew nothing of me, but did it through their friendship for my father, whom they had known for many years as one of the most energetic and honorable business men in the Grand River valley. From 1848, he had been a familiar figure in lumbering circles and during that period there had been no year when, from May 1 till snow flew, his fleets of rafts of pine lumber were not running over the dam at Grand Rapids. With the business men along the river his relations had been close and friendly. They were, therefore, not reluctant to do him a favor. Among these I will mention but two, though there were many others who were equally zealous in the matter.
Wilder D. Foster and Amos Rathbun were two of the best known men in the metropolis of western Michigan. Mr. Foster was a hardware merchant who had built up a splendid business from small beginnings in the pioneer days. He succeeded Thomas White Ferry in the United States Congress, after Mr. Ferry had been elected to the Senate. Mr. Rathbun, "Uncle Amos" he was called, was a capitalist who had much to do with the development of the gypsum or "plaster" industry in his section of the state. Their influence with Mr. Kellogg was potent, and my father obtained more than he asked for. He came home with a conditional appointment which ran thus:
"Headquarters 6th Regt. of Mich. Cavalry. Grand Rapids, Aug. 28, 1862.
"To Captain James H. Kidd:
"You are hereby authorized to raise a company of mounted riflemen for this regiment on condition that you raise them within fifteen days from this date, and report with them at the rendezvous in this city.
"F.W. KELLOGG, Colonel Commanding."
My surprise and gratification can better be imagined than described. To say that I was delighted would be putting it mildly.
But the document with the Congressman's signature attached to it was not very much of itself. I was a captain in name only. There was no "company" and would not be unless a minimum of seventy-eight men were recruited, and at the end of fifteen days the appointment would expire by limitation. On the original document which has been carefully preserved appears the following endorsement in Mr. Kellogg's handwriting:
"The time is extended for raising this company until Tuesday of next week."
The fifteen days expired on Saturday and Mr. Kellogg kindly gave us four days extra time to get into camp.
It was, however, no easy task to get the requisite number of men in the time allowed, after so many men had been recruited for other regiments. The territory which we could draw upon for volunteers had been very thoroughly canvassed, in an effort to fill the quota of the state under Lincoln's last call. But it was less difficult to raise men for cavalry than for infantry and I was hopeful of succeeding. I soon learned that three others had received appointments for commissions in the same troop—one first, one second, and one supernumerary second lieutenant. The same conditions were imposed upon them. Thus, there were four of us whose commissions hinged upon getting a minimum number of men into camp within fifteen days.
The man designated for first lieutenant was Edward L. Craw. Some of Craw's friends thought he ought to be the captain, as he was a much older man than myself, though he had no knowledge of tactics and was in every sense a novice in military affairs. In a few days word came that Mr. Kellogg wanted to see me. He had been told that I was a "beardless boy" and he professed to want men for his captains. My friends advised me not to go—to be too busy recruiting, in fact—and I followed their advice. Had I gone, the "colonel" would, doubtless, have persuaded me to change with Craw, since I would have been more than satisfied to take second place, not having too high an opinion of my deserts.
But there was no time to waste and recruiting was strenuously pushed. Kellogg must have been stuffed pretty full of prejudice, for I never came to town that I did not hear something about it. My friends seemed beset with misgivings. One of them called me into his private office and inquired if I could not manage to raise a beard somehow. I am not sure that he did not suggest a false mustache as a temporary expedient. I told him that it would have to be with a smooth face or not at all. It would be out of the question to make a decent show in a year's time and with careful nursing.
Finally, "Uncle Amos" Rathbun heard of it and told Kellogg to give himself no concern about "the boy," that he would stand sponsor for him. "Uncle" Amos, though long ago gathered to his fathers, is alive yet in the memory of hundreds of Union soldiers whom he never failed to help as he had opportunity. And he did not wait for the opportunity to come to him. He sought it. He had a big heart and an open hand, and no man ever had a better friend. As for myself, I recall his name and memory with a heart full of gratitude for, from the moment I entered the service, he was always ready with the needed word of encouragement; prompt with proffers of aid; jealous of my good name; liberal with praise when praise was deserved; appreciative and watchful of my record till the end. If he had faults they were overshadowed by his kindness of heart and his unaffected virtues. When the record is made up, it will be found with "Uncle Amos" as it was with "Uncle Toby," when he uttered that famous and pardonable oath: "The accusing angel flew to heaven with the oath, blushed as he handed it in. The recording angel, as he wrote it down, dropped a tear upon it and blotted it out forever."
