“Whatever [the horses] outward appearance might have been, and it varied considerably in different units, their internal condition was by no means good,” Lieutenant Colonel Richard M.P. Preston later admitted in his history of the Desert Mounted Corps.
The great bulk of them [the horses] had taken part in the advance across Sinai, and had been in Egypt for a long time prior to that. Two years of unaccustomed and indifferent forage, added to large quantities of sand they had consumed in their food while in the desert, has more or less permanently injured their digestive organs. It is true that sand colic, the scourge of the desert, had almost ceased to trouble the force by the end of the summer of 1917, but the dire effects of sand were evident in every postmortem. In a large number of cases the membrane of the stomach and intestines were freely marked with the scars of old ulcers, and in some instances large portions of it had sloughed away. Sand muzzles were almost universally employed . . . but it was impossible to prevent sand getting into the forage; indeed quantities of it had been purposely placed there by dishonest native merchants, in order to increase the weight of bales and sacks.
It is probable that 90% of the draught horses of the artillery and transport had strained their hearts to some extent during the terrible work in the heavy sands of the desert. The writer carried out, or was present at, upwards of twenty postmortems on draught horses that died during the advance across Sinai and, in every case, found and enlargement of the heart greater than could possibly accounted for by the age of the horse. In one instance, the wall of the heart was ruptured right through. This horse had been led four miles back to camp after first showing signs of extreme distress. On arriving in camp he drank well, ate a bran mash, and lived for six hours afterwards, a wonderful example of endurance.
Preston also opined
that “horses [could] not be in too big condition at the commencement of
operations, provided they [were] kept adequately exercised while being
conditioned.” “The really fat, round
horses,” he further noted, “finished . . . operations in better condition than
those which had looked harder and more muscular, but not so fat, at the
ANZAC Mounted Division's horses in a valley near Es Salt, Palestine, in April 1918.
Note the extensive loads they're carrying in addition to their troopers. (Australian
War Memorial Image)
beginning.” Before the desert campaign ended on October 31, 1918, with Turkey’s signing of General Allenby’s Armistice, Preston was in full agreement with the Australian troopers' contention that “good blood [breeding in a horse] will carry more weight than big bone.”
The majority of the horses in the Corps were Walers,” Preston continued, and there is no doubt these hardy Australian horses make the finest cavalry mounts in the world. For many years past the Australians have been buying up the well-bred failures on the English Turf, and buying them cheap; not for racing purposes, but to breed saddle horses for up-country stations. As a result of this policy, they have now got types of compact, well built, saddle and harness horses that no other part of the world can show. Rather on the light side, according to our ideas, but hard as nails, and with beautifully clean legs and feet, their record in this war places them far above the cavalry horses of any other nation. The Australians themselves can never understand our partiality for the half-bred, weight-carrying hunter, which looks to them like a cart horse . . . It must [also] be remembered that Australian countrymen are bigger, heavier men than their English brothers. They formed just half the [Desert Mounted] Corps, and it is probable that they averaged not far short of 12 stone [168 lbs.] each stripped. To this weight must be added another nine and a half stone [133 lbs.] for saddle, ammunition, sword, rifle, clothes and accoutrements, so that each horse carried a weight of over 21 stone [294 lbs.], all day and every day for seventeen days, on less than half the normal ration of forage, and with only one drink in every 36 hours!”
The weight-carrying English hunter had to be nursed back to fitness after these operations, over a long period, while the little Australian antipodean horses, without any special care other than good food and plenty of water, were soon fit to go through another campaign as arduous as the last one.
In contrast to the
cavalryman’s, mounted infantryman’s and lancer’s horses, the Royal Horse
Artillery’s draught equines had to “carry nearly the same weight as a
cavalryman’s, and, at the same time, do [their] share in dragging along, over
hill and dale, through bush [and] through briar” a 13 lb. or 18 lb. gun (six
horses to each gun) that easily weighed, with ammunition limber, in excess of
1.3 tons. Given “the best will in the
world, and the best of horsemanship and driving, the artillery,” Lieutenant
Colonel Preston rightfully claimed, “cannot move as fast as cavalry.” If guns were expected to keep up with the
cavalry, Preston felt that three directives needed to be followed: a) orders
should be issued to the artillery first or at least early enough to “enable it
to get on the move before the cavalry start,” b) “guns should march close to
the head of the column,” and c) “if there is a shortage of water or forage, the
artillery horses should be the last to suffer from it.”
Royal Horse Artillery 18-pound gun in action in the Sinai desert during the battle of
Romani, summer of 1916. The gun had a range of at approximately 6000 yards and,
with the ammunition limber, weighed at least 1.3 tons. Note the spurs the left-most
gunner is wearing. (Australian War Memorial Image)
Though admitting some degree of partiality because he “happened to be a gunner,” Preston aptly summarized the horse artillery’s relationship with and importance to the other branches of the military in one simple statement: “Horse guns are the servant of the cavalry as field guns are of the infantry, but, unless the servant is adequately fed and looked after, he cannot serve his master properly.”
The above passages can be found in Richard Preston’s The Desert Mounted Corps (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1921).
As the 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry’s Lieutenant Colonel Charles Jackson (a Brodhead, Wisconsin, native) slowly crept along the skirmish line offering words of encouragement to his seven companies of Badger foot soldiers, he bent down low and peered at his watch. Jackson’s timepiece read “4 o’clock,” he would later write, at which time “I found the enemy taking position near my line. I at once opened fire upon them . . .” Farther down the skirmish line a nervous 17-year-old Canadian native from St. Denis, Quebec, made sure his musket was capped and loaded. Nelson Fountain, a 4’-11” tall, black-eyed, brown-haired “watchmaker” had volunteered for service in the 18th Wisconsin Infantry’s Company B as a musician at Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, back in September of 1862. Nelson, who was only 15 at the time, needed his father’s permission to enlist as a minor, which the latter granted on September 1, 1862. Nelson was a model soldier and a healthy one to boot for he was never absent for a company muster throughout 1862 and 1863 . . . but that would soon change.
Gemtype of Company B's Nelson Fountain
Nelson, his commanding officer and some 150 other 18th Wisconsin soldiers were posted in a thin line across the Sandtown Road several hundred yards south of Allatoona Pass. The regiment’s three remaining companies, E, F and I, eighty-four men under the command of Columbus, Wisconsin’s Captain Peter McIntyre, were stationed two miles farther south at a blockhouse guarding Allatoona Creek. These three companies would eventually be captured to a man at 4 PM by Colonel Thomas Adaire’s 4th Mississippi Infantry but not before the blockhouse they were defending had been set on fire by Confederate artillery.
Facing Lieutenant Colonel Jackson and Badgers was the entire complement of Major General Samuel French’s Confederate artillery, ten 12-pounder Napoleans and two 3” ordnance rifles under the direction of Major John D. Myrick. Myrick’s artillery was posted on Moore’s Hill 1200 yards or so south of the railroad cut (Allatoona Pass) and defended by two regiments of foot soldiers, the 39th North Carolina Infantry and the 32nd Texas Cavalry (dismounted).
At 6:30 AM Myrick’s artillery commenced its bombardment of and exchanging fire with the 12th Wisconsin Light Artillery’s three guns (two 3” ordnance rifles and one bronze Napolean) in Star Fort and two 3” ordnance rifles and one Napolean in the Eastern Redoubt. The 18th Wisconsin Infantry maintained its line and continued harassing Myrick’s gunners and their infantry support with steady fire until 10:30 AM. At that point, Lieutenant Colonel Jackson looked west and “discovered a charging column moving up between the Cartersville and Pumpkin Vine road, driving our forces rapidly toward the fort [Star Fort], west of the railroad . . .
I commenced moving my men to the fort in order to assist in its defense. I returned under a severe fire of grape, canister and shell, and reached the fort, east of the railroad [Eastern Redoubt], where I remained during the remainder of the fight.
