Ontario County, NY Troops in the Civil War
from the History of Ontario Co., New York Published 1878 p. 82 - p.100
Transcribed by Donna Judge and Dianne Thomas
Welcome to Ontario County, NY,
History and Genealogy!
If you would like to add or to link Ontario County data to this site please contact me. Copyright resides with the contributor.
Return to Home Page Return to Civil War Homepage
Ontario in the War for the Union
When the tidings of Fort Sumter’s fall came flashing along the telegraph wires, and, close following, the call by President LINCOLN for men to put down organized rebellion, the patriotic spirit of old Ontario was most thoroughly aroused. Feeling was deep, intense, and painful; then it found vent, not alone in Canandaigua and Geneva, but in every village and town in the county. Thousands of dollars were subscribed as a volunteer fund. A splendid banner was prepared by the ladies of Canandaigua for the Ontario regiment. Flags were everywhere thrown to the breeze. The young men formed in companies, martial bands paraded the streets, and the din of preparation everywhere resounded. The history of events in Ontario would fill volumes—the heroism of the soldiers, the liberality of the citizens, and the noble efforts early instituted of the “Ladies’ Army Hospital Aid Society” and kindred organizations. To furnish supplies for the sick and wounded there was no effort neglected, no sacrifice not cheerfully made; and whether on the field of battle contending with the enemies of the country, or at home awaiting with untold anxiety the dread report of mighty battles, the pulse of this noble old county has always beat time to the music of the Union. Within a brief interval companies of volunteers had been recruited, officered, and placed at the service of the government. War was the all-absorbing topic, and the feelings there and then aroused never found rest till, with joy too deep for expression, the tidings came of LEE surrendered and the Union saved. Limited in space, but brief record can here be given of the soldiers of Ontario; but so far as possible the various organizations shall have fitting mention, and this in extent according to the numbers from this county.
The Eighteenth New York - was the first regiment to enroll in its ranks the foremost company of Ontario. By April 26 a company had been formed, of which Henry FAUROT was captain, James H. MORGAN first lieutenant, Wm. H ELLIS, Jr., ensign. On May 9, 1861, they set out to rendezvous at Albany, where the regiment was organized to serve two years, and mustered into the United States service May 17, 1861. The company was designated Company G. On May 27 the regiment, under Colonel Wm. A. JACKSON, received marching orders, and in June had encamped at Washington. It left Camp Myers, Alexandria, Virginia, on July 16, to take part in the advance upon Richmond. It was in the advance next day, and a slight skirmish occurred whereby a loss of five wounded was sustained and a like loss inflicted upon the enemy. On the 18th, Centreville was reached, and a brisk skirmish ensued, the advance having the worst of it. On the 21st of July the Eighteenth was held in reserve and was not engaged; upon the retreat it was made part of the rear-guard, marched all night, and by the close of the month was back in its former camp near Alexandria. The repulse at Bull Run convinced the North that something more than brave hearts was needed by the soldier, and long months passed away, when it grew into a proverb, “All quiet along the Potomac,” and the army had become a well-drilled, equipped, and mighty force. An advance was made on Manassas, which the enemy had abandoned. MCCLELLAN then determined upon the advance, via Yorktown, upon Richmond, and thither conveyed his troops. The Eighteenth left Alexandria April 18, on board the steamboat “Long Branch,” and was landed opposite Yorktown. Bearing their part in the events which transpired in the advance upon Richmond, in the battles following the retreat to James river, the regiment acquitted itself with honor to the State which sent it forth, and on July 4 a report was made of three killed, eight wounded, and eleven missing from Company G. Sick with fever, Captain FAUROT led his company at Gaines’ Mills, and during the day, being injured by a shell, fell and was taken to the rear. Lieutenant GREEN was ill, and Lieutenant ELLIS took charge of the company in the retreat to Harrison’s Landing, on the James river. The regiment was mustered out on May 28, 1863, and a large portion of the men again went to the field as new organizations were formed and the peril of their old comrades invoked their aid.
The Twenty-Seventh Regiment was organized at Elmira, to serve for two years. It was mustered into service May 21, 1861. In its first engagement at Bull Run, July 21, 1861, it was under command of Henry W. SLOCUM. In this engagement J. W. BUTLER, of East Bloomfield, was killed. He was a member of Company G, partly raised in the county of Ontario. In the battle of Gaines’ Mills Captain H. S. HALL was wounded, one man killed, sixteen wounded, and three missing. The roll of honor bears the names Bull Run, Gaines’ Mills, Seven Days’ Battle, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Marye’s Heights - a long list this for the first two years of the war. The muster-out took place May 21, 1863.
The Twenty-eighth Regiment, raised at Albany, N.Y., to serve for two years, was mustered into the United States service May 22, 1861. To this regiment, commanded by Colonel Dudley DONNELLY was attached the company of Captain Theodore FITZGERALD, J. J. WHITNEY, first lieutenant, and Harvey PADELFORD, ensign of the same. In assigning the companies place, the Ontario company was known as “E.” Its men were young and enthusiastic, and of the best material for soldiers. The regiment was ordered to Washington, where in June it went into camp, and from there was ordered to join General PATTERSON’s division at Martinsburg, Virginia. Many of the men had been school-teachers. The regiment numbered seven hundred and eighty men, was well drilled, and carried the U.S. rifles of 1851. It left Washington July 6, and arrived at Hagerstown on the 7th; thence it marched to Martinsburg, where foraging occupied the attention of the command, and taught them the lessons by which they were ultimately to profit. Months, passed idly, and with the coming of spring expectations of winning distinction in the field were indulged in without realization, until on the 7th of April the Twenty-eighth arrived near Woodstock, Virginia, and went into camp. On the 17th the citizens of Columbia Furnace, a hamlet about eight miles distant, sent a request to Colonel DONNELLY, in command of the first brigade, to detach a force for their protection. Captain FITZGERALD with Company E was of the detachment, which consisted of eight companies of infantry, two of cavalry, and a howitzer. Next day a party of five out on a scout captured two cavalrymen, and learned that their company was quartered eight miles up the valley, by a church. A guide was procured, and at midnight of the 15th an expedition set out to capture them. Captain FITZGERALD, with thirty men of Company E, took the advance, and, marching along a circuitous route a distance of thirteen miles, halted near the church. Half an hour passed, and thirty men of the Fifth Connecticut came up; the remainder of the force, two hundred strong, did not appear, and the sixty men were formed within forty rods of the church. The rebels were completely surprised, and surrendered at discretion., Three officers and fifty-eight privates, with horses, were the fruits of this creditable enterprise. In the afternoon of May 24, orders came to Colonel DONNELLY to march his brigade with all haste to Strasburg. Here was learned news of the battle at Front Royal, and a retreat began, leaving much property behind. Before half the eighteen miles which lie between Strasburg and Winchester had been passed over, the enemy had attacked the Union rear. Eight miles from Winchester the Twenty-eighth was ordered to the rear to reinforce the forces covering the retreat, but did not become engaged. At 11 p.m. the regiment entered Winchester and the men laid upon their arms.
Fighting began early on the 25th. At daylight, a perfect shower of missiles was hurled upon the Union lines. Seven thousand men for four hours checked, and at times repulsed, from two to three times their number. The right wing gave way, and Colonel DONNELLY drew back his forces in good order. The Forty-sixth Pennsylvania separated from the First brigade and marched through Williamsport with the Third brigade. The Twenty-eighth New York and Fifth Connecticut kept together, and gallantly withstood a galling fire for hours. The rebel marksmen threw their shot into the retiring ranks, yet few shell exploded and scarcely a man was injured. Colonel DONNELLY, by changing the direction of the line of march, obtained temporary exemption from the rebel fire. The regiment marched forty-seven miles and crossed the river at Dam No. 4, eleven miles below Williamsport. Company E had none injured and three missing at the morning report. The men, nowise disheartened, were ready to return again to dispute possession of the Shenandoah, The regiment took part in the battle of Cedar Mountain, August 9, 1862; they were engaged at Antietam, and shortly after the engagement under HOOKER at Chancellorsville set out on their return home, and were mustered out June 2, 1863. Few of the old veterans of this command but enlisted again to stem the tide of rebel advances.
The Thirty-third Regiment was organized at Elmira, New York, to serve for two years. It was mustered into the service of the United States May 22, 1861. Three companies went from Ontario: one, under Captain John R. CUTLER, from Canandaigua, and two from Geneva, respectively commanded by Captain WALKER and Captain WATERFORD. This large proportion of troops from this county gave to the regiment the appellation “Ontario Regiment,” and to its soldiers was presented the beautiful banner prepared by the ladies of Canandaigua for that purpose. The officers at organization were: Robert F. TAYLOR, colonel; Calvin WALKER, of Geneva, lieutenant-colonel; Robert J. MANN, major; and Chas. T. SUTTON, adjutant. July 8, the regiment was en route for Washington. At Camp Granger, near the city, E. BACKERSTOSE, of Company H, was accidentally shot. This was the first death in the regiment. The regiment remained to guard Washington, and was not engaged at Bull Run. On July 6, it was brigaded with the Third Vermont and Sixth Maine, under Colonel W. T. SMITH. September 15, it was attached to the Third brigade, composed of itself, the Forty-ninth and Seventy-ninth New York, and Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, commanded by Colonel STEVENS. Divisions were formed, and General SMITH, promoted from colonel, was placed over this command. The division of SMITH advanced upon Vienna on September 29, and a spirited artillery duel was carried on with no casualties, and the force returned to camp. The Thirty-third were embarked on transports March 23, and taken to Old Point Comfort. When the army advanced upon Yorktown, SMITH’S division was, on April 5, in position in front of Lee’s Mills. Here the Thirty-third were thrown forward as skirmishers, and engaged the enemy, and were under fire for fifty-four hours continuously. Closing in upon Yorktown, the regiment labored hard upon earthworks, and when preparing with others to storm the rebel position, tidings came of evacuation. Pursuit of the retiring enemy was immediately begun, and on May 4, SMITH’S division had reached the rebel works, two miles from Williamsburg. These works consisted of Fort Magruder and a number of earthworks placed at intervals across the peninsula, and occupied by the rebel rear-guard. The Union troops lay upon their arms, and at early morning advanced upon the forts. HOOKER’S force was resisted and repulsed. About noon HANCOCK was ordered to take his own and the Third brigade to flank the position. The Thirty-third had been halted some eight miles back, and had not begun its advances till 5 PM, and came up just in time to join in this movement. The columns marched two miles to the right, near York river, then bearing off to the left, crossed King’s creek, on the embankment of a dam built to overflow the ground fronting a portion of the rebel lines, and came upon strong works deserted. Near the dam, Companies B, G, and K, of the Thirty-third, were left to guard the forks, and, the force having crossed, Major PLATNER, in command, marched them into the nearest fort. HANCOCK, moving half a mile to the left, halted by a deserted redoubt near the rebel position. Lieutenant-Colonel CORNING was ordered to occupy this work with Companies A, D, and F, with the colors and the color-guard. The remainder of the regiment was at once deployed as skirmishers, and advanced to the front and right. Two batteries, supported by a brigade, opened upon Fort Magruder with shell. The attack after some time ceased, and all was quiet in this part of the field, while away to the left heavy firing indicted a heavy engagement. Night was approaching, and the men were turning their thoughts to supper and rest, when it was announced that a body of rebel troops were coming up from Williamsburg. The enemy soon deployed his columns in line of battle, and advanced steadily and with apparent confidence. Arrangements were rapidly made for their reception. HANCOCK ordered his batteries and infantry into position, and the three companies of the Thirty-third were withdrawn from the redoubt to take their place in line, leaving the colors and their guard in the work. The enemy moved determinedly forward in the face of a continuous fire, and greeted the Union lines with derisive yells. The line wavered, and the artillery began to be withdrawn by the dam; a disastrous retreat seemed inevitable, and the hostile force had come within seventy yards, when Colonel TAYLOR, fresh from the skirmish line, drew his sword, and gave command to charge. The order was cheerfully repeated by Lieutenant-Colonel CORNING, and forward, upon the double-quick, this fragment of a regiment charged to check the advance of two or more brigades. It was the turning-point of the battle. Other regiments joined in the charge, and the astonished rebels broke and ran, while the Union fire pursed them to their works. Advancing over the ground of their advances, full two hundred of the rebels were found lying dead or wounded, and among them a number of their officers. The Thirty-third, although scattered, fought the enemy wherever it, found them, whether themselves on the skirmish line or in battle array. The four companies deployed on the left had opened fire as soon as range was obtained, and had slowly fallen back, and the rebel charging column passed through without regarding them. Captain ROOT, sent forward with a supporting party, found himself surrounded, and, retracing his steps some forty rods, halted to look about him. A party of rebels were seen near by, and upon these his little command opened fire, and compelled their surrender. Captain ROOT, with twenty-seven men, came in with forty prisoners. As the enemy passed through Company H, several of the men were swept away, and soon a force returning attacked the company, and Captain DRAKE and a score of his men were captured. The soldierly conduct of all the companies in this action won a personal encomium from General MC CLELLAN, highly gratifying and fully deserved.
The enemy continued his retreat, followed closely, and on May 9 the regiment advanced fifteen miles. On the following day cast-away arms, clothing, supplies, and other evidences of a hurried retreat were observed strewed all along the road, and the spirits of the men were buoyant of hope in a speedy triumph. Arriving at the White House, on the Pamunkey, the left wing was detailed for picket, and in trying to find the line advanced a mile beyond the cavalry vidette and stampeded a rebel patrol, who doubtless awoke the rebel camps with tidings of a night movement in force. On May 21, SMITH’S division was within eleven miles of the rebel capital. Three days later, and a portion of the Thirty-third upon the skirmish line encountered the enemy at Mechanicsville. Line of battle was formed in their rear, and both sides opening with artillery, they were placed between two fires. A solid shot sped past between Major PLATNER and Captain GUION as they stood conversing. The enemy had taken advantage of a group of buildings, into which the Union regiments poured a heavy fire, compelling an evacuation with loss. A charge being opportunely made, the enemy fled in disorder, casting aside their knapsacks and blankets as impediments to their escape. It has been affirmed with good reason that had DAVIDSON been ordered forward, and properly supported RICHMOND would have been taken. DAVIDSON’S brigade are next reported at “GAINES’ Farm,” on fatigue and picket duty. The battle of Seven Pines was followed by that of Fair Oaks, and bravely the national forces contended for a victory put beyond their grasp. An advance of three miles was made on June 5 by the division, and the Thirty-third was halted by Colonel TAYLOR within six miles of Richmond, and a thousand yards from the rebel lines. Here they remained till June 28, and here the Twentieth New York was attached to the brigade. The enemy’s sharpshooters kept up a constant fire upon our men, who were busily engaged in constructing works and bridges, the latter destined to good purpose as a means of escape, when the right wing of the army was assailed by the rebel armies. MCCLELLAN had laid in the swamps of the Chickahominy with one hundred and fifteen thousand men fit for duty until LEE succeeding JOHNSON, uniting with the redoubtable JACKSON, came down upon the Union right at Mechanicsville. For long hours the men of Ontario regiments battled with desperate valor against overpowering numbers at GAINES’ Farm, and when the last shot of myriads had been fired at midnight of June 27, nine thousand Union soldiers had been killed, wounded, or taken to Richmond. To MCCLELLAN were presented two alternatives—to gather up all his forces and risk all upon a fierce, decisive battle, or fall back to the protection of the gunboats upon the James, abandoning his wounded, blowing up his war material, and burning his immense supplies. He decided on the latter, and the retreat began. On the morning of June 28, Colonel TAYLOR, ordered by General SMITH, advanced a portion of the Thirty-third to relieve the picket line, then but forty rods from the enemy; the remainder of the regiment, under Acting Adjutant TYLER, meantime made preparation for retreat. Suddenly, with a crash, the rebels opened with a score of cannon and a shower of shot and shell swept through the camp, riddling tents, firing supplies, and driving all in haste to the breastwork. This earthen rampart was repeatedly struck; shells fell within the trench, and soldiers, at their peril, seized them and flung them over the works, where they exploded harmlessly. For an hour the tempest raged unanswered, as our artillery had been withdrawn, and then an ominous silence was broken by the rebel advance upon the picket line. The skirmishers retired slowly, firing steadily, and joined the main body at the breastwork. Now came a second silence as the hostile lines closed in upon the entrenchment, behind which a long line of leveled rifles was held ready for the word of command. With a yell, once heard never forgotten, the enemy came sweeping full upon the works, when a deadly discharge from the Thirty-third smote down the foremost. Another volley, yet another, and the enemy wavered, turned, and took to flight, pursued till beyond range by the same withering fire from the rude defenses. Reformed, the rebels again advanced to encounter a like terrible experience, and once more fell back. Colonel LAMAR, of the Eighth Georgia, was seen conspicuous as he incited his men to a third charge. A volley from the works struck him down as a section of MOTT’s battery, opportunely opening an enfilading fire upon them, drove them from the field. In this assault the Seventh and Eighth Georgia lost ninety-one killed, many wounded, and fifty prisoners, among whom were Colonel LAMAR and Lieutenant-Colonel TOWER. The Thirty-third lost few, and these mainly in falling back from the picket line. The thousands of MCCLELLAN, with heavy siege-trains, were in full retreat. The right wing was marching along the west bank of the Chickahominy towards White Oak Swamp; thence the living tide moved on towards its goal—Harrison’s Bar. Three nights of vigil for the right wing of the Thirty-third, the last of the three, June 28, being passed upon the picket line to deceive the enemy, while regiment after regiment disappeared in the distance and in the darkness.
Far from support, liable to attack at any moment, the men stood at their posts and longed for the order to withdraw. A heavy fog came opportunely, and shrouded their movements in obscurity. At one a.m. of the 29th, Companies A and F relieved C, D, and I, and a few hours later these companies were withdrawn, and the Thirty-third rejoined the division. At Savage Station an immense accumulation of war material was fired. Here was a general hospital, where thousands of sick and wounded had congregated. They were abandoned to the tender mercies of the enemy, while many a brave fellow, ghastly with the suffering of fearful wounds or the inroads of disease, struggled on upon that terrible retreat, and sank down exhausted at the river. DAVIDSON’S brigade marched to the rear of the station, and, finding abundance of abandoned clothing, soon drew each for himself a new suit. An attack being made, the brigade returned to the station at a double-quick, and, till an hour after sunset, bore part in the battle into which they immediately entered. A detail, including ten men from the Thirty-third, was sent to bury the dead, and was captured. The march was begun about ten PM towards White Oak Swamp, and just before day the brigade reached the bridge. Men were standing, torch in hand, to fire the structure should the enemy appear. An hour of anxious waiting passed by, and then the Thirty-third crossed over, marched over a hill-crest, and halted in line of battle. At eleven the bridge was fired, and soon was burning furiously. The Thirty-third soldiers were busy drawing rations, when, unheralded by any warning shot, a heavy fire from a number of batteries planted in the dense wood, at close range, was opened upon the Union position. A partial panic ensued. A regiment in front of the Thirty-third stampeded, and the men were brought back into line by officers of the Ontario regiment. General DAVIDSON, sun-struck, resigned command of the brigade to Colonel TAYLOR; and Major PLATNER, commanding the regiment, being ordered to report to General HANCOCK, was placed by him in line upon the extreme right, accompanying the order with the remark, by him in line upon the extreme right, accompanying the order with the remark, “Major, you have the post of honor; hold the position at all hazards, and add new laurels to those already won by the Thirty-third.”
The rebel infantry came out upon the farther bank, and both sides opened a heavy and constant fire. Several attempts were made to cross the swamp, and each was received with a pitiless fire, which made success impossible. At 8:30 PM the enemy crossed firing, and soon after the division silently withdrew.
General DAVIDSON, by special order, reported Captain C. H. COLE, of Company C, for promotion for distinguished service, as well as Major John S. PLATNER and James MCNAIR, of Company F.
Pickets had been placed as the troops withdrew, and it was morning before the enemy became aware of the Union withdrawal. The division was now constituted the rear-guard, and held position at the swamp all day. As it set out for the river, tidings came that the enemy under HUGER had secured the road in the rear and confidently awaited its coming. To men who had already done so much, this was disheartening news. It was but seven miles direct to the river, but SMITH, turning from the road, made a circuit of twenty-two miles, and passed the enemy in safety. Human endurance had reached its limit, and the men, falling asleep on the march, moved along mechanically. An hour before day, Malvern was reached, and gladly an hour’s sleep was taken. The Thirty-third was then ordered on picket. Major PLATNER deployed the line, and each alternate man was then permitted to sleep. To the rear lay the army in line awaiting attack. A Vermont brigade slashed the timber between the picket and the line and made a strong abattis through which, no openings being left, the men relieved at three of the next morning found their way in amid the darkness and obstructions. A few hours’ rest were given, and then the regiment was ordered to the front as support to AYER’S battery. The battle of Malvern Hill was fought, and the enemy repulsed with great loss. At two in the afternoon the regiment, having joined the brigade, had reached Harrison’s Landing, where were found food and rest.
