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The Second Mass and Its Fighting Californians

A Reference site of images, articles, artifacts of the Second Massachusetts Cavalry including the Cal 100 and the Cal Battalion.

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Private George Small's Stencil

This stencil was dug (metal detected) by Jeff Randolph of Leesburg, Virginia.  Jeff researched the piece and his story follows.

Click here to see more of Jeff's dug Second Mass relics


      I began digging in 1976 mostly at sites in northern Virginia. One spot that some friends took me to back then was a wooded tract along Little Rocky Run near Centreville. It was obvious from the artifacts we were finding in one section of the camp that it had been occupied by cavalry. Along with Colt and Remington pistol and Sharps and Burnside's carbine bullets, I found several eagle "C" buttons, several M assachusetts state seal buttons and three crossed saber hat ornaments. One of my friends found a sword belt plate in there.

      One day in 1979, I had a couple of unique finds. The first was a stack of about a dozen of the cone shaped Burnside brass bullet casings, one stuck into the other and then mashed flat. I remember I first thought it was a piece of electric conduit. A few feet away, I found a folded and crushed piece of brass, roughly the size of a dollar bill. Brushing some dirt away, I could see letters stamped through and I realized it was a stencil.

      On my way home that evening, I stopped at a relic shop in Manassas and showed him my find. He confirmed it was a stencil but doubted I would be able to get any information from it due to it's rough shape. I soaked the stencil in heated oil, and slowly began to unfold it.  Eventually, I was able to read "G. E. Small Co. D, Cal. Cav. Bat." 

      I didn't know what Cal. Cav. Bat. stood for and now the most remarkable thing happened. I took the stencil to the monthly meeting of the Northern Va. Relic Hunters Assoc. in Fairfax to ask for opinions. The very first person I showed it to that evening was an older gentleman who looked at it and remarked, " dug that in Centreville off Braddock Road."  I was flabbergasted as that was exactly where I found it and asked how he knew. He replied that he had found one there too and then told me what Cal. Cav. Bat. meant.  The following month, that gentleman brought his stencil to the club meeting for me to see. Unlike the stencil I had found, his was in perfect condition and had belonged to David Knapp who also perished at Andersonville.  Knapp was a member of Company C, which was redesignated as Company M at Readville.  Unfortunately, I lost contact with the older gentleman and I don't know where that stencil is.

      So that's the story, as I said, it remains my best find and researching the owner has become a kind of hobby in itself.

George E. Small, a Short Biography

      Sadly, the anonymity of Private George E. Small was all but insured when he was buried at the National Cemetery at Andersonville under an erroneous name.

      Born in 1837, George E. Small was the son of Aaron Small, a blacksmith at Warner Township, New Hampshire. Before George was ten years old, his mother had died and Aaron Small was compelled to ask relatives and friends to help with the raising of his young children. A decade later, George was living in Hopkinton living with the family of Jonathan Eastman. The 1860 census listed him as a "day laborer" on the Eastman's farm. Sometime over the following two years, George left New Hampshire for California and the promise of gold. 

      George Small gave up mining and, on March 4, 1863, enlisted with the California Cavalry Battalion in San Francisco. His enlistment papers describe him as being fair in complexion, five foot eight inches tall, and having hazel eyes and brown hair.  Co. D was the designation of Small's Company when it left San Francisco; when they reached camp at Readville, Mass., it was redesignated as Company F. 

      The Second Massachusetts Cavalry went into active duty on May 12, 1863 and Private Small participated in numerous engagements in Maryland and Northern Virginia. On September 7, 1864, Confederates captured Small at the battle of Locke's Ford on the Opequan Creek, near Winchester.

      Small was transported south winding up at Andersonville Prison in Georgia late in September. He may have been wounded when captured at Locke's Ford or become sick from the rigors of the military campaign. In a weakened condition, he may have quickly succumbed to the conditions at Andersonville. 

      In his military records, Small is listed as dying at Andersonville on January 15, 1865. However, there is no George Small in the list of interments at Andersonville. There could have been confusion as to his identity caused by the character of life at the prison. Soldiers often knew each other only by their prison or "camp name". I believe that George Small is buried in grave number 10404 under the name "J. H. Smalley, Mass." The date of Smalley's death was October 6, 1864. The Register of Federal Prisoners of War Admitted to the Hospital at Andersonville, Georgia, lists "J. K. Smalley, Co. G, Second Massachusetts" as entering on October 5 and dying the following day. A Confederate doctor noted the cause of death as "scorbutus". 

      On April 3, 1866, Small's sister, Rosanna was awarded the back pay of her late brother in the amount of $216.48. The January 15th date of death might have been chosen to mark the end of a pay period. The first mention of a specific date of death in the military records is in the "Memorandum From Prisoner of War Records" compiled in November, 1867.

      The compiled military records for the state of Massachusetts lists no J. K. or J. H. Smalley having served during the War. The similarity of the names plus the association with the Second Massachusetts without a branch of service, is compelling evidence that the person buried in grave number 10404 is George E. Small.

Biography and relic courtesy of Jeff Randolph