Praising the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry

FEBRUARY 18, 1864.

Jacksonville, Florida,
Feb. 18, 1864.

Mr. Editor:

During the last two months I have been intimately associated with the 40th Mass. Mounted Infantry. Belonging to another organization, I have yet been so situated as to be able to observe them thoroughly and independently. With some experiences in the difficulties and hardships of mounted service, I honestly believe that few regiments in the army have accomplished so much in so brief a period of time, as has the 40th Mass. Mounted Infantry. About six weeks ago a portion of the regiment received their horses for the first time. In the course of a fortnight the whole regiment was mounted. Only those who have been through the process can understand and appreciate the pains and trials involved in breaking in a regiment, where both men and horses are ignorant of the first principles of the art. There is much vexation of spirit, and no little bodily anguish. I do not claim that the 40th are perfect, or even that they are average as good horsemen; but I do claim that in less than six weeks after the first man of them was mounted they participated, most efficiently, in a raid that involved great fatigue and accomplished important results. The advance was led by a Battalion of Mass. Cavalry that has been in the service nearly three years and is considered a first-class organization. Day after day, when the endurance of these now experienced horsemen was taxed to the utmost, the 40th kept up through all, and night always found the two together. Where the sabre and pistol were unable to open the road, forward marched the dismounted skirmishers of the 40th, and the difficulties soon vanished. In the valley of St. Mary's river are buried, side by side, the dead of the Indept. Battalion Mass. Cavalry, and of the 40th Mass. Mounted Infantry. Rebel graves, close by, attest that they did not die unavenged. At Lake City, also,—the furest point reached—brave men of each organization shed their blood. At the latest and most important, though disastrous, conflict of Olustee's Station, both were present and rendered most efficient aid.

In the progress of the raid, it became necessary to separate the mounted forces, sending detachments to several places off the main route. It was at this place that Co. G of the 40th distinguished itself and won high honors. I do not intend to describe the capture of Gainesville, and the noble stand made by the little force under command of Capt. Marshall; I leave that to those who accomplished the results.

Not connected with the regiment, and being, therefore, in a great degree an unprejudiced and impartial observer, I was impelled to pay this humble tribute of respect to the brave men of the Mass. 40th.

The enclosed order needs no comment. Co. G now has the highest honors of the campaign. May Chelsea be not unmindful of their merits.


(Accompanying the above is Order No. 5 of Brig. Gen. Seymour, complimenting Capt. Marshall and his command; this order was published in our last issue - Ed.)

Printed in the Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer; March 12, 1864; pg. 2, col. 4.

It is made available here through the courtesy of Thomas Hayes. We have since lost contact with Mr. Hayes as his e-mail no longer functions.

Mr. Hayes is working on a historical reference work, "Letters of the Civil War," from the newspapers of the cities and towns of Massachusetts. He researched the Boston Herald, Chelsea Telegraph and Pioneer, Dedham Gazette, Roxbury Gazette, Randolph Transcript, Worcester Transcript and the Malden Messenger. He says, "I have filed, by date, a little over 3,300 letters. These are from the Soldiers, Sailors, Nurses, Correspondents and Politicans. This project started out as a simple endeavor to find that one letter from my Grandfather, Walter A. Hewes, who served in the 1st Mass. Infantry and 4th Mass. Cavalry. To date, no luck, but I have about 30 more papers to research."

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