Much Ado About a Rebel Cow

Below are details of a circumstance that caused some embarrasment and difficulty for Lt. James Touchstone. Apparently someone borrowed a cow from a nearby Rebel farm and it ended up in the camp of the Sixth Maryland. A Court of Inquiry was held on August 15, 1863, but I do not have the record of this proceeding. In any case, James Touchstone was evidently cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident.

Pro. Marshal's Office
3rd Div 3rd A.C. Aug 6/63

In obedience to the order, I make the following statement: - A cow was taken from the premises of Mr. Paul Day, a farmer living near this camp, on Sunday the 2nd, and on complaint being made to me, I instituted a search, and found the cow, myself, tied to a stake very near Quartermasters Touchstone's tent. On inquiry of the persons in, and around the tent, as to who had charge of the cow while thus tied, I was answered (after a good deal of evasiveness) that the Quartermaster's Sergeant had her in charge, but that he was not then present. Corporal Dunn, one of the within named persons, gave me this information himself and told me that Sergeant Christie would "soon be back". I waited a short time and saw two men approaching. I was told that "Here comes the Sergeant". One of these being the Quartermaster's Sergeant and the other the Commissary Sergeant (Christie and Haslett). On being charged with stealing the cow, they both denied it, but in as much as the cow was tied very close to the tent they occupied, and that one of them acknowledged to using some of the milk taken from the cow, together with the admission of the corporal that the Q.M.'s Sergeant had her in charge, induced me to arrest and hold all three of them until further ordered. The evidence against Christie was stronger than against the others but as they all showed dispositions to treat cases of this kind lightly and to under --- the orders of the Army against them, I did not feel at liberty to arrest one and permit the others to go free.

I may also state that before putting the two within named persons under guard, I sent for their Quartermaster (Lieut. Touchstone) and as he did not assume to be responsible himself, nor give me the name of the person or persons who tied the cow and kept her so near the door of his tent, and as he moreover sought, as I thought, to deter me from inquiring into, and investigating the case, by representing that "such things" (taking and using other people's cows) were common among all the regiments", I could not see how I would be discharging my duty unless I arrested the persons referred to herein.

J. Weyand
Capt & Pro. Marshal
3rd Div 3rd A.C.

Headquarters 6th Md Regt.
Aug 6 1863

Respectfully forwarded and an investigation solicited.

John W. Horn
Col. 6th Md Regt.


Headquarters 2nd Brig 3rd Div. 3rd A.C.
August 6th 1863

Respectfully forwarded. The tenor of the within communication is not approved, but if it is thought to be consistent with the interests of the general service, I would recommend a Court of Inquiry to investigate the charges against Lt. Touchstone.

J. Warren Keifer
Colonel Commanding

Hd Qr 3rd Div. 3rd A.C.
August 6, 1863

This communication is respectfully referred to Capt. Wyland, 126th Ohio Vol. Provost Marshal of the Div. for all endorsement, upon this communication, of the facts in this case.

By Command of
Brig Genl Elliott
C.D. Progue
1st Lt 10th Vt Vol & aaag

Hd. Qr. 3rd Div. 3rd A.C.
Aug 6 1863

Respfly forwarded.

Lt. Touchstone came to intercede for the men arrested before I had received the report of the Provost Marshal, apparently justified the taking of the cow. Used the expressions "being in the enemy country & that he saw cows with every command" and that he did not know there was any order against taking cows. I referred him to the Articles of War upon the subject. I spoke of the demoralizing effect upon an army if such things were permitted. The proof of his guilt not being sufficiently positive, the case was dismissed with a reprimand.

W.L. Elliott
Brig Genl Comm


Headquarters 6th Regt. Md. Vol. Infantry
2nd Brigade 3rd Division 3rd A. Corps.
August 6th 1863

Lieut. W.F.A. Torbert
Aid De C.P. A.A.A. Genl: 3rd Army Corps

Sir: - Without any provocation or foundation whatever, I have been accused by Brig. Genl. Elliott, Commanding 3rd Division, 3rd Army Corps, of being the "principal" or "aider and abettor" in stealing a cow from a Rebel in this neighborhood; and he has thought fit to commit his opinion to writing in the following words - "The General regrets to say that he is satisfied, in his own mind, of the guilt of Lt. Touchstone, Sergts Christie, and Owens, and Corpl. Dunn, either, as the principal or aiders and abettors in the stealing of the cow, and that nothing but the absence of positive evidence prevents their being brought before a general Court Martial for trial."

This gratuitous charge is made in the absence of any evidence to establish even a supposition: and not only so, but against positive proff to the contrary. The day the cow was taken, Sgts. Christie and Owens were with me, perhaps a half mile from the park to which the cow was brought by some one to me unknown to this hour, at the camp of the 2nd Brigade, awaiting the arrival of our Regiment from picket on the Rappahannock, in order to distribute rations to our men. We waited there from 8 o'clock in the morning until nearly 3 o'clock in the afternoon before the Regt. arrived. During this time the cow was brought to our park.

Now I have uniformly condemned all manner of marauding and have prevented it whenever I could, knowing it to be demoralizing. But it should be not forgotten that it is demoralizing also, to accuse and punish men and officers for crimes of which they are innocent. My Quartermaster Sergeant, George Christie and Commissary Sergeant Hazlett F. Owens, both exemplary and fine young men, were arrested, and in the violation of "Regulations", were thrown into the guard house with privates, without being reduced or a hearing and kept there for thirty hours, (when they were released) without the shadow of proff against them. I was not mentioned or thought of in the matter and why the Genl. has thought fit to insult and injure me by committing his opinion to paper and transmitting it through acting Brig. Genl. Keifer and the other officers, to my Colonel, I am utterly unable to determine.

I now appeal to you for protection and to this end I hope you will order a court of investigation to sit immediately on the subject.

I have the honor to be,
Sir - Very Respectfully -
Your Obdt Svt

James Touchstone
Quartermaster - 6th Regt Md. Vol. Inftry



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