The military service record of 19th century U.S. soldiers frequently included brushes with army justice. Enlisted men convicted of serious offenses faced imprisonment and their case proceedings often included the statement “the Leavenworth Military Prison, Kansas, is designated as the place of his confinement.” Alcatraz Island held soldiers serving in the Division of the Pacific. However, between 1875 and 1895, Leavenworth became the official prison for most military convicts.
Leavenworth Military Prison Inmate Reception
Upon entering the prison, the convicted soldiers received a unique number and relinquished all personal property. The prison adjutant took responsibility for money. Presumably, a safe held the money. The remaining property, clothing, jewelry, personal grooming items, etc., were kept in a storehouse. Upon completion of their sentence, the inmate received their property. Entries for about 4,000 convicts are in the register kept by the adjutant at the Leavenworth Military Prison between March 1877 and December 1888.
The prison adjutant, detached from an active military unit, acknowledged each entry with his signature. The prisoners also signed the entry, or left his mark. The register, therefore, is a good indicator of the literacy of the inmates.
Personal Items From Money To a “Citizen Hat”
Most prisoners had few, if any, personal possessions. However, for those who turned over items the list was diverse. For example, Private Patrick J. Rourke, member of the 22nd Infantry band, deserted from Fort Wayne, Michigan in May 1877. He surrendered at Fort Porter, New York. There he stood trial by general court martial. Upon being received at Leavenworth on October 5th Rourke (Prisoner #457) brought with him 80¢ and a memo book.
On January 16, 1882, Charles Taphner, Company F, 1st Infantry deserted from Fort Davis, Texas. He was apprehended two days later. The private was found guilty in a subsequent general court martial and received a harsh sentence, which included a three-year prison term (later reduced to two years). Taphner (Prisoner #442) arrived with three other prisoners at Leavenworth on May 29, 1880 with a gold ring and silver watch.
Other examples of personal property of inmates include:
John Rust (Prisoner #170) turned over 2¢ and a corn husker.
William McClain (Prisoner #209) turned over 60¢ and a Grand Army of the Republic Badge.
James Guy (Prisoner #282) turned over $14.75 and a “citizen hat”.
William Campbell (Prisoner #305) turned over $8.00 and a “Photo Diary”.
Edward Barton (Prisoner #509) turned over $3.50, a banjo, and a package of books.
John J. Miles (Prisoner #514) turned over 5¢ and an Indian pipe.
From Little Bighorn to Leavenworth Prison
Several veteran 7th Cavalrymen and survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn served time at Leavenworth Military Prison. On May 19, 1878, enlisted men Frank Howard (Prisoner #174) and Joshua S. Nicholas (Prisoner #343) turned over personal items at the prison. Both men fought at the Little Bighorn. Howard, formerly of Company F, turned over $1.25, while Nicholas, who served in Company H, had a watch and chain and $34.60. In a previous article, I discussed Private Thomas Seayers (aka Sayers) from Company A. Seayers worked at the Fort Abraham Lincoln bakery before and after the Custer Battle. Seayers deserted in June 1878 and surrendered three months later. In February 1879, he arrived at Leavenworth Military Prison, was assigned ID # 255 and turned over $2.03 and a watch.
As Private Seayers demonstrates, the military service record of 19th century soldiers was complex. More importantly, the U.S. Army bureaucracy documented the service history. Old Army Records is systematically identifying, digitizing, and indexing those documents. What details do your U.S. military ancestors have? Contact us to uncover their complete military service record.
Unpublished Sources (indexed by Old Army Records)
Department of the Platte, General Orders (1877)
Department of Texas, General Orders (1882)
Division of the Atlantic, General Orders (1877)
Prisoner Book, Department of Texas (1872-1886)
Register of Prisoners Received, Leavenworth Military Prison
Army Regulations Regulations for the Army of the United States (1895)
Other Source Index of General Court-Martial Orders, Adjutant General’s Office, 1880 (GPO 1881)
History is full of ironic interactions with individuals. The collective familial military past is no exception. I learned this on a recent trip to Ireland to visit cousins and property once owned by my paternal ancestors. The best I can tell, my grandmother’s side resided near Killenkere Parish, County Cavan at least from the early to mid-19th century. Interestingly, Philip Henry Sheridan, one of the Old Army’s most famous and controversial leaders also has ancestral ties to the Killenkere area.
Henry Sheridan, Born in America?
Sheridan, in his memoirs published in 1888, stated
that he was born in Albany, New York, a year after his parents arrival in the
U.S. Obviously, the author of an
autobiography would know their nativity.
Yet, many biographies of Sheridan fail to agree on his birthplace. For example, an 1865 biographer listed
Massachusetts as his birthplace. Another
biographer stated that Sheridan “was born in Albany, New York, March 6, 1831,
but a few weeks after arrival of the his Irish parents in the New World.” If that is true then the future general was
conceived in Ireland. Other documents list
Ohio, Massachusetts, and New York as Sheridan’s place of birth. Complicating the issue further is a marker
erected in 1969 by the Department of Irish Veterans of World War One near Killenkere
identifying that parish as Sheridan’s birthplace.
Distancing Himself From His Irish Heritage
Modern researcher and writer Damian Shiels speculates that Sheridan intentionally downplayed his foreign heritage opting, instead, to embrace the country that made him famous. Shiels’ contention is not without merit. In his memoirs, Sheridan acknowledged that his parents, John and Mary, immigrated from County Cavan, Ireland to the U.S. around 1830, Sheridan does not delve into his Irish ancestry.
