Orsemus Bronson Boyd.

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l8 94


( uPYHIGHT, 1894,


At/ /;i;,hts Reserved.

C. J. PETEHS & so>-,




' 4 + .





Dedicate tfjts ILtttle Book





I TAKE pleasure in directing attention to the
kind and affectionate tribute paid my husband,
Captain Orsemus Bronson Boyd, and contained
in the Appendix of this volume. It is from the
pen of a former classmate, the gifted writer,
Colonel Richard Henry Savage.

I trust my readers will not think this intro-
duction too lengthy. The perusal of it seems
necessary to a proper understanding of my
reasons for describing, in the following pages,
the pains, perils, and pleasures experienced by
land and sea in the various peregrinations of a
cavalry officer's wife. With Colonel Savage's
testimonial it furnishes a completeness to the
narrative that would otherwise be lacking.

In 1861, when every heart, both North and
South, was fired by military ardor, two brothers,



named Amos and Orsemus Boyd, lived in the
small town of Croton, Delaware County, New
York State. Immediately on the declaration of
civil war they experienced but one desire to
join the Northern Army. The brothers had
lost their mother when very young, but the
stepmother their father had given them always
endeavored to faithfully fill her place.

Additions to the family circle of a tiny boy
and girl had only cemented its happy relations.
Amos and his brother were, however, at the
ages when boys welcome any escape from a life
of wearisome monotony. Farm life, with its end-
less routine of seed-time and harvest, stretched
before them a barren horizon. But neither was
old enough to enlist without his father's sanc-
tion. Amos was less than eighteen years of
age, and his brother but sixteen. Months
passed before the father could be persuaded to
give even a reluctant consent to the fervid
desire of his sons to join the army. Finally it
was gained, though he afterward sorely re-
pented, and begged his wife to also spare him


from her side, that he might accompany his
boys. He could not endure the thought of his
youthful sons departing for the scenes of such
dangers without his sheltering presence.

By what means Mrs. Boyd was induced to
consent to her husband's enlistment can only be
understood by those who recall the loyal sen-
timents expressed by women in 1861. Our
country was then aglow with patriotism. As
in the South women gave their nearest and
dearest to the cause, so in the North they were
bereft of fathers, husbands, sons and brothers.
In the little town of Croton every family sent
at least one representative to the army, and
many waved adieu to all its male members.
This left to women the severe tasks of cultivat-
ing farms and rearing families.

The young stepmother of the lads in question
not only lent her husband to his country, but
during the entire three years of his absence
tilled and tended the farm, and so well, that on
his return it had not only improved in appear-
ance, but also increased in value.


It requires little imagination to picture the
sad parting when father and sons, after having
enlisted in the Eighty-ninth Regiment New
York Volunteers, left the quiet little village to
join the army.

The younger son was not at first permitted to
act as a soldier on account of his youth. Al-
lowed to carry the flag at the head of the com-
mand, his bravery and boldness caused his father
incessant anxiety. At the battle of Camden,
when the second color bearer fell, our young
hero seized his flag and carried that also until
the close of battle. For such an act of bravery
General Burnside summoned him to head-
quarters, and sent him home on recruiting

Prior to this young Boyd had been with
Burnside's expedition off Cape Hatteras, where
for twenty-six days the soldiers had lain out-
side, shipwrecked, and obliged to subsist on raw
rice alone, as no fires could be built. When
they finally landed on Roanoke Island our
young lads were jubilant.


Orsemus took an active part in raising the
One Hundred and Forty-fourth New York Vol-
unteers, and for numberless acts of bravery was
commissioned second lieutenant of Company D,
September, 1862. By reason of the senior offi-
cers' absence* he was for months, though but
eighteen years of age, in command of a company
of soldiers in which his father and elder brother
were enlisted men. Perhaps no incident, even
in those stirring war times, was more unusual.

