Discussion Gambling and violence which led to the dismissal of a regiments Colonel and Major...

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In researching the 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry over the last couple of decades I have made several very interesting discoveries, which to me were quite fascinating. But some of the most fascinating things involve components of camp life in between the campaigns, battles, skirmishes, fights, actions and scouts. One of those was the dismissal of both the 2nd Alabama Cavalry regimental commander (Colonel Fountain Winston Hunter) and the regiment`s Major (Matthew R. Marks) due to violence which ensued after an all night poker game between the officers of the regiment in November 1862 while operating in the Florida Panhandle.

This is basically what happened; after playing and gambling all night, as the game was breaking up, the officers began to settle the balance of their wins and losses. As they did some of the men began complaining because they lost large amounts of money and were not happy about it. As the trash talk began to get personal and insulting, several heated arguments broke out, one of those being between the regiments Colonel, Fountain Winston Hunter (regimental commander) and Matthew R. Marks (regimental Major). Very quickly this turned to violence when Col. Hunter struck Major Marks and in response Major Marks drew his pistol and shot Col. Hunter. It was at this time that the other officers, who were also in the game, jumped in and broke up the fight at which point they attended to their Colonel.

It was not long until the Provost Marshal and guards was alerted and the aggravated parties were separated, placed in arrest and an official investigation was ordered. Charges were filed, on the brigade level, against both men. A Military Court was ordered and convened to hear the charges in a General Field Grade Court Martial on 9 December 1862 at Pollard, Alabama (Camp Lee). Col. Hunter was charged with striking an inferior officer and conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman. Major Marks was charged with assault on a superior officer and the use of a deadly weapon which resulted in that officer being wounded. Both men were found guilty and were then being considered for dismissal of their duties. The matter went all the way to President Jeff Davis and his adjutant, who agreed that the two men should be punished and removed from their positions as punishment. This was ordered from Richmond to be carried out on 4 Apr 1863.

So on that day Lt. Col. James Cunningham (Lt. Commander) temporarily took over for Col. Hunter as acting regimental commander, until 27 May 1863 when Capt. Richard G. Earle was promoted to Colonel and took over the regiment with Capt. John P. West being promoted to Lt. Colonel and was appointed as the regimental Lt. Commander. Capt. John N. Carpenter was promoted to Major taking the place of Major Matthew R. Marks as the regimental Major.

The following account of what took place is recorded in Major Matthew R. Marks` Official Records which are on file with his Confederate Service Records:

"The findings of the Court Martial showed that the two officers (Marks / Hunter) with others were engaged in gambling during nearly the whole night. That the altercation originated in the settlement of balances of loss at the end of the game. That a fight ensued in which Major Marks used a deadly weapon (pistol) wounding his superior (Col. Hunter)."

Major Matthew R. Marks stated in his defense that after being struck by his superior officer, Col. Hunter, that it provoked him to pull his pistol and act in self defense and that he was acting in response to what he considered both a threat to his life and a grave insult to his manliness and reputation.

Gambling (card games / dominos), horse trading and horse racing was common in many Civil War camps in both armies during down time, especially amongst some of the younger soldiers, as was drinking spirits when it was available near the camps (corn liquor / whiskey). In several letters written home from men of the 2nd Alabama Cavalry they discussed raffles being held on pay day when someone in the camp would put up a horse, mule, pistol or rifle as a prize and charge a certain amount of money for each ticket purchased with the winning ticket to be pulled from a hat.
 
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Great story thanks for sharing! I think boredom would of been both armies worst enemies when they were stuck in camp!
I agree, camp life tells the personal side of the war, in my opinion, as there is time for the soldiers to reflect on their situation as they write letters home and record more detailed entries in their daily journals, for those who kept them, as well as catching up on things that they would other wise not have time to do while out campaigning or fighting.
 
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Lubliner

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I agree, camp life tells the personal side of the war, in my opinion, as there is time for the soldiers to reflect on their situation as they write letters home and record more detailed entries in their daily journals, for those who kept them, as well as catching up on things that they would other wise not have time to do while out campaigning or fighting.
I would be interested to know if their relief from command was just reduction of rank, and relocation to another Brigade, or a full dismissal from the force. Also with the event occurring in late 1862, what laurels had the officers charged accumulated in their performance of duties up to that time? And thirdly, do you feel their replacements were just, and did they perform well enough after promotion to be honored as worthy. in comparison? Thank you,
Lubliner.
 
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I would be interested to know if their relief from command was just reduction of rank, and relocation to another Brigade, or a full dismissal from the force. Also with the event occurring in late 1862, what laurels had the officers charged accumulated in their performance of duties up to that time? And thirdly, do you feel their replacements were just, and did they perform well enough after promotion to be honored as worthy. in comparison? Thank you,
Lubliner.
Lubliner, the Colonel was busted down to the rank of Private and served for about 6 months at that capacity and then was allowed to leave the Army. The Major was dismissed and forced out of the Army, he was paroled for his involvement in the war on 10 May 1865 at Meridian, Mississippi, his record states that at that time he was an "Employed Conscript".
 