Sheridan’s parents lived a short distance from some of my ancestors, the Cusacks (also spelled Cusick, Cussick, or Cussack). Portions of both the Sheridan and Cusack families immigrated to the U.S., albeit a generation apart. Some of the Cusack clan, including my paternal grandmother eventually settling down in the Wyoming city named for Philip Henry Sheridan. Incidentally, Old Army Records is headquartered in the same city.
Did Your Ancestor’s Have A Brush With Old Army Fame?
We will likely never know the true birthplace of the general. Personally, the prospect that my ancestors interacted with Philip H. Sheridan’s family, and maybe the general himself, albeit briefly, is intriguing. It’s these interactions and coincidences that fuels my desire to research the Old Army. What connections do your ancestors have with the 19th century U.S. Army? Let Old Army Records help uncover those historic relationships. Contact us for more information.
Phil: The Life and Military Career of
Philip Henry Sheridan, General of the Army of the United States by
Reverend P.C. Headley. Lee and Shepard
Publishers, Boston (1889)
Life, Campaigns and Public Services of Philip H. Sheridan (Major-General
Sheridan) the Hero of the “Shenandoah Valley,” “Battle of Five Forks,” etc.
by C. W. Denison. T.B. Peterson &
Brothers, Philadelphia (1865)
Life of Philip Henry Sheridan by Joseph Faulkner. Hurst & Co., New York (1888)
Henry Sheridan by James Grant Wilson. J.B.
Lippincott Company, Philadelphia (1892)
Memoirs of P. H. Sheridan.
Jenkins & McCowan, New York (1888)
One a.m., Monday, August 17, 1863, Lieutenant Colonel James W. Carr made his prescribed nightly guard post rounds as field officer of the day at Point Lookout, Maryland. Carr and his escort approached the post manned by Private Martin A. Haynes, 2nd New Hampshire Infantry.
Upon seeing the unknown figures in the darkness, Haynes announced “Halt! Who goes there?” Following regulations the sergeant escorting officer of the day announced the daily countersign “Glendale”, Carr then confirmed the parole “Cowdin”.
The scenario outlined above is largely based on fact. We know from a letter written by Haynes that he was on guard duty that night. Documents recently digitized by Old Army Records confirm that Carr served as field officer of the day and we know the countersign and parole used that day. Countersigns and paroles were an integral part of an army service record. Yet, until now little has been published on their specifics.
The 1889 U.S. Army regulations succinctly define the two words used in the performance of guard duty. “The ‘countersign’ is a word given daily to enable guards and sentinels to distinguish persons at night. It is given to such persons as are entitled to pass and repass during the night, and to the officer, non-commissioned officers, and sentinels of the guard. To officers commanding guards a second word, called the ‘parole,’ will be given as a check upon the countersign, by which such officers as are entitled to make visits of inspection at night may be distinguished.” In short, countersigns (or watchwords) and paroles helped ensure that authorized soldiers passed through the guard posts and prevented officers with ulterior motives from interfering with the guard.
Countersign and Parole Words Used in the Civil War
Based on lists obtained by Old Army Records, place names usually constituted the daily countersign. Not surprisingly, sites of Civil War battles or significant cities, northern, southern, and foreign, dominated the list.
Paroles usually consisted of surnames with generals of the period predominating. Not all names used during the Civil War period were of well-known officers. Take, for example, the parole used on August 17th , 1863 at Point Lookout. The general used that day was Robert Cowdin, whose appointment expired in March 1863. Occasionally, paroles included foreign generals, such as Revolutionary War British commander Cornwallis.
Sometimes the dual watchword association left little to the imagination. For instance, on March 13, 1863 the countersign/ parole combo was “Moscow” and “Napoleon.” As early as 1834, army regulations required, for obvious reasons, that should a guard desert, the countersign be changed immediately.
Simple Words, Lots of Responsibility
Not surprisingly, safeguarding the countersign was of utmost importance. Carelessness with the words often resulted in a dark spot in an army service record. For example, Captain Pardon Mason, 3rd Rhode Island Artillery, stood a general court martial. One charge read “Giving the wrong countersign or watchword, violation of the 53rd Article of War.” While serving as field officer of the day on October 2, 1862 at Hilton Head, South Carolina, Mason allegedly issued the picket guard the wrong countersign,“Springbrook,” instead of “Crown Point.” Found guilty, Mason’s punishment consisted of a public reprimand read to his brother officers by regimental commander, Colonel Nathaniel W Brown.
Knowingly disclosing the countersign or parole to any person not authorized to know the words could suffer death or other punishment imposed by a general court martial. The case of 2nd Lieutenant William M. Crozier, Dubuque (Iowa) Light artillery Battery illustrates the importance of securing watchwords. In December 1862, Crozier faced a general court martial on two charges, including violating the 53rd Article War. The violation stemmed from the fact that the officer disclosed the daily countersign to one of the battery’s enlisted men, 1st Sergeant Otis G. Day. Day evidently was not detailed for guard duty and therefore not in a position to know the watchword. The indiscretion caused Crozier to be cashiered (dismissed) from army service.
Filling in the Details
Diaries, journals, and letters written by 19th century soldiers, like New Hampshire infantryman Haynes, frequently referred to performing guard duty. However, these extant documents rarely provide details about the people encountered and specific instructions, including countersigns, relative to the security detail. The 380+ countersign/ parole combinations recently discovered by Old Army Records will add rich detail to anyone (site administrator, living historian, author or genealogist) researching 19th century U.S. Army history. Feel free to contact us with any research request, no matter how specific or mundane.
I would like to thank the staff in the Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire Library, and especially Dale Valena, for providing the image of Martin A. Haynes.
