About Me

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I am a lifelong student of military history with particular interest in the Battle of Antietam. I work for the federal government in Washington DC and have two young adult children who I love very much. I currently volunteer at Antietam and devote much time to the study of this battle and the Maryland Campaign. I enjoy collecting notable contemporary quotations by and about the men of Antietam. Since 2013 I have been conducting in depth research on the regular artillery companies of the Union Army and their leaders. I hope to turn this into a book on this subject in the future. My perspective comes from a 28-year career in the U.S. Army. Travels took me to World War II battlefields in Europe and the Pacific where American valor ended the tyranny of Nazism and Empire. But our country faced its own greatest challenge 80 years earlier during the Civil War. And it was the critical late summer of 1862, when Robert E. Lee launched the Maryland Campaign. It is an incredible story of drama, carnage, bravery, and missed opportunities that culminated around the fields and woodlots of peaceful Sharpsburg MD. So join me as I make this journey South from the North Woods.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Five Cents a Mile

William Ennis USMA 1864
The following story underscores how little things have changed over the years when it comes to the bureaucracies under which we live.  This is the story of the travails young Second Lieutenant William Ennis of the 4th Artillery.  Lieutenant Ennis was a member of the West Point Class of 1864.  He was the first of three generations of the Ennis family who would serve in the ranks of the artillery and reach general officer rank[1]. 

Ennis Letter Page 1
After receiving his commission in June of 1864, Bill Ennis was assigned to Battery M, 4th Artillery.  This unit was one of the relatively small number of regular artillery batteries assigned to one of the western armies during the Civil War.  First Lieutenant Samuel Canby commanded Battery M at the time that Ennis served there.  The twenty-five year old Canby was not a West Pointer. He started the war as a sergeant in the 4th New Jersey Volunteers.  Canby received a regular commission in the 4th Artillery in 1861 and saw action at Shiloh and Gettysburg[2].   

The newly minted lieutenant earned his spurs and was twice brevetted for gallantry at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864 and at the Battle of Nashville on December 15 and 16, 1864.

Ten months passed and the war was over.  In October 1865, the War Department was downsizing the Army and converting most of the field and horse (or light) artillery batteries back into foot artillery.  That meant no horses and no guns.  In the 4th Artillery Regiment, only Batteries B and G kept their designation as Light Batteries.  The Department set about to fill up all the light battery officer slots.  At the same time, it ordered Battery G from Burton Barracks near St. Louis to Fort Wayne, Detroit Michigan.

Page 2
Lieutenant Ennis was now assigned on paper to Company F, but actually served with Company D at Brownsville Texas. In late November or early December, he received orders to report to Light Battery G.   As he scanned his orders, he observed that they did not identify the location of his new assignment.   All he knew was that the battery had some time earlier been ordered by General Grant to report to Lieutenant General Sherman’s Military Division of the Mississippi at Saint Louis.  Ennis settled his affairs at Brownsville, booked a passage to New Orleans and then journeyed up the Mississippi to Saint Louis.  When he arrived and reported to Sherman’s headquarters, he was told by a staff officer that he  believed that the battery was located at Little Rock Arkansas but that the young officer should go over to General Popes headquarters of the Military Department of the Missouri, also located in St. Louis and find out for certain.  At Pope's headquarters, he was told, yes, the unit was located in Little Rock.  Ennis travelled to Little Rock, 350 miles away only to learn that the company was actually located at Fort Wayne outside of Detroit Michigan.  Apparently, neither Sherman or Pope’s headquarters had any idea where one of their artillery companies was located. At least the staff officer who directed Ennis to Little Rock certainly did not know.  Bill packed his bags, proceeded to Detroit by way of Cairo Illinois and at long last found his new assignment.
The lieutenant was entitled to reimbursement for his transportation cost and accordingly submitted his travel voucher.  Those of us who work for the government know how that process works.   In those days, the Quartermaster Department settled travel vouchers.  Ennis received $66 for travel from New Orleans to Detroit but was not reimbursed for his detour to Saint Louis and then Little Rock. 

