1862: Andrew Thomas McReynolds to his Daughter

Col. Andrew Thomas McReynolds

This letter was written by Col. Andrew Thomas McReynolds (1808-1898). McReynolds was born in Ireland and came to the Michigan in 1833. There he married Elizabeth Brewster in 1835 and together they raised at least seven children. During the Mexican War, McReynolds served as a captain in the 3rd US Dragoons and was breveted a Major for gallant and meritorious service at Contreras and Churubusco where he was wounded.

When the Civil War erupted, McReynolds was personally commissioned a Colonel in the U.S. Regular Army by Abraham Lincoln when cavalry units became a necessity. He accordingly recruited men for the “Lincoln Cavalry” which mustered into the service as the 1st New York Cavalry Regiment at New York City. Companies A, B, D, E, G, H, I, L and M, were recruited principally in New York city, four of them being composed of Germans, Hungarians and Poles; Company C, Boyd’s Company C, Cavalry, Pa. Vols., at Philadelphia; F, at Syracuse; and K, Michigan Company, at Grand Rapids, Mich.

When this letter was written during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, the regiment was attached to the 1st Division, 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac. From its first engagement at Pohick Church, Va., in Aug., 1861, to the surrender at Appomattox, all, or part of the regiment, participated in nearly 230 battles and skirmishes. Some of the heaviest casualties of the regiment were incurred at Strasburg, Va., where it lost 17 killed, wounded and missing; at Winchester, where it lost 63 killed, wounded and missing; at New Market, where its loss was 99 killed, wounded and missing; and at Piedmont, where it lost 26 killed, wounded and missing. McReynolds was mustered out on June 15, 1864, possibly from his tenure expiring.

1861 Recruiting Poster for the Lincoln Cavalry


Headquarters N. Y. Cavalry
Camp 11 miles from Richmond
May 23, 1862

Dear Mary,

I received your letter of the 15th last night and it was quite a relief to me as my last received was the 2nd of May before Frank had visited home. It must have been pleasant for you all to have him at home even for so short a time. I presume he made quite a flourish. He wrote me on his arrival at New York but not a word about home or family. I have not heard from him since.

We will soon be in Richmond when he will follow up with sutler supplies. I have written Franklin advising him to forward a large stock of goods. Frank will have a good chance to make money. You don’t say anything about the deafness of Maria. I infer from that that it is not serious. I am glad to know that my $70 remittance reached safe and so opportune. It is strange that you had not heard from Mr. [Frederick A.] Nims previous to your writing. The day I sent mine by express, he requested me to forward $50 to you for him. I obtained it the next day and handed him $45, retaining $5 for pocket money. I preferred that he should send it, thinking he would be better satisfied. You have probably received it ‘ere this, at any rate, your Mother will decide until it reaches you. When I next see him, I will tell him of the receipt of your letter and that you had not heard from him for so long a time. It may be that his letters have miscarried, the mails are so irregular. I received 3 letters from your Mother in one day written 3 weeks apart, but have not received the business letters spoken of. I will write from Richmond and make another remittance as soon as I can get hold of money from the paymaster. My expenses are very light. All I receive divided between home and creditors.

My regiment is kept in the saddle day and night. It is the only cavalry in our Army Corps of some 30 thousand men. Captain [Anson N.] Norton’s Company [K], I regret to say, lost two men yesterday afternoon. Sergeant [George W.] Cummings from Muskegon, I think, one of my best men, was shot through the heart, pierced with 2 balls, and shocking to think of, the fiends inhuman form, cut off one ear after his death. His body is now in camp and will be decently buried this afternoon. 1 The other, a corporal named [William D.] Anderson from Grand Rapids. 2 His father resides there. He visited his son last winter in company with Judge Tracy. His horse was shot, and beside his horse marks of where he had lain were discovered with considerable blood. We searched for his body but could not find it. It is probable he was badly wounded, captured, and carried off. I hope it is so and that he yet lives. He too was a good soldier. At the same time, 8 of Norton’s company charged upon and drove over 50 rebel infantry into the woods. We lost 4 horses in the affair.

When anything interesting arises, I will write your Mother. Tell her this must answer for all the family. My time is much occupied, 3 or 4 hours sleep is about all we can hope for in the 24 hours. I shall be glad when it is all over and I can enjoy once more the sweets of home in Bower Cottage.

With love to all. Your affectionate father, — Andrew T. McReynolds

1 Muster rolls indicate that George W. Cummins entered the service when he was 34 years old as a private in Co. K. He was promoted to sergeant prior to his death which took place on 22 May 1862 near Mechanicsville, Virginia. He was actually from Grand Rapids.

2 William D. Anderson mustered into Co. K at Grand Rapids as a private. He was captured at Chickahominy, Virginia on 22 May 1862 and paroled at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia, on 13 September 1862. He was discharged as a corporal for disability on 10 November 1862 at Annapolis, Maryland.

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