Edward Pascal McKinney.

Life in tent and field, 1861-1865 (Volume 1) online

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of the South.

Cavalry Regiments were composed of twelve

28 Life in Tent and Field

Companies of one hundred men each, besides
Regimental and Company officers. One Regi-
ment of the Ira Harris Guard was first organized,
and Colonel O. DeForest of New York City was
assigned to its command. Cavalry was a popular
arm of the service, and DeForest continued to
accept Company after Company until he had more
than enough Companies for one Regiment. He
doubtless expected to get enough Companies for
a Brigade and to become Brigade Commander
with the title of Brigadier General, but was or-
dered into the field with the first twelve Com-
panies, and his Regiment became the Fifth New
York Cavalry.

Governor Morgan ordered the completion of
another Regiment by adding to the Companies
left by DeForest, enough to make up the twelve
Companies requisite. This Second Regiment was
known throughout the war as the Sixth New York
Cavalry, and Thomas C. Devin was appointed
to its command.

Devin had been Lieutenant Colonel of the First
Regiment of New York State Militia in New
York City. At the outbreak of the war he had
command of a Cavalry Regiment three months
in West Virginia. Throughout the v/ar he bore
a high reputation among army officers. He rose
by sheer merit to be a Brigadier General and


Soldiers Had No Luxuries 29

Major General by brevet, although men with a
political backing, but no established military repu-
tation, were at times appointed over his head.
Few volunteer officers rendered more meritorious
service than General Thomas C. Devin.

While on Staten Island the Companies of the
Sixth New York Cavalry had daily drill in Com-
pany Evolution and In saber exercise, and received
clothing, tents, camp equipment and sabers. Each
Company was marched three times a day to the
cook house for meals, which were eaten standing
at long board tables in a rough shed, open at one
side. The fare was very plain but sufficient. We
had no pies, cakes, jam, nor dainties of any kind.
There were no contributions from patriotic citi-
zens, no cigarettes, no peanuts — from Red Cross
canteens — to help win the war.

The Company of which I became Second Lieu-
tenant, became Company "G." When It left Bing-
hamton we had a farewell dinner, and the men
were addressed with kindly advice by Daniel S.
Dickinson. Mr. Dickinson had been a prominent
United States Senator, widely known as "Scrip-
ture Dick" because of the frequent quotations
from the Bible in his speeches. He was a War
Democrat, a staunch supporter of Lincoln's Ad-
ministration, and stood high in the Councils of
the Nation. In his native city his memory is

30 Life in Tent and Field

held by all in loving remembrance for his kindly
disposition and interest in all the affairs of the
■ city, as well as for his recognized ability.

Horatio Seymour, ex-Governor, and one of the
most prominent Democrats in New York State,
was opposed to the war, and openly hostile to
the Administration. To escape the storm of
obloquy which broke on the heads of all Copper-
heads, as those were called who sympathized with
the South and opposed the Administration, Sey-
mour retired from Utica, his home city, and hid
himself from the public. Some of his friends
called for him to come out and show himself,
without avail. Daniel S. Dickinson, in one of his
speeches, said Seymour was like the man who was
chased by his wife and hid under the bed. His
wife ordered him to come out, and he answered,
"No, while I have the spirit of a man I won't come
out from under this bed."

In 1862 I met Mr. Seymour in a little hotel in
Wisconsin where he was looking after some prop-
erty. He was a good talker. He spoke very
kindly of Mr. Dickinson and related this story
on himself.



In the latter part of December, 1861, the Sixth
New York Cavalry Regiment was ordered from
Camp Scott on Staten Island, to York, Pennsyl-
vania. Simon Cameron, then Secretary of War,
was a Pennsylvanian and favored his own State.

On the morning of December 23, tents were
taken down, all regimental paraphernalia packed
in wagons, and the Regiment formed in line.
There we stood all day in a drizzling rain. The
Quartermaster, whose duty it was to provide
transportation, had reported that vessels would be
at the dock early in the morning to take us to
Elizabethport, New Jersey, and urged the greatestj
haste in getting on board. It was nearly night
when the vessels reached the dock and we were
embarked on two barges in tow of a tug. We
were out all night on the decks of the barges,
exposed in wet clothes to a piercing wind. This


32 Life in Tent and Field

engagement with the elements was more fatal
than any battle in which the Regiment was en-
gaged during the war. Thirty men are reported
to have died from the exposure that night. This
disaster was due to want of experience, lack of
preparation, and bad management on the part
of the Quartermaster's Department.

