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March 26, 2013 — buried Calvary Cemetery New York
William McNamara – Sergeant, Fourth United States Cavalry - Troop F from 1856 to 1887
Compiled by Mary Anthony Long Startz – his Great, Great Granddaughter
Paper begun May 29, 2006
This endeavor is a compilation on information gathered about William McNamara and his time spent in the Fourth Cavalry, Troop F from December 3, 1856 until his retirement August 8, 1887. Later chapters will follow with information about his descendents that I have been able to trace.
From registers of enlistments with the U.S. Army I have been able to compile a time line about William’s service, where he was posted and what events coincided with his personal life and his military life. I will also site references from books published about the Fourth Cavalry, its engagements and postings.
William McNamara’s first Register of Enlistment is from Baltimore, Maryland dated December 3, 1856. His name however is spelt William ‘McMarah’ and this is the only time it is spelt this way. All other personal references including his later signatures and his tomb stone are spelt ‘McNamara’ or ‘McNamarra’. We can speculate on this as his signature shows ‘his X’ in between his first and last name. William is listed with the occupation of laborer and he his ‘21’ years of age. We will see variance on birth age throughout his records by a couple of years, so we could presume that he was possibly a couple of years younger in 1856. We will see that he was born anywhere between 1834 and 1837 depending on how old the records show. We can also assume that he learned to write and probably read as he develops a good signature on his later enlistment records. All of his enlistments refer to his place of origin as County Mayo, Ireland, however no town is named. William’s recruiting officer is Lieutenant John Adams, First Regiment of Dragoons and this is noted as his ‘First Enlistment’. His enlistment is number ‘5 256’. This enlistment was for a period of five years.
October 3, 1861 William in now ‘26’ years old and has ‘voluntary “re-enlisted” ….for a period of three years. The ‘FIVE’ is lined through and the ‘three’ is handwritten on top of the five. McNamara is spelt ‘McNamarra’. Register of Enlistment is in the territory of Nebraska at Fort Kearny. He is described on this and later registers as having ‘blue eyes, light hair, fair complexion, is 5 feet 6 ½ inches high’. His recruiting officer is First Lieutenant John A. Wilcox. It is numbered 2 427. It appears that William has signed this register of enlistment having spelt his name ‘Willaam (Possibly a J for middle initial) McNamara.
William’s next register is dated March 25, 1864 for another three years. (this is one year before the Civil war ends and it is interesting that the Fourth Cavalry is re-enlisting soldiers in Nashville, Tennessee. It is noted as his third enlistments with the three prior served in Company ‘F’ 4th Reg’t of U.S. Cavalry. It has two numbers 362 and ‘re-enlistment 962. Recruiting officer is what appears to be G W Sullivan Lieutenant. William has signed his enlistment with a wobbly signature of William McNamarra.
Next William appears in Fort Mason, Texas and is age thirty three. The date is March 25, 1867. This time William ‘voluntarily re-enlist’ for five years. He signs his name Wm McNamara. His recruiting officer is Brevet Major Wirt Davis. In many of the references of ‘On the Border with Mackenzie’ Wirt Davis later is a Captain and is in charge of troop F. This re-enlistment is number 237. The Declaration of Recruit is completed on the back side of the form for the first time. This time William declares that he is thirty three and that he has a wife. Her name was Ellen Ryan and she was born in Ireland. It is witnessed by Michael D Noffon (sp?)….Chief Trumpeter. From later US census records a son William H. was born in August of 1867 in ‘Texas’. (This son William died May 28, 1939 and is buried in Minneola, New York.)
All of these registers have the signature of an examining surgeon. Going forward I will try to capture the names as in later histories of the Fourth Cavalry the surgeon’s names is listed. On this 1867 record, the surgeons’ name appears to be something like C.E. Dumneicher (sp).
On April 5, 1869 a second child was born to William and Ellen and they named her Mary Ann. I have correspondence with one of Maryann’s daughters, Anna McGuire from the early 1990’s that I will reference later. Maryann died in August of 1955.
The next ‘Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance’ is dated March 25, 1872. The ink is fairly faint however his age is clearly ‘thirty five’ so William this time only aged two years in five between re-enlistments. Wirt Davis is now captain and the location is Fort Griffin, in the state of Texas. The Assistant Surgeon is Carlos Carvallo. This re-enlistment is also for five years. From census and family record we show a next child born November 19, 1872 named Thomas Patrick. He died September 17, 1937 and is buried in Westbury, NY. This is my great grandfather. According to records he was born in ‘Indian territory’ so we think he was born at Fort Sill. There were two other girls born, Ellen (Nellie) who never married and died in 1954 and Belinda who married William Patrick Ryan and died in Providence RI in 1907. The last child born to William and Ellen was a son, James born March 22, 1878 in Texas. Anna McGuire, the granddaughter of William McNamara had copies of William’s discharge papers. We corresponded in the early 1990’s and in one of her letters Anna quoted this one dated March 25, 1872.