At this place the Thirty-third assisted to build a heavy work mounting several thirty-two pound cannon. Wells were dug by the various companies, and the healthfulness and comfort of pure water were enjoyed. Soft bread was issued, and the men fared well.
At midnight, July 31, the enemy, from three batteries posted on the high bank of the river, opened a sharp fire upon the camp and shipping, but were soon repulsed. Upon the army of General POPE, which had moved southward from Washington, the enemy now concentrated his forces, and MC CLELLAN was ordered to bring forward his command to his assistance. This was all too tardily done. While preparing for retreat, HOOKER led a force to Malvern Hill, which was temporarily re-occupied, straw effigies and logs mounted as cannon were placed on the fort, and the immense army was again upon the move. On August 16, SMITH’s division took its place in a column reaching forty miles,--the rear at Harrison’s Landing, the advance at Williamsburg. The Thirty-third marched on the 17th seventeen miles. Colonel VEGESACK, of the Twentieth New York, took command of the brigade, and Lieutenant-Colonel CORNING returned to the regiment. The march took the men by the old battle field at Fort Magruder, reviving the stirring events of that locality, and, reaching Fortress Monroe, the regiment was taken on board a steamer and brought to Aquia Creek, thence to Alexandria, where, on August 24, the force went into camp. The rebel generals had assumed the offensive, and were endeavoring to crush the army of General POPE. Cedar Mountain and other battles followed. A hard battle was fought upon the old Manassas ground, while PORTER’s splendid corps lay within hearing of the musketry and gave no help to the heroic soldiery who fought with unexcelled devotion. The second Bull Run was lost, POPE defeated, personal spite won its barren victory, and homes were made desolate in vain. There are dark pages in the history of the Army of the Potomac here, and the intelligent soldiery refusing longer to be sacrificed, gave way and centered near the capital. The Thirty-third was employed to stop and return stragglers; relieved it marched to Centreville, and took place in line to cover the retreat.
POPE, at his own request, was relieved and MC CLELLAN reinstated. LEE crossed the Potomac, and the army of the North advanced to encounter him in Maryland. The Thirty-third, without knapsacks, moved forward with the rest, and on September 13, crossing Monocacy bridge, received orders in conjunction with the Seventieth New York to drive the enemy from Jefferson’s Pass. This service was gallantly performed without loss. The enemy held Turner’s and Crampton’s Passes; SLOCUM and BROOKS were ordered to take the latter. The column of BROOKS marched direct upon the enemy, charged a battery, captured a section and many prisoners, among whom the Thirty-third found their old foe, Colonel LAMAR. The Thirty-third was of the regiments in support of BROOK’S column.
Preparations were now being made to relieve the force at Harper’s Ferry, where lay the new One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York, when tidings of surrender were made known. The battle of Antietam was fought September 17, and was a Union victory unimproved. HOOKER opened the fight with impetuosity and temporary success. The masses of LEE concentrated to repel his advances. MANSFIELD arrived, and the two forces held their ground for hours. SUMNER came up and joined battle, and LEE sent heavy columns to force him back. The hard-beat Union lines were giving way, when FRANKLIN, coming up with two divisions, restored firmness, and placed the enemy upon the defensive. Since early dawn these divisions had been marching, always nearer the roar of battle, and as they swept on with stern, resistless front, the veteran ranks of gray gave way, and the regimental flags were planted far in the advance. Here fell fifty killed and wounded in the Thirty-third. Sergeant Major G. W. BARRETT was shot dead after bearing Lieutenant MIX, badly wounded, from the field. The advance ground was held, and a picket detail from the Thirty-third, advancing close upon the rebel position, discovered signs of a retreat and sent back word, but LEE made good his escape, and the opportunity was lost. September 19, SMITH was ordered to join COUCH, as the enemy was reported re-crossing. A body of cavalry had forded the river, but retired on finding the Union troops in force. On the 23rd the regiment moved near Bakersville, and went into camp. October 6, Lieutenant ROACH and ROSSITER arrived with two hundred recruits for the Thirty-third. Part of these men was made Company D, that company having been disbanded, and the rest were apportioned among the other companies. The lull in warfare, the delightful scenery, the accession of numbers, all united to inspirit the men, and made the time pass pleasantly. The regiment was placed upon the picket service along the Potomac, about the middle of October, while Stuart made his raid around our army, and LEE fell back behind the Rappahannock. October 29, the regiment joined the Third brigade, and marched to Berlin, where Colonel TAYLOR, Lieutenant-Colonel CORNING, and over two hundred recruits arrived. MCCLELLAN was removed, and BURNSIDE given the command. The army was organized in three grand divisions, and directed upon Fredericksburg. Valuable time was lost; LEE established his lines upon the heights and awaited attack. BURNSIDE resolved to cross at Fredericksburg, and, as a feint, sent the left grand division down the stream, and a force was sent by LEE to resist a crossing. On the night of December 11, the batteries of the national army were planted upon the bluff above the river bank; the pontoons were brought down and all made ready for crossing. The history of the Fiftieth Engineers relates how well their part was done. Then followed the tremendous cannonade, the crossing in boats of the Seventh Michigan and Nineteenth Massachusetts, the capture of the rebel sharpshooters, the crossing of the army, and, meantime, the enemy looked down from their works and bided their time. HOWE’S division had bivouacked in the woods, and during the 12th the troops of HOOKER and FRANKLIN had been crossing. On Saturday, December 13, warm as a spring day, the battle of Fredericksburg was fought and lost. By half-past seven, HOWE’s division was in line; the Thirty-third was placed in support of a battery, and batteries opening fire the advance of the Union troops began. The particulars of that desperate assault are fully recorded, where thousands of our bravest fell before an enemy protected behind stone walls and earthen bank. For hours the regiment lay close by the battery, receiving the fire of the enemy in silence, and with little loss. With night came relief, and the Thirty-third fell back to the second line. The wish of BURNSIDE to renew the struggle at the head of his favorite corps was not received with favor by commanders, and the army withdrew across the river unassailed. December 19, the regiment marched back to White Oak Church, and built winter quarters. Many promotions followed, and among them, Captain G. M. GUION, of A, was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of the One Hundred and Forty-eighth of New York.
On January 20 another movement was in progress, when a storm arose whose violence was memorable. The trains became mired in a sea of mud, and gladly the Thirty-third once more returned to its old camp. BURNSIDE resigned and HOOKER took command.
In February, 1863, the Thirty-third was brigaded with the Forty-ninth and the One Hundred and Nineteenth Pennsylvania, under Colonel TAYLOR. Winter went by, and the last of April saw the army across the Rappahannock and in position at Chancellorsville. Then followed JACKSON’S onslaught upon the dispersal of the Eleventh corps, the night attack by HOOKER, the assault, the repulse, and the re-crossing of the historic river.
On Sunday, May 3, a courier brought SEDGWICK orders to storm the heights of Fredericksburg and push on towards Chancellorsville. LEE had left what he deemed sufficient force to hold the hills, under command of BARKSDALE. The Sixth corps had broken camp, marched to the river, distant about five miles, and two bridges having been thrown across, a division had been sent over to protect them. On the afternoon of Saturday the remainder of the corps had crossed and formed line to the right of the troops already there. Darkness came on, and the Thirty-third, detailed for picket, was deployed some distance in front of the division. Morning dawned, and the men were drawn in and ordered to take position directly to the rear of COWAN’S battery. The order above noted was promptly obeyed. A column of twenty-four regiments was detailed to the task. The left of this column was led by NEILL’S brigade, the Thirty-third in front. Let one who was in that encounter tell the story in his own graphic style: “It came in whispers along the lines, that preparatory order, “Unsling knapsacks!” Too well we knew what it meant. We threw them quickly off, formed our line, and awaited the order to charge. Hark! the general commands, “Forward! guide center” An awful silence prevails; the deafening roar of artillery seems to be momentarily hushed; every heart beat high, every breath is drawn with the full consciousness that it may be our last; on every face can be seen the shadow of a stern resolve; every ear is intent to catch that final word which is to seal the fate of so many loyal hearts, “March!” Now we advance, common time at first, which is gradually changed into quick, and that again, as the men become warmed up to the work before them, is succeeded by a double-quick step, which soon brings us to the spot where the fire of two rebel batteries converges. As the point is reached, with roar, hiss, and scream, shell, grape, and canister fill the air, men fall wounded, dying, and dead, and still the line sweeps bravely on. The firing of the enemy now grown more rapid, and the troops seem enveloped in the iron storm, but still we press forward; now over a knoll, then through a gully and up a hill, and the first battery is taken without a struggle, for the enemy has fled. “Rest a moment, boys!” is spoken, and we throw ourselves upon the ground, and at a glance learn our position. We are on the flank of the only battery the rebels have left, and that must now be taken. “Fall in!” how promptly each man obeys! Moving by the right flank, we pass down through a deep ravine, and form a line at the base of the hill, on the crest of which is the objective battery. The forward movement begins. “Steady!” is the order as the men climb the hill, economizing strength for the time when it will be needed. The enemy, unaware of this danger, is directing his attention to the Vermonters coming in on his right. The hill-side, along our advance, is covered with underbrush, and the line has become broken. The foremost reach the top as the rebels are seen hitching up to retire. Time is precious; without waiting for command, a scattering, irregular volley is discharged among them, and they fly, and THE GUNS ARE OURS! Suddenly a destructive volley is poured into us from the rebel reserve, and for two-thirds of an hour the battle rages. The line is wavering as reinforcements arrive, deliver their fire, and rout the enemy. The fruits of victory were thirteen rifled cannon, two brass howitzers, a stand of colors, several hundred prisoners, and possession of the Heights of Fredericksburg.”
The works were left without a garrison, and reoccupied by the enemy before next morning. The corps advanced rapidly towards Chancellorsville, and at a distance of four miles encountered LEE’S army, and received a heavy fire, which was resisted until night closed the contest. The Thirty-third, replenishing cartridge-boxes, set out to follow the corps, and soon heard the sharp rattle of musketry, which grew in volume as the brigades came into action. Night came and found the regiment covering the left flank, resting well satisfied with the day’s work.
The men were breakfasting upon their coffee, hard-tack, and pork next morning, when the rebels were seen marching along a hill-crest half a mile distant, and towards the Union rear. The Thirty-third fell in, and marched rapidly in the same direction. It was greeted by a severe artillery fire until, passing to a protected spot, line was formed and a company deployed as skirmishers. The rebel infantry came down, and an action of three-quarters of an hour followed, resulting in their repulse. NEILL’S brigade threw up works. It was about noon when another attempt was made to break the Union lines. It was repulsed, with a rebel loss of a stand of colors and two hundred men. Hours passed, and it was late in the day, when the enemy made a desperate attempt to drive the corps into the river, a mile and a half to the rear. NEILL’S brigade was in the first line of battle, formed in an arc, with extremes resting upon the river, inclosing the bridges. The rebels came down in two lines of battle on our left, centre, and right, with heavy reserve. The centre advanced with shrill yells upon the brigade, which bore the brunt undismayed, and drove back the first line in great disorder. The second line came up, threw in a cross-fire, and compelled retirement to a new position, in line with a Vermont brigade. An hour’s desperate fighting ensued, and the enemy were checked, no repulsed, and the position was seen to be untenable longer. During the night the corps crossed the river, and at 8 AM the Thirty-third crossed over and went into camp on the north bank of the river. The regiment took four hundred and seventy-five men, all told, into the fight. Of these, two hundred and seventeen were killed, wounded, or missing, six color-corporals were shot, and the color-bearer came through safe. On May 12, term of service having expired, the regiment was discharged, and ordered to Elmira for muster-out. The brigade, division, and corps commanders, in special order, circular, and general order, gave high testimonial of gallant and meritorious service. From an extract of special order No. 120: “They have enjoyed the respect and confidence of their companions and commanders, they have illustrated their term of service by gallant deeds, and have won for themselves a reputation not surpassed in the Army of the Potomac, and have nobly earned the gratitude of the general. By command of Major-General SEDGWICK, commanding Sixth army corps.” The recruits were formed in one company, and attached to the Forty-ninth New York. The regiment met a noble reception at Geneva and Canandaigua. E. G. LAPHAM, Esq., J. P. FAUROT, and A. H. HOWELL addressed the soldiers. Colonel TAYLOR, Lieutenant-Colonel CORNING, and Rev. A. H. LUNG, chaplain, replied for the regiment. The flag of the Ontario regiment was returned by the colonel unsullied to the ladies who, two years before, had bestowed it with their prayers and blessings. The regiment left Elmira nine hundred strong; they returned with three hundred and fifty, and crowned with honor. They were mustered out at Geneva, June 2, and the work of the organization was completed.
The Thirty-eighth Regiment — This regiment was organized in New York city, to serve two years. In it was Company H from Geneva, commanded by Captain W. H. BAIRD. The muster into United States service took place in June, 1861. The Geneva Company behaved with great gallantry in the fight at Bull’s Run. John ORMAN, of Geneva, was killed, eleven men were wounded, and four missing. The regiment was under fire half an hour before the Fire Zouaves, and an hour before the Sixty-ninth. Repeatedly repulsed, the Thirty-eighth again and again rallied under fire. The recaptured GRIFFIN’s battery, and, repulsed with heavy loss, attempted to retake it. The loss in killed, wounded, and missing to the regiment was two hundred and one men.
On December 23, 1862, the 38th
and 55th were consolidated. The
two-year’s men were mustered out on expiration of term of service and recruits
were transferred to the 40th NY Volunteers.
The list of its engagements gives Bull Run, Williamsburg, Fair Oaks,
Glendale, Malvern Hill, Blackburn’s Ford, Second Bull run, Chantilly,
Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
44th New York Volunteers - called
the “People’s Ellsworth Regiment”, was to be composed of young men taken
from every county in the State; selections being made of those having superior
fitness for military service. The
regiment was fairly represented from Ontario County and the men did not
disappoint expectation. The
regiment was organized at Albany, from August 30 to October 29, 1861, and was
mustered out of service October 11, 1864. The
veterans and recruits were transferred to the 114th and the 146th
NY Volunteers. On the departure of
the regiment for the seat of war, during October, a beautiful flag was presented
to them at the hands of Mrs. Ersastus CORNING, and its preservation was a test
of their devotion. When, on July 3,
the great battle of Gettysburg turned the wavering balance on the Union side,
the 44th fought hard to win victory, and the heavy list of casualties
indicated peril boldly encountered. A
brief record is all we can give of their career. The well known care taken during the first months of the war,
was not to trespass on private property, even of a known enemy, and the guarding
with strict orders of a rail-fence and a patch of potatoes, were at variance
with the ideas of soldiers, who could not see that property was more sacred than
person, and regarded confiscation as right and commendable.
Hence they viewed with approbation the dispatch of an expedition, in
charge of Quartermaster MUNDY, upon the soil of Virginia, and gleaned from the
plantations 132 wagon-loads of corn, hay and oats.
For a time the regiment lay in camp at the Hall’s Hill, Virginia,
studious of discipline and in daily practice of the evolutions and art of war,
perfecting that system which merges the individual in the mass and makes the
force formidable. The quiet
monotony of camp was broken on the evening of March 9, 1862, by the pleasant
tidings of orders to prepare to march on the morrow.
At 1 a.m., March 10, the Army of the Potomac was on the move.
The 44th marched out from their home-like camp, and advanced
in the direction of Manassas via Fairfax and Centerville.
The Ellsworths had the advance of the right of the grand army – the post of honor. Their course lay over fields of mud and through patches of
timer, to Fairfax. Here they were
joined by their colonel, and with loud cheers moved out upon the road to
Centerville, which place they were first to enter.
“An hour’s rest and onto Manassas,” was the order, and had it been
carried out, a march of 34 miles would have signalized the firs day’s service.
Manassas had been evacuated and the movement was made too late.
Counter-marching, a return was made to Fairfax, where the regiment lay
till the 15th, when it proceeded to Alexandria, where it lay in camp
until the 21st. PORTER’S
division, in which ws the 44th, was taken upon a fleet of 24
steamers, guarded by two gunboats and transported to Fortress Monroe. On the morning of March 24, the division disembarked, and
marched within five miles of Big
Bethel. A reconnaissance
in force was made, wit the 44th in advance.
The men were deployed as they came in sight of the rebel position and saw
before them a line of rifle pits, a mile and a half in extent, wherein were men
in gray busily at work. The line
advanced under cover of a close picket fence, which was leveled and at a
double-quick the regiment reached the ground, to find the rebels fled, with
campfires burning. The forces under
General PORTER, on May 27, attacked the enemy at Hanover
Court House and after four hours hard fighting drove them from the field.
The 44th left camp at 2 a.m. and marched some fifteen miles in
a northwest direction, through a region of swamps, - mud to the knee and rain
falling constantly. Having arrived
at a crossroads four miles from courthouse, ALLEN’S 5th
Massachusetts and MARTIN’S 3rd Rhode Island batteries were put in
position, and the 44th placed in support and in reserve.
Meanwhile, MARTINDALE’S brigade and BERDAN’S Sharpshooters, pushing
forward, engaged sharply, and the enemy yielding in the front, swung round upon
the rear and prepared to profit by the situation.
The 44th advanced to the support of a section of ALLEN’S
battery, as the presence of the rebels became known. Four companies, deployed to guard the left flank, were fired
Upon, while a North Carolina regiment was
seen upon open ground advancing upon the Union artillery.
The skirmishers were gathered in at a double-quick, and the regiment
drawn up to receive them. The enemy
turned to the right-about and retired to the woods.
Presently a hot fire was opened in front and on the right, and the
regiment retiring to the road, lay there for an hour and a half exposed to a
severe crossfire. The Ellsworths
and the 2nd Maine maintained a galling fire, and kept the enemy at
bay. Wounded and dying, the soldiers gave utterance to expressions
of fealty to the flag and manifested heroic devotion. The men became wearied and the fire upon them redoubled in
severity, when a few scattering shots, then a ripping volley, and finally a
continuous crackling of musketry, told the glad story that the rebels were
attacked by our returning troops, and speedily the action was at an end.
Five hundred men went into action; nineteen were killed and sixty-five
wounded, eight of whom died. The
colors were pierced by 43 balls and the staff by one, making the number of the
regiment. Not a man had left the ranks, and men when wounded, continued
to fire their muskets. Upon the
ground occupied by the enemy, lay 200 killed and wounded men, as evidence of the
accuracy of the Union riflemen. On
June 7, the regiment had advanced to the eastern bank of the Chickahominy, and
took their turn upon the picket line. Those
familiar with the history of the regiment know that it bore the brunt of many a
battle, and sustained its name with honor.
They were discharged upon the expiration of their term of service,
September 30, 1864. Out of one
thousand of the best youth of the State who went out to support he Union cause
three years before, but about one hundred were left to be mustered out.
50th New York Engineers -
this famous regiment was organized during he summer and fall of 1861 at
Elmira, NY, by General Charles B. STEWART of Geneva, formerly chief engineer in
the navy. Captain William O. SMALLEY and Porteus C. GILBERT,
Lieutenants James L. ROBBINS and Thomas F. LANGDON, and a large number of men
from Ontario went into this regiment. The
organization was recruited, by direction of the Secretary of War, as a regiment
of engineers, pontoniers, sappers and miners and was mustered into service on
September 18, as “Stewart’s Independent Volunteers.”
As the breaking out of the rebellion there
was but a battalion of engineers in the service, belonging to our small regular
army, and it was soon seen that the command was inadequate to the duties of
their branch of the service. General
STEWART was empowered to raise a regiment for this duty from the ranks of men
qualified by their occupations. The
organized regiment had men qualified to build railroads, run locomotives,
conduct trains, and ranged from common laborers to first class engineers.
Starting for the seat of war September 18,
1861, the engineers were quartered for a few days on the Battery, at New York,
to receive arms and equipment, then transported to Washington.
Quartermasters’ s supplies were obtained at Meridian Hill; thence they
marched through Georgetown to Fort Corcoran and pitched their firs camp on rebel
soil. Here arose a serious difficulty.
Enlisted for a special service, and promised the allowances pertaining,
the war department had made no provision for this class of soldiers, and the men
were ordered into the field as infantry. Severe
reflections were made upon those who had promised what they could not fulfill.
Subsequently, a special act of Congress was passed, which laced the
regiment upon its proper footing.
Orders were received to proceed to Hall’s
Hill, Virginia, and report to General BUTTERFIELD, then in command of a brigade
in Fitz-John PORTER’S division. This
force, under General MC CLELLAN’S favorite
officer, was composed largely of regulars and contained many of the best
regiments in the service. General
BUTTERFIELD gave the regiment constant exercise in the routine of duty.
There were drills by squad, company, regiment and battalion, accompanied
by guard and picket duty while recitations in military tactics were the order
for the night. During this time
four reviews were instituted - one
by General PORTER and there times by MC CLELLAN.
