Alfred vs Alfred

Part 2

Last month I posted a slightly expanded version of the final appendix that did not appear in Small but Important Riots. This month I look specifically at the Alfred Duffié question. I ended last month’s post, having briefly examined Alfred Pleasonton’s June 11 reorganization of his corps and the mistaken notion that he had fired three foreign-born officers, Percy Wyndham, Louis di Cesnola, and Alfred Duffié, in the process. I explained that Pleasonton had not fired or demoted Wyndham and that Cesnola had lost his brigade command as a matter of seniority more than any overt act of personal animus by Pleasonton. But Pleasonton clearly did not like Duffié, and I left the Alfred vs Alfred battle for a deeper examination.

Alfred Duffié’s men appear to have admired, if not loved him. Though courageous on the battlefield, he often found himself overwhelmed by the weight of command under fire. And, though courageous, his administrative failures infuriated his superiors. His men saw his battlefield courage, while his commanders saw his foul-ups in camp and his in-decision on the battlefield. Pleasonton’s annoyance with Duffié, combined with his June 23 comments denouncing foreigners, has led many writers, including myself, to assume that Pleasonton fired Duffié from division command. But did he?

In Small but Important Riots, I give readers a one-page summary of Duffié’s background, to include his fabricated military resume and the near constant contretemps with his superiors leading up to his ill-fated reconnaissance on June 17. Today, I want to offer a closer look at some of the evidence.

The published roster for the 2nd New York Cavalry shows Duffié enlisting on July 27, 1861, mustering as captain of Company A on August 9, and as major shortly thereafter. Jared Mansfield Davies, a Harvard trained attorney, led the regiment, with Judson Kilpatrick as lieutenant colonel. After mustering into service, the regiment moved to Scarsdale, north of New York City, where the men became acquainted with Duffié, who oversaw their training.

As recompence to the owner of the farm used by the regiment, Duffié ordered his men to clear the fields of the many stones and to erect stone walls around the property. When the men protested, Duffié appealed to their patriotism, and then told them they were moving to Washington, DC. He had quickly and easily quelled the simmering revolt and set a pattern he followed for the next two years, in which he deflected his men’s anger and earned their trust in the process.

But Duffié soon found himself at odds with his superiors. In February, Duffié submitted the following letter to Davies regarding a shortage of forage and other items. The emphasis is Duffié’s.

“In answer to your communication of today I have the honor to say that it is impossible almost to state particular cases of lack of forage as they have been of so frequent occurrence as to preclude the possibility of remembrance of individual cases.

Since the return of the 1st Squadron comprising Companies A and B to the regiment on the 29th Oct 1861 as per statement herewith enclosed, which statement includes specifically only the transactions of Company A since 6 Dec, but which on its face [showed] much better than the actual facts [would] justify.

With regard to provisions there have been several instances of lack of supply and especially on the 31st day of December 1861, the Company requisition was not signed up to 5 ½ o’clock p.m. of that day and the Company is still in want of the rations for that day.  Bread has been short too several time, sometime five, sometimes ten loaves and in one instance the whole camp was without bread for more than twenty four hours.  Co A has also turned over to the Quarter Master Department stores which had accumulated to the amount of about $33.00 and which amount on many occasions applied for by the Quarter Master Sergeant of the Company by order of the Capitan but without success, while the men of the Company have needed the value of the sum in comforts & c, as especially ordered by General McClellan in his order of 1861…

It is a matter to which my attention has been often called by officers under my command, as a serious matter of complaint and I must be pardoned for believing justly so, and would again respectfully inquire as a matter of [bound] duty, why these funds have been so long withheld by the Quarter Master from the legitimate appropriation as laid down in the articles above referred to.

I[n] regard to wood Company A has never received as far as I am able to ascertain over 4 to 6 cords per month, while it is entitled officers and men about 18 cords per month and it has been a source of serious complaint with the officers as well as with the cooks of the company…

I shall be under obligation to you, Sir, for information as to the order or orders of the Department making it necessary or proper for the receipts attached to the requisitions for companies supplies to be signed in blank, while Article 99 of the Army Regulations expressly prohibits such giving or taking of any receipt in blank.”