Unpublished Sources (indexed byOld Army Records)
Army of the Frontier, Paroles and Countersigns (1863)
Department of the Missouri, General Court Martial Orders
District of St. Mary’s, Paroles and Countersigns (July 1863- July 1864)
Division of the South, General Court Martial Orders
Government Documents General Regulations for the Army (1834) Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (Heitman, 1903) Regulations for the Army of the United States (1889) Revised United States Army Regulations of 1861 (1863)
Other Primary Documents A Minor War History Compiled From A Soldier Boy’s Letters to “The Girl I Left Behind Me”, 1861-1864 (Haynes 1916)
As previously discussed, the military service record of 19th century U.S. Army officers included duty on various ad hoc panels. Duty included temporary appointments to boards of survey and councils of administration. Besides the daily administration and training soldiers, for junior officers no other duty was as frequent as officer of the day. The position required the officer to serve as the on-call commander of a camp or military installation for a 24-hour period. Although temporary, the position of officer of the day held great responsibility.
The adjutant of each station maintained a roster of available officers and established the rotation schedule for the temporary position. Those serving in the position wore a crimson sash. According to the Army Regulations (1863) the sash was “worn across the body, scarf fashion, from the right shoulder to the left side, instead of around the waist, tying behind the left hip as prescribed.”
“The Officer of the Day has charge of the camp or garrison…”
Kautz (1868) outlined the specific responsibilities of an officer of the day. The officer detailed “…receives his orders and instructions from the Commanding Officer, and transmits them to his subordinates. All the guards of the camp or post are under his general direction; all the police parties and fatigue parties, when on duty, within the line of the guards, and often fatigue parties sent beyond the lines receives their orders from the Officer of the Day.” The 1834 edition of army regulations stated that “[n]o other officer except a general officer will interfere with or give any order on the parade to the staff officer on duty there.” However, the officer of the day reported all significant events/ actions directly to the commanding officer of the installation.
In addition, the officer of the day ensured that the camp or garrison remained clean, exercised control of prisoners in the guardhouse, and had the discretion to detain or release prisoners. Not surprisingly, some prisoners took exception to directives issued by the officers. For instance, on June 23, 1868, 1st Lieutenant Theodore Kendall, 33rd Infantry, while serving as officer of the day at McPherson Barracks near Atlanta, Georgia, ordered a prisoner, Private Thomas McDonough (Company I, 16th Infantry) to “carry a log”. Taking offense McDonough refused the order and physically and verbally assaulted the officer. A general court martial panel found McDonough guilty of the crimes and imposed several punishments, including a 15-month incarceration in the Dry Tortugas.
In times of war, when larger military units were constituted, field officers of the day were also detailed. Brigade (compromised of 2 or more regiments) adjutants maintained rosters of officers with the rank of captain to colonel to fulfill the responsibilities referenced above.
Posting and Checking Guards
An officer of the day’s tour began at the daily guard mount which typically occurred in the morning. The new officer of the day held a prominent position in front, and slightly off-center from the guard; the outgoing officer stood directly in front of the guard. Perhaps the most important responsibility of the 24-hour job was ensuring that the guard was all present, outfitted, and properly posted. To that end, the officer visited the guard posts, referred to as grand rounds, frequently during the day and at least once after midnight when arguably, the command was most susceptible to attack. Proactive security measures required the officer of the day to issue daily code words (countersigns and paroles) to the guards.
The military service record of an Old Army officer included various duties, many performed simultaneously. An 1867 diary entry by Captain Tenodor Ten Eyck typifies those various tasks performed in a day. Ten Eyck attended guard mount at 9 a.m. as officer of the day on May 7th. He then served as the president of a general court martial, trying two cases, before attending to company paperwork. Before turning in for the night, Ten Eyck made his grand rounds at 12:30 a.m. on May 8th.
The Cost of being Inattentive
Inattention to guard duty was, for good reason, a very serious military crime punishable by death. Not surprisingly, most infractions on guard duty occurred at night. For that reason, officers of the day visited guard posts at least once at night and more frequently in times of hostilities. Officers tending to the nightly grand rounds often found sentinels sleeping. Court martial records from the 19th century contain frequent reference to those offenses. For instance, in May 1870, 4th Cavalry private James Devine was posted as a guard at the post guardhouse in San Antonio, Texas. The officer of the day discovered Devine sleeping in a chair between 3 and 4 a.m. The respite cost the private $84 from his monthly pay and confinement at hard labor for six months.
Failure by an officer of the day to visit guards or pickets in the night was just as serious. The case of Captain Henry Hase, 103rd New York Infantry, illustrates the point. Hase joined the 103rd New York Infantry in 1861 as a sergeant and rose through the ranks. On March 8, 1864, Hase, serving as field officer of the day, failed to obey written instructions to visit the brigade picket line on Folly River, South Carolina between the hours of 3 and 5 a.m. The transgression found Hase defending against two charges (neglect of duty and disobedience of orders) at a general court martial. The court panel found Hase guilty and abruptly dismissed him from the army; a permanent blemish to his military service record.
Although mundane, officer of the day assignments were critical in the 19th century U.S. Army. As shown above, the duty factored into the service of officers and enlisted men. Old Army Recordscontinues to identify these details to complete the military service history of the soldiers who served during the period. Check back in two weeks for an overview of duty affecting both officers and enlisted men: countersigns and paroles. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with questions or comments.
Unpublished Sources (indexed by Old Army Records)
General Court Martial Orders, Department of the South
General Court Martial Orders, Department of Texas
Lists Relating to Safeguards, Details, and Other Matters, Department of Missouri, Army of the Frontier, 1st Division, 1st Brigade
Rosters of Officers and Organizations, Fort Assinniboine (1893), Fort Assinniboine Records, Box 6, Folder 11, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives, Helena, Montana
Army Regulations General Regulations for the Army (1834) Revised U.S. Army Regulations (1863)
Published Source Customs of Service for Officers of the Army (1868)
Tenodor Ten Eyck Diaries (1860-1871), Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries, Tucson. Digital copies in the possession of Kevin O’Dell.
