On the Road Again – February 1998 Civil War Times Feature

On the Road Again


NAME: Romanzo Mortimer Buck
DATES: May 1833 to December 1902
UNIT: 4th Michigan Cavalry, Company C
SERVICE RECORD: Enlisted in the 4th Michigan Cavalry in 1862. Promoted to first sergeant the same day. Promoted to second lieutenant on December 24.Promoted to first lieutenant on February 22, 1863. Participated in Kilpatrick’s raid on Atlanta in August 1864. Promoted to captain on January 1, 1865. Helpedcapture Jefferson Davis near Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10. Mustered out inNashville on July 1.

While he was still a young boy, Romanzo Mortimer Buck moved with his family from his birthplace of Livingston County, New York, to the town of Paw Paw in Van Buren County, Michigan. It was his first taste of travel, and for a long time it appeared as though it would be his last. With no pressing reason to leave, Buck remained in Paw Paw for the next 20 years.

When the Civil War erupted, Buck, brimming with patriotism, found a reason to travel once again. A 29-year-old dry-goods clerk, he was nearly a decade older than many other would-be soldiers when he left Paw Paw to enlist in the Union army. He traveled to Detroit and joined the 4th Michigan Cavalry just after it formed in August 1862. That same day he was made first sergeant in Company C. The tintype at left shows him as a quartermaster sergeant early in December 1862, while his unit was stationed in central Tennessee.

Attached to the Army of the Ohio, Buck’s unit fought in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, Tennessee, on December 11. Two weeks later, Buck received his first officer’s commission, becoming a second lieutenant. Over the next few weeks, the 4th Michigan Cavalry fought in the Battle of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, before being absorbed by the Army of the Cumberland in January 1863. In late February, Buck was promoted to first lieutenant.

Near Nashville, Buck contracted chronic diarrhea, a condition he would suffer through the summer. Even so, he rode with his unit into the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, in September. The 4th strayed little from Georgia during the next nine months, and finally, on June 27, 1864, it took part in an assault on Kennesaw Mountain. Two months later, the regiment, by then a part of the Military Division of Mississippi, participated in Brigadier General Hugh Judson Kilpatrick’s raid on Atlanta in August. Buck received a promotion to captain on January 1, 1865, but during the long campaign around the Georgia capital, he, like many others in his unit, contracted rheumatism. Though he was given a 30-day convalescent leave, he never recovered fully from either illness. (He would be awarded a disability pension of $8 a month on May 27, 1881.)

As the war drew to a close, Buck helped to pursue and capture fugitive Confederate President Jefferson Davis near Irwinville, Georgia, on May 10, 1865. The 4th Michigan Cavalry was mustered out in Nashville on July 1, and Buck returned to Paw Paw to become a merchant. He married Ellen A. Durkee on March 20, 1867, and the couple had a daughter, Gertrude, on November 7, 1874. With his travels ended, Buck lived the rest of his life in Paw Paw and died there in December 1902.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.