During this withdrawal to the Eastern Redoubt the 18th Wisconsin suffered losses of four killed and eleven wounded. Nelson Fountain’s spotless company bi-monthly muster attendance record ended when he was struck in the right leg by grapeshot from one of Major Myrick’s cannons. Fountain crumpled to the ground immediately and was helped off the field by his comrades. Their timely assistance narrowly kept the plucky watchmaker from joining the eighty-four 18th Wisconsin Infantrymen at the blockhouse who would eventually be captured.
Position of the 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry and its line of withdrawal during the morning of
October 5, 1864.
Though Major General John Corse claimed victory at the battle at Allatoona, Georgia, Fountain and the 705 other Union casualties sustained by the Allatoona garrison and Rome Detachment (a portion of Major General John Corse’s 4th Division that reinforced the garrison during the evening of October 4) would probably agree that this triumph came with a high price. Fountain was transported to Jefferson General Hospital at Port Fulton (now Jeffersonville), Indiana, on November 11, 1864. This massive hospital, which was the third largest in the country, included 27 buildings, 24 of which were wards each having 53 beds plus one for each ward master. Fountain, as patient number 8512, was placed in Ward 2, Bed 29. Though Fountain’s condition had stabilized by this time, it was clear his return to full health would require surgical removal of a portion of his mangled right leg. Sometime during his stay at Jefferson General Hospital the “lower third” of his leg was “amputated at the right thigh.”
Jefferson USA General Hospital, Port Fulton, Indiana
In a Company B muster dated October 31, 1864 - February 28, 1865, Fountain was listed as a “non-veteran sent to Wisconsin to be mustered out.” He was eventually transferred to Madison, Wisconsin’s Harvey USA General Hospital where he was listed as a “deserter but restored without trial, he having produced evidence that his absence [from the regiment] was caused by inability to travel.” Captain William Jason Dawes, Military Assistant and member of the Veteran Reserve Corps (Dawes had been wounded at Corinth, Mississippi on October 20, 1862), was stationed at Harvey USA General Hospital when Fountain arrived. Dawes, a Fox Lake, Wisconsin, native and former captain in the 8th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, was instrumental in getting the charge of “desertion” stricken, via the Department of the Northwest's Special Order No. 45, from Nelson Fountain’s record on March 3, 1865. Fountain finally mustered out of Federal service at Madison on May 18, 1865.
Madison's Harvey Hospital built in 1854 by Governor Leonard Farwell.
This was Fountain's last stop before mustering out. (Wisconsin
For a full presentation on the battle at Allatoona, Georgia, see my previous blog titled, "October 5, 1864: Allatoona, Georgia, The 12th Battery, Wisconsin Light Artillery and a Medal of Honor."
(The above was gleaned from the following sources: Nelson Fountain’s Military Service Records, National Archives; William Scaife’s Allatoona Pass, Etowah, Georgia: Etowah Valley Historical Society, 1995; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 39, Part I, 751-752; War Paper No. 17, William Ludlow’s The Battle of Allatoona, Michigan Commandery, Loyal Legion, April 2, 1891; Edwin B. Quiner’s The Military History of Wisconsin in the War for the Union, Chicago: Clarke & Co., Publishers, 1866; Captain William Jason Dawes' service records @ www.civilwardata.com )
On November 8, 1917, two full squadrons and two half squadrons of the Warwickshire and Worcestershire Yeomanry (about 170 troopers total) charged the rearguard of the 8th Turkish Army as its headquarters was withdrawing from the Palestinian village of Huj. “The last great charge of the British Cavalry,” as it would eventually be christened, was made in response to a request for help by the commander of the British Infantry’s 60th Division, Major General J.S. Shea. As his infantrymen, who were pursing portions of the Turkish 8th Army during its retreat northward, came upon the outskirts of Huj, they encountered severe artillery fire from the Turkish rearguard. In addition to German, Austrian and Ottoman artillery, this rearguard also included some 300 infantry and six machine guns all of which were posted on a commanding ridge just south of Huj. “Finding Colonel Gray-Cheape of the Warwickshire Yeomanry nearby,” Lieutenant Colonel R. Preston, commander of the Australian Division’s Royal Artillery, later wrote, “[Shea] requested him to charge the enemy guns at once.”
A yeomanry patrol during a respite in the desert. The horses are eating out of nosebags and
they're wearing fly veils. (1918 Imperial War Museum image on Wikipedia)
Closest to Colonel Gray-Cheape were two squadrons of his Warwickshire Yeomanry. To this force he added two half squadrons of the Worcestershire Yeomanry. Both regiments were part of the Australian Mounted Division’s 5th Mounted Brigade. In contrast to the Australian Light Horse, which were considered mounted infantry, these British troopers, who were true cavalrymen and fought as such, were armed with 1908 pattern swords (in addition to their .303 Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifles).
Colonel Gray-Cheape led his force under what cover was available to a point a little over a 1000 yards northeast of the 60th Division’s right flank. After turning and advancing northwest to within 800 yards of the ridge, he ordered his men to draw their swords and the charge commenced. “. . . ten troops galloped over the rise, and raced down upon the flank of the enemy guns,” Preston recalled.
The Turks had in position a battery of field and one of mountain guns, with four machine guns on a low hill between, the two batteries and three heavy howitzers behind. As our cavalry appeared, thundering over the rise, the Turks sprang to their guns and swung them round, firing point-blank into the charging horsemen. The infantry, leaping on the limbers, blazed away with their rifles till they were cut down.
. . . The leading troops of the cavalry dashed into the first enemy battery. The following troops, swinging to the right [north], took three heavy howitzers almost in their stride, leaving the guns silent, the gun crews dead or dying, and galloped round the hill, to fall upon the mountain battery from the rear, and cut the Turkish gunners to pieces in a few minutes. The third wave, passing the first battery, where a fierce sabre vs. bayonet fight was going on between the cavalry and the enemy, raced up the slope at the machine guns. Many saddles were emptied in that few yards, but the charge was irresistible. In a few minutes the enemy guns were silenced, their crews killed, and the whole position was in our hands.
Lieutenant Mercer, the only Warwickshire Yeomanry officer to pass through the charge uninjured, described the harrowing ride,
Machine guns and rifles opened up on us the moment we topped the rise behind which we had formed up. I remember thinking that the sound of crackling bullets was just like hailstorm on a iron-roofed building, so you may guess what the fusillade was. . . . A whole heap of men and horses went down twenty or thirty yards from the muzzles of the guns. The squadron broke into a few scattered horsemen at the guns and seemed to melt away completely. For a time I, at any rate, had the impression that I was the only man left alive. I was amazed to discover we were the victors.
Casualties among the British yeomanry were high. Twenty-six troopers, including three squadron commanders, were killed outright, while another 40 were wounded. One hundred horses also lost their lives during this assault. In his written account of the cavalry operations in Palestine and Syria titled, The Desert Mounted Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Preston blamed the high loss among the horses on the enemy gunners’ target choice. “Apart from the fact that a horse presents a much bigger target than a man, it is probably that infantry, especially machine gunners, when suddenly charged by cavalry, have a tendency to fire ‘into the brown,’ where the target looks thickest, which is about in the middle of the horses’ bodies, thus dropping many horses but failing to kill the riders.”
1930 sketch of the charge at Huj by Cyril Falls. (Image in History of the Great War BasedPreston also felt that this particular action “was of interest” because it demonstrated
on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial
Defence Military Operations Egypt & Palestine from June 1917 to the end of the War
Volume 2 Part I and modified by the blog's author)
what may be accomplished, under suitable conditions, by even a very small force of cavalry when resolutely led. The charge was made on the spur of the moment, with little preliminary reconnaissance of the ground, without fire support, and with the equivalent of little more than one squadron of cavalry. It resulted in the capture of eleven guns and four machine guns, and the complete destruction of a strong point of enemy resistance, at a cost of seventy-five casualties.
According to Lieutenant Colonel Preston, “There was considerable divergence of opinion in the cavalry as to the best method to be employed in the mounted attack . . .
