Sunday, March 30, 2014

A nasty scrap with Col. Cross's brother

Squabbles over promotion were common during the Civil War, but few were as curious and contentious as the change of command of the 5th New Hampshire in early 1865. The contenders had both distinguished themselves in unusual ways.

One was Welcome Crafts. As we know from the three posts here, here and here, he had been humiliated for trying to lend money to subordinates at high interest, had fallen asleep and been captured on the battlefield and had barely escaped a court-martial for beating up a prisoner.

The other was Richard Cross, younger brother of Edward E. Cross, original colonel of the 5th. A daring battlefield record and strict leadership made Edward Cross a war hero in New Hampshire. Richard Cross was a drunkard and ne'er-do-well who had been court-martialed and cashiered.

The succession of commanders of the 5th ran:

Charles Hapgood
Edward E. Cross, colonel from August 1861 until his death at Gettysburg in early July 1863.

Charles Hapgood, colonel from July 8 until he was wounded at Petersburg on June 16, 1864.

James E. Larkin, major and later lieutenant colonel, from July 16, 1864, until he left the service on Oct. 12, 1864.

Welcome A. Crafts, major and later lieutenant colonel, from Oct. 12, 1864, until Feb. 21, 1865, when Lt. Col. Richard E. Cross was reinstated and given the job.

Richard E. Cross, until his appointment was revoked April 29, 1865, shortly after the war ended.

The final passing of the torch caused trouble, with Crafts leading the protest.

Mark Travis, my co-author for My Brave Boys, our history of the 5th under Edward E. Cross, used court-martial and pension records to tell the story of Richard E. Cross’s demise in 1864. From our epilogue in that book, here are the relevant portions of this account:

Richard E. Cross
“The intemperate Richard Cross had risen in the Fifth due to his brother’s influence; after the colonel’s death he fell not just from grace but from the army. At Point Lookout [a POW camp to which the regiment was assigned] in the spring of 1864 Colonel Hapgood and Major Larkin brought court-martial charges against Cross, then the Fifth’s lieutenant colonel. . . . Hapgood and Larkin, among other officers, accused Cross of wandering from camp at will, falling asleep drunk in a civilian’s bed while wearing muddy boots, and demonstrating leniency toward a Southerner convicted of striking a black soldier. . . .

“In a demonstration of the bullishness that ran in the family, Cross tried to leave Point Lookout with the charges still pending. The base commander had him removed from a steamer; defiantly, Cross boarded another one. This led to more serious charges, to which Cross and Hapgood alike reacted with horror. Cross attempted to resign from the army; Hapgood, citing the regiment’s reputation and the colonel’s memory, asked that the resignation be accepted. It was too late. Cross was tried in June of 1864, convicted, and cashiered.”

Sen. Daniel Clark
The story did not end there. Apparently, at Richard Cross’s request, Gov. Joseph A. Gilmore and U.S. Sen. Daniel Clark, both Republicans, figured out a way to have Cross reinstated. His service record reads, “cashiered Aug. 4, ’64,” followed by the notation declaring Cross’s “disab. resulting from dismissal removed Jan. 16, ’65.”

When Crafts learned of this, he went bonkers. He and Cross were near-contemporaries, and both came from Coos Country, New Hampshire’s northernmost. That region’s representative on the Executive Council, an advisory panel to the governor with a say in appointments and contracts, was 67-year-old David Culver of Lyme, N.H. Earlier in life, Culver had risen to the rank of general in a local militia. Crafts wrote Culver a scathing letter protesting the injustice of Cross’s exoneration and elevation to command of the 5th. He also sent Gov. Gilmore a copy of Hapgood’s original charges against Cross, pointing out that these had been sufficient to prompt Cross to try to resign.

“General [Gilman] Marston [also a New Hampshire congressman] or Colonel Hapgood, both of whom are known to you and are fully reliable, can tell you Cross is incompetent, intemperate and wholly unworthy,” Crafts wrote Culver. “That he was a ranting McClellanite and Copperhead until a short time before the election is a patent fact.”

Every officer in the regiment, as well as the brigade and division commanders, wrote the state’s adjutant general recommending that Crafts, not Cross, be appointed to lead the 5th. In the face of this overwhelming support, the governor “yields to the pressure from home Generals” and to Clark’s “immense influence,” Crafts wrote.

Gov. Joseph A. Gilmore
“We can regard it in no other light than a gross act of injustice which I am sure our Noble Hearted Governor would not be guilty of could he but look at the matter rightly. I cannot think that our Governor and Council will disregard the wishes and feelings of the boys who are fighting for them in the field and have from the beginning offered their lives for the ease and security they enjoy, or insult and disgrace them to please the miserable grumbling politicians who know nothing of the service and care much less.

“I am unwilling to believe that after I have saved the Regiment from demoralization and disgrace . . . my rights are to be invaded and my honor stolen by a recent convert from open disloyalty whose intemperance, incompetency and unworthiness will be as it has already been a disgrace upon the State and Regiment to which he belongs.”

Crafts disparaged “the argument set up by the friends of Cross” that when “wrongfully dismissed men” were reinstated, they should have the positions they might otherwise have risen to. “There was no rehearing – simply an arbitrary order and a great influence of Senator Clark would have been sufficient to have reinstated any other rascal as quick.”

The only remedy, Crafts wrote, was for the council to press the governor to revoke Cross’s commission as colonel, which was dated Feb. 21, 1865. Otherwise, he said, the officers of the 5th would resign en masse.
Crafts wrote his letter on March 3. He was promoted to the brevet rank of colonel 10 days later. The war ended in early April. On April 29, eight weeks after Crafts wrote, Richard E. Cross’s appointment as colonel was revoked.

David Culver, the Lyme businessman who served on the Executive Council, died just after the war, on June 15, 1865. In his will he left money for a state college, but the hall constructed with his money went up on the Dartmouth campus. Culver Hall stood for nearly 60 years before it was demolished in 1929.

Culver Hall at Dartmouth College (Library of Congress)

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