Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Saber.

When I started this project my impression was that sabers were only for the cavalry and infantry officers, but I soon learn that was not the case. In fact for many of the common soldier the saber was the only weapon they had, many soldiers went into battle with no weapons at all and were left to fight hand to hand. The reason for my misconception came from movies, books and paintings. In these we always see only a officers holding a saber, while all the soldiers are holding rifles.

I guess one reason the paintings and the pictures in the papers of the time showed the armies of both sides in this way was to show that their sons were fighting and dieing honorably. But I believe if the families of both sides had see the real picture of the battle field the war won’t have lasted as long as it did no matter what the political reasons were. It was one thing to sacrifice ones son honorably and another to know that your love one was being literally hack to pieces.

I never thought much about the cost of a saber, but I found that for a complete cavalry saber for a Confederate soldier was $12., dollars, without a belt it was $10., dollars and fifty cents. The cost for a common cavalry saber without belt war $8., dollars, for a Artillery saber was $5., dollars.

After the battle of Gettysburg, 1,200 hundred sabers were taken from the field and shipped to the arsenal at Washington.

In a report Major Charles J. Whiting, of Second U. S. Cavalry, had this to say on the amount of sabers in his command:

“The troops under my command in the late expedition to Charlestown consisted of a battery of the Fourth U. S. Artillery, command by Lieutenant Dickenson; First U. S. Cavalry, 120 sabers, commanded by Captain Reno; Second U. S. Cavalry, 150 sabers, commanded by Captain Gordon, and the Sixth U. S. Cavalry, 300 sabers, commanded by Captain Sanders.”

In June of 1861, Colonel R. S. GARNETT, Adjutant-General of the Virginia Forces, had this to say about the sabers in his command.

“I received your dispatch to-day, and answered it in the same way, but imperfectly. There is no company of cavalry here fully armed. Two companies have double-barreled shot-guns, bought by their counties, but no sabers, and are but beginning to drill. There are two companies tolerably well drilled, with forty of fifty sabers each. One has no guns and the other a few. There are two other companies, one of which has about forty sabers and a few guns, just commencing to drill. There are about a hundred flint-.” lock pistols, which have been gathered from old companies. A number of sabers, of old patterns.”

In May of 1861, Virginia Forces give reports of companies having little or no sabers; Captain John S. Langhorne, has sabers, but no other arms. The company of cavalry from Bedford, commanded by Captain William R. Terry, has about fifty sabers, leaving twenty odd without any arms, and those having sabers have no other arms.

In January of 1865, Brigadier General W. L. Elliott, reported on the number of sabers that were captured by regiments under his command.

Private William Hicks, Company F, Forty-fourth Illinois, captured a saber at Nashville, December 15.

Captain L. C. Mills, Company C, First Lieutenant A. W. Clark, Company D, Private George W. Madison, Company F, and Private George Armstrong, Company C, Forty-fourth Illinois, each captured a saber at Nashville, December 16.

Private Peter Rohman, Company K, Forty-fourth Illinois captured a saber at Nashville, December 16, which has been forwarded to department headquarters.

Sergt. N. P. Ramsdell and Private John A. Hobart, Company G, and Private John H. Gatehouse, Company D, Forty-fourth Illinois, each captured a saber at Nashville, December 16.

Sergt. Elijah Kellogg, Company C, Seventy-fourth Illinois, captured a saber at Franklin, November 30, 1864.

First Lieutenant S. B. Moody, Company D, One hundredth Illinois, captured a saber at Nashville, December 16, 1864.

In November 1864, a report of Colonel Smith D. Atkins, Ninety-second Illinois Mounted Infantry, commanding Second Brigade. HDQRS. SECOND BRIGADE, THIRD CAVALRY DIVISION, Near King's Bridge, Ga., tells of a saber charge.

"Lieutenant-Colonel Sanderson commanding, made a gallant saber charge against the enemy posted behind rail barricades; dismounted they drove them in confusion, killing and wounding many with the saber, and captured 20 prisoners, including 3 commissioned officers. I saw the charge myself."

Report of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Klein, Third Indiana Cavalry.

“We drew saber and charged into their ranks. They fled in disorder near a half mile toward the mail, where, the commons narrowing into a lane, they must fight or be run down. They fought from here to the mill desperately, using saber and clubbing muskets and pistols. The fight was hand-to-hand for 300 yards, when both parties plunged into the river. Even here we used the trusty saber with effect. We killed 3 men, wounded some 125 with saber, and captured 1 lieutenant-colonel, 1 captain, one of General Wheeler's staff, adjutant Fifty-first Alabama and adjutant Eighth Confederate, both badly wounded with saber.”