Prior to operations the 5th Mounted Brigade had been practicing the following method for the attack of lightly entrenched troops. A regiment charged in column of squadrons in line, with a distance of 150 to 200 yards between squadrons. The leading squadron charged with the sword, and, having passed over the enemy position, galloped straight on to attack any supports that might be coming up. The remainder of the regiment charged without swords. The second squadron galloped over the trench while the enemy troops were still in a state of confusion, dismounted on the farther side, and attacked from the rear with the bayonet. The third squadron dismounted before reaching the trench, and went in with the bayonet from the front. Two machine guns accompanied the last squadron and came into action on one or both flanks, as the situation demanded, to deal with any counter-attack that might develop . . .
Where a mounted attack had to cover a considerable distance of open ground before reaching a charging distance, the most usual formation was in column of squadrons in line of troop columns. Our own gunners were of the opinion that this formation offered the most difficult target for artillery, provided the interval between troops was not less than 25 yards, and the distance between squadrons not less than 100 yards. The experience of the campaign seemed to point to the fact that cavalry also suffered less from machine-gun fire in this formation than in any other, at any rate at ranges beyond 1000 yards.
As a reminder, a regiment of British yeomanry consisted of 26 officers and 523 other ranks. The “other ranks” were made up of one warrant officer, 37 senior non-commissioned officers, 22 artificers, 6 trumpeters and 457 privates. Troopers were divided into 3 squadrons with 4 troops per squadron.
For further reading see Lieutenant Colonel Richard Martin Peter Preston’s The Desert Mounted Corps, An Account of the Cavalry Operations in Palestine and Syria 1917-1918 (Boston and New York: Houghton and Mifflin, Co. 1921) and Henry S. Gullett’s Sinai and Palestine, Vol. VIII, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 (Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson, Ltd., 1939).
Twenty-four-year-old Robert F. Mullen volunteered for three years of service in the Federal Army at Taycheedah, Wisconsin, on October 4, 1861. He was mustered into Company A, 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry at Camp Trowbridge in Milwaukee as a 1st sergeant on February 10, 1862. The 18th Wisconsin left for St. Louis on March 30. Upon their arrival at the Gateway City, the Badgers were immediately sent south to Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. Here, they joined Brigadier General Benjamin Prentiss’s Sixth Division (in Ulysses S. Grant’s Army of Tennessee), which was camped some 4 miles south on the Pittsburg-Corinth road. Mullen and the 18th Wisconsin participated in the April 6-7, 1862, battle of Shiloh. The regiment was decimated during its first fight losing 25 killed, including its commanding officer, Colonel James Alban and Major Josiah W. Crain, 91 wounded and 174 missing (most of whom were taken prisoner).
Captain Robert F. Mullen (author's collection)
The 18th Wisconsin, which numbered only 500 men now, remained in camp until May 1 when it and the Sixth Division, now led by Brigadier General Thomas J. McKean, started south toward Corinth. At Corinth, the Badgers performed picket and garrison duty and drilled under their new commanding officer, Colonel Gabriel Bouck. Following a brief hospital stay for an undisclosed illness in June, Robert Mullen assumed command of Company A as a result of his promotion to 2nd lieutenant on July 7. On July 18 the regiment, which was now part of the Sixth Division’s Second Brigade, Colonel John Oliver commanding, was ordered to reinforce the Federal Army at Bolivar, Tennessee. The Badgers eventually returned to Corinth in August and took part in the battle that was fought there from October 3rd through the 5th. The 18th Wisconsin Infantry suffered 26 casualties (5 killed and 21 wounded). Three privates in Lieutenant Mullen’s Company A, Edward Flynn, Ludwig Hoelzer and John Sturgeon, were wounded.
The Badgers and the
marched west to Grand Junction, then south to Yocona, Mississippi, some 48
miles below Holly Springs, and north back to Moscow, Tennessee. Mullen and his comrades guarded railroads in
and around Moscow until the middle of January 1863. McArthur’s Division and the 18th Wisconsin
marched west to Memphis, where they embarked on transports and steamed down the
Mississippi River to Young’s Point just above Vicksburg. The Badgers spent the next two months camped
on the banks of Lake Providence where they struggled to cut a canal from the
lake to the Mississippi River. On March 17,
Mullen received his 1st lieutenant’s commission and was officially promoted to
that rank on March 29. The Badgers,
McArthur and the Seventeenth Corps eventually moved down the Mississippi to
Milliken’s Bend and Grand Gulf, where they went ashore, marched to Raymond and, shortly afterward, captured Jackson, Mississippi, on May 14. The 18th Wisconsin, which was now part of
Colonel John B. Sanborn’s First Brigade in Brigadier General John E. Smith’s
Seventh Division, suffered casualties of 6 killed and 16 wounded in the fight
at Jackson. After seizing
Jackson, the Seventeenth Corps turned west and started toward Vicksburg. The 18th Wisconsin was held in reserve during
the battle of Champion Hills and participated as sharpshooters during the
engagement at Big Black River bridge. McPherson’s Corps and the Badgers reached
Vicksburg on May 18 and were deployed just east of the Confederate
fortifications north of the Southern
Railroad. “Here they remained,”
noted Edwin Quiner, author of The
Military History of Wisconsin in the War for the Union,
chiefly engaged in skirmishing duty until the surrender of the city on the 4th of July. They remained in the city engaged in guard and provost duty most of the time, until the 11th of September, when they moved with the division to Helena [Arkansas] with a view to reinforce General Steele.
On September 4, an ailing Robert Mullen requested a 20-day leave of absence from the 18th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry’s then commanding officer, Major Charles H. Jackson. Jackson approved the request and sent the following note along with the appeal up the chain of command to the Seventeenth Corps Assistant Adjutant General, Lieutenant Colonel William Thomas Clark:
Lt. Mullen commanded the Co. through the entire [Vicksburg] campaign and since the surrender of Vicksburg has been Acting Adjt. of the regiment. He is an efficient officer and I ask this for his meritorious conduct.
Clark passed the request to his superior, Seventh Division commander Brigadier General John E. Smith, who promptly approved and forwarded Mullen’s application
Brigadier General John E. Smith
on to the Seventeenth
Corps’ senior officer, Major General James B. McPherson. General McPherson endorsed the request on
September 6, 1863. Lieutenant
17th Corps' Commander Major General James B. McPherson
Mullen started for home at Taycheedah on September 12. On October 2, he was examined at his home by Surgeon John Miller from nearby Fond du Lac. Miller found Mullen
suffering from general debility attended with hoematuria the sequel of intermittent fever, from which he has suffered for the last thirty days, and in consequence thereof he is, in my opinion, unfit for duty and unable to travel, and I further declare my belief that he will not be able to resume his duties in a less period than twenty days from this date thereof.
Mullen’s period of leave
lasted until November 17. He rejoined
his regiment, which was now part of the Major General William T. Sherman’s Fifteenth
Corps, Army of the Cumberland, at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and was listed on
Company A’s November/December 1863 returns as a “provost marshal on detached
service.” Mullen and the regiment
crossed the Tennessee River, took part in the November 25 assault on Missionary
Ridge and aided in the enemy’s pursuit as far as Ringgold, Georgia. The
regiment returned to Chattanooga on November 28 and remained there until early
December when it marched to Huntsville, Alabama. Mullen’s “detached service” continued in
January and February of 1864, this time as adjutant general of the Fifteenth
Corps’ First Brigade, First Division.
During its time at Huntsville, the regiment performed guard, outpost and provost duty. Mullen was also promoted to captain on April 15, 1864. In May, the Badgers moved a few miles south to Whitesburg, Alabama, where they were again employed in guard duty. On June 19, the 18th Wisconsin Infantry was transferred to Allatoona (aka Allatoona Pass) a major supply depot for Sherman’s Army located on the Western and Atlantic Railroad. The Badgers were ordered back to Chattanooga and eastern Tennessee on August 22, where they helped repel a raid by Major General Wheeler and his Confederate cavalry against General Sherman’s communications. The regiment retraced its steps to Cowan, Tennessee, where it guarded the railroad until September 19, when it was ordered to rejoin the garrison at Allatooona.