I was the first man to enlist in the embryotic troop and take the oath. The first recruit was Angelo E. Tower, a life long friend, who entered service as first sergeant and left it as captain, passing through the intermediate grades. His name will receive further mention in the course of this narrative.
The method of obtaining enlistments was to hold war meetings in schoolhouses. The recruiting officer accompanied by a good speaker would attend an evening meeting which had been duly advertised. The latter did the talking, the former was ready with blanks to obtain signatures and administer the oath. These meetings were generally well attended but sometimes it was difficult to induce anybody to volunteer. Once, two of us drove sixteen miles and after a fine, patriotic address of an hour, were about to return without results, when one stalwart young man arose and announced his willingness to "jine the cavalry." His name was Solomon Mangus and he proved to be a most excellent soldier.
On one of my trips, having halted at a wayside inn for lunch, I was accosted by a young man not more than seventeen or eighteen years of age, who said he had enlisted for my troop and, if found worthy, he would be much pleased if he could receive the appointment of "eighth corporal." I was amused at the modesty of the request, which was that he be placed on the lowest rung of the ladder of rank. The request did not appear unreasonable, and when the enrolment of troop "E" Sixth Michigan cavalry was completed, he appeared on the list as second corporal. From this rank he rose by successive steps to that of captain, winning his way by merit alone. For a time he served on the brigade staff, but, whether as corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, captain or staff officer, he acquitted himself with honor and had the confidence of those under whom he served as well as of those whom he commanded. His name was Jacob O. Probasco.
In the western part of the county our meetings collided with those of "Captain" Pratt, who had an appointment similar to mine and for the same regiment. Pratt was a big man—a giant almost—full of zeal and enthusiasm. He was a Methodist preacher—a revivalist—and did his own exhorting. He was very fatherly and patronizing and declared that he would not interfere with my work; that he had plenty of men pledged—more than he needed—and would cheerfully aid in filling my quota, in addition to his own. His promise was taken with a grain of salt and, in the end, I mustered more men than he did, and he had none to spare. Both troops were accepted, however, and both of us received our commissions in due time, as the sequel will show.
There was that about "Dominie" Pratt that impressed people with the idea that he would be a great "fighting parson." He was so big, burly and bearded, fierce looking as a dragoon, and with an air of intense earnestness. He was very pious and used to hold prayer meetings in his tent, conducted after the manner of the services at a camp meeting. His confidence in himself, real or assumed, was unlimited. Several of the officers who had seen no service in the field, were talking it over one evening in the colonel's tent, and conjecturing how they would feel and act when under fire. Most of them were in anything but a boastful mood, contenting themselves with modestly expressing the belief that when the ordeal came and they were put to the proof, they would stand up to the work and do their duty like officers and gentlemen. Captain Pratt said little, but, as we were walking away after the conference had broken up, he placed his arm around my waist, in his favorite, affectionate way (he had known me from boyhood) and in his most impressive pulpit manner, said: "Jimmie," (he always addressed me thus) "Jimmie, let others do as they may, I want to say to you, that the men who follow me on the field of battle go where death reigneth." As he neared the climax of this dire prediction, he unwound the arm with which he held me to his side and, raising it, emphasized his words with a fierce gesture. I confess that I drew back a step, and felt a certain sensation of awe and respect, as I beheld in him the incarnation of courage and carnage.
It may or may not be pertinent to mention that the intrepid captain never led his troop to slaughter; never welcomed the enemy "with bloody hands to hospitable graves." On account of ill health, he was compelled to resign in February, 1863, before the regiment marched from Washington into Virginia. I have always regretted that necessity, because, notwithstanding his apparent bravado, the captain was really a brave man, and there was such a fine opportunity in the "Old Dominion," in those days, for one who really hungered for gore to distinguish himself. It would have been a glorious sight to see the gigantic captain, full of the fiery spirit that animated Peter the Hermit when exhorting his followers to the rescue of the holy sepulcher, charging gallantly at the head of his men into the place "where death reigneth." There were several of those places in the southern country.
At the period of the civil war the word "company" was applied indiscriminately to cavalry or infantry. The unit of formation was the company. At the present time there is a distinction. A captain of cavalry commands a "troop." A captain of infantry commands a "company." A troop of cavalry corresponds to a company of infantry. For the sake of convenience and clearness this classification will henceforth be observed in the course of this narrative.