Not all soldiers faced a saber fight bravely as General J. J. Reynolds states in one of his reports;

“Fred. Taylor, private, Twelfth Michigan Infantry, dispatch bearer, who is noticed in the official report of the action as having "ran off and secreted himself in the grass on the prairie, throwing away his saber, and after the affair was over returning to the train and recovering his saber and dispatches," is entitled to all the notoriety he is likely to incur at the hands of his fellow-soldiers for this disgraceful conduct.”

Edward Potter, forage-master, had this to say about one of his encounters:

“At this moment I discovered our surprise, and ordered a halt of the teams and the men to form in line of the left of the wagons, and replied to the order to surrender by firing five shots, killing 3 ;men, and receiving two volleys from them, when I engaged Colonel [J. B.] Hutcheson with my saber, disarming him, when I was overpowered by numbers, and surrender my saber to Colonel Hutcheson. While this was going on, the firing had commenced at the wagons, about 30 rods from me, in the rear, but how they were making of it I could not tell until I saw the teams advancing on the road where I was held a prisoner, and was told that every man was taken.”

In an open field fight the foot soldier would refuse to fight, they know once their fired their rifles they would not have time to reload in the face of a saber charge.

Captain AD. Schmidt, Company M, Fourteenth New York Vol. Cavalry, give this encounter with the saber.

“I received information at Nix's farm that the enemy, from 50 to 60 strong, under command of Major Randolph, of the Seventh Alabama Cavalry, all mounted and armed with sabers, pistols, and rifles, and only left that place about ten minutes before. I started at once after them in a sharp trot, and after following their tracks for 2 miles on the Pensacola road, I came up with the rear guard. The enemy, aware of my approach, wheeled in column and formed in line of battle behind a creek. Passing the narrow bridge by twos, I ordered a charge with sabers drawn, and was received with a volley of rifle-balls, which killed 4 of our horses and wounded Sergeant Oscar von Rosenfels and Private Seibold Endres, the latter dangerously. Before they had time to reload, I forced with my command a hand-to-hand combat, which resulted in scattering the enemy.”

In the skirmish at Neosho, Mo, Edmund B. Dixon got a slight saber wounds on head.

After a fight at Shiloh.

"I am killed" was heard. The horses stampeded. The entire command never before made right and left wheel quicker. Pools of blood were trace; an officer's saber with blood was found, two other sabers, four guns, saddles, blankets, saber-straps, hats-evidently cut off, all of which he burned, not being able to take along-were seen strewed for miles.

A Iowa man.

Loyd H. Dillon, second lieutenant Company C, Fourth Iowa Cavalry, who has repeatedly acted in the most gallant manner. He was very severely wounded at Guntown June 10, 1864. At Selma he led his company, which he was commanding, upon the enemy, killing several with his pistol and saber. At Columbus he was among the first men to rush upon the enemy and over the bridge into the city.

Soldiers were not the only ones that used sabers in a fight read the statement of John W. Twyman, private, Company H, Third U. S. Volunteers.

I, John W. Twyman, private, Company H, Third U. S. Volunteers, having been duly sworn, do state that while en route from Fort Leavenworth, Kans., to Fort Kearny, Nebr. Ter., on the 18th of May, 1865, when about two miles east of Elm Creek Station, Nebr. Ter., I was, among others, attacked by a party of Indians, numbering some fifteen or twenty, and 2 of our men killed and 6 (including myself) wounded. I was attacked by one of them with a U. S. saber, who struck me three times knocking me down. Then he returned to the party and another of them came to me and scalped me; then he hit me with his saber and left. They were dressed in buckskin clothing, so far as I could see, except the chief, or the one in charge, who was dressed in some kind of a light robe or blanket thrown over his shoulders. Two of them wore their hair short on both sides of their heads and "roached" up on top of their heads. I could not say how the rest of them wore their hair. My opinion is they were Pawnees, for the reason that they were so anxious to impress upon us they were Cheyennes. I think they did it in revenge for something, as they spoke of the whites breaking a treaty with them.

Washington Fulton, was also in the fight.

Statement of Washington Fulton, teamster in Government employ.

I, Washington Fulton, teamster in the employment of the Government, being duly sworn, do say that I was driving a Government team of six mules en route from For Leavenworth, Kans., to Fort Kearny, Nebr. Ter., transporting unarmed soldiers sent from hospitals and guardhouse at Fort Leavenworth, and that about two miles east of Elm Creek Stage Station, Nebr. Ter., the soldiers who wee with me were attacked by a body of Indians, numbering fifteen or twenty, about 2 p. m. on the 18th day of May, 1865, and 2 of the soldiers killed and 6 wounded, including myself. One soldier of the Third U. S. Volunteers, after being struck twice with a U. S. saber which they (the Indians) had in their possession, was knocked down and scalped by and Indian, they knowing hm to be alive. After he was scalped the Indians kicked him twice. Two or three Indians were dressed in old Government pantaloons, others in buckskin leggings. The Indian who had charge of the party attacking us wore buckskin leggings. His hair was long and had some kind of fur attached to his back hair. He was the only Indian who had long hair; he also had a revolver. Two of the attacking party had short hair "roached" on top of their heads. These two said they were friendly Sioux, but were as outrageous as any in their attack on us. I was about ten rods from the man who was scalped. Cannot say how all the Indians were dressed, nor give any particular description of them, but can identify one of them if I see him. One of them, the Indian who scalped the soldier, had a large scar over his eye; whether right or left eye I cannot say.

