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Bill Thayer

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The following text is reproduced from (the report of the) Seventeenth Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 10th, 1886.

 p46  Orsemus B. Boyd
No. 2216. Class of 1867.
Died, (in the field) at Camp near Grafton, New Mexico, July 23, 1885, aged 41.

"So passed the strong, heroic soul away —"

Born in New York; appointed from New York; Class rank, 61.

Entered the war of the rebellion as a member of the Eighty-ninth New York Volunteer Infantry September 1, 1861, and served until July 1, 1863, when he was appointed a Cadet in the United States Military Academy. He saw active service in our great war, and was mentioned for gallantry at Roanoke Island, North Carolina.

He was graduated on June 17, 1867, and appointed Second Lieutenant Eighth United States Cavalry; First Lieutenant same, October 13, 1868; Captain, January 26, 1882. He died July 23, 1885, closing in acknowledged honor and undoubted manly effectiveness twenty-four years of faithful and gallant service in the saddest of our wars, and in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, where he assisted to develop our great inland resources.

His family have an honest pride in his unostentatious record, and we all may say:

Duncan is in his grave.

After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."

The Record of a Noble Life

"I, the despised of fortune, lift mine eyes.

Bright with the lustre of integrity,

In unappealing wretchedness, on high,

And the last rage of Destiny defy."

It is with deep solicitude that the writer endeavors, in a few words, to do justice to the memory of Captain Boyd.

For several long and intensely painful years I knew him to be an innocent Enoch Arden in a lonely desert of solitude, bereft of — dearer to the soldier than life or wife — his honor — a sufferer for the crime of another man.

 p47  It was in 1863 that he entered the Academy — a veteran soldier — a young man whose merits had gained for him the honorable rank of Cadet. In 1864 the writer joined the corps, and for three years they marched shoulder to shoulder in the line of the dear old Gray Battalion with the man who sleeps far away from the Hudson, and where the foot of the idle stranger may stop to mark where a good, honest, and much-wronged man sleeps the sleep which knows no waking.

No man ever did better work in the army than Boyd. By steady, faithful and efficient service, he wore out suspicion, conspiracy, bad luck and scandal. Since the establishment of his innocence — unsought, unchallenged by him — his defamer has preceded him to the awful bar of the Great Judge.

He lived to round a career of usefulness and gallant service, with the tributes of regimental and army respect, the affection of his brother officers, the endearments of family life, the respect of the people of Texas and of the Territories where he had served. Demonstrations by his company and comments of the general press prove that his once shadowed name is now clear, clean and honored to those who loved him.

The facts are these: In the winter of 1865‑'66 a robbery of certain sums of money occurred in "B" Company, United States Corps of Cadets. It is unnecessary to refer to the facts other than that after repeated robberies and some rather crude detective work, one evening at undress parade in the area of barracks, Cadet Boyd was ignominiously brought before the battalion of cadets with a placard of "Thief" on his back, drummed out of the corps, mobbed and maltreated. A most intense state of excitement prevailed on the post, and the strongest discipline was enforced, the cadets being summarily quelled in any riotous actions. Innocent parties had their names dragged into the affair, and poor Boyd finished his cadet­ship generally cut in the corps, and lived, till he graduated, a life which was a living hell.

The scandal and trouble followed him to his regiment, and years of exemplary behavior were needed to enable him to live down in any way his trouble. His quiet, manly obstinacy in clinging to the army is explained by his innocence. The deepest regret must ever attend the memories of this affair to the honorable but hot‑headed men who for so long made Boyd carry the burden of another's crime. It is a  p48 matter of strange remark that the guilty man who made Boyd suffer for him — Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.John Joseph Casey, of the class of 1868, was accidentally shot at drill, by a soldier, at Fort Washington, Maryland, March 24, 1869, within nine months of his apparently honorable graduation. The careers and untimely end of several who bore down on the suffering man of whom we speak show some strange and continued sadness or burdens of expiation. It is all over now. The wandering squadron passing poor Boyd's grave may dip the colors to a man whose eyes closed in honor, true to himself, to his family, his corps, and to the dear old flag that he served so patiently, so quietly, and so well. God rest his soul! Amen.