While indexing general orders for several military departments in the 1870s I was struck by several orders calling for the detainment of active duty regular officers absent without leave (AWOL). The orders essentially served as all point bulletins notifying all military and civil authorities throughout the country to detain the officers so that offenders could justify their absence. For example, the Adjutant General issued orders to apprehend 2nd Lieutenant John Aspinwall, 7th Cavalry, in May 1874 and Captain William McClellan Netterville, 21st Infantry in March 1876. Military authorities failed to catch up to those two officers. They were eventually dropped from the Army list. However, the case of 1st Lieutenant Josiah A. Sheetz, reported AWOL in 1875, is an intriguing story.
The Civil War catapulted thousands of men into senior leadership roles. One such person was Josiah Sheetz. In the spring of 1861, Sheetz resided in Pekin, the county seat of Tazewell County, Illinois. Responding to the call to arms, Sheetz helped organize Company F, 8th Illinois Infantry, mustering in as a 2nd Lieutenant. The 8th Illinois served in the Western Theater, mostly along the Mississippi River. He participated in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson. By December 1864, Sheetz rose to the rank of colonel, commanding the same regiment he joined in 1861. In March 1865, he received the honorary rank of brevet brigadier general of volunteers.
From Brigadier General to Private
Sheetz resigned his commission in February 1866. However, he was back in the army less than three months later. His return to service was less prestigious than when he first left. He enlisted as a private in the 1st U.S. Infantry. No doubt, Sheetz’s Civil War experience allowed him to advance through the noncommissioned ranks. He soon served as 1st Sergeant, his previous service no doubt factored into the promotions. Within a year of joining the regular army, Sheetz attained a commission as 1st lieutenant in the 30th Infantry; he transferred to the 4th Infantry in March 1869.
Doomed by Standard Military Service
As a regular army officer, Sheetz’s military service record is unremarkable. His responsibilities included roles as adjutant and post treasurer (i.e. financially responsible for money used to fund post schools and funds used to purchase supplies for companies). His downfall began innocently enough. However, facts later proved that improprieties began months earlier and quickly spiraled out of control. In April 1875, Sheetz served with his company at Fort Fetterman, Wyoming Territory. About the middle of the month he was ordered to escort a soldier to the government insane home in Washington, DC. His route took him to Fort Laramie. On his way Sheetz also escorted 11 enlisted, including two defendants and nine witnesses, to Fort Laramie to appear before a general court martial. His Fort Laramie mission would prove ironic.
Absent Without Leave
While in Washington, the Adjutant General approved Sheetz’s request to delay his return to Fort Fetterman by 20 days. Sheetz then proceeded to his father’s home in Illinois, via Chicago. By July neither the Adjutant General nor his post commander had heard from Sheetz. With no information on his whereabouts, the Adjutant General listed Sheetz as AWOL and issued the instructions to military commands across the country to, if encountered, detain him. The various military commands in turn reissued the instructions.
The Military Division of Atlantic, for instance, issued the following circular on July 29th. “Should 1st Lieutenant Josiah A. Sheetz, 4th Infantry, appear at any post or station in this Division, the commanding officer will retain him and report the fact to these Headquarters.” In the meantime, Sheetz became aware of the problems he was facing and made a feeble attempt to justify his absence, claiming to be ill and bedbound. Nevertheless, the government, now aware of Sheetz’s location, ordered the rogue officer back to his station at Fort Fetterman. A lengthy general court martial case was also being prepared.
General Court Martial
On October 18, 1875, the general court martial of 1st Lieutenant Josiah A. Sheetz began in Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory. A panel of nine officers heard the case. Captain William H. Bisbee prosecuted the case as judge advocate. The case included 6 charges and 26 specifications. In addition to being absent without leave, the facts of the government case included the following.
First, Sheetz claimed and knowingly received two salary payments for the month of April 1875 and three payments for May 1875 thereby defrauding the government of $450.00 (about $10,340 today). Second, Sheetz failed to properly account for the post fund, under his accountability, in the amount of $502.54 (about $11,548 today). Third, the lieutenant failed to properly compensate soldiers serving as post baker, assistant post baker, and schoolteacher. Similarly, Sheetz failed to pay the appropriate money, from the post fund, to units that served at Fort Fetterman.
Under the charge of “conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman” the government claimed that Sheetz received cash for his fraudulent pay vouchers from numerous banks and businesses at Fort Fetterman, Cheyenne, and Chicago. Additionally, the government claimed that Sheetz failed to pay bills, incurred by him while serving as post treasurer, as well as failing to deposit money, given to him by one of his soldiers.
Sheetz pleaded not guilty to five of the six charges. He plead guilty to the charge which included specifications for being AWOL, not accounting for the post fund, failing to pay enlisted personnel from the post fund, and failing to pay for school supplies. Sheetz represented himself and put up a feeble defense. The most damning part of the prosecution’s case was the fact that Sheetz signed the three fraudulent pay vouchers. At the end of the eighth day of trial the court panel briefly adjourned and rendered their findings. They found the 1st lieutenant guilty of all charges and sentenced him to be cashiered, confined in prison for two years, and publish the crimes, place of confinement, and punishment in newspapers in Freeport, Illinois (where Sheetz’s father lived) and Laramie City, Wyoming Territory.
