CMSR filed in Infantry Regiment instead of Cavalry

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Dave D

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I have always been told that my Gr Gr grandfather, Jonathan ("John") Baker, served in a Virginia Cavalry regiment during the Civil War and that he had been captured and imprisoned in a northern POW camp until the end of the war. He was born in Augusta County, Virginia Sept 10, 1841; in the 1860 census he is shown living with his parents, Adam & Delilah, and 6 siblings in the county's census district 1, Staunton Post Office.

I spent years digging through regimental histories, rosters, and service records of Virginia cavalry units but never found a John Baker (and there are a ton of them) that fit his age and location profile.

After the War, John Baker moved to Ohio and raised a family in Paulding county on the west side of the state. A couple of years ago I found the 1892 publication of the "Historical Atlas of Paulding County, Ohio" which contained a person sketch of John. The text about John states, "... in 1861, he enlisted in Company K of the 12th Virginia Volunteer Regiment, Confederate States of America. He was taken prisoner at Winchester and was sent to Camp Chase, and thence to Johnson's Island, where he remained until 1864, when he took the oath of allegiance and was released ...".

It didn't say cavalry, just "Volunteer Regiment" so, I checked the Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) of Confederate Soldiers for a John baker in the 12 Virginia Infantry and, bingo! There he was : John Baker of Company K, 12th Virginia Infantry; 5 index cards with dates ranging from June 13 thru October 9, 1863.

The information on all these cards originated from Union prisoner lists or POW camp registers - there were no Confederate muster roll records. The chronology of the cards show that John was captured or "delivered himself" to Gen. Milroy (Commander of the Union garrison at Winchester) on June 13, 1863 and was transferred to Wheeling, Va and held at the Athenaeum prison. He stayed there for two days and then was sent to Camp Chase POW camp, Columbus, Ohio. He was only at Camp Chase for a few days when he was again transferred, this time to Johnson Island POW camp outside Sandusky, Ohio, arriving there on June 20, 1863. On October 9, 1863 John swore an Oath of Allegiance ("swallowed the eagle") and was released at the Depot of Prisoners, Sandusky.

So now I had some dates and places to work with in researching John's war history. But there was a problem with his CMSR cards being filed with the 12th Va Infantry. On the date he was captured, June 13, 1863, the 12th Va Infantry (part of Mahone's Brigade, Anderson's Division) was in camp at Fredericksburg, Virginia - about 100 miles from Winchester. Alternatively, on June 13, 1863, the 12th Virginia Cavalry was in the vicinity of Winchester in the brigade of W.E. "Grumble" Jones, scouting and screening for Lee's army as they attacked the Union garrison at Winchester (the 2nd Battle of Winchester).

So, it seems clear that John's regiment was indeed the 12th Virginia Cavalry. Eventually, I did find image scans of two POW registers identified on John's CMSR cards that have him identified with "Jones Brigade" or the "12th Va Cav".

I wonder how often this type of mistake may have occurred. For the most part, I have found that the copyists and transcribers who created the CMSR cards to be very accurate. To be fair, some of John’s POW records merely say “12th Virginia Regiment” and don’t specify cavalry; I think the convention back then was to assume a regiment to be infantry unless designated otherwise.
 
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ucvrelics

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It is quite common especially with common names. Most of these were done post war, be glad his name wasn't John Smith :D
 

Frederick14Va

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Not unusual at all to find fragmented, divided file cards.. and/or those of different individuals combined into one. The copyists usually did the best they could to decipher the forms, musters and records. Many of these werent much more than scribbles. Hence name misspellings are quite common. True that a given unit is generally assumed to be Infantry less otherwise designated. Have been researching through the archives and CMSR for decades, and frequently find misplaced, misidentified, and broken files scattered about. Also common to discover several different separated files that are actually one single individual. They had little ability to cross reference files. Took a couple years to learn of all the alternate places to go look for missing pieces..

Looks like to did an extensive search on your guy and also explored other possibilities to confirm/deny who you were looking for. Well done.
 
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Dave D

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Not unusual at all to find fragmented, divided file cards.. and/or those of different individuals combined into one. The copyists usually did the best they could to decipher the forms, musters and records. Many of these werent much more than scribbles. Hence name misspellings are quite common. True that a given unit is generally assumed to be Infantry less otherwise designated. Have been researching through the archives and CMSR for decades, and frequently find misplaced, misidentified, and broken files scattered about. Also common to discover several different separated files that are actually one single individual. They had little ability to cross reference files. Took a couple years to learn of all the alternate places to go look for missing pieces..

Looks like to did an extensive search on your guy and also explored other possibilities to confirm/deny who you were looking for. Well done.
Howdy - thanks for your reply,

Do you know if (and where) the original documents that are indexed on the CMSR cards are available for research? Many of the Union POW camp registers have been scanned and are available to search and view online but I can't find Confederate muster rolls, Oath of Allegiance and parole documents referred to on the cards.

