|NOW JUST HOLD YOUR COW CAVALRY HORSES!
A Rebuttal of Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart's Vicious Smear of Munnerlyn’s Cattle Guard Battalion
By David M. Bamford and Kyle S. VanLandingham
Copyright 2001, by David M. Bamford and Kyle S. VanLandingham
In their article “Race and Civil War in South Florida, ” Florida Historical Quarterly 77 (Winter 1999), Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart examine the role of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) during the Civil War in Southern Florida. In their ovation of the USCT, the authors make several comments in the next to last page of the article in reference to the 1st Florida Special Cavalry, CSA, also known as Munnerlyn’s Cattle Guard Battalion or Cow Cavalry. The references to the Cow Cavalry are incorrect, misleading and demonstrate a bias against the South in general and Confederate soldiers in particular. The polemical style of the paper is not only offensive but silly. We are submitting eight points of rebuttal in defense of the Florida Cow Cavalry.
FIRST, Solomon and Erhart suggest that the Florida Cow Cavalry was created primarily in response to “the new military threat” of black Union troops operating out of Fort Myers.1
That assertion is false. In fact, it can be argued that the USCT would have never been deployed to Fort Myers had it not been for the mobilization of Confederate cow drivers in Southern Florida. Union troops did seize Fort Myers, an abandoned Indian war post, on the southwest coast of Florida in January 1864. However at this time, the post was primarily occupied by soldiers of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry under the command of Captain Henry A. Crane, a white man who had been born in the Bahamas but who had lived in Florida for over 20 years. This unit was mainly composed of local men who were Union sympathizers and Confederate deserters. The increasing number of Confederates mobilizing in Southern Florida made the outpost vulnerable to attack. In his April 15, 1864, letter to Assistant Adjutant General H.W. Bowers, Crane asked for “fifty colored troops” to help defend the post.2 It was not until a few days later that Captain J.W. Childs became the new commander of the post and brought companies D, G, and I of the 2nd USCT as reinforcements. Therefore, the USCT troops did not come on the scene until a few months after Crane and his men had occupied Fort Myers.
After occupying the fort, the 2nd US Florida Cavalry, commanded by Captain Crane, immediately began an offensive campaign to wreak havoc and destruction in Southwest Florida. Their primary targets were the Confederate commissary depots and supply stores located in the Fort Meade area. James McKay, Sr., Agent for Florida’s 5th Commissary District, was one of the first to feel the impact of Crane’s presence. He complained to Major P.W. White, Florida’s Chief Commissary Officer, several times between January 7 and March 25, 1864, that something had to be done in order to protect the cattle operations from the raids conducted by Captain Crane and his men.3 It was Crane’s forces, not the USCT, that initially threatened the cattle operations and prompted the Confederate commissary agents to seek a solution.
On March 5, 1864, McKay, White and two other commissary agents sent a letter to be forwarded to the Confederate War Department proposing a unit that would later be called the Special Cavalry Battalion to meet the needs of Florida’s Subsistence Department. They cited three reasons for the unit’s organization: “to supply the beef cattle from the state adequate to the demands of the Army”; to protect the cattle operations against attack from deserters and raiders; and to defend the state “in case of invasion.”4 Although it took several months for the Battalion to be organized into nine companies, Secretary of War James A. Seddon approved the conceptual plan on March 28, 1864. Therefore, the whole concept and idea of a Special Commissary Battalion was proposed and approved approximately one month before the USCT was deployed to Fort Myers as reinforcements.
In conclusion, Solomon and Erhart are wrong to suggest that it was the influence of the USCT that pressed the Confederates to form the Cow Cavalry. It was the mischief of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry between January and March 1864 that prompted the Confederate commissary officers to propose the Cattle Guard Battalion. The 2nd US Florida Cavalry first garrisoned the fort and was later reinforced by several companies of the 2nd USCT in mid April.
SECOND, Solomon and Erhart write that the Florida Cow Cavalry was “primarily” involved in “guerrilla campaigns” against the Federal forces.5
That statement is untrue. Although Captain H.A. Crane often referred to them as “guerrillas,” the Cow Cavalry’s primary mission was to provide subsistence for the Army by delivering cattle to the commissary depots. In its one year of existence, perhaps as many as 15,000 head were driven north for the Confederate armies.6 In addition to its primary objective of collecting cattle, the Cattle Guard had other ancillary duties. Portions of the Battalion rounded up deserters, guarded the railroad, guarded the salt works, performed scouting and picket duty, and assisted with the blockade running operations.
In his December 10, 1864, report to Brigadier General William Miller, Major Charles J. Munnerlyn outlined the duties of his Battalion. According to Munnerlyn, Captain J.W. Faulkner has “been engaged collecting Beeves & Hogs in Taylor & Lafayette counties,” Captain J.C. Wilcox “has been exclusively employed in forwarding the Cattle delivered at Madison to [the railroad] in Georgia & Columbus,” Captain W.B. Watson has been “scouting the counties of Orange & Volusia,” Captain S. Agnew has been “charged with the protection of the Salt work at the mouth of the Withlockoochee” and “with protection of Blockade Runners” along Crystal River, Captain L.G. Lesley “has had very heavy duty in the [Commissary Department] & scouted actively & kept up four picket stations,” Captain J.T. Lesley has watched “the coast around Tampa & with Detachment of 20 men guards the Salt makers on old Tampa Bay” in addition to cattle gathering, and Captain F.A. Hendry has done “active scouting & has so punished the enemy on several occasions that Cattle stealing from Fort Myers has been stopped.”7
It is true that Captain Crane referred to the Battalion as “guerrillas” in his reports. However, this name was often bestowed upon the Confederates by Union officers simply because they were the enemy and were considered rebels against the Federal Government. The duties outlined by Munnerlyn clearly show that the Special Battalion was not “primarily” engaged in “guerrilla campaigns.” Furthermore, the report shows that the Battalion was decentralized and dispersed at key locations throughout Florida therefore making contact with the enemy likely.
