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    Letters and documents related to the specially-created 1st District of Columbia Cavalry

    1st District of Columbia Cavalry: Daniel S. Curtis Archive , dated between August 1862 and September 1887 and comprised of important letters and documents which help tell the story of Major Daniel Curtis of Wisconsin and the special regiment to which he belonged, the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry. Included is a rare recruitment broadside for the regiment, entries from Curtis' personal journal, and a hand-drawn map of troop locations during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign of May 1864.

    The 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (also known as Baker's Mounted Rangers) was organized in October 1863 in Augusta, Maine, with 800 men and placed under the command of Colonel Lafayette C. Baker by President Lincoln. Baker was also commanding the Union Intelligence Service and was a favorite of War Secretary Edwin Stanton. The cavalry regiment was intended to serve for three years and was to be directed by the War Department for special duty. In early 1864, the regiment was bifurcated as half was placed under General August Kautz's command, who was commanding cavalry units in campaigns around Richmond and Petersburg under General Benjamin Butler. Curtis and one half of the regiment reported to Kautz in early May, in time to participate in the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. Later in August 1864, the 1st Cavalry was transferred into the 1st Maine Cavalry and ceased to function as a self-contained regiment. After the war, Baker was instrumental in the apprehension of John Wilkes Booth and his Lincoln assassination conspirators. He was promoted to brigadier general and in 1874, wrote a history entitled The Secret Service in the Late War, which included information about the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry and Major Curtis, who is described in the book as "a truly brave, discreet, and worthy officer" ([Philadelphia: John E. Potter & Company, 1874], 174). Following is a list of items included in this archive.

    1st District of Columbia Cavalry Recruitment Broadside (8" x 10") with heading, "To Arms! To Arms! 100 Dollars Bounty!" and notifying the citizenry that "a Battalion of Cavalry for Special Duty" was being raised "to act in connection with the present National Detective Police. . . . None but sober, honest, intelligent, able bodied young men will be enlisted. The peculiar service for which this Battalion is organized, makes it indispensably necessary that every one of its members should be a good rider and a skillful and expert horseman." According to the broadside, the chosen troops would be armed with the "Henry Repeating Rifle" and would enlist for three years. The broadside was signed in print by "L. C. Baker, Colonel Commanding Battalion, and Chief of the National Detective Police."

    Hand-Drawn Battle Map giving the location of Union troops on May 29 and 30, 1864, during the Bermuda Hundred Campaign in Virginia. Specifically identified in pencil are the locations of the "5th Penn," "11th Penn," "3rd N.Y.," and the "1st D.C.C." Behind these troops was the "Line of Cavalry Division - Gen [August] Kautz." "Hd Qrs" is located behind Kautz's cavalry line. Below the map is written, "near Bermuda Hundred May 29th & 30th 1864." The map also identifies the locations of "standing timber" and "slashed timber." Other annotations also appear on the page. The Bermuda Hundred Campaign, which occurred in May 1864, was a series of battles in the vicinity of Bermuda Hundred near Richmond. The 1st District of Columbia Cavalry arrived at the campaign on May 12. The toned leaf bears some foxing; separation is beginning along one fold. The map is drawn on the verso of a Confederate Weapon Bond (partly printed and dated April 20, 1861). The bond binds T. J. Harrison of the Sussex Dragoons for $26 in exchange for a "Sabre to be used in the Company." This rare and early bond is signed by two witnesses and lists in the lower margin the "Price of Arms and Equipments."

    Major Daniel Curtis War-Dated Personal Diary Pages, consisting of nine unbound, lined pages, dated from May 5 through May 31, 1864. During this time, Curtis and the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry were sent to assist with the campaign at Bermuda Hundred, Virginia. Curtis' diary begins as he records the regiment's movements around the state of Virginia before they arrived to aid in the campaign. At times during their movements, they met the enemy and engaged them in battle, which happened on Sunday, May 8 when the regiment fought the Rebels "above Jarrett's Station." They "lost three killed & Eight wounded." On May 11, Curtis reports that the regiment arrived at "Bermuda Hundred - marched to Swift Creek, near Gen. Butler's Head Quarters." While there, Curtis records his regiment's activities, which included destroying railroads and enemy property within earshot of "Hardfighting going above." On May 12 at Chester Station, the regiment "broke the jail & released some conscript prisoners." All entries are in pencil.

    Lafayette C. Baker Autograph Letters Signed and Letters Signed to Curtis (5), dated between October 1863 and September 1887. In most, Baker makes requests of Curtis for things such as rifles, "twenty mounted men" supplied with rations; men with "Pistols and Sabers only"; and "20 mounted men with Pistols no Sabers or Carbines." Also included is a notification of a promotion signed by Baker, dated October 1863, and Colonel Baker's expense report for sixteen days of "Recruiting Service to State of Maine" in July 1863.

    E. D. Townsend Fair-Copy Letter on behalf of the War Department notifying Colonel Lafayette Baker that he was "hereby authorized by the Secretary of War to raise a Battalion of four Companies of Cavalry for special service, the same to be recruited in the District of Columbia and to serve for three years or during the War. . . . All officers will be selected and appointed by you. . . . When the force is organized you will be appointed to its command with the rank of Colonel." Also included is a fair copy of Special Order No. 4 ordering Daniel Curtis to report for duty as commander of Co. B, dated August 12, 1863.

    Assistant Adjutant General Thomas M. Vincent "Official Copy" Letter notifying the governor of Maine that "any Maine recruits, who may desire to enlist in the Cavalry Command now organizing by Colonel L. C. Baker, under the orders of the War Department, and that your State will be duly credited with all men so enlisting."

    Surgeon George J. Northrup Autograph Letter Signed and dated April 20, 1865, giving details to a major (illegible name) about the activity of the 1st Maine Cavalry (which included the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry) and the rest of the Army of the Potomac following a bloody engagement. The surgeon writes that his regiment was located "a mile west of Petersburg. . . . We have been cast into the greatest gloom and dispondancy at the sad news of the President's death." He also writes of the heavy losses the regiment suffered - "21 men killed, 12 missing, and a total loss of 153 killed too & missing out of 493 men who left camp." Northrup had been part of the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry until they were integrated into the 1st Maine.

    August Kautz General Orders, Fair Copy, from "Head Quarters Cavalry Division Near Portsmouth Va May 4th 1864" directing the entire cavalry division to "assemble at Day light to morrow morning." The order also prohibits pillaging during the march: "Officers will not leave their position in the column without the permission of their Regimental commanders. . . . Soldiers are prohibited from entering houses and those guilty of pillaging or committing outrages will be dismounted and left to the mercy of the Enemy."

    Additionally included: Andrew Johnson Military Appointment Stamped, appointing Curtis lieutenant colonel (dated July 5, 1866); R. A. Davis Military Appointment Signed as assistant war secretary appointing Daniel Curtis a major in the 1st District of Columbia Cavalry (dated March 1, 1864); Two Telegrams (dated August 4, 1863, and August 6, 1863), one authorizing Curtis to raise the bounty offered to recruits to $300; Two Muster-Out Rolls stating that Daniel Curtis had been promoted to major (both dated spring 1964); Edward Salomon Military Appointment Signed as Wisconsin's governor appointing Curtis first lieutenant in the 28th Wisconsin Volunteers (September 2, 1862); G.A.R. documents; Curtis' undertaker invoice (dated May 16, 1890); and other documents, receipts, military orders, and letters. This archive has been well cared for and is well organized. It is worthy of further research.


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    September, 2011
    13th-14th Tuesday-Wednesday
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