His innocence was publicly established as follows: In the winter of '67‑68 Cadet Casey, while sick in the hospital, confessed to his room-mate, Cadet Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hamilton (now dead) that he (Casey) had stolen the monies for which poor Boyd had suffered the loss of name and fame.

[The records show that the Casey was in the hospital from January 24 to January 31, 1868, suffering from dementia. He was so ill that his classmates took turns in nursing him. One night in his delirium he spoke of the Boyd affair. Hamilton happened to be with him at the time. The next morning, when Casey was again in a conscious condition, Hamilton told him what he had said. It was then that Casey confessed his part of the conspiracy. If it had not been for Casey's illness the facts above narrated would never, in all human probability, have come to light. — Sec. Assn.]

It is unnecessary for the writer to state why Hamilton kept this awful secret locked in his breast from '67‑'68 until he died, January 22, 1872, from consumption; but he did, alas for him. Casey had peculiar temptations to his deed. Private matters and a hounding blackmail pressed him for money, which he stole from rich cadets. The cause was a concealed marriage of Casey's, that would have voided his cadet­ship and destroyed his chance for social elevation.

Poor Boyd lived alone in a room on the third floor, third division, "B" Company. Casey lived directly opposite, and concealed marked money in Boyd's books, which caused Boyd to be suspected as the thief of all the money previously stolen.

 p49  Hamilton, the confidant, feared his room-mate of four years, erred and kept silent, as far as I know, until June, 1871. At the St. Marc Hotel, Washington, D. C., Lieutenant Hamilton, in view of his approaching death, communicated to me his knowledge of Casey's confession and of Boyd's innocence. I was shocked, and at once communicated the facts to the then Lieutenant O. B. Boyd, on the frontier. On my return after three years​a of absence in the Orient, Europe and the South I discovered, in a conversation with Captain Price, of the Engineers, that full justice had not been done. Duplicate affidavits were immediately made by me and forwarded to Captain Boyd and another person interested. I received a letter from Boyd thanking me for my efforts — a letter which has made me always happy, and which I regret is stored with valuable archives where I cannot at once find it. It speaks of his struggles, and pleasantly says that his character needs no present backing, but that a time may come when I may speak and tell all, if I thought it would please those who valued him.

It was in Siberia that I received the letter asking me to put these facts on paper, and by hazard I found a stray copy of the Army and Navy with a report of Captain Boyd's honorable obsequies.

From the Pacific I pen the last tribute to a man of much-tried worth. The subject brings back painful memories of two men whom I loved and honored in my cadet days — my erring classmates, Casey and Hamilton. I am proud to remark here that two of my class never cut Boyd, and several others in the corps did him some act of kindness in the awful silence of two years. With pride I recall that the officers of the post did full justice to his barren rights, and that the old and faithful servants of the Academy treated him with a discerning kindness which is a wreath of honor on their silent graves. I will not refer to one affection which cheered him — there are things too sacred for words.

It is all over! There is only one name off the duty roster; an empty chair; a lonely grave; an old sword hanging idly in the sunshine somewhere; a riderless horse; a void in the little family circle which knew and loved the man who is no more.

It is well to think that his name is mentioned with honor and respect; that the burden of another's crime has been cast from him, and that Time will quietly and in honor carpet the grave of the honest soldier  p50 with "the grass which springeth under the rain which raineth on the just and the unjust alike." I believe restitution of honor and public consideration has been fully made.​b I look back sadly on my waning youth to think of this story, its actors, and that —

"The saint who enjoyed the communion of Heaven,

The sinner who dared to remain unforgiven,

The wise and the foolish, the guilty and just,

Have quietly mingled their bones with the dust."

Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Richard H. Savage

Class of 1868.

Thayer's Notes:

a Two years, actually: see the author's entry in Cullum's Register, and my note there.

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b To say nothing of a novel closely based on this sad story, published by Boyd's classmate Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.William Roe: see that entry in Cullum's Register for a synopsis.

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Page updated: 22 Jan 14