An Abrupt End to A Military Career
In view of Sheetz’s admirable Civil War record, the Secretary of War remitted the punishment to dismissal from the Army only. Throughout Sheetz’s military service record documents, the curt word “cashiered” appears, an inglorious end to his army career. Sheetz died on January 8, 1883. What prompted the former brevet brigadier general to defraud the government and go AWOL? Did the isolation of serving on the western frontier cause him distress? Was he living a colonel’s lifestyle on a 1st lieutenant’s salary? We may never know why this regular officer went rogue, but Old Army Records will continue to index documents in an attempt to answer those types of questions.
Unpublished Sources (Old Army Records collection)
Department of Dakota, General Orders, General Court Martial Records, and Circulars
Department of Texas, General Orders, General Court Martial Records, and Circulars
Division of the Atlantic, General Orders, General Court Martial Records, and Circulars
Josiah A. Sheetz, Consolidated Military Officer’s File (military service record)
Josiah A. Sheetz, General Court Martial Record
Government Documents Historical register and dictionary of the United States Army: From its organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903 (Heitman, 1903)
No, Old Army Records has not gone to sea. This article discusses the interaction of the army with river vessels. Watercraft of various sizes and classes aided the Union Army in securing victory during the Civil War. Gunboats, steamers, and barges assisted the Union ground forces. Often soldiers served on board boats, such as those used by U.S. Ram Fleet.
U.S. Ram Fleet
The U.S. Ram Fleet was developed by Pennsylvania-born engineer Charles Ellet, Jr in early 1862. With the blessing of the Secretary of War, Ellet set about building his fleet. He purchased powerful and sturdy vessels already steaming up and down eastern rivers. The core of the fleet consisted of three stern-wheel towboats (boats used to push barges), the Queen of the West, Switzerland, and Monarch. The government purchased the Monarch in April 1862 for $14,000 (about $348,000 today).
Ellet quickly retrofitted the vessels to meet his task, ramming and sinking enemy boats. The key to building an effective ram was to put the whole weight of the boat at the central bulkhead so that, at the moment of collision, the weight and momentum carried through to the target boat. To accomplish this, Ellet instructed that three heavy solid timber bulkheads, from 12 to 16 inches thick, ran fore and aft, from stem to stern, placing the central one directly over the keel. In addition, iron stays held the boilers and machinery firmly in place. Also, oak timbers, bolted together in layers 2 feet thick helped protect the machinery and pilot house from small arms fire.
Soldiers Protected the Ram Fleet
Although supporting army operations, the Monarch fell under the immediate command of naval officers throughout most of its wartime service. However, from the onset, all of Ellet’s rams had army security details assigned to each vessel. Men from Company I, 59th Illinois Infantry served on the Monarch. The men included 1st Sergeant Edward W. Bartlett and privates John Holland and Gilbert C. Hamilton. However, service for some of the men was short. Private Holland, for example, took violently ill in the streets of Tuscumbia, Alabama in September 1862 and died shortly thereafter.
Getting Into Action
Just months after setting out on his mission, Ellet, now with the rank of Colonel, steamed the tiny fleet south on the Mississippi River. Contact with Confederate vessels occurred soon after. In what is known as the Naval Battle of Memphis (June 6, 1862), the Monarch helped sink or incapacitate several vessels, including the Little Rebel, Lovell, Price, and General Beauregard. Serving on the bridge of the Monarch during the Memphis engagement was David M. Dryden, a 1st Lieutenant from Company F, 1st Kentucky Infantry. Dryden fought with his infantry unit in Virginia in 1861 before taking a leave of absence for health reasons. His experience as steamboat captain caught the attention of Ellet, who secured Dryden’s transfer to the Ram Fleet.
With the surrender of Vicksburg in July 1863, Union forces held unrestricted access to the Mississippi River. It effectively ended the mission of the ram fleet. For the next year, the Monarch and the other rams, steamed up and down the Mississippi River and tributaries on a variety of excursions. These ranged from expeditions involved in removing obstructions, such as torpedoes, and reconnaissances in force. Occasionally, the Monarch served as the flagship for the Ram Fleet.
By fall 1864, the Ram Fleet was no longer serving the Navy and was scattered up and down the Mississippi River Valley in charge of army quartermasters. The Monarch was anchored in New Orleans. While in army service the Monarch served primarily as a transport hauling mail, freight, soldiers, and refugees.
Monarch’s Final Military Service
Until recently, the end of the military service history of the Ram Monarch are sketchy. For instance, the Wikipedia entry for the Monarch, which relies heavily on Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks, simply states that the boat “…was dropped from the naval list in 1864, but remained in reserve, ready for recall to active service. She was sunk by ice in December 1864, but was refloated and taken to Mound City, Illinois for dismantling in July 1865.” The final two months of government service of the Monarch were memorialized in a journal kept by Captain Charles Bogy (Master) and/or H. Carrigan (Clerk). During our recent trip to the National Archives, Old Army Records digitized the journal. The log documents rather mundane, yet important duties as they relate to the 19th century military personnel and their dependents.
Death Highlights the Monarch’s Final Trips
By October 1864, army quartermasters assigned various duties to the Monarch. The vessel carried destitute refugees, black and white, from devastated southern states northward. Many of these passengers were in poor health and died in route. For instance, at 2 a.m. on November 2, 1864, Irene Fitzgerald “wife of a soldier of the 6th Mississippi Heavy Artillery” died on board. The boat crew then went into Vicksburg, procured a coffin and buried her. She left a young child, William, who was left in a dying condition at the refugee home operated by the Western Sanitary Commission in Vicksburg.
Just two days later another refugee, Matilda Cotton, died of “chronic diarrhea and general debility” at Skipwith Landing. Intestinal distress soon claimed a third victim. Private Ezekiel J. Bailey of Battery G, 6th Michigan Heavy Artillery passed away in the evening of November 5th. Bailey was on his way home on furlough.