The young lieutenant's father spent much
time and effort in endeavoring to restrain his
young son's ardor and ambition, which if un-
checked would no doubt have resulted either in
rapid promotion or an early grave. The lad
knew no fear, and was always in the front of
battle. His name was again and again men-
tioned in "General Orders" for "meritorious

Sadder than their home leaving was the
return, two years later, of father and youngest
boy, who went back to lay the remains of their
eldest son and brother in the grave beside his


mother. Amos had served his country well,
and met the fate of many other brave soldiers.

In addition to this sorrow the father con-
stantly feared lest his second son should also
experience a soldier's death ; and while the
father's heart glowed with pride at the encomi-
ums lavished upon his boy's bravery, and the
merited rewards it had already received, yet the
fear of losing him was strongest, and at that
home coming a compromise was effected.

The member of Congress from their district,
desirous of finding an acceptable appointee to
West Point, chose the gallant young lieutenant,
who unwillingly accepted. Two years of active
service had proved his essential fitness for the
profession of arms.

With a heart burdened with sorrow, and yet
not entirely hopeless, the father of two brave
sons returned alone to his regiment, and finished
three years of service with our noble Army of
the Potomac.

Orsemus Boyd entered West Point in June,
1863, after having spent a short time in prepa-


ration. No doubt his years of service at the
front had given the lad ideas at variance with
the whims of those young men who had al-
ready passed their first year at the academy.

Any one who has been at West Point knows
that a newly appointed cadet, or " plebe " as he
is called, is expected not only to bow before
his superior officers in the line of duty, but is
compelled to endure all slights and snubs that
any cadet chooses to impose. In 1863 the dis-
cipline in that respect was excessive.

The result, in the case of Mr. Boyd, was that
he became unpopular for refusing to submit to
many annoyances. The climax was reached
when, after having fought with one cadet and
come out the victor, he refused having dem-
onstrated his courage and ability to fight
with another, a man who had criticised the
language used in the heat of battle, and was
consequently dubbed a coward. This, though
exceedingly trying to a person of his sensitive
nature, was endured with the same patience as
were subsequent trials.


After the furlough year, which comes when
the first long two years of cadet life have passed,
Mr. Boyd returned to West Point from that
most desired leave of absence, with renewed
hope and courage. Two months spent in his
boyhood's home, cheered and strengthened by
the love of many friends, enabled him to go
back animated by fullest intentions to ignore all
disagreeables and calmly prepare for a life of
usefulness. But it was not to be.

Shortly after Mr. Boyd's return he missed
sums of money brought from home, but said
nothing about it, as he had few confidants and
was naturally reticent.

In the same class with Mr. Boyd was a man
who had entered West Point at the avowed age
of twenty-five, though undoubtedly much older,
as his appearance indicated. During war time
the extreme of age for admission there, which
before and since was and is limited to twenty-
two years, had been extended to twenty-five.
This was done in order to permit young men
who had achieved distinction in real warfare


the opportunity of acquiring a military educa-
tion. So this man, named Casey, had entered
at the acknowledged age of twenty-five.

He was absolutely impecunious, and belonged
to an Irish family in very humble circumstances,
Mr. Boyd's parents, whose ancestors had fought
in the Revolutionary War, were of pure and
unadulterated American origin. Yet the supe-
rior age and cunning of the elder man unfitted
the younger to cope with him. Always open
and above board, Mr. Boyd neither knew nor
expected tricks of any kind, and hence was not
prepared to meet them.

Mr. Casey was compelled to procure money
at all hazards. Before entering West Point he
had married. That fact, if known, would have
dismissed him at once from the academy, in
accordance with the laws governing that insti-
tution, which permit no cadet to marry. It
therefore became the object of Casey's life to
conceal all knowledge of that which, if known,
would have proved a potent factor in his down-
fall. Consumed with ambition and the desire


to reach distinction in every social way, he
assiduously cultivated the acquaintance of all
cadets who could in any manner help him

In the academy at that time were several
cadets, sons of very wealthy parents, who, con-
trary to West Point rules, kept in their rooms
at barracks large sums of money. That was
Casey's opportunity, for he had constant need
of it with which to silence the wife who had
threatened his exposure. So great was the con-
fidence of the academy classmates in each other
that the money was simply placed in a trunk, to
which all the clique had free access, and used
as a general fund.