From Elizabethport we were taken by rail to
York, Pennsylvania, where we spent the rest of
the winter in barracks. During our stay in York,
Colonel Devin instructed the officers in the move-
ments of Company, Battalion, and Regiment, and
had daily drills in dismounted movements.

In March the Regiment was moved to Perry-
ville, Maryland, where some horses were pro-
vided, enough to mount Companies "D," "H"
and "K." These mounted Companies were sent
to the Peninsula under Major Clarkson, with
orders to report to General Sumner commanding
the Second Corps of McClellan's army. To com-
plete the Battalion, Company "F" was ordered
to Washington, where it was to be mounted pre-
paratory to joining Companies "D," "H" and
"K" on the Peninsula. At my urgent request I
was assigned to duty with this Company,

Company "F" was first under command of John
Carwardine, a young Englishman who was a fine-
looking soldier and who became very popular. In

How Horses Were Supplied 33

the organization of the Regiment, Carwardine
was made Major, and D. C. Hannahs became
Captain of Company "F." Some months later
Carwardine resigned and went home to England.
One of the officers of the Regiment, after the war,
visited him in England and found him an Earl
of the realm. When he joined the Sixth New
York Cavalry he was a second son, but hearing
of the death of his father and older brother, he
returned home to take possession of his title and

Captain Hannahs was a graduate of Yale Col-
lege, of winning address and superior refinement
of manners. We were acquainted in college and
became most intimate friends. At my request I
was assigned to duty with his Company. My
relations to the officers of Company "G" were
not congenial and the assignment to Company
"F" gave me an opportunity to get at once into
active service.

On reaching Washington I was sent by Colonel
Devin to Annapolis, Maryland, to draw horses
for Company "F." Lieutenant Howell, a profes-
sional horseman, was sent with me to make selec-
tions. At Annapolis was a large corral or horse
camp, containing several thousand horses which
had been assembled by the Government from all
parts of the country. As was to be expected, many

34 Life in Tent and Field

farmers and others took occasion to turn over
to Uncle Sam runaways, kickers, cribbers, and
horses that had some vicious traits.

The officer in charge at Annapolis was a Quar-
termaster of the regular army, and like many
Regulars had a supreme contempt for volunteer
officers. He had magnificent quarters in the
Naval Academy buildings. In order to gain ad-
mission to his private office, one must enter an
anteroom and have his name and business an-
nounced in the inner office by an orderly. When
I obtained access to his august presence, and
humbly presented my order for horses, I was told
to make my own selections.

Howell was a good judge of horses and selected
one hundred of the best the corral contained. As
fast as the selections were made they were sent
down to the grounds of the Naval. Academy and
placed in an enclosure. This took all day. The
next morning they had broken the enclosure and
were scattered all over the beautiful grounds.

I appealed to the Quartermaster for help to
collectjthe horses and to load them on the rail-
road cars. He not only refused help, but damned
me and all volunteer officers up hill and down,
till the air was blue. In despair I wired the situa-
tion to Colonel Devin in Washington. In a short
time a telegram from Washington, from the War

Cavalry Equipment 35

Department, reached the Quartermaster. The
atmosphere suddenly changed. His Majesty
made many apologies; sent men to collect the ani-
mals and load them on the cars under the super-
vision of Howell and myself. From Annapolis
they were forwarded to Alexandria for equip-

Cavalry equipment consisted of saddles, bridles,
etc., for the horses, camp kettles and some other
utensils for cooking, shelter tents for the soldiers,
wall tents for the officers, and a large tent for

Many of the cooking utensils, and everything
which could be dispensed with, which added to
the weight, were later abandoned. Even the sad-
dles were lightened by taking off the solid leather
skirts. Many of the troops reduced the weight
by stripping the saddle of both the skirt and the
sweat leather under the soldiers' legs, leaving only
the wooden saddle tree and a strap from which
hung the wooden stirrup. In this shape the saddle
had only about one-fourth its original weight.