On October 5, 2,025 Federals at Allatoona, under the command of Major General John M. Corse, were furiously attacked by 3,276 Confederates led by Major General Samuel French. At the battle’s onset, four companies of the 18th Wisconsin Infantry, including Captain Mullen, were initially deployed as skirmishers, while the remaining three companies, E, F and I, were stationed in a blockhouse guarding the railroad bridge two miles south of town. Shortly before noon at the fighting’s peak, the 18th Wisconsin’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Jackson, withdrew his four companies into the eastern redoubt “in order to assist in its defense.” “I returned under a severe fire of grape, canister and shell,” Jackson noted in his after-action report, “and reached the fort, east of the railroad, where I remained during the remainder of the fight . . . Three companies of the regiment were at a railroad bridge two miles south of this place . . . They were kept in the house over forty hours, and only surrendered when the roof was on fire and the men suffocating from smoke and heat.” Though the Confederate attack at Allatoona was repulsed, the 18th Wisconsin Infantry lost 4 killed, 11 wounded and 78 missing (captured).
Following the battle of Allatoona, the regiment’s non-veterans and recruits were assigned to the 93rd Illinois Infantry, which accompanied General Sherman on his march to Savannah, Georgia, and north through the Carolinas to Goldsboro. The 18th Wisconsin’s veteran soldiers, however, were furloughed and sent to Wisconsin on November 28. They reassembled in Milwaukee a month later and were immediately sent to Nashville. The Badgers arrived in Nashville on January 11, 1865, and were forwarded on to Chattanooga. Here, they reported to General Steadman who assigned them to the First Brigade, First Provisional Division, Fifteenth Army Corps. The Badgers made their way back to Nashville where they proceeded "down the Cumberland River and up the Ohio River to Cincinnati, thence by rail to Pittsburg and ultimately Baltimore, Maryland." They embarked on steamers in early February and arrived at Beaufort, North Carolina, a few days later. After taking the train to New Bern they caught up with General Sherman’s army at Goldsboro and rejoined their comrades in the First Brigade (Brigadier General William T. Clark), Third Division, Fifteenth Corps in late March. Mullen and the Badgers took part in the last battle (March 19-21) of the Carolinas’ Campaign at Bentonville, North Carolina, and, after General Joseph Johnston’s surrender, accompanied the Fifteenth Corps to Washington, where they took part in the grand review. On June 9, 1865, Captain Mullen was listed on “detached service as aide- de-camp to Brigadier General John T. Clark. Following the grand review the regiment proceeded to Louisville, Kentucky, where it and Captain Mullen were mustered out on July 7. Mullen and his comrades arrived back in Madison on June 29, 1865.
The above was gleaned
from Captain Mullen’s Service Records (National Archives), Edwin Quiner’s The Military History of Wisconsin in the War
for the Union (Chicago: Clarke & Co., Publishers, 1866), William R.
Scaife’s Allatoona Pass (Georgia: Etowah Valley
Historical Society, 1995), Peter Cozzen's The Darkest Days of the War, The Battles of Iuka & Corinth (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1997, pgs. 326-327) and the War or the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Volume 24, Pt. 1, pg. 157 and Volume 39, Pt. 1, pgs. 751-752).
While in camp near Washington, D.C., in May 1863, Colonel Lowell, then in command of the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, informed his wife
I am expecting another horse out of
town, - a horse which I have just bought in expectation of selling Nig. Nig is very pleasant, but has not quite as
much character (obstinacy, perverseness) as I like, - I do not fancy horses who
do not at the outset resist, but they must be intelligent enough to know when
they are conquered, and to recognize it as an advance in their civilization.
Lowell, now commander of the Army of Shenandoah’s Reserve Cavalry Brigade, went through mounts like a hot knife through butter during Major General Phil Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Campaign. In a August 25, 1864, letter to the father of a fellow 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry officer and close friend, Major William Forbes (who was in a Southern prison at the time), Lowell recounted the wounds his horses incurred . . .
Monday I rode Dick, though he is very unsteady under fire – his off hind leg was broken and he was abandoned. On Tuesday I tried Billy, who proved excellent under fire – and he got a bullet in the neck: very high up, however, and not at all serious. He is just as hearty as ever and will not lose an hour of duty. I should not have ridden these horses [both were owned by Major Forbes], but Berold has become entirely uncontrollable among bullets, and poor Ruksh, last Friday, the first time I rode him (since he was laid up), got another bullet in his nigh fore-leg which will lay him up a month, and, I fear, ruin him. You can see I am unlucky in my horses.
Colonel Charles Lowell as a captain in the 3rd U.S. Cavalry
(Image courtesy of the U.S. Army Military History Institute)
In his final charge as part of Sheridan’s counterattack against Major General Jubal Early’s Confederate forces at Cedar Creek, Virginia, late on the afternoon of October 19, Lowell, who had been wounded in the chest by a spent bullet earlier in the day, had to be helped onto yet another horse . . . “his fourteenth of the campaign.” Sheridan’s 1st Cavalry Division, with Lowell and the Reserve Brigade in the center, moved out at the trot and, when the ranks had been aligned, broke into a canter. Lowell was shot almost immediately the bullet traveling “from shoulder to shoulder; the ball cutting the spinal cord on the way . . . below [which] he was completely paralyzed.”
Lowell was taken to a makeshift hospital in nearby Middleton where the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry’s physician and Lowell’s tent mate, Dr. Oscar DeWolf pronounced the wound mortal. Just before dawn on October 20 Lowell struggled to pen a farewell note to his wife of only one year, Josephine. He died a few hours later. The following day, the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Caspar Crowninshield, informed his mother of Lowell’s demise:
Colonel Lowell died like a hero & is a great loss to this army & to the country . . . I wish some of the young men at home could have seen him leading his brigade into that terrible charge & then have seen him on his death bed & have heard him say, ‘My only regret is that I can not do something more for our cause.’ No hero of old was more fearless than he.
Grave of Charles Russell Lowell at Mount Auburn Cemetery
in Cambridge, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy of Midnightdreary
@ Wikipedia Commons)
Australia owes much of her enviable martial reputation and pride to a 5’ 8-3/4” tall grazier from Tabulam on the Clarence River, New South Wales. Lieutenant General Sir Harry Chauvel, according to biographer, Alec Jeffrey Hill, “was not the product of a military college, nor was he . . . a graduate of a Staff College . . . but soldiering was in his blood and in his mind . . .” General Chauvel, Hill further noted, “rose more rapidly in the war of 1914-18
than any other Australian senior officer. A brigade commander on Gallipoli in 1915, he was given command of the 1st Division towards the end of that campaign then, early in 1916, he organized and led the Anzac Mounted Division from the [Suez] Canal to the gates of Gaza. In 1917 he became a corps commander and, as a lieutenant general, the senior officer of the young Australian Army. From that time his powerful force of cavalry and Light Horse became General [Viscount] Allenby’s chief instrument in the overthrown of the Turkish army in the Levant.
By the end of World War I, Chauvel led one of the largest groups of horsemen (in excess of 20,000) ever assembled since the Napoleonic Wars. During their final drive to Damascus and Aleppo, which commenced in September 1918, Chauvel and his beloved Desert Mounted Corps advanced between 300 and 500 miles, “captured more than thrice their own number in prisoners . . . [took] or destroyed most of the guns and impedimenta of three Turkish Armies . . . and suffered only 649 casualties.”
In addition to its sheer size, the Desert Mounted Corps was comprised of soldiers from throughout the British Empire, i.e. Australia, New Zealand, India and Scotland, France (Saphais and Chasseurs d’Afrique) and Arab forces under King Hussein. Chauvel’s ability to successfully wield this multinational force is further testimony to his acumen as a military commander.