With the exception of a few cases, it can be argued that the Cow Cavalry conducted a defensive campaign. There were very few instances where the Battalion or various companies of the Battalion took offensive action. One of these was the failed capture of Fort Myers on February 20, 1865. In most cases, it was the Union troops at Fort Myers, not the Confederates, who ravaged, looted, burned, and destroyed. When the Confederates caught wind of another rampage of Captain Crane and his men, various members of the Cow Cavalry would mobilize in order to check these raids.
There were several such incursions into Confederate territory. Captain H.A. Crane detached Lieutenant James Green and 50 troopers from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry to plunder the Fort Meade area. Commissary Agent James McKay, Sr. reported that on March 21, 1864, the Yankees went “to the house of Captain [Willoughby Tillis]…they carried away all [his] horses and [wagons and] went to the next house near Tillus’ and killed the owner named [Thomas] Underhill by shooting him twice, leaving a wife and 8 children all helpless.”8 Crane reported that his men destroyed 1,000 pounds of bacon, 75 to 100 bushels of corn, and 4,000 Belgium rifle cartridges.9 There was a second Union raid in the Fort Meade area the following month in April 1864. The Confederates had stores of supplies and provisions at this post, and this caught the eye of Crane at Fort Myers. “I felt an irresistible desire to destroy their supplies,” Crane stated.10 On April 3, Crane detached 75 men under the command of Lieutenant James Green on an expedition to Fort Meade for the purpose of recruiting deserters, destroying supplies, and to break up the Confederates organized at this post. In his orders to Green, Crane insisted on a decisive victory. “I will not understand any ‘decoy,’ ‘ambush,’ or ‘ambuscade’ against my company. You know the country--are better armed and have better men than your enemies,” Crane asserted.11 It is clear from Crane’s orders that he was very aggressive and was hell-bent on taking the war to the Confederates. Lieutenant James Green and his men from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry advanced north along the Peace River until they came in contact with Confederate pickets about 15 miles from Fort Meade.12 The Confederate pickets sounded the alarm, and a force under Captains James McKay, Jr., Francis A. Hendry, and John T. Lesley quickly organized to stop the Federal advance. On April 7, 1864, the Confederates skirmished with the enemy as they crossed Bowlegs Creek in a “brief but determined battle.”13 There were two Confederate casualties from John T. Lesley’s Company in this clash. Henry Prine was wounded, and James Lanier, Sr. was killed. The Confederates were able to temporarily stop the enemy’s advance and fell back closer to Fort Meade to regroup. Before returning to Fort Myers, the 75-man detachment from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry crossed the Peace River and burned the Willoughby Tillis homestead.14
Union forces from Fort Myers set out again on May 12, 1864, to destroy the Confederates' provisions and supplies at Fort Meade. The 2nd U.S. Florida Cavalry and 107 men from the 2nd USCT sacked and burned Fort Meade a few days later on May 19.15 The Confederates withdrew without much resistance. Up until this month, the USCT had not taken part in any of the raids.
During the month of July 1864, Union forces at Fort Myers set out again on a raid to the north in the area of Brooksville. Four-hundred (400) Federal troops landed on the coast of Hernando County near Anclote Key and moved inland to attack Brooksville, a Confederate stronghold. Various Confederate units skirmished with the invaders but were unable to stop their advance. Several plantations were sacked including those of prominent Confederates Leroy Lesley, David Hope, and Thomas Ellis; but the Federals stopped just short of Brooksville and did not enter the town.16 In response, Captain John T. Lesley, along with his father’s company, led a night attack against Union forces at Bayport, east of Brooksville, on July 10, 1864. Unfortunately, the Confederates became disoriented in the dark and never made contact with the enemy. Captain John T. Lesley was severely wounded in the arm, and Emory Campbell was killed by "friendly fire" from Captain Leroy G. Lesley’s Company.17
In conclusion, Solomon and Erhart are wrong to assert that the Florida Special Cavalry was “primarily” involved in “guerrilla campaigns” against Union forces. The Cow Cavalry’s primary mission was to collect and forward cattle to the Confederate Army. One can argue that the Union troops at Fort Myers were primarily involved in destructive nuisance raids.
THIRD, Solomon and Erhart suggest that the Florida Cow Cavalry attacked Fort Myers on February 20, 1865, for the purpose of crushing "the despised black [Union] troops.”18
That suggestion is totally unfounded. Solomon and Erhart do not provide any evidence whatsoever that race played a role in the Fort Myers attack or that members of the Cow Cavalry “despised” the black Union troops because of their skin color. They footnote pages 171-175 of Canter Brown, Jr.’s Florida’s Peace River Frontier for this statement. However on these pages, Brown makes no mention or reference of any kind that the Cattle Battalion hated and despised the USCT because of their race. While it is true that some Confederates during the war did despise Union troops who were black, there is no evidence from our wide collection of post-war memoirs and historical documents that support Solomon and Erhart’s claim.
There are two recorded incidents where USCT soldiers were killed by members of the Cow Cavalry. However, the documents and memoirs strongly support that they were not targeted because of their race. The first incident occurred on August 27, 1864, when a party of about 65 members of the Battalion came near Fort Myers opposite the river. According to Captain Crane, the Confederates sent a distress signal from the opposite shore and lured his men into an ambush. Crane deployed eight men, including a Corporal Thompson from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry, to investigate the signal. It appears from Crane’s report that the eight-man squad was racially mixed with both white and black soldiers. Crane reported that “on nearing the beach a negro well known to [Thompson] was standing awaiting the boat…..and Corporal Thompson and a colored soldier instead of adopting the usual course of making all wade out ran up to the shore. Instantly a heavy volley of musketry was poured into them, killing both, who fell into the water. The firing was then turned on the sloops and succeeded in mortally wounding a young man, Griner (refugee, since dead), and slightly one of the colored men.”19 It is clear from this report that the casualty list was as follows: two white soldiers dead (Thompson and Griner); one black soldier dead; and one black soldier wounded. Therefore, it is evident that the men were shot at simply because they were the enemy. The bullets did not discriminate. Some may point to this as evidence that the Cattle Battalion engaged in a “guerrilla campaign.” However, it is unclear why the Confederates opened fire. This incident is only described from the Union perspective. It is possible that the Confederates planned to capture the men and the sloop but were forced to shoot when the two Union soldiers suddenly ran up on the beach.