Each soldier had one piece of drilling, about
six feet square. This had buttonholes on each
edge and buttons four inches in from the edge.
By buttoning two together, and stretching them
over a pole supported by two crotched sticks set
in the ground, two men could sleep on the ground

36 Life in Tent and Field

under the shelter afforded. Sometimes four men
would each contribute his piece of canvas and all
sleep under the one tent.

In the early part of the war each Company
had a pack mule to carry the extra equipment.
Later, every Cavalry man carried, rolled up and
strapped to his saddle, his square of shelter tent,
blanket and overcoat. Hanging to his saddle was
a frying pan, and in his saddle bags, from three
to five days' rations of hard tack, coffee and sugar,
sometimes a piece of pork. Around his waist was
a belt, supporting saber and large army revolver,
and from a ring in the saddle, in front of his right
knee, hung his carbine. The carbines used in the
latter part of the war were the Spencer breech
loaders, carrying seven conical balls in the stock,
while a further supply was carried in the saddle
bags. Thus equipped. Cavalry Regiments were
ready, mounted or dismounted, to meet the enemy.

Most Cavalry fighting was done dismounted.
Each Company, when ordered out of camp, was
formed in double rank, front and rear, and each
rank counted off by fours. That is, the man on
the right of each line began by counting "one";
the next man "two"; the next "three"; the next
"four." The fifth man would begin again with
"one," and so to the end of the line. The Com-
pany would then, at the order, wheel by fours,

Fro7n JV ashing ton to the Peninsula 37

forming a column four men abreast. At the order
to dismount, Number One would take the bridles
of Numbers Two, Three and Four. Numbers
Two, Three and Four would advance on foot in
open formation, carrying their carbines, and leav-
ing their sabers on their horses. The line thus
formed made a formidable force, and often were
a match for more than their number of infantry.
When compelled to fall back, they could reach
their horses and make a quick getaway.

After obtaining equipment in Washington,
Company "G," men and horses, were loaded on
two schooners, and in tow of a steam tug started
down the Potomac River to join the Army of the
Potomac under McClellan, on the Peninsula
formed by the York and James Rivers.

The Captain of this tug had been employed in
Washington on a large steamer, for which he
said the Government paid one thousand dollars
a day. It was occupied solely by General Mc-
Clellan and staff as headquarters. We were more
than surprised at the unfavorable opinion he had
formed of McClellan.

He said that McClellan was without nerve and
lacked decision. One example he gave, out of
many, was not easi|y forgotten. He said that at
one time McClellan had ordered a general review,
of the Army for the next day, and in the morning

38 Life in Tent and Field

felt indisposed and had a headache, and his wife
persuaded him to issue orders postponing the

Near the head of the Chesapeake Bay our little
fleet encountered a violent storm and we were
compelled to lie at anchor more than a day. Cap-
tain Hannahs and I, with some men, went ashore
in a boat and started toward a house some half
mile away. Here I got my first sight of a colored

An old negro was setting fence posts — at least
he had been, but was sitting beside a small bon-
fire. We asked him what wages he got. He said
he "done got no wages." The work he had done
was not a fourth of what a white man in the North
would have done in the same time. We told him
he was working too hard, and he said "I guess I
is, Massa." He remained, as long as we saw him,
seated by the fire.

We encountered a flock of sheep, and the sol-
diers with us killed one or two, which we took
aboard, where they were served, as we were short
of meat, for dinner. Next morning an orderly
came aboard with a letter to the commanding
officer, requesting that the party who had been
ashore report to the Provost Marshal of the dis-
trict. Captain Hannahs and I went ashore and
proceeded to a large and elegant farmhouse,
where the Provost had his headquarters. We

A Lieutenant in Clover 39

found a young man wearing First Lieutenant's
shoulder straps, in a large, well furnished room,
in which, beside himself were a fine looking
woman, and two very pretty young women of
eighteen or twenty years. The elder woman was
chief inquisitor, but Captain Hannahs' gentle-
manly appearance and suavity of manner made
a decided impression. He explained that his men
were stormbound and without rations and that
Uncle Sam would pay for the mutton. We had
some light refreshment and were permitted to
depart in peace. I think we left some kind of
receipt, and it is probable the sheep were after-
ward paid for with abundant interest.