An Inglorious End to the Ram Monarch
The run of bad luck continued nine days later when the Monarch struck a rock near Thebes, Illinois and took on water. Ironically, the addition of timber to hull, in order to make the boat an effective ram, prevented the crew from making repairs. Captain Bogy steered the wounded boat to shallower waters near the shore. The boat eventually came to rest in water 4-12 feet deep “…very much listed over to the port.” Over the next several weeks, crews pumped out and repaired the Monarch. Finally, on the morning of December 9, 1864, the Monarch was once again under steam and headed to St. Louis.
By December 20th, the boat was at Harlow’s Landing about 25 miles south of St. Louis. The last entry in the log was ominous. It read “Main channel [b]locked up with ice it will nearly take all night for [the steamer] to take in the wood[.] Weather might be called very pleasant for this portion of the country[,] very little ice ram[m]ing Stmrs [steamers].” Did ice finally defeat one of Charles Ellet, Jr. prized rams?
Elaborating on 19th Century Military Service Records
As the history and log of the Ram Monarch illustrates, Old Army soldiers interacted with a variety of military branches and departments. Old Army Records will continue to locate, digitize, and index these documents to help flesh out the military service history of a 19th century U.S. Army soldier.
We wish to thank our recent customers for their research requests. Trying to find specific information on an individual soldier, unit, or event without much success? Are you having trouble finding information on an obscure Old Army topic? We may be able to help. Feel free tocontact us for guidance and a free quote.
Unpublished Sources (Old Army Records)
David M. Dryden, Military Service Records (RG 94)
John V. Holland, Pension Record (RG 15)
Journal of Events on the U.S.S. Monarch, October-December 1864 (RG 393)
Published Sources (in Old Army Records digital library) History of the Mississippi River Ram Fleet and Marine Brigade (Crandall 1907). Outline of the Forthcoming History of the Mississippi River Ram Fleet and Marine Brigade (Crandall ca. 1906).
Government Documents The Military and Naval History of the Rebellion in the United States (1865) The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1, Volumes 13 (1885), 15 (1886), 17 (1886 and 1887), 24 (1889), 41 (1893), and 52 (1898) Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. Series 1, Volumes 25 (1912) and 26 (1914)
Jim and I are back from our most recent Old Army records acquisition trip. As our journey through Old Army records continues, we always encounter new information that refines our knowledge on the daily operation of the 19th century U.S. Army. For example, in 1864 the Adjutant General issued General Order No. 75, which clarified several personnel issues, including the designation of draftees and the transfer of soldiers to the U.S. Navy. Last week we found a document that tabulated the number of copies and distribution of general orders in the 1860s. The Adjutant General printed and distributed over 5,900 copies of G.O. 75 to various military commands, states, installations, and generals. This example illustrates the civilian and military manpower required to maintain the War Department. With that being said, we are excited to announce that soon thousands of names will be indexed related to the following Old Army topics:
Soldiers who qualified as marksman/ sharpshooters
Lists and assignments of army sutlers/ post traders
Charges and specifications against soldiers
Lists of soldiers fitted for artificial limbs
Lists and assignments of civilian nurses
Rosters of noncommissioned officers serving in regular army units
Lists of officers detailed to teach military science at high schools and colleges
Individuals issued specific firearms
Lists of soldiers detailed to perform specific jobs
Lists of civilian clerks working at various staff departments
Prisoners at Forts Leavenworth and Pulaski
Individuals serving as scouts during the Civil War
Wide range of Old Army Subjects
What distinguishes Old Army Records apart from other databases, is our commitment to not only capture the names of soldiers, but index the events, places, material, and other subjects associated with the period. Together, these subjects, or what we call searchable units (SUs), put soldiers into context with the Old Army. We are therefore pleased to announce the following additions to our dataset:
500+ names and descriptive data for army horses and mules
List of countersigns and paroles used during the Civil War
List of safeguards issued during the Civil War
Tabular data of the types of firearms lost, damaged, and rendered unserviceable by regular army units
The causes of desertion from the regular army
Lists of items received by soldiers confined to prison
Accounting for ammunition expended in the southwest during the 1860s
Lists of ordnance and ordnance stores lost by the Union Army in key Civil War battles
Following the Paperwork Trail
With each document digitized, we are amazed at the breadth of records kept by the 19th century U.S. Army and that survive, yet, today. The details contained in those documents helps fulfill our goal of presenting the rich day-to-day life of an Old Army soldier. In the coming months, while we index the new data, we will publish articles on these topics. So, keep checking the Records Inventory page for updates. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with questions or your research requests.
On February 25, 1828, Adjutant General Roger Jones issued the following directive from Washington, DC. “The Senior officers of the General Staff of the Army, and the Commanding General of the Militia of the District of Columbia, will convene at the Adjutant’ General’s Office, this morning, at nine o’clock, to make suitable arrangements for the funeral honors of the distinguished and lamented Major General Brown.” The flurry of orders and details which soon followed outlined the funeral for the 12th Commanding General (both George Washington and James Wilkinson each served twice) of the U.S. Army.
Jacob Jennings Brown was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in May 1775. He descended from a long line of devout Quakers making his ultimate career path therefore seem strange. After brief stints as a surveyor, school teacher, and military secretary for Major General Alexander Hamilton, Brown purchased land on Lake Ontario in northern New York. Soon after, he founded the village of Brownville and became a prominent figure in state politics. His political position led to an appointment of colonel in the militia. When the war of 1812 began Brown served as a militia brigadier general.