Chauvel’s familiarity with
soldiers, especially his Australian countrymen, and what was required to
effectively lead them harkens back to his days as a Queensland Mounted Infantry
lieutenant during Australia’s 1891 Shearers’ Strike and the Boer
The Queensland Mounted Infantry's 2nd Lieutenant Harry Chauvel on his horse, Beggar Boy
(Image in A.J. Hill's Chauvel of the Light Horse)
War. During an officers’ lecture given in 1908, Chauvel presented his thoughts on the Australian volunteer solider and what it took to be an effective leader of such men:
He’s [the Australian soldier] not accustomed to restraint and if he wants to fall out on the line of march he does not see why he should have to ask his troop sergeant . . . I do not mean that we can expect to establish a hard and fast discipline such as obtains in the regular army [of Britain] but by a proper organization . . . the localizing of units and the comrade system, and above all by the establishment of an Esparto de Corps a higher and even better form of discipline can be obtained.
I learnt something during the shearers’ strike of ’91 that I have never forgotten and that is, if you look after your men well in the way of their food and comforts they will forgive any amount of sternness and later on . . . I learnt that if an officer shows he’s the real McGinnes when he gets into a tight place they’ll forgive him almost anything. If a leader is fortunate to combine these qualities they’ll follow him anywhere.
The Australian man is like the Australian horse, he must have his belly full . . . You hear all sorts of things about the hard Australian bushman – live on the smell of an oil rag, and that sort of thing. Well, I know that man – have known him all my life, and I’ve never seen the oil rag, hard tack if you like but always plenty of it.
Chauvel, not surprisingly,
was also the consummate horseman. Having
grown up at Tabulam (station), a sizable operation “that comprised 96,000 acres
and carried 12,000 cattle and 320 horses,” Harry couldn’t help but become an
accomplished rider. Chauvel’s love for
horses and his concern for their well-being remained with him throughout his
life. During his tenure as commander of
Australian Light Horse
Fifty-seven-year-old Sir Henry (Harry) Chauvel at Marybyrong camp during
the Citizen Military Force (Light Horse) camp held there in March 1923.
(Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial)
and British Yeomanry (cavalry) in the Sinai-Palestine Campaign, Chauvel’s concern for the troopers’ horses was demonstrated on several occasions. “A small incident on the ride back from Mazar (1916) is recalled by Brigadier General W.J. Urquhart who was then G.S.O. 3 of ANZAC Mounted Division:
The general [Chauvel] and some of his staff were riding away from the column when they came upon a solitary trooper whose horse was down, exhausted. The soldier had emptied the last of his water into a canvas bucket and was trying to help his waler drink. Chauvel dismounted, emptying his own water bottle into the bucket as he expressed his concern. Then he looked around momentarily at his companions who took the hint and added their small supply to the canvas bucket.
A surprise demonstration of Chauvel’s horsemanship occurred in July 1918 following the fall of Jericho and it involved a personage no less than the commander of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, British Field Marshall Edmund Allenby. In order to present medals to several soldiers in the Anzac Mounted Division, Allenby requested that Chauvel and his men line up in parade formation. In a personal account given to Chauvel biographer, A.J. Hill, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Bruxner, an eyewitness to the incident, recalled the event:
Everybody in the Desert Corps knew that Sir Harry was a beautiful horseman . . . not after the trained cavalry style but as an Australian stockman and showring rider, a born rider. Of course there were not many occasions where he could demonstrate this, but one only had to see him on a horse, to know that he was part of him . . .
As soon as they [Allenby, Chauvel and visiting Brigadier General E.F. Trew] mounted, General Allenby, evidently wishing to show off his horsemanship, turned round in his stirrups and, to the astonishment of everybody, hit the mare he was riding over the rump, a very un-Australian performance which she resented to the extent of putting her head down and pigrooting into the bush (or dust). In the meantime General Trew, who rode like a Marine (which, of course, he was) got all at sea on the other side of the road. Sir Harry, in true stockman style, went after General Allenby (hoping he would not fall off) and, having collected him, then gathered in the delinquent Trew and the cavalcade made the triumphant entry into the parade to receive the salute.
Chauvel never lost his love
of time spent in the saddle. After the
war, he and his wife, Sibyl, eventually settled in South Yarra, a suburb of Melbourne, not far from
An older Harry Chauvel during one of his morning rides on the tan track, Alexander Avenue, Melbourne
(Image in A.J. Hill's Chauvel of the Light Horse)
“Army Headquarters in Victoria Barracks and the tan track in Domain, the park where he rode almost every morning until the last year of his life.” “The one [army] privilege he obtained – and he valued it above any other,” noted A.J. Hill, “was the horse
brought from the Remount Depot near the Barracks at 7.15 every morning except Sunday; the groom was given breakfast and took the horse back to the Depot about 8.30. Digger was a beautiful black gelding bought for Chauvel in 1917 but not sent to Palestine; he rode him until 1928 when the old horse fell in the Domain.
In 1944 lingering effects from a previous knee injury forced the 79-year-old Chauvel to give up his morning ride. “This was almost to admit defeat and he felt it deeply.” Sir Henry (Harry) George Chauvel died on March 4, 1945.
(For further reading see A.J. Hill’s excellent biography of the general, Chauvel of the Light Horse. Victoria: Melbourne University Press, 1978.)
New York-born William H. Green enlisted in Captain John Green’s Company C, 37th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry at York, Wisconsin, on March 29, 1864. The 6’ 4”, 32-year-old farmer and husband (his wife was Lucena) mustered into service with the regiment at Madison’s Camp Randall on April 13, 1864. Six companies, A, B, C, D, E and F, under the command of Major William J. Kershaw, were ordered to Washington before the month’s end. The Badgers reached the capitol city on May 1 and immediately encamped on Arlington Heights near Long Bridge. Companies H and I joined the regiment on the 17th at which time “arms and accoutrements were at once issued to the men [and] the instruction of the regiment in the manual and battalion drill was at once proceeded with, with vigor,” recalled the 37th Wisconsin's future major and historian, R.C. Eden. After only thirteen days of drill, the regiment marched to Alexandria, Virginia, boarded three transports and proceeded by way of Fortress Monroe and the York River to the Army of the Potomac’s main supply base at White House (Landing), Virginia. The Badgers reached the crowded landing at 5PM and, after “threading [their] way, with no little difficulty through a scene of noise and confusion to which the grand finale at the tower of Babel was, by comparison, nothing but a quiet assemblage, [they] at length gained a quiet and comparatively secluded spot” to camp. (The Sword and Gun, 6-15)
Green, who had recently been promoted to “2nd sergeant,” and his comrades spent the early part of June guarding Confederate prisoners and “picketing along the line of the Richmond railroad.” On June 10, the regiment was assigned as guard to a supply train, which was on its way to the “front” at Cold Harbor. “We arrived in safety [the following day] after a long and tedious march of nearly twenty miles, along a heavy, sandy road plentifully bestrewn with dead mules, wagons broken or stuck in swamps, and abandoned, and all the debris usually to be seen on the line of communication between a large army and its base,” remembered Major R.C. Eden. At Cold Harbor the regiment was assigned to Brigadier General John A. Hartranft’s First Brigade in Brigadier General Orlando Wilcox’s Third Division of Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s Ninth Army Corps. Burnside’s command also included Brigadier General James Ledlie’s First Division and Brigadier General Robert B. Potter’s Second Division. All three divisions would participate in the June 17 assault on the Confederate fortifications at Petersburg. (The Sword and Gun, 15-16; The Military History of Wisconsin in the War for the Union, 836; OR 40, Pt. 1, 228-229)
On the evening of June 12, just as the Badgers had “settled down, to pass, as best we might, our first night in the trenches,” the men received orders to be ready to march an hour after sundown. “Quietly and stealthily” the Wisconsin foot soldiers joined General Grant’s army in its four-day flank march around Lee’s army across the James River to Petersburg. The 37th Wisconsin reached its assigned position in front of the Cockade City at 4 PM on the 16th, and though the
heat, thirst and fatigue combined, were severe in the extreme,” bragged one soldier, “to the credit of our regiment, with the exception of one or two cases of sun stroke not a man fell out, or was missing when we arrived . . . We had hardly halted and commenced preparations for supper when we were ordered to move on to support a charge about to be made by the 4th, or colored division [Brigadier General Edward Ferrero’s nine regiments of U.S. Colored Troops], of our corps, and so marched about a mile further, formed line of battle and awaited orders.
