Purpose and Duties of Patriotic Instructor
The purpose of the office of Patriotic Instructor is to educate and provide Brothers and the general public with information
that will help to foster patriotism among the membership and the populace in general.
Camp Patriotic Instructor . The activities of the Camp Patriotic Instructor should include:
(1) Presenting at each Camp meeting information on such items as -
(a) Civil War military, civilian and other great American leaders,
(b) National and state holidays,
(c) The United States Flag,
(d) Duties of citizenship such as voting,
(e) Great Civil War battles and battles of other wars, and
(f) Great American artifacts and sites;
(2) Providing public displays and orations on patriotism as called upon;
(3) Providing awards of recognition to deserving individuals as deemed necessary or ordered by the Camp.
Camp Patriotic Instructor
To Send Information to our Patriotic Instructor Contact:
Camp Patriotic Instructor
Current Patriotic Instructor's Report:
To Be Posted...
2013 Patriotic Instructor Reports:
January 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Art Young, Guest PI
I agreed to fill in as your Patriotic Instructor, until such time as our newly elected Camp Commander is able to appoint my replacement. I hope in the last twelve months, that some of the material that
I was able to provide in these monthly reports was of some value and importance to our Camp.
First in this Report, I would like on behalf of myself and the other officers of the Camp to wish you all and your families a very Merry Christmas and most Happy Holidays. I note with interest the recent expressed interest by our National group in expanding on the youth portion of our programs so we will try this month to relate to that side of our Civil War.
There were over 2,770,000 men that served in the Union Army in our Civil War and generally they were men between the ages of 18 and 45. However it is estimated that there were over 800,000 who were 17 years or younger and over 100,000 under the age of 15, and a known 300 boys under the age of 13, with 25 of those 300 being age 10 or less. Our then Military Regulations prohibited anyone under eighteen years of age from carrying muskets or rifles but the age was often over looked when a militia company was formed even though a Muster and Description Roll was prepared for each member of the company.
This Roll that had to be certified by the Company Commander contained a statement that the certifying officer believed that the person was, sober when enlisted, to his judgment and belief was of lawful age, and was duly qualified to perform the duties of an able bodied soldier. In many cases the under-age soldier served as musicians or orderlies but there were hundreds of thousands of these young boys who carried muskets or rifles and fought side by side with their older brothers.
If you take a closer look of the ages listed for some of these boys you find that many of the sixteen and seventeen year olds are listed as being eighteen years of age and that the still younger boys often were rejected on their first attempt to enlist but most were later accepted by being persistent and finding a sympathetic enrolling officer.
I would like to think that Americans would always respond to the needs of our country as did those young men of yesteryears. Just for the record, our Camp started a section of our web page to promote our youth actives. So talk to your sons or grandsons about joining Camp Willard as junior members. Best to all for a great 2013.
February 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Art Young, Guest PI
Following is a copy of a Civil War letter that was published in the Dec. 2012 Edmund Rice Association Newsletter
that I thought would be of interest to our organization.
It was written near the turning point of the war from Port Hudson near New Orleans LA on 28 Jul 1863
by Daniel Ballard to his brother Harrison Ballard.
The letter was found in Rice Family members, grandmother’s estate.
Postmarked New Orleans, LA on July 28, 1863
To: Harrison W Ballard, Esquire; Rocky Hill, New Jersey
From: Daniel Ballard, Jr.
I suppose you have been disappointed lately in not getting letters from me oftener, but the reason for it is because
I have not had time and place to write them. The last letter I read from you was dated June 10th.
I have read several from home and the girls since one from Lattie and Leucinda of July 4th.
We expected to have been at home by this time but it seems we have not started yet, though we expect to soon.
Of course you have heard long ago of the surrender of Vicksburg on the 4th of July and at this place on the 8th and as you have had so many false reports that you do not believe it, you may dispel your doubts in regard to Port Hudson,
for I can vouch for the truth of the report in regard to this place.
We made our triumphant entry into this rebel encampment on the morning of the 9th of July.
Many of the rebs seemed glad to have the place surrendered so that they could get something to eat.
Their corn was nearly exhausted and beef entirely.
They freely confess that they had to subsist on dog and mule beef.
Maj. Gen. Gardiner sent out a flag of truce on the morning of the 8th and wished to know of Gen. Banks on what conditions surrender would be acceptable – who replied that nothing but an unconditional surrender would be accepted. The rebel commander accepted the terms and wished a little time to make preparations. 24 hours were given but was not all taken.
During this time all was quiet and it seemed like Sabbath when compared with any other day we had had for a long time.
The opposing forces came out from the trenches and mingled freely together trading canteens and eats (hard tack).
The prisoners (privates) have all been paroled and I think are all gone now.
There was over 6,000 of them in all. They had a good many sick and wounded. They were allowed to stay at the camps till they left.
If you had been here a few days ago and seen the manner in which the two armies mingled with each other you never would have supposed that they could have been in such hostility to each other. They were kindly treated by us and seemed grateful for it.
They were glad to get a chance to go home. Some may be found in the ranks again before they are discharged,
but I do not think many of them will. I think the opening of the river must cause great joy at the north.
It has already reduced the price of flour $4.00 per barrel in New Orleans. We expect to go up the river home.
Our colonel has just returned from Baton Rouge and New Orleans where he has been to get our baggage and the convalescent soldiers.
Expect we shall start soon.
Immediately after the surrender a lot of the men were sent down in the vicinity of Donaldsonville to clear out the rebs who have been raising hell lately under General Baylor. They had a large force down there and there has been some fighting.
They were erecting batteries on the river to cut off our supplies, but they have been obliged to retreat.
Some boats came down the river the other day with loads of oats and cattle. I am very sorry to say that Baxter is pretty sick
(their cousin Daniel Baxter Whitaker, who died 2 days later “not of battle wounds” but from malnutrition and dysentery.
As indicated in other letters, his teeth were so bad he couldn’t chew
the hard tack). He has been unwell for some time. I understand that the sick are to go across the big water,
if so they will go across in hospital boats and will be well cared for. I have just been writing to Irene for him.
I hope he will get able to go with us, but I am afraid he will not.
We have had a long and hard siege and it has been very wearing on the men. We are all anxious to hear news from the north.
It seems that Gen. Lee has been doing considerable damage in Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
The last accounts say that Hooker is surrounded
by Gen. Meade and that Lee has been badly whipped. I hope it is so and that this accursed war is about at a close.
Port Hudson is a rough place, there are only a few houses and they are riddled with shot and shell, with the exception perhaps of those over which the hospital flag floated. The bluff all along the river is some 60 feet above high water.
It was commanded by some powerful Dalghren guns, some of them have been disabled by our gunboats.
The works of shot and shell are visible in every direction. If they had not encamped their works would have been blown up in two places, as we had got them undermanned, if another shot had been made I think we should have gone in for sure.
They had but one line of fortifications most of the way, and when we overtake their west bank force it would be all up with them.
But one and all are glad that the place was surrendered without more bloodshed.
The chaplain has just been here and prays the sick are to be sent on a hospital boat as soon as possible.
Don’t know if this will reach you before you start for the west.
(i.e. Indianapolis where he had accepted a job at Indiana Institute for the Blind).
I send this in a Port Hudson envelope. I don’t know as I have written to you of the death of Col. Cyrus O. Stowell of South Deerfield.
March 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Art Young, Guest PI
March 1863 may very well have been another one of the many turning points of our countries Civil War.
On March 3, 1863 Congress enacted the “Enrollment Act”, also known as the “Civil War Draft Act”.
It was created to provide fresh manpower for the Union Army.
It was in real fact a form of conscription. It required the enrollment of every male citizen between the ages of 20 to 45.
It also required the enrollment of all male immigrants who had filed for citizenship between the ages of 20 to 45.
Federal Agents established a quota of new troops due from each Congressional District. Keeping in mind that the War had now dragged on far beyond all original estimates, this new enforcement Act created civil unrest in many eastern parts of the Union.
In New York City it leads directly to the cause of the New York City Draft Riots that took place between 13 and 16 July 1863.
This violent disturbance in New York City was the culmination of working class discontent of this new draft law and resulted in the largest civil insurrection in American history. It caused President Lincoln to divert several regiments of militia and volunteer troops from following up after the Battle of Gettysburg and instead they were assigned to help control the city riot.
The rioters were overwhelmingly working-class men, mostly ethnic Irish who resented,
the wealthier men who could afford to pay the $300 commutation fee to hire a substitute, and thereby avoid having to serve.
The rioters initially intended just to express their anger over the draft, but the protests then turned into an ugly race riot.
White rioters, who were mostly Irish, began attacking blacks, where ever they found them and over 100 black people were killed.
Major General Wool who was the commander of the Department of The East declared Martial Law in the city but did not have sufficient troops to regain control until the troops that President Lincoln sent arrived on the 16th. In the meantime mobs had already ransacked and destroyed several public buildings, two Protestant churches, many black homes, and the Colored Orphan Asylum on 44th St.
and Fifth Ave. had been burned to the ground. Order was at last restored in the City, but the War waged on.