The troop, then, the raising of which has been thus briefly sketched, was ready on Tuesday, September 16, 1862, to begin its career as a military unit in the great army of union volunteers. It is known in the history of the civil war as Troop E, Sixth Michigan cavalry (volunteers). It was originally constituted as follows:
James H. Kidd, captain; Edward L. Craw, first lieutenant; Franklin P. Nichols, second lieutenant; Ambrose L. Soule, supernumerary second lieutenant.
Angelo E. Tower, first sergeant; James L. Manning, quartermaster sergeant; Amos T. Ayers, commissary sergeant; William H. Robinson, William Willett, Schuyler C. Triphagen, Marvin E. Avery, Solon H. Finney, sergeants.
Amos W. Stevens, Jacob O. Probasco, Isaac R. Hart, Benjamin B. Tucker, George I. Henry, David Welch, Marvin A. Filkins, James W. Brown, corporals.
Simon E. Allen, William Almy, Eber Blanchard, Heman S. Brown, Shuman Belding, Lester A. Berry, George Bennett, George Brown, John Cryderman, Edward H. Cook, William B. Clark, James H. Corwin, Eugene C. Croff, William W. Croff, Randall S. Compton, Manley Conkrite, William H. Compton, Seth Carey, Marion Case, Amaron Decker, Daniel Draper, Rinehart Dikeman, Thomas Dickinson, Orrin W. Daniels, Matthias Easter, Francis N. Friend, Ira Green, James Gray, George I. Goodale, Eli Halladay, Luther Hart, Elias Hogle, George E. Halladay, Robert Hempstead, Edmond R. Hallock, Henry M. Harrison, Warren Hopkins, John J. Hammel, Miles E. Hutchinson, Luther Johnson, Searight C. Koutz, Louis Kepfort, Archibald Lamberton, Martin Lerg, David Minthorn, Solomon Mangus, Andrew J. Miller, Jedediah D. Osborn, Timothy J. Mosher, Gershom W. Mattoon, Moses C. Nestell, George W. Marchant, Edwin Olds, Walter E. Pratt, Albert M. Parker, George W. Rall, Frederick Smith, Jesse Stewart, Josiah R. Stevens, David S. Starks, Orlando V.R. Showerman, David Stowell, James O. Sliter, Jonathan C. Smith, Meverick Smith, Samuel J. Smith, Josiah Thompson, William Toynton, John Tunks, Mortimer Trim, Albert Truax, Oliver L. VanTassel, Byron A. Vosburg, John VanWagoner, Sidney VanWagoner, Erastus J. Wall, Charles Wyman, Harvey C. Wilder, Israel Wall, Lewis H. Yeoman.
The troop that thus started on its career was a typical organization for that time—that is it had the characteristics common to the volunteers of the early period of the civil war. When mustered into the service it numbered one hundred and five officers and men. Though for the most part older than the men who went out later, the average age was but twenty-eight years. Nineteen were twenty or under; twenty-nine were thirty or under; eighteen were thirty-one or under. Only nine were over forty. For personnel and patriotism, for fortitude and endurance, they were never excelled. But they were not professional soldiers. At first, they were not soldiers at all. They were farmers, mechanics, merchants, laboring men, students, who enlisted from love of country rather than from love of arms, and were absolutely ignorant of any knowledge of the technical part of a soldier's "business." The militia had been mostly absorbed by the first calls in 1861 and the men of 1862 came from the plow, the shop, the schoolroom, the counting room or the office. With few exceptions, they were not accustomed to the use of arms and had everything to learn. The officers of this particular organization had no advantage over the others in this respect, for, save myself, not one of them knew even the rudiments of tactics. Indeed, at the date of muster, there were but three officers in the entire regiment who had seen service. These were Lieutenant Colonel Russell A. Alger, Captain Peter A. Weber and Lieutenant Don G. Lovell.