Ferrero’s colored troops successfully carried the first line of Confederate defenses, which the Badgers were then ordered to occupy and hold. Sergeant Green and his comrades “passed the night without molestation and in comparative peace.” (The Sword and Gun, 17-19)
While the Badgers caught their breath, Burnside ordered General Potter “to attack at a very early hour in the morning, and, if possible, carry the enemy’s line in his immediate front" just on the left (south) of General Hancock’s Second Corps. General Ledlie’s First Division was to support the attack. Potter’s successful attack, which commenced at 3 AM, “carried all the lines and redoubts of the enemy on the ridge upon which stood the Shands house” and resulted in the capture of “4 pieces of artillery, 5 colors, 600 prisoners and 1,500 stands of small arms.” During Potter’s assault, Hartranft’s Brigade and the 37th Wisconsin “were formed in line of battle in a ravine preparatory to charging a line of works extending from Bagster Road north almost to Hare Hill.” Though not strongly manned, Captain Eden recalled the Confederate fortification as being “a heavy one, and from its commanding position and the heavy enfilading fire that could be brought to bear on almost any part of it, not by any means an easy one to carry.” (OR 40, Pt. 1, 522; The Sword and Gun, 19)
Burnside had ordered Harntranft to take the works in front of the Shands house “soon after daylight, [but a] misunderstanding in reference to the point of attack “caused a lengthy delay. “We stood there, the hot bright sun almost blinding us and heating the dry sand under our feet, till it almost blistered them, awaiting the orders to commence our first battle,” remembered one 37th Wisconsin officer. Finally, the command, “Forward, double quick! Charge,” echoed from one end of the brigade to the other. With a “wild loud cheer,” Harntranft’s brigade of Wolverines, New Yorkers, Badgers, Buckeyes and Pennsylvanians stepped out smartly. (OR 40, Pt. 1, 522; The Sword and Gun, 19-21)
June 17, 1864, Federal assault on the Confederate entrenchments (in green) along Harrison's Creek
(Map generated from Plate LXV, No.1 in The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War and information
in Noah Andrew Trudeau's The Last Citadel, Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1991)
The Badgers were greeted by
an hailstorm of shot, shell, grape, canister and minie balls screaming through the air above and around us and throwing up clouds of dust as they [struck] the sand in every direction, till the whole battle field [was] obscured by a heavy cloud of dust and smoke through which the Rebel works in front of us and their truculent looking butternut defenders were barely discernible . . . On we [went] till we [saw] . . . the faces of the Rebels in their works, till their fire slacken[ed], till we [could] see the artillerymen working the guns of the battery on our left limber up their pieces and start to the rear, till the right of their line broke slowly from their works and retired to the rear. (Sword and Gun, 20-21)
It was at this point, when the brigade and the Badgers were on the brink of victory, that the order, “half wheel to the right” was suddenly and inexplicably issued. The disastrous effects of this ill-timed directive still remain etched in the memory of Major Eden:
. . . a wavering confused movement [occurred] along the whole line, a yell of derision from the Rebels, a sudden recommencement of their fire; and, with victory within its grasp, the brigade [fell] back on the line of works they lately left confident of victory, shattered and broken leaving hundreds of its number on the field. From whom the order came . . . has never, I believe, been satisfactorily established, but to this order, exposing the whole brigade, as it did, to a most severe enfilading fire, may be attributed the failure of the charge and the heavy loss sustained by the brigade. (Sword and Gun, 21-22)
The 37th Wisconsin was decimated during its first major action. This heretofore untested band of Wisconsin’s finest lost 138 men “of which 44 were “killed on the field” and “ten died [later] from the effects of their wounds.” Among the wounded Badgers was the Regimental Color Bearer, Sergeant William H. Green. “In this engagement,” an admiring Major Eden later wrote,
Sergeant Green . . . was shot through both legs by grape shot, in the early part of the fight; unable to walk and fearful lest the colors entrusted to his charge, should fall into the hands of the enemy, he rolled up the flag on the staff and seizing this in his teeth, drew himself off the field and behind the works into a place of safety. Such unselfish heroism is deserving [of] the highest commendation . . .
(Sword and Gun, 22-23; OR 40, Pt. 1, 230)
Green was, in reality, wounded in “the outer and upper third, left leg (only), involving the knee joint” and it was caused by a “gunshot” and not "grape" from an artillery round. Though severe, Green’s injury was not thought to be life-threatening. William was shipped via train to Washington’s Mt. Pleasant Hospital where he arrived on June 30 and was placed in tent A29. Sergeant Green was treated daily with “stimulants,” but
Mt. Pleasant Hospital, Washington, DC
the wound became infected and he succumbed to “pyemia” at noon on July 9. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 13, Grave 6025. (Green’s medical report in his service record clearly states that he sustained a “GSW to the left knee.” No wound of any kind was noted in the right leg. According to the author of Medical Histories of Confederate Generals [Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1995], Dr. Jack Welsh, pyemia was “a general disease with the presence and persistence of pathogenic microorganisms of their toxins in the blood, with secondary areas of suppuration and formation of multiple abscesses.”)
William H. Green's grave in Arlington National Cemetery
(Image @ Arlington National Cemetery website)
On February 21, 1865, Major General John G. Parke, commanding Ninth Army Corps, recommended William Green for the Medal of Honor “for conspicuous gallantry, to wit:
In the assault upon the enemy’s works, June 17, 1864, Green, mortally wounded, being shot through both legs, carried off the colors in his teeth, dragging himself into our lines by the aid of his hands. The medal is recommended, as it would be a consolation to his family to know that the Government gratefully appreciated his gallant services.
Color Sergeant William H. Green never received the Medal of Honor for his actions at Petersburg, Virginia, on June 17, 1864 . . . but he should have.
(For further reading see William H. Green’s military service records at the National Archives; Eden, Robert C. The Sword and Gun, A History of the 37th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. Madison, WI: Atwood and Rublee Printers, 1865; War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 40, Pt. 1 listed above as OR, Quiner, Edwin B. The Military History of Wisconsin in the War for the Union. Chicago: Clarke & Co. Publishers, 1866)
The October 9, 1864, Battle at Tom’s Brook, Virginia, an all-cavalry fight, pitted Brigadier General Thomas Rosser’s Division (three brigades totaled eleven regiments and two batteries of artillery) versus a Federal cavalry division led by his West Point friend Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer. Custer’s Division numbered only two brigades, but these brigades also totaled eleven regiments of cavalry and two batteries of artillery. When the dust settled on that wet October day, Custer’s men had driven Rosser’s Confederate troopers “for nearly twenty miles.” “Among the evidence of our victory,” Custer later reported, “were six pieces of artillery, the entire ordnance and ambulance train of the enemy, including headquarters wagons, desks, and papers of the rebel General Rosser and of his brigade commanders; also a large number of prisoners.” (Wert, Jeffry D. From Winchester to Cedar Creek, The Shenandoah Campaign of 1864. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.,1987, pg. 316; War of the Rebellion, Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Vol. 43, Pt. 1, 521; hereafter cited OR)
My map of the Battle of Tom's Brook (Plate LXIX, No. 3 in Official Military Atlas of the Civil War)
In 1997, Burd Street Press (Shippensburg, PA) published Riding with Rosser, edited by S. Roger Keller, which, according to Keller, “is General Thomas L. Rosser’s personal account of the Civil War.” I initially read this book shortly after it was published and recently had cause to revisit it (my focus was on the Tom’s Brook affair). This time around I decided to scrutinize some of Keller’s extensive footnotes, written in lengthy paragraph form, which take up almost 17% of this publication’s text. In the book’s introduction, Keller notes that footnotes were added to “augment some events not made especially clear or that are not included.” While footnotes can be a valuable addition to any historical text, they’re only as good as the source from which they come.
