Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Independent or what?

It is common to hear that any of the four sharpshooter companies were "independent." Usually that bit of information is passed on in something of a 'sorry about that' tone of voice. So were they independent?

Well, to a modern understanding of the word -- autonomous, or outside the authority of -- they were not. They weren't just some extra men who went along for the ride with their local regiments and showed up in Washington saying "Hey, we're here too."

To understand why the term is used, we need to go back to its military recruiting usage in the mid-19th century.

Specifically, the men for these New York sharpshooter companies were enlisted along with men for regiments from their areas. The meaning of the term is that the sharpshooters were mustered (or sworn) into service along with them, but were organizationally not part of or 'independent from' the local regiment.

There were other plans for the organization of the sharpshooters - a potential regiment of their own.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Captain Joseph Silsby Arnold

I was reading a message board post which stated that Joseph Arnold, the battalion's first field commander, held the rank of major. I have never found that rank associated with him. In fact, in post-war news articles, he is referred to as 'Captain' Arnold.

It may be that, in executing field command, both Arnold and Perry -- who each held the rank of Captain -- were granted some of the authority of the rank of major (like certain non-judicial punishment authority) because they were in command of four companies.

I actually experienced a situation like that in my own brief military career when a squadron which needed a field grade officer (major or above) to command it was temporarily left under the command of a captain. For that short period, special orders were cut granting the captain some of the authority, especially regarding disciplinary actions, of a field grade officer.

Perhaps that situation is what led to an association of Arnold with the rank of major.

1898 New York State Adjutant-General's Report

While NO WORD OF THEM contains a roster of battalion members, by company number and then soldier name, as stated in the book there are minor discrepancies with the 1898 NYS AG Report, which is alphabetized by soldier name only.

I have made an electronic download available of the portion of the New York State AG report relating to the 1st Battalion Sharpshooters available. Click on the paperback option at the left to see the listing of this item.

Alternatively, the AG report is available from the NYS archives as a pdf download. The archives software will find that report in a discrete search session which times out -- so I cannot give you a direct link. But here is the process to find it.

First - go to this URL http://nysl.nysed.gov/uhtbin/cgisirsi/HRAnB45W9j/NYSL/

Then I press the button for "Search Digital Collections"

Next leave "Metadata Search" highlighted and type in the search term "1898" and press the "Search" button

This should return a list in which the several portions of the 1898 NYSAG report are listed.

You'll want to select the one titled: Annual Report... for the Year 1898, V2. Registers of the 1st, 15th, 50th Engineers and 1st Batt. of Sharpshooters - VP4

VP4 contains the First Battalion Sharpshooter information. When you select the title, it will open a separate window to display the pdf data (which is images of the pages). I was able to save the file from that window. I hope you can too.