March sometimes is the beginning of the end of winter and I hope that all have managed to stay healthy as we look forward to those long awaited April showers. Best to all -- Art
April 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Art Young, Guest PI
Good Morning Everybody,
Sorry that i did not have time to provide a more detailed report this
month but i though the following might be of some interest.
Civil War Resources Available at the New York State Library and New York State Archives
On Saturday, Nov 3rd, 2012 at the New York State Library, Albany, NY
Vicki Weiss, Senior Librarian at the NYS Library, provided an overview of materials in the State Library's collections
that could be used to research the Civil War, including regimental units, individual soldiers, diaries, correspondence, broadsides, etc.
Keith Swaney, Archives & Records Management Specialist at the NYS Archives,
discussed materials in the State Archives' collections that can be used to research the Civil War.
As some of you know, I at the time am a volunteer on the 7th floor of our New York State Library,
and sit at our Capital District Genealogical Society Volunteer Desk.
I was present for this review made by Vicki Weiss and she did an outstanding job on outlining the major resources at the
Library that are open to all of us for research of our Civil War Ancestors.
Most of the Civil War Library collection is on the 11th floor and the library people are very
helpful if you ask for their assistance.
Hope this is of some interest and best wishes to all. ----Art
May 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
I would like to commence my tour as Patriotic Instructor by thanking the Camp Commander,
Robert Keough, for appointing me to this office. To those of you who don’t know me, I have been involved for over 30 years with an assortment of groups associated with the American Civil War. These include the Son’s of Union Veterans of the Civil War,
125th New York Regimental Association, and the Capital District Civil War Round Table.
In a spirit of volunteerism, members of these organizations work diligently,
to perpetuate the sacred remembrance of those who fought and died in the War of the Great Rebellion, 1861-1865.
Since it is May and Memorial Day is fast approaching, I thought my first Patriotic Report should cover this day of remembrance.
This occasion was started by veterans wishing to honor those who died in our nation’s service.
Formerly known as Decoration Day,
it originated after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the war.
In the north, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan,
National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11 he proclaimed:
The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.
In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion."
What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains,
and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms.
We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds.
Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust,
ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year,
while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.
He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades
in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
John A. Logan,
Wm. T. Collins, A.A.G.
It is now almost 145 years since this first day of remembrance was observed. After reading the above General Order, one must pause and reflect, wondering if those who attended that first solemn day so long ago could imagine that the “light and warmth still remains” with us to this day. The test of time has not diminished the thanks this great nation of ours has bestowed on her fallen of so many years ago.
In 1881 the GAR adopted a resolution advocating that Decoration Day be officially designated Memorial Day.
Over the past decades Memorial Day had been extended to honor and remember all Americans who have died in all wars.
A patriotic Nation continues to honor and observe this solemn occasion and in the words of Theodore O’ Hare in his poem
“Bivouac of the Dead”
“Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her record keeps,
Or honor points the hallow spot
Where Valor proudly sleeps.”
Word from this poem first verse were immortalized at top of the McClellan Gate, the original entrance to Arlington National Cemetery
“On fames eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread
And Glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.”
This poem below appears within the pages of the 125th New York Regimental History
The Nation's Dead
By Captain E. A. Hartshorn,
125th New York State Volunteers
A willing tribute to the silent throng
When comrades living join in requiem song,
And strew the flowers where comrades dead have long
Been laid away.
Till memories Fade,
Stern loyalty the grand old union saved
And on each sacred mound the old flag waves;
Thank God, our dead, who sleep in Southern graves----
Rest ' neath its shade.
Brave comrades, rest,
No more the scorpions sting of minie balls,
And crack of solid shot--- When thousands fall;
No more the after-battle dreadofrool-call---
Rest, ever blest.
Far from the fight:
No more to hear the shrill Confederate yell,
The hum and flutter of exploding shell,
Nor gaze on bleeding comrades brave, who fell---
At left and right.
Many new names on yonder roll appear
Since flowers were strewn and dirges sung last year;
Three brave commanders more, who knew no fear---
Now muster there.
And orders go
For steady step aside to the silent right---
To close the ranks as spirits take their flight---
Detailed for service in the realms of light---
Where dwells no foe.
Who next---Who last
Death's orders to obey, like veterans true,
To strike the earthly tent---to doff the blue
And don the white: to march in grand review---
Life's warfare past!
June-July 2013 Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
New York State and the Civil War
(Recruiting the Rank and File)
New York, the Empire State, was the greatest contributor of any state of the men, money and material necessary to save the Union.
The largest asset of the many contributions that New York would make to the war effort would be manpower.
Being the most populous state in the Union, New York, would provide more troops to the Union Army than any other state.
Out of a population of three and a half million people, 500,000 men served in the army and navy during the war. Of that total enlistment, more than 130,000 were foreign-born, including 20,000 from British North American possessions. A total of 51,000 were Irish and 37,000 of German heritage. Overall, immigrants made up 25 percent of the Union Army in the Civil War, which is a far greater proportion than Immigrants made in the general population. By 1860 there were 4.1 million which made up more than 13 percent of the total population.
In New York 26 percent of the population was made up of foreign-born in 1860. When the war broke out, many young Irish
and German men joined the Union Army for a variety of reasons. They sought acceptance in American society through military service.
Immigrants seized on the opportunity to prove their loyalty to their new nation, during the war.
The war brought hope, new loyalties, enticing new challenges and, unfortunately,
a fresh round of personal tragedy to the New York immigrant families not long removed from the chaos of Europe.
The recruitment of troops originated in the Militia Act of 1792, and subsequently, its revision of 1795.
The first of these measures legislated that all white men of sound body between the ages of eighteen and forty-five were legally obligated to serve in the militia of their state. The second reinforced the commander-in-chief’s authority to call these troops to federal service.
The Union Army offered employment to many who did not have jobs
and also gave those who enlisted a large cash bounty which could be used to support their families.
Regardless of their reasons, these immigrant soldiers made up a large portion of the Union Army, serving in every major theater of operations throughout the war. These troops served both in specifically ethnic regiments and in regular line regiments, usually as part of state militias that were called up into federal service. It is important to note that despite the prevalence of immigrant soldiers in the Union Army,
a majority of the federal forces, numbering 1,000,000 men, were native-born Americans.
New York State recruited:
243 Infantry Regiments
27 Cavalry Regiments
15 Artillery Regiments
8 Combat Engineer Regiments
The Capital District Counties recruited:
Rensselaer County 47 Companies
Albany County 48 Companies and 34 Troops of Cavalry
Schenectady County 13 Companies
Men were recruited into United States service through their respective state, based on the 1860 census and senatorial districts.
Each county within that state was required to fill their quota,
as each of the fifteen calls for men to fill the ranks was issued from Washington.
Some of these regiments served for ninety days and others for two and three year terms of service. An example of these government issued calls, took place on July 2, 1862 the fifth of fifteen calls for troops issued by President Lincoln for 300,000 troops to serve for three years. New York would have to supply 62,000, with each county in the state contributing to that total. The county of Rensselaer would require 2000 men to fill the rank and file men of what amounted to two full Regiments. (The 125th NYVI and 169th NYVI were raised during July and August of 1862 to fill the quota for that 300,000 man call up.
The New York State Militia also mobilized a number of Militia Regiments for short terms of service
in the Union Army during moments of crisis, such as Robert E. Lee’s invasion of Pennsylvania and for the Draft riots in New York City.
The 2nd Regiment New York State Militia Infantry mustered into volunteer service as the 82nd New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Three full regiments of United States Color Troops were raised and organized in the Empire State - the 20th, 26th and 31st USCT.
According to Federal records 4,125 free blacks from New York served in the Union Army.
The Capital District was prompt to send men to defend Washington in the spring of 1861.
The first organized unit to leave the state for the front lines was the 7th New York State Militia,
which departed by train on April 19 1861, for Washington, D.C.
The 11th New York Infantry, a two-year regiment of new recruits, departed ten days later under the command of Col. Elmer S. Ellsworth. The 2nd New York Volunteers from Troy was the first regiment to camp upon the “sacred soil” of Virginia
and fought in the first skirmish at Big Bethel on June 10, 1861.
Recruiting men to fill the ranks in the beginning of the war was no problem as the “Patriotic Call to Arms” echoed throughout the state. Thousands of New Yorkers were driven to enlist for many reasons, but the noblest of all was to save the union.
As the war carried on the depletion of men due to being killed, wounded, captured, deserting
and illness created a vacuum that was beginning to have a effect on the ability of the north to sustain an offensive capability.
To help entice more men to enlist, bounties were offered as an incentive. Bounties came from several different sources: federal, state and local governments as well as, the private sector. In total, some the bounties could exceed $500, which was about the average yearly wage in those days. As the war dragged on, the federal government, in order to fill the depleted ranks, enacted the Conscription Act or Draft.
