The History of New York State
Book XI, Chapter 5, Part 2

Editor, Dr. James Sullivan

Online Edition by Holice, Deb & Pam


With chagrin, if not with dismay, the South viewed the stupendous preparations made so promptly by New York. They had been half inclined to believe that the Empire State, because of its immense commercial activities, would adopt a negative attitude, or a neutral course.

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Some probably hoped that she might exert her great strength to mediate between North and South. New York was, at best, a cosmopolitan centre, drawing its population from the South as well as the North. Its interests reached to all parts of the compass. Why should she not enter as the Great Mediator? But, when the South saw the futility of such hopes, when they realized that the whole might of the great commonwealth--a State able to place in the field far larger armies than those with which Napoleon had almost conquered the world--would be exerted to defend the Union, they gave way to the bitterest thoughts. The Southern Press, no doubt, voiced the general hatred of New York. One newspaper found relief for its exasperation in these words of wrath; "The insane fury of new York arises from purely mercenary motives. She is concerned about the golden eggs which are laid for her by the southern goose with a sword. Let us assure her that we have no more fear of her frowns than of her smiles. New York will be remembered with especial hatred by the South to the end of time. Boston we have always known where to find; but this new York, which has never turned against us till the hour of trial; and is not moving heaven and earth for our destruction, shall be a marked city to the end of time." The "Richmond Whig," on April 22, 1861, likened the scenes which were witnessed in the streets of new York at that time to the excitement of the "Reign of Terror In Paris." "Nothing was wanting but the bloody guillotine to make the two pictures identical. The violent and diabolical temper everywhere conspicuously showed but too clearly whither all things are tending in the commercial metropolis. . . . the desperadoes of that great city are not in the ascendant. At present they are animated by very bloody designs against the South." Those whom the South wrote of as "desperadoes: were cheered on to war by the North as wholehearted, noble, self-sacrificing patriots. The Richmond newspaperman probably found a ray of hope in one reflection. Might not these same New York desperadoes at some time return to their senses, give up their mad aim of pillaging the poor South and turn upon their own rich city, where their prospects of loot were so much more alluring? He writes: "We do not know that their quick wits have yet comprehended all the advantage of their position., But they will not be very slow in finding that they are masters of the situation. They have only, in swaggering down Broadway and looking into some of the magnificent stores that grace that vaunted street, or stepping into one of the banks, or looking over the list of the recipients of specie by the last steamer from California, or the names of the subscribers to the last government loan. . . . .to be convinced that a military contribution on New York would yield a hundred-fold more than they could hope to realize in ten bloody and desperate campaigns in the South."

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The south had yet to learn that the men of New York who cast aside their civilian attire for the honorable garb of the soldiers of the North at the same time shed all mercenary motives. Henceforth, until their country was no longer in peril, death alone would end their determination to preserve the Union. As a New York correspondent reported to an English paper, the "Illustrated London News," in May, 1861, the transformation in New York, "the commercial emporium of the North," had been wonderful. It was a military city. "All trade was at a stand-still." "From morning to night nothing is heard but the sound of the drum or the martial strains from trumpet and bugle, as regiment after regiment passed on its way to the seat of war through streets crowded with a maddened population. . . . .there is not a house that does not display Union colors of some kind; there is not a steeple ever so lofty that is not surmounted by a star-spangled banner; there is not a man or woman in the city that does not wear a patriotic badge of some kind. It is a mighty uprising of a untied people determined to protect their flag to the last."

"the uprising of this period," says Roberts, "was only less than universal. Women and children encouraged brothers and husbands and fathers. The struggle in families and in establishments was not who should enlist, but who should be compelled to stay at home. The officers of volunteer and militia companies became drill masters where the regular army could not furnish them. Old men and boys concealed their age, so as to be mustered in as soldiers. Companies organized in a day went into camp before the end of the week. Recruits anxious for the support of their families received guarantees for their care from their neighbors, and gifts of side arms and horses and personal comforts were so profuse as to become burdens. The first flush of an era of heroism was upon the people, and the commonwealth counted neither cost nor sacrifice in its determination to save the Union. Nowhere else was zeal more fiery, nowhere else was there more profound recognition of the principles involved, and of the immense duties resting on loyal citizens."