After the Battle of Bull Run, Sunday, July 21,
General George B. McClellan, who had gained
reputation in the Middle West, was appointed
Commander of the Army of the Potomac, by
President Lincoln, and November i, Commander
in Chief of all the forces of the North.

McClellan was of attractive appearance, had
been educated at West Point, had served under
General Scott in Mexico, and had been engaged
in various engineering enterprises. During the
War of the Crimea he had gone abroad as one
of three commissioners to observe military opera-
tions in Europe. In 1857 he resigned his com-
mission in the Army to accept the position of
Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad,


General McClellan 41

and later became President of the Ohio & Missis-
sippi Railroad. At the outbreak of the war he
was appointed Governor of Ohio, Major General
of the forces of that State, and almost imme-
diately afterward was given by the United States
Government command of the Department of
Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Vir-
ginia, and the troops under his command were
successful in some small engagements.

His appointment to the command of the Army
was hailed with enthusiasm by the people of the
North, and he was universally acclaimed a second
Napoleon. That he was entitled to great credit
for the organization and equipment of our armies
is universally conceded. His conduct of the Penin-
sular Campaign has been severely criticized, and
he was accused of being lukewarm in his loyalty.
I heard while on the Peninsula, among officers of
various ranks, a great deal of criticism. He was
accused by Army officers of unnecessary delays,
of having his headquarters always at a safe dis-
tance from the battlefields, and of taking pains to
protect the inhabitants to the detriment of his
troops. At many plantations where the family
and servants were at home undisturbed, the wells
and springs were guarded by sentinels from our
Regiments, while our soldiers had to get drinking
water from streams and pools.

The transfer of the Army to the Virginia

42 Life in Tent and Field

Peninsula was due to McClellan, and was doubt-
less a wise strategical move, although it ended in
disaster and the removal of McClellan.

On April 2, 1862, he moved his headquarters
from Washington, to join his army on the Penin-
sula. April 4 the Army was put in motion toward
Yorktown, but was halted at the strong line of
fortifications which Magruder had constructed
across the Peninsula from the York River to the
James, and which were unknown to McClellan.

The next day after the sheep episode. Company
"F" arrived on the Peninsula and disembarked
between Fortress Monroe and Yorktown. There
were no docks and the troops were landed in boats.^
The horses were hoisted by a canvas under the
belly, swung out over the side, and by an ingen-
ious contrivance of the sailors, dropped into the
water, and permitted to swim ashore.

It was toward the middle of April when we
landed on the Peninsula, and we remained in camp
where we landed until May 5, when the enemy
evacuated Yorktown. This short interval was
improved by daily instruction of the troops in
mounted drill and the care and use of their
horses. A Battalion of Cavalry consisted of four
Companies, one-third of a Regiment. Company
"F" was the Fourth Company of the Sixth New
York to arrive on the Peninsula, and completed
the Battalion.

Fort of Yorktown 43

My college room-mate, John Marshall, was on
the staff of General Barry, Chief of Artillery of
McClellan's Army, and I had an opportunity with
him of inspecting the siege works. Over one hun-
dred siege guns had been placed in batteries.
Commanding the Fort of Yorktown, parallel
trenches had been dug in zigzag lines toward the
Fort, and through these trenches we got within
easy rifle-shot of the Fort, and were fired on by
the men in the parapets if we raised our heads
above the trenches. The Fort was reached by
the fire of our gunboats and of batteries placed
on the banks of the river.

Since the above was written I have been handed
a letter written by me May 8, 1862, and will give
it entire, verbatim.

Camp near Yorktown,
May 8, 1862.
Dear Mother:

I have written to you several times since I
received a letter from home. You must have writ-
ten without my getting your letter, for it is im-
possible that you could neglect me so long.

Since Company "F" landed here I have been
busy enough, drilling horses and helping to set
the men up in horseback exercises with Captain
Hannahs' Company. Although we have been
hard at work I have enjoyed myself very much.

When we arrived at Ship Point, on the last day
of April, I found a more lively scene than I had

44 Life in Tent and Field

ever before witnessed. Hundreds of vessels of all
sizes and descriptions filled the harbor, many of
which I had before seen in New York, New Ha-
ven and on the Sound. Steam tugs were plying back
and forth, towing vessels filled with troops, horses,
cannon and ammunition of all descriptions.