The other incident occurred on February 20, 1865, at Fort Myers. A large force under the command of Munnerlyn's field officer, Major William Footman, set out in early February for the purpose of capturing Fort Myers. As they came near the fort, the Confederate officers huddled to plan their next move. Edward G. Wilder of Captain John T. Lesley’s Company recalled “when we were about 2 miles from the fort, Major Footman held a council of war and expressed the conviction that we could capture the fort by killing or capturing the Yankee pickets who were on guard at Billy’s Branch, 1 mile east of the fort.”20 1st Lieutenant William M. Hendry selected Wilder and a few other men to capture the enemy pickets. According to Wilder, “we rode quietly along the way until we came in sight of the pickets, when Lieutenant Hendry leaned forward, saying, ‘Come on boys,’ and we picked them up in short order without firing a gun. We turned them over to Major Footman and his command, and then captured a few others who were on the outside of the fort. We killed one of them who seemed determined to make his way to the fort.”21 It is interesting to note that Wilder never mentioned that they killed a member of the USCT. To Wilder and the others in his squad, the soldier was killed because he was the enemy and refused to surrender. Had the individual successfully made his way to the fort, he would have alerted the entire garrison to the Confederates' presence thereby ruining the element of surprise. Edward J. Hilliard, who accompanied Captain F.A. Hendry’s command, also recalled the incident. “Next morning we took our line of march for Fort Myers. Pretty soon we spied a bunch of beef cattle in care of two men from Fort Myers and one colored man. Our advance guard captured one of the men and the other outran us to Punta Rassa. The negro would not surrender and was killed by the guard.”22 It is evident from the above accounts that the black soldier was not killed because of his race but because he refused to surrender and ran towards the fort which threatened the whole expedition.
In conclusion, Solomon and Erhart are incorrect to suggest that the Cow Cavalry had a burning hatred for the USCT because they were black. There is no real evidence to support their claim. From the various accounts, the USCT were despised because they were the enemy. As to the reasons surrounding the attack on Fort Myers, it was not to “crush the despised black troops.” Fort Myers was a thorn in the side to the Confederate cattle operations ever since it was occupied by the 2nd US Florida Cavalry in January 1864. Union troops from this outpost immediately became an annoyance to the Confederates, just like pesky mosquitoes with their hit and run raids. Because delivering subsistence to the Confederate Army was top priority, it was only after the cattle driving season had ended that an offensive campaign against the fort was proposed in early 1865.
FOURTH, Solomon and Erhart write that the Florida Cow Cavalry, with a “force of some 400 men,” attacked Fort Myers on February 20, 1865.23
That number is suspect and will raise the eyebrow of any informed scholar of the Civil War in Florida. There is strong evidence that suggests that the total number of attacking Confederates was much less. As innocent as it seems on the surface, this figure of 400 misleads the reader to conclude that the USCT fended off a much larger Confederate force than what was actually present. This would, of course, enhance the glory of the USCT. Although Solomon and Erhart fail to footnote their source for this number of 400, one does not have to excavate deep into the documents to find it.
In his post-battle report, Fort Myers Commander Captain James Doyle of the 110th New York Infantry wrote that “a large force of the enemy’s cavalry, estimated at about 400, with one piece of artillery, appeared before our works yesterday.”24 Even Doyle admitted that this number was an estimate.
Although the exact number of Cow Cavalry troopers at Fort Myers on February 20, 1865, is unknown, several Confederate post-war memoirs suggest the number fell within a range of 150-275. 1st Lieutenant F.C. M. Boggess of Captain F.A. Hendry’s Company was assigned to oversee the crossing of the Caloosahatchee River by the Confederates on their return trip to Fort Meade after the battle. Boggess remembered that there was “only one small skiff boat to ferry 200 men over.”25 According to Thomas B. Ellis who was also a participant, there was a “total of 200 men, under Major Footman.”26 Captain and Battalion Quartermaster James McKay, Jr. recalled that Major Footman “succeeded in getting together some 150 men, when [they] left Fort Meade with all the supplies [they] could pack on [their] horses, one piece of artillery and one wagon with a large skiff” loaded with corn.27 Captain Francis A. Hendry later wrote that there were 275 Confederates present at the battle.28 In his memoirs, E.G. Wilder of Captain John T. Lesley’s Company wrote that “there were parts of four cavalry companies engaged.”29 He also specifically said that these included the companies of Captains F.A. Hendry, J.T. Lesley, L.G. Lesley, and L.S. Agnew. Using company statistics from Major C.J. Munnerlyn’s December 10, 1864, report, these four companies totaled approximately 441 men at full strength.30 However, it is important to note that Wilder used the word “parts” indicating that four entire companies were not present. So therefore, it appears that the total Cow Cavalry force during the Fort Myers battle was significantly less than the number asserted by Solomon and Erhart.