Within a month of Lincoln/s first call, new York State had enrolled 30,000 men, and many others of her sons had enlisted in federal units in other States. By July 1st, the empire State had enrolled, organized,. Officered and adequately equipped thirty-eight regiments; and by the end of 1861, which was a dark year for the Union, a year in which fathers and sons, we they bade their wives and mothers and children loving farewell could be at all confident that it would not be forever, New York State sent into the field no less then 120,000 men--115 regiments. At sea, New York's vast merchant fleet was the main support of the North. In money, New York during 1861 furnished no less than $210,000,000 advanced by the North and West of the treasury of the United States. Can one wonder at the chagrin of Southerners who had

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Been deluded into believing that "the commercial emporium of the North" would, for mercenary motives, have been deaf to the call of the Union? Can one wonder that they should declare: "New York will be remembered with especial hatred by the South to the end of time." Can one wonder that the embattled Lincoln, whose once-heavy heart had been made glad by the rallying thousands of enthusiastic New Yorkers, should exclaim: "God Bless them!" In the supreme test New York had not been found wanting. She was in her rightful place--leading the Union. With braced shoulders and stout heart, she was again bearing the heaviest burdens of the nation. The name Empire State signified more than a boast; New York was living up to her rank.

In considering the military operations over the vast field of war, one cannot fail to be impressed by the fact that men of new York were to be found on almost all battle-fronts. During the four years of war the North put into the field 2,867,345 soldiers. Of this number New York State supplied 484,260 men, the next highest State being Pennsylvania with 366,107 men. It follows therefore that these immense armies furnished by the Empire State to the Nation would not all be used in one area of danger. while no doubt they were used mainly in the East, many unites rendered heroic service in the West and South. For instance, the 78th New York Infantry was at Atlanta, new York regiments made up the bulk of the 19th Army Corps in the Mississippi and Red river campaigns in 1862; the 11th Cavalry was in Louisiana, the 18th Cavalry was in Texas, some were with Fremont in Missouri. Wherever the "boys in blue" were fighting inappreciable numbers, men of New York no doubt were to be found, for approximately one of every six soldiers of the Union was from New York. In one battle alone--Gettysburg--no less then eighty-seven New York Regiments and batteries were in position. The people of New York may study the Civil War narratives as a whole, fully realizing that New York had the leading part in the great struggle to preserve the Union, which ever afterwards was to have nobler national significance.

The people of New York had accepted the result of the political canvass of 1860 with their customary patriotic spirit, and notwithstanding all that had passed, were not willing to believe that war might not be averted. When the Legislature met on the first day of 1861, the Governor, in his annual message, spoke in a conciliatory tone regarding the attempt at disunion, stating that the State of New York was ready in all honorable ways to aid in reconciling estrangements, and was as willing to guarantee the rights of the slave States as to defend her own. In the Senate a leading member of the party which had opposed Abraham Lincoln's election submitted a series of resolutions, asserting it to be the religious as well as the patriotic duty of each State and citizen to preserve the Union, and requesting the Governor to tender to the President,

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in the name of the people, the militia of the State, to be employed at his discretion, in enforcing the laws and maintaining the constitution.

Pacification in sentiment and preparation in act were the order of the day. Select committees on federal relations were formed. Bills were brought forward for the more complete enrollment of the militia; to prohibit the ale of munitions of war or the loan of money to States in rebellion; for defining treason; for providing arms; indeed for giving form in every ways to the will of the people. These measures were but a prelude to the many others of like character. The members of both branches of the Legislature were united in action as to the duty of the hour, and the State officials acted in harmony with them.

Towards the end of January the Governor transmitted to the Legislature the resolutions of the General Assembly of Virginia, inviting all States willing to unite in an earnest effort to adjust the existing controversies and to afford adequate guarantees to the slave-holding States, to appoint commissioners to meet in Washington on February 4 following. He recommended the appointment of a commission as requested, and asked that it be composed of men in whose character the people could have confidence. The Legislature a few days later elected as commissioners from New York: David Dudley Field, William Curtis Noyes, James S. Wadsworth, James C. Smith, Amaziah B. James, Erastus Corning, Addison Gardiner, Greene C. Bronson, William E. Dodge, John A. King, and John E. Wood. The proceedings of the Peace conference were without results; and it could hardly be otherwise, for on the day it met, the provincial congress or convention of the seceded States met at Montgomery, Alabama, and by February 18 had adopted and inaugurated a government, to be known as the "confederate States of America."

