Sunday, March 19, 2017

Robert Good, Co. I, 4th Ky Cavalry

This, I hope, will be an interesting story to read. It certainly has been a fascinating one to research and write. I recently found an old piece of ephemera that really intrigued me, so I discussed it in a previous post

The form allowed the payment of a soldier's salary to his wife because he was a prisoner of war. 

The soldier for whose wife it was prepared was Corporal Robert Good of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry, and this post will tell his story that this form uncovered.

According to his file on, Robert was either 34 or 54 years old (more on that later) when he enlisted as a private in Company I of the 4th Kentucky Cavalry on October 16, 1862 for a three-year term, mustering in on October 30. The 4th Kentucky Cavalry was organized in Louisville in late 1862. It stayed in the Western Theater, frequently in Tennessee, and saw action at Chickamauga and in the Atlanta campaign

Robert had been born in Ireland, stood 5'11" tall and had blue eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion.

Once in the army, he led a career that was far from routine, with experiences such as charges of desertion, possible court-martial, capture, hospitalization, and perhaps even imprisonment in the most infamous Civil War prison of all, Andersonville. Various documents provide insight into some of his adventures, though ther remain some holes requiring speculation and interpretation.

In his file, his story begins with forms reporting that he "deserted at Louisville before 10 Feb 1863," and "deserted, rec'd $27 bounty." Then another form, covering the period March 1 to June 30, 1863, reported he was under arrest, awaiting a general court martial. 

Another document explains the cause of and resolution to this issue, saying his "charge of desertion removed; was while sick permitted to leave camp at Louisville, Ky., on or about Dec. 25, 1862, and go to his home in Louisville, until he recovered; was sick with erysipelas and unable to travel until May 28, 1863 when he left to join his command."

Documents for late 1863 now listed him as "absent, missing in action September 21" and continued showing that through 1864. 

Other records show this was because he had been "captured near Crawfish Springs" (Chickamauga) on September 21, 1863 and taken to a Confederate prison. Exactly how his time as prisoner went is uncertain. The paperwork is confusing and some of the writing is not legible. It appears he was taken to Richmond on September 29 before moving to Danville, Virginia or Americus, Georgia (Andersonville) on December 12, 1863. The form then mentions Andersonville, but "no date given." One word on this form is, unfortunately, illegible. 

He had $5 of U.S. money taken from him. Per a discussion on, he carried this money on him when captured, and the prison quartermaster confiscated it and other personal possessions, keeping a record of these items, at least of the money. They likely offered to trade him Confederate dollars for his U.S. money, as Confederate dollars would be the only money prisoners could use to purchase items like food inside the prison. It also benefited the Confederacy since a Federal dollar was worth more than a Confederate one outside the prison.

I found a second form on that also mentioned the $5 - the microfilm from which this record was taken included "Federal Prisoners of War Confined at Andersonville, Ga, 1864-65" in its title, adding evidence that that was where he was confined. 

Contrary thinking of the location of his imprisonment may be worth the effort, however, as the National Park Service's list of Andersonville prisoners does not list his name, though those records are incomplete per the service's Andersonville website. Unfortunately, the records at Andersonville National Park, available only at the park, also fail to list him, per the response to a research request I sent. (I forwarded them the forms I found and other circumstantial evidence and they said they would look further into it.)

I also found one site showing prisoners in Danville, and his name did not appear on it either. It is hard to know what records of prisoners were kept, and, especially, which ones survived, so his absence on these lists does not necessarily mean he was not there. 

Another issue is that Andersonville did not exist at the time of his capture. Per the Civil War Trust: It was built in early 1864 after Confederate officials decided to move the large number of Federal prisoners in and around Richmond to a place of greater security and more abundant food. During the 14 months it existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, or exposure to the elements. It did not receive prisoners until February 1864, so where was Robert from mid-December until then? Richmond seems likely, though the mention of Danville confuses things. (That description also makes his survival, if he was there, more remarkable.)

Despite this, it still may be true that he was at Andersonville. More evidence that he possibly was there is in the timing and place of his release. The prison exchange cartel between the USA and CSA had generally broken down, with occasional exceptions, but in August 1864, the two sides agreed to exchange sick and injured men, with the trade taking place on the Savannah River near Fort Pulaski starting in mid-November. Robert was paroled on either November 14 at the Savannah River or November 18 at Savannah per his paperwork (two forms have different information), so the timing and location make it seem likely that Robert was indeed part of this exchange. If not, it would be a huge coincidence for him to have been paroled at the same time and place as prisoners from Andersonville.