Government supplies cadets with all neces-
sary articles, therefore only luxuries need be
purchased, and the limit of these is much
reduced by the absence of stores. So even to
those generous young men the disappearance of
money in large sums became puzzling, and led
to inquiries which developed into suspicions,
and a plan was formed to mark some of the bills,


and thus discover the evil-doer. Mr. Boyd, by
reason of his unpopularity, was unaware of
these movements, and he had told no one of his
own losses.

The cadets had informed their immediate
commandant that money was constantly being
stolen in the corps. Aghast at such a state of
affairs, he had authorized and selected a com-
mittee of eight two from among the eldest
members of each company to find and punish
the thief. In an unguarded moment the com-
mandant had said:

"If you find the offender, you can deal with
him as you deem advisable."

The most prominent member of the commit-
tee was Casey, himself the real culprit. After
a perfunctory search through quarters occupied
by other cadets, they reached Mr. Boyd's, and
found nothing to reward their efforts. At that
juncture Casey glanced upward at a pile of
books lying on some shelves, and said :

" Let us look in that large dictionary."

None but a crowd of frantic boys could have


failed to have observed how promptly he had
selected the veritable book in which the money
was found, where subsequent events, as well as
his dying confession, proved he had himself
placed it.

Casey's room, shared with Cadet Hamilton,
was directly opposite that occupied by Mr.
Boyd, who roomed alone because of his unpopu-
larity. Mr. Boyd's room was so unguarded and
accessible, that no doubt Casey had frequently
entered it and taken money from the man whom
he now accused. Casey had skillfully sought to
direct suspicion in every way toward Mr. Boyd.
Long had he wielded his baleful influence, to
which, though no one had observed it, all had

The search took place at noon, when the
main body of the corps were at dinner. On
Mr. Boyd's return to his room he found it filled
with cadets, who madly accused him of the
crime. White with horror and shame unspeak-
able, he answered their charges in a way which
would have convinced any judge of human


nature that he was entirely innocent. Sinking
to his knees, and raising his eyes to heaven, he

"By the memory of my dead mother I swear
I know nothing whatever of this money ! "

To any one who knew the young man's
tender, brave soul, and how hallowed was the
memory of his mother, that avowal would have
sufficed. But it was not an occasion for calm
and deliberate judgment. The supposed cul-
prit had at last been found, and he was in the
hands of Philistines. No thought of mercy im-
pelled any of those young men to hesitate in
their cruelty. With brute force eight men
to one man they placed Mr. Boyd in confine-
ment until later in the day, when at dress
parade they could publicly and brutally dis-
grace him.

I now quote, from a published account by an
eye-witness, the scene which followed :

" It was a cold, sad, lusterless day. The air
was full of snow and the cold was bitter.
Orders were given to fall into ranks in the area


of barracks for undress parade. The cadet ad-
jutant commanded : ' Parade Rest.' After a
pause he continued : 4 Cadet captains will place
themselves opposite their respective company
fronts, and arrest any man who leaves the

" There was an interval of the most profound
stillness. Then above the wind's howling came
the sound of tramping feet. Across the broad
porch of the barracks and down the steps came
four cadets, bearing between them a man's form.
They advanced along the battalion's front. As
they turned, the adjutant raised his right hand,
and forthwith the drums and fifes beat and
wailed out, in unmelodious and unearthly har-
mony, the terrible tune of the 'Rogue's March.'

" On they came ; and now I saw affixed to
that man's breast a large white placard, and on
it the words : l COWARD ! ' 4 LIAR ! ' 4 THIEF ! '
The face above the words was marble white as
the face of the dead, but the wild, staring,
blood-red eyes seemed to wail and shrink in
their horrible misery.

" The four cadets passed along the full length
of the battalion, and with their victim turned
down the slope beyond the buildings and dis-

On their way to the South Dock the perse-
cuted man broke away from his accusers, but
was warned to " beware " how he " ever set foot


again upon West Point," and threatened with
yet worse treatment should he do so.