On February 5 the governor of Georgia ordered the seizure in the harbor of Savannah of several vessels owned in the city of New York, in reprisal for the detention, by the metropolitan police of the city, of arms consigned to the State of Georgia; three days later, however, the vessel were released. Following the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, a meeting took place in the executive chamber at the capital of the State of New York, at which were present the Governor and other State officers, the Speaker of the Assembly and the members of the military and finance committees of the two houses. A committee, consisting of the Attorney-General, the Adjutant-General, the Inspector-General, Mr. Blood of the Senate and Mr. Robinson of the Assembly, was appointed to draft a bill to be submitted to the Legislature the following morning. The bill invested the Governor with the power of its execution and provided for the enrollment of 30,000 volunteer militia to serve for two years, appropriating $3,000,000 to meet the expense. The commission created thereby was popularly known as the "State Military Board,"

In response to the call from Washington for troops to be mustered

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Into immediate service, the State Military Board resolved that seventeen regiments of 780 men each, be enrolled and mustered into service for two years, and made provision for the prompt transportation to Washington of the regiments of the organized militia ordered into service by the Governor's as well as of the volunteer militia authorized by it, and for procuring necessary quarters, hospital, medical and other supplies. An army of 40,000 men, including the organized militia, was to be prepared for the field and all the staff officers were more than fully employed. Depots were established in New York City, Albany, and Elmira, and Brigadier-General Charles Yates,. John F. Rathbone, and Robert B. Van Valkenburgh, of the organized militia, respectively, placed in command of them.

On April 21st the 6th, 12th, and 71st Regiments of the militia left New York City en route for Washington. On April 22 a patriotic meeting of the Bench and Bar of new York City took place, at which money was subscribed by the thousands; d the 25th Regiment of Militia left Albany for the endangered capital of the country. The next day, April 23, witnessed a great meeting in Brooklyn, at which Robert J. Walker, a former Cabinet officer, and resident of a seceding State, addressed the people, and the departure from Brooklyn of the 13th and from New York City of the 8th and 69th regiment of the organized militia of the State. On April 27th the 5th Regiment of militia of New York City; a day later the 20th Regiment of militia of Kingston; on the 19th the Ellsworth Fire Zouaves, later the 11th volunteers, a two years regiment, of New York City and on the 30th the 28th Regiment of militia from Brooklyn, left the State for active service.

The remaining regiments of the organized militia were preparing to march, when in the first days of May, their orders were countermanded upon receipt of information from the General government that no more three months' men were wanted. Four companies of the 74th Militia volunteered then, and left Buffalo for Elmira on May 3, escorted to the depot by the Home guards, of which ex-President Fillmore was major in command. The enlistment of volunteers under the Governor' s proclamation of April 18 proceeded with great rapidity. On April 22, only a week after the proclamation of the President, eighty-two companies has been accepted, and the State Military Board adopted a resolution "to organize the remainder of the force provided for in the act of April 16th."

Demonstrations by every element in the State increased, and the various nationalities vied with each other in the work of raising regiments and sustaining the government. On April 25 an enthusiastic meeting of the British residents was held in New York City; followed a few days later by a Union meeting of the French residents. The Germans met frequently in large assemblies,. And the Irish were prominently active. Distinctive regiments of Irish, Scotch, Germans, and French were being

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raised. The Common Council of buffalo made a large appropriation to equip a local regiment. Troy established a special depot and raised money for its support. Other cities and towns were not behind in the work. Collections were made in churches and at other gatherings for furnishing needed supplies for the soldiers and for supporting their families. Active patriotism prevailed in business circles; bankers and commercial men were vieing with each other in the work of forwarding men and providing for those at home. Representatives of all the profession and pursuits were found in the ranks or hastening to the rendezvous. The Union Defense Committee, the Merchants Committee, the German Committee, the Chamber of Commerce, churches and citizens of new York City and other localities throughout the State assisted with money in defraying the expenses of the organizations springing up all over the country.

Early in July the Government in Washington requested some mounted troops, and two companies were forwarded. On July 12 the last volunteer organization had left the State, and at that date there had been placed in the United States service by New York State; Of the organized militia for three months' service, 8,534 men; of two years' volunteers, 30,131 men; of three years' volunteers, 7,557 men, making a total of 46,224 officers and enlisted men. The depots were closed and recruiting suspended. Applications for authority to raise additional companies were as strongly pressed as at any time since the firing on Fort Sumter, but the Washington government declined to accept more men, though it recommended that a well-drilled force be provided for emergencies. Long Island and the vicinity of buffalo were two of the points suggested for the encampment, and the latter city tendered an eligible site on the shores of Lake Erie. Then the defeat at Bull Run, July 21, changed the aspect of affairs, gave a new direction to the efforts of the State, and opened up a new and graver period of the war. This serious set-back brought home to the people of the North that the struggle had but little more then begun, and that the end was not as near as many had heretofore believed. But a new determination arose in keeping with the importance of the crisis, and when on the day after the reverse the President approved the act of congress authorizing the organization of an army of 500,000 men, with power to increase the force whenever he should deem it necessary, his action and that of Congress were warmly supported.

