160 years ago today, a young Union officer was killed on his birthday

December 29th, 1862. Young Major Adolph G. Rosengarten, temporarily in command of the 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, is killed while leading an ill-conceived charge on two regiments of South Carolina infantry concealed in a cornfield behind a fence at Wilkinson’s Crossroads, in Middle Tennessee. It was his 24th birthday. His second-in-command, an even younger (only 20 years old) Major Frank Ward, is mortally wounded in the same charge.

The 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as the Anderson Cavalry, was a unit with something to prove. The regiment had actually mutinied at the beginning of the Stones River campaign due to problems with the commissions of their officers, and so only 300 or so men from the regiment actually left camp on December 26th. But there was a great need for cavalry, and so those men were put at the front of the right wing of the army commanded by Major General William Starke Rosecrans to scout Confederate positions as the army advanced from Nashville to Murfreesboro. They skirmished with some cavalry from Texas at Nolensville on December 27th and then made contact with Confederate infantry on the 29th at Wilkinson’s Crossroads.

I will write up a bit more on this fascinating (at least to me) unit in another post when I have more time.

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