I think we can all be forgiven if we had to read the letter several times to appreciate Duffié’s specific concerns beyond the general question of supply shortages. I include most of the letter to give readers a sense of his fractured English, not to make fun of him but to give a sense of the difficulty others might have had understanding him.

The file contains two copies of this letter, one in French and almost certainly in Duffié’s hand. The other is in English, but did Duffié write it or did someone else translate his original letter and write the second? Or did Duffié dictate it and a clerk wrote the letter exactly as dictated. I wonder, because Duffié’s later reports do not reflect similar language issues. Or did his clerk’s just get better as time went on and thus his communications became less confusing?

As to his problems with others, we all should know that tone matters, and I think we can see how Davies might have taken Duffié’s tone as offensive or insubordinate. But Duffié complicated matters by sending the letter to Davies’ superior, thereby violating the chain of command. The officer caught the violation and told Davies to “call Major Duffié’s attention to the proper channel through which [complaints] should be directed.”

Five days later, Duffié wrote to Davies regarding other items needed by his men.

“I…inform you my battalion is without shoes for the horses and the requisitions have send since a week ago.  I have been waiting until now before make my complaint, but now I cannot wait any longer or my horses will be lame and unfit for the service.  Consequently I call your attention upon it.

More than that, the non-commissioned officers on staff have no tent and it is almost impossible to [have] them any longer also without for a great number of the tents in service now are unfit to cover men even in the finest weather.

I expect you will be kind enough this time to answer me.”

The colonel’s response has not been located, but his answer prompted the following from Duffié:

“In reply to your letter … I must say I do not understand at all what is the meaning of your last idea.  When you say: the circumstances should have been reported earlier. When you know perfectly well or you ought to know the requisition you sign, more than that what good is it to report when my reports very often have any answer.  Such letter as is your last one seems to me you try to throw on me the mistakes you are doing yourself, but you must know Colonel I know to much to support such thing and you will find in me some oppositions when I have the last word

All these [infractions] to the military service come from you and not from anybody else for I wish to know since how long some things has been right in your regiment.

PS        The requisition for tent have been send to you to be signed and return without your signature, and today you say send one in and we shall have the tent.  Do you think or do you call that military?”

Again, tone matters, and Davies could be forgiven if he thought Duffié insubordinate. But Davies was a civilian learning to be, not just a soldier but the commander of a regiment, while Duffié, regardless of his concocted resume, was an experienced soldier. There is also the matter of heritage. Did Duffié intend to disrespect his superior or is his manner simply a cultural difference made worse by his struggles with the new language? Both men had obstacles to overcome and adjustments to make.

But the language difference created a legitimate problem, as noted by the regimental quartermaster, the man most directly responsible for correcting supply deficiencies. “It is somewhat difficult to correctly understand the points of Major Duffié’s complaint or to arrive at that which he desires, as his communications are not very clear,” the officer wrote.  “To remedy this, while in conversation with him I respectfully desire that he would employ some officer of his battalion to clearly state the facts, that I might understandingly answer the same and should any real cause exist for the ground of complaint at once remove the same.”

Pieces of the puzzle remain missing but by mid-April, Davies had arrested Duffié. The reasons remain unknown, but Davies’ superior, Gen. Irvin McDowell, ordered Duffié released on April 13. In doing so, McDowell explained that he “would not interfere in a matter which properly belongs to the division commander, but from an investigation of the case…a degree of severity has been exercised which was not warranted by the circumstances.” McDowell, who spoke French and wrote some of his own military messages in French, may have been sympathetic to Duffié. A week later, however, Davies arrested Duffié a second time.

