Civil War Memories. (Added, Jan., 2009)
Personal and Historical Sketches and Facial History
of and by Members of the Seventh Regiment
Michigan Volunteer Cavalry, 1862-1865
JUDGE GEORGE P. COBB,
Bay City, Mich.
Born at York, Livingston County, N. Y., April 13th, 1841; enlisted at Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Mich., March 17th, 1865, as Private in Co. D, 7th Michigan Cavalry; mustered out at Camp Douglas, Utah, February 21st, 1866, and honorably discharged.
By Geo. P. Cobb
One who joined the service during the last year of the war can perhaps say little that will interest the veterans, or add zest to what has been said by them; and it is with great diffidence that I have complied with our President's request for reminiscences. Although identified for some time with the grand old 7th Michigan Cavalry I can say nothing from personal knowledge of its battles and campaigns in the South.
A wish to be in it had followed me from the first, resolutions to get in had been thwarted and I had finally settled down to the belief that I was to have no part in the business. Early in 1865 there was another loud call for recruits, it seemed as though the final struggle was at hand, and I dropped everything, incurring losses that will never be repaid, offered myself as a soldier and was accepted.
A few days later my squad was at Fort Federal Hill, Baltimore, Md., from whence a steamer conveyed us to City Point, Va., being two nights on the route. We had practically nothing to eat or drink; the fault was supposed to be that of the officer in command, not a Michigan man, and the things that were said about him and to him could have led to a court martial. The second night, owing to the crowded and filthy condition of the deck, I did not lie down, but stood at a little window staring at the rain, thick darkness and flashes of artillery outside.
After our arrival and have been duly counted, delivered and receipted for, we, in company with a thousand other soldiers and exchanged prisoners, were entertained for a week at the military hotel called the bull pen. The mud was not very deep and our water barrels were replenished almost every day from the river. Then out squad was transferred to a remount heard fire and hourly expected an order to take a hand (which order never came).
At that time the Custer Brigade was pretty well scattered. The main body was at the front not far away. A detachment was at Pleasant Valley, Md., and in our camp at City Point was another large detachment; also with us about 2,000 other dismounted Cavalrymen. The camp was under command of Colonel Anderson, a Pennsylvanian. Whenever we could get a few horses, men were sent to their Regiments. It so happened, without any solicitation or suggestion of mine, that my duties kept me almost continually at headquarters; at first in the Quartermaster's department and afterwards in the Adjutant's. At that camp I made the acquaintance of many commissioned and enlisted men for whom I formed a high regard, but most of who I have not seen since 1866. The Michigan detachment was commanded by Major Darling, Lieutenant Gray of the 5th Michigan Cavalry acting as his Adjutant. On duty in the camp were Lieutenants Canfield and Havens, Captains Sergeant and McCormick of the 7th Captain Rockafellow of the 6th, and Captain Berdan and Lieutenant White, all good men and true, and I must not forget old Dr. Upjohn. From the first I heard him roundly abused and denounced as a butcher, but my own acquaintance, which began when I was desperately sick, left me with feelings of the highest respect and good will for him as a kindly, generous old man.
One night there was riot in the camp. Three large sutler's tents disappeared with their contents as if by magic. Bullets were buzzing around like bees. Colonel Anderson's adjutant found it convenient to leave the camp that night and he was never seen there again. One man went to hospital, seriously wounded.
Late in May, just too late for the Grand Review, there was a trip to Washington by steamer, thence to Parkersburg, W. Va., by rail, another boat excursion to St. Louis, Mo., and then to Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Up to this time I had belonged to the 5th, but while I was wandering around looking for that Regiment, Captain Sergeant met and informed me that I had been transferred to Co. B of the 7th, and kindly went with me to my Company and introduced me to the first Sergeant, George A. Hart, also just transferred from the 5th, who then and there detailed me for clerical work.
A week there and then the long march across the plains. There was much that was tedious but little that was exciting, excepting on one occasion when we were fording Platte River, when Colonel Briggs missed the trail and he and horse suddenly disappeared. We feared that some big fish had caught the horse by the foot and pulled him under, but they soon appeared on the surface, found the trail again and the excitement subsided.