General Thomas Lafayette Rosser (image courtesy of Mrs. Thomas Cochran)
My case in point concerns the inclusion by Keller of a footnote that supposedly supports Rosser’s explanation of why he was defeated at Tom’s Brook. The footnote is actually a paraphrased quote from the Laurel Brigade’s ordnance officer and a participant in the battle, Captain William N. McDonald. McDonald’s exact words, which can be found on page 305 of his book, History of the Laurel Brigade, Originally Ashby’s Cavalry (Gaithersburg, MD: Olde Soldier Books, Inc., 1987 Reprint of 1907 volume) list the obstacles that the Confederates faced immediately prior to the battle on October 9, 1864:
Rosser had all told less than 2000 men, probably not more than 1,500, while opposed to him were at least 4,000 Federals, freshly mounted and armed with the Spencer seven-shooter carbines, which were effective at over 1,000 yards.
McDonald’s book, not surprisingly, presents a favorable and somewhat biased view of his beloved Laurel Brigade’s accomplishments during the Civil War. This recognition, coupled with the fact that the manuscript, written several years after the war, was not published until 43 years after the battle took place, may partly account for several glaring exaggerations in Captain McDonald’s above statement.
Captain William N. McDonald (image in his History of the Laurel Brigade)
The first exaggeration concerns his claim that Rosser was “opposed by at least 4000 Federals.” While Major General Torbert’s three divisions of cavalry did number close to 4000, Rosser, in fact, faced only Custer’s 3rd Division throughout most of the battle (See Torbert’s and Custer’s reports in OR 43, Part 1, pgs 431, 520-521). Custer’s three brigades and Rosser’s three brigades battled it out near Back Road west of the Valley Pike (main road to Fisher’s Hill; see map above). Torbert’s other two Federal divisions, the 1st and 2nd, were posted astride the Valley pike and opposed by Confederate Major General Lunsford Lomax’s Division. In his book, Custer Victorious (East Brunswick, NJ: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1983), Gregory J. Urwin states that Custer’s two brigades consisted of “2500 sabers.” He does not, however, indicate where this figure came from. Because Urwin, like McDonald, tends to paint his subject in a very complimentary light, even holding to Major General Torbert’s claim that an outnumbered Custer faced from 3,000 to 3,500 Confederates during the fight at Tom’s Brook, I decided to see if his figure of “2500 sabers” is plausible. (OR 43, Pt. 1, 432)
My investigation of this number focused on the1863/1864 regimental inventories of carbines for the ten regiments and one battalion (1st New Hampshire Cavalry) of cavalry that comprised the 1st and 2nd brigades in Custer’s Division (see the table below; these figures came from John D. McAulay’s Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry 1861-1905 (Rhode Island: Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 1996). Care had to be used when assessing these numbers. In a few cases, like the 3rd Indiana Cavalry, I had to make a judgment call. Its 1863 regimental carbine inventory consisted of 197 Sharps, 10 Smith, 78 Burnside, 118 Gallager, while its 1864 inventory included 192 Burnside carbines. In this instance, I assumed the Gallagers (the least effective carbine in the mix) were exchanged for Burnside carbines in 1864, hence the increase in Burnside numbers from 78 to 192 (an increase of almost 118, which was the number of Gallagers) and I concluded that the 1863 numbers of Smith and Sharps, both reliable carbines, were still present with the regiment. Using this approach and a little logic, the total carbine inventory for Custer’s two brigades comes surprisingly close to Urwin’s “2500 sabers,” i.e. troopers (see table below). If McDonald’s estimate (between 1,500 and 2,000 troopers) of Rosser’s strength is accurate (and who should know the Confederates' strength better than an ordnance officer who served with Rosser during the battle), the disparity in forces between the two antagonists, i.e. Rosser and Custer, was less than 2:1 in favor of the Federals.
1863-1864 Regimental Inventory (carbines)
3rd New Jersey
2nd New York
5th New York
1st New Hampshire (1 battalion)
8th New York
22nd New York
suggestion that the Federals’ mounts were “fresh” while the Confederate’s
horses were not is a second exaggeration.
According to Major General Torbert’s report, Custer’s 3rd Division was
initially camped at Bridgewater,
Virginia, some 50 miles south of Fisher’s
Hill on October 1. After picketing the North River through October 5, Custer’s troopers moved up
(north) Back Road
at least 20 miles and went into camp near Brock’s Gap the following day. He his men covered another 15 miles or so on
the 7th and eventually bivouacked near Columbia Furnace. Custer’s Division continued up Back Road on the
8th and, after a 15-mile ride during which his rear guard was fighting with
Rosser and his Laurel Brigade every step of the way, encamped near Tumbling Run
just north of Fisher’s Hill. Based on
the above accounts/reports, I would conclude that the Confederates’ and Federals’
horses were equally taxed prior to the Battle at Tom’s Brook. (OR
43, Pt. 1, 430; Riding with Rosser,
46-47; mileage estimates made using Plate LXXXI, map 4 in Gramercy Books’ 1983
reprint of The Official Military Atlas of
the Civil War)
McDonald’s claim that the Federal cavalrymen’s “Spencer seven-shooter carbines
. . . were effective at over 1,000 yards” is, perhaps, the most troubling exaggeration
of all. I’m sorry, but there was not an
American-made carbine in existence in the 1860s that was “effective” at a range
even close to 1,000 yards. While the 8th
Illinois Cavalry’s Colonel William Gamble reported in February 1865 that the
Spencer “fires accurately and rapidly” and that “Spencer and Sharps carbines
range effectively at 600 yards (which is still, of course, considerably shorter
than 1,000 yards) with good ammunition,” it’s clear, thanks to some exhaustive
hands-on research by Peter Schiffers and two experienced sharpshooters, that
the effective range and accuracy of eleven Civil War era carbines, including
the Spencer, was not in excess of 300 yards.
In 2008, Schiffers and his friends, which included the aforementioned two sharpshooters, an antiquarian gunsmith and a cartridge expert (who was also a machinist), published the only field assessment (that I know of) of the performance of eleven original Civil War carbines (see Schiffers, Peter. Civil War Carbines, Myth vs. Reality. Woonsocket, RI: Mowbray Publishers, 2008). The cartridges, both metallic and paper, used by Schiffers throughout his tests were made to the exact specifications of the originals (the latter of which were used as models) right down to bullet diameter, powder grain size (original cartridges were dismantled and powder was assessed for grain size and number) and bullet lubricant. In the case of the Model 1860 Spencer carbine, Schiffers made one modification to his original arm . . . he replaced the rim-fire breech with a modern one that allowed him to shoot center-fire ammunition. The Spencer center-fire cartridges were, again, manufactured as close to the specs of the original rim-fire version as possible.
His “historical shooting procedure” consisted of the following:
Finally, Schiffers admitted he “only shot three series at 220 yards, because, hitting that target with a Civil War carbine having a barrel about 20 inches long is a substantial achievement. At such a distance, the best you could hope to hit would be an immobile infantryman. I placed a silhouette of a man on the target and I examined how many times he would have been hit. For instance, with the Smith carbine, fifteen rounds produced only seven hits.”
So how did the Model 1860 Spencer perform? In Schiffers’ own words:
By the time I undertook shooting the 1860 Spencer, I had already tested the Joslyn carbine with the .56 Spencer cartridge obtaining quite good results at 55 yards. I was thus expecting to achieve similar results with the Spencer. I was immediately disappointed. The Spencer [at 55 yards] only ranked 10th after the Starr carbine.
When I moved to 110 yards on the range
I had no illusions. Seven out of my
thirty bullets missed the target and the 1860 Spencer did not improve its 10th rank.
