Lords of the Pinky Rings

The article “Faces of an Era” (in the October 2011 issue) was wonderfully interesting. As always, you continue to put out the best magazine. I was drawn to one particular image on P. 53 as well as the cover. All three young men are wearing the same kind of ring on their little fingers. Is there any information about what the rings represented?

John Phander

Toms River, N.J.

Butler and the Baltimore Riots

I was pleased to see your article on the Baltimore Riots in the October issue, but I must point out that Luther Ladd’s photograph has been reversed. In the original print, the “US” on the belt buckle is backward, a quirk of the photographic process used at the time. This is confirmed by the patriotic envelope included with Ladd’s image, in which his head tilts in the opposite direction from your photo.

I also question the statement that Lincoln ordered Benjamin Butler to occupy Baltimore. If he did so, he forgot to inform General Winfield Scott, who sent the following message to Butler on May 14.

Washington, D.C., May 14, 1861 Brig. Gen. Benjamin Butler, Commanding Department of Annapolis, Md.: SIR: Your hazardous occupation of Baltimore was made without my knowledge, and of course without my approbation….

Very Respectfully, yours,

Winfield Scott

This was followed by another message a few hours later:

Washington, D.C., May 15, 1861—2:17 a.m. Brigadier General Butler, Commanding Dep’t of Annapolis, at Baltimore, Md.: I do not understand your telegram, “Send us more detachments till further orders.” Issue no more proclamations. Why assume the authority to call for re-inforcements from General Patterson? Answer my letter of last evening. Did you leave any men at Relay House? Look to their safety. Not a word received from you in several days. Patterson’s re-inforcements will be at Locust Point this morning early.

Winfield Scott

The Acton Memorial Library, of which I am a trustee, has a particular interest in the Baltimore Riot, as Acton’s militia formed Company E of the 6th Massachusetts Volunteer Militia on that fateful day, 86 years after the Acton Militia fought at Concord Bridge.

Dennis J. Ahern

Acton, Mass.

Questions on Mosby’s Career

I read with great interest Douglas Gibboney’s article on John Mosby (‘The South Was My Country’) in the August issue. I have some questions about the postwar Mosby’s Hussars:

  1. Where did the name Mosby’s Hussars come from? Are there any photos of the Hussars?
  2. How did Mosby come to be in California to create the Hussars?
  3. Who sponsored Mosby in California?
  4. Who gave him financial backing to form the Hussars?

Lour Dorich

Colorado Springs, Colo.

Author Douglas Gibboney Responds:

  1. Hussars is a term for a light cavalry regiment. I’ve never seen any photos of the unit, but that doesn’t mean there is not one out there still waiting to be discovered.

2 & 3. Mosby worked as an attorney for the Southern Pacific Railroad in San Francisco. That same railroad is also the answer to your third question.

  1. After the U.S. War Department turned him down for a commission, Mosby decided to raise a volunteer cavalry unit. He was probably able to gain some support and equipment from the state or federal government. The highlight of the Hussars’ brief existence was a July 4 concert and ball, to which California’s governor was invited.

The books Take Sides With the Truth, edited by Peter Brown, and Rebel: The Life and Times of John Singleton Mosby, by Ken Siepel, have a bit more information—though not much—on the Hussars.

Incidentally, you might be interested to hear that while he was working as a U.S. government land agent Mosby did some work in Akron, Colo. He must not have liked it there, as he asked to be transferred to Denver or your own hometown of Colorado Springs.

Ball’s Bluff Debacle Inspired a Song

I very much enjoyed the October issue’s article by William Marvel on the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, one of the most overlooked events early in the war. His account of the event is excellent, and I applaud his research. There is one more historic element to the Battle of Ball’s Bluff that I’d like to mention.

In the 15th Massachusetts there was a young second lieutenant, William Grout, who was killed during the battle. His death inspired a friend of his family, Henry S. Washburn, to write a poem about William titled “The Vacant Chair.” That poem was then set to music by the famous George Root of Chicago. It quickly became one of the most popular mourning songs of the war.

As a Civil War musician and historian, and also a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, I have played and sung this tune at many memorial services for our brothers.

Steve Ball

Columbus, Ohio


Originally published in the February 2012 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.