From the close of the War of the Rebellion to the year 1869, no branch of the public service seemed more unsettled than the regular army. While the memory of the Civil War was fresh in the minds of our legislators a standing army of moderate strength seemed to be a national necessity. The want of an efficient military force in 1861 resulted in the sacrifice of thousands of lives, millions of treasure, and for a time threatened our national existence.
The narrow escape from so dire a calamity infused into the minds of Congress the wisdom of providing against a recurrence of such danger, hence the permanent establishment was fixed at ten regiments of cavalry, five of artillery and forty-five of infantry. Four of the latter were designated as "Veteran Reserve Corps"; intended, very wisely I think, to provide for soldiers and officers who had become partly disabled during the war by reason of wounds received, but who could perform garrison duty, or in time of war defend the inner fortifications or act as a basis for the organization of a large army;—a body of trained though maimed soldiers, who could perform all the necessary military duties in the rear, allowing the use of the entire active army at the scene of action. The organization of these regiments, together with bands, non-commissioned staff unattached to regiments, and 410 Indian scouts, provided for an army of 80,832, full strength, but was placed on a peace basis of 52,948.
Thus the organization was complete for an army that would be of sufficient strength to quell almost any disturbance, while in case of extraordinary trouble, as in 1861, by simply increasing the enlisted strength of each regiment to its allowed maximum, an army of considerable magnitude was instantly at hand. In the light of the past and in the possibilities of the future surely this was wise legislation, but it required the stimulus of recent events, the remembrance of lost battles, the realization of the sacrifice of human life and vast treasure, the exposed fact of the nation's weakness and inability for self-preservation under ordeals such as the years 1861 to 1865, to spur the American people to a proper appreciation of the necessities of a nation for its security.
Time, the great obliterator of the past, removed the stimulus; policy, too often the curse of legislation, took its place. The cry for retrenchment was more potent than the plea for protection; new political aspirants rode into power upon this short-sighted, unwise plea for preferment. The veteran legislators who had guided the nation safely from dissolution and wreck were laid aside and forgotten under the influence of prospective lessening of taxes, and, as has been so often the case in our republic, the first branch of the national tree to suffer from the retrencher's axe was the army.
The army had no votes. The army had little patronage to swell the politician's constituency. The army at the present moment was needed only to keep off the savages of the plains from the civilization of the East. It was not needed much for that, as the East had little attraction for the savage; and had it not been for the western legislators who have always been the army's friend, and the occasional scalp of an eastern tourist, this branch would doubtless have been reduced to much smaller proportions than it was. Yet the elimination was tolerably effective. The forty-five regiments of infantry were reduced to twenty-five; the regiments of cavalry and artillery were left the same in number, but all were reduced to an enlisted strength of 25,000,—an aggregate of 28,764. To effect this, existing regiments of infantry were consolidated and this consolidation brings me to the object of this sketch,—the history of the present Sixteenth Infantry.
The Eleventh Infantry, organized May 4, 1861, and having on its battle flags, Gaines' Mill, Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spottsylvania Court-house, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, and Chapel House, was consolidated with the Thirty-fourth Infantry, which had been the third battalion of the Sixteenth Infantry, organized on the same date as the Eleventh and having on its banners Shiloh, Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, Neal Dow Station, Peach Tree Creek, Atlanta, and Jonesboro, each regiment possessing therefore a bloody and honorable record. Both regiments were doomed to lose their designation but were allowed to retain the list of battles of each, consolidated on one flag. The new regiment was numbered the Sixteenth. It was consolidated by merging the enlisted men of one regiment with the company of the same letter of the other, and assigning the officers by rank as provided by the order of consolidation. This was effected March 3, 1869.
In making the assignment of officers in the new regiment the field officers were designated in the orders of the War Department. The staff was selected by the colonel without regard to the relative rank of the officers selected. The adjutancy was retained by the officer holding it in the 34th Infantry, and the position of quartermaster was given to the officer holding it in the 11th Infantry. The company officers were assigned so as to give as far as possible the same brevet rank to a company throughout its three officers. The non-commissioned staff of the 34th was retained entire. On the 3d of March, the roster of the new regiment was as follows:—
Colonel G. Pennypacker.
Lieut.-Col. Robert S. Granger.
Major William P. Carlin.
Captains Francis M. Cooley, Caleb R. Layton, James Kelly, Joshua S. Fletcher, Jr., Duncan M. Vance, Arthur W. Allyn, Hugh A., Theaker, W. H Bartholomew, John Power, and W. G. Wedemeyer.
First Lieutenants Clayton Hale, William H. Clapp, Henry C. Ward, Allen Almy, Merritt Barber (Adjutant), Evarts S. Ewing, Stephen K. Mahon, Wallace W. Barrett, William H. Vinal, John McCoy, Charles H. Noble, and William V. Richards (Quartermaster).
Second Lieutenants Fred Rosencrantz, George B. Pickett, John F. Smith, T. W. Morrison, Charles Jordan, David P. Scott, George M. Love, Stanley D. Humason, Samuel R. Whitall, and Isaac O. Shelby.
The new regiment thus formed was stationed at six different posts, and was engaged in assisting the civil authorities in carrying out the provisions of the reconstruction acts of Congress. The headquarters of the regiment, with Companies D and L were at Grenada, Miss.; the Lieut.Colonel, with Companies B, E and G, were at Jackson, Miss.; the major, with C and F, at Vicksburg, Miss.; A at Natchez, Miss.; H at Lauderdale, Miss.; and K at Corinth, Tenn.