At 220 yards, the fifth bullet of my
third series missed the target. If the
target was hit fourteen times out of fifteen, my shots would have only hit an
infantryman seven times. Surprisingly,
this time the Spencer ranked 7th . . . [while] its overall rank was only 8th.
explanation for the poor accuracy,” Schiffer opined, “might be found in the
rifling, which is one turn in 49 inches vs. 1 turn in 43 inches for the Joslyn. The Spencer rifling is too slow.” Whatever the case, the Spencer performed
poorly and it did so under much more controlled conditions, i.e. bench-rest
shooting, bore cleaned between groups of shots, etc., than those found on the
battlefield back in the 19th century.
Spencer's "historical shooting results" (from Schiffers' book)
If we go back to Keller’s footnote and McDonald’s quote, it’s clear the latter is full of exaggerations. While Rosser was outnumbered, it was not the 3:1 ratio that McDonald claims. Rosser’s troopers’ horses were also no more jaded than those ridden by the Federals. Lastly, I will grant that the Spencer carbine’s rate of fire is significantly greater than that of the single-shot Enfield or other type of short-barreled musketoon (muzzleloader), which was probably the primary weapon used by Rosser’s troopers. However, the Spencer was/is not accurate beyond 300 yards. In fact, I would argue that the Confederate cavalryman’s musketoon, which had a 24” barrel, as compared to the Spencer’s 22” barrel, and faster rifling, i.e. 1 turn in 48 inches, was more accurate than the Spencer.
So when you’re reading footnotes, especially those that involve quotes from biased soldiers made long after their participation in the Civil War, do so objectively and with care.
Following the fall of Beersheba on October 31, 1917, the 6th Light Horse was ordered up the Hebron Road toward the Dhaheriyeh (also spelled Dhaheriye) Hills in pursuit of the retreating Turkish Army. About 12 miles northeast of Beersheba the light horsemen encountered “strong forces of the enemy” and snipers secreted in “impregnable spots.”
Till the 6th [November] inst., recalled Lieutenant George Berrie, a very unequal warfare continued in rough country, the difficulty of water supply for both horses and men, the heat by day, and the continuous night outpost work, was very trying to all ranks. The Dhaheriyeh Hills will remain in the memory of the Regiment as one of the worst spots it ever campaigned in. The number of casualties was not great but its personnel was sorely missed.
Many of these casualties were victims of Turkish snipers, which, Lieutenant Berrie admitted, “commanded great respect.” Among those killed was 27-year-old Sergeant Robert Foster, a laborer and father of two from Walcha, New South Wales. Foster was well-liked and respected by his mates. During his service at Gallipoli, he, his regiment and the 2nd Light Horse Brigade participated in a major demonstration on the Turkish lines on July 12, 1915. Corporal Foster performed admirably during that attack and was cited two days later by “the Lieutenant General Commanding . . . for very gallant conduct . . . in carrying back wounded comrades under heavy shell, machine gun and rifle fire.” On December 7, 1915, a few weeks before Australian and British troops evacuated Gallipoli, Foster received “special mention in Divisional Order No. 164 by Maj. Gen. James Gordon Legge [commander of the Australian 2nd Division] for acts of conspicuous gallantry at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli.”
Following Gallipoli the 6th Light Horse Regiment returned to Alexandria, Egypt, and shortly thereafter Maadi, where the men were reunited with their horses and drilling in earnest commenced for the upcoming Sinai and Palestine Campaign. Foster, now a sergeant in B Troop, fought with the regiment near Et Maler, Kantara and Ismaila, where he was wounded on three consecutive days, August 5-8, 1916, in the head and left arm, the nose and face (slight wound), respectively. On July 27, 1917, he was awarded a Military Medal for gallantry and devotion to duty in the field.
The 6th Light Horse Regiment did not
participate in the famous October 31, 1917, charge on Beersheba. These light horsemen and the remainder of the 2nd Light Horse Brigade had pushed northwest to Sakati on October 30. They remained astride the Hebron Road on the day of the charge. Foster was shot by a sniper on November 6,
1917, while the regiment was struggling northeast up the Hebron Road through the
Route taken by the 6th Australian Light Horse into the hills around Dhaheriyeh where Sergeant Foster
was mortally wounded (Map 16 in Henry Gullett's Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18,
Vol. VII Sinai and Palestine)
One day I was sitting on a rock on the Beersheba-Hebron Road and beside me was Bob Foster, our troop sergeant, the Turks were not far away and we had an occasional long-range shot when we saw movement and odd snipers’ bullets occasionally come our way.
One seemed closer than the others and I heard a dull plop, I looked at Bob but he was displaying no interest and chatted on about what we could see. Some time later I saw blood coming out of his trousers and pointed it out to him, we then discovered he had been shot just on the side of his stomach . . . he said he had felt nothing, however, the main bowel had been nicked and he died a day or two later. He was a grand bloke.
Sergeant Robert Foster, No. 410, died at the Australian Receiving Station near Beersheba on November 7, 1917. He is buried in Beersheba Military Cemetery.
Sergeant Foster's mate, Corporal Eric Henry Gale Eldershaw
(Image in Daley and Bowers' Armageddon, Two Men on an ANZAC Trail)
“Foster’s case,” Berrie remembered, “was particularly hard.” This trooper was one of the first of the 1914 enlistments and had only been absent, as a result of the previously mentioned wounds, for 14 days. Upon completion of his three years’ service, which included the 30-week nightmare on Gallipoli, Foster applied for a furlough for family reasons. “His application for leave,” noted Berrie, “was refused on the grounds of insufficient reinforcements from Australia . . . Now his gravestone stands in the cemetery at Beersheba, far from his New England home, and remains one – and not the only one – of the monuments to the selfish cowardice of a large number of his countrymen.”
(The above was gleaned from the following sources: Australian War Memorial: Military Service Records; Berrie, Lt. George L. Under Furred Hats. London: The Naval and Military Press, Ltd., 2009; Daley, Paul and Michael Bowers. Armageddon, Two Men on an ANZAC Trail. Victoria, Australia: The Miegunyah Press, 2011; Gullett, Henry. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18, Vol. VII. Sinai and Palestine. Sydney, Australia: Angus and Robertson, Ltd., 1939)
Camp Near Falmouth Virginia
February 2nd, 1862
I received your letter this morning and was very glad to get it. I am glad you are trying to get me home for I think I have been here long enough . . . Father, you said you heard my papers were lost. I have got the papers here where you gave your consent for me to enlist. Colonel Cross never saw them when I enlisted. All he said was if you have gave your consent. I told him you had. I never had any enlisting papers. The way I enlisted I held up my hand and he read a few words to me and then he told me to report to my company. That is the way I enlisted. I have always kept the papers you and Mr. Woodell signed so they can prove you gave your consent. We have had some bad weather here. A few days ago we had about three inches of snow. Most all is gone now. So it makes it very muddy . . . What do you think about General Burnsides leaving the Army and General [Joseph] Hooker taking command of the Army of the Potomac? General [Edwin] Sumner has left. He says he will not serve under General Hooker. So you see we have war here among us. You wanted to know how Jackson is getting along. I cannot tell you. I have not heard from him in some time. He was getting a little better then. I think he will never come back again. He will get away if he can. So we all would if we could. I am sorry I ever asked you to let me enlist. I did not know then what I have gotten to know . . . We have some little tents we had last summer. A little piece of thin white cloth. I cannot think of any more to write. Tell Mother to write often and you the same. These few lines from your son, goodbye.
Charles T. Moody
Moody's and my great, great grandfather's commanding
officer, the 5th New Hampshire Infantry's Colonel Edward E.
Cross (Photo from Massachusetts MOLLUS and USAMHI)
Charles T. Moody was born in Claremont, New Hampshire. The Manassas, Virginia, resident enlisted on March 18, 1862, at the age of 18 and was mustered into Company H, 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry as a musician on April 20, 1862. Moody’s term of service expired in April 1865 and he was subsequently mustered out at Burkeville, Virginia, on the 19th of that month. His post-war residence was listed as Nashua, New Hampshire. (For further reading on the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry see 5th New Hampshire Infantry Surgeon William Child’s, A History of the Fifth Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the American Civil War 1861-1865. Bristol, New Hampshire: R.W. Musgrove Printer, 1893)