About November 1, the engineers were ordered
to Washington to receive instruction in special duties of their branch, and
going into camp near the navy yard, the practice of bridge-building by the
French pontoon system was begun. Thorough
instruction was given in the construction of field fortifications to military
roads and to war appliances, such as gabions, fascines, chevaux-de-frise,
stockades, palisades, sap-rollers and block houses.
Early in the spring of 1862, the regiment moved into Virginia, under
command of General WOODBURY, of the regular engineers and was assigned to
General MC DOWELL’S corps, then covering Washington.
Marching to Manassas, past the formidable Quaker guns, which were the
occasion of mirth and cheer, the command proceeded to Bristoe Station, where
Captain John B. MUNCY was directed to deploy a portion of K Company, under
Lieutenant MC DONALD, to skirmish the road in advance as hostile cavalry had
been seen hovering on our flank. While
thus advancing, expecting to meet the enemy, a halt was sounded and an order
read from General MC CLELLAN, directing the return of the engineer brigade, to
join his force at Yorktown. Loudly
cheering at the prospect of active service under the commanding officer, the men
countermarched at quick time for Alexandria.
April 10, the steamer, “Louisiana”
too the 15th on board, and conveyed it to Cheeseman’s
Landing, near Yorktown, on the 13th, when duty at once began in the
trenches, under fire of the rebel batteries.
The pontoon boats were ordered up and bridges thrown across the various
streams that obstructed free communication, and roads were opened for the
passage of heavy artillery. It is
difficult to realize the firmness required to perform these hazardous duties
under the demoralizing influence of large shells constantly exploding in their
midst. An immense battery for 10, thirteen inch mortars was
constructed by the regiment, and was made ready to open on the enemy.
On the pleasant Sabbath morning of May 4,
while the men in camps awaited in suspense the opening of the mortar battery
with its 100 pound shells, the news spread rapidly the Yorktown was abandoned
and the enemy in retreat. Gathering
up the siege material, bridge trains, and tools used in investment, the regiment
followed n pursuit of the enemy up the peninsula, via Pamunkey River.
The march was continued from West Point on this stream to the White
House, thence to the Chickahominy river near New Cold Harbor.
Bridges were at once commenced across this treacherous stream.
At Bottom’s Bridge, a portion of the structure had been left standing,
and it was rapidly rebuilt for the passage of Casey’s division to its
battlefield of Seven Pines.
The Chickahominy, near Richmond, during dry
weather is a mere brook, with march to a greater or less extent on either side,
and is often not more than ten to twenty yards wide.
But on the night of March 30, while attempting to build a timer bridge
across the stream at a point near Gaine’s house,
it rose so rapidly during the prevalence of a heavy rain that he
approaches to the bridge were entirely under water, and in five hours the stream
had widened to ten times its ordinary channel.
The opinion prevailed for a time that the enemy had created a dam above,
and had now let out the accumulated water to destroy the bridges.
It seemed a crisis for effort, and the engineers, in water waist-deep,
worked like beavers, in momentary expectation that the enemy would open on them
from the wood beyond. Anxiously
waiting to cross this bridge was the 44th Regiment of BUTTERFIELD’S
brigade, which had taken the place vacated by the engineer regiment the year
before at Hall’s Hill, and were fresh from the fight at Mechanicsville.
At six different points, bridges were
rapidly constructed, covering a distance of six miles from one to the other
extreme, and these bridges became officially known as Sumner’s, Woodbury’s,
Duane’s, Alexander’s the Grape Vine and New Bridges near Cold Harbor.
By command of General PORTER the bridges along his front were destroyed
on June 26, and during the battle of Gaine’s Mills, next day, the pontoons
were taken up and a portion of the regiment ordered forward, while companies
were placed at different bridges to blow them up as soon as the troops should
cross from the battle then raging. Pushing
on rapidly during the night, Captain SPAULDING and Lieutenant MC DONALD built
two bridges at White Oak Swamp in time for KEYES corps, which had the advance
towards the James on that occasion. Those
two bridges were next day destroyed by General FRENCH, in command of the
rear-guard, just before the arrival of JACKSON’S corps at the swamp.
The men presses forward through the woods, with muskets slung and plying
their axes with vigor, opened parallel roads for the immense trains of heavy
artillery hurrying on to Glendale and Malvern Hill. At his later place the regiment slashed the woods for a long
distance to enable the gunboats to open on the enemy during the expected battle
there, and rendered very effective service in lacing formidable obstructions
along the right of the line, where the rebels subsequently attempted to capture
our batteries. While here the
Ontario soldiers of the 33rd exchanged greetings with the men of the
50th. The engineers,
pressing forward with their bridges, encountered great difficulties from the
crowd of fugitives form our army while laying the bridges over the swollen
streams on the route, and not until General KEARNEY had ordered the cavalry to
clear the way, did the engineers succeed in finishing the last crossing that
landed our heavy trains at Harrison’s Landing.
While at the landing a demonstration was made by the enemy, and the
engineers were ordered up to take part in the expected fight.
The men responded promptly, but, the movement proving a feint, the
command returned to more legitimate duties.
An attack being expected, MC CLELLAN ordered bridges built over Herring
creek and the smaller streams for rapid concentration of the different corps,
then holding a line some five miles in extent.
While the bulk of the army seemed at rest, this regiment was constantly
on duty, strengthening the defenses of the camp and facilitating communication
by opening new roads for the passage of supply trains from the landing to the
troops on the distant outposts. On
August 13, the regiment was divided into detachments and sent to prepare bridges
for the crossing of the Chickahominy. At
Barnett’s Ferry, a pontoon bridge nearly 1600 feet long was laid, and for
three days and nights was occupied by the passage of the army and its
interminable supply trains. On the
morning of the 19th General PLEASANTON came up with the rear-guard,
and two gunboats took position to keep back the enemy while the bridge was
dismantled. The bridge equipage was
taken to Fortress Monroe, thence to Alexandria. On September 3rd, the engineers set out for Aquia
Creek to bridge for BURNSIODE, then about to evacuate Fredericksburg.
September 7, the men were ordered to the fortress, thence to Washington.
September 20th, the engineers set out for Harper’s Ferry,
with bridges to replace those destroyed by LEE on his retreat after Antietam.
About the 25th of September a pontoon bridge was laid across
the Potomac at Berlin, six miles below Harper’s Ferry, and along that
causeway, the Army of the Potomac once more crossed into Virginia.
Later came an order to proceed to Washington to take part in the
campaign, which culminated in the assault at Fredericksburg.
The failure there had been unjustly ascribed to the delay of the pontoon
bridges, and justice to the Ontario soldiers requires a statement of the facts
in the case. On November 13, 1862,
Major SPAULDING, commanding the battalion at Harper’s Ferry and Berlin, was
ordered to proceed to Washington and there make up large bridge trains to
operate on the Rappahannock, near Fredericksburg.
The order bore date, “Headquarters Army of the Potomac, near Front
Royal, November 7th, “ the very day MC CLELLAN was relieved of
command. Major SPAULDING called
Captain MC DONALD to witness the reception of the order six days since its
issue. Proceeding by rail, the
engineers arrived at Washington, made up the desired bridge equipage, and
started, November 19, for the Rappahannock, with 50 pontoon boats, by land, it
requiring nearly a thousand animals to draw this great train of bridge material.
Alexandria has scarcely been reached when a
rain set in, and the roads soon became a succession of quagmires.
Heavy hills were surmounted only by attaching drag-rope to the boats,
while the men drew them up to the top. Six
days and nights of constant toil, in rain and mud, were occupied in this effort,
the wagons being lifted from the deep ruts by the men, and in the advance being
pushed with all possible dispatch. Major SPAULDING saw men and horses giving
out, and the roads impassable; and bridging the Occoquan, the boats were made
into rafts, and taken via the Potomac to Belle Plain, in tow of a large tug.
Again loaded on wagons, the train moved near and opposite Fredericksburg,
November 25, full a fortnight before the crossing was attempted.
In camp a few days at Lacey House, and then ordered into camp at White
Oak Church. A week in December was
passed in reconnoitering for a crossing some ten miles below the city.
Roads were repaired and miles of corduroy laid through swamps approaching
the river along routes hidden form the enemy.
After a few days the plan was changed and it was determined to cross
opposite the city, Captain MC DONALD was designated to throw a bridge across the
river at a point some 300 yards below the railroad bridge.
At one o’clock of
December 11, the engineers were in position, while a dense fog lent its
protection to shroud their movements. A
detail of bridge-builders was made, and the work went rapidly forward.
Each man acted with celerity and precision, and but thirty yards were
wanting of the bridge to complete the work, when from behind a stone wall, some
forty rods in front, came a deadly volley of bullets among the men clustered on
the bridge, killing, wounding and driving the rest on shore.
Again MC DONALD led a detail down to the terminus, but scarcely had work
begun when another murderous discharge ensued, and again the men were driven to
the shore. These two
attempts having failed, and MC DONALD having been wounded, Lieutenant MC GRATH
made a desperate attempt to finish the bridge, with a like result.
A body of infantry was now ferried over by the engineers, the force of
the enemy captured and the bridge finished.
After crossing the army, and back again to the Falmouth side, the bridges
were removed and the men went into camp.
Bridges were laid April 29 below
Fredericksburg, June 5 at Franklin’s Crossing and after Chancellorsville the
engineers marched to Washington. On June 6, trains were taken to Harper’s Ferry.
Infantry was ferried across to drive of the enemy, and bridges laid to
connect Loudon, Bolivar and Maryland Heights.
Moving to Berlin, bridges were laid where MC CLELLAN had crossed, and
here MEADE’S victorious army marched yet again into Virginia on the 18th
and 20th of July. Until
the 26th, the men guarded the bridge from the southern side, then
dismantling, moved to Washington via canal and thence were ordered to
Rappahannock Station to take charge of all the bridges on the river.
During August the river was bridged at
Beverly’s and Kelly’s Fords, and at the station.
Early in October, LEE began to menace our lines along the Rapidan, and
the engineers were kept busy marching, building and renewing bridges, and
finally, constructing a fortified camp at Rappahannock Station, went into winter
quarters. On April 12, 1864, the battalions were assigned to different
corps, and entered upon arduous service. At
short notice bridges were laid, corps crossed, then dismantling and loading,
rapid and fatiguing marches were made, and the process again and again repeated.
The engineers seemed empowered with ubiquity.
At one time, a bridge 200 feet long is laid in fifty minutes, a battalion
marches to take part in the battle of the Wilderness, a bridge at Ely’s Ford
to cross wounded; then at Fredericksburg, and on to the Pamunkey river at
Hanovertown. Again June 12, the
familiar stream, the Chichahominy, is reached the position reconnoitered, and a
small hostile force found on the opposite bank.
At dark, the engineers launching boats, cross with a charging party; then
on the Cole’s Ferry, on the Lower Chichahominy, and lay a bridge of sixty
boats, making a structure 1200 feet in length.
Formed into rafts, the boats were towed down to the James, then up to
City Point. A sheltered camp was formed July 1, within which the
bridges were left, under a guard, and the men were distributed along the lines
and engaged in the construction of forts with magazines, bomb proofs and
A sheltered camp was formed July 1, within which the bridges were left, under a guard, and the men were distributed along the lines and engaged in the construction of forts with magazines, bomb proofs and traverses.
October 1, an extension to the left required the construction of a chain of forts within short artillery range and the 50th fund ample employment thereon. Important service was rendered in repairing roads and extricating ammunition trains, during the last of March in the movement on Five Forks. Petersburg fell, and the need of pontoons ceased. At Farmersville, on the Appomattox, was constructed the last pontoon bridge used against the enemy by the Army of the Potomac. The army of LEE surrendered. The long bridge over Staunton river was rebuilt, and other services rendered, when one evening, engaged in preparing supper, it was spread through the camps that Colonel SPAULDING had received a dispatch form General MEADE, saying that the Army of the Potomac would pass in review through Richmond next day, and if the engineers could reach the city in time the next morning, they would be placed at the head of the column. The news was heard with cheers, and in an exalted, exultant mood, the march was begun and completed. As the 50th passed the old 148th in line, loud cheers went up from the ranks of each. Pursuing their way with long bridge trains, the 50th reached the river at Fredericksburg and laid bridges as the old points. Here was crossed the army of SHERMAN on its way to Washington. The bridges were then removed, and marching to Fort Berry, near Long Bridge, the regiment went into camp on June 1, 1865.
At the grand review, the 5oth had the right of the column; then, their labors done, there remained only a return home, a muster-out, and a resumption of those civil duties whose steady pursuit had shown them not only approved soldiers, but industrious and excellent citizens.
The Eighty-fifth Regiment, New York Volunteers - Troops from which this regiment was organized had been in camp some months prior to the final muster into the United States service on the 13th of December, 1861, for a term of three years. Uriah L. DAVIS was commissioned colonel, and John S. BELKNAP, lieutenant-colonel. Two companies were from Ontario County.
Early in the war, William W. CLARK, of Naples, an active and patriotic man, had taken the lead in enlistment of volunteers for service, and on the organization of Company B., he was chosen captain, C. S. ALDRICH was first lieutenant nad Amos BRUNSON, second lieutenant. Company G was raised at Geneva by John RAINES, who was made captain, with Lieutenants George W. MUNGER and Thomas ALSOP. The men remained for some time at Elmira, which was finally left on the 3d of December, 1861.
The regiment was conveyed upon two trains of cattle-cars, and was not fully supplied with rations, - troubles slight to those afterward endured by most of the command. Camp was made a mile and a half northeast of the capitol, on Bladensburg Hill, and the 85th was placed in CASEY'S division in a brigade with four other regiments, - the 87th and 77th New York, and the 9th New Jersey, under temporary command of Brigadier General ALLEN. The division was designated as the 3rd in General KEYES' corps.
On the last of March, 1862, orders were gladly received to embarked for Yorktown peninsula. The men had been supplied with a variety of needed articles, sent by friends at Canandaigua, and this home remembrance and kindness was fully felt and appreciated by these citizen soldiers. Lieutenant ALDRICH was here appointed adjutant, and Orderly Sergeant Spencer MARTIN was promoted to the vacancy. Camp was temporarily made on April 12 near Newport News and orders were awaited to join the corps near Yorktown.
On the 16th, the regiment set out upon a memorable march of 14 miles. It was not the distance, but he load carried which so exhausted the men. The sun was hot, the roads were full of dust from the long trains, and the first state of seven miles was a toilsome effort. Wagon loads of clothing were thrown away, and still the remaining loads were too great for endurance. The body was girt about with accoutrements; the cartridge-box, containing forty rounds, the haversack filled with rations, the canteen with water or coffee, upon the back a knapsack of weight from 25 to 30 pounds, and on the shoulder a ten-pound rifle. What wonder that the body wearied and the spirits sand as the miles seemed to lengthen? Finally, a rest was sounded and the boys sank down by the wayside and enjoyed the brief respite as only tired soldiers can. The march was then continued for five miles, when the goal was fund to have been removed by the advance the division to Young's Mills, yet two miles farther on. The men discouraged, fell out, lay down by the roadside and fell asleep; a reduced regiment went into camp at the mills, but of the Ontario boys, few had fallen out.
Arrived at Yorktown, the 85th was set to work constructing roads to facilitate communication. Constant duty was required under repeated exposure and the enemy had been confronted and skirmished with from the evacuation of Yorktown up the peninsula, across the Chickahominy and out three miles beyond; here on Saturday, May 29, the 85th was tried by a terrible fire and found not wanting.
Company D had gone upon picket on Friday night to remain 24 hours, E and F went out with axes on Saturday morning to slash the timer, to give range to siege guns which were being put in position. The division of CASEY was far in advance, and to their rear lay the division of COUCH. About noon a shell whizzed into the camp of the 85th, then another and another and then by volley and distinct shots the pickets opened fire. The troops were ordered into line. The 85th too position behind a continuous rifle trench in its front; the 81st and 92nd on the right and on the right of the road; the 98th on the left, a section of the 1st Artillery with the right and Captain BATES' battery of 12 pound Napoleons in the rear of the 85th.
Battery H, commanded by Lieutenant HART, formerly of Naples, opened upon an advancing brigade of the enemy with grape and canister, doing some execution; but as the advance was continued, the men left their pieces, - the last shot fired, it is said, by Lieutenant HART himself. As the rebels came within easy range, a volley was poured into their ranks, which showed some confusion, but which rallied and advanced to within 150 yards under the rapid and deadly fire of the regiment. Here they halted for half an hour, unable to advance, not willing to retreat. Finally the enemy began to retire, and halted behind a fence some 250 yards distant. As the retrograde movement was observed, the 85th raised a cheer and sprang from the pit to charge, but were called back, as regiments on both sides were nearly on the flanks. The rebel flag lay upon the field, and Albert BANCROFT begged permission to go and get it, but the danger was too great and he was refused.
Meanwhile, Lieutenant-Colonel WELLMAN was wounded and had retired. W. W. CLARKE was left in command and sought to avoid coming ruin. The enemy concentrated a fearful fusillade upon the regiment, which kept up a rapid and undismayed fire. Edgar STEELE, a brave boy, fell, shot in the head. Boswell INSEE of Bristol, was twice struck and still the boys saw no defeat. A full South Carolina regiment was within 40 rods of the left, and on a line 20 rods in the rear. Two or three regiments had passed on the right nearly as far to the rear, when CLARKE ordered the men to fall back, to avoid being surrounded. The 85th reluctantly left their pit between a three sided fire, and fell back to the slashings above the camp of COUCH. The fragment of a shell struck CLARKE to the ground, but he was up in a moment and directing the retreat. The regiment became scattered, and suffered from want of command. The men were anxious to fight, nad line officers did all that was possible to check the advances of the rebels. Many joined other regiments and fought with them until dark. The camp was pillaged by the enemy, and the men left only with their arms. CASEY'S division held a force in check for hours, which later broke through COUCH'S encampment, aided as that division was by CASEY'S men and thousands of reinforcements. This was the first battle for the 85th. They repulsed a superior force and fought and fell until the close of the engagement. The loss was 9 killed, 49 wounded, and 24 missing. The division list a total of 2,000.
Next day was passed in reconnaissance; the men slept on their arms at night and were called up before daylight to repel an expected attack, and stood two hours under arms in a heavy rain, without a blanket in the regiment. At 6 a.m. the men were ordered to move four miles; they waded much of the way in water two feet deep, and crossed a stream holding to a rope, where the current was strong and the water up to the shoulders. The 85th moved into camp near White Oak Swamp, nad early in June were employed in guarding several forks and was drawn up in line at 3 a.m. each day. Lieutenant BRUNSON died about this time, after a brief illness.
In the fall of 1862, the 85th was ordered to Suffolk, and exchanged greetings with their comrades of the 148th; they fell back to Portsmouth, and took position behind breastworks about 2 miles in the rear of the city. Drill and picket was the only duty. Expecting to pass the winter here, log houses were built and a town of the earlier day seemed to have arisen. The enemy occupied Suffolk in force, and there was skirmishing on the Blackwater. General FOSTER, in command of the department of North Carolina, organized an expedition to cut the Weldon railroad, and set out the 1st of November. By feints in various directions the enemy were mystified, while the columns moved toward Kinston. Near the bridges across the Neuse, leading into that place, the rebels fought desperately. An attempt was made to turn the flank of the army where the 85th was posted. Two South Carolina regiments took part in this movement, and were near their coveted position when Company B, under Captain CLARKE, was deployed as skirmishers, and turning their flank as the line opened fire, caused a hurried retreat. Our line advancing rapidly, captured several hundred prisoners. The bridge, saturated with turpentine, was set on fire and burned fiercely. The New York 3rd Artillery opened a heavy fire, and drove the rebels from the opposite bank, when the flames of the bridge were extinguished and troops were crossed over. Three pieces of artillery, baggage, and stores were taken. The 85th passed through Kinston and encamped just outside of the town. The Union loss was about 70 killed and 200 wounded. Although in the advance brigade from Newborn, the regiment had only 3 wounded. As an instance of good fortune, it is noted, that early in the action, as the 85th deployed into a field to support the 9th New Jersey, a solid shot, striking in front, bounded harmlessly over the line, and five minutes after the regiment had left, the place it was completely swept by a shower of grape. The return to Newborn was made by the 20th, and for some time the regiment remained quietly in camp.