IN THE REGIMENTAL RENDEZVOUS
It was a raw, rainy day when we took up the march from the railroad station to the ground whereon had been established the rendezvous for the regiment. It was a motley collection of soldiers, considering the record they were to make during the coming years of active service in the field. All were in citizens' clothes, and equipped with neither uniforms nor arms. Assembled in haste for the journey, there had been no opportunity even to form in line or learn to keep step. No two of them were dressed alike. They were hungry and wet. Few had overcoats, none ponchos or blankets. Quarters were provided for the night in a vacant store where the men were sheltered from the rain, but had to sleep on the bare floor without cots or comforts of any kind. But, notwithstanding the gloomy conditions that attended this introduction to the volunteer service, they, in the main, kept up their good spirits, though some were visibly depressed and looked as if they were sorry they had come. In less than a year from that time, they had learned to endure a hundred-fold greater deprivations and hardships with equal minds.
The next morning, breakfast was served in an improvised dining-hall on the bank of the river which ran hard by. Then there was another march to "camp," the captain reported for duty to the "commandant," and a sort of routine of military exercises was entered upon. The officer in command and his adjutant were also new to the business and haste was made very slowly while they felt their way along. After a few days the camp was removed to better ground, which was high and dry, and overlooked the town. Here the real work of equipping, organizing and training began.
There were twelve troops, each composed of about one hundred officers and men. The officers were quartered in "wall" tents, but there were not tents enough, so wooden barracks were built for the men. A hospital was established in a house near by. This was pretty well patronized, at first, the exposure making many men ill. There was a guardhouse, also, but not much use for it. A large portion of each day was given up to drill. The rivalry among the captains was spirited, for they had been called together soon after reporting for duty, and informed that they would be given their respective places in line, by letter, from "A" to "M," consecutively, according to proficiency in drill upon a certain date, the two highest places barred, the assignments having been made previously. As the relative rank of these officers depended upon the letter given, it may be imagined that they spared no effort of which they were severally capable. They became immediate students, both in theory and in practice, of Philip St. George Cooke's cavalry tactics wherein the formation in single rank was prescribed.
Soon after going into this camp, uniforms were issued and horses also. The uniform for the enlisted men, at that time, consisted of a cavalry jacket, reinforced trousers, forage cap, and boots which came to the knee. Arms, except sabers, were not supplied until after leaving the state. The horses were purchased in Michigan, and great care was taken through a system of thorough inspection to see that they were sound and suitable for the mounted service. In the end, the regiment had a most excellent mount, both the horses and horse equipments being of the best that could be procured. The horses were sorted according to color, the intention being that each unit should have but one color, as near as practicable. Thus, as I remember it, troop "A" had bays; "B" browns; "C" greys; "D" blacks; and so on. This arrangement did not last long. A few months' service sufficed to do away with it and horses thereafter were issued indiscriminately. The effect, however, so long as the distinction could be kept up, was fine. It was a grand sight when the twelve hundred horses were in line, formed for parade or drill in single rank, each troop distinguishable from the others by the color of the horses.
When the Fifth Michigan cavalry was mustered into the United States service at Detroit there was one supernumerary troop. This was transferred to the Sixth Michigan, then forming in Grand Rapids, and given the letter "A" without competition. This entitled it to the position on the right flank in battalion formations, and made its commanding officer the senior captain of the regiment. The officers were, captain, Henry E. Thompson; first lieutenant, Manning D. Birge; second lieutenant, Stephen H. Ballard; supernumerary second lieutenant, Joel S. Sheldon. Before they left the service, Thompson was lieutenant colonel; Birge, major; Ballard, captain; and Sheldon, regimental commissary. This troop attracted a great deal of attention from the time of its arrival in camp for, having been organized some two or three months, it was fairly well drilled and disciplined, fully uniformed, and the officers were as gay as gaudy dress and feathers could make them. They wore black hats with ostrich plumes, and presented a very showy as well as a soldierly appearance. The plumes, like the color arrangement of horses, did not last long. Indeed, few if any of the officers outside of "A" troop, bought them, though they were a part of the uniform prescribed in the books. Two officers who came to the regiment from the Second Michigan cavalry, and who had had over a year's experience in the field, gave the cue that feathers were not a necessary part of the equipment for real service and served no useful purpose.
One of these two officers I met on the day of my arrival in the temporary camp. It was that wet, drizzly day, when I was sitting in the tent of the "commandant" awaiting orders. With a brisk step and a military air a young man of about my own age entered, whose appearance and manner were prepossessing. He looked younger than his years, was not large, but had a well-knit, compact frame of medium height. He was alert in look and movement, his face was ruddy with health, his eyes bright and piercing, his head crowned with a thick growth of brown hair cut rather short. He wore a forage cap, a gum coat over his uniform, top boots, and appeared every inch the soldier. He saluted and gave the colonel a hearty greeting and was introduced to me as Captain Weber.