It was believed, drafting was the only means of sustaining an effective army, with hopes it would spur voluntary enlistment.
States considered it a matter of pride to fill their quotas without having to resort to the draft.
Conscription nurtured substitutes, bounty-jumping, and desertion. Charges of class discrimination were leveled against Union draft laws since exemption and commutation clauses allowed propertied men to avoid service, a “Rich Man’s War, But Poor Man’s Fight”,
thus laying the burden on immigrants and men with few resources.
Under the Union draft act men faced the possibility of conscription in July 1863 and in March, July, and December of 1864.
Draft riots ensued, notably in New York City and Troy in 1863. The New York State Militia
and several regiments fresh from the battle of Gettysburg were sent to put down the riots that lasted for days.
New Yorkers would serve in combat from the opening bombardment of Fort Sumter, through the bloodiest single day battle at Antietam.
They saw action at the three days of Gettysburg, and the hard marching of the Overland Campaign of 1864 to the Siege of Petersburg
and were there at the final days at Appomattox.
In all 500,000 New Yorkers would serve in the four year period called the Great Rebellion,
of that number 53,114 would never returned to New York to their hearth and home.
August Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
There are many firsts that can be acclaimed by the state of New York, the Empire State, during the Civil War.
Abner Doubleday, a Captain in the US Army and second in command of Fort Sumter, South Carolina fired the first cannon.
This was in response to the bombardment initiated by Confederated and South Carolina forces at 4:40 a.m., April 12, 1861.
Doubleday touched off the first reply by the United States at 7 p.m.
Nobody died during the 36-hour bombardment of Fort Sumter that started the Civil War 152 years ago, but an Irish native who joined the Army after moving to New York City died during the surrender of the fort. Private Daniel Hough, who was born in Tipperary, Ireland in 1825 and immigrated to the United States and joined the United States Army in 1849, died when a cannon exploded prematurely while firing a salute to the United States flag following the surrender to Confederate forces.
The first Officer to die in the war was Elmer S. Ellsworth of Malta, the Colonel commanding the 11th New York Volunteers.
This Regiment was composed of New York City Fireman. While occupying Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861,
Ellsworth noticed an exceptional large Confederate flag flying from the Marshal House Hotel.
Climbing up the cupola stairs, he lowered the colors. Returning down the dark stairs with the enemy flag gather in his arms, he was surprised by Jackson the hotel owner, who shot him in the left breast with a shotgun.
Ellsworth died immediately; lay in state at the White House and is buried in Mechanicville.
The Second New York Volunteers raised in Troy were the first regiment to camp upon the “sacred soil” of Virginia and fought in the first skirmish at Big Bethel on, June 10, 1861.
Native New Yorker is first POW of Civil War. Navy Lt. John Lorimer Worden, a native of Westchester County, is taken prisoner by Confederates while on a secret mission for the Secretary of the Navy.
Worden later commanded the USS Monitor in the famous battle of ironclads in 1862.
The 1st Brooklyn casualty of the Civil War was Clarence McKenzie, the 12- year old drummer boy of Company D, 13th New York State Militia regiment. Drummer McKenzie died after suffering a gunshot wound on June 11, 1861.
McKenzie was sitting near a wall in the drummer’s quarters when a soldier mistakenly shot him with a musket he’d borrowed.
The soldier didn’t know the weapon was loaded, according to the regiment’s investigation, and he wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing.
"A few moments previous to drill he was practicing the manual in the drummer’s quarters, and in coming to a charge bayonet his hand struck the hammer of his piece, forcing it down - although he says it was half-cocked - and discharging it, the ball striking Clarence McKenzie in the back, passing through and out at the stomach, and finally striking against a brick wall with such force as to break out part of the brick,"
an officer in the 13th Regiment reported.
A New Yorker was first to die in Gettysburg Campaign. On June 22, 1863, the first union soldier to die in a skirmish connected with the Army of Northern Virginia’s attack in to Pennsylvania was Corporal William Rihl a member of the 1st New York Cavalry His company was skirmishing with Confederate Cavalry near Greencastle, Pennsylvanian.
Corporal Rihl was buried by the Confederates in a shallow grave. Then citizens of Greencastle, a few days afterword disinterred his body and placing it in a coffin, reburied it in the Lutheran graveyard of this place. Rial Post of the Grand Army Republic of Greencastle was named after this brave man who fell in this engagement.
This fight was the first to occur upon Pennsylvanian soil during the rebellion and Corporal Rihl was the first to lose his life.
It happen in front of Archibald Fleming’s home, a monument dedicated to his memory at that location, reads: ”
“To The Memory of Corporal William H. Rihl,
Co. O, 1st New York (Lincoln) Cavalry.
Who was killed on this spot, June 22, 1863
The First Union Solider
Killed in Action
A Humble but Brave
Defender of the Union”
The first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg was fired by Union cavalryman on picket duty along the Chambersburg Pike about 5:30 A.M., roughly an hour after sunrise on July 1st against advancing Confederate skirmishers from Brig. General James Pettigrew’s brigade
of Major General Heth’s Division. But who actually fired the first shot is a matter of some dispute.
By some accounts the honor belongs to Corporal Alphonse Hodges of Co. F, 9th New York Cavalry, an element of Col. Thomas Devin’s brigade of Buford’s Division. According to this account, Hodges was in charge of a pickets of three privates on the Chambersburg Pike just east of Wiloughby Run. Sometime after dawn Hodges spotted men about a mile to the west.
He dispatched privates to notify pickets on either flank, and Col. William Sackett of his own regiment who was brigade officer of the day. Shortly afterwards, Hodges advanced across the run by himself as to better ascertain the situation. He appears to go forward about 600 yards, at which point he was sufficiently close to be able to determine in the early morning light that the troops in front of him were in fact Confederates. He turned back, and at that point was spotted by the rebels, who opened fire on him. Hodges got off a couple of shots from the bridge and then fell back to report to Col. Sackett, who was already getting the men into a skirmish line.
Corporal Cyrus W. James, Company G, 9th New York Cavalry is generally considered the first casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg. Eventually 3, 155 Union and 4,708 Confederate Soldiers would die in battle as a result of the Battle of Gettysburg.
Dr. Mary Francus Walker, a 31-year old from Oswego, New York, was hired as a “Contract Acting Assistant Surgeon (Civilian)” by the Union Army of the Cumberland. This makes her the first female surgeon in US Army history. Walker one of the few female doctors in the 19th Century America, had tried to serve as a volunteer doctor for the Union Army but had only been allowed to sign-up as a nurse.
She served at the 1st Battle of Bull Run as a nurse in 1861, and then as a unpaid surgeon at Fredericksburg and the Battle of Chattanooga. She was later appointed the surgeon of the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
On April 10, 1864 she was captured by Confederate troops and arrested as a spy, just after she finished helping a confederate doctor perform a amputation. She was sent to Richmond, Virginia and remained there until August 12, 1864 when she was released as part of a prisoner exchange. She went on to serve in the Battle of Atlanta and later as a supervisor of a female prison in Louisville, Kentucky and head of an orphanage in Tennessee. She was also awarded the Medal of Honor for her service, becoming the first women to receive the award,
which she wore for the rest of her life.
Source: Website, http://dmna.ny.gov/historic/mil-hist.htm
New York State in the Civil War
Department of Military and Naval Affairs
Civil War Time Line 1861-1863
September Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
The Grand Army of the Republic Members Medal
The Grand Army of the Republic Members Medal show above was given to members in good standing who had proven their honorable service in the Union forces during the War of the Rebellion.
The badges were supplied by the GAR National Quartermaster to each individual Post for distribution to members
upon induction in to the order. The badges were struck from bronzed obtained from the War Department
from Confederate cannon captured in battle and were produced by the millions.
The badge is in the form of a five point star; in the center is the figure of the goddess of liberty, representing loyalty.
On side, a soldier and a sailor clasping hands, representing fraternity, and two children receiving benediction and assurance of protection from the comrades, represents charity. On each side of the group is the National Flag and the Eagle, representing freedom;
and the axe, or bundle of rods, or fasco, representing Union. In each point of the star is the insignia of the various branches of service
-- the bugle for infantry, the crossed cannons for artillery, the crossed muskets for marines,
the crossed sabers for cavalry, and the anchor for the sailors.
Over the central groups are the words "Grand Army of the Republic" and under "1861 -- Veterans -- 1866"
commemorating the commencement and close of the rebellion
and also the date of organization of the Order.
The reverse side represents a branch of laurel, the crown and reward of the brave, in each point of the star.
The National Shield is in the center, surrounded by the twenty-four recognized Corps Badges,
numerically arranged, each on a keystone and all linked together,
showing they are united and will guard and protect the shield of the nation.
Around the center is a circle of 36 stars representing the states of the union comprising the Grand Army of the Republic.
