This letter was written by Col. John Fisk (1803-1891), commander of the 2nd New York Mounted Rifles (sometimes known as the “Governor’s Guard”). John was discharged for disability on 5 December 1864 but was restored to command in March 1865. He reported for duty on 3 April 1865 but was discharged on 18 May 1865 on receipt of an adverse report from the Military Board.
John Fisk was a resident of Suspension Bridge, Niagara County, New York. The 1860 Census shows him to be a postmaster of the Niagara Falls Post Office. The 1870 Census shows him to be a 67 year-old returned railroad agent. His 47 year-old wife was named Maria, and he had two children: Cora (age 21 and described in the census as “idiotic”) and John (age 18).
In July 1864, John Fisk received authority from Gov. Seymour to recruit a regiment of infantry which was subsequently modified to a regiment of mounted rifles. It was organized at Lockport and Buffalo, and the companies were mustered in the service of the United States for three years. They arrived at the front in time to participate in the Battles of Spotsylsvania and Cold Harbor, and the regiment sustained 48 casualties (killed, wounded, missing) at the Battle of the Crater on 30 July while brigaded under the command of Col. Zenas Bliss.
In the action at Poplar Spring Church, its casualties were 76.
The regiment was now mounted and served with the 3d brigade, 2nd cavalry division (Crook’s), Army of the Potomac, losing 33 killed, wounded and missing at Hatcher’s run and Nottoway Station.
In his 1891 cryptic obituary notice, Fisk’s war record was described as a “gallant one” but nothing was said regarding his dismissal.
Fisk wrote the letter to the former Assistant Adjutant General Charles J. Evans.
Addressed to Col. Charles Evans, Late A. A. General, Albany, N.Y.
Washington D. C.
January 17th 1865
Col. Chas. Evans
Late A. A. General
Albany, N. Y.
I have just returned from the front where I have been to visit my Regiment, present the new flag, &c. While there, I met for the first time Lt. [Kleber D.] Taggard ¹ who handed me a letter from yourself which would have met with all due attention, but it reached my hand too late. Lt. Taggard had kept it in his pocket or elsewhere for nearly two months. He had never tried to communicate with me, and when I did meet him he was on trial by a court martial which will probably dismiss him from the service. I heard from him while he was in the city on his way to the Regiment and let me assure you, his conduct was anything but such as we ought to expect from an officer and gentleman. I met him but a few minutes, was prepossessed by his fine appearance, and out of respect to His Excellency, and to yourself, would have saved him if I could. The next you will hear from him will probably be his dishonorable dismissal.
My own case is expected to come up before the Hon. Sec. of War tomorrow. The Hon. John Ganson, M. C. and the Hon. Mr. Frank from my District will jointly present the case. With a reasonable hope, I shall be restored to my command.
I arrived from the front on Saturday. On Monday, I heard Maj. [John B.] Stonehouse had been here and just gone. I regretted not being able to see him, yet I found — as at other times — he had not left without doing my case all the good he could. In short, I feel greatly indebted for many kindly acts from Gov. Seymour and his Military Council. Please present my kindest regards to such of these as are yet at the State Capitol, and believe me,
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
— John Fisk, Col., 2nd M Rifles, N. Y. Vol.
¹ Kleber D. Taggard enlisted as a private in Co. K, 2nd New York Mounted Rifles but was promoted to lieutenant on 28 December 1864. He was dishonorably dismissed from the service on 30 June 1865.