Peter A. Weber was clerking in a store when the war broke out and entered service as a corporal in the Third Michigan infantry. When the Second Michigan cavalry was organized he was commissioned battalion adjutant and had been called home to take a captaincy in the Sixth. By reason of his experience, he was given the second place, "B". Weber was a rare and natural soldier, the embodiment of courage and, had not death interrupted his career, must have come near the head of the list of cavalry officers. The battle in which he distinguished himself and lost his life will be the theme of a future chapter.
In troop "F", commanded by Captain William Hyser, was Second Lieutenant Don G. Lovell, one of the three veteran officers. He went out as corporal in the Third Michigan infantry, was wounded at Fair Oaks, and again at Trevillian Station while serving in the cavalry. He was one of the bravest of the brave.
Along in September, before the date of muster, I received a letter from a classmate in Ann Arbor asking if there was an opening for him to enlist. I wrote him to come and, soon after joining, he was appointed troop commissary sergeant. At that time, Levant W. Barnhart was but nineteen years of age and a boy of remarkable gifts. He was one of the prize takers in scholarship when he entered the University in 1860, in the class of 1864. His rise in the volunteers was rapid. Passing successively through the grades of first sergeant, second and first lieutenant, he in 1863 was detailed as acting adjutant. While serving in this position he attracted the notice of General Custer who secured his appointment by the War Department as assistant adjutant general with the rank of captain. He served on the staff of General Custer till the war closed—succeeding Jacob L. Greene. For one of his age his record as scholar and soldier was of exceptional brilliancy. He was barely twenty-one when he went on Custer's staff, who was himself not much more than a boy in years. (Custer was but twenty-six when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.)
George Gray, "lieutenant colonel commanding," was a lawyer of brilliant parts, a good type of the witty, educated Irishman, a leader at the bar of Western Michigan who had no equal before a jury. He had much reputation as an after-dinner speaker, and his polished sentences and keen sallies of wit were greatly enjoyed on occasions where such gifts were in request. Though generally one of the most suave of men, he had an irascible temper at times. The flavor of his wit was tart and sometimes not altogether palatable to those who had to take it. In discipline he was something of a martinet. He established a school of instruction in his tent, where the officers assembled nightly to recite tactics, and no mercy was shown the luckless one who failed in his "lessons." Many a young fellow went away from the "school" smarting under the irony of the impatient colonel. Some of his remarks had a piquant humor, others were characterized by the most biting sarcasm.
"Mr. ——," said he one morning when the officers were grouped in front of his tent in response to 'officers' call,' "Mr. ——, have you gloves, sir?"
"Yes, sir," replied the lieutenant, who had been standing with hands in his trousers pockets.
"Well, then, you had better put them on and save your pockets."
It is needless to say that the young officer thereafter stood in position of the soldier when in presence of his commander.
Nothing was so offensive to Colonel Gray as untidy dress or shabby habiliments on a member of the guard detail. One morning in making his usual inspection, he came upon a soldier who was particularly slovenly. Ordering the man to step out of the ranks, the colonel surveyed him from head to foot, then, spurning him with his foot, remarked: "That is a—pretty looking thing for a soldier; go to your quarters, sir."
Once or twice I felt the sting of his tongue, myself, but on the whole he was very kind and courteous, and we managed to get along together very well.
For a time it was supposed that the colonelcy would go to an army officer, and it may be recalled as an interesting fact that George A. Custer was at that very time a lieutenant on McClellan's staff and would have jumped at the chance to be colonel of a Michigan cavalry regiment. As has been shown, Philip H. Sheridan, Gordon Granger, O.B. Wilcox, I.B. Richardson, and other regulars, began their careers as officers in the volunteer service by accepting commissions from Governor Blair. Custer was never a colonel. He was advanced from captain in the Fifth United States cavalry to full brigadier general of volunteers and his first command was four Michigan regiments, constituting what was known as "Custer's Michigan cavalry brigade"—the only cavalry brigade in the service made up entirely of regiments from a single state. A petition was circulated among the officers, asking the governor to appoint Gray colonel. We all signed it, though the feeling was general that it would be better for him to retain the second place and have an officer of the army, or at least one who had seen service, for our commander. The petition was forwarded, however, and Gray was commissioned colonel.