General Cullom was then in command at
West Point. On that particular evening he
was returning from the direction of the dock
toward which those heartless cadets had driven
Mr. Boyd, when he met the young man face to
face. Amazed at the temerity of a cadet who
could boldly face him in civilian's attire, he
halted and said :

What do you mean, sir? Return at once to
your quarters ! "

The general's first and most natural thought
was that Mr. Boyd had dressed himself in ci-
vilian's clothes, and was stealing off the post in
search of amusement. But a second glance
showed him a face full of grief and shame a
countenance on which utter woe was depicted.
He took the young man at once to his own
quarters, questioned him, and found to his dis-
may that the cadets had perpetrated a most un-
precedented and cruel outrage.

General Cullom determined then and there


that the matter should be sifted to the bottom.
Mr. Boyd was to be tried, and proven either
guilty or guiltless. His father was sent for,
and the son allowed to return home pending ,
the investigation.

What greater sorrow can be imagined than
that which then fell upon this sorely stricken
family? A young man who had faced the
enemy's fire again and again, who had already
won his shoulder-straps in the very front of
war's alarms, to be charged with petty thiev-
ery, untruth, and cowardice! His stepmother
said :

"Had our son been accused of fighting
hastily, perhaps too readily, I could have be-
lieved him guilty. But for the sake of money
Orsemus never could have done wrong."

Mr. Boyd had been supplied by his father
with all the money he wanted, and at his own
request an account kept of it, which showed
that before this episode he had spent three hun-
dred dollars a large sum in a place like West
Point, where every need is supplied by govern-


The court of inquiry instituted by General
Cullom resulted in a verdict of "not guilty."
In the eyes of the cadets, whose insensate
cruelty had warped their judgment, it was
simply a Scotch verdict of " not proven ; " and,
though acquitted, the defendant was thenceforth
a disgraced and dishonored man.

Mr. Boyd remained at the academy nearly
two years longer, until his graduation in June,
1867. During all that time he was completely
ostracized, and, with one, or possibly two excep-
tions, never exchanged one word with any cadet,
all of whom regarded him as a coward. But
none can contemplate such a life without mar-
veling at its wonderful courage. Mr. Boyd
had determined to graduate with honor, and
thus show the world that he possessed suuh
bravery as would not allow false charges to ruin
his whole career.

I was introduced to him in 1866, and before
our meeting had heard the whole story. The
first look into his frank and manly countenance
made me from that moment his stanch and


true advocate. I was then attending school in
New York, but finished in July, and we were
married in October, three months after Mr.
Boyd graduated.

Then began the hardships born of that West
Point episode. Of course such bitter and
terrible wrongs could not have been done a
sensitive man without their affecting his whole
life. To this may be attributed Mr. Boyd's
desire to go West, and there remain.

It engendered in him a great unwillingness to
demand even his just dues ; and when he was
ordered to leave California at a day's notice,
and given no proper transportation, he sub-
mitted without a murmur. As I shared all those
hardships, and shall always feel their effects,
. I have no hesitancy in saying that I attribute
, them all to the West Point wrong and injury.

Mr. Boyd could have entered the artillery
branch of the service had he not longed to
escape all reminders of that terrible experience,
and so chose the Eighth Cavalry, which was
stationed on the Pacific coast.


The subsequent hardships endured were due
not only to the' crude state of affairs at the
West in those days, but also to the crushed
spirit which so much injustice had engendered
in my husband. He could not bear to ask
favors, and be, perhaps, refused. Mr. Boyd
even shrank at first from his fellow-officers. I
know that no enlisted man's wife was ever
exposed to more or severer perils than was the
young school-girl from New York City ; and I
consider them the direct result of those sad
years at West Point.

Mr. Boyd was always selected in after-years
to handle the funds at eveiy post where we
were stationed, which distinctly showed how
liis honor was regarded by men competent to
judge. But it resulted in countless expeditions
that were both hazardous and expensive. He
was sent by General Pope to build Fort Bayard
because of his incorruptible honesty ; but to be
so constantly changing stations added greatly
to our hardships.