In addition to Confederate memoirs, several contemporary Florida historians and scholars have also concluded that the attacking Cow Cavalry force was less than 400. In his article “Cattle Wars: The Civil War in South Florida, 1864-1865,” David J. Coles writes that Major Footman led a force of perhaps 200 men to Fort Myers.31 Robert A. Taylor, in his article “Cow Cavalry: Munnerlyn’s Battalion in Florida, 1864-1865,” estimates the number of Confederates at about 275.32 Next, Rodney E. Dillon, Jr., in his article “The Battle of Fort Myers,” states that Footman’s force was approximately 200 men.33 Dillon also correctly points out that Captain Doyle overestimated the strength of the attacking Confederates. Finally, Canter Brown, Jr., in his book Florida’s Peace River Frontier, writes that “Major Footman drew together near Jacob Summerlin’s house at Fort Meade between 150 and 275 Confederate troops.”34
In conclusion, it seems that Solomon and Erhart purposely use Doyle’s inflated and overestimated number of the attacking Cow Cavalry force in order to elevate the role and glory of the USCT who were among the defenders of Fort Myers. It is clear that they ignore the lower and more accurate estimates since they list several of the above sources in their footnotes.
FIFTH, Solomon and Erhart write that the attack on Fort Myers, February 20, 1865, was “anticipated by the fort’s commander.”35
That is a complete distortion of the facts. It is probably true that Union troops were at a heightened state of alert after Cow Cavalry troopers advanced to the outskirts of Fort Myers on August 27, 1864. Perhaps rumors had circulated that an attack was likely. However, the attack on February 20, 1865, was anything but anticipated. In fact, the documents and memoirs show that Major Footman and his entourage caught the Federals by complete surprise.
According to Union reports and accounts, the Confederates were first spotted around noon on February 20, 1865. Fort Myers Commander Captain J. Doyle reported that they “discovered the enemy approaching a few minutes after 12 [noon].”36 In his diary, Lieutenant William McCullough recalled that “at 12 o’clock this day” the Confederates “made their appearance opposite our post, demanding a surrender of the garrison.”37 Therefore, it is established that before 12 Noon, Union troops at Fort Myers were unaware of the Cow Cavalry’s presence.
Confederate accounts also support the fact that the Union troops were caught off guard. Thomas B. Ellis recalled that the enemy pickets were captured “just before day when the whole garrison was asleep and not expecting danger. Notwithstanding the plan [was] to rush on them and capture them before they could get ready for resistance, and all plans had been carried out and [we] were at their gates…”38 Edward G. Wilder also recalled that after Lieutenant William M. Hendry’s squad had captured the enemy pickets, “everything was in our favor.”39 According to Captain Francis A. Hendry, “Major Footman completely surprised the garrison when he sent in his flag of truce and politely demanded an unconditional surrender, except that the officers and men be treated as prisoners of war.”40
In addition to being surprised, Union and Confederate accounts suggest that the troops at Fort Myers were unprepared for an attack. Captain Doyle reported that his men “were instantly under arms and posted” after the flag of truce was seen approaching the fort and halted at a distance of 500 yards.41 According to E.G. Wilder, “a flag of truce was sent in ordering a surrender of the fort. In this short time they arranged their field pieces and small arms, and sent word back by our truce that if we got it we would have to take it.”42 T.B. Ellis echoed Wilder’s complaint. “Of course that gave them time to make ready for resistance, and of course they declined to surrender, and sent word if we wanted them to come in,” Ellis recalled.43 “By this time, the [Federals] had got into their trenches and were ready for business,” E.J. Hilliard wrote.44 While the Confederates were waiting for Captain Doyle to respond to Major Footman’s demand, the garrison prepared for an attack.
In conclusion, Captain Doyle and his troops at Fort Myers were caught napping. Solomon and Erhart’s suggestion that this attack was “anticipated” by Fort Myers Commander Captain J. Doyle withers on the vine in light of the above evidence. While it is true that Major Footman failed in his mission to capture the fort, the Cow Cavalry possessed the upper hand until the flag of truce was sent forward.
SIXTH, Solomon and Erhart write that the Florida Cow Cavalry’s attack on Fort Myers, February 20, 1865, was “ill-planned.”45
Perhaps, but that assertion may be unfair. It is undisputed that the Cow Cavalry failed in its mission to capture what Captain F.A. Hendry called, the “headquarters for all manner of mischief common to warfare.”46 However, unexpected contingencies rather than incompetence may have contributed to the failed capture of Fort Myers.
During the expedition to the fort, the Caloosahatchee River became an obstacle to the Cow Cavalry. Major Footman halted his command as there was no place to cross the river. Footman ordered the command to fall in line, and he made a speech to the men and told them that he intended to take Fort Myers in a surprise attack that night. According to Edward J. Hilliard, Major Footman gave every man a white cloth to tie around the right arm to avoid any mistaken fire in the night. Hilliard also recalled that Footman “said if there was a man in the command that was not willing to go into the fight to step out and he would give him a pass back to the rear.”47 Apparently, one man did step out and asked to be excused from the fight because he had a family and did not want to be killed.
After this, the Confederates immediately began to construct rafts to cross the river which was described as having a strong current and being a ½-mile wide at this particular point. Trees had to be cut down to make the rafts, and this delayed the expedition for hours. The supplies of food and ammunition were crossed on rafts towed by a skiff. James McKay, Jr. recalled that “it required some eight hours to cross,” and part “of the artillery ammunition was lost on account of the skiff capsizing.”48
The Cow Cavalry eventually made their way across the river without the loss of a single man and advanced along an old military road leading from Fort Thompson to Fort Myers. They came to a place called Mile Creek. By this time, it was almost dark. To make matters worse, it soon began to rain like the devil and turned the countryside into a muddy mess. “Night came on,” Hilliard remembered, “and about this time it began to rain and rained all night and that being a low, flat country, the water rose up about a foot deep all over the face of the earth. We could not tell were the road was, much less travel.”49 Apparently, the plan was changed, and it was decided that Fort Myers would be attacked at daybreak.