As I mentioned in my original message, all these CMSR cards for my John Baker originated from Union prisoner lists or POW camp registers and I have been able to find his name on several of these. There were no Confederate originated records but that may be because the copyists only considered 12th Virginia Infantry and not the 12th Virginia Cavalry when compiling John's records. I wonder if a closer review of the surviving 12th Va Cavalry documents might reveal John on a muster roll or other lists.
 

Frederick14Va

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Howdy - thanks for your reply,

Do you know if (and where) the original documents that are indexed on the CMSR cards are available for research? Many of the Union POW camp registers have been scanned and are available to search and view online but I can't find Confederate muster rolls, Oath of Allegiance and parole documents referred to on the cards.

As I mentioned in my original message, all these CMSR cards for my John Baker originated from Union prisoner lists or POW camp registers and I have been able to find his name on several of these. There were no Confederate originated records but that may be because the copyists only considered 12th Virginia Infantry and not the 12th Virginia Cavalry when compiling John's records. I wonder if a closer review of the surviving 12th Va Cavalry documents might reveal John on a muster roll or other lists.
The fodder utilized in creating the CMSR card files came from a wide range of sources. Records that had been "captured" and those of prisoner records are normally to be found in the National Archives. Various other records that may have been muster rolls, payment invoices etc many times are to be found in the respective state archives. They "borrowed" the records from the states to copy the cards from. Some of these records had been placed on microfiche or film reels, others not. Only a comparative fraction of existing records are available online. Another item to take into account is that with many units, large chunks or in whole the records thereof simply didnt survive. In some accounts secondary records can sometimes be found to try to fill in the gaps to some degree.

I also recommend to examine the unit in question carefully. Va Cavalry "regiments" rarely started their existence as such. Many of these began their service as smaller Cavalry Battalions... later reorganized or combined to form Regiments under a new ID. Hence ones fragmented files frequently are found scattered across several units woth of files. They sorted the files by unit then name... This is also the case here. Jonathan Baker enlisted on Aug 1st 1861 for one year in Co.K of the 7th Virginia Cavalry Regiment. The 7th Va Cav was an oddity because it had 29 companies (yes Twenty-Nine) rather than the usual 10. During reorganization this was reduced to 10, the other excess companies were used to form the 12th Va Cav Regt, and the 17th Va Cav Battn. and some others. Not totally uncommon that earlier and latter unit designation/affiliations get crossed over.

In the prior 7th Va Cav there were hoards of "Bakers" in some of those ranks. Jonathon, John, James, Jacob, etc.. in many cases the files are simply "J. Baker"... many of which also were captured during the war, so likely will take a good amount of effort to feasibly sort out exactly who is who... Also lots of other Bakers too that might be related.
zz-baker-Page_55.jpg
 
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Story

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I wonder if a closer review of the surviving 12th Va Cavalry documents might reveal John on a muster roll or other lists.
Have you seen this book?
 

Dave D

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I also recommend to examine the unit in question carefully.
So ... as Paul Harvey used to say, here's the rest of the story ...

John ended the War in possession of a US Army issued 3rd Model Colt Dragoon (.44 cal) revolver [see https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5477062415 ] - if he ever told anyone when, where, and how he acquired the weapon, that information didn't make it as far as my generation. A persistent family story about John and the revolver is that he had wrapped the gun in an oily cloth and hid it in a hollow crook of a tree before he was captured and retrieved it after the war ended. The revolver was passed down through 5 generations of Bakers eventually ending up with my mother.

Before mom died, she decided to donate it to the museum at VMI for safe keeping and perpetual care and I handled the transport and delivery to the museum. The curators at VMI researched John's background and war service and found that he had enlisted for 12 months' service in Captain Hazael Williams' Company D of the 5th Virginia Infantry (the "Southern Guard") on April 17, 1861. They referred to the University of Virginia's 'Valley Project' database of military service records cross indexed with census records of Augusta County, Virginia. A search of the Valley Project records shows John Baker of Co D, 5th Va Inf is linked to the family of Adam and Delilah Baker of Augusta county. [see http://valley.lib.virginia.edu/dossier_record?q=db:dossiers_augusta AND id_num:2221 ].

The Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR) of Confederate Soldiers for John Baker of Co D, 5th Va Infantry consist of 8 index cards (one card has some information continued on the back) - 7 Company muster rolls and one regimental return which showed him in the hospital in January, 1862. The muster roll for April 30 thru October 31, 1862 showed John to be "Absent without leave since Apl. 17, '62" and "Now in Cavalry Service". It's unclear how he would be determined AWOL if he fulfilled his 12 month enlistment in the infantry and moved on to a cavalry unit but it's in his file nonetheless.

