3,000 miles just for a broken leg.


Oct 3, 2019
Frederick, MD
Gilbert R. Merritt was, like many young men, chomping at the bit to join the fight. Unfortunately for his ambitions, he was thousands of miles from the fighting.

The California Gold Rush drew many young men from the East with the promise of riches, and Merritt was among them. Though many transplanted Californians who enlisted with the hope of fighting rebels wound up instead on garrison duty or Indian fighting in the West, Merritt was lucky enough to join the famous California Cavalry Battalion, the select few horsemen who were shipped around Cape Horn to join the Second Massachusetts Cavalry.

His roller coaster of luck ended in the trough when he was kicked by a horse in camp.

Daily Alta California, Volume 15, Number 4844, 30 May 1863, page 1, column 4.jpg

The Daily Alta California, Sacramento, California, Volume 15, Number 484, May 30, 1863, page 1, column 4.

Sergeant Gilbert R. Merritt, 2nd Mass Cav, Co. M, U.S. Army Center for Military History.jpg

U.S. Army Center for Military History
Though the Daily Alta California reported that he was "now doing well," Sergeant Merritt never recovered. He was discharged in 1864, likely never having seen combat.

Sgt. Gilbert R. Merritt Discharge Papers.jpg

Many soldiers were disabled by accident and disease without ever seeing a shot fired in anger. Few were so unlucky as to travel to the other side of the continent for it.
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John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
By Merritt's CSR it looks like he spent his entire service, after his injury (May1863) to his discharge (Feb. 1864), in hospital at Camp Meigs in Readville (now part of Boston).

And, if he went around the Horn, it was more like "12,000 Miles, just for a broken leg."

In 1869, he was granted a full disability pension.