This extensive scattering of the regiment at this time was unfortunate, the two regiments coming together from distant parts of the country and the officers being unacquainted with each other. This want of personal knowledge of his regiment was felt more especially by the colonel, and care was taken by the new commander to remedy and allay any discordance that might exist. Frequent visits were made to all the posts both by the colonel and his staff, and by reason of these visits one of the chief disadvantages was in a short time overcome. The company officers became thoroughly acquainted with the headquarters of their regiment and an esprit de corps soon commenced to show itself, which gives to the regiment to this day a distinctive reputation. Probably there was no consolidation made at this time where these results were so necessary and at the same time so hard to obtain. The new colonel was the youngest in the army, an appointment from civil life but of most distinguished record, while the lieutenant-colonel and major were both old and distinguished officers, graduates of West Point. Many of the company commanders had seen as much service as the colonel, some having had as large commands during the war, but all seemed imbued with the desire to excel. The loyalty and regimental pride of Generals Granger and Carlin were particularly admirable, and I know personally that it was highly appreciated by their young commander.
From 1869 to 1877 the regiment was engaged in assisting the civil authorities in carrying-out what was known as the reconstruction act of Congress, a most disagreeable and unmilitary duty. The companies of the regiment were called upon to act in unison but three times during the period mentioned. Once when Companies B, E, F, G, I and K, made a march in October, November and December, 1870, through Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, under the command of General Carlin, for the suppression of the so called "Ku Klux Klan." Again, when Companies C and I, under the command of the gallant Colonel Rose (who had been assigned to the regiment in place of Captain Power, resigned) during the Brooks-Baxter embroglio at Little Rock, prevented what threatened at one time to become a most serious outbreak. This occurrence attracted at the time the attention of the nation. Fears were entertained that it might prove to be a national disaster, but the determined and energetic action of the commander, who had already a national reputation for energy, skill and nerve, averted the calamity without bloodshed.
The third time was when all of the regiment, except Company H, was
concentrated under the command of its colonel at New Orleans, during the Packard-Nichols troubles in 1876.
This ended the reconstruction service of the regiment. In the eight years in which it was so engaged its headquarters were at Grenada, Miss., Nashville, Tenn., Newport, Ky., Mount Vernon Barracks, Ala., and New Orleans, La. Its companies were stationed in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The duties imposed were performed conscientiously, though in nearly every case they were distasteful to a military man. While no open conflicts occurred yet they were imminent almost daily in some locality. While it is believed that the regiment made the power of the Government felt wherever it served, yet the recollection of this service brings with it no remorse for injustice done, power arbitrarily or unnecessarily used, or partisanship in any sense during its entire service in the South.
In 1877 the regiment was for the first time called to new, and what was considered the more legitimate, duties of the profession. Leaving the Southern States, and all the political complications involved in service there, we crossed the Mississippi and commenced our career in the Indian country. Headquarters, with Companies A, C and H, were stationed at Fort Riley,
Kansas; K at Fort Gibson, Indian Ter.; B and D at Fort Sill, Indian Ter.; E and I at Fort Reno, Indian (now Oklahoma) Ter.; F at Fort Wallace, Kansas; and G at Fort Hays first and subsequently at Fort Wallace. For three years the regiment was stationed as above, except that I and K exchanged stations. During this time Companies D and H were with General Buell in the Victoria campaign through New Mexico and into old Mexico. Company H was detached and went as escort with, a railroad surveying party through Arizona. Companies F and G were engaged in the pursuit of Cheyenne Indians who escaped from Indian Territory and were not captured till they got to the sand hills near Fort Robinson, Neb.; Company A was engaged with these same Indians below Fort Dodge, Kansas. Companies C and G were with General Mackenzie in the campaign of 1870-80, and Company F made a campaign against the Utes into middle Colorado.
In 1880 the regiment was ordered to Texas and was stationed as follows: Headquarters and Company F, first at San Antonio, but soon afterward with D, E, G, H, I and K, at Fort McKavett; A, B, C and I, at Fort Concho.
In June, 1888, the regiment was moved to the Department of the Platte, Headquarters, with B, D, E, G, H and I, being stationed at Fort Douglas, and A, C, F and K, with the lieutenant-colonel in command, at Fort Duchesne, Utah. While stationed at these posts, individual service of Captain Rose and some enlisted men at Fort Duchesne was mentioned in orders, and Companies D, E, G and H, were engaged in the campaign against the Sioux Indians in 1891 which brings my sketch up to the present date, June, 1891.
Twenty-one years have wrought great changes in the personnel of the regiment. Only six officers who were on the original roster are now serving with it. Six went out by retirement; nine were dismissed or cash-
iered; two were honorably mustered out of service, and four are still in the service but are serving in different organizations by promotion or transfer.
The present colonel of the regiment succeeded Colonel Pennypacker on the latter's retirement in July, 1883. The lieutenant-colonels, since Lieutenant-Colonel Granger, have been James Van Voast, Alfred L. Hough and Wm. H. Penrose. The majors, since General Carlin, have been Samuel A. Wainwright, Charles A. Webb, Horace Jewett, and John B. Parke.
The adjutants, since Colonel Barber, have been Win. V. Richards, William H. Clapp, Wm. H. Vinal, Leven C. Allen, Samuel W. Dunning and Charles R. Tyler.
The quartermasters, since Lieutenant Richards, have been William H. Clapp, Henry C. Ward, Evarts S. Ewing, Wm. V. Richards (a second time), William Lassiter, Thomas G. Woodbury and Warren H. Cowles.
Lieutenant-Colonels Van Voast and Hough were both promoted out of this regiment into the Ninth, but the former was injured while going to his new regiment and never joined it, retiring on account of his injury.
I am well aware of the fact that the foregoing is but a crude and meagre account of an organization that is held in high regard by those still remaining in it and by many still living who once were active under its banners. I cannot but wish that the compilation might have fallen to an abler and more worthy chronicler, but it is offered for what it is worth with the hope that in its pages there may be some matter that will interest the reader.