At the request of the President, Governor Morgan issued, July 25, a proclamation calling for 25,000 volunteers for three years service, to be organized into twenty-five regiments of infantry, and, July 30, the Governor, at the request of the War Department, called for volunteers for four additional regiments, two of cavalry, and two of artillery. On July

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26, three regiments of colored men, to serve during the war, were tendered to the Governor, with the assurance that their arms, equipments, clothing and pay, while in the service, would be provided by the colored population of New York. The offer was declined but the spirit was appreciated.

At the beginning of August the depots at New York city, Albany, and Elmira were reopened, with the same officers in command, and recruiting and organizing recommenced with a renewed energy. A quota was not assigned to New York at the time; the troops were raised under the act of Congress approved on July 22. However, when in June, 1862, it became necessary to determine what the quota should have been, in order to make further calls, it was decided that since the President's call of April 15, New York State should have been required to furnish 109,056 three years' volunteers. The Union Defense Committee, the German Committee, the Irish Committee, and other committees of New York City, Brooklyn, and the other cities and localities of the State, which had rendered such valuable services in April and May, renewed their former efforts, and aided in every possible way the officers of the State. The ardor of the people showed itself in many ways; requests for authority to raise regiments and to recruit companies flooded the military department, and it became necessary to establish branch depots fro the reception of companies, and the organization of regiments, to meet the sprit of the people and to facilitate prompt and fruitful cooperation on the part of the various committees and many persons of influence. During the period from August 23 to November 2, depots were established at the following places: Oswego, Saratoga, Buffalo, Rochester, Ogdensburg, Auburn, Kingston, Westfield, in the first district of the county of New York, Syracuse, Brooklyn, Boonville, Genesee, Cortlandville, Plattsburgh, Cherry Valley, Potsdam, Malone, Unadilla, Hancock, Madison Barracks, Lyons, Utica, Le Roy and Nineveh. Up to the time the largest portion of the expenses incurred in recruiting, quartering, subsisting, uniforming, arming, transporting, and even paying the troops raised in the State, especially in the case of the militia and the two years' regiments, had been borne by the State; but on august 15th, the officers of the Regular Army, who has been detailed to muster in the new levy, were constituted disbursing officers of the General Government, and, Congress having passed the necessary appropriation, provided with funds for the payment of expenses of the nature mentioned, relieving the State largely, but not entirely, from that duty. During August the regiments of the organized militia, which had so promptly marched to the front in April, and had following that date rendered valuable service on the field of battle and in camp and garrison, returned to their home stations and were received by a grateful people with enthusiastic demonstrations of appreciation,. Many of these men at once re-entered the service as volunteers.

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A good description of the situation in the State of New York and the state of popular feeling is given in the proclamation of the Governor issued on August 22:

"A conspiracy, not the work of a day, but the result of years of false, wicked and traitorous machinations, has, for several months, disturbed the peace of the State of New York and of the Federal Union. Its movements have been marked by violence and fraud. Whenever it has manifested itself, it has disregarded the rights of citizens, coerced them into the ranks of the armies, and exercised an absolute control over persons and property, in utter defiance of the constitution and the laws of the land. Ambitious and designing men, disappointed in their general aims, have been enabled, chiefly by misrepresenting the feelings of one portion of the country toward the other, to usurp and exercise a power which has become not only tyrannical and oppressive in the several States whose constitutional governments it has temporarily suspended, but dangerous to the entire nation.

"The pretenses originally held froth as a justification for acts of lawlessness and treason have been laid aside. The intention of the leaders of this wicked Rebellion to destroy the Union, cemented by the blood of our forefathers, is now fully manifested; and elated by an accidental success, they audaciously threaten the National Capital. As chief Magistrate of the State, it is my solemn duty to warn all good and loyal men of the dangers to which our institutions are exposed, and to urge upon them the necessity of an earnest and zealous cooperation with the authorities of the State and General government, of a cheerful contribution of their means to support the public credit, and of active enrollment in the forces now being organized for the defense of the Union, convinced that the tranquillity of the country, so wantonly disturbed, can only be restored by the prompt and vigorous suppression of rebellion and treason wherever they may appear.