There is a link between the 5th Va Infantry and the creation of the 12th Va Cavalry; Colonel Asher W. Harman was the 12th Cav's first commander, prior to that he was the Captain of Company G of the 5th Va Infantry.

Here's John's 5th Va Inf CMSR that notes his move to cavalry service :
JohnBaker_5th_Va_pg07.jpg


It wasn't until I found John's personal sketch in the Historical Atlas of Paulding County that I had a clue as to which regiment he had transferred to; the problem I was having was that the only thing that was saying cavalry was the scrawl on the back of the 5th Inf CMSR card and the 12th regiment CMSRs were all filed as infantry ...
 
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Dave D

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Have you seen this book?
No - I haven't seen this one. Thanks for the lead ...
 

lelliott19

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No - I haven't seen this one. Thanks for the lead ...
There's also this memoir, which will likely include more specific regimental information that one of the Rigdon compilations. The Last Survivor: The Memoirs of George William Watson : a Horse Soldier in the 12th Virginia Cavalry (Confederate States Army) George William Watson, Night Hawk Press, 1993. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0963580205/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

Story

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It's unclear how he would be determined AWOL if he fulfilled his 12 month enlistment in the infantry and moved on to a cavalry unit but it's in his file nonetheless.
You'll find this on both sides in the Consolidated Military Service Records - basically the age-old problem in units of 'left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing'. Generally the Losing Unit doesn't know where the guy is when the next pay period comes up (two month intervals) and he's actually languishing in a hospital, transferred (with or without official permission), etc. The Gaining Unit doesn't feel obligated to tell anyone anything or the hospital figures that someone actually reads what they send up the official chain.
 
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Story

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John ended the War in possession of a US Army issued 3rd Model Colt Dragoon (.44 cal) revolver [see https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5477062415 ] - if he ever told anyone when, where, and how he acquired the weapon, that information didn't make it as far as my generation. A persistent family story about John and the revolver is that he had wrapped the gun in an oily cloth and hid it in a hollow crook of a tree before he was captured and retrieved it after the war ended. The revolver was passed down through 5 generations of Bakers eventually ending up with my mother.
VMI should spring for a letter from Colt. Might confirm elements of your story.
 

Dave D

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You'll find this on both sides in the Consolidated Military Service Records - basically the age-old problem in units of 'left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing'. Generally the Losing Unit doesn't know where the guy is when the next pay period comes up (two month intervals) and he's actually languishing in a hospital, transferred (with or without official permission), etc. The Gaining Unit doesn't feel obligated to tell anyone anything or the hospital figures that someone actually reads what they send up the official chain.
I wonder when the word "SNAFU" was first coined ...
 

DixieRifles

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So, it seems clear that John's regiment was indeed the 12th Virginia Cavalry. Eventually, I did find image scans of two POW registers identified on John's CMSR cards that have him identified with "Jones Brigade" or the "12th Va Cav".
I checked FOLD3 for both regiments and I didn't see his name.

When browsing and searching through records in FOLD3, I find some mistakes of names and units. Usually it seems to be the archivist who transcribed the muster rolls. But I would find it hard to believe they would put a soldier in the Cavalry as being in the Infantry. I imagine them going down a roster of names and transferring the details to an index card for that unit---usually the regiment ID is printed at the top of the card.

Now that I said that I did find one soldier I was searching for just today who has 3 different regiments listed at the top of his files. But in this case his cards are not filed under a regiment but were placed under Confederate Misc. So in this case they found these obscure files from Union records which had wrong and/or unknown units and they "created" a unit card and filed it under Miscellaneous because they didn't know anything about that regiment.

See this card below for: Lewis Short under CS- MISC
Note: This is a Union Prisoner records and the unit's name was written by hand in the top of the card.
Unit is listed as Worthington's Tenn. What? Infantry?
Another card listed it as Washington Cavalry and another Washington Regiment.
Finally one out of 8 or more listed it with right name: Washington Tennessee Battery (aka Capt Bibb's Artillery)

Short-Louis__Washington Battery--Pg05.JPG
 
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Story

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When browsing and searching through records in FOLD3, I find some mistakes of names and units. Usually it seems to be the archivist who transcribed the muster rolls. But I would find it hard to believe they would put a soldier in the Cavalry as being in the Infantry. I imagine them going down a roster of names and transferring the details to an index card for that unit---usually the regiment ID is printed at the top of the card.
Why would you find it hard to believe? They were archivists, not military historians. They see 3rd VA, they figure 3rd VA Inf.

They were working from incomplete/quasi-illegible records. Ever look at the original Federal PoW records? Spread sheets that were often SOUP SANDWICHES when it came to unit & individual identification.