General Jacob Brown, Commander of the Army
Much of the War of 1812 was fought along the northeast U.S. border with Canada. As a result, New York militia troops entered the conflict early. Brown competently lead troops in the early engagements at Ogdensburg and Sackett’s Harbor. Consequently, he received appointments as brigadier and then major general in the Regular Army. Regular Army soldiers, led by Brown, defeated British regulars at Chippawa and Lundy’s Lane in January 1814. Before the war officially ended, Congress bestowed upon Brown a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his “gallantry and good conduct” at the battles of Chippewa, Niagara, and Erie.
By June 1815, Brown was the senior officer of the U.S. Army. However, he did not receive the title of Commanding General of the Army until 1821. During his tenure as senior army commander, General Brown attempted to retain competent soldiers and improve unit training.
A Grand Funeral Possession
General Jacob Brown died on February 24, 1828 while on duty in Washington, DC. The exact cause of death is unknown. He suffered several wounds at Lundy’s Lane in January 1814. One 19th century biographer stated that “[t]he disease of which he died is said to have been in consequence of another wound contracted by him at Fort Erie, during the war…” The funeral orchestrated by the War Department included nearly all senior military and government leaders then at the nation’s capital. As with all military duty, the funeral was scripted and adhered to strict protocol. The following circular, issued by the Adjutant General, outlined the funeral procession.
Arrangements occurred right up to the burial on February 27th. Early that morning the War Department issued last-minute orders, which included instructions for the line of escort to form precisely at 10:30 a.m. in front of General Brown’s residence with its left resting near the corner of the United States Bank. The procession escorted the general’s body to the Congressional Cemetery where it was interred in Section 1, Range 57, Site 150.
Mourning and General Jacob Brown’s Old Army Legacy
The day after the funeral Secretary of War James Barbour issued an order, distributed to troops throughout the nation, eulogizing General Brown. In it Barbour credited Brown for“[u]niting with the most unaffected simplicity, the highest degree of personal valor, and of intellectual energy, he stands pre-eminent before the world, and for after ages, in that band of heroic spirits, who, upon the ocean and the land, formed and sustained, during the second war with Great Britain, the martial reputation of their country.” Barbour went on to commend the former commanding general for his “intuitive penetration, his knowledge of men, and his capacity to control them…his scrupulous regard for their rights, his constant attention to their wants…”
Following regulations, artillery at each military post were fired every half hour from sunrise to sunset on the day succeeding the arrival of the directive. Further, each army officer wore black crape around their left arm and on the hilt of their sword for six months.
According to the official history of commanding generals and army chiefs of staff, Brown recommended pay incentives to encourage reenlistment and pay increases for noncommissioned officers. He also advocated periodic centralized training for widely scattered units in order to prevent erosion in military instruction.
Unpublished Sources (indexed by Old Army Records)
Orders issued by the Adjutant General’s Office (1828)
Army Regulations General Regulations for the Army (1825)
Congressional Document The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents; and all the Laws of a Public Nature; with a Copious Index, Thirteenth Congress-Third Session. Comprising the Period from Sept. 19, 1814 to March 3, 1815, Inclusive. Compiled from Authentic Materials (1854)
Government Document Commanding Generals and Chiefs of Staff, 1775-1995: Portraits & Biographical Sketches of the United States Army’s Senior Officer (Bell 1999)
In the previous article I discussed the role of adjutants in the 19th century U.S. Army. The dedicated efforts of those staff officers ensured that current Old Army researchers have the detail-rich unit and garrison information. Accordingly, an adjutant’s duty was documenting the activities and personnel of their assigned unit. In April 1866, Colonel Henry B. Carrington forwarded the Official History of the 18th United States Infantry, 1861-1865 to the Adjutant General’s Office. Compiled by regimental adjutant, 1st Lieutenant Frederick Phisterer, the history provides data significant to understanding Old Army demographics.
Three Regiments in One
The 18th was one of nine regular army infantry regiments (11th-19th) formed in 1861. Modeled on the French regimental system, each regiment consisted of three 8-company battalions (designated 1st-3rd). In actuality, each battalion functioned as a regiment, each with their own command and staff positions and set of records.
The history prepared by Phisterer documented the enlistment of 4,778 men between July 1, 1861 and December 31, 1865. His effort received high praise from senior officers for its thoroughness and completeness. It includes the names and dates of enlistment of the nearly 5,000 men who joined the regiment during the Civil War period, monthly itineraries of the 24 companies, and biographies of the regiment’s officers. Moreover, the history lists the names, dates of appointment, and notes (i.e. death, wounds, demotion, etc.) of the 657 noncommissioned officers who served with the unit. Perhaps the most the interesting information contained in the book are the demographics of the enlisted men. Some of that information is presented below.
Old Army Demographics, Occupations From Actor to Woodchopper
Although a regular army unit, the 18th could easily claim to be an Ohio regiment. Of the 4,778 men who joined the unit, 1,320 (28%) claimed Ohio as their birth state. Officers organized and trained the recruits at Camp Thomas, Ohio, just north of Columbus. Over 1,000 recruits enlisted at Columbus alone; an additional 43 recruiting stations throughout Ohio also swelled the ranks. The high number of Ohio-born men in the regiment is no doubt attributed to its formation in that state.
About 33% of the ranks claimed foreign birth places with the majority from western Europe. Of the foreign-born, Ireland and Germany led with 1,002. Canada, Newfoundland, and New Brunswick accounted for 156 enlistees. Additionally, a few soldiers claimed Cuba, Australia, and “on the sea” as birthplaces.
Occupations From Actor to Woodchopper
In many ways, the composition of the regiment was a microcosm of the nation. The 108 different occupations, noted by enlistees, reflected the diversity. Not surprisingly, 35% of the soldiers listed their occupation as farmer thereby reflecting the agrarian nature of the economy. The 1,679 farmers therefore led all occupations. Laborer, soldier, carpenter, blacksmith, shoemaker, boatman, clerk, sailor, and musician rounded out the top ten occupations represented in the regiment. However, numerous other occupations filled the ranks such as physicians, lawyers, an actor, a showman, and one “gentleman”. In short the 18th Infantry included a wide range of unskilled and skilled professions.