The 85th joined in the various expeditions of conquest into North Carolina, until April 20, 1864, when the enemy attached Plymouth. The first attack was made on a Sunday. A hard fight took place, and lasted 3 days, when the post was surrendered, together with the entire brigade. The rebel ram came down, ran into the "Southfield" and sank her in five minutes, and in two hours had cleaned the river. General WESSELS commanding at Plymouth, still held the place, although entirely surrounded, and sustained assault after assault for a day and a half after the ram had command of the town. The men were resolved not to give up, and repelled a severe attack after the general had ordered a surrender. Of Company B., Seymour SMITH, of Bristol and B. G. POPPLE of Springwater, were killed, and J. PERKEY, Daniel L. REED and Franklin E. WILCOX were wounded. This company was one of the nine which surrendered after a brave but hopeless resistance. The men broke swards and guns, tore into shreds their regimental flags, and carried the pieces secretly with them to their Southern prisons, where more than half languished and died. Of those brave fellows, who went to endure those terrible sufferings at Andersonville, not one ever complained, and they suffered and died as they had battled before, - like heroes as they were. About 12 of company B. survived and returned to their homes.
An escape from Dixie was made by a party of five, namely, Captain ALDRICH of Canandaigua; LANGWORTHY of the 85th; G. H. STARR of the 104th; Lieutenant TERWILLAGER of the 85th and Lieutenant HASTINGS , of the 24th New York battery. They were quartered in an open field near Columbia, and guarded by a double line of pickets about 100 feet apart. Resolving to escape, the chose a dark night on October 11 and made their way out unseen. Marching by night, a picket compass obtained by one of the party proved invaluable. They first struck a westerly course, following the south band of the Saluda until, reaching 96, they bore off northwestward, following a railroad track towards North Carolina boundary. ON the second night out they learned that fox and blood hounds were on their track, , but after being chased by them several miles, threw them off the scent by smearing their shoes and clothing with turpentine. They started with the intension to see no white men, nad saw but three Negroes while in South Carolina. Their only food was sweet potatoes, beans and corn, gathered in the fields nad roasted as they had an opportunity of making fires. They traveled entirely by night, hiding in the thickest woods by day, and leaving behind no traces of their presence. Transylvania county, North Carolina, was almost entirely occupied by Union men, one of whom harbored the soldiers for days in a ravine, where he supplied them with food at night to last six days, and gave directions to reach another Unionist 20 miles on. Here they met another party of escaped officers and joined by a band of Union refugees, the band was increased to 29. Three were shot dead, by a gang of rebel militia at a house where the party was waiting for some bread to be baked. A Unionist volunteered as a guide, and let them through within our lines at East Tennessee. Their clothing in rages, their feet shoeless, blistered and swollen, yet they were free, and at Chattanooga they received from the Sanitary Commission clothing and everything needed for comfort.
The last engagement of the 85th closed their career in victory. The battle of March 8 and 10, near Kinston, North Carolina, under General SCHOFIELD, wherein some of the regiment engaged while yet but a week from having been exchanged, is thus recounted. On the 9th of March the enemy were seen preparing to attack and the regiment, with bayonet, cut and plate, hurried to fortify its position. Late in the day the skirmish line was assailed, but held its ground. The preparations on the morning of the 10th betokened serious work. The men were drawn up behind works built during the night, in four ranks; the front line to fire, the others to load. Artillery too part in the rear, and an ominous silence prevailed; all old soldiers have experienced it, - they know what it means. The position of the 85th before Kinston was on the extreme left of an irregular square of rifle pits in the pine woods. The line, six miles in extent, rested, - the right on the Neuse, the left on the Trent road. The woods in front of the works had been slashed for abut 80 yards. At ten, the enemy advanced upon the skirmish line, which fell slowly back to the works. The rebels came close after, in long line, yelling loudly and moving straight forward. At the edge of the slashing, the artillery opened with grape and spherical case, and the hate-inspiring cheers were renewed as the foe came on with a rush. Then came the command, "Steady! Fire low; FIRE! " and all along the line becan a fire of musketry, which for a time, was constant; the heavier crash of cannon sounded the bass in this murderous war-music. The firing ceased, the smoke lifted and the enemy who could had fallen back. A ringing Union cheer broke out and was carried far away to the right. A skirmish line thrown out gathered up about 200 prisoners, and the wounded were being brought in, when a desperate charge was made on the right and the works entered. A Western division held the line nad drove them out again. A charge on the right near by was repulsed, when a rebel section opened with shill a quarter mile in front. At a call for volunteers to take the guns, company A responded; shot all the horses, drove off or killed the gunners, but failed to get the cannon. The rebels left at night, crossed the Neuse, and burned the bridge. HOKE took nine companies at Plymouth, but the the tenth helped to whip him at Kinston. The war ended and the 85th, returning to New York, was mustered out June 27, 1865. When December 3, 1861, it left for Washington, 1,000 men marched in the ranks; during the term of service, 200 recruits were received. Its soldiers laid down their lives upon battlefields, in the swamps of Virginia and North Carolina, and in the prisons of Andersonville, Macon and Florence, until less than 280 officers and men could be found to receive their discharge from the government they loved and served so well.
The Ninety Eighth Regiment - By December 25 some 500 men had gone into camp at Lyons, Wayne county, and so many had enlisted from that county that it received the appellation of the Wayne County Regiment. The organization was mustered into the United States service from January 25 to February 8, 1862. The commanding officer was Colonel William DUTTON. Two companies of the 98th were from Ontario. Lieutenant ADAMS and Lieutenant WILLIAMS each engaged in recruiting service, and were promoted to captaincies. The regiment was ordered to Washington, where it was placed in the Third brigade of CASEY'S division. On the 2nd of March, 1862, the winter having been passed in the discipline of drill and the routine of the camp, the 98th marched to Alexandria, and on the last of the month, embarked upon the "Elm City" steamer with five companies of the 85th, and were conveyed to Fortress Monroe, disembarked and marched inland, going into camp about five miles from Hampton. Passing over the evacuation of Yorktown, and the battle of Williamsburg, we find the 98th crossing the Chichahominy river at Bottom's Bridge, and going into camp three miles beyond. Next morning, in the midst of a steady rain, the First and Third brigades were ordered upon an reconnaissance. A mile nad a half northward the skirmishers became engaged and the troops hastened forward. Near the West Point and Richmond Railroad, the artillery wheeled about with pieces ready for action, the infantry was formed directly in the rear, and the men ordered to lie down. A wreath of rich white smoke curled upward from a gap in the woods in front; a boom, a his, and a shell burst near General NAGLEE, in command. Faster and hotter came the shells, leveling trees, tearing up the ground and mangling the artillery horses. For two hours the 98th lay exposed to this fire, and then the force on the left gave way. The 98th then heard the command to advance; and this it did with such spirit that the retreating troops at once rallied, turned, and joined in the forward movement. The rebels retreated, leaving on the field 64 killed and 14 wounded. On May 29, CASEY'S division was located far in advance, in an open field, with woods in front occupied by the enemy in force. Two miles to the rear lay COUCH, posted in a line of woods. The masses of the rebel army were rapidly gathered, and at one o'clock, form out the woods in front, the unprepared soldiers saw the long, heavy liens of the enemy advancing. It was an unequal fight, 40,000 against 6,000; and they seeing their first battle, yet for three long hours did this division, unsustained, maintain their ground until completely flanked and threatened with annihilation; then only did it retire as best it could. The 98th might with pride inscribe "Seven Pines" upon their banner, to have been of those who so long withstood the brunt of action with the flower of the rebel army. At White Oak Swamp the regiment fought bravely to check the rebel attempt upon the line of retreat, and with the army fell back to Malvern Hill, and thence once more to Northern Virginia. The command was engaged at Petersburg, cold Harbor, Chapin's Farm and in the attack upon Fort Darling. On the expiration of the term of service the non veterans were mustered out, and the regiment, composed of veterans and recruits, was retained in the army until August 31, 1865, when in accordance with orders from the war department, the men were mustered out, and once again returned to the pursuits and comforts of civil and peaceful avocations.
One Hundred and Second Regiment –
The fresh call for troops and the exigency of the country, aroused the sentiment
of patriotism in some who had done well their part for a term and had retired
again to their civil life, and with them went others whose going was a dernier
resort to save the land from impending ruin. Among them was Captain M. E. CORNELL, who had nobly served
from April 19, 1861, a three months’ term in the Cleveland Light Artillery, in
which he was promoted lieutenant, and given command of a section.
Aided by his brothers George and Stephen, a company was recruited, during
the winter of 1861-62, from the western part of Ontario and eastern of
Livingston county. Early in the
spring of 1862, the company entered the service in the 102nd
regiment, Van Buren’s Light Infantry, commanded by Colonel Thomas B. VAN
BUREN. The regiment was organized
for three years, and the last company was mustered into service in April 1862.
The regiment was ordered to Virginia, where
it was attached to the army corps of General BANKS.
While the regiment was in the Shenandoah valley, Captain CORNELL
performed the duties of major. On
August 9, the terrible battle of Cedar Mountain was fought, in which the 102nd
too a prominent and active part, having many men killed and wounded.
When the army retreated from the Rapidan, the regiment proceeded to
Washington, where, in the reorganization of troops, the 102nd formed
part of the grand army upon which devolved the task of driving the rebel legions
from Maryland soil.
As a part of Franklin’s corps, the 102nd
went into the great battle of Antietam. Early
in the day the brigade of General GREEN, to which the 102nd belonged,
was ordered to dislodge a rebel force posted in a piece of woods, from which
they were seriously annoying our troops.
The brigade consisted of four regiments, the
102nd New York, the 3rd Maryland, and the 109th
and 111th Pennsylvania. They
advanced until close to the woods, when the rebels poured a deadly volley into
their very faces. The whole line
was thrown into confusion. Captain
CORNELL spring to the front, and exhorted his men to rally and advance. The brigade recovered and advancing, drove the enemy
through and beyond the woods and held the ground; but CORNELL, struck in the
forehead, “foremost fighting, fell.” The
regiment was engaged at Chancellorville and Gettysburg, in the east; and under
GRANT fought at Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge and Ringgold; and upon the
Atlanta campaign, in Hooker’s Star Crops, at Resaca, May 15, 1864, Dallas,
Altoons, Pine Hill, and in the siege of Atlanta.
The final muster-out of veterans and recruits too place upon July 21,
The One Hundred and Twenty-sixth New York
Volunteers – was recruited in Ontario, Yates and Seneca counties and
companies for this regiment was organized on August 20, and two days later,
mustered into the United States service. Of
regimental officers from Ontario, there were Colonel E. SHERRILL of Geneva;
Lieutenant Colonel James M. BULL of Canandaigua; Major W. H. BAIRD and Sergeant
Major, D. C. FARRINGTON of Geneva.
Company D, was recruited in western Ontario.
The first enlistment was July 22, and company organization dates August
9. A reward of $200 for the first
company raised in Ontario County for the 126th, was paid Company D by
H. B. GISON of Canandaigua. The
original line officers were Captain Philo D. PHILLIPS, Lieutenant Charles A.
RICHARDSON, and Lieutenant Spencer F. LINCOLN.
Company E, was principally raised at Geneva,
and was organized August 14, with Henry D. KIPP, captain; George E. PRITCHETT,
first lieutenant; and John H. BROUGH, second lieutenant.
Company F, was raised but in part in Ontario
County. Captain Isaac SHIMER
recruited a part of the company at Geneva,
First Lieutenant Ira MUNSON, a part in Seneca county and a third part was
raised in western Ontario by Second Lieutenant, Ten Eyck MUNSON.
Company G, was raised throughout the
district. Captain John F. AIKINS
recruited in Seneca, Lieutenant Frederick STEWART in Yates and Lieutenant
Sanford H. PLATT in Ontario , and organized August 15.
Company H, was recruited in eastern Ontario,
within the towns of Phelps and Manchester.
The first line officers were Captain Orin J. HERENDEEN, First Lieutenant
George N. REDFIELD, Second Lieutenant Alfred R. CLAPP.
Company K, was enlisted in Ontario.
A part were recruited at Canandaigua, by Captain Charles M. WHEELER and
First Lieutenant H. Clay LAWRENCE, and the remainder at Naples by Second
Lieutenant Isaac A. SEAMANS.
The 126th took cars for
Baltimore, which was reached August 21 and reported to General WOOL, who sent
the command to Harper’s Gerry for duty and discipline.
General LEE having resolved on carrying the war into the North, advanced
rapidly in that direction, making Harper’s Ferry, an objective point.
His plan of operations opportunely fell into MC CLELLAN’S hands, but he
failed to prevent such a concentration of the enemy at that point as, in command
of an officer like Colonel MILES, with thousands of new troops, brave, but
inexperienced, assured its surrender, and the consequent temporary loss to the
service of what later proved to be the best troops in the service. The indignation felt by the loyal masses against Colonel
MILES was great for permitting the
enemy to occupy Maryland Heights, and a misdirected public opinion threw the
blame upon the new Ontario regiment; and it was made to smart under the stigma
of cowardice, when it should have been lauded for a bravery and resolution
honorable to a veteran regiment.
On September 12, Maryland Heights were held
by the 32nd Ohio, two companies of the 39th New York, and
a few Maryland troops, all under command of Colonel FORD, who having heard that
a strong force of the enemy, under MC LAWS and BARKSDALE, were moving on his
position, called for reinforcements. The
126th was supplied with a day’s rations, eighty rounds of
ammunition and ordered to his aid. The
regiment reached the Heights on the afternoon of the day, after a rapid,
toilsome march. A and F were left to guard approach by the Sandy Hook road;
D, L and C were halted about half way up the slope, while the left wing, under
Colonel SHERRILL deploying on the ridge, became immediately engaged with the
enemy, who had gained the crest by Solomon’s Gap. Skirmishing increased in severity, so that C and I were moved
up to give their aid. Night came on
and closed the action. With the
approach of daylight, the enemy came up in strong force, delivering their fire
and flanking the Union troops, who were ordered behind the defenses. The 126th
New York and part of the 32nd Ohio, were well posted, and company D
having been brought up, the line was in readiness for the attack.
After a pause, the rebel forces advanced to the abattis, and from both
sides heavy discharges were delivered. Finally
the rebel attack slackened, and it was evident that a flanking movement was in
progress. Captain PHILLIPS, acting as major, was ordered by Colonel
SHERRILL to deploy D and C on the double-quick, diagonally down the
mountainside. In executing the
order, a body of the enemy, were met slowly working their way up, and an action
began in which the rebels were kept at bay.
In the conflict, two men were mortally and five were seriously wounded.
The enemy now renewed their efforts in front with resolution, and the 126th
returned their fire with vigor and great steadiness.
Colonel SHERRILL, regardless of safety, stood upon the logs, exposed to
the enemy, directing and encouraging his men.
A shot struck him in the face, and he was carried to the rear, while the
men, aroused to avenge their loss, and confident of their strength, continued
the engagement. An order came for
Colonel FORD to withdraw. Captain
PHILLIPS refused to obey, as it was given verbally.
The other regiments receiving the order, retired, and the 126th
had then no option and fell back steadily to the rear of the Lookout.
Here the line was reformed across the ridge and over the declivity, and
Colonel SAMMONS came up from the ferry with his regiment as a reinforcement.
The companies of the 126th on the left knew nothing of what
was transpiring, and hearing the enemy giving orders at the breastworks,
Lieutenants RICHARDSON and REDFIELD went up far enough to see that the
entrenchment was in rebel possession, and then rejoining their commands, led
them by a detour to the rear of MC GRATH’S battery, which opened with shell
upon the enemy at the abandoned breastworks.
The withdrawal was not at once improved by the enemy, who feared to
advance upon the new, unknown position, fearing strategic movement and weakened
by a heavy force sent to defend Crampton’s Pass against General FRANKLIN’S
advance upon South Mountain. The
126th being without a regimental officer, chose Captain PHILIPS to
command and stood ready for action, when at 3 pm, a peremptory order came to
return to Bolivar Heights. With
deep surprise, the 126th obeyed.
MCGRATH’S battery was thrown down the mountain, and a position
abandoned which, held, might have been fraught with events of the highest value
to the Union cause. Upon such
accidents hinge the lives and destines of nations!
All reliable accounts corroborate the
statement that the regiment behaved well, and with proper management could have
held their advantageous position and averted disaster; but bravery was futile
where the commander was imbecile. The
corps of FRANKLIN was but five miles away; the Army of the Potomac was marching
to the rescue, and a few hours would have brought relief, but JACKSON know his
peril, massed his forces, planted his batteries, and sent in an order to
surrender. The cavalry, refused
permission from MILES, dashed out upon the Sharpsburg road, captured a wagon
train and a body of the enemy, and rejoined our forces.
General FRANKLIN, unconscious of the momentous necessity, delayed
advance, and so JACKSON had time to complete his arrangements, open his
batteries, and compel a surrender of well-nigh twelve thousand men.
With sadness the paroled men set out for
Annapolis, one hundred miles distant. On
the 17th of September, they heard the thunder of the guns at
Antietam, and indulged in reflections of what might have been with a brave, and
efficient commander on Maryland Heights. Ordered
to Camp Douglas, Chicago, the 126th therein took up their abode, with
no happy experience for a period of two months.
Taunted with cowardice when they had burned with indignation at a
compelled retreat, ordered to drill when they had given their parole of honor
not to do any act militating against the Confederacy, the men resented these
imputations and refused to do duty, while many, unjustly recorded as deserters,
sought their homes till such times as their exchange should once more set them
free. The regiment suffered much
from sickness, many died, and on October 19, the sick list of the 126th
numbered one hundred and eighty names.
The glad tidings of exchange was received on
November 19, and four days later came orders for a start next day for
Washington, there to be armed and equipped to resume duty.
Joyfully the discomforts of Camp Douglas were left, but behind them were
one hundred sick comrades. Assigned
to CASEY’S division, 22nd corps, they went into camp at Arlington
Heights, drew tents, and December 20, receiving arms, went on picket duty, which
service was continued until the 24th of June, when the brigade
composed of the 11th, 125th, 39th, and 126th
New York regiments, was sent to join HANCOCK as his Third brigade, Third
division of the Second army corps. Again LEE had swept northward, up into Pennsylvania and MEADE
had been placed in command o the old Potomac army.
The advance of each army had encountered at Gettysburg, and to this point
the commanders gathered their forces; LEE, holding back to make his plan a
certainty, permitting the distant corps of MEADE to come up into position.
The 126th saw troops almost innumerable marching by, while its
sick were removed, its surplus baggage sent off, and then on the 26th
of June, it marched to Gum Springs and camped with the division.
Then a long hard march was made, and on June 30, a distance of 33 miles
was traveled, and next day reaching Taneytown, the distant thud of cannon told
of a battle impending. Not now as
when Antietam was being fought, but free-hearted, full of adore, and determined
to wipe out by one heroic action, the foul aspersion upon their good name, the
Third brigade marched to the great battlefield, and tired, but resolved, took
their place in line, to the left of the cemetery at Gettysburg. Next day the brigade was placed as support for two batteries
fronting MEADE’S headquarters, near the northern extremity of the ridge, and
the men looked excitedly upon HOOD’S contest with VINCENT’S division of
SKYE’S corps for the possession of Little Round Top.
SICKLES had advanced with temerity to high ground, some distance beyond
the general line, and ere he could withdraw an attack by LEE in heavy force made
it next to impossible. He met the
assault, and sent beck cry for help. All
the forces sent by MEADE were in vain; the line was broken, and SICKLES was
wounded. HUMPHREYS and BIRNEY
fought nobly. HANCOCK, taking
command, ordered in one body of troops after another, and again the imperative
call for reinforcement came back. Then
the Third brigade gladly heard and quickly obeyed the orders, “Fix bayonets;
shoulder arms; left face; forward, march!”
A mile southward, towards Round Top, was swiftly passed over; then
halting, facing westward, the line was formed; on the left, the 125th;
in the center, the 126th; on the right, the 111th and in
reserve, the 39th. The
tide of battle and disaster poured towards them.
From a ravine, concealed by tree and brush till near at hand, poured
forth the routed Excelsior brigade, closely pursued by BARKSDALE’S brigade, MC
LAW’S division, of the corps of LONGSTREET.
The Third brigade charged down the slope, giving and receiving a deadly
volley, and pressing through the woods to the opening beyond, where the confused
and staggering rebels were desperately attempting to hold their ground.
The loss was fearful, and the line was wavering, when in front was heard
a voice uttering maledictions, and urging on the enemy.
The men knew it to be BARKSDALE, and it recalled the deeply-venomed sting
of “Harper’s Ferry Cowards.” “Harper’s
Ferry!” ws the battle cry as the furious brigade swept madly but grandly
forward. BARKSDALE fell, riddled by
musket balls; his men, lately exultant, were cut down by scores, driven before
the bayonet, while many threw themselves prone upon the ground, and threw up
their hands in token of surrender. A
rebel battery now opened at short range and cut great gashes in the line, which
closed up and kept steadily on. No
halt was made till the order was given, and then, proudly, grandly, the
diminished line in beautiful alignment, retired over that body strewed field,
bearing with them recaptured artillery and a brass cannon, the prize of C and A. Colonel WILLARD, commanding the brigade, was killed by a
cannon ball. Colonel SHERRILL took
his place, and Lieutenant Colonel BULL assumed command of the 126th.