Craig Swain has a good discussion of this exchange here, noting that the exchanged United States prisoners had originally moved away from Andersonville as part of this process.

After his release, and having served more than a year as a prisoner, Robert was admitted to hospital division number 2 in Annapolis, Maryland on November 25, though the same form states "no later record." Some of his paperwork is again confusing and hard to read, appearing to say his name was not on any hospital rolls, but the specificity of the other forms (naming the hospital ward where he went), the muster rolls and his time in prison lead me to believe he was hospitalized, likely along with many of his fellow ex-prisoners.

A surprising note is in a report of the exchange. Thanks again to Craig for finding it. Lieutenant-Colonel John E. Mulford reported: "I have the honor to inform you that I have up to the present time received over 3,000 of our men. Their physical condition is rather better than I expected, but their personal is worse than anything I have ever seen–filth and rags. It is a great labor to cleanse and clothe them..."(Official Records, Series II, volume 7, p. 1149.) That does not quite fit in the usual picture of emaciated and near-death men leaving Andersonville though some, including Robert, were possibly at least in somewhat poor health.

Muster rolls then reported Robert as "absent, sick in hospital, rec'd 6 months pay" for January and February 1865. The mention of pay presumably refers to the money paid to his wife on the form described in the previous post.

In March, April, May and June, he was listed as "present."

Another form says "July 1865 - Correll Guard" but I have no information as to what that may be.

He mustered out with the regiment on August 21, 1865 at Macon, Georgia. 

When he mustered out, he was now a corporal who had been last paid to February 28, 1864. He owed the government money, apparently $35, though it is barely legible, for "arms, equipment, etc." He apparently had lost one saddle blanket.

On the other hand, he had received $25 in bounty money, but was still owed $75. How much had the promised bounty motivated him to enlist, or how did other factors like patriotism, a search for adventure or his political beliefs also influence his decision? Perhaps his motivation was a combination of the above or something completely different. 

KY Cavalry Marker at Chickamauga, courtesy 

As for his post-military career, the age on the document in his file is the key to what information is available. It appears to be 54 at first glance, but may be 34. It does not look like other "5s" on the same page, but is not a perfect "3" either, though it could be a "3" with the top section not completed. I posted it online and asked friends for help. Some thought it said "54" and others thought "34," so there was no consensus. I've included it here so readers can form their own opinions.

If he was really 54, I can find no further records of him, so I am going to proceed under the assumption (yeah, I know) he was 34 when he enrolled in the final quarter of 1862. This may be wrong, but I did find some information for a Robert Good who was born about 1827 and will use that to add to this story. If I come across information that confirms or refutes this Robert Good being the same as on that document, I will update this blog.

The  only census on which I can find him, that of 1880, shows a Robert Good in Louisville, age 53, giving him a birth year of 1827. It also shows his wife  "Mary," age 40. 

His headstone photo on a find-a-grave shows he was in his 58th year when he died on August 11, 1885, matching the 1827 birth date as estimated on the census, close to the 1828 based on the above form. The headstone lists his wife as "Ellen" on top, underneath his name, but the bottom of the marker shows "erected by his wife Mary." It says Ellen was in her 47th year when she passed away on August 3, 1876. The brief biography on the same page states he married Mary Walsh on December 13, 1877, so Ellen was his first wife and Mary his second, meaning the form, census and graveyard records agree with each other as the form that began my request lists his wife's name name as "Elenora," which is probably the formal name for Ellen. I have not found any record of Mary's burial.

Headstone in Saint John's Cemetery (aka German-Catholic Cemetery) Louisville, courtesy

He was born in Ireland, immigrated to a new country, joined the army to defend that new home and survived imprisonment - Robert Good may not have lived the longest life, or found fame and fortune, but his life certainly did not lack for change or challenges.

Rest in peace, soldier.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, Richard. Dan Crone here. Surprised to see a recent post, I stumbled across your blog 30 days or so ago. I was looking at Northern Kentucky skirmishes and one search lead to another and then to your 2010 entry about S.S. Jennings from Confederate Veteran magazine wherein the writer was trying to identify S.S. Jennings, a cavalry soldier that was killed near Falmouth, KY. Well, I am similarly afflicted with the civil war, and I enjoy researching the Western theater, because its the road less traveled. I'd like to tell you I've identified S.S. Jennings, but that's not true. However, I'm getting much more familiar with Augusta,Cynthiana, Falmouth, guerrillas, partisan rangers, etc. Stay curious, Dan


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