"The Representatives of the people of the United States, lately convened in Congress, at the call of a constitutionally elected President, in view of the perils which surround the Union, have, by legislative enactment, provided for liberal supplies of men and means for the enforcement of the laws, and have thus invited a hearty and zealous response on the part of the several States. New York has never wavered in her devotion to the Union. She prizes it on account of the many blessings which all parts of the country alike have received from it, on account of the memory of her patriotic sons by whose blood it was purchased, and for the inestimable benefit it confers upon the present, and secures to future generations. Her noble response to the call of the President, in April last, was such as preserved to her the proud title she has long borne in the family of States. Another stage in the great Rebellion has been reached; and the Government, appreciating the dangers now menacing it,

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appeals for aid. The whole country, the civilized world, now looks to the State of New York. Let the response be worthy of her history. Let her answer go back in full ranks of earnest men, who, justly valuing the magnitude of the interests involved, temporarily relinquish their pursuits and prepare to met the crisis."

On August 28 the War Department authorized recruiting for organizations in the field, and ordered details from such as required recruits, to be sent to New York for that purpose. From May onward the War Department had been granting authority to individuals to recruit and organize regiments and batteries, independent of the state authorities. Some of the organizers were responsible men fit for work of that kind while others were of a less responsible character. Recruiting parties were all over the State and their number created complications that resulted in considerable annoyance to the authorities. On September 5, upon the representations of the Governor, the Secretary of War ordered all residents of the State, who had received from his department authority to recruit and organize, to report to the Executive of the State for orders, and to complete their respective organizations with his approval; empowering him to revoke any authority granted, or to consolidate organization, as he deemed best for the interests of the country. This action was timely, and put an end to the many vexatious delays and interferences met with by the State officers.

To expedite and simplify the organizing, equipping, subsisting, and forwarding of troops, Governor Morgan consented to accept the position of Major-General of United States volunteers, and on October 26 the President created the Military Department of new York, comprising the State, and placed the Governor, as Major-General, in command of it. Major-General Morgan assumed command on November 1. On October 28, the Government in Washington requested that regiments of cavalry be no longer organized and on November 27 it extended the request to the Infantry. On December 3 the War Department, in General Orders, directed that more new regiments should not be recruited; that incomplete organizations should be consolidated, and all organizations still in the State forwarded as quickly as possible. This of course discontinued recruiting. Steps were at once taken to consolidate incomplete organizations which, it was thought, would not be able to fill their ranks within a short time. Other regiments nearly completed, whose ranks, it was known, could be filled in a few weeks, received special authority to continue recruiting.

The recruiting parties for organizations in the field had not been idle; it is estimated that they recruited and sent tot he r respective organizations before the close of the year about 11,000 men. At the close of 1861 there had been sent to the front in the last four months forty-two regiments of infantry, ten regiments of cavalry, one battalion of mounted

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rifles, two regiments of artillery, two battalions of artillery, on rocket battalion, nine independent batteries, and four companies of Berdan sharpshooters, and there were still left in the State regiments ready to start, and other not completed, numbering 14,083 men; making the total number recruited for new and old organization, 75,339 men.

The Legislature that met in Albany in 1862 was largely occupied in authorizing counties, cities, towns and villages to raise means for the equipment of volunteers and for the relief of their families. Ordinances and acts by communities, already passed and executed, appropriating money in aid of the defense of the National Union, were legalized. The Comptroller of the State was empowered to provide means to the extent of $350,000 for the pay of volunteers still in the State, die on January 1, but not yet paid by the United States. There was not, on the part of the authorities and the people, any hesitation in providing for the soldiers the State of such sums of their pay as may have been or would thereafter be assigned by the volunteers for the benefit of their families or others.

Provision was made for the prompt payment of the direct tax levied by act of Congress and apportioned tot he State; of expenses incurred in the organization, equipment, and subsistence of troops; and for reimbursement of Militia regiments for clothing and equipments lost and destroyed while in the United States Service. Towards the close of the session an act was passed for the better enrollment of the militia, the organization and discipline of the National guard, the designation given to the organized militia, and for public defense. The Legislature, on February 17, also passed a concurrent resolution giving thanks to the officers and soldiers for the recent victories of the national arms at Forts Henry and Donelson, at Roanoke Island, Savannah and other points. Chapter 420 passed April 22, incorporated the Union Home and School for the education and maintenance of the children of volunteers, under the management of women of the State.

The Washington Government had issued orders, placing the recruiting service in the State, for the forces in the field, under the charge of general superintendents, and directing that general depots be provided for the collection and instruction of recruits. Major Sprague, of the Regular Army, was detailed by the War Department as General Superintendent for New York, and he selected Almira and Albany as points for the establishment of his general depots. The New York state authorities turned over the barracks, hospitals, and other facilities at these points to the United States authorities.


The History of New York State, Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc., 1927

This book is owned by Pam Rietsch and is a part of the Mardos Memorial Library

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