This notable charge restored the Union
lines, and gave opportunity for the Third army corps to fall back from its
exposed position to its proper place in the general ar4my. The contest just
outlined was a subject of much comment by National and Confederate writers, and
all agree that the carnage was terrible, involving great loss of officers and
men. The brigade held its ground
till nightfall and then marched back to Cemetery Hill, to the right of the
Early July 3, Captains SCOTT, SHIMER,
WHEELER and HERENDEEN, and their companies were detailed to skirmish with the
enemy in front. The enemy had a
heavy line of good marksmen, and the work was of the most trying character.
Three of these four captains were killed.
Lieutenant BROWN of C, was wounded, and many of the men were killed or
wounded. Towards noon, it had
become plain that a great movement was in progress, and every part of our lines
being prepared, all lay by their post in suspense.
It was near one p.m., when two cannon shots broke the silence, and then
from the 130 long range cannon, came an appalling roar, preceded at the Union
position by a deluge of iron, riddling the tree, earth, horse, man and even
tearing up the sods upon the graves in the cemetery as lightning bolts rend the
Well the troops, beside officers, knew from
experience that this storm of artillery presaged the charge, and, while the
ranks lay close, well-nigh one hundred Union cannon sent back their stern reply.
The batteries lost many men, and of a number of volunteers called from
the brigade to work the guns a portion were killed.
Ninety long minutes this unnatural storm lasted, and the Union cannoniers,
by order, diminished their fire, and then the artillery ceased. From Seminary Hill, a mile and a half in front, came in sight
Pickett’s veteran Virginians, behind them Pettigrew’s Carolinians, a
charging array of 18,000 men. Our
men looked upon their sweeping, well-adjusted lines with admiration.
The three-fold line came on as if upon parade, and their steady, serried
ranks betokened a mortal contest when they struck the expectant line.
The Union artillery awoke to startling life, and double-shotting their
guns, poured a decimating storm of missiles through the advancing array, which
closed each gap and moved unflinchingly forward.
Three lines, each a mile in length, came within range of the Second and
Third divisions of the Second army corps, which yet remained silent.
Within twenty rods, and the Union infantry opened so hot, so murderous a
fire that the rebel array was broken ad routed, over thirty stands of colors
were taken, thousands of prisoners were captured and the ground thickly strewed
with dying and the dead. The 126th
captured five stands of color. Colonel
SHERRILL was mortally wounded, and died early next day.
Colonel MC DOUGAL, of the 111th, next in command, was wounded
and Lieutenant-Colonel BULL succeeded to brigade command.
Major PHILLIPS was dangerously ill at Washington, and Captain COLEMAN led
the 126th, which lost 60 killed, 200 wounded, captured twice their
own number of prisoners, killed and wounded equal to their number and covered
its name with honor. At night, LEE
began his retreat. On July 4 the
rebel sharpshooters were vigilant, and fired at everything that moved.
Within a stone barn, with narrow windows, a party found protection and
annoyed the Union lines so that General HAYS ordered the barn to be taken.
Colonel BULL, commanding the Third brigade, called for volunteers from
the 126th. Jno. B. GEDDIS, Lieutenant of Co. D, responded and led the
movement, followed by most of the regiment.
In crossing a rail-fence, five men were shot, yet the rest pushed on
along a fence extending towards the barn. The
rebels now concentrated so deadly a fire that the attempt was abandoned, and a
return was made, brining in the wounded, and last of the band came GEDDIS,
bringing up the rear. For
gallantry, Lieutenant GEDDIS was later brevetted major, and hand a commission as
lieutenant-colonel, but was not mustered in through the reduced numbers of the
regiment. On the night of the 4th,
Captain MUNSON was in charge of the picket line. Then began the pursuit of LEE, through rain and mud.
July 10, saw the 126th guard to a train, the 11th
on picket, and recalled to join a force sent out to learn the whereabouts of the
enemy. The regiment passed through
Crampton’s Gap, and amid rain and in the darkness, passed the night in
building a breastwork of rails and earth. A
mail was here received, - the first for weeks.
Preparations were completed on the 13th for a battle, but all
remained quiet, and the news came next day that the enemy had made good his
retreat into Virginia. On the 26th,
the Third brigade had reached White Plains, where some of the regiment, while
out gathering blackberries, were captured by guerilla bands, taken to southern
prisons, and there perished in suffering. The
army lay a month at rest. A dress
parade was held on August 22, 1863, when 200 men were in line, while Company B
came out with but five men. General
LONGSTREET was sent to aid BRAGG, and turned the tide against ROSECRANS at
Chickamauga. General MEADE,
learning of LEE’S weakened army, advanced to occupy Culpepper. The Third brigade, marching around Cedar Mountain to
Robertson’s river, went on picket duty there for several days.
The Army of the Potomac was now reduced by transferring the 11th
and 12th army corps, under HOOKER, to GRANT, at Chattanooga, and
other troops to New York city, to quell a disgraceful riot there raging.
General LEE again menaced Washington, and on
October 8 had begun a flank movement. The
Union army fell back to interpose its forces.
On October 10, the Second corps formed line of battle two miles west of
Culpepper. Trains of stores and of the sick were hurried towards the
capital, and MEADE gave orders to concentrate for a stand at Centerville, while
the enemy strove to intercept and fall upon the divisions en route.
On the morning of October 14, while the
division was crossing the ford of Cedar Run, the 3rd Brigade,
leading, was attacked both front and rear by artillery and dismounted cavalry,
concealed in the woods. General
HAYS ordered forward the 126th and part of the 125th, to
clear the woods and gain the road. The
regiment deployed in a field under a sharp fire from unseen foes.
Presently a body of rebel cavalry emerging from the cover of the forest,
formed for a charge, and the hostile forces were seen advancing at thirty
rods’ distance. The right engaged at close quarters briefly, and killed
several of the cavalry, including their leader, and captured an adjutant and a
score of men. The regiment
continued its advance and gained the position sought, having sustained a loss of
four killed and nineteen wounded, and having won a decided compliment form
The regiment continued to guard the column,
as flankers, to Catlett’s Station. The
126th were left for an hour on picket and then relieved.
It was four p.m. when the advance of the Second corps reached Bristoe.
The rest of the Fifth corps, under SYKES, had just forded Broad Run at
the railroad crossing. The enemy had come into position to attack the rear of SYKES,
and now opened heavily upon the command of WARREN.
SYKES, refusing to give any help, kept on towards Centerville, and the
Second corps was left to rely upon itself.
As the 126th came near the station, a rebel line of battle was
seen on the left flank, in the edge of the woods on the opposite side of the
railroad. The column was moving by
the right flank, when General HAYS, galloping down the column, called out, “By
the left flank, double quick, march!” Each
regiment dashed forward over an open plain some fifty rods wide, and without
firing a shot, reached the railroad, cut ahead of the enemy, and cheering,
opened upon the rebels with terrible effect.
ARNOLD’S Rhode Island Battery, posted upon high ground in the rear,
converged its aim upon the heaviest bodies and tore them in fragments.
While the Third and Second brigades engaged in front, the First brigade,
moving upon their right flank, drove them in disorder, and with loss.
A battery of five guns was abandoned on a hill, and one company from each
of the regiments of the Third brigade was sent to bring off the prize.
Two flags and four hundred and fifty prisoners were the fruits of this
action. Later, another line
advanced from the woods, and as the Union batteries opened, lay down and
remained till after dark. At sunset
two rebel batteries opened, and a noisy, harmless duel was fought for an hour or
more. At 9 o’clock the march was
resumed and continued all night. Bull
Run was crossed at 3 a.m., and the Second corps joined the main army.
LEE having torn up the railroad to Rappahannock, retired to the father
bank, and occupied Culpepper and its vicinity.
On November 26, MEADE moved his five corps
to the Rapidan, WARREN crossed and marched southward, and, reaching a point
called Locust Ridge, the 126th and 125th were placed upon
the picket line for the night. The
army now moved up, and the enemy withdrew behind his works at Mine Run.
Each side expected and awaited attack from the other, and so the day went
by. Again the 126th
passed the night as pickets. WARREN
was sent to turn the rebel position, and reached a favorable point as darkness
came on. All night long the enemy
labored, and by morning, batteries, masses of infantry, abattis and breastworks
awaited the Union assault. General
WARREN withheld the order to attack, and the act received the endorsement of
General MEADE. Again, a third
night, the 126th was on the picket line, and when morning came the
army marched back to former camps, and the 126th gladly entered its
camp, December 2, after this exhaustive and fruitless effort.
Winter quarters were now built near
Stevensburg, and a long rest ensued. A
reconnaissance was made February 6, 1864, at Morton’s Ford, on the Rapidan,
wherein the 111th and 126th received, with the 125th
and 39th, the post of honor, as the advance of the corps.
A squad of about thirty prisoners was taken at the crossing. The brigade having reached the farther bank, deployed,
advanced and fearlessly moved close upon the rebel batteries, where at dark, a
heavy attack was firmly met, assisted as they were by the opportune arrival of
another brigade. The force was
successfully withdrawn, and the conduct of the troops won hearty enconium from
commanding officers. A grand review
was held on February 23, 1864, and five days later the corps were reduced to
three, - Fifth, Second and Sixth. WARREN,
HANCOCK and SEDGWICK were the respective commanders. The Third brigade was augmented by three regiments, and
changed from Third to First division of the Second corps. The 126th was 300 strong when, on April 5, Captain
Richard A. BASSETT and Lieutenant F. E. MUNSON, with five sergeants, eight
corporals and 87 privates, were detailed as provost guard at headquarters, May,
1864. GRANT, as general, commanded
all the Union armies, and directed simultaneous and co-operative effort.
SHERMAN was to move upon Atlanta; MEADE to follow LEE.
On May 5, the Second army corps crossed
Ely’s Ford, and bivouacked unopposed at Chancellorsville.
In the constant succession of battles following, the 126th
fought with its usually bravery, and lost part of its veteran band.
During the prevalence of a fog, on the morning of May 12, the Second
corps, under HANCOCK, charged an angle of the rebel works, and captured 4,000
prisoners and two general officers, E. JOHNSON and G. H. STEWART.
Adjutant LINCOLN, of the 126th, on of the first within the
rebel works, himself wheeled about a loaded cannon and discharged it upon its
late owners. It is well known with
what desperate valor the enemy fought to recover lost ground, and how with equal
resolution the Union veterans stubbornly clung to their advantage.
The 126th had now in its depleted ranks but 80 officers and 72
men. Passing over the events of the
week of hot and memorable days, we find WARREN’S advance attacked by a
division of EWELL’S corps, on May 30, at Tolopotomoy creek.
BARLOW’S division drove back the rebel skirmish line, captured their
rifle pits and held them all night. In
this engagement the 126th lost a heavy percentage of their number,
but he few were as undaunted as when charging upon the enemy at Gettysburg and
driving the victors like chaff before them.
At Cold Harbor the regiment was in reserve,
and so speedily was the advance repulsed, and so decidedly, that the supports
were not called up. The men placed in front excavated rifle pits, and wherever a
hand or head was shown, a bullet whistled near or through it.
Constantly in the front or in support, the 126th, on September
26, in command of Captain GEDDIS, had to report but eight officers and sixty
men, and these were on duty at Deep Bottom as part of the supporting line.
The rolls showed the strength of the regiment to be 20 officers and 418
men. Recruits had not been
received, and were not expected. The
provost guard was kept constantly employed in guarding prisoners, checking
stragglers, and in police duties at headquarters.
On October 6, the 126th stood behind their works in front of
Petersburg, watchful and ready for attack, - one moment all quiet, and the next
a ripping of musketry, a crash of shells, calling each, gun in hand, to the
breastworks. So passed not days,
but months. The regimental
organization was still kept up, but the companies were all together, and Company
K was represented only by John BARRETT of Allen’s Hill. Captain Ira H. WILDER was transferred to command another
regiment of the brigade, and Lieutenant J. w. RANDOLPH was adjutant.
All through the winter, and along in the
spring of 1865, the lines about Richmond and Petersburg held fast, and each day
the forces of LEE grew weaker and the demonstrations on the left of the Union
army more decided. Atlanta had
fallen, HOOD had been defeated at Nashville, Savannah had been taken, ad now
SHERMAN’S columns, advancing through the Carolinas, proclaimed the end
approaching. Few of the old 126th
were left, but to them and the brave Second corps was to fall the honor of the
capture of the Army of Northern Virginia. LEE
charged and captured Fort Steadmen, on March 25, to mask an attempt to withdraw
his army to form a junction with JOHNSTON.
The fort was speedily retaken under the eye of President LINCOLN, then at
City Point. During the afternoon of
the same day, the line of the Third brigade was advanced, with a loss in the 126th
of two killed and several wounded. The command was complimented in an order read on
dress-parade, in which General MADILL, speaking in high terms of gallant
conduct, acknowledges and appreciates meritorious services.
“On the 27th, the men were ordered to have cartridges, four
days rations in haversacks, and to send surplus baggage to City Point.”
Captain J. B. GEDDIS, senior officer present, took command of the 126th,
and at nine a.m., March 29, the march towards Five Forts was begun.
The regiment was soon at old work on the skirmish line, where it remained
two days; then followed the battle of Five Forks, wherein the Third brigade won
themselves much honor. Here
PIERSON, of I, was killed, and Captain GEDDIS and Lieutenants HOPPPER and PARKES
and many men were wounded. The
regiment bivouacked among the pines at night, and next day the Third brigade,
part of SHERIDAN’S cavalry, and two divisions of the Fifth army corps were
sent to dislodge a rebel division from Sutherland’s Depot, on the Southside
Railroad, when they where strongly entrenched.
Led by MADILL, the brigade charged repeatedly but fruitlessly.
The enemy, behind good works and provided with artillery, held their
position bravely. MADILL was
wounded, and MC DOUGAL assumed command. A
ball broke his arm, but he kept his saddle and led a final successful attack,
which carried the works, cut the Southside Railroad, and resulted in the capture
of infantry and a number of cannon. In
one of the charges made, the brigade flag was lost, by the disabling of the
bearer, who was shot from his horse. The
enemy tore the flag from his grasp, and ordered him to the rear; he refused, and
in a charge quickly following, was rescued by his comrades.
This heroic soldier was Hermon FOX, of Company E, 126th.
The brigade took position north of the railroad and at night the national
artillery opened with tremendous roar all along the miles of works; then before
day let up the scene the whole army charged forward, and the lines were won.
LEE was in full retreat, and Union pursuit was immediate and rapid.
On May 3rd, the 126th
was detailed guard of trains, and marching with the wagons, corduroyed the roads
for long distances with rails form adjacent fences.
The capture of a supply train, numbering four hundred wagons, gave our
men a good meal. On May 6, a battle took place, and over 6,000 prisoners were
captured. Close following the rebel rear marched the Second army corps,
compelling the abandonment of sixteen heavy cannon and requiring a halt to
entrench. An attack followed, and
the 126th, fighting behind trees, met no loss, and as the enemy again
gave way, followed after as flankers for the brigade. LEE surrendered, and the triumph came at last.
Camp was made at Rice’s Station, May 20; the brigade then marched north
and May 23, took part in the grand review.
The 126th was represented by 80 men.
The order for muster-out came June 2, and two weeks later 221 men of the
original 1,000 were discharged. Where
were the rest? Harper’s Ferry saw 16 killed, 39 wounded.
At Gettysburg 30 officers and 477 men were engage; there were killed, 6
officers and 55 men; wounded, 7 officers and 161 men.
At Auburn Ford the loss was 5 killed, 17 wounded; Bristoe Station, 6 were
killed and 13 wounded; Morton’s Ford, February 6, 1864, 3 killed and 19
wounded. From May to June 6, the
loss was 8 officers and 121 men. Before
Petersburg, from June 15 to 22, the losses were 7.
During service, 16 commissioned officers were killed in battle or died of
wounds, - a greater numerical loss than any other regiment from the State had
sustained, - and Ontario, in her 126th, had a regiment whose record
may well, from Harper’s Ferry to Appomattox, give her pride in her soldiery.
The One Hundred and Forty-eighth
Regiment – This regiment was mustered into the United States service
at Geneva, New York on September 14, 1862.
The field officers were: Colonel William JOHNSON, Seneca Falls;
Lieutenant-Colonel G. Murray GUION; Major, John B. MURRAY; Adjutant, Henry T.
NOYES; Surgeon, E. W. SIMMONS, Canandaigua.
The regiment, twelve hundred strong, and composed of as fine a body of
men as had yet been organized, was raised in the 26th senatorial
district – Yates, Seneca and Ontario. Companies
C, G, I, and L were raised in Ontario, and officered by Captains D. E. CLAPP, E.
A GRISWALD, H. MOORE and H. SCHUTT; while parts of F and D were raised in
Ontario, and the remainder in Yates and Seneca counties. Harvey R. GARDINER was placed in command of F, and E; Darwin
GAGE of D. The regiment left Geneva
September 22, and three days later arrived at Washington, going at once into
camp on Capitol Hill. From
Washington the regiment was ordered to Suffolk, Virginia, arriving there on the
29th and remaining until October 11, when it was ordered to
Portsmouth, Virginia, and went into camp. A
course of drill and instruction, thorough and effective, was here instituted and
maintained, which later, gained for the regiment its excellent reputation for
discipline and steadiness in action. From
Portsmouth the regiment was ordered to Norfolk, where it remained from the 12th
of July to October 9, on garrison duty. While
at this post, a portion of the regiment was detailed for the garrison at Fort
Norfolk; while other detachments were stationed at Kempsville, Cape Henry and
like important positions. Frequent
expeditions were sent out to different points of the adjoining country, and much
effective work was accomplished by the regiment.
On the 9th of October, the 148th was ordered to
Yorktown, and there remained in charge of the fortifications of that historic
location until the commencement of active operations in the spring of 1864.
During February of that year was made the famous march to Bottom’s
Bridge, on the Chickahominy, accomplishing 134 miles in one hundred hours.
While at Yorktown, in November 1863, a battalion of the regiment,
consisting of 450 men with the gunboat “Morse”, was went on an expedition
into Matthews county, on the Eastern shore of Virginia. The command disembarked on Mobjack Bay, and marching to
Gwynn’s Island, surprised and captured a battalion of coast guards, with arms
In April 1864, the regiment left Yorktown in
company with a heavy force under command of General “Baldy” SMITH.
They went into camp on the Williamsburg battle ground, where in 1862, the
gallant 33rd New York had so gallantly won fame.
Here the column was organized, and quipped for active service, and on the
5th of May, embarked on transports, and moved up the James river to
City Point, where the 148th was brigaded with the Second and Twelfth
New Hampshire and Eleventh Connecticut. The
advance upon Fort Darling, at Drury’s Bluff, began on the 12th; it
was followed by the sharp engagement at Clover Hill, which resulted in the enemy
being driven steadily back to his strongly entrenched line eight miles from
Richmond. On the morning of the 16th
the line of battle was as follows: HECKMAN’S brigade was drawn up just below
Fort Darling, with its right resting on the James. Next in order came WISTAR’S brigade, with the 148th
on its right and joining HECKMAN’S left.
During the previous night he 148th had erected a hastily
constructed breastwork of timber, and covered its immediate front.
A quantity of wire from the Richmond and Petersburg telegraph line had
also been cut from the poles and securely fastened among the stumps, about
thirty yards in advance. As morning
dawned, a dense fog had arisen, and at an early hour an overwhelming confederate
force was suddenly thrown with great fury upon HECKMAN, driving his line in
great confusion. Again forming in
column and taking a new position, the entire rebel force was hurled upon the
brigade to the left of WISTAR, throwing it into disorder, forcing it to the
rear, and capturing one of BELGER’S guns.
Seizing this gun, the enemy opened a flank fire upon WISTAR’S brigade,
compelling three of his regiments to retire, thus leaving the 148th
alone and unprotected to face a Confederate force flushed with success and
outnumbering it twenty to one. The
enemy immediately opened a severe fire of artillery and musketry form his front,
while the captured gun was sending rapid discharges of grape and canister from
its position on the left. And
now, as the fog began to lift, a dense column of the enemy was massed about two
hundred and fifty yards in front, and thrown like an ocean billow upon the 148th.
Calmly, to outward appearance, the men lay upon their arms awaiting the
attack. Strong men grew pale, but
they were no cravens. It was
simply from the realization brought home to their minds that within the next few
moments would be decided not only their own fate, but perhaps that of the little
army behind them. The moments of
suspense passed on while the gray masses came sweeping over the cleared space
between it and the slight breastwork behind which lay the expectant 148th.
From the left came grape-shot hurtling and humming along the line, while
form the Confederate batteries posted in rear of the column of assault, and from
the heavy guns of the regiment. Another
moment and the front line of the enemy had struck the telegraph wire, and as it
went down and was crowded upon by the rear ranks, a simultaneous volley was
poured among them from all along the hitherto silent line of breastwork, and
leaving behind the dead and the dying, the enemy fell back confusedly, and in
full belief that a heavy force, many times the true number, had arrested their
exultant advance. Holding this position until a new line of battle had been
formed in its rear, the 148th, deploying as skirmishers, fell back
and joined the main body. For their
gallant conduct in this action the regiment received much credit.