The next morning, however, the Confederates did not launch a surprise attack as planned but sent forward a demand for surrender under a flag of truce. It is not exactly clear why the preemptive strike was called off, but McKay, Jr., Wilder, and Ellis’ memoirs offer some clues. McKay, Jr. recalled that “when we formed into line and began an attack we discovered that nearly all of the ammunition both for artillery and small arms was worthless, damaged by water. This was a terrible disappointment to all, as, coming so far, with a prospect of success, we were compelled to return without accomplishing our object.”50 Wilder remembered that Major Footman and his officers held a consultation prior to sending forward the demand for surrender. On the return trip, Ellis asked Major Footman why he did not make the attempt. According to Ellis, Footman “said he did not think a good General would take the risk of having his men slaughtered.”51 These three accounts pieced together seem to suggest that the attack was canceled because the powder was soaked from the previous night’s rain. Some ammunition was also lost while crossing the Caloosahatchee River en route to Fort Myers. It is possible that there was not enough ammunition to launch a full-scale assault as planned. Instead, Major Footman probably called his officers together and decided to try a ruse and scare the garrison into surrendering rather than risk butchering his men. Perhaps Footman recalled the success of this trick by General Nathan Bedford Forrest in the Western Theater.
Historian Canter Brown, Jr. suggests that that the Confederates lost the element of surprise by the "gunfire" at Billy's Branch about a mile from the fort when the pickets were captured. Furthermore, Brown asserts that the gunfire and the ammunition problem were both instrumental in Footman's decision to avoid the "preemptive strike" on the fort.52 However, Fort Myers Commander Captain James Doyle wrote that he first noticed the Confederates at about noon on February 20, 1865, when the flag of truce was seen approaching the garrison. This was probably a few hours after the pickets were captured. It is possible that Footman wrongfully concluded that the fort was alerted to their presence and abandoned his original plans.
In conclusion, Solomon and Erhart’s assertion that the attack was “ill-planned” may be unfair. The various memoirs and accounts suggest that Major Footman had every intention to launch a preemptive strike. In fact, it seems he wanted to attack Fort Myers on the night of February 19. In the end, however, the Cow Cavalry’s greatest enemy during this expedition may have been the weather. Whether Major Footman lost his nerve or whether he cancelled a general assault due to the powder being soaked is a debatable issue. The accounts support the latter explanation. In any case, Major Footman was blamed and sharply criticized for failing in his mission to capture the Union garrison at Fort Myers. Among his sharpest critics were 1st Lieutenant F.C.M. Boggess and Captain Leroy G. Lesley.
SEVENTH, Solomon and Erhart write that the artillery duel during the Fort Myers battle on February 20, 1865, was won by the “cannoneers and marksmen of the 2nd USCT.”53
That statement is a farce. The reader is misinformed to believe that it was only the 2nd US Colored Troops that participated or played a significant role in the battle. According to various accounts, there were Companies D and J of the 2nd USCT, Companies A and B of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry, and a detachment of the 110th New York Infantry at the post, totaling about 250 men.54 The burden of keeping the Confederates at bay was shared among all of the soldiers at the fort.
In his report, Fort Myers Commander Captain James Doyle explained the sequence of events. At 1:10 PM., “the [rebels] opened fire from his artillery at a distance of about 1,400 yards….the enemy fired about 20 shells, doing us no damage,” Doyle reported.55 He said that Captain Dewey of the 2nd US Colored Troops “was placed in charge of the artillery. His practice was good, compelling the enemy to move his battery three times.”56 He went on to report that a portion of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry was formed into a skirmish line and occupied “the bushes and trees immediately in front, and kept up a sharp fire on the enemy’s lines.”57 These skirmishers were under the command of Lieutenant William McCullough. Doyle also reported that the USCT were posted behind the artillery and along the flanks.58 “At dark I strengthened our skirmish line, and the men inside the works were under arms all night. At daylight I visited the skirmish line and found the enemy had retreated,” Doyle noted.59 It is clear from Doyle’s post-battle report that the fighting was done collectively by the 2nd US Colored Troops and by the 2nd US Florida Cavalry. Doyle mentioned the 110th New York Infantry towards the end of his report.
In his diary, Lieutenant William McCullough of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry recorded his participation in the scrap. Captain Doyle, seeing that the Confederate battery was inching closer to the fort, ordered McCullough to take 20 men and form a skirmish line in front of the garrison. When they advanced to within 600 yards of the Confederate battery, McCullough placed his men behind the cover of the trees and waited for the Confederates to come within firing range. McCullough had planned to pick off the enemy’s artillerymen and capture the gun. However, his plan was spoiled when two of his men were spotted by the Cow Cavalrymen. The Confederates immediately sent forward sharpshooters to oppose this force. According to McCullough, “now our fun commenced in [earnest], our arms being so far superior to [the Confederates] in distance that the boys made them get in a hurry. Such falling down, rolling over, getting up and running I have never saw in my life. Seeing that we had the advantage, thought it best to advance 200 yards further, and opened a sharp fire from there on their battery that compelled them to move off in a hurry.”60 Again, it is clear that men from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry played an instrumental role in forcing the Cow Cavalry's battery to re-deploy.
Towards the end of his report, Doyle complimented those who participated in the battle. First, Doyle identified several of his key officers by name. “I cannot speak too highly of Captains Childs and Bartholf, of [the 2nd USCT], also of Captain Dewey, in rendering efficient aid in working our guns. Lieut. J.C Hiltz, acting adjutant, was very efficient in conveying my orders to different points, and rendered efficient service as did also Captain Fellows, 110th New York Volunteers,” and Lieut. William McCullough of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry.61 Then, Doyle praised his troops. “Every officer and soldier of the command did well,” he said.62 Nowhere in Doyle’s report did he say or imply that the USCT saved the day. It was a “team effort” in the eyes of Doyle.