July 28th found us at Camp Collins, where, I think, three Companies, H, L and one other, remained. My company (B) going further West, but at the last moment an order came for me to remain and report to Lieutenant Dunnett. I found that Dunnett had been detailed as Adjutant of the post and wanted me as his clerk. Colonel Briggs made Camp Collins his headquarters and whenever he was absent Major Warner was the senior officer. Captain Clipperton was there and on one occasion when there was a burial service to be read and no Chaplain to read it or book to read it from, he made himself useful by reciting the service complete, from memory. Some little awkwardness of the firing squad move him to throw in some expressions not found in the prayer-book and he made them load and fire again.
The Paymaster had forgotten us and were in need of money. Prices were soaring in the clouds. Money sent from home seldom reached its owner. Something had to be done . The corn furnished to feed our horses could be sold for ten dollars a bushel. One day Colonel Briggs accidentally found himself in a position to hear a conversation just around a corner and out of his sight, in which Billy Fisher, Co. H, was negotiating the sale of a bushel of corn to a citizen. The Colonel held his breath until he was sure the ten dollars had changed hands, when he appeared before the men, revolver in hand and ordered the citizen to drop the bag and run. He then marched to his office the very picture of offended military dignity, and directed his orderly to summon Mr. Fisher before him without delay. Billy came. Whether the Colonel tied him up by the thumbs or bucked and gagged him or devised some other cruel form of torture was never told, but in a few minutes Billy returned to his quarters looking happy and contented and nothing more was heard of the affair.
During the ten weeks at Camp Collins an event that produced the greatest sensation and sorrow was the capture, torture and murder of Corporal George Baker, of Co. B, by Indians near Little Laramie, by tying him to his wagon and burning him alive.
In October a portion of our Regiment pushed on Westward. Snowed in one day at Rock Creek. Camped a few days on Pass Creek among droves of antelope and flocks of wild ducks. Was poisoned for a week with the villainous waters of Bitter Creek. Half frozen on the bluffs of Green River, and finally camped near Fort Bridger for three weeks. Here occurred the reorganization , or consolidation, by which the remnants of the 1st, 5th, 6th, and 7th became one full Regiment, under the name of 1st Michigan Veteran Cavalry. Four Companies were left at Fort Bridger and the others marched to the Salt Lake Valley, taking possession of Camp Douglas near Salt Lake City. The Paymaster had not come yet and the boys were hungry for something better than army rations. Many of them had plenty of Confederate scrip. The farmers of the Valley knew noght about paper money and were intensely ignorant generally. They invaded the camp with their wagons loaded vegetable and fruit,going away with pockets full of bills, leaving behind considerable silver change. But that did not last long.
The garrison was made up of Michigan and Nevada Cavalry and Artillery from California, all a lot of Galvanized Yankees. Each had its own organization and all reported to Colonel Potter, commanding the post. He was a good man, or meant to be, but his West Point training had made something of a martinet of him and he could not appreciate the feelings of volunteers who had served to the end of he war and long afterwards and wanted to go home. He had plenty of trouble and deserved part of it.
Just after our arrival there was a grand review of all the troops and as it seemed to me chiefly remarkable for the displayed awkwardness.
Commissary supplies were necessarily expensive. The Government had stored in an immense wooden building about $1,000,000 worth. During the night of December 18th, 1865, it was found to be on fire. Everybody turned out and a bucket brigade was organized and all were more less injured. Early the next morning a court of inquiry was convened to examine witnesses to find out how the fire originated, and it continued in session until midnight. Lieutenant Dunnett, then in command of Co. B, predicted that we would all be hungry before spring, but before daylight General Conner's Quartermaster had contracted for a large amount of supplies in the city and our rations never failed.
January 1st, 1866, a general court martial convened and it had not finished its work when I left the camp on February 21. I did all the clerical work for these two courts and one other, while practically doing all the work of the Adjutant's office. After Colonel Briggs left, Captain Birney had command of the Michigan detachment. His Adjutant was Lieutenant Frank B. Clark, then only twenty years of age. During four years of hard service, Lieutenant Clark had not been wounded, but soon after his discharge, while on the homeward trip, he stumbled and fell over a tent rope and was killed by the discharge of his own revolver.
I have mentioned many of our commissioned officers, but I also remember many brave big-hearted men who, although they never wore shoulder straps, were excellent soldiers and men, and worthy of all praise. At this moment the names occurring to me are Sergeant George A. Hart, Co. B; Sergeant Marshall Bellinger, Co. A; Sergeant Al. McLouth, Co. B; Sergeant Crane, Co. E; Robert J. Kelley, Co. F; George House, Walter E. Bush, Otto Feyeraben, John Paul, Co. I.