" Vengeance is mine ; I will repay, saith the


Lord." A singular evidence of the truth and
justice of this text is shown in the meting out
to those eight misguided young men of sorrow,
misery, and sudden death, which seems to me a
return for their attempted sacrifice of the career
and honor of a gallant and innocent man. The
roll is a terrible one. Casey, after confessing
his crime, concealed it, aided and abetted by
Hamilton. In less than a year after his appar-
ently honorable graduation, he was shot by one
of his own soldiers. Of the remainder, two
committed suicide, one was murdered, one
butchered by Modoc Indians ; while family sor-
row, bankruptcy, and disappointment or un-
timely death have caused the rest to mournfully
regret their early hastiness and error of judg-
ment, and the acts of gross cruelty which sprang




WHETHER or not these personal reminis-
cences will interest the public remains to be
determined ; for one thing the narrator can
vouch, and that is they are not in the least
exaggerated. Several army experiences have
of late been printed, and when in recounting
mine I have often been asked to write them, it
was not, as I then thought, for the purpose of
publication ; although, as they have been un-
usual, to say the least, I have been tempted to
do so ; and now that the whole course of my
life has been changed I have reasons for issuing
this book which may perhaps plead my excuse
should the narrative prove uninteresting to




The army world, though a small one, yet ex-
tends over a large amount of territory. My
experience of it, previous to marriage, consisted
in seeing, entirely at its best, beautiful West
Point, which I considered a fair type of every
army post; so when I married, immediately
after his graduation from there, a young second
lieutenant, I thought that however far we might
travel such a home would always be found at
our journey's end.

My husband, previous to his four years at
West Point, as narrated in the preface, had
been a soldier for two years in the War of the
Rebellion, where he had so signalized himself
by bravery that friends united in urging his
father to remove the lad from the perilous sur-
roundings of active warfare, and permit him to
be educated in the profession for which he had
shown such a decided talent. He was at that
time but eighteen years old, and was probably
the only man of that age who ever commanded
a company in which his father and brother were
enlisted men.


Mr. Boyd's previous career causing him to
prefer the cavalry branch of the service, applica-

, tion was therefore made for that; so when ap-
pointed he was ordered to San Francisco. Not
knowing whence from there he would be sent,
as some of the companies of his regiment were
in Nevada, some in Arizona, and others in Cali-
fornia, it was deemed unwise for me to accom-
pany him, so I remained in New York.

We had been married but two days, and it
seemed to me as if San Francisco was as far
away as China, particularly as there was then
no trans-continental railroad. Besides, I had
lived in New York City all my life, and con-
sidered it the only habitable place on the globe.
When Mr. Boyd reached San Francisco he
was assigned to a station in Nevada, which was
so remote, and there appeared to be so little
hope for any comfortable habitation, that he

1 wrote me the prospect for my journey was very

However, with the hopefulness of youth, he
counted on a far more speedy accomplishment


of his desires than anything in the nature of the
situation seemed to warrant. The troops had
been sent, as a sort of advance guard and pro-
tective force for the contemplated Pacific Rail-
road, to a point in the very eastern part of
Nevada. The camp was named " Halleck," in
honor of General Halleck, arid the accommoda-
tions were so limited that ladies were hardly
needed, except to emphasize the limitations.
Although it was well understood that I could
not be comfortably located until summer, yet no
second hint was needed when in mid- winter
my husband wrote that I might come at least as
far as San Francisco.

In the middle of January I left New York
on one of the fine steamers of the Pacific Mail
Steamship Company. The three weeks en route
were delightful, and the change from bleak,
cold winter to the tropical scenes of Panama,
and thence to the soft and balmy air of the
Pacific, was so exhilarating that travel was
simply a continuous pleasure.

Upon reaching San Francisco, nothing seemed


more natural than that I should press on, in

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Online LibraryOrsemus Bronson BoydCavalry life in tent and field → online text (page 1 of 16)