William’s copy is signed by Captain Wirt Davis and it says under the section ‘Character’ ‘Excellent:’ ‘As a soldier faithful and reliable as a non-commissioned officer – one of the best in the service.’ The discharge papers from Sept 12, 1879 say under Character, “A married man- an excellent man and a fine soldier. I would trust him with anything” signed by Commanding Officer. Anna McGuire goes on to write ‘ Every discharge- Under Character has the comment- “Excellent” by the Commander “Excellent Soldier”. This is important as we will discuss later in another Sergeant’s memoirs from the time that has not so fond memories of William.
On March 26, 1877 William’s next Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance is from the Post of Camp Robinson, Nebraska. This re-enlistment is also for five years. His age is now forty years old. He is re-enlisted by recruiting Officer Second Lieutenant Joseph H. Dorst. It is numbered 33. On this date I have a copy of this form that was given to me by Anna McGuire. It is different that the enlistment forms in that it also has two other signatures on the form, one from the Colonel R.S. Moelbugh (sp?) and Wirt Davis, the Captain. There is a section for ‘Character’ and in Wirt Davis’ handwriting the quote is ‘An excellent soldier.’
On the back Captain Wirt Davis has also written ‘This soldier participated in the following Indian engagements, viz: - North Fork of the Red River, Texas, September 29, 1872. North Fork of the Powder River Wyoming Territory, November 25, 1876. Then a few months later the form is signed below this…. ‘Fort Sill, I.T. May 7, 1877 Paid in full #4482.91 D. Taylor Paymaster U.S.A. We will also discuss these Indian Engagements as well.
On January 24, 1879 William McNamara asked for a leave and “was discharged upon his own application, by S.O.ch.4.es.AGO on account of the insanity of his wife whom he took to his people in Ireland, having her there she will not visit this country during his term of service. His service will therefore practically be that of an unmarried man.” This is written in the margin of his next re-enlistment dated September 12, 1879. It appears because of Williams request for a leave, when he returned in September of 1879 he requested to re-enlist for five more years. He had barely fulfilled two years of his last re-enlistment from 1877 when he had to go home to Ireland. This form is also an Oath of Enlistment and Allegiance. It is from the Post of Fort Clark, Texas. William states he is age forty two. William is re-enlisting for another five years. Joseph H. Dorst is again the First Lieutenant and Adjunct for the Fourth Cavalry. The Assistant surgeon is a W.E. Meters. The Declaration of the Recruit is witnessed by a T.H. Forsyth – Sergeant Major 4th Cav,
This is what Anna McGuire remembers her Mother telling her about this time period in the family story. “I remember my mother told us that when their Mother became ill Grandfather sent the family to his family in Ireland and they came part way by covered wagon from Texas to get the train to N.Y. and then across the ocean to Ireland. I believe my mother stayed in Ireland at least eight years when their Mother died, shortly there after they returned to N.Y. A year or so later James the youngest contracted a strange illness and died.” James date of death is December 21, 1887.
The next five years we can only assume that letters went back and forth from William to Ellen and the children. On September 12, 1884. William is now forty seven years old. He has been living the life of a single soldier for five years. He re-enlists one last time for five more years. This is his 8th re-enlistment according to the document. He is in Fort Apache, Arizona and is still in the Fourth Cavalry but is now in Troop ‘A’. George Dodd, First Lieutenant of the Third Cavalry is the recruiting officer. P.R. Egan is the First Lieutenant and Assistant Surgeon on the document. As on all previous re-enlistment documents William still has light hair, fair complexion, is five feet six and ½ inches tall and has blue eyes. This is the first time there is any written remark under ‘NOTE. - Scars or Marks found upon person of a Recruit will be here noted: It says, ‘Loss of the little finger of the right hand. (Married) No. of Children Six (6)’.
The cover sheet from the National Archives that came to me with these enlistment documents has a hand written list. At the end it notes Retired August 8, 1887 as a First Sergeant and died March 16, 1912, NYC, NY.
Anna McGuire also wrote to me that besides ‘six discharges from U.S. Army Cavalry from 8161 to 1884 – not in sequence and very difficult to decipher’, she had ‘William McNamara’s U.S. Citizenship document dated August 9, 1892, State of New York, County of N.Y. Parchment very soiled and crumpled- very difficult to read. Also I have the deed to William McNamara’s grave in Cavalry Cemetery in N.Y. dated Dec.23, 1887. Grave #8 Plot D Section 12, Range 26. Cost $15.00 PD by WmMN.