The clasp is comprised of the figure of an eagle with crossed cannons and ammunition, representing defense; the eagle with drawn sword hovering over and always ready to protect from insults or dishonor; the National Flag, which is also the emblem and ribbon of the Order.
The first badge of the order was adopted in 1866. A change was made in October, 1868, in its design, and a further change in October, 1869. At the national encampment of 1873, the badge was adopted which is substantially the one that exists to-day,
a few minor changes being made in 1886.
October Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
Over the next three Patriotic Instruction Reports,
I would like to present a short history of the 125th New York Volunteer Infantry.
I wrote this narrative to be given as an oral presentation and have had the pleasure to present it at many Historical Societies,
especially in Rensselaer County, and at numerous Civil War Events…………………………….Part 1
"The 125th New York Volunteer Infantry
March to Gettysburg”
"It was now about 7 o'clock in the evening of a long day, the writer looked to the west........
The sun was sinking low, and the heavens were ablaze with its splendors, in marked contrast with the lurid fires of death towards which we were marching........... We were halted amid the smoke in front of some swale” a new growth of trees
”in which we could see, dimly, because of the smoke covering the field ”men moving.......
The brigade was dressed on the colors, an unusual thing under such circumstances.......... Our men commenced to fire, but the word was shouted: Firing on your own men! Upon which the command was given by Colonel Willard: Cease firing!
Officers, as did the writer, rushed in front of our line repeating the order.......
But the interval permitted the enemy to reload, and we speedily learned our mistake.......
A man to the left of the writer fell in an instant prostrated by a bullet.
Then, doubt removed, the men await no orders, but press on, firing as they move....... On we rushed with loud cries!
"Remember Harper's Ferry"
These were the words of the Ezra D. Simons, Chaplain of the 125th New York Volunteers
and author of the Regimental History written in 1888.......
Describing the action of the Third Brigade, Third Division, Second Corp on July 2, 1863.......
Every year as I lead the members of the 125th Regimental Association on our annual walk on Remembrance Day weekend,
from the 125th Monument, over the ground that these brave men marched and died,
I have read the above passage...... We carry a small flag to place at the monument these men erected, where the brave and gallant Willard fell, and every year I have asked myself why?
What was going through their minds as they proceeded "in line of march by the left flank down towards the scene of engagement ---
down into the fiercest of the fight"...... as so noted by Simons.........
What processed these men from Rensselaer County, men who only 11 months before were farmer, clerks, students, labors, young men,
some just boys, others fathers, sons, brothers, and husbands who left hearth and home?
They had something to prove when they left Troy, New York on August 30th 1862
and because of what one might call fate or the luck of the draw,
what happen to them within weeks of their mustering in to service would live with them for the next year and with some for rest of their lives.
For to understand their battle cry of "Remember Harper's Ferry" and their charge through the swale on that July evening one must start at the beginning....... To the summer of 1862, the war had been going on for a little over a year.....
In the South the guns of Second Bull run were booming, and the Southern sky was dark with the thunder clouds of disaster........
To the people in Rensselaer County the war was a long ways off....... On July 2, 1862 the fifth of the fifteen calls for troops was issued, President Lincoln's, call for three hundred thousand men for three years, of which the State of New York would have to supply 62,000,
the county of Rensselaer two full regiments or 2000 men, what amounted to two full regiments.
Patriotism as defined in the dictionary is "Love or devotion to ones country"
The citizens of Rensselaer County and of Troy were alive to that need.
The honorable John A. Griswold obtained authority to recruit a regiment and entered with zeal upon the task. "Camp Halleck" was established on the Lansingburgh Road, along the Hudson River across the street from the Weir Race Course,
but within the limits of the city, at the extreme boundary of Troy. Barracks and Mess room were erected,
and enlistment under various officers and under general charge of a War Committee began.
The Patriotic call to arms was echoed from many sources and locations in Rensselaer county; from the City of Troy to the towns of Schodack, Nassau, North Greenbush, Lansingburgh, Hoosick, Schaghticoke, Cohoes, Pittstown, Sand Lake, Stephentown,
Petersburg and Hoag's Corners. The first man to step forward and enlist was Charles H. Main; he joined the ranks on July 12th.
Men were driven to enlist for many reasons and, at this time, the noblest was to save the country, to restore the authority of the government. George A. Lord as he recalled in "A Short Narrative and Military Experience of Corporal G. A. Lord".....which he wrote after the war, describing his feeling at the time of his enlistment, he being born in the City of Montreal, Canada East and residing in this country since 1846 and at the time of his enlistment 42 years old" and a teacher at Troy University "
I must truly say, that I was not induced by any selfish motive whatever in me, but through the urgency and being moved through patriotic feelings, to give myself up to the defense of my country, with the purest motive in me, in restoring that freedom which
I have so long enjoyed and to secure for my posterity" George was the first to join "G" Company.
This company was made up of many students and former students who according to an article in the Troy Daily Times on July 27, 1862, "determined that study and rebellions are inconsistent with each other, and must not coexist" of these Troy University students,
Governor Morgan has commissioned as recruiting officers:
Capt. George E. Lemon, 1st Lieut. W.K. Newcomb and 2nd Lieutenant L. H. Stevens the Times also goes on to state that
"they have commenced operations in earnest. Other students have joined with them and will devote ever effort toward the best interest of their numbers. We certainly trust these young gentlemen will see their fullest hopes realized in successful encounters."
in that same newspaper under the title of Recruiting......
Yesterday, Captain Jones pitched his tent on Washington Square, and Captain Armstrong erected a temporary wooden building in the angle formed by the junction of Broadway and River Street, where both officers were rapidly enlisting men......
Yesterday afternoon and this morning, the square was enlivened by the constant roll of the drum,
which although somewhat disagreeable to business men in the vicinity will be formed in less than ten weeks.
Also Capt. William Shaw is recruiting a company at Washington Market.
The Captain is a well drilled soldier, and is capable of putting his men in excellent "trim".
He has already secured a goodly number of men and will succeed in a short time in filling his company.
The recruiting when on throughout the months of July and August, to help entice more men to enlist bounties were offered as an incentive. Bounties came from several different sources: the federal, state and local governments as well as from private sectors.
The State bounty of fifty dollars ordered by Adjutant General Hillhouse would be paid only to recruits who enlisted for three years
or the duration of the war, and was paid as follows:
Twenty-five dollars on the mustering in of the recruit at the depot, the recruit then signed a receipt to the Paymaster-General,
who thereupon returns his check on the Commercial Bank of Albany for $25.00 to the order of the recruits,
and $25.00 when the regiment is complete, or is ordered from the state.
The county bounty of fifty dollars in addition will be paid at the same time and in like amount as the state bounty.
A recruit would get the following sum of money:
1 month's pay in advance........... $13.00
1/4 of war bounty (federal).........$25.00
1/2 state bounty..........................$25.00
1/2 county bounty.......................$25.00
$90.00 and before leaving the state the
Balance of state bounty..............$25.00
Balance of county bounty...........$25.00
To which if we add 11 months wages $143.00 we have a total for the first year of $283.00 in cash besides food, clothing
and medical with the remainder of the $75.00 dollars federal government bounty to be paid at the close of the war.
Posters and Advertisements such as this one in the July 29 issue of the Troy Times Record:
F. S. Esmond having been commissioned by his Excellency Governor
Morgan to raise an Infantry Company for the new organization, would
earnestly invite all Patriotic Young Men to come forward and enlist in his
company now recruiting at Wadsworth Hotel, Congress Street, Troy, N.Y.
$140.00 Bounty in advance
Apply at once to; Captain F.S. Esmond
First Lieutenant W.H. Plum Jr
Second Lieutenant Sindey Kinne
The Honorable John Griswold was prevented from mustering in as colonel of the regiment.
It was now found that Major George Lamb Willard a Commissioned Regular Army Officer of whom
I shall speak of in length at this time, could be transferred from the Regular Army to the volunteer service,
and was given command of the Regiment on August 15, 1862 his Thirty-Fifth birthday.
George Lamb Willard was born on August 15, 1827 in New York City.
He grew up and spent his youth within the sound of the drums of West Point and because of his families background in military service of the country, for his great-Grandfather, General John Lamb had served with distinction in the Revolutionary War
and his Grandfather, General Anthony Lamb, served with marked ability in the War of 1812,
his military ardor therefore, was, somewhat of a inheritance. Willard therefore manifested an ardent desire for an appointment
as a cadet to the Military Academy at West Point. His Family felt that George should pursue a more sensible occupation
and he was sent to live with relatives in Ohio and attend school, and to become a practical business man.
Not long after, the Mexican War broke out and he enlisted in the Fifteenth Ohio Volunteers
and was made First Sergeant of his company. His company was one of the first to scale the walls of Chapultepec Castle,
in General Winfield Scotts movement on Mexico City, and for his gallantry on that occasion
and for his distinguished service throughout that campaign and the war, he was on recommendation of General Scott,
appointed a brevet second lieutenant in the 8th United States Infantry on June 28th 1848.