On the 29th of May, the 18th
Army corps having been ordered to join the Army of the Potomac, the 148th
moved down to City Point from its position at Bermuda Hundred, and, embarking on
transports, steamed down the James and up the York, and from thence into the
Pamunkey, finally disembarking at White House Landing; an on the 1st
of June, marched to the old Cold Harbor battle-ground, going immediately into
action on the right of the Sixth army corps.
In the final charge at Cold Harbor, on June 3, the 148th held
the post of honor in SMITH’S division, being placed at the head of the
storming column. This column was
ordered to charge across an open space upon the inner angle formed by the
convergence of two lines of the enemy’s works.
This objective point, perhaps the most impregnable in the entire line of
works, was defended by two full batteries, amply protected by some of the best
rebel regiments. The column formed
under shelter of a piece of woods, and at five o’clock on the morning of the
memorable 3rd of June, emerged into the open ground, and immediately
received a tremendous volley form the enemy’s rifle pits.
The quiet prevailing to this moment was
further broken by the opening peal and steady roar of cannon.
Volley followed volley in quick succession, and the rush of bullets was
continuous. Grape and canister came
in murderous blasts. Shells burst
all about and the air seemed clouded with missiles.
Never, perhaps, during the entire war was so terrible a fire concentrated
upon a column of assault as in this particular instance. Although
men fell by scores, the ranks pressed forward, and as the troops reached the
breastwork the enemy redoubled their fire.
Never quailing, the 148th here exhibited the perfection of
splendid and invincible bravery. Two thirds of the filed had already been
crossed, in the face of this deadly rain of shot and shell, when the rear of the
column, impelled in its advance by the hundreds of the dead and dying who had
fallen in its front, wavered for an instant, and directly the main body began to
fall back. Not so, however with the
gallant but rapidly decreasing band which led the attach.
The men of the 148th were too near the prize to think for a
moment of retreat, but funding themselves deserted by their comrades, whit
numbers to sadly decimated to hope to carry the works, right there, in the open
field, under the concentrated fire from the enemy, threw themselves upon the
ground and with their bayonets, tin plates and cups from their haversacks, began
to throw up the sand in front as a protection.
Thus, in an almost incredibly short space of time, they were screened
from the bullets of their foes, and now began an annoying fire upon the
confederate works. This position
was held by the regiment until the coming of night, when entrenching tools
having been obtained from the rear, the line already begun was strengthened and
enlarged, so that before daylight next morning, with fresh troops brought
forward, the line was permanently established.
During this engagement, the 148th lost 109 men in killed and
On the 11th of June the regiment
moved out of the trenches where it had remained under fire for eight days, and
marching back to White House, the entire corps again embarked; and on the 14th,
the regiment once more landed at City point.
Thus ended two weeks’ campaign with the Army of the Potomac.
When the movement against Petersburg
commenced, on the 15th of June, the 148th was with the
advance under General SMITH, and the 18th of that month, found the
regiment at a point but little more than a mile from the city.
A strong body of Confederates was posted on the crest of the hill, and
for a time held the Federal advance in Check.
Two regiments had been successively ordered to charge the position, but,
although displaying great bravery, had both been repulsed.
At this juncture, the 148th was directly to carry the
position. Rapidly moving through the underbrush, it deployed in the open field,
at the foot of the ascent and, with a ringing cheer, rushed up the slope on the
double-quick, driving the enemy form his entrenched positions and his gunners
from their works. Passing rapidly
over the hill, the 148th followed hard after the retreating rebel
line, capturing many prisoners, and continuing the pursuit until the main line
of defense was reached, and the “Siege of Petersburg’ was begun.
From this time on, the regiment was
constantly in the trenches, enduring with unflinching fortitude the hardships
entailed by the position. Always under fire, with little opportunity for rest,
constantly exposed to the burning sun by day, and with no protection from the
heavy Virginia dews by night, the regiment remained in this position for more
than two months. During this time
it suffered much from the great scarcity of water, no rain having fallen from
the 2nd of June to the 19th of July, and as a consequence
the air was constantly filled with clouds of fine sand, which at times became
On the 29th of September, the
regiment having been transferred to the First brigade, Second division, the
entire 18th and 10th army corps were ordered to cross the
James, and at one o’clock on the morning of that day, the 148th
marched over the pontoon-bridge at Aiken’s Landing, and was soon in action,
driving the enemy back to his strong fortifications at Chapin’s Farm, and
taking a active part in the storming and capture of Fort Harrison, - a
formidable earthwork in the outer line of the Richmond defenses.
The 26th of October found the 148th
attached to the First Brigade, Second division, Twenty-fourths army corps, and
in occupation of fort Harrison, where it had been since the taking of this
formidable defense. This was the
nearest point to Richmond occupied by our forces.
On the evening of October 26, orders came to move out to the rear of the
fort and join the Third brigade of the division.
Next morning the force moved around to the right towards Fair Oaks, which
point was reached about nine a.m. The
command struck the Williamsburg pike, near the old hospital grounds occupied by
MC CLELLAN in 1862, and moved directly up the pike towards Richmond, the 148th
in the advance. When within eight
hundred yards of the hostile lines, the enemy opened with a battery that
commanded the pike, and the regiment on the run formed in line of battle on the
south side of the road. The 11th
Vermont, a regiment 1,000 strong, formed and took the advance with the expressed
design of leading the assault, but the order to charge being directed to the 148th,
that regiment had the honor of making an advance wherein the loss compared with
the number engaged is almost unparalleled.
Two hundred and fifteen men went into this charge, and but ninety-eight
returned. One hundred and two had
been cut down, killed or wounded, and fifteen captured.
Among the killed was the lieutenant colonel, and many of the bravest and
best men of the command. The charge
was unsuccessful from a failure to promptly send forward the supports.
During this engagement, the major of the 148th, in command of
the sharpshooters, had pushed forward close upon the rebel line, when the fire
became so severe that an order was given to take over.
The major, together with a score of his men, found shelter behind a
woodpile. To retire over the ridge in such close quarters was almost sure death;
to remain was capture. The rebels
called on them to come in. The
major inquired the terms, and the right of the telescopic rifles with which the
men were armed caused a profusion of promises.
A woman at a house close by offered to come and escort the major to the
rebel lines, saying, “We’uns won’t fire on you’ens while I am with
you.” When the old lady reached
the woodpile, she was seized by the gallant major, who, interposing her between
himself and the enemy, called on the men to retire, and began his own retreat.
The rebels set up a yell but did not open fire, and amid the cheers and
laughter of our men, the major and his escort reached our lines. The night of the 27th, the regiment returned to
Fort Harrison, where they remained a few days, when they were selected, together
with a few other regiments, to accompany the general commanding to New York to
aid in keeping peace in that city during the presidential election.
This duty done, the 148th again returned to the front, and was
stationed on the right of our line at Deep bottom during the winter of 1864-65.
Here the men were engaged in picket duty until March 27, when they moved
wit the corps under ORD to Hatcher’s Run.
The regiment was immediately placed in charge of the division picket
line, with instructions to be ready at any moment to advance upon the
Confederate picket line. On the
morning of March 31, the men, responding promptly to orders, advanced and
captured 310 men, which was an excess over their own force.
On the morning of April 2, the 148th broke through the rebel
line simultaneously with the advance of the Sixth army corps.
On entering the entrenched lines the 148th swung round to the
left, crossed Hatcher’s Run, and captured one general officer, several
officers of the line and 350 men. The regiment also captured a full battery of Whitworth guns,
horses and equipage complete, together with three battle-flags and one camp and
garrison flag. The 148th
then faced about and marched towards Petersburg. At Forts Baldwin and Gregg the enemy were engaged and the
regiment took part in the capture of the former. These forts had been manned by picked men from the best of
LEE’S army, and the orders were to hold them at all hazards, to enable the
Confederates to escape with a part of their supplies. It may be said that at no place during the war, did the
rebels fight with greater desperation that in these strongholds.
The plain in front of the former fort was literally strewn with the
killed and wounded of the Union army, and in the fort lay 275 rebels, killed or
badly wounded. They did not
surrender, but fell fighting. Their heroism accomplished its purpose, detaining our army
long enough to allow LEE to get out of Petersburg.
The 148th lay on their arms till the morning of the 3rd,
when it was found that LEE’S army had started towards Barksville Junction.
The 24th army corps started to head them off, keeping well to
the rebel left flank; and now the result became a question of endurance between
the two armies. Four days the two divisions led the corps and the 148th
was in the van most of that time. Near
night the enemy were struck, and a short engagement resulted in a loss to the
regiment of one killed and four wounded. Darkness
came on, and LEE kept upon the road to Lynchburg.
The race was renewed near High Bridge.
SHERIDAN now passed the infantry, and began to harass the rebel advance.
ON the morning of the 9th, about three o’clock, a half for
an hour was made at Appomattox Station; the advance was then renewed, and our
lines swung around to the rebel front, the 148th being on the extreme
left of the line. It was thought
that LEE would undertake to break through on the left, and the men were ordered
to be read, and with uncommon spirit the line drew up and moved forward.
In passing through the woods in front of the rebel position, a shell from
one of their batteries exploded in the center of the regiment, wounded one man,
tore off several knapsacks, and damaged several guns, - it was the last shot
fired from LEE’S army, for before they could reload their pieces they were
captured and the men dispersed. While
reforming to follow up the advantage loud cheers came from the right, and soon
the cry came down to them, LEE has surrendered!”
Such a glad shout as went up form those battle-scarred veterans was never
before heard on this continent. Guns
were discharged in the air and thrown on the ground.
Men laughed, shouted, and embraced, so exuberant was their joy.
The regiment remained at Appomattox until the surrender was accomplished
and the debris of the rebel army cleared away, then turned to Richmond, where it
remained till June 28, when they were mustered out, conveyed to Elmira, and paid
off July 3. On July 4, the men
arrived at Seneca Falls, and met a royal welcome.
Little need be said in reference to either
the bravery or patriotism of the 148th.
Its noble record as a regiment has become a matter of history.
The regiment was composed of able, intelligent and influential men, who
had left farm, office and business, not for pay or bounty, but from a feeling
that the country needed their services, and that the time had arrived when home
attractions became of secondary importance.
The battle roll of the regiment enumerates eleven actions, namely: Swift
Creek, on May 9, 1864; Clover Hill, May 15; Drury’s Bluff, May 16; Port
Walhall, May 26; Cold Harbor, June 15; Roweltts’ House same as last; siege of
Petersburg, June 18 to August 25; fort Harrison, September 29; Fair Oaks,
October 27; Hatcher’s Run, March 31, 1865; and Appomattox Court House, April
9. The lists of casualties are
found as appendices to the various histories of towns, and are so many silent
witnesses to the devotion of the 148th to their country.
The One Hundred and Sixtieth New
York Volunteers – The 160th New York Infantry was a three
years regiment. It was organized in
New York City, and mustered into service November 1, 1862. Company E of this regiment was mainly raised in the vicinity
of Geneva, where it was organized on September 3, 1862.
The company officers were Henry MOORE, captain; James GRAY, first
lieutenant; and Nicholas MC DONOUGH, second lieutenant.
Pervious to their arrival at New York, an handsome stand of colors was
presented by the ladies of Auburn. General
BANKS’ expedition sailed from New York under sealed orders, and among the
regiments, was the 160th. For
twenty-one days the novel experience an ocean voyage was had by most who saw the
illimitable expanse of water for the first time.
Landing at Carrollton, six miles above New Orleans, the regiment, going
into camp, passed several weeks in drilling and perfecting a discipline which
later stood them in good service. Christmas
day, was made memorable by a dinner of mush and molasses, and the serving out to
the men their first forty rounds of ammunition.
Despite the change of climate, health and spirits continued to be
excellent. On December 16, 1862,
General N. P. BANKS had succeeded General BUTLER, and proceeded to organize the
Nineteenth corps, composed of four divisions.
The 160th received orders about the first of January to report
to General WEITZEL, who was placed in command of the 160th, 114th
and 75th New York, the 8th Vermont and the 12th
Connecticut, which were known as the Second brigade, First division, General
AUGUR commanding. The first
engagement took place on January 13 and 14, 1863, near Pattersonville,
Louisiana. The Atchafalaya river,
at a point known as Butte-la-Nore, was held by a strong rebel work, and the
Bayou Teche, just above its confluence, was defended by an iron-clad old river
steamer called the “John K. Cotton” and by a strong earthwork.
To WEITZEL’S brigade was entrusted the capture of the boat and work,
prepatory to further operations. Embarked
on gunboats, the troops were taken up the Atchafalaya, and debarking at the
mouth of Bayou Teche, formed in line of bathe, the 160th in the
center, the 75th on the right by the river, and the 12th
Connecticut on the left. The
cavalry were advanced; met and skirmished with the enemy, who made a stand at
the Teche. The infantry, coming up,
gave them a volley, the accompanying battery fired a round and the rebels fled
hastily. Next morning the 75th
engaged the gunboat, while the brigade advanced on the earthwork. Between the opposing forces lay a broad cane-field crossed by
wide ditches, and adapted to sue as rifle-pits; within these the soldiers of
both forces took shelter. The 160th,
with the other regiments, speedily formed plan of action.
At the word they rose, ran to the next ditch in front, and the rebels
promptly evacuated and fell beck. The
movement was repeated, bu with each repetition the resistance increased, and
reaching the “last ditch”, the enemy made a stubborn stand, and could not be
dispossessed. Night came, and the line fell back and just before daylight,
the gunboat being seen on fire, the expedition returned to camp.
On February 6, the 160th and 75th
were ordered to Brashear City to relieve the 21st Indianan and the 23rd
Connecticut. For some time the
regiment was occupied in drill, picket duty, and expeditions.
General BANKS now resolved to penetrate the Red River country, and
attempt to capture of vast quantities of cotton known to be stored in that
region. General Richard TAYLOR had
gathered up scattered forces and taken position with not far from 10,000 men at
Fort Birland, and had greatly strengthened the earthwork, and to it added a long
line of formidable breastworks. The
force under BANKS was about 20,000 strong. On the morning of April 12, the 75th was sent
forward upon the skirmish line. The
160th New York had the right of the ling, and drove the rebel pickets
back upon their main line. At 3
p.m., line of battle was formed, with the 160th and 75th
in the centre. By the end of two
hours, three miles had been traversed under constant resistance, and the
brigade, accompanied by artillery, had approached a row of cane-shocks within
plain sight of the rebel lines, and distant therefrom from a half to three
quarters of a mile. WEITZEL
suspected that these shocks, careless left, had been places as marks of
distance, and his opinion was confirmed, when, as they were reached, from works,
fort, and the gunboat “Diana”, a storm of shells followed by grape and
canister, hurled through the air, and plowed up the earth on all sides.
The brigade sought shelter in the nearest trench, and the Union artillery
opening, a cannonade was kept upon both sides until sundown, when the firing
gradually ceased; the brigade was withdrawn; and the rebel band struck up the
“Bonny Blue Flag.” Early
on Monday morning the 21st Indianan opened with two thirty-pound
rifle guns upon the enemy’s boaters and on the rebel fort. The gunboat was driven back and afterwards, destroyed; but
the fort, kept up its fire. About 3
p.m., the brigade, exclusive of the 75th, which had been sent in on
the flank, advanced steadily within a half mile of the entrenchments, when the
artillery fire on both sides became very lively. It was here, while the 160th were supporting the 6th
Massachusetts battery, that Barney MC GRAW was killed by a piece of shell which
struck his forehead as the order came to lie down.
The line remained in their position during
the afternoon. Companies G and D,
on the skirmish line, one hundred yards in advance, kept up a constant fire
until withdrawn. Movements being
made threatening his rear, TAYLOR evacuated during the night, and on the
following morning the army advanced to Franklin.
The march was continued to Opelousas, which was reached on April 20.
For two weeks vehicles and vessels were employed to transport cotton to
New Orleans. The 160th
was sent to New Iberia with cotton and prisoners and returned to Opelousas to
take part in the advance to Alexandria. The
march thither was made rapidly. From
that city, the WEITZEL brigade was ordered to continue on up the river, and
advanced about twenty miles, when, as the men lay at rest, a courier arrived
ordering their return, and Alexandria was again reached.
General GRANT called on BANKS to aid in the attack upon Vicksburg, but
the latter resolved to attempt the reduction of Port Hudson, and removed his
army thither. The lines were formed
on May 26, with the orders to assault next morning. Four companies of the right wing of the 160th were
detailed to guard two steamboats taken from the rebels.
The other six companies were promptly in line, and advanced with the
reserve brigade, on the second line into the woods.
The place was naturally very strong, and General GARDNER, the rebel
commander, had lost no opportunity to make his defenses more formidable.
At the father edge of the woods the rebel skirmishers were strongly
posted, and well supported by batteries on the hill beyond.
The first line lay down as the rebel fire became severe, and past them
came WEITZEL’S brigade down into a ravine among felled trees, into a jungle of
obstruction, then up towards the rebel earthworks.
The 160th never flinched, and was
one of the first under the parapets. Company
E, led by Second Lieutenant Nicholas MC DONOUGH, reaching the rebel works, dug
foot-holes with their bayonets, waiting, but in vein, for the order to go over. John C. BRENNAN, of Bristol, had his left hand shot away; but
the lost of the regiment was very small.
On the evening of June 13, Colonel VAN
PETTEN received orders to have the 160th in line at twelve p.m. to
make apart of an assaulting party. Sixty
rounds were issued to each man, and the brigade of the division, were brought
close to the point of attack. Delays
occurred, and the enemy becoming aroused, strengthened his front.
In the plan of attack, the 75th New York and 12th
Connecticut were to advance deployed as skirmishers; the 91st New
York was armed with hand-grenades; the 24th Connecticut carried bags
of cotton to fill the ditches; while in column came the 8th Vermont,
the 114th and the 160th New York.
The advance met a tremendous fire, but supported by the 91st
New York and 24th Connecticut, they opened so rapid a return fire as
to drive every rebel to cover. WEITZEL
brought up his remaining regiments.
As Company E crossed a hill-crest, Captain JORDAN and others were
wounded. Captain MOORE was wounded when close to the works.
Three weeks of investment followed, and July 7, the tidings of the fall
of Vicksburg having been received by the rebel general, he surrendered with
6,100 men. The spoils included 20
heavy cannon and 31 field pieces, together with a large quantity of ammunitions.
In recognition of gallant service, WEITZEL’S brigade was placed at the
head of the column as the army entered Port Hudson.
Night came, and the regiment, together with others of AUGER’S division,
embarking on transports, went down the river.
Within a week the battle of Donaldsonville was fought and then ensued a
period of rest.
BANKS now determined to make a campaign
against Texas, and set out for Sabine Pass.
General FRANKLIN embarked a large force, including WEITHZE’S brigade,
and the fleet reached the Pass, where a small rebel force and a battery of field
guns defeated the attempt. The
armament returned to their former camp.
The Red River campaign of 1864 was a notable
example of the futility of effort by the bravest, when not governed by united
and concentrated action. When the
retreat began, April 9, at Sabine Crossroads and at Pleasant Hill, the 160th
materially aided to hold the enemy in check.
On April 24, at Cane River, and at Manassas Plains, the regiment was
engaged, and it was said of the organization by General WEITZEL, an officer well
qualified to judge, and not given to extravagant phrases, that the 160th
was “an excellent fighting regiment, embracing, among officers and men,
material of the highest order, so far as character and intelligence are
concerned.” For soldierly conduct
and valuable services rendered at the battle of Pleasant Hill, the regiment
received the special thanks of Generals BANKS, FRANKLIN and EMORY.
The brigade was ordered north, and was engaged at Snicker’s Ford, July
19; Opequan Creek, near Winchester, September 10; Fisher’s Hill, September 22;
New Market, September 24; New Town, October 12 and Cedar Creek, October 19.
They were sent to Savannah and the months passed quietly by without other
than police duty. In July 1965, on account of some disturbances in the interior
of Georgia, the 160th and the 75th were sent thither to
restore order. Their sojourn was
transient. Order soon came for a
return to Savannah, where the organization was mustered out on November 1, 1865,
and the survivors, returning to their homes, sought out employment and are today
found active in civil as they have been brave and patriotic in their full term
of military life.
Fourth New York Heavy Artillery
– Originally consisting of eight companies, the 4th NY Artillery
was organized in New York City and its muster into United States service for a
term of three years, dates from December 13, 1861 to October 25, 1862.
Company H was known as Ontario company; and was sent to garrison one of
the chain of heavy forts about Washington, and there remained during the earlier
stages of the war.