Soon thereafter, it was announced, greatly to the satisfaction of all concerned, that the vacancy caused by Gray's promotion was to be filled by an officer of experience. Major Russell A. Alger of the Second Michigan cavalry, who had seen much service in the southwest, was made lieutenant colonel. Major Alger had gone out in 1861 as captain of troop "C", of the Second Michigan and had earned his majority fighting under Granger and Sheridan. In April, 1861, he was engaged in the lumbering business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to which place he had removed from Cleveland, Ohio. He had been admitted to the bar in Cleveland but, even at that early day, his tastes and inclinations led him in the direction of business pursuits. He, therefore, came to Grand river and embarked in lumbering when but just past his majority and unmarried. The panic of 1857 depressed the lumber industry, in common with all other kinds of business, and the young Buckeye met with financial reverses, as did nearly everybody in those days, though it is agreed that he showed indications of the dash and self-reliance that were marked features of his subsequent career both in the army and in civil life. Doubtless, had not the war come on he would have achieved success in his business ventures then, as he did afterwards.
When Lieutenant Colonel Alger reported to Colonel Gray for duty he appeared the ideal soldier. Tall, erect, handsome, he was an expert and graceful horseman. He rode a superb and spirited bay charger which took fences and ditches like a deer. Though not foppish, he was scrupulous to a degree about his dress. His clothes fitted, and not a speck of dust could be found on his person, his horse, or his equipments. The details of drill fell largely to him—Colonel Gray attending to the general executive management. As a battalion commander Colonel Alger had few equals and no superiors. He was always cool and self-poised, and his clear, resonant voice had a peculiar, agreeable quality. Twelve hundred horsemen formed in single rank make a long line but, long as it was, every man could hear distinctly the commands that were given by him.
Weber's voice had the same penetrating and musical quality that made it easy to hear him when he was making no apparent effort to be heard. At that time it was the custom to give the commands with the voice and not by bugle calls.
Under such competent handling the regiment soon became a very well drilled organization. The evolutions were at first on foot, then on horseback, and long before the time when it was ready to depart for the front, the officers and men had attained the utmost familiarity with the movements necessary to maneuver a regiment on the field.
On Sundays it was customary to hold religious services in the camp, and many hundreds of the "beauty and the chivalry" of the town came to see the soldiers and hear the chaplain preach. The regiment would be formed in a hollow square, arms and brasses shining, clothes brushed, and boots polished. The chaplain was a good speaker and his sermons were always well worth listening to.
Chaplain Stephen S.N. Greeley was a unique character. Before enlisting he had been pastor of the leading Congregational church of the city. He was a powerful pulpit orator, a kind-hearted, simple-minded gentleman of the old school, not at all fitted for the hardships and exposure that he had to undergo while following the fortunes of General Custer's troopers in Virginia. Army life was too much for him to endure, and it was as much as he could do to look after his own physical well-being, and the spiritual condition of his flock was apt to be sadly neglected. He stayed with the regiment till the end but, in the field he was more like a child than a seasoned soldier and needed the watchful care of all his friends to keep him from perishing with hunger, fatigue, and exposure. I always forgot my own discomforts in commiseration of those of the honest chaplain. When in camp, and the weather suitable, I always endeavored to assemble the command for Sunday services, so pleased was he to talk to his "boys." I believe every surviving Sixth Michigan cavalryman has in his heart a warm corner for Chaplain Greeley who returned to Gilmartin, New Hampshire, the place where he began his ministerial work, and died there many years ago.
While noting in this cursory way the personnel of the regiment it may be proper to mention the other members of the field and staff.
Cavalry regiments were divided into three battalions, each consisting of four troops and commanded by a major. Two troops were denominated a squadron. Thus there were two troops in a squadron, two squadron in a battalion, three battalions in a regiment. The first major was Thaddeus Foote, a Grand Rapids lawyer. He served with the Sixth about a year and was then promoted to be colonel of the Tenth Michigan cavalry. Under President Grant he held the position of pension agent for Western Michigan. Elijah D. Waters commanded the Second battalion. He resigned for disability and died of consumption in 1866. He did not serve in the field at all. Simeon B. Brown, of the Third battalion was called to the command of the Eleventh Michigan cavalry, in 1863. The Tenth and Eleventh were raised by Congressman Kellogg in that year in the same manner in which he had organized the Second and Third in 1861, and the Sixth and Seventh in 1862.