He was promoted to full Second Lieutenant in that regiment on August 2, 1848. From 1848 to 1860,
he served almost continuously with the 8th U.S. Infantry in Texas and New Mexico.
In December of 1853 he was made First Lieutenant and soon after was detached on recruiting service from June 1854 to June 1856
and was stationed at Governor's Island, New York Harbor. At Governor Island he served in the capacity as adjutant of the post.
Willard ties to the City of Troy were due to his being on a "leave of absence" from his duties at Fort Levenworth, Missouri
where he had been ordered in May of 1860. He was in the east when the war broke out
and since he could not report back to his regiment the 8th for it had been captured by General Twiggs in Texas......
He was, therefore appointed, Assistant Adjutant-General on the staff of Major General John E. Wool commanding the Eastern Division.
He married the daughter of the Honorable Elias Plum the former Mayor of Troy
and to the people of Troy was well known and respected......
When the first call for two-year volunteers was made in 1861
Willard worked eagerly in helping to raise a regiment (which when mustered became the Second New York State Volunteers)
It was expected that he would be its colonel.
At that time, however just as the regiment was forming the Federal government issued order prohibiting Regular Army Officers from commanding volunteer troops and at the same time retaining their commissions. Unwilling to resign his regular rank,
Willard reluctantly gave up a chance to have his own command.
The eight U. S. Regulars after being exchanged was reorganized at Newport Barracks, Kentucky, with Captain Willard in Command.
In July of 1861 the 8th was order to Washington and joined Sykes' Battalion of McDowell's army
and was engaged in the first Battle of Bull Run.....Willard was promoted to the rank of Major
and served in the newly formed Nineteenth U.S. Infantry through the Peninsular Campaign of 1862,
and as its commanding officer a portion of the time. The war had now grown to wide proportion;
and the need of experienced efficient officers to train and direct new volunteers was now apparent.
And with the call for three hundred thousand volunteers the federal government changed the regulations,
thus allowing Major Willard to retain his Regular Army rank
and accept the colonelcy of the regiment now being formed in Rensselaer County in the summer of 1862.
On August 27, 1862 a full complement of Officers and the Maximum number of enlisted men (about 1000)
were mustered in to United States Service, to serve for a period of three years unless sooner discharged........
Marching orders came on the morning of August 30th and by 8 pm that evening the men were boarding a train composed of twenty eight cars, which would be pulled by two locomotives and would with all speed convey the regiment to New York City
their first stop on their way to the seat of war. On departing and passing through Union Depot in Troy
the Train was met by an immense cheering crowd that had gathered the train was halted for about one hour
where a few men stepped off the train and forgot to step back on.
The regiment arrived in New York early on the Sunday morning August 31st and marched to Park Barracks.
On Sunday afternoon they were loaded on the Steamboat John Porter their destination South Amboy, New Jersey,
Ezra Simon describes there trip to South Amboy in the Regimental History: As we sailed down the Bay, from the shores, on either side,
the regiment was hailed with cheer after cheer. At every little hamlet the windows and housetops were brilliant with the
"Stars and Stripes' waved from many a fair hand.
November Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
Part 11 of "The 125th New York Volunteer Infantry and the March to Gettysburg”
a short history of the 125th New York Volunteer Infantry. I wrote this narrative to be given as an oral presentation and have had the pleasure to present it at many historical societies, especially in Rensselaer County, and at numerous Civil War Events………………..Part 11.
"The 125th New York Volunteer Infantry
March to Gettysburg”
From South Amboy, New Jersey the 125th boarded a train to Philadelphia
and proceeded to Baltimore which they reached on September 1, 1862.
The plans were for these new recruits to travel to a garrison near Washington D.C., where they would receive proper drill and instruction before they would see any combat. In Baltimore a part of the men were armed with Enfield Rifles,
and at this time they also learned of their new destination, not Washington but, Martinsburg, in western Virginia,
to guard the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
The addition of the 125th brought the total of troops in Martinsburg, under the command of Brigadier General Julius White
to about 2,500 men. Martinsburg is located 22 miles north-west of Harper Ferry a place that would change the destiny of the regiment
and put them into the very middle of Robert E. Lees, Maryland Campaign of 1862.
The 125th arrived in Martinsburg on the second of September. Simons later wrote in the history of the 125th
"The necessities of the service forbade taking into account the total ignorance and inexperience of men in military affairs.
A man might never have loaded or fired a rifle; he might never have gone through company or regimental evolution; yet as needs were, i
f he had put on a uniform of a soldier, a gun was placed in his hands, and he was told to fight. And, for the most part,
men so summoned did fight and fought well; and they learned in a brief while in the school of experience
what no amount of camp instruction could teach. If not so much could be expected of newly enlisted men as of old soldiers,
yet on many a hard fought field was it proven that the heart of valor speedily taught the hand to do valiant service for the country"
Thursday, September 4, the men of Stonewall Jackson’s command the vanguard of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia began slashing across the Potomac River at White's Ford. These Confederates veterans were launching the first full scale invasion of the north.
But as Lee's army moved north into Maryland, 14,000 Federal remained steadfastly implanted near Harpers Ferry,
threatening Lee's communication and supply lines. It also checked his line of retreat back into Virginia, should that prove necessary.
As the Confederates advanced into Maryland, Lee expected authorities in Washington to order the northward withdrawal of the troops garrisoning these two lower Shenandoah Valley posts of Harpers Ferry and Martinsburg.
The Union high command under General-in Chief Henry Halleck, refused to abandon these two post and ordered the garrisons to remain in the Valley, thus forcing Lee into a quandary. Lee confronted this menace in his rear in one of the boldest directives of the Civil War.
On September 9, 1862, Lee issued Special Order number 191. In this famous order Lee divided his command into four parts, three columns under overall command of General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson received instructions to seize the three mountains
surrounding Harpers Ferry, thereby trapping the Union garrison and forcing them to surrender.
With its mission complete the Harpers Ferry detachment would consulate with the remainder of the army at Boonsboro,
20 miles north of Harper Ferry. And on September 10, 1862, as dawn swept away the mornings darkness Lee's ragged veterans
doused their campfires at their Frederick, Maryland bivouac and begin marching towards their Harpers Ferry target.
At Martinsburg the 125th had pitched tents and began to devote to the usual duties of a soldier's life.
The men were drilled daily: guard mount and picket duty was preformed and on Sunday the 7th, the day was spent digging earthworks.
Corporal G. A. Lord refers to the days spent in Martinsburg,
"Arriving at Martinsburg we formed in line , marching from thence to our camp, which was about a mile distance; after arriving at our camp we were drilled until sunset, waiting for our tents to arrived , sleeping that same night upon our tents this being our introduction to military life in which we had entered, sleeping without any supper; on waking the next morning very much depressed and fatigued by our journey, we were served with a cup of coffee and a piece of dry bread, after which we pitched tents in the form streets called company streets After we had settled here we remained to discipline ourselves in military tactics. After about two weeks we were startled by a surprise of the enemy upon us."
These were the leading elements of Jackson’s enveloping command of 14,000 men who had covered their 51 mile orbital trek with a sweeping march through western Maryland, including re-crossing the Potomac into Virginia and then seizing the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in two days and were now cutting the westward escape route of the union garrison and the 125th NY at Martinsburg. With this accomplished, Jackson then would capture the outnumbered Federals or drive them into a fleeing retreat toward the trap in Harpers Ferry. Although General White had been ordered to guard the B&O Railroad and hold the garrison at Martinsburg "to the last extremity" he soon discovered his position to be unattainable and with his western escape route via North Mountain sliced and Jackson advancing against his position White decided "with the small force at my disposal" to evacuate, to the only haven available.... Harper’s Ferry.
The march of the 125th from Martinsburg to Harpers Ferry on the 12th of September covered about 22 miles with the enemy close on their heels and as recorded by Ezra Simons "was to men making their first march trying. it was rendered harder by the fact that the men labored under the impression usual to recruits, that they must carry as much luggage as they could well load on their persons, pockets as well as cartridge boxes being filled with cartridges But, before our destination was reached, not a little of the burden had been thrown aside."
When White and his brigade reached Harpers Ferry in the early afternoon of September 12th the advancing Confederates of Lafayette McLaws had already exchanged picket fire with the Union defenders atop Maryland Heights the highest mountain overlooking Harpers Ferry and the key to the position. General McLaws wrote, "As long as Maryland Heights was occupied by the enemy, Harpers Ferry could never be occupied by us. If we gained possession of the heights, the town was no longer tenable to them"
About seven o'clock on Friday evening, September 12, after their force march from Martinsburg, the 125th was placed on the field of Harpers Ferry. The regiment was position in an open field. To the left and the north of the regiment was Camp Hill, below and to the left was the village of Harpers Ferry, beyond towered Maryland Heights, between it and Loudoun Heights, the Shenandoah and Potomac meet and move eastward. Maryland Heights formed the key to the position.