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I would be interested to know if their relief from command was just reduction of rank, and relocation to another Brigade, or a full dismissal from the force. Also with the event occurring in late 1862, what laurels had the officers charged accumulated in their performance of duties up to that time? And thirdly, do you feel their replacements were just, and did they perform well enough after promotion to be honored as worthy. in comparison? Thank you,
Lubliner.
In addition to what I wrote above, The man who replaced him, Col. Richard G. Earle was probably the best Regiment Commander that the 2nd Alabama Cavalry had, he is the man in my avatar who was killed in action on 18 May 1864 during the Atlanta Campaign. Lt. Col. John P. West, resigned in May 1864 as Lt. Commander, just weeks after losing his 19 year old son during fighting on the day that Sherman took Meridian, Mississippi, who also served in the 2nd Alabama Cavalry. Both Col. Hunter and Col. Earle were former officers in the U.S. Army (West Point) and served with distinction during the Mexican War.
 
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Lubliner

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Lubliner, the Colonel was busted down to the rank of Private and served for about 6 months at that capacity and then was allowed to leave the Army. The Major was dismissed and forced out of the Army, he was paroled for his involvement in the war on 10 May 1865 at Meridian, Mississippi, his record states that at that time he was an "Employee Conscript".
Definitely an interesting punishment if his rank as private was in the same troops he once led. You have studied much on these units, and I presume many diaries have come to your attention. Do any soldiers make reference remarks about their 'new comrade' in arms?
Thanks again,
Lubliner.
 
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They all loved Col. Earle and were very heavy hearted when word reached them that he had fallen during battle. He was loved from the lowest private all the way to the Brigade commander. I was able to read several letters written back home from the rank and file and they all seemed to be broken up over his death. As for Private Hunter, not much was said of him that I could find after he was busted down from Col.
 

Lubliner

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They all loved Col. Earle and were very heavy hearted when word reached them that he had fallen during battle. He was loved from the lowest private all the way to the Brigade commander. I was able to read several letters written back home from the rank and file and they all seemed to be broken up over his death. As for Private Hunter, not much was said of him that I could find after he was busted down from Col.
Thank you for sating my curiosity. I feel you must understand my intimations of interest.
Lubliner.
 
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Below are the findings, as filed in the "OR", of the Military Court Martial held at Camp Lee, Pollard, Alabama against Colonel Fountain Winston Hunter (2nd Alabama Cavalry Regimental Commander) on 9 Dec 1862.

Col. Fountain Winston Hunter, Charges, 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment (1).jpg


Col. Fountain Winston Hunter, Charges, 2nd Alabama Cavalry Regiment (2).jpg
 
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Below are the findings, as filed in the "OR", of the Military Court Martial held at Camp Lee, Pollard, Alabama against Major Matthew R. Marks (2nd Alabama Cavalry Regimental Major) on 9 Dec 1862.

Major Matthew R. Marks, K-Troop and Regiment (1m).jpg


Major Matthew R. Marks, K-Troop and Regiment (1n).jpg


Major Matthew R. Marks, K-Troop and Regiment (1o).jpg
 

Miles Krisman

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I agree, camp life tells the personal side of the war, in my opinion, as there is time for the soldiers to reflect on their situation as they write letters home and record more detailed entries in their daily journals, for those who kept them, as well as catching up on things that they would other wise not have time to do while out campaigning or fighting.
The following is a diary entry from a man in the 5th Alabama Infantry Regiment while in winter camp during the first year of the war.

To break the routine and boredom, a great gambling mania seized the regiment at about this time. Several Chuck-a-luck banks were started and the men bet furiously. (Chuck-a-luck is a game of chance involving three dice and a bank.) A few won, but the vast majority lost. There were also several raffles, and men could be seen going around with paper, pencil and an old watch, knife, or pistol asking ``who will take a chance at a fine watch, knife, or pistol?”.[1]





[1] “Voices from Company D” edited by G. Ward Hubbs, page 36. Diary of John Henry Corwin


 
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Miles Krisman, Regarding camp life, this is what Pvt. Hardin P. Cochrane (D-Troop), 2nd Regiment Alabama Cavalry wrote home to Tuscaloosa, Alabama in a letter on 3 Sep 1862 from Camp Lee, Pollard, Alabama, while they were responsible for scouting throughout the Florida Panhandle to keep Federal forces isolated and contained to Pensacola, Florida:

"The men in camp are in fine spirits now. They were paid off the other day and have plenty of money. There is a good deal of raffling in camp now. Raffling off guns and saddles and horses, pistols, etc... There was a splendid gun raffled off here today. It was a double barrel shotgun of elaminated steel indestructible by gun powder. It was raffled off for $15 and had a mahogany stock. I think it the best plan not to go into any of these raffles, for I would rather give away money than to lose it that way. I have bought a good pistol, a five shooter, little larger than Uncle Claudie`s. There is a race track two miles from here and some men in the regiment have run a little. I have not been out to see any."

In a letter written from Bluff Springs, Florida back home to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on 8 Jul 1862, Pvt. Hardin P. Cochrane writes this about camp life:

"I like camp life pretty well, but I don`t see how in the world a soldier manages to be smart when he goes home (furlough), for in camp he may sometimes be called on for a good deal of work, but generally he has nothing to do and then it is the laziest life I ever led."

Camp life was not always monotonous as sometimes while idle they were required to drill three times a day and spend the remainder of their time cleaning the camp and its environs, as well as performing guard, picket, vidette and fatigue duties which would keep them up all night.
 
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