On September 1, 1862, about dark, company H,
left Fort Corcoran, as did Company A; the latter company for Fort Franklin and
the former for Fort Pennsylvania. Headed
by the regimental brass band, the companies marched in fine style across the
aqueduct bridge to Georgetown, and “fetched up: at night at “battery
Vermont”, whose guns commanded “Chain Bridge.”
On Monday following, H had occupied Fort Pennsylvania, situated two miles
out from Georgetown. LEE moved into
Maryland. POPE was driven back on
Washington. The artillerymen lay by their guns at night, while by day, the men
watching clouds of smoke far away, as evidences of battle, were in constant
expectation. September 7, the 18th,
28th and 33rd Regiments had passed northward. The 28th, starting out 800 strong, numbered now
200. Captain FAUROT’S company was
in command of Lieutenant ELLIS, with a corporal for orderly and thirteen men.
Such were the ravages in the ranks by the battles before Richmond, and
the brave, unavailing resistance at the second Bull Run.
By the 20th of October, the works had been extended, heavy
guns shifted, and preparations made for planting one hundred pound Parrott guns,
to command the roads diverging from the city.
By November 20, the 4th Heavy Artillery had assurance that
they were to constitute a portion of the permanent garrison of the vicinity of
the capital. Company H lay in camp near Fort Marcy, half a mile above
Chain Bridge, enjoying excellent health; the men were busily engaged in
stockading for the approaching winter.
On January 9, 1863, the company was
pleasantly encamped just without Fort Marcy, their tents roomy, warmed by stoves
of cone shape, and altogether comfortable, while drill and instruction were
daily and thoroughly given. A few men had died, and several who ought never to have been
enlisted, were discharged. At the
last date, January 9, Company H. numbed 140 men.
To this time, Lieutenant George W. BEMIS had been in command.
The captaincy had been, in Colonel George BLISS Jr., assigned to the
staff of Governor MORGAN. With the new-year came the promotion of Lieutenant William
ARTHUR Jr. The regiment won
commendation at this time form General ABERCROMIE, a veteran officer, who, on a
review, pronounced the Fourth as the best volunteer regiment he had seen.
An attempt had been made to raise a
regiment, to be known as the 11th Heavy Artillery, and the
organization was effected with fair prospects;
but on occasion of muster-in, the officer, Colonel MARSHALL, rejected 300
men as over or under age, or for physical disability.
The four companies, under W. B. BARNES, mustered as major, were assigned
to the Fourth Artillery on June 11, 1863, and were made the Third battalion,
July 25, following. Quietly and
efficiently duty was performed at the forts, while the war worn veterans of the
Army of the Potomac drove or were driven; and then came the battle of
Gettysburg, where the disastrous failure of LEE places a seal upon the cherished
plan of the Confederacy to dictate peace upon northern soil.
The winter went slowly by.
The victories of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, the defeat of
LONGSTREET at Knoxville, raised higher the fame of GRANT, and to him was given
command of the army of the Union. He
resolved to keep the enemy so employed in his front as to insure comparative
security to his rear, and gathered up all available forces for his final
movement across the Rapidan in the early days of May 1864.
The Fourth Heavy Artillery, such now in name, but serving as infantry,
and containing in its ranks many a veteran soldier, was one of the regiments
which bore part in the deadly fusillade known as the Battle of the Wilderness.
On May 18, five companies, A, B, F, G, and H, were engaged in a charge
upon the rebel works at Spotsylvania. The
men fought with great bravery, losing from these companies, 115 men in killed
and wounded, but the position proved too strong and was not carried.
The ear became accustomed to the sound of skirmishing and the noise of
cannonading, and the men lived in an atmosphere of smoke and battle. On May 23 the scene of action had been transferred to the
North Anna, and six day later the contested ground was near the Tolopotomy,
where, as H lay in the rifle pits exchanging shots with the enemy, GAY and
SHORTSLEVES were wounded. On May 30
the fighting was severe and continued all along the line.
The creek was crossed, and the heights beyond carried and temporarily
held. Sharp skirmishing continued
day after day, and battles followed in rapid succession. On the 8th of June, the company had 18 men
wounded, and after the heavy fighting at Cold Harbor, were Sergeant Edwin O.
GATES was wounded, the army being crossed over the James , the Fourth had
reached and taken part in the advance of Petersburg, near which, on June 19, the
regiment lay behind entrenchments. Augustus
C. BROWN, commissioned December 17, 1863, was then in command of the company.
The regiment remained before Petersburg until about the middle of August,
when the Second army corps embarked on transports, and on the morning of August
14 was landed near Deep Bottom Bridge upon familiar ground.
The Fourth Artillery took part in the movements, which prevented the
reinforcement of the rebel army in the Shenandoah, and withdrew attention from
the Weldon Railroad. On the 23rd,
the troops engaged in tearing up the road, and a number of the Fourth were taken
prisoners. Entrenching at Ream’s
Station, the destruction of the road was continued through the day, Wednesday;
but the enemy had now learned the full purport of our movement, and marching
heavy bodies of troops to the vicinity, amused our troops by skirmishing till
about four p.m. of Thursday, when an attack was made in force.
The first blow struck MILES’ division, and was repulsed.
HILL sent HETH under severe artillery fire to renew the attempt, with
orders to carry the position at all hazards.
At a fourth charge the enemy were successful, and capturing three
batteries, swept off as prisoners a great number of soldiers, including many of
the Fourth Artillery, and among them about 40 men of Company H.
The regiment took part in the siege of Petersburg during the fall and
winger, and bore its part in the closing scenes in the capture of Richmond.
Companies G, H, I, and K, of the 8th NY Artillery, 176 men of
the 126th NY Infantry, and 242 of the 111th NY, were
transferred to this regiment in June 1865. the final muster-out of service dates September 26, 1865.
Commencing their military experiences in the semi-comforts of life in
camp with months of drill, in charge of heavy cannon, they changed to the most
active and exhaustive service in the field.
While at Washington they looked curiously upon the war-worn veterans of
Sumner, and observed with interest the rising of clouds betokening the presence
of the enemy miles away; now they lay day and night in rifle trenches within
short range of strong works manned by the flower of the rebel army.
They bore with bravery and steadiness the shock of battle. , and when the
rebels, charging at Ream’s
Station, in their sheer desperation broke our lines, the captives endured with
heroism the trying and health-destroying life in Southern prisons, too well
know, to require rehearsal. The
nation does not forget her defenders, and thousands cherish with pride the
recollection of their deeds in arms, and the lovers of a united and free country
everywhere feel an honest and laudable pride in the Fourth Heavy Artillery and
kindred organizations, before whose patient persistent lines the Army of
Northern Virginia dashed itself in vain, and to whom, in despair of escape,
their surrender was finally made.
The Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery
– The 16th NY Heavy Artillery was raised throughout the State, and
mustered into United States service at periods from September 28, 1863 up to the
last company on January 25, 1864. The
colonel was Joseph J. MORISON, who continued as such till the final muster-out
on August 21, 1865. One battery for
this regiment was recruited at Canandaigua by Captain Isaac S. GREEN, who, on
its arrival at Elmira, found the regiment already full and a complement of
batteries mustered in. The men were
distributed among other batteries. Some
went in the First Mounted Rifles, some in the 148th, some in the 10th
Artillery, but a majority of the Ontario County men were assigned to Battery H,
commanded by Captain Henry C. THOMPSON, Lieutenants Eugene T. CURTIS of
Rochester and Gregoire INSSE, of Bristol. Mr.
GREEN was commissioned first lieutenant of Battery F.
There were forty-four men from Ontario in this command; fourteen of them
had seen service in the 33rd and other regiments.
Frederick W. PRINCE of Geneva, was commissioned lieutenant-colonel on
June 22, 1865, but not mustered in. The
regiment was connected with the 10th, 18th and 24th
army corps, and during 1864, took part in the following named actions:
West Point, VA, June 20, Dutch Gap, August 9 to 15; Deep Bottom, August
13; Cox’ s Landing, James river, August 15; Petersburg, August 15 and 25 to
September 24; Signal Hill, September 29; Chapin’s Farm, September 29; Laurel
Hill, October 7; Darbytown Road, October 13; and Charles City Crossroads,
October 27 to 28.
Transferred to North Carolina, they were
engaged during the early part of 1865 at Fort Fisher, January 13-15 inclusive;
on the trenches, Cape Fear river, February 12; Fort Anderson, February 22; and
at Northeast Branch, Cape Fear river, on February 23.
One who writes of the intelligence of the men, says, “There were 201
men in Battery H, ad all but two could read and write, and those two were not
from Ontario County.” The 16th
Artillery was mustered out of the service at Alexandria, Virginia, August 21,
1865, and three days later received their discharge at Hart’s Island, New
First Regiment Veteran Cavalry
– This regiment was organized at Geneva, New York, to serve three years, and
was composed of men from Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Monroe, Erie and Chemung.
By the last of September 1863, 800 men had rendezvoused at Camp Sherrill.
Of these about 300 were of the 17th New York Cavalry,
consolidated with TAYLOR’S veterans, and with them about 100 men recruited at
Rochester for the 14th Heavy Artillery, but transferred to this
command. The regiment was mustered
Saturday, October 24, and contained ten full companies and 1,140 men. The list of regimental officers gives the following: Robert
TAYLOR, former colonel of the 33rd, colonel; John S. PLATNER, who was
major in the 33rd, lieutenant-colonel; Charles A. WELLS and James E.
WILLIAMS, majors; DeEstain DICKINSON, surgeon; Albert H. NASH, adjutant; and
Henry N. ALEXANDER, quartermaster. J. S. PLANTER was promoted colonel, brevetted
brigadier-general for gallant and meritorious services, and remained with the
regiment till its muster-out. The
regiment was sent to Virginia, and rode over ground familiar to many of them as
places to and from which they had marched during service as infantry. Their first encounter was with a band of MOSBY’S guerillas,
in the valley of the Shenandoah. A
post held by about forty men from Companies L and M was surprised on the morning
of March 10, 1864, by an attack from about 150 of the guerillas; a lively
skirmish ensued; reinforcements speedily arrived, and the enemy was driven off.
On the 8th of April, the First Veteran Cavalry was transferred
to the command of General AVERILL, and set out in the midst of a heavy storm for
Martinsburg. Ten days later, 300
picked men joined AVERILL’S command for a raid through Western Virginia.
On the 29th the Army of the Shenandoah advanced up the valley. On May 9, the First Veterans reached Cedar Creek, the scene
of BANKS’ earlier discomfiture. The
Veterans advanced upon Woodstock, then held by the enemy, and drove them from
the town. They pursued, and by the
13th had possession of Mount Jackson.
A force led by John C. BRECKENRIDGE began to move down the valley, and
General SIGEL, who desired to prevent his junction with the commands of IMBODEN
and GILMORE, made an effort to attack and rout the latter before the former
could come up. The attempt was not
successful, and when, on May 15, General SIGEL deployed his columns, and posted
his artillery at New Market, the combined forces of the enemy, embracing over
11,000 veteran infantry, promptly accepted the gage of battle, and the
engagement began with the usual cannonade and contest of the skirmish lines.
The Union troops battled bravely, but were overpowered.
All the infantry were placed in line, and the batteries were supported by
the cavalry. Company K, of the
First Veterans, was divided. Half,
under Captain BRETT, were placed on the extreme left, in advance, and the rest
on the extreme right of the line of battle.
These positions were held during the day without loss.
The rebel batteries, with accurate aim, made many a gap in the ranks of
the infantry, and finally ceased their fire.
The finale was reached when the rebel infantry advanced in three
magnificent lines of battle upon our position.
Our infantry broke and fled disorderly, while the cavalry brought off the
artillery and covered the retreat.
On the 29th of May, while Captain
BRETT with a party of 85 men was escorting a train of sixteen wagons laden with
medical stores for General HUNDER’S headquarters, he was assailed at Newtown
by a body of 150 of GILMORE’S cavalry, who were carrying the day, when a force
of infantry came up and turned the scale in our favor.
In this action Captain BRETT was killed wile leading his men, and his
body was sent home to Waterloo for interment.
Retreating down the valley, SEGEL was relieved by HUNTER, who faced the
men about and began a march up the Shenandoah.
By June 3, the cavalry had advanced to Harrisonburg, where, after a two
hours’ skirmish, the command of IMBODEN was driven through town to a fortified
position. Next morning, Colonel
PLATNER moved the regiment seven miles to the right, and attacked the enemy on
his left flank, and drew his attention while our trains and troops, moving past
his right, gained the road to Port Hudson and caused the evacuation of the
position. Advancing on the morrow,
the ground was disputed by IMBODEM, who gradually fell back to Mount Hope, where
he was joined by General JONES, with infantry and artillery from the army at
Richmond. The Union line moved
forward, and our artillery opened the battle of Mount Hope.
Preluded by a vicious artillery fire of a couple of hours, our infantry
were advanced in three splendid lines upon the enemy posted in long strip of
woods upon a gentle rise. The
contest was severe, and a varying fortune hung in the scale, when, with a cheer
heard lout above the roar of cannon, our lines swept forward and gained the
position. A lull prevailing, the
enemy was seen massing for a grand charge upon our right to recover their lost
ground. The Cavalry were
dismounted, and thrown into the wood to strengthen the line of infantry, and
soon, with that shrill, yelping cry, once heard never forgotten, the gray ranks
moved to the attack, but were turned back in confusion.
A Union charge followed, the infantry moving down the center, while the
cavalry, with cheers and drawn sabers, galloped upon the flanks.
The enemy gave way and began a retreat.
The cavalry followed hard upon their rear-guard, who threw a rain of
leaden sleet in the faces of our men, and then giving way, blended their numbers
with those of the main body and hastened the retreat.
The loss to the veterans was 23 killed, 44 wounded and 27 missing; total
loss, 94. Staunton was occupied, then the railroad was destroyed, and
CROOK’S and AVERILL’S commands joined HUNTER.
The First Veterans and the 28th Ohio infantry were sent on
June 1 across the mountains in charge of 1,200 “grey-backs”, and a motley
crowd of our men accompanied the force. The
distance, 110 miles to Beverly, was made in four days; thence the journey lay
some 40 or 50 miles along the railroad. The
prisoners were left in charge of the infantry at Webster Station, and the
cavalry were taken by rail to Martinsburg. On the 25th of June an immense wagon train loaded
with supplies set out for HUNTER’S army under strong guard.
In the advance of this train was the First Cavalry, under PLATNER.
Tidings came of trouble in front; HUNTER was reported to have been unable
to hold his position. The train
halted. Soon the repot was
confirmed that the army was retreating, and the train returned.
The veterans were ordered to Smithfield, while MOSBY raided upon the
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and escaped pursuit. The whole Union line had fallen back by June 29 to within
seven miles of Martinsburg, while the cavalry lay some distance in their front.
On the 2nd of July, the rebel advance opened suddenly on the
pickets of the First brigade. The
men were soon in the saddle, and within two hours had driven the enemy three
miles. About 10 a.m. a force of
2,000 men advanced upon the veterans, numbering about 700.
The latter fell back slowly, showing front, when pressed, to Martinsburg,
where they found that our forces had retreated.
The cavalry then retired to a position on the east side of Maryland
Heights. The enemy came on and capturing Bolivar Heights, occupied
Harper’s Ferry. Skirmishing with
the rebels, the cavalry were kept active till July 9, when all became quiet in
Pleasant Valley. In October the
regiment is found in quarters at Camp Piatt, West Virginia, guarding the salt
works of Kanawha, and the remainder of their term is connected with the
monotonous and more peaceful duties of the camp. Several hundred recruits here joined the regiment and saw
little of service. On the 8th
of January the regiment is found in camp at Ganley Bridge, at the headwaters of
Kanawha river. “K” Co. had lost
in 1864, by death, four; missing, one; discharged, two; and deserted, 4; total
11; and had received 18 recruits. Again,
on April 8, 1865, we find the First Veteran Cavalry at Loup creek, West
Virginia, at Kanawha June 8, and about the last of July, they are returned to
the State and mustered out.
New York Harris Light Cavalry
– This regiment was organized to serve three years.
It contained companies from Indiana, Connecticut and from eastern New
York, and was mustered into United States service from August 9 to October 8,
1861. The original members were
mustered out September 10, 1864 and the veterans and recruits formed into four
companies. During the fall months
of 1864, eight new companies were recruited in Ontario, Onondaga and Cortland,
to serve one year. What was known
as Company K, enlisted at
Canandaigua, in September 1864, for the First Veteran New York Cavalry, and was
transferred to “Harris Light Cavalry”.
The company joined the regiment at Cedar Creek, Virginia, October 22,
1864. Engaged the rebels at Cedar Creek, November 12, Mount
Jackson, November 22, and at Lacy Springs, December 22, 1864. They went into winter quarters, January 1, 1865, on the
Romney pike, three and a half miles from Winchester, and at the base of Round
Top Mountain. On the 27th
of February commenced the celebration raid of Sheridan up the valley, which
resulted in the destruction of EARLY’S army and the ruin of railroads and of
the James River canal, leading from Lynchburg to Richmond, on which was conveyed
a large portion of the supplies required for the Army of Northern Virginia.
The spring campaign found the Harris Light Cavalry daily in the saddle.
One action followed another in rapid succession, and the troops foresaw
the beginning of the end. The first
action was at Waynesboro’, on March 2, then at Ashland, March 25, at
Dinwiddie’s Courthouse, April 1, the engagements on April 3 and 6, and finally
at Appomattox Station, April 8 and 9. The
surrender of LEE to GRANT closed the scene, and the regiment marched to
Petersburg, indulging in the hope that days of danger, marching and fighting
were forever ended. The command was
aroused by orders to set out for North Carolina, on April 24, to take part in
reducing to terms the forces of JOHNSON. But
SHERMAN was equal to the task, and when within a few miles of Danville, orders
came to return, and with the command came tidings that the rebel army in North
Carolina had surrendered.
Second Lieutenant Charles WATSON was
promoted captain of Company K in February 1865.
The company left Winchester, February 27, with 58 men, well equipped and
able for duty, and closed the campaign with 17.
The most of the men were a credit to the country, and their captain was
held in high esteem by the entire regiment.
The regiment formed part of General CUSTER’S Third Cavalry division,
and what reputation his command had gained is well attested by the general
expression of regret at his defeat and death in the Indian county, battling with
the far outnumbering Sioux under Sitting Bull.
The Eighth Regiment New York Cavalry
was organized at Rochester early in the fall of 1861, to serve three
years. The original members were
mustered out on expiration of their term of service.
The veterans and recruits were held till June 27, 1865 and then
discharged. The regiment was at
first familiarly know as the Crooks regiment, from its commander, Colonel Samuel
CROOKS and afterwards as the Rochester regiment, form the place of organization.
The companies of which it was composed were recruited in the counties of
Monroe, Ontario, Seneca, Wayne, Orleans, Niagara, Chenango and Oneida.
Men went from most of the towns of Ontario into the different companies
and among the companies in which they enlisted were H, M, B, G, and D.
The regiment was ordered to Washington in the fall of 1861, and went into
winter quarters at Camp Seldon, near that city.
The command was not mounted as yet, and was employed in drill and camp
duty, and nearly a year of service expired before they assumed their proper
position. A prejudice existed
against cavalry, which wore off, and was supplanted by admiration when the
achievements of SHERIDAN, GRIERSON and KILPATRICK became known. The regiment was armed with muskets, but so strong was the
feeling against this arm of service, that in but one case were they called to do
duty with them. This was picketing
the canal form Harper’s Ferry to Washington.
In time the command was supplied with Hall’s carbines, - a poor weapon,
- and sent in the spring of 1862 to serve under General BANKS, in the valley of
the Shenandoah. His defeat and
disastrous retreat well-nigh involved the regiment in ruin.
The 8th was placed dismounted where mounted men should have
been, and as a result, was much cut up and many taken prisoners.
Those who made an escape fell back to the mountains of the Blue Ridge and
from thence were ordered to the Relay-House.
Colonel CROOKS resigned February 21, 1862 and Benjamin F. DAVIS, a
captain in the regular army, was commissioned June 6, as colonel and took the
command, much to the pleasure and profit of the men.
A strict disciplinarian, Colonel DAVIS was also careful to secure ability
to serve; hence horses were soon obtained, and the men took on new life and
spirit. On September 1, the 8th
Cavalry was ordered to Harper’s Ferry, and when the imbecile commander of that
important stronghold, having ordered the 126th New York Volunteers
from their vantage-ground on Maryland Heights, held some 11,000 men ready to
surrender whenever JACKSON should send his summons, the Rochester regiment asked
the privilege of cutting their way out. A
refusal was returned and Colonel DAVIS calling his officers together on the
night of September 14, told them to prepare their men, and at midnight led them
across the pontoon bridge, and as soon as they had reached the Maryland bank the
regiment broke into a gallop along the rocky road, right through the center of
that portion of the rebel army, then closed in upon Harper’s Ferry, and passed
themselves as rebel cavalry. At
daylight they came upon LONGSTREET’S ammunition train, captured and took it
with them to Greencastle, which place was reached by noon on the 15th.
reached the battle ground of Antietam during the afternoon of the 17th,
and took an active part until darkness closed the engagement.