Colonel Dixon H. Miles, was in command of all Union forces at Harpers Ferry, General Julius White commanded the garrison at Martinsburg. General White deferred command to Colonel Miles upon his arrival primarily for several reasons: Miles possesses knowledge of the topography of the area and he did not. Miles had already placed his troops and guns into position deemed best for the garrison’s defense: Confederates in large numbers were approaching the post from different corners of the compass. Skirmishing already had commenced upon Maryland Heights.
"(I) render it improper" White wrote to Miles," at least for the present, to deprive you of the command for the sole reason of superior rank, believing that the interests of the service would not be sub served thereby" Miles accepted stating that " This act of heightened chivalric generosity, of which there are but few precedents in our army, overwhelms me with the deepest gratitude".
On Maryland Heights Colonel Miles had place the Thirty-Second Ohio, two companies of the Thirty-Ninth New York with a few Maryland troops and on the morning of the 12th, the 126th New York a regiment not unlike the 125th for it had been recruited during the summer and had only arrived in Harpers Ferry on the 28th of August, and like more than one third of the troops garrison in the defense of Harpers Ferry were raw recruits. Again as Ezra Simons put it in the regimental history;
"It was a beautiful Sunday ..... But here we were completely surrounded by one-half of the rebel arm; and the men were for the most unconscious of the condition of things or their danger". for their was only one hope for the beleaguered garrison at Harpers Ferry and that was the Army Of the Potomac only a few miles away.
Dawn on September 13, opened on Maryland Heights with the boom of cannon and the crash of musketry, upon the mountain crest, nearly 2,000 Confederates had launched a spirited attack against an equal number of Federals. For almost five hours the Union boys conducted
"a most obstinate and determined resistance" behind their breastworks of stone and felled trees. One South Carolina brigade suffered over 200 casualties as the Yankees bullets ripped through the wilderness and into the flesh of the southerners. The commander of the Palmetto boys later lamented "A fierce fire kept up, at about 100 yards distance.... our loss was heavy".
Then disaster struck the Union defenders. A bullet pierced the jaw of the colonel commanding the Federal center, demoralizing and panicking the raw recruits around him. As a result, the middle of the Union line soon yielded, compelling the bluecoats to withdraw to a new position. And although order had been restored on the Federal line, instructions arrived about 3:30 PM on the 13th to directing the Federals to abandon Maryland Heights and to fall back into Harpers Ferry. And as one New York soldier recalled, "Had an order been given to surrender to the enemy, we should not have been more surprised; for in abandoning that position, we saw plainly that everything was lost"
Mean while as the fighting ended on Maryland Heights, Confederate forces occupied Loudoun Heights south of the Shenandoah River
and sealed in the Bolivar Heights from the west, then Stonewall Jackson deployed his 14,000 veterans along the slopes of School House Ridge. The Federals were now trapped-- completely surrounded. But Colonel Miles was not finished yet.
Although Confederate Infantry had boxed the union defenders into a hole, Rebels rifles firing from the distant mountaintops caused no harm. Only Confederate artillery could force the garrison's demise.
As all this was taking place on Maryland Heights, the 125th was formed in line of battle from Bolivar Heights. They remained all night and most of the men without blankets or overcoats, for most of these things had been discarded on the march from Martinsburg.
And although the picket fire was keep up all night and through early morning the rebels never came within firing distance.
On Sunday morning the 14th of September the 125th was relieved and marched back to camp.
Consequently, throughout Sunday morning the 14th Confederate artillerymen pulled and dragged their guns to the crest of Maryland and Loudoun Heights and to the brow of School House Ridge. At about 2 PM on that September Sabbath, the rebel gunners open from their lofty pinnacles with missiles of death that came hissing and singing , then bursting, plowing great holes into the earth, filling our eyes with dust Despite a ferocious Confederate bombardment until sunset, the stars and stripes still fluttered defiantly above the surrounded garrison.
During the night of the 14th from his post on School House ridge, Jackson plotted his final moves.
First, he ordered A.P. Hill's division to march south on School House Ridge, then east along the slippery banks of the Shenandoah,
then north through a deep ravine onto Bolivar Heights. If, Hills move succeeded the Confederates would end up behind the left flank of the Union line, forcing Colonel Miles into an untenable position. To add additional pressure to the Federal Left Jackson transferred 15 pieces
of artillery to a plateau near the base of Loudoun Heights. With these guns at point-blank range, and Hill's 3,000 men behind the federal left, Jackson felt confident the Union men could do nothing but surrender.
Jackson's plan worked perfectly. Hill moved with little opposition along the Shenandoah and up through a ravine on the south end of Bolivar Heights, gaining the federal rear. The 15 guns on Loudoun Heights reached their position without a hitch. At dawn the next day Dixon Miles Federals faced their most precarious situation. A dense fog blanketed Harpers Ferry garrison at sunrise on September 15, but as the morning winds dispersed the mists, the Confederate gunners opened on their hapless victims at point-blank range, and as Captain Samuel Chapman Armstrong of the 125th New York remarked "Nothing could strand before such a ranking fire, bad enough for any, but raw troops; it demoralizes them---it rouses one's courage to be able to fight in return, but to sit and calmly be cut in two is to much to ask".
Though outnumbered and holding inferior positions, the Union batteries replied. The troops watched helplessly as Confederate shells from all direction" crashed into their ranks. After one hour of bombardment from over fifty rebel guns, Colonel Miles decided that further resistance was useless and ordered the post surrender. Shortly thereafter, while attempting to silence one of his own batteries, Miles was struck by a shell fragment and mortally wounded. "And so fell Harper's Ferry."
Less than one hour later, Brig. General Julius White who now commanded the Federal in place of the mortally wounded Colonel Miles, rode out to School House Ridge to negotiate the surrender terms with Stonewall Jackson.
Of the events that took place on the 14th and 15th of September the report of Colonel Willard taken from the official records,
written on the September 21st 1862,
Headquarters, 125th Regiment New York Volunteer,
Sir: "I have the honor to report the part taken by the One hundred and twenty-fifth Regiment New York Volunteers during the 14th and 15th of September, 1862, at Harper's Ferry:
About I o'clock p.m., on the 14th September, the enemy, who had succeeded in establishing a battery of rifled guns on Loudoun Heights, opened with shot and shell upon my regiment, which, having just returned from picket duty, were engaged in preparing some food.
The fire was rapid, and all the troops on the plateau made a speedy and somewhat disorderly retreat. My regiment, in spite of my efforts, and subjected for the first time to a hot fire, retreated in a good deal of disorder toward the ravine running south from the battery on Bolivar Heights. At this point, I succeeded in rallying them, and reformed the regiment on the east side, where it remained until ordered to cross to the west. Here two companies (Captains Cornell and Wood) were detached, by order of Brigadier-General White, to support two guns which had been ordered to advance. With the remaining eight companies I was directed, by the same officer, to occupy the ravine on the road leading to the Shenandoah. Four companies, under Lieut. Col. Levin Crandell, occupied the extreme left of the line, protected by a slight skirt of woods, and four companies, under my own command, subsequently re-enforced by one of the companies which had been detached, were placed on the open ground. On my right was the Third Maryland and Ninth Vermont Regiments. During the night I called upon the commanding officer of the Third Maryland, Lieutenant-Colonel Downey, and with him Colonel Stannard, of the Ninth Vermont, and, upon consultation, a request was sent to Colonel Trimble, Sixtieth Ohio, commanding brigade, to grant us an interview, in the hope that some change might be made in the disposition of the troops, as we had become aware that the enemy had placed batteries on the opposite side of the Shenandoah, which it was believed would make our line of defense untenable. This interview was without result, as Colonel Trimble stated distinctly that the orders were to hold the line as then established. Some slight changes were then ordered in the position of the Ninth Vermont
and Third Maryland; which were affected about 4 o'clock a.m. of the 15th September."
At daylight on the 15th September the enemy opened from the batteries which he had placed in position during the night, and was replied to by the two guns which had been placed in rear of the right wing of my regiment. The fire was very severe, and continued until about 8 o'clock a.m., when, to my astonishment, I saw a white flag raised from the battery on Bolivar Heights.
The firing from the enemy's batteries did not immediately stop, and I remained with my regiment in position until there was not to my knowledge any guns or troops on my right, all having retired and the firing ceased.
Forty-five minutes after the raising of the white flag I ordered the regiment to retire, which was done in good order, although subjected to an artillery fire from Loudoun Heights, which opened on my regiment and killed two of my men.
I ordered the regimental colors to be torn from the staff and destroyed, to prevent them from falling into the hands of the enemy.
Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
G. L. Willard,
Colonel, One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Regiment, New York State Vols.
The surrender caused deep and widespread indignation among the officers and enlisted men, Colonel Willard who just weeks before proudly led his first command off to war "shed tears of regret" The men had little opportunity to defend themselves or fight back. Most of them never fired a shot. They were disappointed men. After enlisting with bright anticipations of serving through the war, they were, after three weeks service ....prisoners.....