Page 3
Bill’s only recourse was to write a letter to the Adjutant General in Washington DC requesting that the additional sum of $72 be reimbursed to him for his “good faith” travel to Little Rock. On February 16, 1867 nearly a year after making the journey he penned his letter (see it at the right) and provided copies of all his documentation. By now, Ennis was a first lieutenant and served as aide-de-camp to Major General Schofield in Richmond. Would the War Department take note of an unknown lieutenant’s claim or had his mentor General Schofield maybe gotten involved on in the case.  Apparently the communication was routed to the Quartermaster General’s office, which on March 20th penned a 2-page memorandum back to the Adjutant General recommending that the lieutenant be reimbursed.  On March 26th, the Adjutant General wrote a three page memorandum agreeing that the lieutenant be reimbursed $72 for his expenses.  Presumably Bill Ennis got his money some time thereafter. 

Lieutenant Ennis’s 2,600 mile journey[3] with detours to Detroit Michigan ultimately cost the government $138.00 and five pages of memoranda by the Quartermaster General and Adjutant General’s offices.  That is about 5 cents a mile. 

 William"Bull" Ennis USMA 1901
Lieutenant Ennis had a long and distinguished career as an artilleryman in the United States Army.  A first lieutenant for twenty-one years, and captain for ten more, he thereafter moved more rapidly up the ranks.  During the Spanish-American War, among other duties, he commanded a battalion of siege artillery in Cuba. Ennis retired as a brigadier general on November 7, 1905. 

While on active duty, his son the legendary William Peirce “Bull” Ennis graduated from West Point in 1901 and followed his father into the artillery.[4]  He too reached the rank of brigadier general and became known in the artillery community as a foremost trainer and is acknowledged for his role in getting the artillery in shape for World War Two. 

William P. Ennis USMA 1926
William Ennis was alive when his grandson William Peirce Ennis Jr. graduated from West Point in 1926.  Perhaps the most well known of the Ennis line, he saw action in North Africa and Europe during World War Two. In the Korean War, he commanded the X Corps Artillery. The youngest Ennis eventually reached the rank of Lieutenant General and served for a time as President of the Army War College at Carlisle.[5]

When the first Bill Ennis, a veteran of the bloody battles of Franklin and Nashville died at the age of 96 on September 30, 1938.  He was the oldest surviving graduate of the Military Academy.  One wonders if he ever told his son and grandson about the $72 travel voucher.   

[1] Father of Brigadier General William Ennis Jr. 1878-1968; Grandfather of Lieutenant General William Ennis  1904-1989.  All three were artilleryman and West Point graduates.  I also discovered a William Waggaman Ennis (1921-1999), a 1942 graduate of the Naval Academy and highly decorated submarine officer in World War Two.
[2] Samuel Canby was from Delaware.  He entered the Army on April 25, 1861 as a sergeant and was later promoted to First Sergeant of the 4th New Jersey Infantry.  He was appointed a first lieutenant and served as adjutant of the 2nd Delaware Infantry until November 1861.  Canby was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 4th U.S. Artillery Regiment on October 21, 1861 and assigned initially to Company H where he received a brevet for gallantry at Shiloh. Promoted to first lieutenant and transferred to Company A on August 5 1862, he received a brevet at Gettysburg.  Canby returned to the west to Company M where he served for the remainder of the war.  He received a third brevet to major for his actions at Franklin Tennessee.  Canby resigned from the Army on July 1, 1868 and died on July 24, 1897.  [Source Heitman]
[3] Brownsville to New Orleans  700 miles; New Orleans to St Louis 675 miles; St Louis to Little Rock 350 miles; Little Rock to Cairo Ill 285 miles; Cairo Ill to Detroit 590 miles; Total 2600 miles

[4] See this link for more information on “Bull” Ennis. http://apps.westpointaog.org/Memorials/Article/4013/
[5] The information on Lieutenant General Ennis was found in his December 14, 1962 obitiuary in the New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/14/obituaries/william-p-ennis-85-headed-war-college.html

1 comment:

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