After Buford's death, Myles Keogh was offered a position by General George Stoneman and he would serve with the New Yorker from January 7, 1864 to September 1, 1866, becoming one of his most loyal aides.
However, soon after Stoneman was released from Rebel captivity, he actively sought to further Keogh's military career by recommending him for promotion to lieutenant colonel of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry. Nicknamed "The Butterflies", this unit was part of George Armstrong Custer's division in Sheridan's army and had a formidable reputation within Union cavalry ranks. Although termed "The Butterflies", they had a real sting which was epitomised in their motto of - "A Horse to Ride and a Sword to Wield."
When the State of New Jersey began organising a new regiment in January 1864, it was thought that volunteers from a war-weary public may be attracted by the lure of a unique uniform - something to make the New Jersey soldier stand out amongst his peers. The chosen model was similar to the Austro-Hungarian hussar and by early 1864, the new uniform appeared in the ranks of the Union Army of the Potomac.
The "hussar" uniform worn by the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry was a clever adaptation of the regulation dress. Two extra rows of buttons were added on the breast of the standard issue cavalry jacket, connected by double rows of yellow soutache braiding or soutache trim. Loops were introduced at the ends of the rows and on both sides of the centre buttons. Austrian knots were sewn on the cuffs and on the backs of the jackets, below the collar. A red patch replaced the blind buttonholes on the stand-up collar and wide yellow stripes adorned each trooper's leg. The caps were likely regulation models with the visor removed and soutache trim added but they could well have been distinctively manufactured. Instead of an overcoat, the new recruits were issued with a blue hooded cloak, lined in orange, called a talma. Initially known as the 1st United States Hussars and the Trenton Hussars, their colourful clothing eventually gave the cavalrymen of the 3rd that unique moniker.
The uniform cost three dollars more than the regular issue, and the extra amount was deducted from each recruit's pay. Nonetheless, the men took immense pride in their garish look.
Painting by Don Troiani
Painting by Keith Rocco
On 14 November, 1864, General George Stoneman wrote from Department of the Ohio Headquarters to the Governor of New Jersey, Joel Parker, recommending Major Myles Keogh for command of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry. Although the letter speaks of the resignation of the then commander of the regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Charles C. Suydam (pictured standing behind General Pleasonton), military records state that Suydam did not officially resign until the next day, November 15th. It may have been that Stoneman was tipped off on Suydam's intentions and sought to promote Keogh's case as early as possible. In the letter, Stoneman wrote that:
before eulogising what he believed to be the Keogh's qualities:"It is the desire of some officers that my ADC, Myles W. Keogh, should be appointed to his [Suydam's] place"
"...his well-known coolness, gallantry and dash, his strict integrity, his devotion to his profession...His universal popularity with all officers and men, and his soldierly bearing...Major Keogh is one of the most superior young officers in the army and is a universal favourite with all who know him."
There is evidence that General George Armstrong Custer expected Myles to be appointed to this position as he wrote to his wife, Libbie, around that time describing the impending assignment of "an officer from the Army of the West, now on General Stoneman's staff, who prior to the war served in European armies in the late Italian War."
Regardless, Keogh never received the posting and the vacant position was filled from within the regiment - Major William P. Robeson (left) being promoted to Lt. Colonel and commander of the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry.
It is interesting to wonder what may have happened had Myles Keogh been assigned command of "The Butterflies". Given the ridicule he experienced when initially joining the Western Armies, Keogh certainly would have related to men whose appearance was initially mocked only for them to establish a formidable reputation based on their ability in combat. It is also interesting to speculate on how Keogh’s military career would have developed had he joined Custer's command in 1864 for the final drive on Richmond.
As it was, he remained with Stoneman who was preparing for a rapid return to action. Now the senior officer of Stoneman's staff, Major Keogh was sent to Lexington to organise troopers and horses for the next campaign. With the sanction of his new superiors, Generals Thomas and Schofield, Stoneman was assembling a cavalry force made up of loyal Kentuckians and Tennesseans and was keen to restore his honour and reputation at the Confederacy's expense...