The Scene of the surrender was one of deep humiliation to the men; Charles Belknap,
a member of the 125th New York wrote in his diary dated, September 15, 1862;
"As soon as we were sure that the post had surrendered the regiment was formed and we marched down toward the village, about half or three fourths of a mile when we halted, and as the rebels were still firing, Colonel Willard caused a large white flag to be waved from the window of a large brick house, as soon as the rebels stopped firing, we marched up on the heights and stacked our arms. While we were on our way, I could not keep the tears from coming in my eyes. The thought that we were so soon prisoners of war and had no chance of defending ourselves was almost overwhelming. This was the 16th day from Troy."
This is part of what he wrote on the first installment in a diary he kept throughout the war and seems to express his feeling of frustration and demoralization, that so not only engulfed himself, but all these men who had to share the shame of Harper's Ferry.
Upon surrendering their arms, the prisoners were quickly paroled, throughout the afternoon. The evening of September 15th the conquered Federal mustered in company formation, heard the roll called, listened to the parole statement, raise their right hand and then pledged in unison, “that they would not take up arms until properly exchanged"
The Federal regiments began their sad march toward Annapolis, Maryland, during the late morning of September 16th, they were headed for Annapolis and eventually a parole camp the first day was difficult for some of the troops " who were terribly tired and .....foot sore", this being their first real march since joining the army. As the men trudged along on the 17th, "They heard the guns of Antietam and saw other Regiments marching briskly to the scene of action", a sight that certainly "did not sweeten the long toil of marching".
The one hundred mile trek to Annapolis was completed by September 20th.
During a brief recuperation at Annapolis, more bad news struck the hapless garrison. Instead of receiving furloughs to their homes, which until now had been the practice for paroled prisoners awaiting exchange----the parolees of Harper's Ferry discovered an unwelcome prospect.
The War Department had assigned them to Camp Douglas, Chicago, Illinois,
for training and refitting preparatory for other military duty---against the Sioux Indians!
The following letter was written by the men of the 125th New York State Volunteers after their parole and while awaiting transportation to Camp Douglas, Chicago. The men (or perhaps just the writer in the guise of the regimental representative), demoralized and homesick,
wrote an emotional plea to Governor Morgan requesting that they be sent home until exchange. It is written in pencil on lined stationery,
and the camp scene letterhead still retains its brilliant colors in the same way that the simple words
still retain the heartache and desperation of their writer.
The letter was penned on September 22, 1862, at Annapolis Maryland, and reads as follows:
To His Excellency Governor Morgan:
The 125th Regiment New York State Volunteers are as you know prisoners of war and paroled. Now we are to be sent to Camp Douglas, Chicago Ill. and we appeal to you, to know if there is not some way, if we are to go into winter quarters why we can't remain in our native state somewhere near our families. As the government has issued an order, that no more prisoners to be exchanged for three months and after that we are at "fag end" of a long list of prisoners. (Note: The term "fag end" refers to the untwisted end of a rope, and was a 19th century phrase meaning the extreme end) We humbly submit that it is treating us unfairly. If we are to be held as a reserve in the event of foreign intervention what more proper place for us than in our own state. Again we ask you to use your influence to have us located in our own state, until we are exchanged or called upon to fight some other power .
Do this and you will have the thanks and external friendship of ourselves and families.
We are with profound respect,
New York State Volunteers, 125th
On September 23rd, most of the parolees boarded transports and steamed up Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore.
At the railroad station in Baltimore, the troops were crowded into freight cars used previously to transport livestock. Axiel H. Ellis a former Troy Times employee previous to his enlisting in the 125th New York an at the time of the regiments encampment at Chicago,
a correspondent for that newspaper, describes in his letter to the newspaper dated September 30, 1862;
"The car furnished us were common freight cars that had previously been used to transport livestock, with no arrangements for sleeping, and with forty men in each car. We consequently suffered much, and were much exhausted on our arrival at this place. It was a difficult matter to obtain any rest at all, such was the terrible jolting and "shaking up" we experienced in the springless and uncomfortable vehicles furnished for our transportation. Our rations consisted of hard bread and partially cooked fat pork."
The regiment reached their final destination, Chicago, Illinois on September 27th, exactly one month after mustering in.
During the next two months, the government "confined" these troops in a United States POW camp.
Many of the victims of Harper's Ferry scorned this indignant humiliation. To express their outrage the paroled prisoners repeatedly ripped down the perimeter fence, destroying over 3,000 feet of it by November 4th. Some regiments refused to march, drill, or even police the grounds. Discipline barely existed as many regimental officers had been called to Washington to testify before the Harper's Ferry Military Commission. During their incarnation the 125th lost by desertion about two hundred men.
Ezra Simon explains
"that though these men were on record with the government as deserters they cannot be justly be so numbered, in the usual sense of desertion. They did not leave in the presence of the enemy; but many of them acted from the honest conviction that the government had no right, under the terms of the Harpers Ferry parole, to keep them together or to exact from them any military service until duly exchanged. When the regiment was exchanged many of them returned to duty, or enlist in other regiments".
The misery and humiliation finally ended for the 125th and the other New York regiments with their exchange on November 19, 1862.
By Thanksgiving Day the regiment was back in Virginia and encamped on Arlington Heights outside Washington.
By early December, the 125th New York along with three other regiments that had endured the disaster and humiliation of Harpers Ferry; the 39th, 111th and 126th New York were now brigaded together and assigned to the "outer defenses of the capital, near Union Mills and Centreville, Virginia and became the Third Brigade, Silas Casey's Division, Twenty-Second Corps. These four regiments would stay together throughout the remainder of the war. Even while the men were eager "to begin soldier life anew" they still found it difficult to remove the frustrating blemish from the past. These Regiments had all been together at Harper's Ferry....
and were know as the "Harper's Ferry Brigade”.
December Patriotic Instruction: By Bro. Richard "Dick" E. Straight, PI
Part 111 "The 125th New York Volunteer Infantry and the March to Gettysburg”
A short history of the 125th New York Volunteer Infantry. I wrote this narrative to be given as an oral presentation and have had the pleasure to present it at many Historical Societies, especially in Rensselaer County, and at numerous Civil War Events…………………………..Part 111
"The 125th New York Volunteer Infantry
March to Gettysburg”
On January 6, 1863 the brigade received a new commander, recently promoted Brigadier General Alexander Hays, a West Point Graduate (1844) who was known to have a fondness for fighting. Hays was a good choice for command of the Harper's Ferry Brigade and there questionable quality. For he was a "Maker of soldiers" always strict but firm, Hays was generous and always looked out for his men.
Hays immediately put the men to work. "The brigade is under constant drill and fast being educated in the school of the soldier".
The new commander weeded out some of the worthless officers and promoted competent ones. The health of the brigade also improved and soon were in "excellent spirits" the men though highly of their new commander
and Hays also had confidence in them, as he soon wrote his father-in-law
"Although the Brigade has been identified with one of the most disgraceful surrender of the war and suffers a corresponding sense of humiliation, I have full confidence that in time, "The War Cry of Harper's Ferry"
will incite them to rival deeds of older and more fortunate soldiers.
Hays also wrote “The Harper's Ferry Boys have turned out trumps, and when we do get the chance look out for blood"."
As time passed, the 125th and the rest of the brigade had to sit as the battles of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 and the Chancellorsville in May of 1863, passed them by, but affairs suddenly changed in mid June as the Army of the Potomac began moving North in pursuit of the Confederate Army, for Robert E. Lee had again chosen to invade the north. The Union High command decided to press every available unit into action, including the "band box soldiers" of the Washington’s outer defense.
General Walker in his History of the Second corps, records "Here joined, for the first time, a body of troops destined to gear a conspicuous share in all the future labors and dangers of the Second Corps, from the fast approaching conflict on the bloody slops of the Gettysburg, to the final triumph of April, 1865."
On June 25th, the brigade broke camp and marched to Gum Springs and joined the Army of the Potomac. There they were designated the Third Brigade of the Third Division, Second Army Corp. Also at this time command changes were made, Hays found himself commanding the Third Division, while Colonel Willard of the 125th , being senior colonel, was given command of the brigade. Though he received the command due to the date of his commission, Willard was the best choice because of his experience and proven leadership. Lieutenant-Colonel Levin Crandell now took command of the 125th New York.
On Friday June 26th, the brigade crossed the Potomac at Edward's Ferry. On Monday June 29th, the men of Willard’s Brigade made one of the severest marches of their entire term of service, 33 miles the army seldom made a longer march in a single day.
There was no halting for meals; no coffee was cooked that day. Men fell out on the march by the hundreds, and when far into the night when the head of the column halted, only a handful of men lay down to rest. The next day June 30th was devoted to rest and mustering the Corps.