The archivists did the best they could, making logical assumptions. Sometimes they were wrong, and it takes diligent detective work to bridge the gaps.
 

Dave D

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VMI should spring for a letter from Colt. Might confirm elements of your story.
This gun is a Colt 3rd Model Dragoon Revolver, Serial Number 17310, manufactured in 1858. During 1858 Colt's production serial number range for the Colt Dragoon, 3rd model was 16500 - 17999. This revolver was manufactured to accept a shoulder stock attachment.

The revolver has a four-screw frame with stock cut-outs in the recoil shields and a slot for the stock clamp in the bottom of the butt strap. The half-round/half-octagon barrel has a folding leaf rear sight mounted in a dovetail near the breech. The revolver has the oval brass trigger guard and rectangular cylinder stop slots which are characteristic of 3rd Dragoon revolvers. The top barrel flat is roll-stamped with the legend: "-ADDRESS SAML COLT, NEW-YORK CITY" in one line reading toward the breech. The left side of the frame is roll-stamped: "COLTS/PATENT/US" in three lines.

I have found several comments on various gun collector web sites which describe the US Ordnance Department contract under which this gun was manufactured; they all quote or cite the book "Civil War Carbines, Volume II, The Early Years" by John D. McAulay, Published by Andrew Mawbray inc., RI, 1991. I have yet to find a copy of this book to verify the quotes but, I have no reason to doubt the source:

"Colt's third model dragoon with breech attachment (shoulder stock) along with his M1855 carbine was tested at the Washington Arsenal on February 18, 1858." "The Board concluded that both the Colt pistol with breech attachment and the carbine were superior to any small arms currently in cavalry service and recommended: 'That Colt's pistol (with breech attachment) and ammunition be adopted for the cavalry service; and that each trooper be furnished with two pistols, adjusted to the same breech, the barrel of each pistol to be eight inches long, of the calibre of the army revolver. ...That one pistol be worn on the right side of the soldier, in a pouch attached to the sabre belt, and the other in a holster on the right side of the saddle; and that the breech attachment be carried in a saddle pouch attached to the left side of the rear of the saddle.'.

Secretary of War John Floyd, ordered 924 caliber .44 Third Model Dragoons with 462 detachable shoulder stocks from Colt on 28 June 1858 at $50.00 per set. These revolvers were issued early in 1859 to five companies of the 2nd US Dragoons, under the command of Major Charles May on duty in California.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, the bulk of the 2nd Dragoons regiment transferred east. On August 3, 1861, the Dragoons were re-designated the 2nd United States Cavalry. Brigaded with other Regular cavalry regiments and at times volunteers, the regiment fought in the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac.

As I have said, I have no idea when, where, or how my Gr Gr grandfather acquired this gun; I think he most likely picked it up off a battlefield. The 2nd US Cavalry and the 12th Virginia Cavalry were both present at the battle of Brandy Station and the after action report of Col. A.W. Harman of the 12th Va Cav states that they captured "68 Colt's army pistols" during the battle (see Official Records, Series 1, Vol. XXVII, Part2 - Reports, pages 765/766 : Report No. 584, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=coo.31924077728255&view=1up&seq=767 ).

17310LeftGrid.jpg
 

Story

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As I have said, I have no idea when, where, or how my Gr Gr grandfather acquired this gun; I think he most likely picked it up off a battlefield.
I'm familiar with the history of that pistol. A letter from Colt will reveal when and where it was originally shipped.
 
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Frederick14Va

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I would still be cautious of assuming name links and unit association. There were a boat load of Bakers in the service from Augusta County, and more than one named Jonathan or John of similar ages co-existing during the same time frame. Have had to weed through the muck many times before with similar situations, and prior ID link claims may or may not always be totally accurate.
 

DixieRifles

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Why would you find it hard to believe? They were archivists, not military historians. They see 3rd VA, they figure 3rd VA Inf.
I picture them working from a large Muster Roll book. They are taking each name on the roster for that monthly pay period. So they print up blank forms for that specific regiment, with the regiment ID printed at the top, and enter the names on the form. If they grabbed the wrong blank Forms, then they would erroneously record all the men on that roster with the wrong regiment. Not just 1 soldier.
Of course its possible to make a mistake with any one soldier. Family submitted inquiries years later and the archivists would research their files. It would be possible that he would come to the wrong conclusion and fill out a new card for that one soldier.

It is not way to know how some of these records entered the files. As I pointed out the soldier named Lewis Short, I am finding Remarks on his card that says he was captured in July 1863 in NE Mississippi which does not really make sense. The unit history says they were captured at Island No. 10 the previous year. Sometimes you do have to ignore some of the info that was recorded.
 
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