Friday, April 29, 2011

Dancing With the Cavalry

Unless you are a historian, not much thought is given to what was happening in America during non-emergency times.  In 1904 thousands of men enlisted in the U.S. Army:  The Civil War was over, but there were conflicts in Cuba, the Philippines, and the Russians and Japanese were at war.  However, most of the enlisted men stayed in the United States stationed at camps and forts.  One such “family” person was James Bernard Murphey, the great-grandfather of my daughter-in-law, Melissa Murphy Oliver.

Melissa has shared with me photographs from the time James was in the army, and one of them is particularly delightful:  I call it “Dancing with the Cavalry.”  It is labeled as being at Camp Sugar Springs, Wyoming.  I do not know if James is in the picture or not, but it is obvious that the men were able to make their own fun while out in the field.

In exploring the above picture and others, I delved into a time period of America that was little known to me.

James enlisted with the U.S. Army on October 7, 1904, for a three-year stint, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, approximately 100 miles from his hometown of Midlothian, Maryland, where he was born on February 22, 1882.  When he enlisted, the clerk who entered his name into the record “changed” the spelling from Murphey to Murphy. Sometimes it is a mystery as to why last names get changed; the entry (found on probably answers this question.  On the enlistment register, James is listed as being 5′3″ tall; having blue eyes, black hair, dark complexion.  He was assigned to the 22nd Battery Field Artillery.

The above picture shows James in his dress uniform.  Wanting to find out more information about his uniform, with the hopes it would direct me towards his actual type of military service, I tried to track it down.  It appears that he is wearing the standard uniform of enlisted men which was adopted in 1875.   The “field” uniforms were more casual as the below picture shows.  James is the fifth individual from the left.

James was stationed at Fort Douglas, Utah, which was originally established to protect the overland mail route and telegraph lines along the “Central Overland Route” to the west.  In 1906 the majority of soldiers stationed at Fort Douglas were transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, including James.  He was discharged on May 23, 1906, at Fort Riley.

J.B. Murphy (right) at Fort Douglas

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