We came on shore in a small boat, carefully
avoiding the countless moving vessels, and found
the whole coast lined with troops, tents, camps,
piles of cannon, cannon balls and shell, and the
same activity as on the water. Almost the first
person I met was Joe Twitchell, a classmate of
Captain Hannahs', and now Chaplain of the
Seventy-first New York. A few minutes later
someone hit me a rap on the back which almost
knocked me down, and turning round, full of in-
dignation, I was almost hugged to death by John
Tyler, a classmate of mine and now on General
Smith's staff.

While we were all talking Bob Fitzhugh walks
up and surprises us all. Bob's battery was en-
camped just opposite and not a stone's throw
from my Battalion.

After spending as much time with them as we
could spare we came over to camp, found our
other Companies busy as could be practising all
sorts of mounted maneuvers. We have been at
the same kind of work ever since.

Last Friday Bob Fitzhugh walked into my tent,
and who should follow him but Johnny Marshall.
He, you know, is on General Barry's staff, and
was here on some business. Barry's headquarters
are near McClellan's and as Johnny was in a hurry

Through the Parallels 45

we, that is Captain Hannahs and I, engaged to
visit him the next morning.

So on Saturday, Joe Twitchell came over, and
all three of us started on horseback, and after
riding a mile and three-quarters, following the
telegraph wire through a perfect labyrinth of
camps, reached a very pleasant grassy spot on a
little hill surrounded by deep ravines, on which
General McClellan and many other Generals with
their staffs had pitched their camps. After we
had stopped a few minutes, taken a look at all
the distinguished officers, etc., etc., Johnny Mar-
shall ordered out his horse and piloted us through
the batteries and parallels. We could hear the
constant booming of guns and see shells bursting
in the air on all sides.

It was perfectly amazing to see the amount of
work that had been performed by the soldiers.
Miles upon miles of good roads have been made
through swamps and over hills, and over them
have been transported guns, ammunition, forage,
provisions, and other things in untold amounts.

One battery which we visited contained ten
mortars, each weighing over seventeen thousand
pounds and capable of throwing missiles of nearly
three hundred pounds' weight.

Leaving our horses in a ravine we advanced
on foot along a trench filled with soldiers, until
we came to the James River, within a quarter of
a mile of the enemy's batteries, and the nearest
point of our lines.

Here we left the trench, and mounting a high
point of the river bank, took out a glass and began

46 Life in Tent and F'.eld

leisurely to survey the enemy's works. We could
see the houses of Yorktown, the different lines
of fortifications, and the men stirring around in
them, very distinctly. We also had a fine view
of Gloucester Point opposite Yorktown, and of
the rebel flags flying in both places. Before we
had been here long I saw through the glass some
men busy with the guns in a shore battery, which
was just below us, and presently the smoke rolled
out in a quick puff. We cried "Down," and as
we dropped to the ground a cannon ball went
whizzing over us. This was quickly followed by
a shell which also went over us and burst beyond

We concluded that we had now seen about
enough from that point, so we started down the
entrenchments and visited Battery No. i. This
Battery contained immense Parrott guns and gave
the enemy great trouble. They were constantly
firing at it, but the day we were there only one
man had been hurt, and he slightly.

We returned to camp about noon. On that day
there was constant and heavy firing which was
continued on the next. Monday our troops
marched into Yorktown and four thousand
Cavalry and several Batteries followed the re-
treating enemy. Yesterday and today there has
been constant fighting and many have been killed
on each side.

We are now doing patrol duty, but expect soon
to be at West Point, and perhaps in a week we
shall be in Richmond.

We caught a rebel deserter tonight who said
that the rebels were driven out of Williamsburg.

A Letter Home 47

He said that they deserted Yorktown because they
had positive information that McClellan had one
hundred and fifty thousand troops. He also told
of the number and size of his batteries and guns
and of his plans for cutting off their retreat. The
rebel army is constantly growing smaller and
smaller by desertions, and in a fortnight I think
Virginia will be cleaned out.

Write immediately for I am very anxious to
hear. I am in exceedingly good health and spirits,
only for my anxiety about you. Direct to Lieu-

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