Doyle went on to say something very curious. “I take this opportunity to bring to the notice of the commanding general the condition of the arms of the colored troops at this post. In both companies there are not 75 serviceable muskets,” Doyle stated.63 This seems to indicate that the USCT were not properly armed and equipped since there were likely more than 75 soldiers of the USCT at the garrison. Whether the white troopers of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry were better armed than the USCT is debatable. Lieutenant McCullough of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry, as stated previously, boasted that his arms were far superior to the Confederates. Although McCullough’s statement is in regards to quality and not quantity, it raises the issue of whether the USCT were properly armed. This may explain why a portion of the USCT was posted behind the artillery while the remainder was stationed along the flanks of the post. Rodney E. Dillon, in “The Battle of Fort Myers,” suggests that Fort Myers was being reduced or evacuated at the time of the battle, and that most of the supplies were being transferred to Punta Rassa.64 Perhaps this explains the discrepancy. In any case, Doyle’s statement raises some very interesting questions in regards to the equitable distribution of weapons and supplies to the various units.
In conclusion, it is outrageous for Solomon and Erhart to suggest and imply that the soldiers of the USCT played the major role in the Fort Myers battle. Indeed, their role is diminished if the USCT had only 75 serviceable muskets. Soldiers from the 2nd US Florida Cavalry and the 110th New York Infantry were also stationed at the garrison and participated in the battle and helped save the fort from capture.
EIGHTH, Solomon and Erhart write that after the Fort Myers battle on February 20, 1865, the Cow Cavalry disbanded and returned to private affairs until the end of the war.65
That suggestion is false. This is another unfounded assertion designed to denigrate the brave and courageous men who served in Munnerlyn's Battalion. The sources they cite in their footnotes do not support this statement. The documents clearly show that the Cattle Guard remained intact and in the field until it surrendered in May/June 1865.
Documents and memoirs indicate that the Cow Cavalry began to dissolve in May 1865. Tampa was occupied by Federal troops on May 27. Edward G. Wilder of Captain John T. Lesley’s Company recalled that he was with his company when he surrendered his musket to the Federal officer at Fort Brooke, Tampa, in May 1865.66 Edward’s brother, Thomas H. Wilder who served under McKay, Jr., stated in his Confederate pension application that the companies of Captains John T. Lesley and James McKay, Jr. surrendered at the same time at Fort Brooke.67 Thomas, however, could not remember the exact date. James McKay, Jr. recalled that he was paroled at Bayport on May 6, and that his parole was signed by Captain Pease.68 James Osgood Andrew Moody wrote in his soldier's pension claim that he served under McKay, Jr. of Munnerlyn’s Battalion “during the balance of civil war in and around Tampa and other points in South Florida in the Confederate Army until the close of the war, and that in 1865 and according to the best recollection of affiant in the month of May, this company was paroled at Tampa and at Bayport, and that affiant was paroled at Tampa and took the oath of allegiance to the United States."69 Captain John J. Dickison commanded a home guard force during the latter part of the war which included portions of the 2nd Florida Cavalry, the 5th Cavalry Battalion, and Captain E.J. Lutterloh’s Company from Munnerlyn’s Battalion. Lutterloh’s Company was nominally attached to the Cow Cavalry and was generally allowed to operate independently in Northwest Florida. On May 5, Dickison wrote Lutterloh and said “you will report in future to Lieut. Col Munnerlyn, commanding special battalion, at Brooksville.”70 Although this has nothing to do with a surrender, it shows that Lutterloh’s Company was in the field as of May 5. Richard James Bevan of Captain John C. Wilcox's Company was paroled on May 15, 1865, in Madison County.71 It is clear that May 1865 was the beginning of the end for the Cow Cavalry. Although it is unclear when all of the companies surrendered, several companies surrendered and were paroled at Fort Brooke and Bayport in May.
A Union report indicates that Munnerlyn’s Battalion was formally surrendered on June 5, 1865 at Bayport. The remainder of the Battalion in the field likely surrendered at this time. Major Edmund Weeks, 2nd US Florida Cavalry, wrote the following on May 30, 1865: "By order of Brigadier- General Newton I have sent commissioners to accept surrender of the Confederate forces in this vicinity. At Bronson, June 5, for Levy and adjoining counties; at Bayport, June 5, for [Munnerlyn’s] battalion; at Tampa, June 8, for the rebel forces south of Brooksville.”72 Up until this time, it appears that the Battalion had not formally surrendered although various companies had already been paroled by mid May.
Lt. Francis Calvin Morgan Boggess of Captain F. A. Hendry’s Company wrote about his surrender in his post-war memoirs. He was away from headquarters in Brooksville in April 1865, while attending a court martial at Tallahassee. It was in Madison that he received word of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Boggess returned to Brooksville where the surrender of Lee was once again confirmed and then went home. He went on to say that “in a short time Lieutenant DeCosta was sent out with his negro company to parole all. Some held back but [I] did not. [I] reported and was promptly paroled. [I] disliked to be paroled by a negro commander.”73 Boggess was apparently one of the last Cow Cavalrymen to officially end his Confederate service.
In conclusion, it is just plain wrong for Solomon and Erhart to assert that the Cow Cavalry disbanded before the war had ended. The documents clearly show that the Battalion was intact through April and began to dissolve in May. The activities of the Battalion between the Fort Myers battle and the end of the war are vague and sketchy. Boggess explained that the “Confederates kept up gathering and forwarding cattle until the war was ended.”74 While how much cattle was collected is debatable, it is clear that the Cow Cavalry fulfilled their duty until the end. It can be argued that members of the Battalion were some of the last to lay down their arms in the Civil War.
It is clear from our above analysis that Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart intentionally distort the history and role of Munnerlyn’s Cattle Battalion in order to elevate and glorify the United States Colored Troops. Their statements in regard to the Battalion are incorrect and misleading. Furthermore, the authors fail to include documents that show the USCT in a negative light.
In 1993 the Florida Historical Quarterly included an earlier article by Irvin Solomon entitled "Southern Extremities: The Significance of Fort Myers in the Civil War." The author mentions three letters from Captain Henry A. Crane of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry which clearly showed severe racial tensions between the Union white troops and the members of the United States Colored Troops.75 But these letters are not mentioned in the Solomon-Erhart article of 1999. Why?
