Chapter 21 - History of Wyoming County

CHAPTER XXI.

HISTORY OF THE NINTH NEW YORK CAVALRY AND FOURTH ARTILLERY.

FIVE companies of the 9th cavalry were raised in the counties of Wyoming, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua. It was first called "Stoneman Cavalry," in honor of General Stoneman, chief of cavalry in the Army of the Potomac. He was once a resident of Chautauqua, and went from that county to West Point; and among the officers and men of the regiment were many of his old friends and schoolmates. It afterward came to be designated, like other regiments, by its number.

The Wyoming county companies numbered about 225 men, of whom a portion came from Genesee county and elsewhere. The chief company officers were: Company A. - captain, H. R. Stimson; lieutenants, A. B. Merril, and D. W. Lapham. Company H. - captain, W. G. Bentley; lieutenants, P. E. Bailey, and William L. Knapp. Company G. - captain, O. L. Tozier, and lieutenant, W. Carson.

The first place of rendezvous was Camp Seward, at Westfield, Chautauqua county. There the newly raised companies were placed in command of Colonel Porter, an experienced cavalry officer. He soon came to be regarded with disfavor by the line officers. Many of these were men of talent and education, and entertained the opinion that a man might be at the same time "an officer and a gentleman:" They could not readily be brought to submit to the insolence of one who looked with contempt upon everything that was not "regular," and who, under the protection of his shoulder straps, gave unbridled license to his domineering spirit and his native churlishness. They were willing to make sacrifices for the cause in which they enlisted, but they could not consent to sacrifice their self respect Colonel Porter was soon relieved.

The field officers, designated by special order, numbered six, from general headquarters, State of New York, were: Colonel, John Beardsley; lieutenant-colonel, William B. Hyde; majors, William Sackett, Charles McLean Knox and George S. Nichols.

From Camp Seward they went to Albany, and thence, November 26th, 1861, to Washington. There they made their winter quarters at Camp Fenton, in a grove between Seventh and Fourteenth streets, in the northwest part of the city. Captain Stimson called their camp "a city of white houses among the pines." They remained in this camp during the following winter, discharging the ordinary routine of camp duties and perfecting themselves in the drill

In the month of March they went out as an escort to some artillery trains, and the opening of the spring campaign found them in the field. There had been frequent rumors of the discharge of this regiment, and these rumors were not wholly without foundation; for at one time such a measure was talked of at the department. From this time forward they were in active service.

Early in July, 1862, they received their horses, and became, in the language of one of their number, what they were enlisted for, "a cavalry regiment." It was then attached to Buford's cavalry brigade, and from that time it was constantly in active service, and its record was as brilliant as that of any cavalry regiment in the service.

It must be remembered that cavalry service is different from that of infantry or artillery - companies and squads of cavalry are frequently sent on reconnaissance's, raids, and forays, where celerity of movement is required, and quick, sharp fighting is to be done. The members of cavalry organizations are, of course, more constantly in motion, and oftener in action than those of any other branch of the service.

The 9th was in the campaigns in Virginia and Maryland in the summer of 1862. In the winter of 1862 and 1863 it was in the region about Culpepper. In the summer of 1863 it was with the army in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It passed the winter of 1863 and 1864 in Loudon valley, with headquarters at Stephensburg. In the spring and early part of the summer of 1864 it was with General Grant, and afterward with General Sheridan in his campaign in the Shenandoah valley.

Although the record of all the engagements in which all or portions of the 9th participated is not accessible, it is known that the number of these is fifty-seven, and that some among these were very severe actions. The following are recorded: Yorktown, Williamsburg, Cedar Mountain, Brandy Station, Aldie, Upperville, Gainesville, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, Antietam, Gettysburg, Kelly's Ford, Rappahannock Station, Sulphur Springs, Opequan, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Mechanicsville, Deep Bottom, Winchester, Fisher's Hill, Cedar Creek, Petersburg, Five Forks, Trevillian Station, Beverly Ford, Malvern Hill, Appomattox Court-house, Germantown, Haymarket, Berryville, Middleburg, Spotted Tavern, Goose Creek, Boonsboro, Funktown, Falling Waters, Stevensburg, Culpepper, Bealton and Mine Run, in most of which it suffered in killed, wounded or prisoners.

At the expiration of its term of service the original members, except those who re-enlisted, were mustered out; and the 4th New York cavalry was transferred to this as companies B, E and L, and, thus made up of veterans and recruits, the organization continued in the service till after the close of hostilities. It was mustered out July 17th, 1865.

Among the testimonials which this regiment has received of the confidence which its commanders reposed in it, the following order may be quoted:

"Headquarters 2nd brigade, 1st cavalry
division, * * * June 14th, 1864.

"Special Orders No. 27.