The Personal Cost of Old Army Service
The 18th Infantry fought and bled at several of the prominent battles in the Civil War Western Theater, namely the sieges of Corinth (1862) and Atlanta (1864) and battles of Stones River (1862/1863), Chickamauga (1863), Resaca (1864), and Kennesaw Mountain (1864). Throughout most of the Civil War, the 18th Regulars served in the 14th Army Corps alongside battalions from fellow regular army infantry regiments (15th, 16th, and 19th) and numerous volunteer units. The latter included the 11th Michigan and 69th Ohio infantry regiments.
Attrition, common to all military units of the era, affected the regiment. As of December 31, 1865 the unit lost 64% of its enlisted men owing to a variety of reasons. Most, 1,052, deserted. Just over 200 men died outright in battle or succumbed to wounds while 330 died from disease. Only 14% received honorable discharges for successfully completing their term of enlistment. Moreover, a high number of men (582) received early discharge for disability. Interestingly, 29 men were still listed as missing in action as of December 1865.
The statistics listed in the 18th Infantry history provide a fine basis for compiling Old Army demographics. Do you have any idea for a “By the Numbers” or other Old Army article? We’d love to hear it. Send your suggestions through the Contact Uspage.
In previous articles, I discussed general and special orders issued by the 19th century U.S. Army. General and special orders regulated day-to-day operations of the army. Often, officers required detailed instructions on how to complete army paperwork or comply with procedures. Occasionally, line officers became lax in their administrative duties and needed gentle reminders to get them into compliance. Policy changes or adjustments to soldier behavior sometimes required attention. Directions for the composition of and behavior on expeditions needed clarification. Finally, certain army business required specific documents. For the instances referenced above, army commanders issued circulars.
All levels of command, ranging from the Adjutant General’s Office (AGO) to a battalion or detachment, issued circulars. As with other types of orders, the issuing authority maintained books and/or files for circulars. Unlike orders, which were typically numbered sequentially, circulars were often organized and referred to by the date of their publication.
Not surprisingly, an army officer spent considerable time completing paperwork and complying with procedures. Circulars notified officers of changes and helped guide officers through the bureaucratic jungle. For example, in April 1871, the AGO issued a letter to all military divisions regarding reenlistment standards. The headquarters of the Military Division of the Pacific incorporated the letter into a circular which they distributed throughout the division:
Only men who are up to the standard of height [5’6” and upwards and between 21 and 35 years old and concerning whose fitness for the service in other respects there exists no doubts], prescribed in letter of March 18th, 1871, from this Office will be enlisted.
No objection will be made to the re-enlistment of good men, who are below the standard height, in the companies from which they were discharged, provided they apply in person at the station or stations of said companies.
Sometimes, circulars simply functioned as technical pamphlets. For example, in May 1870 the Military Division of the Missouri issued a 6-page circular detailing the construction and use of sundials. Frequently, circulars outlined the process for requisitioning and disposing of arms, equipment, or other government property. The following are examples. First, instructions issued to 7th Cavalry company commanders for requisitioning Model 1873 Springfield Carbines and Colt revolvers. Second, instructions from the Commissary General of Subsistence for the disposal of surplus desiccated vegetables.
The 19th century army, as with today, relied heavily on civilian contractors to complete their mission. Contractors throughout the country provided a wide range of goods and services including freighting, building material, horses, and fuel. In most instances, the government selected contractors based on competitive bids. The army issued circulars detailing which newspapers procuring officers could advertise in. Conversely, leaflets also listed which newspapers no longer warranted advertisements. The following is a small sample of newspapers in which the War Department authorized the publication of ads in the 1870s:
Advocate (Huntsville, Alabama) Daily Times (Jersey City, New Jersey) Evening Call (Leavenworth, Kansas) Grand Era (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) Inter-Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) National Republic (Selma, Alabama) Our Mountain Home (Talladega, Alabama) Pioneer (Asheville, North Carolina) Republican (San Francisco, California) Skandinavisk (New York, New York)
Circulars also functioned as interbranch memos. Memorandum replaced circulars as a form of communication in the 20th century army. Colonel John R. Brooke (3rd Infantry), commander of Fort Shaw, Montana Territory took issue with the behavior of some of his men at a post band concert. As a result, Brooke issued the following:
Circulars condemning behavior also applied to officers. The 1895 army regulations specifically listed one instance in which officers likely regretted inclusion in the memos:
The notice of stoppage of officers’ pay will be prepared in the form of a monthly circular to paymasters, advising them of stoppages outstanding at its date. This circular will be submitted to the Secretary of War for his approval prior to its publication. When an officer’s name is borne thereon, no payment of salary will be made to him which is not in accordance with the stoppage entry made against his name.
Although not as numerous as general and special orders, circulars contain a wealth of information regarding the administration of the Old Army. They provide insight into what subjects army commanders deemed important throughout the 19th century. Furthermore, the leaflets identify other documents, such as newspapers, that may contain other information pertaining to an Old Army topic.
Unpublished Sources (indexed byOld Army Records)
7th U.S. Cavalry, General Orders, Special Orders, and Circulars
Adjutant General’s Office, General Orders and Circulars
Atlantic (Division of), Orders
Fort Shaw, Montana Territory, General Orders, Garrison Court Martial Orders, and Circulars
Missouri (Division of), Orders
Office of the Commissary General of Subsistence, Circulars
Pacific (Division of), Orders
Texas (Department of), Orders
Government Documents Regulations for the Army of the United States (1895)