November 16, 1862
By November, 1862, Calvin Douty has had enough. He is frustrated that his First Maine Cavalry Regiment is not doing what it signed up to do.
"If our friends at home did not receive intelligence concerning us through some letter from those among us, they would not know that the 1st Maine Cavalry was in existence," Douty complains in a letter to Maine Governor Israel Washburn.
Gov. Washburn is aware of the 1st Maine Cavalry’s apparent invisibility in official circles. He has already written to U.S. Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, criticizing General Nathaniel Banks’ failure to mention the Maine unit in an "official report" by Banks about operations in the Shenandoah Valley in May, 1862. (See Washburn letter, 1862-6-11, "Governor Washburn Questions Stanton.")
Now Gen. Banks is organizing an expedition into Texas, and the officers of the 1st Maine Cavalry think that their problems can be solved if they can accompany Banks as a unified regiment.
"We are not rendering any marked service, but are broken up into squads from four to twelve men each and scattered throughout our Army on the Potomac as ‘orderlies’ and cattle drivers," writes Douty.
In the first years of the war, Union cavalry were often used in the manner Douty describes. Some high-ranking officers would rarely travel without an impressive escort of cavalrymen.
The infantry regarded them as show-offs – usually to be found only at headquarters. "Who ever saw a dead cavalryman!" they would jeer; and the inferiority of Union horsemen in any action, as compared with their Confederate counterparts, had been a frequent topic in the northern newspapers.
"I cannot describe our position in a better way than by comparing it with some errand boy who is used by every one and for every purpose, and receives no reward for his services …." Douty writes.
He speculates that his horsemen are selected for such duty because "Our men make good orderlies – they are smart and intelligent – they are Maine men – they can read, and write – and they can act equal to any men in the service …."
He is certain that if the 1st Maine Cavalry can be brought together as a single regiment, they "may then have an opportunity to act and help sustain the good reputation of our State’s troops …."
The 1st Maine Cavalry does not join in the Texas expedition.
Instead, Major General Joseph Hooker takes command of the Army of the Potomac in January and institutes changes. He consolidates the scattered Union cavalry units into a single corps with subordinate divisions and brigades. Thereafter, the 1st Maine Cavalry fights as a united regiment in the campaigns of the Army of the Potomac. They meet Douty’s goal and "make a good mark" for themselves. During the remainder of the war, the 1st Maine Cavalry engages in more battles than any other mounted unit in the Union Army.
- Douty mentions "Dutchmen" who could not read, write or speak English. To whom was Douty referring?
- Why were they called "Dutchmen"?