An escape.

John Scott, Company K, who was with the party, received three saber cuts during the melee, but escaped and returned to the regiment with the rest of the party.

A fight with a General.

Captain J. C. Boyer, Twelfth Tennessee Cavalry, had a hand-to-hand fight with General rucker, of Forrest's command. The general struck the captain a severe blow with his saber; time, acquired possession of the captain a severe blow with his saber; the captain forced the saver from his hand, and the general, at the same time, acquired possession of the captain's, who drew his pistol and shot the general in the left arm, causing him to surrender.

In January of 1865, Color-Sergt. Jesse H. Hall, of the One hundred and first Ohio Infantry, who, when attacked by a rebel officer with a drawn saber, defended himself with his flagstaff and beat the officer into an unconditional surrender.

In October 1864, Private Ginley, G, First New York Artillery, who was acting as mounded orderly on the field. When the line was giving way he drew his saber and riding gallantry among the men succeeded way he drew his saber and riding gallantry among the men succeeded in rallying a large numbers and taking them back into the fight. But while we remember with pride the glorious deeds of those who fought so gallantly, we do not forget the heroes who have fallen at the post of duty. We deeply mourn their loss and will ever cherish and keep green their memory.

Joseph Hofmaster of the Fourth Michigan, or Henry Hofmaster of the seventh Pennsylvania.

Corporal Hofmaster, of Company L, charged into town, and selected a position where the enemy would have to pass him, and, with drawn saber, hewed away at them until he was disabled, receiving a wound in the left arm, also one in the right hand, nearly severing the grip of his saber, and cutting some of his fingers nearly off. A ball also hit his hat, cutting it entirely open on the top.

In May of 1863, Lieutenant-Colonel [R. M.] Martin, of Johnson's Kentucky Cavalry, having laid his skull open by a saber cut.

Major Williams D. Collins, First Vermont Cavalry, fights for life.

“I ordered the head of my command to oblique right and left, and on we rushed to a hand-to-hand encounter. We succeeded in forcing them back at the point of the saber, leaving several of their number weltering in their blood upon the pike, and as far as my knowledge extends without suffering any loss at this point, when I received a saber blow from one of two assailants (the other having fallen) on the side of my head, which deprived me of consciousness. I had fallen from my saddle to the ground, but soon recovered, to find myself surrounded by foes and a prisoner of war.”

In 1862, The new cavalry officers after two months discarded their sabers, as being useless, the reason they had not been fully trained in the use of the saber.

Report of Colonel Thomas Claiborne, Sixth Confederate Cavalry.

“Captain Ballentine was most of all conspicuous for his gallant bearing and use of his saber and pistol. He fired on and mortally wounded Major Shaeffer. He engaged in a saber hand-to-hand combat with a brave fellow named Hoffman, who several times pierced the captain's coat, but was forced to yield. Captain Ballentine was also attacked by blows of a carbine and quite severely bruised.”

Captain Thomas H. Botham, Company L, Third Michigan Cavalry, acted with great bravery, killing 1 man and wounding another with his saber.

Report of Colonel John Kennett, Fourth Ohio Cavalry.

“Lieut. W. W. Shoemaker, of Company H, led the charge; shot three times with a pistol. He was shot at with a gun. His first shot killed one of the enemy. His second shot the enemy ran, and he struck him with his saber across the mouth, cutting it in two. The horses of one of the rebels fell, and John Shanks struck him with the saber. Shanks' horse fell over him; jumping upon his enemy, he seized him a prisoner. His name is E. W. Pratt; sent to you last night.”


David Hayes in doing well. His hurts are a saber cut on the head and two bullet wounds on the body. David Hayes, the wounded corporal, killed two, and received all his wounds while in hot pursuit at the very tails of the rebels' horses.
Note. There are no David Hayes in the 11th.

Report of Colonel R. Butler Price, Second Pennsylvania Cavalry.

“Lieutenant-Colonel Green was too severely wounded (three saber cuts in his head) to bring, in and was paroled after received the opinion of Brigade-Surgeon Johnson.”

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