Speaking of Major Waters, recalls how little things sometimes lead on to fortune. After leaving the service he and his brother started a "box factory," on the canal in Grand Rapids. In the winter of 1865-66 he took me over to see it. It was a small affair run by water power. The "boxes" which they manufactured were measures of the old-fashioned kind like the half-bushel and peck measures made of wood fifty years ago. They were of all sizes from a half-bushel down to a quart and used for "dry measure." Before the top rim was added and the bottom put in it was customary to pile the cylindrical shells one on top of another in the shop. Looking at these piles one day Waters saw that three of them, properly hooped, would make a barrel. Why not put hoops on and make them into barrels? No sooner said than done. A patent was secured, a stock company organized and the sequel proved that there were "millions in it." The major did not live to enjoy the fruits of his invention but it made of his brother and partner a millionaire. The latter is today one of the wealthiest men in Michigan—all from that lucky beginning.
The first adjutant of the regiment was Lyman E. Patten, who resigned to become a sutler and was succeeded by Hiram F. Hale who, in turn, left the cavalry to become a paymaster.
Sutlers were an unnecessary evil; at least, so it seems to me. They were in some cases evil personified. Many of them went into the business solely "for the money there was in it," and did not hesitate to trade on the necessities of the "boys in blue," so that as a rule there was no love lost, and enlisted men would raid a sutler with as little compunction as the sutler would practice extortion on them. The sutler's tent was too often the army saloon where "S.T.—1860—X bitters" and kindred drinks were sold at inflated prices. There were exceptions to the rule, however, and Mr. Patten was one of these. The whole sutler business was a mistake. The government should have arranged for an issue, or sale at cost through the commissary and quartermaster departments, of such articles as were not regularly furnished and were needed by the officers and men. Sutlers sold a thousand and one things that were not needed and that the men would have been better without. Spirits and tobacco could have been issued as a field or garrison ration, under proper restrictions. This was done at times but, whether a good thing or a bad thing, depends altogether upon the point of view. To take up the discussion would be to enter into the controversy as to the army canteen, which is not my purpose.
The medical department of the regiment was in good hands. No officer or enlisted man of the Sixth Michigan ever wanted for kind and sympathetic care when ill or wounded. The position of army surgeon in the field was no sinecure. He had to endure the same privations as the other officers. He was not supposed to be on the fighting line, to be sure, but had to be close at hand to assist in the care of those who were, and oftentimes got into the thickest of it whether he would or not. To the credit of the profession, be it said, no soldier was ever sick or wounded who did not, unless a prisoner of war, find some one of the green-sashed officers ready to minister to his needs. And it often happened that army surgeons permitted themselves to fall into the enemy's hands rather than to desert those who were under their care and treatment.
The surgeon was Daniel G. Weare, who gave up a lucrative practice to put on the uniform of a major in the medical department of the volunteer army. He was an elderly man with iron grey hair and beard which became towards the last almost as white as snow. This gave him a venerable look, though this evidence of apparent age was singularly at variance with his fresh countenance, as ruddy as that of youth. He looked like a preacher, though he would swear like a pirate. Indeed, it would almost congeal the blood in one's veins to hear the oaths that came hissing from between the set teeth of that pious looking old gentleman, from whom you would look for an exhortation rather than such expletives as he dealt in. But it was only on suitable provocation that he gave vent to these outbursts, as he was kind of heart, a good friend, and a capable physician and surgeon. The assistant was David C. Spaulding who remained with us but a short time when he was made surgeon of the Tenth Michigan cavalry—that is to say, in 1863. Weare staid till the war closed and settled in Fairport, New York, where he died.
Spaulding was surgeon in charge of the regimental hospital in Grand Rapids, and on one occasion came to my aid with some very scientific practice. It happened in this way: It came to my knowledge that a man who had enlisted with one of the lieutenants and mustered in with the troop, was not in the service for the first time; that he had enlisted twice before and then succeeded in getting discharged for disability. The informant intimated that the fellow had no intention of doing duty, would shirk and sham illness and probably get into the hospital, where the chances were he would succeed in imposing on the surgeons and in getting discharged again; that it was pay he was after which he did not propose to earn; least of all would he expose his precious life, if by any possibility he could avoid it.