In a note to Davies, Duffié wrote, “I…demand to be inform the reason for my arrest and request that the charges if any be forwarded to me without delay.” Several other notes passed between them, including one in which Duffié told his commander, “I am in receipt of your note of this date stating that my conduct and remarks at headquarters this afternoon were the reason for my arrest. If there was anything in either sufficient to justify my arrest I demand a court martial… and that a copy of the charges be furnished to me as soon as possible otherwise I demand my immediate relieve from arrest.” There the record ends. Duffié resigned on July 3, 1862, and accepted the colonelcy of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry, though the exact sequence of events remains a mystery.

His first days with his new regiment proved rocky, with many of the officers resigning in protest. In 1890, George Bliss attributed the disaffection to the governor having appointed a foreigner to the command. Bliss’s use of the word foreigner is unfortunate. Yes, Duffié was a Frenchman, but I do not think Bliss referred to his heritage. Rather, the disaffection stemmed from Duffié having been promoted from outside of the regiment, meaning he was a foreigner to the men of the regiment. As Bliss explained, “Governor Sprague promised when he was here to make Lt. Col. [Willard] Sayles Col, about three days afterward major [Duffié]…was appointed…hell was to pay immediately.” Continuing, Bliss noted, “Governor Sprague has given another exhibition of his character…he doesn’t care a damn for his pledges.” In other words, the men were upset with Sprague but took out their anger on Duffié.

Five days after Duffié’s arrival, Bliss expanded on the immediate impact the Frenchman had on the regiment. After noting that most of the officers had already withdrawn their resignations, Bliss explained, “This man has the power of making difficult military maneuvres so simple to the student that one curses himself for an idiot that he should have needed instruction in so simple a matter.” But such talents seldom carried over when he communicated with his superiors.

On July 23, 1862, Duffié told his commander, “My regiment is ready to march.” But just two sentences later, he asserted, “My regiment…may be ready to take the field for good service in eight days. I did not receive any blouses for my men, but expect them in a short time with other little things needed.”

We begin to see why Duffié confounded his commanders and often left them exasperated. Was he now ready to march or might he be ready to march in eight days? We also see another hint of an old problem, his attention to detail. Specifically, his ability to keep his men properly supplied for the field.

Duffié often issued special orders as a means of praising his men. On September 27, he told them, “the efficiency of [an] army depends entirely upon the individual virtue of its soldiers and their constant attention to the minutia and drill of daily and hourly life…The zeal manifested in the performance of your daily duties…the general cleanliness of the men; their arms, equipments and tents…the horses and their equipments, all show soldierly pride and a laudable ambition to be worthy of the great and holy mission to which you are called.” Here Duffié promotes the importance of such details, but in November, Frederic Denison, the regimental chaplain and one of the last men to withdraw his resignation, explained, “with the expertise and thorough knowledge of cavalry drill found in Col. Duffié, and the curt bravery and administrative skill of Lieut. Col. Thompson, we are well furnished for our responsible position.” What should we make of Denison’s statement, crediting Duffié for his knowledge on the drill field, while specifically citing the lieutenant colonel for his bravery and administrative skill [my emphasis]? Something or nothing?

In late-November, Duffié issued another order praising his men for their conduct in a skirmish near the Hazel River. “The Cavalry service is in the main a thankless one, the duties hazardous and severe, both for men and horses, and it is only by a manly self-sacrificing spirit, that we are able to bring about results,” he told them.  “Our reward is not in the blazing encomiums of army correspondents, but in the consciousness of having done our duty; that our blows have been sharp and decisive; that we have done our work at the right time, and in the right way; in a word that we have done the work laid out for us to do, and done it effectually [my emphasis].”

In publishing this order, a hometown editor included comments from a rival newspaper: “After the reading of the order, the regiment gave three hearty cheers for the Colonel who neglected to mention his own bravery and the part he took in the skirmish, which was very prominent, as he took a carbine and led the skirmishers on foot for some time…The Colonel is very proud of his regiment, and has a care for all of his men, who in turn feel as proud of, and place the greatest confidence in him.” Interestingly, Chaplain Denison used the occasion to again point to what he apparently saw as a critical distinction between Duffié and Thompson. “We ought also to mention the coolness, bravery and executive skill [my emphasis] often exhibited by Lieutenant Colonel Thompson.” Had Duffié recognized his shortcomings and tasked Thompson with overseeing matters he did not want to deal with or did not excel at? Or, was the division of responsibility part of a military tradition in which the second in command or executive officer often oversees administrative matters?