On August 15, 1864, Crane wrote to Captain Bowers: "We have had some insubordination & desertions since our return home on account of leaving the families with the Cold [Colored] Troops....The policy is bad to leave families without proper protection and is materially injuring our cause. Recruiting is at an end here."76
On August 20, 1864, Crane wrote to Captain Bowers: "I will now touch upon a subject that I would fair leave out, but cannot. It has become really necessary to separate the Cold [Colored] Troops from the Refugee families. During our last months absence they have become greatly demoralized, and to such an extent has it been carried, that a long continuance can only tend to open irruption, & all this from a laxity of discipline that is truly unpardonable. Our women have been repeatedly insulted--Officers threatened. Horses stabbed with bayonets & otherwise injured. My authority defied by the Guards. My person & house stoned, hissed at, threatened with death &c & this in the immediate presence of an Officer (Capt. Willet) without a remonstrance or an attempt to subdue open mutiny to the disgrace of a Military Garrison. I[n] view of all these Matters I would respectfully ask that they may withdraw from this Post or that my command & the refugees may be sent away."77
Finally, on September 4, 1864, Crane wrote to Bowers: "I am anxiously awaiting the return of Cos. as it is almost impossible to get along with the Cold. [Colored] Troops. I am fully satisfied that each should be separate to accomplish anything,--The ignorance of the one & the sensitiveness of the other, tends to make every duty unpleasant. In fact the efficiency of the 2nd Cav. has been seriously injured by that connection & do hope you will impress the Genl Comdg with this matter. Our recruiting has been killed off almost entirely, & desertions have commence to [?] , I do not know when. The small force now here (40 men) apparently adds to their impudence and insubordination."78
Now, in an article about "Race and Civil War in South Florida," why would these letters be ignored? Why would Solomon and Erhart choose to disregard the statements of Captain Crane?
In 1994 The Sunland Tribune, journal of the Tampa Historical Society, published the Civil War papers of Lt. William McCullough, also of the 2nd US Florida Cavalry. Irvin Solomon was no doubt aware of the McCullough papers yet he and his co-author make no mention of McCullough's letters in their 1999 article. Lt. McCullough offered some fascinating comments on race relations in Florida during the Civil War.
On September 15, 1864, McCullough wrote from the Union post at Cedar Key:
"Nothing new in camps today, the health improves a little, the people are becoming more and more dissatisfied with this post and their noble brethren, and the officers who command them. This is caused by the treatment and contempt which they receive from the Northern [white] officers, as they allow their colored soldiers to abuse them by calling damn deserters, and their wives and daughters damn rebel bitches; yet they bear it with great patience believing the government will get them righted. These matters have been reported to the major of the regiment who says he will have them separated as soon as possible. He promised me that the colored troops should not move with him anymore.
"I have noticed that when these gentlemen of color are left in camps as a guard for protection of the women and children, that after night they would go around camps and insult them most grossly by asking them and the daughters of the soldiers to sleep with them. At the time while the troops were in West Florida, these gentlemen were left behind with the familys at St. Vincent's Island. One night the black devils went to a tent of a mother who had one small daughter about 10 years old, and another about 15. The grandfather of these girls was at the tent when they came, some of the hellhounds raised a conversation with him. The oldest daughter was not well at the time, and had gone to bed. Her feet were close to the back or outside of the tent, and one of them discovered the position of the feet, and worked his hand through the palmettos and got hold of the feet and endeavored to pull the girl thru the tent when she called to her mother for assistance. The grandfather requested them politely to behave themselves or retire. When they abused him badly, the old gentleman threatened to report them. The black fellows left and got their arms and came back. The old man sent the little girl off to rouse the refugees that were on this island to his assistance. Some 15 got together, and one went to the officer of the day. In the meantime, the rascals took the hint and left. The officer came up and enquired the difficulty. When he heard the old man's story, he seem to doubt the matter, and left saying he did not believe the report, saying also that he knew the colored soldiers would not conduct themselves in such a manner. The man told the officer that if the military law could not protect them after they had left their all to keep from fighting against the government of their fathers, and had claimed the protection of that government, then they would protect themselves; and let the blame or consequences rest on those who fail to do their duties as agents of the government."79
But Irvin Solomon fails to include this account. It certainly does not make those United States Colored Troops look like the "very beau ideal of black soldiery," a comment made by a white officer in the USCT.80
In their 1999 article, Solomon and Erhart include a story from a reporter with the New York Times who wrote about the black soldiers at the Fort Myers battle. The reporter observed: "The colored soldiers were in the thickest of the fight. Their impetuosity could hardly be restrained; they seemed totally unconscious of danger, or regardless of it and their constant cry was to 'get at them'."81
The reporter exhibited a latent racism in his assertion that the black soldiers "could hardly be restrained," with the clear implication that the soldiers were primitive creatures who had to be held back by their more "civilized" white officers. Solomon, the politically correct professor, seems to overlook that very interesting point.
A final example of the arrogance and bias of Irvin Solomon can be found in the figures he uses for the Confederate Cow Cavalry force that attacked Fort Myers. In his 1993 article, Solomon employs the most liberal Confederate estimate of 275. Completely ignoring this in their 1999 paper, Solomon and Erhart use only the inflated Union figure of 400 Confederate troops at the battle.82
The 1999 Solomon and Ehrhart article received the "coveted" Arthur W. Thompson Award from the Florida Historical Society as the outstanding article for that volume of the Quarterly. That says a lot about the current state of historical writing by academics in the nation's universities, especially their obsessions with race, political correctness and Southern-bashing.
We trust that we have sufficiently refuted the disgusting and outrageous comments made by Solomon and Erhart about the men of Munnerlyn's Cattle Guard Battalion. We abhor biased and unfair "scholarly" writing. Irvin Solomon would be well advised to leave the study of the Civil War in Florida to more competent hands.
l. Irvin D. Solomon and Grace Erhart, "Race and Civil War in South Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly 77 (Winter 1999), 340.