As LEE retreated, the 8th followed, and was in action at
Sharpsburg. A few days’ rest was
taken at Hagerstown, and October 1, the cavalry pursuing, the retiring army
skirmished at Snicker’s Gap, and then following in daily succession, beginning
with Philamont, November 1, came the actions of Union, Upperville, Barber’s
Crossroads and Amosville, in which quite a loss in killed and wounded was
sustained. The weather had grown
cold; tents were not provided and their need was urgent. The regiment remained a few days in camp at Belle Plaines,
where clothing and rations were drawn, and was then sent to picket the
Rappahannock, which service continued until after December 13, 1863, when the
command was ordered to Stafford Court House, where winter quarters were built
and occupied until April 13. During
the winter a regular routine of picket and patrol duty had been followed.
The regiment patrolled a distance of 20 miles, to the vicinity of
Dumfries, a locality wild and lonely, covered with second-growth pine, sparsely
settled, and infested by bushwhackers, familiar with the ground, sudden in
attack, and merciless with their prisoners.
With the approach of warm weather, hostilities were renewed.
A sharp fight, lasting several hours, took place April 14, at Freeman’s
Ford, and again on May 4, the 8th Cavalry repelled an attempt made by
a large force of the enemy to carry the bridge over the Rapidan. At Chancellorsvile, fighting under General PLEASONTON, the
loss was heavy. From then no action
occurred until June 9, when a sharp engagement took place at Beverly Ford, on
the Rappahannock. The 8th
New York took a prominent part, being the lead of the division and the first to
cross the river just at daybreak. Nearly
the first shot fired by the enemy took effect in Lieutenant CUTLER, of Company
B, killing him almost instantly. Having passed the river, the regiment formed, and at the word
of command from Colonel DAVIS, charged upon the enemy occupying the woods in
front. The rebels fell back a
short distance, there reserve joined them, and with drawn sabers they came
dashing upon the squadrons of the 8th Cavalry. The fight lasted all day till late at night.
At times the line of the Gray and the Blue were so commingled that it
seemed wonderful that they could recover their positions.
The 8th New York was ordered to charge the enemy to prevent
his cutting through the Union forces and gaining possession of the ford.
The regiment was held by Colonel DAVIS, and drove the enemy as desired,
but the effort cost the life of the commander, who was shot through the head,
and incurred a loss of 60 killed and wounded.
The regiment re-crossed the stream late at night, unmolested.
LEE now began his march through Maryland
into Pennsylvania. His advance was
closely followed by the cavalry division to which the 8th was
attached, and skirmishes took place June 20 and 21 at Middleburg and at
Upperville. General EARLY entering
Gettysburg demanded a ransom or he would fire the village, and ere the time
expired the Union cavalry came up and occupied the place.
The first shots at the battle of Gettysburg were fired by the 8th
Cavalry, who fought both mounted and dismounted, repelling the enemy until our
infantry could form in line, and to their courage at one time was owing the
safety of an entire Union corps. General
John BUFORD, commanding Third division of cavalry, to which the 8th
belonged, dismounted his men and fought them on foot.
The Second and Eleventh corps were being driven when the cavalry was
ordered to cover retreat and expose flanks.
BUFORD took post on Seminary Hill, and the enemy came on three lines
deep; when close at hand the Spencer seven-shooters opened a steady fire, before
which the troops in front recoiled time and again.
A fourth advance turned the flanks, but the infantry had withdrawn and
the cavalry fell back to Cemetery Hill under a heavy and destructive fire.
The retreat of LEE was the signal for the Union cavalry to pursue and
harass their columns. Skirmishes occurred at Williamsport, July 6; at Boonsboro,
July 8 and 9; at Funkstown the 10th; at Falling Waters, the 13th;
at Chester Gap the 22nd; at Brandy Plains Aug 1 and 3; and at
Culpepper September 13, where one squadron of the 8th New York, led
by Lieutenant COMPSON, was ordered by General BUFORD to charge a rebel battery.
The charge was made, the guns were taken; but before they could be
removed, General HAMPTON with his legion swept down upon and surrounded the
Union troopers who fought hard and cut their way out, losing in killed, wounded
and prisoners. On September 14, at Raccoon Ford; the 22nd at Jack
Shop; October 10 at Germania Ford; the 11th at Stevensburg; and again
at Brandy Plains, October 13; at Oak Hill, October 15; Belton Station the 26th;
Muddy Run, November 8; and at Locust Grove the 27th.
The regiment was into winter quarters at
Culpepper Court House, remaining there until the spring of 1864.
Then came the successive and destructive battles of the Wilderness.
The 8th New York, after taking part in them, fought at
Barnett’s Ford, February 6, 1864.
On the death of BUFORD, WILSON was assigned
to the Third division cavalry, and commanded in action at Cregg’s Church, May
5. The 8th New York
accompanied SHERIDAN on the Richmond raid, and twelve miles from the city
encountered the forces of STUART, on May 11, at Yellow Tavern, and engaged them
throughout the day. Finally,
SHERIDAN massing his three divisions, charged desperately and scattered the
enemy in dismay, and mortally wounded their leader. The 8th New York was complimented by SHERIDAN for
gallantry. At midnight the regiment
took up the line of march and daylight found them within the outer defenses of
Richmond. Torpedoes placed in the
roads were exploded by the hoofs of horses, and the rebels rallying gave the
cavalry “a warm reception”. Several
charges were made to break through to release the captives at Libby Prison, but
he resistance from forts and works was too formidable. Fighting continued till two p.m., when bridges having been
built to cross the Chickahominy, the whole force, save killed and wounded, had
crossed by five p.m. Action in
which the 8th was engaged occurred at Hawes’ Shop, June 3, White
Oak Swamp, 13th and at Malvern Hill on the 15th.
The command then moved to Petersburg, and picketed the vicinity of Prince
George’s Court House until the date of Wilson’s raid, in which the 8th
lost most heavily in killed, wounded and prisoners.
The command was sent to cut and destroy all railroads leading to
Richmond. Previous raids had taught
the enemy to be prepared, and the expedition saw hard service.
Sharp fights took place with the rebel cavalry at Nottaway court House,
June 23, Roanoke Station the 25th, and at Stony Creek, the 28th.
Returning, the enemy was found in force entrenched.
Firing was kept up all night; signal guns were fired by WILSON and
rockets sent up, to call for assistance from our troops about Petersburg.
Help was sent, but arrived too late; the enemy surrounded the division
during the night, and at daylight closed in upon it, striking the 8th
New York, first. A brief, desperate
fight resulted, and a part of the command, led by Majors MOORE and COMPSON,
charged through the enemy, but failed to reach their horses.
Cut off from the command of General KOUTZ, the men betook themselves to
the woods, closely followed and repeatedly attacked by the enemy, whom they were
able to repulse. Left alone, the
prospect was considered, and the band set out northwestward for the Union lines,
fifty miles distant; and stumbling upon a rebel camp, its occupants, like angry
hornets, swarmed out, charged upon them and captured five officers and 35 men;
the rest escaped into the woods and were almost in despair, when a mounted
trooper came in sight. They asked
him to what command he belonged. “SHERIDAN’S” was the reply, and the Union
lines had been regained. The men
were taken in wagons to where the regiment had encamped at Light House Point,
Virginia. During this raid the 8th
lost 129 in killed, wounded and taken. The
regiment was engaged nearly all day in action at Winchester, August 16, and
pursued the enemy at night; fighting them later at Kearney’s town, August 25;
Opequan, September 19; Front Royal, 21st; Milford, 23rd;
Fisherville, 30th; Jones Brook, October 9, and then, supposing the
enemy completely defeated, SHERIDAN rode to Winchester, and his army lay in
position at Cedar Creek.
On the morning of October 19, the enemy had
passed the Union left flank, and massing, moved upon the unsuspecting troops and
despite all efforts to form and resist, drove two corps, the 8th and
19th, back to and beyond the Winchester road.
General CUSTER led the Third division in a charge upon the enemy, and
induced a temporary check. SHERIDAN
appeared and changed a rout to a victory, a result greatly owing to the spirit
of the cavalry.
The following order from CUSTER indicates
his estimation of the 8th New York:
Headquarters Third Cavalry Corps, M.M.D.,
October 21, 1864
SOLDERS OF THE THIRD CAVALRY DIVISON:
"With pride and gratification your commanding
general congratulates you upon your brilliant achievements of the past few days.
On the ninth o f the present month, you attacked a vastly superior force
of the enemy’s cavalry, strongly posted, with artillery in position and
commanded by the famous “Savior of the Valley”, ROSSER.
Notwithstanding the enemy’s superiority in numbers and
position, you drove him twenty miles, capturing his artillery – six pieces in
all, also his entire train of wagons and ambulances and a large number of
prisoners. Again, during the
memorable engagement of the 19th instant, your conduct throughout was
sublimely heroic and without a parallel in the annals of warfare.
In the early part of the day, when disaster and defeat seemed to threaten
our noble army upon all sides, your calm and determined bearing, while exposed
to a terrible fire from the enemy’s guns, added not a little to restore
confidence to that portion of our army already broken and driven back on the
right. Afterwards, rapidly
transferred from the right flank to the extreme left, you materially and
successfully assisted in defeating the enemy in his attempt to turn the left
flank of our army. Again ordered on
the right flank, you attacked and defeated a division of the enemy’s cavalry,
driving him in confusion across Cedar Creek, then changing your front to the
left at a gallop, you charged and turned the left flank of the enemy’s line of
battle, and pursued his broken and demoralized army a distance of five miles.
Night alone put an end to your pursuit.
Among the substantial fruits of this great victory, you can boast of
having captured five battle flags, a large number of prisoners, including Major
General RAMSEUR and 45 of the 48 pieces of artillery taken from the enemy on
that day, thus making 51 pieces of artillery which you have captured from the
enemy within the short period of ten days.
This is a record of which you may well be proud, - a record won and
established by your gallantry and perseverance.
You have surrounded the name of the Third cavalry division with a halo as
enduring as time. The history of
this war, when truthfully written, will contain no brighter page than that upon
which is recorded the chivalrous deeds, the glorious triumphs of the soldiers of
the Third division.
G. A. CUSTER Brigadier-General Commanding
Official: Charles SIEBERT, A.A.A. General
On the 12th of November, the
regiment, which had gone into winter quarters near Winchester, was suddenly
attacked by ROSSER’S cavalry, who charged the pickets, and driving, followed
them directly into the camp. Five
minutes from the moment of alarm, horses were saddled, mounted, and the regiment
out in line. Five minutes from that
time, the enemy had been met, halted and held in check until more of our forces
arrived, when the tables were turned, and night found the enemy seeking safety
south of Cedar Creek. During the
closing days of 1864, the cavalry marched up the Shenandoah valley, the 8th
lead by Major COMPSON. The enemy maid a night attack December 31, and the men fought
hand to hand. The number wounded by
sabre-stroke was in excess of any other time during the service. The command returned to camp.
On the morning of February 27, 1865, the 8th set out with the
corps of which it formed part and marched south from Winchester.
Taunton was passed, then filing left, they pursued the narrow road
leading to Waynesboro, which was reached at noon March 2.
Here was posted the army of General EARLY behind breastworks.
The 8th New York being on the advance of CUSTER’S division
was ordered to charge upon a battery obstructing the road.
Major H. B. COMPSON in command , was given the 22nd New York
cavalry, which he divided and placed on either flank, and posted the 8th
in the center on the road. Calling
Sergeant KEHOE, color-bearer, to his side, COMPSON said, “Sergeant, we’ll
lose the flag this time, or bring more flags back along with us!” At the word, the regiment charged rapidly full in the face of
the guns. Two almost harmless
volleys and the troopers were on and over them, with one man killed and twenty
wounded. Ten battle-flags, six
cannon, 1,300 and trains were fruits of this exploit.
Major COMPSON was sent with 17 battle-flags to Washington.
He received a medal of honor, voted by Congress, and a brief furlough.
In a subsequent raid the 8th routed the command of Colonel
MORGAN, proceeded to White House Landing, and thence marched to Petersburg.
One day of rest, and then General SHERIDAN led his cavalry, accompanied
by three corps of infantry, around the rebel extreme right, and on April 1,
WELL’S cavalry brigade, including the 8th, was ordered to charge
the enemy, posted behind works, about three miles west of Dinwiddie Court house.
The 8th, in command of Major BLISS, led the advance, and lost
its color-bearer and many men, but the enemy was routed and a large number of
prisoners taken. Petersburg fell,
Richmond was evacuated and LEE in full retreat.
SHERIDAN led his cavalry on April 8, by wide detour form the left flank,
and reached the front of the rebel army at Appomattox Station about sundown and
checked further advance. Trains of
cars loaded with supplies were captured, and 39 pieces of artillery fell into
their hands. The infantry, miles
away, were marching rapidly, while SHERIDAN’S troopers lay down and slept
undisturbed in the front of LEE’S reduced, but still powerful force.
The infantry arrived and formed line during the night, and morning found
the Army of Northern Virginia completely surrounded. A flag of truce was received by the 8th, which was
on the skirmish line, and at four p.m., April 9, 1865, the was virtually ended
by LEE”S surrender. The army
returned to Petersburg, and then the cavalry started to join SHERMAN, but at
Halifax Court House, met a courier bearing intelligence of JOHNSTON’S
surrender. The cavalry returned.
The 8th New York took part in the grand review, May 22 at
Washington; returned to Rochester and was mustered out of service July 3, 1865.
The Third cavalry division captured in battle, 111 pieces of field
artillery, 65 battle flags and upward of 10,000 prisoners of war.
A noble and most honorable record, challenging the admiration of friend
Twenty-fourth Regiment Volunteer
Cavalry – This regiment was organized at Auburn to serve three years.
Its companies were raised in the counties of Oswego, Erie, Monroe,
Chemung, Oneida, Otesgo, Ontario, Onondaga, Livingston and Albany.
Company L was almost exclusively composed of Ontario citizens.
It was recruited by Captain F. T. BROWN, Lieutenant William F. JESSUP and
Byron F. CRAIN at Canandaigua. The
regiment was mustered into United States service on the 19th of
January 1864, and remained in barracks until the latter part of February, when
ordered to Washington and with the Second Regiment New York Mounted Rifles and
the 22nd New York Cavalry, placed in command of Colonel MC INTOSH.
Carbines and sabers were supplied, but no horses, and as time for spring
service arrived, the command was astonished to receive orders to turn in their
arms, in exchange for muskets ultimately replaced by Springfield rifles.
The men refused to do duty as infantry, and finally a compromise
resulted. The men resumed
carbines, and entered upon the campaign dismounted, but with the understanding
that they were to be mounted as soon as the government could obtain horse.
Marching orders came April 24, and the regiment proceeded through
Fairfax, Centerville and other places to Warrenton Junction, where orders were
received to report to General BURSIDE at Culpepper.
Crossing the north fork of the Rapdian at Kelley’s ford, the regiment
reached its destination on the afternoon of May 3.
Here it became permanently attached to the Ninth corps, and assigned to
duty in the Third brigade, Third division, commanded by General WILCOX. The next
day the campaign of 1864 was commenced by a movement in two columns of the Army
of the Potomac against LEE’S chosen position south of the Rapidan. One column crossed at Germania ford, the other at Ely’s
ford. During this initiatory
movement, BURNSIDE’S 9th corps was held in reserve, and was the
last to cross the river. The 24th
crossed Ely’s ford on the night of May 4, and marched next day to the vicinity
of Wilderness Tavern. In the battle
of the Wilderness, the regiment was not seriously engaged, although several
times under fire. The regiment
moved by the Orange and Chancellorsville roads to Spotsylvania Court House.
Here, during the first day’s fight, the second squadron, consisting of
Companies E and L, under command of Captain BROWN, first battalion of the 24th,
was detached, and sent to support a section of Battery A of the 18th
Artillery. The battery had taken
position upon a knoll about midway between the Spotsylvania road and the extreme
Union right, and on the left flank of the Sixth corps.
It was hotly engaged for several hours, during which the squadron
received its baptism of shot and shell, but owing to a sheltered position in
rear of the battery below the hill-crest, the enemy’s missiles ricocheted over
the line into the low ground below. At
nightfall the squadron returned, and rejoining the regiment, lay in the trenches
to the right of the Spotsylvania road. Next
day the 24th skirmished heavily to the left of the road; few were
injured and none of these in L company. The
army marched to the North Anna. The
24th crossed the river at Oxford on May 23, and at nightfall,
retraced its march. The army moved
by the left flank, and approached the old battleground of Cold Harbor.
The Ninth and Fifth corps moving with great caution, unearthed the enemy
at Bethesda Church, where EWELL made an impetuous and gallant assault upon
Warren. BURNSIDE’S troops were in
line upon his right and the rebel column extending beyond Warren, came in front
of BURNSIDE’S left. Captain BROWN
led the second squadron on the skirmish line.
An impassable morass in front prevented a bayonet charge such as was made
along Warren’s front, but a heavy fire of musketry ws continued until night
closed the action. On June 2, the
Ninth corps marched towards Cold Harbor and encountered the enemy at Shady
Grove. Here, Company L, lost its first man, Corporal W. J. BANCROFT,
killed in action. On the road from
North Anna, Lieutenant CRAIN resigned and returned home.
Immediately after the fight at Cold Harbor, Lieutenant JESSUP also
resigned, and Captain BROWN being disabled by a wound at Bethesda Church, the
company was left without a commissioned officer.
Captain BROWN recommended Sergeant Michael MC GRAW to fill the vacancy,
and daily expecting a commission, the latter assumed command.
At Cold Harbor, the Ninth corps, beyond
heavy skirmishing, was not engaged on the 3rd, and on the morning of
the 4th it was withdrawn, and posed between the Fifth and Eighteenth
corps, where it met and repelled a night attack, on June 6; but being
entrenched, the 24th lose few men, and Company L, none.
From here the Ninth crops moved southward on June 10, crossed the
Chichahominy at Jones’ bridge on the 12th and reached Charles City
Court House on the evening of the same day.
At this point the army was massed, preparatory to crossing the James
river. General BURNSIDE’S troops
passed over on the night of the 15th, and by noon next day was in
position on HANCOCK’S left, in front of Petersburg.
On the night of the 16th, a combined assault was made on the
rebel works by the Second and Fifth corps, but LEE’S veterans had reached the
place, and a counter assault was made by them upon the Ninth corps.
Vigorous charges were handsomely repulsed, and next morning BURNSIDE
determined to advance his line. General
POTTER’S bridged, in which was the 24th, was ordered to take the
rebel works along its front. The
columns were formed at daylight and at the command rushed forward, with a
prolonged cheer, and after a half-hour’s conflict, won the first line. The action was bravely fought, and when LEDLIE’S brigade
relieved POTTER, the command took to the rear as trophies of victory, four
pieces of artillery, several battle flags and many prisoners. Desultory fighting continued all day, and at night the enemy,
strongly reinforced, assaulted and recaptured a part of his front line.
On the morning of June 18, GRANT gave orders for a general attack, which
was not successful. In this assault the 24th lost heavily in killed
and wounded. During the three days,
Company L lost five killed and eight wounded.
The digging and explosion of the mine beneath the rebel works was the
next duty during the siege of Petersburg, and meantime received a number of
recruits from New York. Lieutenant
MC GRAW, slightly wounded in the first attack on Petersburg, after 30 days’
absence returned, and resumed command of the company, but in the skirmishes
around the Yellow Tavern was captured and confined in prison until the war
closed. At the virtual close of the
campaign of 1864 and while the army lay in winter quarters, the horses long
awaited were furnished and the regiment was immediately detached from the Ninth
corps and assigned to CROOK’S division of cavalry, and lay in the rear of the
army until the opening of the spring campaign of 1865.
Captain BROWN had so far recovered from his wound that, on February 25,
he resumed command of his company. During
the memorable twelve days’ campaign, which ended the war, the 24th
was constantly on the move, and was engaged at Dinwiddie Court House, Fire
Forks, White Oak road, Sutherland’s Sailor’s Creek, Farmerville, and
Appomattox. In this brief final
campaign, Company L lost three killed and eight wounded.
After the surrender, the 24th returned to Nottoway Court
House. A movement was made to head
of JOHNSTON, but the news of his surrender was soon received and nothing
remained but the review, and then home. The
regiment went into camp at Cloud’s Mills, Virginia.
In the latter part of June 1865, by order of the war department, the 24th
was consolidated with the 10th New York Cavalry.
The men expected to be sent on the Indian frontier, but were finally
mustered out of service, and returned to peaceful pursuits.
Created by Dianne Thomas
These electronic pages may be printed as a link or for personal use, but is NOT to be reproduced in any format for profit or presentation by ANY other organization or persons.
Copyright 2005 - 2016
[NY History and Genealogy]