George Stoneman took command of the newly formed Cavalry Corps in February 1863 and assigned the 1st Rhode Island to Brig. Gen. William Averell’s Division. On February 20, and with Averell on leave, Duffié told Stoneman, “Being the Senior Colonel in this Division I apply to be placed in command of it. If I did not do so before it is because I was informed General Averell will be in a short time here; but now General Averell being retained in Washington, I am, I believe, entitled to take his place till his return.” Stoneman approved and Duffié announced the change the next day.

Every officer had to have their leave request approved up the line, and Averell, as a division commander would have needed Stoneman’s okay and, most likely, Hooker’s. In this case, I suspect that Averell or Stoneman should have notified the next senior officer that he would be in command until Averell returned. Duffié’s request suggests neither man did so. In the event, Averell returned the next day.

At about the same time, Stoneman broke his divisions into brigades, and Duffié became commander of the First Brigade in Averell’s Second Division, by reason of seniority. In other words, because the army had not appointed a brigadier to command the brigade, Duffié under-filled the position by seniority.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Averell attacked the enemy at Kelly’s Ford. Duffié’s Brigade had the lead, and he played a prominent role in the hotly contested crossing at the ford. As one of his men described, “Col. Duffié again proved his undaunted courage and skill as an officer and a soldier; while crossing the stream his horse was shot in the mouth, and afterwards, in a charge, shot from under him.” In another version, “Col. Duffié’s horse was hit by a bullet, and threw his rider in the river, considerably bruising one of his legs.”

But then one of Hooker’s aides made Averell aware that Duffié had paroled prisoners on the battlefield, an action the aide described as “entirely irregular,” and he asked if Averell had made Duffié aware of Hooker’s orders on the subject. The aide also made Stoneman aware of the matter, asking if he had disseminated Hooker’s order to his corps. Called to account for Duffié’s actions, Averell immediately wrote a telling letter to the Adjutant General in Washington.

“I…request that the appointment of ‘Acting Brigadier General’ or of Brevet Brigadier General’ be conferred upon Colonel [Benjamin F.] Davis and Colonel [John B] McIntosh, and that they be ordered to report to me for duty.

There are many serious and well-grounded objections to the present practice of placing senior colonels in command of the brigades in which they happen to be serving.

The senior colonel is frequently not the officer most fit to command – the regiment of the colonel commanding the brigade is generally more or less neglected – the feelings of respect and subordination are not as strong among the others as they should be or would be were the colonel commanding placed above and independent of all the colonels under him by some such rank as that asked for.

In a cavalry combat where a division is engaged it is of the [most] importance that the brigade commanders should be first class cavalry officers. Colonels Davis and McIntosh have shown that they possess all the requisite qualifications for the position and I have great need of them.”

Averell never mentions Duffié by name but as Colonel McIntosh had led Averell’s other brigade (by seniority) at Kelly’s Ford, the implication appears certain – Averell did not consider Duffié a first-class officer and he did not want him in position to lead the brigade again. Though Averell never mentions Duffié’s heritage, should we assume he is a bigot or might Duffié’s competence be Averell’s legitimate concern?

Nothing happened, however, and the reason appears simple. Acceding to Averell’s request, would have set a precedent requiring an unknown number of officers to receive similar brevets across the breadth of the service.