2. Henry A. Crane to Henry W. Bowers, April 15, 1864, Dept. and Dist. of Key West, 1861-68, RG 393, National Archives (hereinafter, Crane Letters).
3. Ibid., James McKay, Sr., to Pleasants W. White, January 7, February 4, March 25, 1864, Pleasant W. White Papers, Florida Historical Society, Cocoa (hereinafter, White Papers).
4. P. W. White, A. B. Noyes, A. G. Summer and James McKay to Henry Bryan, March 5, 1864, "Old Papers Belonging to Capt. F. A. Hendry, filed in Lee County, FL, Circuit Court by Mrs. J. F. Menge." Copies at Ft. Myers Historical Museum, copied by Kyle S. VanLandingham, 2001 (hereinafter, Hendry Papers).
5. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
6. Robert A. Taylor, Rebel Storehouse, Florida in the Confederate Economy (Tuscaloosa, AL, 1995), 111-132.
7. Charles J. Munnerlyn to William Miller, December 10, 1864, Hendry Papers.
8. McKay to White, March 25, 1864, White Papers.
9. Crane to Bowers, April 12, 1864, Crane Letters.
10. Ibid., March 16, 1864, Crane Letters.
11. Crane to James D. Green, April 2, 1864, Crane Letters.
12. Canter Brown, Jr., Florida's Peace River Frontier (Orlando, FL, 1991), 163.
15. Ibid., 168.
16. Ibid., 170.
17. Edward G. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida," Confederate Veteran 19 (February 1911), 75.
18. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
19. Crane to Bowers, September 4, 1864, Crane Letters.
20. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida," 75.
22. Fort Meade Leader, February 24, 1916.
23. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
24. James Doyle to E. B. Tracy, February 21, 1865, United States War Department, War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, [OR] 128 vols. (Washington, D. C., 1880-1901), ser. 1, vol. 49, part 1, 53 (hereinafter, Doyle's Report).
25. Francis Calvin Morgan Boggess, A Veteran of Four Wars: The Autobiography of F. C. M. Boggess (Arcadia, FL, 1900), 69.
26. Thomas Benton Ellis, Sr., "Confederate Diary of Thomas Benton Ellis, Sr., Company C, Hernando Guards, 3rd Florida Infantry, July 1861-April 1865," 10, Manuscript Collection, P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History, University of Florida, Gainesville.
27. James McKay, Jr., " History of Tampa of the Olden Days," Tampa Times, December 18, 1923.
28. Francis Asbury Hendry, "A History of the Early Days in Fort Myers," reprinted, South Florida Pioneers 10 (October 1976), 4.
29. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida," 75.
30. Munnerlyn to Miller, December 10, 1864, Hendry Papers.
31. David J. Coles, "Cattle Wars: The Civil War in South Florida, 1864-1865," The Proceedings of the Florida Cattle Frontier Symposium, November 1995, (Kissimmee, FL, 1995), 71.
32. Robert A. Taylor, "Cow Cavalry: Munnerlyn's Battalion in Florida," Florida Historical Quarterly 65 (October 1986), 211.
33. Rodney E. Dillon, "The Battle of Fort Myers," Tampa Bay History 5 (Fall/Winter 1983), 30.
34. Brown, Florida's Peace River Frontier, 173.
35. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
36. Doyle's Report.
37. Kyle S. VanLandingham, ed., "'My National Troubles': The Civil War Papers of William McCullough," Sunland Tribune 20 (November 1994), 73.
38. Ellis, "Confederate Diary," 10.
39. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida,: 75.
40. Hendry, "A History of the Early Days in Fort Myers," 4.
41. Doyle's Report.
42. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida," 75.
43. Ellis, "Confederate Diary," 10.
44. Fort Meade Leader, February 24, 1916.
45. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
46. Hendry, "A History of the Early Days in Fort Myers," 3.
47. Fort Meade Leader, February 24, 1916.
48. McKay, "History of Tampa of the Olden Days," Tampa Times, December 18, 1923.
49. Fort Meade Leader, February 24, 1916.
50. McKay, "History of Tampa of the Olden Days," Tampa Times, December 18, 1923.
51. Ellis, "Confederate Diary," 10.
52. Brown, Florida's Peace River Frontier, 173.
53. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
54. Dillon, "The Battle of Fort Myers," 31.
55. Doyle's Report.
60. VanLandingham, ed., "'My National Troubles,'" 73.
61. Doyle's Report.
64. Dillon, "Battle of Fort Myers," 31.
65. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
66. Wilder, "Escapade in Southern Florida," 75; Edward Gross Wilder, Confederate Pension Application File, Florida State Archives.
67. Thomas Hopkins Wilder, Confederate Pension Application File, Florida State Archives.
68. McKay, "History of Tampa of the Olden Days," Tampa Times, December 18, 1923.
69. James Osgood Andrew Moody, Confederate Pension Application File, Florida State Archives.
70. Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Dickison and His Men (Louisville, KY, 1890), 212.
71. Richard James Bevan, Confederate Parole, May 15, 1865, Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, NC.
72. Edmund Weeks to J. S. Ransom, May 30, 1865, OR, ser. 1, vol. 49, part 2, 984.
73. Boggess, A Veteran of Four Wars, 72-74.
74. Ibid., 69.
75. Irvin D. Solomon, "Southern Extremities: The Significance of Fort Myers in the Civil War," Florida Historical Quarterly 72 (October 1993), 146.
76. Crane to Bowers, August 15, 1864, Crane Letters.
77. Ibid., August 20, 1864, Crane Letters.
78. Ibid., September 4, 1864, Crane Letters.
79. VanLandingham, ed., "'My National Troubles,'" 72.
80. Solomon, "Southern Extremities," 146.
81. Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.
82. Solomon, "Southern Extremities," 147, 151; Solomon and Erhart, "Race and Civil War," 340.