Samuel M. Whitside letter, Part 1


First Lieutenant S. M. Whitside, circa 1865.

Author and fellow blogger Don Caughey posted a letter I shared with him about a year ago. It was penned by then First Lieutenant S. M. Whitside as he appeared before a medical retiring board in January 1865 during the Civil War.  Addressing the president of the retiring board, Whitside provided a six-page letter detailing his military service up to January 1865, beginning with his enlistment as a private into the General Mounted Service in 1858.

As Whitside would go on to become a prominent officer at Wounded Knee, I thought it of value to reblog his letter. It is divided in two parts.  Part 1 of Whitside’s letter details the first three years of his career including his time as a private and corporal in the General Mounted Service at Carlisle Barraks, Pennsylvania, and on recruiting duty, and through his first year with the 6th U. S. Cavalry as the regiment’s sergeant major and as a second lieutenant during General McClellan’s Penninsular Campaign.   In Part 2 of his letter, Whitside details his experience as an aide-de-camp for General Banks during the 1863 Red River Campaign, his struggles with malarial fever, suffering from varioloid (a mild form of Small Pox), his injury at Culpepper Court House, and his duties as a recruiting and mustering officer in Rhode Island.

Regular Cavalry in the Civil War

Samuel Whitside, courtesy of the David Perrine collection. Samuel Whitside, courtesy of the David Perrine collection.

In a recent trip to the National Archives, friend Samuel Russell came across this letter from his ancestor, Samuel M. Whitside, and was kind enough to pass it along with his permission to post it.  While it doesn’t necessarily shed any new light on Whitside’s career beyond what we included in our book on the 6th U.S. Cavalry, I think it’s very interesting as a junior officer’s firsthand account of the war.

In February 1865, 1st Lt. Samuel M. Whitside was ordered to appear before a medical retiring board to determine if he was fit for duty with his regiment.  In the file, Whitside provides a six page letter to the board detailing his service in the Army from November 1858 up to the date of the board.  I have left all punctuation as I received it, but added clarification in…

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About Sam Russell

I am a fifth-generation Army officer with over twenty-eight years of commissioned service. I have been researching the frontier Army for over fifteen years and am interested in documenting the lives of the soldiers that participated in the battle of Wounded Knee using primarily official reports, diaries, letters, newspaper articles and other primary source documents. My interest in Wounded Knee stems from my kinship to one of the principal participants. I am the great-great-grandson of Samuel M. Whitside, who was a major and battalion commander at the battle. I welcome and encourage comments on posts and pages and am always interested in any new primary sources. If you have copies of letters, diaries, etc, from participants and are willing to share, please contact me. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are strictly my own, and should in no way be construed as official Army or U.S. Government positons.
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