Throughout the winter and spring of 1862-63, the army maintained one depot near Dumfries and two others near Stafford Court House to receive fresh remounts for the cavalry, to hold men awaiting horses, and to hold disabled horses, either for transport back to the capital or for rehabilitation. General Hooker tasked Gen. Henry Slocum and his XII Corps with protecting these facilities, as well as the other supply depots at Dumfries. Slocum then fought what must have seemed a never-ending battle, to keep a sufficient mounted force on hand to protect his infantry. According to his biographer, Slocum learned on April 13 that his cavalry support was being withdrawn in preparation for Stoneman’s Raid. Slocum also received orders to pull his infantry brigade out of Dumfries and back to Stafford Court House. To replace the infantry, Hooker sent Colonel Duffié with slightly more than 1,000 dismounted troopers gathered from the remount facilities. When Duffié arrived, just 75 of the men came equipped with carbines. That they had no horses, and only pistols and sabers made them nearly useless for the task at hand. Much remains unknown about this incident, including the nature of Duffié’s orders, but the foul-up forced Slocum to leave part of his force in place until April 25.

As the senior cavalry officer left behind when Stoneman departed for the raid, Pleasonton took command of all the cavalry left with the army, to include Duffié’s dismounts. Over the next two days, Duffié appears to have done nothing to alleviate the problems or to impress Pleasonton. Quite the opposite, to include sending his own complaints directly to army headquarters, which drew a rebuke from Daniel Butterfield, Hooker’s chief of staff. Though Duffié’s messages have not been found, Pleasonton’s responses indicate that Duffié complained about a lack of food, and forage, as well as a lack of transportation, all countered by Pleasonton. A few days later, Pleasonton counted more than 1400 dismounts at Dumfries, but Duffié had gone on leave for two weeks. Pleasonton then placed Col. J. I. Gregg in command and told Butterfield, “I have made a full report…concerning Duffié.” The report might prove enlightening but has not been found to my knowledge.

Seven weeks later, Pleasonton, now commanding the Cavalry Corps, prepared to lead the command across the Rappahannock River and attack Jeb Stuart’s cavalry in Culpeper County. Four days before the planned operation, Duffié, commanding the Second Division, sent an urgent request to his ordnance officer for 534 saddles to mount the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry. The following day, Duffié contacted one of Pleasonton’s aides, advising him that he now needed 607 saddles. On June 7, he sent another message to his ordnance officer, this time requesting “carbine caps without delay for the ammunition you have sent here. Send the saddles…just as soon as possible. Send men as fast as you can mount them.”

The 1st Massachusetts, from Duffié’s division, had been involved in a skirmish on June 3, and Duffié had led a strong reconnaissance into Culpeper County on June 6, but neither event appears to have involved a heavy expenditure of ammunition. Absent faulty percussion caps, ammunition and percussion caps are expended in like number, one percussion cap per bullet fired. That he asked for percussion caps only suggests a lack of attention to detail, rather than a heavy skirmish.

Pleasonton had a right to be furious, as his commanders had standing orders to maintain their commands in a “proper state of readiness at all times.” But on June 7, Pleasonton’s chief of staff told the corps ordnance officer, the general “is exceedingly anxious to have 500 saddles for the 17th Pennsylvania in place of those condemned as unserviceable. Could you not have them sent out in advance of the requisitions which are in the hands of [the Second Division’s ordnance officer]. It is of the utmost importance.” The 17th Pennsylvania was in Col. Thomas Devin’s Brigade, of John Buford’s 1st Division, and in his message, Pleasonton appears to be put Devin’s needs ahead of Duffié’s. But his request also highlights a similar lack of attention to detail in Buford’s Division.

Questions abound and much of this aspect of the story waits to be found. Had an army inspector, conducting an army inspection, condemned the saddles in the days immediately prior to the attack being approved? If so, the matter may have been beyond the control of Duffié and Devin, or had they simply been negligent? Might the saddles have been ordered weeks earlier and shortages at the arsenals prevented the prompt delivery of replacements? How many saddles the army kept at the arsenals and how quickly they could be replaced is unknown. A shortage of percussion caps, however, strikes me as another matter, and one for which Pleasonton had a right to be upset. In the end, most of the saddles did not arrive for another ten days, forcing the 16th Pennsylvania to sit out the June 9 fight at Brandy Station. The 17th Pennsylvania supported artillery during the day, rather than participating in an offensive capacity.

