The camps of the volunteers of the Army of the Potomac were fertile ground for US Army recruiters in the weeks after Antietam. I’ve seen records for dozens (if not hundreds) of men who enlisted in Regular Army batteries and regiments and left their State units that Fall.

I’ve also read of many instances at Antietam and elsewhere of infantrymen temporarily manning artillery pieces when their crews were reduced by casualties during a fight.

But yesterday I came upon a case of a kind I’ve not seen before:

In June 1862, Private James Welch and his mates in Companies B and D of the 5th New York Cavalry were detailed wholesale to serve with Battery F, 4th United States Artillery. This was after the cavalrymen had “suffered terribly” at Front Royal, VA on 23 May.

Companies B and D were probably down to fewer than 30 men each, but still provided a substantial infusion of manpower for the battery.

Battery F was reorganized that June of 1862 and issued 6 12-pounder Napoleons to replace their old 6-pounders and 12-pounder howitzers. Private Welch and the others of the 5th New York manned those guns for the rest of the summer and were present, though in reserve, at Antietam in September. They returned as Companies again to their Cavalry regiment in October 1862.

Poof! Cavalry troopers into Regular artillerymen, and back again.


The man who led me to this story was Irish-born James Welch, an 18 years old laborer in Chicopee, Massachusetts at the start of the war.  He enlisted in Springfield, MA in the 5th New York Cavalry in April 1861.

He reenlisted in late December 1863 and was given a reenlistment furlough as reward, but just 2 days before leaving for home, he was captured in a skirmish at Ely’s Ford on the Rapidan in Virginia. He was a prisoner on Belle Island, Richmond for about a month then sent to the infamous prison camp at Andersonville, GA in February 1864.

He died there of disease on 18 October 1864.


The illustration of the badge of the 5th NY Cavalry from the cover of the regimental history Historic Records of the Fifth New York Cavalry written by their Chaplain Louis Beaudrye in 1865.

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