"The 9th New York cavalry of this brigade having been ordered to the Department of the Shenandoah, the brevet brigadier-general commanding considers it an act of justice to the officers and men of this decimated command to refer to their services during the campaign just ended. Upon them devolved the duty of sustaining the reputation of the fighting 9th upon the brilliant operation upon the enemy's communications north of the James river, and in the campaign that culminated in the suppression of the Rebellion. At the battles of Five Forks, Shiloh Creek, Scott's Crossroads and Appomattox Court-house, their behavior under their gallant leader, Major Dinnan, elicited the highest commendations; and their stubborn valor on more than one occasion assisted materially in the success achieved. Their glorious record will always be one of the brightest chapters in the history of the 2nd brigade.

"Charles J. Fitzhugh,

"Brevet Brigadier-General commanding."

THE FOURTH ARTILLERY.

This organization was formed in New York city, and consisted originally of eight companies. Wyoming county was represented in it by Eugene A. Aken, Abner P. Adams, Page Burnell, Lewis Cain, Owen Huntley, John W. Hatch, Samuel S. Mais, John Prill, Albert Pratt, Goodley Puff, William Spicknell, Spencer Thrall, William W. Warner, Joel H. Watson, Darwin Waite, Pike; Francis Davidson, William E. G. Puff, Genesee Falls; William Gregg, Frank Hardens, James Hildrum, William H. Mateson, Perry; and Walter Tallman, Castile.

The regiment was raised in 1861 and 1862. During the summer of 1862 it garrisoned the forts in front of Georgetown. On the 28th of September it was sent to Fort Rumsey, Va., and thence to Fort Ethan Allen, some five or six miles away. This fort it guarded a long time without being in any active engagement. In the month of June, 1863, the maneuvers of the contending armies brought the 4th artillery to the front, although still in charge of Fort Ethan Allen, and likewise garrisoning Fort Rumsey without infantry support. There, at that time, they were constantly liable to cavalry raids.

March 7th, 1863, Colonel Doubleday was discharged, and Colonel De Russey succeeded him. On the 23d of May following De Russey was promoted to the position of brigadier-general of volunteers, and was succeeded by Colonel Hall, who remained in command until the 6th of the following August, when he resigned. The next colonel was Captain John C. Tidbull, an artillery captain in the regular army, and a thorough fighter; having carried his battery through the principal battles of the war with success.

The regiment remained at Fort Ethan Allen till March 27th, 1864, when it was sent to the front, numbering 2,400. Up to June, 1864, after having participated in the battles of the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Tolopotomy and Cold Harbor, no casualties were reported in it. From a letter written by one of the officers of Battery D in this regiment, the following is copied: "We are working six cohorn mortars. Each throws a 24-pound shell. Much curiosity and great excitement are caused among the infantry by the operation of these pieces. They are so small that four men can pick one up and travel away with it. We can throw a shell from 25 to 1,200 yards with one of them, as we choose. The infantry all declare that the rebels shall never take our battery, and they mean it. We took our present position on the night of June 3d, and we have been under fire ever since three o'clock A. M. of the 4th. As I write the bullets are whistling and shrieking over our heads. On our part we have thrown 150 shells among them. .The effect of them has been terrific. They fall directly among the Johnnies, and create great consternation. We have seen two of the poor fellows blown ten feet into the air by one of them, - heads off, and arms and legs shattered. So far, the reb's have injured none of our battery boys, but have killed and wounded quite a number of others."

The position mentioned was before Cold Harbor, and the battery was detached from the regiment. A long period of comparative inaction before Petersburg was brought to a close on the morning of July 30th by the memorable mine explosion. This mine had been constructed under a strong rebel fort in front of Burnside's line. It was a very large one, containing six tons of powder.

The explosion took place about five o'clock in the morning. A shower of dirt was sent up about three hundred feet, completely demolishing the fort, and burying in its ruins the greater part of a South Carolina regiment and six guns. Immediately after the explosion our batteries opened fire, and simultaneously our forces, including the 4th artillery, charged on the works, and a great part of the second line of defenses was taken. Company C of the 4th operated in this engagement with a battery of cohorn mortars, which were served splendidly.

The next engagement in which this regiment participated was at Deep Bottom. Having embarked on the James and dropped down a few miles it returned, and in conjunction with the 10th corps attacked the rebels and won a victory.

The next fight was on the 25th of August, at Ream's Station, on the Weldon railroad, and in that the 4th suffered terrible loss; 900 of the regiment went into the fight, and but 503 came out. Among the losses were 19 officers killed, wounded and missing. Four charges were made by the rebels and bloodily repulsed; but in the fifth they succeeded in breaking the Union line. In this engagement the 4th was supporting two or three four-gun batteries, and fought under Hancock.

After this the regiment encamped on what was known as the Jerusalem plank road, and reorganized, armed recruits, drilled, worked in trenches, etc. It then went to the vicinity of Fort Hell, and thence to the left of the line before Petersburg, and encamped about two miles west from the Weldon railroad, where it remained during the winter.

It was mustered out of the service the next June.

SOURCE:  History of Wyoming County, N.Y., with Illustrations, Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Some Pioneers and Prominent Residents; F. W. Beers & Co.; 1880