Commanding one of the three columns on June 9, Duffié found his division confronted by a few hundred valiant but badly outnumbered Southerners at Stevensburg.  At a critical moment, he froze, paralyzed, as one man later wrote, by a sense of “complete isolation from the main column.” By the time Duffié overcame his fears, he had squandered an opportunity for a Union victory, and angered Pleasonton yet again.

Pleasonton later explained, “In my official report of the battle of Beverly Ford [Pleasonton’s emphasis] I censured Colonel Duffié for his conduct on that occasion in permitting one regiment of rebel cavalry to hold his Division in check for six hours.” But when one looks at Pleasonton’s report of the Brandy Station fight, there is no such overt criticism. Rather, in a report in which Pleasonton is very complimentary of his officers and men, he condemns Duffié by ignoring him. In his only reference to him, Pleasonton explained how General David Gregg’s division might have “inflicted a severe loss on the enemy near Brandy Station and would have achieved more had Colonel Duffié…brought up his command to his assistance in the time he should have done.”

Duffié’s dithering in the face of inferior numbers may well have doomed any chance of a Union victory, and his explanation for his delay is rather confounding. David Gregg appears to take a more diplomatic approach, condemning Duffié’s lack of action in the least offensive manner possible. Duffié’s inaction, combined with his supply concerns prior to the fight and the fact that he went into battle minus an entire regiment, possibly due to his own negligence, gave Pleasonton every reason to be upset.

Moreover, his sloppiness in maintaining his division had violated not only Pleasonton’s orders but his own demands to his men that they pay attention to details. Recall the words he had used to commend his men the previous year, to do their “work at the right time, and in the right way…[as] laid out for us to do.” Duffié had failed to heed his own advice.

Why then is Duffié selected to lead the June 17/18 reconnaissance and who selects him? I discuss the possibilities in Small but Important Riots and will not reiterate them here.

Following the Middleburg disaster, Captain Bliss concluded, “Col Duffié was tried in a new place, i.e., a bushwhacking roadside fight, and found wanting, he hesitated when delay was fatal [my emphasis]. Duffié is a splendid drill master…but I wouldn’t give the little finger of a yankee for a whole race of Frenchmen in such a fight as we had at Middleburg… Major [Preston] Farrington the bravest officer I ever saw was left without orders by Duffié who fell back with the remainder of the regt. without even acquainting [Farrington] of such intention…[next morning] if Duffié had put himself in front and said boys follow me we would have swept through them like a whirlwind but he merely said go ahead boys charge…his tone of voice and manner were enough to discourage any men.” Hesitation and his inability to make quick decisive decisions proved just as fatal to his regiment at Middleburg as his hesitation and indecision had doomed the chances for victory at Brandy Station.

Whatever one thinks of Alfred Pleasonton, during Pleasonton’s time in corps command, Alfred Duffié had accumulated a record of foul-ups that included the lost opportunity at Brandy Station and the loss of an entire regiment shortly thereafter. When we consider Duffié’s many other problems, most of which have never been enumerated before, and then recall that he had been rewarded with a promotion after Middleburg rather than summary dismissal (William Averell’s dismissal after the Stoneman Raid comes to mind), then I think we can all agree that Pleasonton had every reason to be furious. And, if we are objective, I think we can agree that learning of Duffié’s promotion on June 23 may have prompted the letter and the harsh words Pleasonton wrote to Congressman Farnsworth.

Some of us may think no more of Gen. Phil Sheridan than we do Pleasonton, but it is worth noting that in a letter to General Henry Halleck in late-October 1864, Sheridan said of Duffié, “I think him a trifling man and a poor soldier. He was captured by his own stupidity.” The next day, in a letter to the Adjutant General, and having had a day to cool off, Sheridan repeated his denunciation with additional emphasis, stating, “I think him a very poor soldier. He is certainly a failure in the field and through gross stupidity allowed himself to be captured.” Again, Duffié survived dismissal. One month later, General Grant submitted a list of general officers he thought should be retired, mustered out or forced to resign. He included Duffié but the Frenchman hung on until finally being mustered out in August 1865.

