Was New Year’s Day, ’64 a bad day for Uncle Joe?

Posted on January 1, 2014 by


Joseph Lake McKinney

Joseph Lake McKinney

I’ve mentioned my 3rd great granduncle, Joseph Lake McKinney, in a few posts. In his service record, there is one entry that is a bit of a mystery to me… mostly because it’s not clear what the circumstances were behind a notation.

I know a lot of folks like to talk more about an ancestor’s heroism and courage… just because it appears he was in a particular battle, or serving under a particular commander. On the other hand, I’m not shy about pointing out situations that may not have been as bright and shining.

First, where was Cole’s Cavalry on New Year’s Day, 1864? Here’s what Newcomer had to say…

It was New Year’s day, 1864; the thermometer in this mountain country was below zero. The command ran across a large number of Mosby’s Cavalry ; our scouting party being greatly outnumbered were compelled to fall back, and in crossing Goose Creek, at Leesburg, the men were compelled to swim their horses across the stream, and when they arrived at camp many of the boys were nearly frozen to death. Their heavy boots had gotten full of water which had frozen, and their boots were cut from their feet; A number of the men were compelled to go to the hospital, where it was found necessary to amputate their toes, and in several instances their feet; which had become terribly frostbitten. The command had lost a number of their best men in killed and wounded, and five or six taken prisoners in this raid.

Newcomer’s estimates are a little off. He claims about a half a dozen taken prisoner, but my number for the day shows closer to hefty 30+ (nine of the captured being from Co. D, which was Newcomer’s company). They’d get payback in just over a week, but New Year’s Day, 1864 was a bad day for Cole’s Cavalry.

Meanwhile, I look to Uncle Joe’s service record for that time frame.

He was listed as AWOL on the December rolls, but had he returned before the incident at Rectortown? Hard to say. What I do see, is that, in the February roster, he has an entry that shows he was… missing a couple of things, and… in confinement.


I’ve given this some thought. Yes, he very well could have lost these items while he was AWOL… but there’s no mention about being confined for being AWOL… just about having lost the carbine, pistol, etc. Could he have lost them on January 10, at Loudoun Heights? I don’t think so, as they were in the scrap that day, on home turf… in their own camp. It seems to me, there is a good chance he could have lost them in the great skedaddle that occurred on January 1. Regretfully, I have nothing to prove this, it’s just something that seems to align between his record and the service record of Cole’s Cavalry during that same time.

As of the April entry, Uncle Joe wasn’t in confinement, but his losses were still noted. Regretfully, there is a gap between April 30 and August, but in the August entry, there is no mention of this at all. Had he been required to pay for the losses, or were they dismissed because of the circumstances surrounding their loss?

Again, back to the question posed in the title… was New Year’s Day a bad day for Uncle Joe?

I can’t be for certain, but I have to chuckle a little about “his losses”, as I have heard similar stories about how others lost items, especially when involving visits to a lady friend. Then too, if he was at Rectortown, not recovering those items and choosing to skedaddle may have been the best possible option… and well worth the short term of confinement. After all, his pards who had been captured that day ended up taking a long trip, way down South, before finding themselves in a place known as Camp Sumter… better known as Andersonville.