The original question remains – did Pleasonton fire Duffié on June 11? The short answer is that he did not, but by reorganizing the corps and eliminating one division he forced Duffié back to brigade command, as the senior colonel. Then, the promotion of Kilpatrick to brigadier and permanent brigade command sent the Frenchman back to his regiment. The army and everyone in it paid the price for the seniority system and the problems created by the system, as outlined by Averell.

An army corps usually included three divisions, and so Stoneman formed three divisions. But doing so with the number of regiments he had forced him to create weak, two regiment brigades. Consolidating the corps into two divisions allowed Pleasonton to create stronger and more flexible three regiment brigades. I agree with everything Pleasonton did in that regard. Any ulterior motives in Pleasonton’s heart will remain unknown until his own words tell us otherwise. His only alternative to the seniority system was to push for the appointment of brigadiers, which he did. He had only a short window to fix the system, but in less than a month he had gained the needed third division and four brigadiers. Then, when Elon Farnsworth died, a less competent senior colonel replaced him, and the old problems returned.


Unpublished documents from the National Archives

William Averell Diary

National Tribune

Providence Evening Press

Providence Manufacturers’ and Farmers’ Journal

The Official Records

George Bliss, “Duffie and the Monument to his Memory,” Personal Narratives of Events in the War of the Rebellion

Frederic Denison, Sabres and Spurs: The First Rhode Island Cavalry in the Civil War

William C. Emerson and Elizabeth Stevens, editors, ‘Don’t tell father I have been shot at,’ The Civil War Letters of Captain George N. Bliss, First Rhode Island Cavalry

Willard Glazier, Three Years in the Federal Cavalry

H. P. Moyer, History of the 17th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry

Charles E. Slocum, The Life and Services of Major General Henry Warner Slocum

2 thoughts on “Alfred vs Alfred

  1. Another great article, Bob. Very informative and extensively researched, as always. I would like to add some information about another of Gen. Alfred Duffie’s foul-ups after his capture by Mosby and his men in the fall of 1864. Duffie spent the next six months in the Confederate prison in Danville Virginia. When the senior Union officer, Gen. Joseph Hayes, became ill and was moved to the prison hospital for treatment, Gen. Duffie became the senior officer of the 7,000 Union prisoners held there. He immediately saw an opportunity to organize a prisoner escape. Meeting with his senior officers in January of 1865, Duffie listened to their many objections and then overruled them ordering an escape to be made as soon as possible. Asserting his authority, Duffie demanded “I call upon the men who have not forgotten how to obey orders to follow”. George Putman, a 1st Lieutenant at the prison wrote: “With such a word there was of course no alternative” and “a hundred and fifty of us fell in and received our instructions”. Putman described Duffie as “ambitious, vain and if crossed, somewhat hot-tempered”. Putman blamed Duffie for the poor planning and the failed escape that followed, costing the lives of several prisoners and the wounding of several more. * Col. Ralston, Duffie’s second in command was wounded during the escape and died the following day. A month later, Gen. Hayes now fully recovered with Gen. Duffie as his second-in-command supervised the initial prisoner exchange from Danville that allowed 500 prisoners in poor health to regain their freedom. After his release from prison, Duffie was sent to organize a campaign against the Confederate Army there that never fully materialized. Duffie received his discharge in July of 1865.
    * 1st Lt. George Putman – 176th New York State Volunteers, “A Prisoner of War in Virginia 1864-1865” (G.P. Putman’s Sons, New York, 1912) 51 – 55.


  2. Thank you, Bob.
    I figured my post was already pretty long, and I wanted to stay focused on the relationship between the two men, but you are correct that his later career remains problematic. I may look at Duffie again fairly soon from another perspective.


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