Orders to march were received around 9:00 A.M on July 1st as the Second Corp took up the march toward the enemy, the Third Brigade was ordered back to guard quarter-master's stores. The dispirited New Yorkers had marched some distance when they received new orders to countermarch and rejoin the Second Corps "With a new spirit they started for the front and by noon reached Taneytown, "
where they heard the heavy cannonading in the direction of Gettysburg." the long march ended around 10:00 P.M.
as the men went into camp east of Big Round Top.
On the next day July 2nd the brigade was awaken at dawn "ate a small breakfast of "coffee and crackers" and at sunrise took up the march arrived on the Battlefield of Gettysburg around 8:00 A.M. and placed into position "in reserve" along the right center of the Union battle line at " the northern extremity of the Cemetery Ridge at the lower end of a orchard near the Bryan house, to the left of Ziegler's Grove, where they cleaned and inspected their arms and waited.
The Brigade had endured months of humiliation, boredom, dismal living conditions, unhealthy food, and endless hours of drill, picket duty and much more to reach this moment. And the one factor Willard’s Brigade all shared, that was the shame of Harpers Ferry.
Robert E Lee’s plans for the second day battle were two fold, he would attack both flank of the union army, Lt. General Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps would attack Culp’s Hill and Lt. General James Longstreet’s First Corps would attack Cemetery Ridge “en echelon” up the Emmetsburg Road. Lee’s intended time table were both attacks would start in the morning, but it was 11:00 AM before he sent out orders to begin movement. It then took several hours for Hood and McLaw’s Divisions of Longstreet’s Corps to march southward along Seminary Ridge to their jumping off point. Due to this lengthy delay to assemble his forces and avoid detection in his approach march, Longstreet’s attack started late in the afternoon around 4:00 PM. Longstreet sent Hoods Division forward leading the Echelon attack on the left flank of the Union line. It moved over Little Round Top across Devil's Den through the Wheatfield. The salient created by the Third Corps unauthorized forward deployment began to dissolved, the entire Union line along the Emmetsburg Road south of the Trestle’s lane was in shambles. The Confederate Mississippi Brigades of Brigade General William Barksdale’s were driving steadily toward the Peach Orchard the point of the salient in Sickles’ line. The Union Third Corps was effectively destroyed as a combat organization as it attempted to defend a salient over to wide an area.
Looking down at the fearful struggle, "Willard's New Yorkers from their position near the Bryan farm could see the fire "
was creeping nearer" Simons described this action "The fighting along the Emmetsburg road and in the fields to (the) east was in open view of our position. Artillery and musketry were filling the air with fire and smoke, and were covering the ground with the wounded and dead." With the collapse of the peach Orchard salient, the center of the line began to stream back off the field, the union line was being outflanked and was letting go of its hold on the Emmetsburg Road. The Union Left was in trouble and reinforcements were desperately needed to stem the Confederate advance. As General Hays and Colonel Willard were standing and watching the battle moving closer, they received orders from General Hancock, "to send one of your best Brigades over there, pointing south."
General Hays turned to Willard and said: "Take your Brigade over there and knock the Hell out of the Rebs."
General Hays who apparently had no lack of confidence in the brigade, as he had shaped it into a disciplined unit over the previous five months, and had early written to his father-in law "have no fear of the stuff of the Third Brigade, if we are ever called upon to make a dash”. That call had finally arrived and now the "stuff of the brigade would at last be tested.
The command to "fall in" was now heard and the men who had been waiting in their assigned position for eleven hours, formed ranks and loaded their rifle- muskets. Willard, mounted and took his position in front of the brigade, ordered them to "fix bayonets! Shoulder arms!
Left face! Forward march" Leaving their position near the Bryan apple orchard Willard led the Third Brigade who were in close column by brigades south toward the Round-Tops. Marching over stone walls, through field, down the gradually sloping ground of Cemetery Ridge.
The route of march took them behind the union lines, so in the field to the men’s right, through the smoke and lengthening shadows, the tenacious struggle was visible; the brigade pushed south and were finally halted, approximately thirteen hundred yards from where they started.
"The brigade was halted amid the smoke, then faced westward so that they were fronting the approach of the enemy" to their front was a swale of a new growth of trees, which the ground gradually descended toward. Willard rapidly formed the brigade for action.
He deployed the brigade and formed his main line of battle with the two regiments closest to the swale with the 125th on the left
and the 126th on the right. The 111th was keep in reserve two hundred yards to the rear and behind the 126th.
The 39th was kept on the left to protect the left flank. The Brigade moved forward toward the swale and was halted;
Willard deployed the 111th to the right to extend the right flank of the line of battle.
Once the men began moving the momentum of the advance increased their pace into a full-scale counterattack.
The order to fix bayonets before moving could have had dire consequences if the brigade found itself in an extended firefight,
hindering the men’s ability to reload. But, Willard obviously understood the situation he was about to commit his troops,
for the blades could prove very useful in a counterattack.
Recounting the words of Ezra Simon describing the action
"It was now about 7 o'clock in the evening of a long day, the writer looked to the west........ The sun was sinking low, and the heavens were ablaze with its splendors, in marked contrast with the lurid fires of death towards which we were marching...........
We were halted amid the smoke in front of some swale” a new growth of trees ”in which we could see, dimly, because of the smoke covering the field ”men moving....... The brigade was dressed on the colors, an unusual thing under such circumstances..........
Our men commenced to fire, but the word was shouted: Firing on your own men! Upon which the command was given by Colonel Willard: Cease firing! Officers, as did the writer, rushed in front of our line repeating the order....... But the interval permitted the enemy to reload, and we speedily learned our mistake.......
A man to the left of the writer fell in an instant prostrated by a bullet”.
Then, all doubt removed, Willard ordered the Brigade to advance the men press on, firing as they moved.”
The excitement, anger and fear of the moment, mixed with the men's adrenaline and their quest for vindication, for they had been living in shame of the surrender of Harper's Ferry for almost a year. And now a low cry "Remember Harper's Ferry" was heard in the ranks, and swelled into a shout of hundred of voices. "Remember Harper's Ferry" rose above the roar of the musketry "Remember Harper's Ferry "rang out along the line; and every living man, with fatal resolve, sprang forward with new effort.
And to continue in the words of Ezra Simon…….
“On we rushed with loud cries! "Remember Harper's Ferry" "Remember Harper's Ferry" on with bullets whizzing by our ears,
as if messengers from the cold, icy regions of the dead” with shells screaming and cannon-balls tearing the air, like so many fiends bent on destruction: now bursting above and around us; now ploughing the ground at our feet and laying many of our noble men low in death or bleeding with wounds: on, we rushed, through storm of fire and death, thundering above and darting around us like the thunder and lightning of heaven: on, driving the rebels before us."
Willard’s earlier gamble to fix bayonets now paid dividends, the long line of bright bayonets moved onward, steadily in an attack which Simons described as simply “grand!- awfully grand!” Having gather momentum from charging downhill, the brigade reached the swale and slammed into Barksdale’s line where a terrible contest ensued in the bushes in the swale. They “met the advancing rebels at the muzzles of their muskets and the point of their bayonets” stated Captain Richardson of the 126th. Besides the stubborn resistance of the Confederate in the brigade’s forward movement, the Plum Run ravine itself impeded the advance, the rugged terrain with its high bushes, stumps, numerous rocks and large boulder broke up the formation in the regiments, and companies were forced apart in some places while moving through the brush. Charles Belkapt of the 125th recorded in his diary “We charged on the enemy driving them back, when we fell back a short distance and formed our line again for we were rather broken having to pass through a ravine in which there were thick bushes”
All these conditions caused considerable confusion within the ranks. Also the large number of Mississippians under Barksdale’s command who “threw down their arms and lay down in ranks” further reducing the brigade’s cohesiveness due to the loss of many men who were needed to guard and herd the captives back, but in spite of these obstacles Willard’s men pushed forward pressing the attack.
Continuing their assault in the Plum Run swale against Barksdale, the three regiments of Willard’s brigade the 125th, 126th and 111th closed ranks and without stopping got through the rugged terrain out into open ground. The “open field”, the men faced rose gradually toward the Emmitsburg Road, eight hundred yards away. The three regiments advanced uphill at “Charged Bayonets” into the smoke, noise and growing darkness. Driving the enemy before them the line swung out into the open and became a ready mark for the enemy.
A terrific fire of canister and shell began pouring into Willard’s line from Confederate guns posted in the Peach Orchard along the Emmitsburg Road. “Blaze artillery from the hill beyond in our faces” is how Ezra Simon remembered the flame of the guns silhouetted on the high ground and through the smoke. Simon also recorded in the Regimental History,
that Sgt. Lewis Smith, color-bearer of the 125th, was “instantly killed” just passed the swale. But,
“ere the colors could touch the ground, Harrison Clark of E Company bent down and grasped them; bring them out of the battle." For his gallantry, Private Clark on the next day was called to the front of the regiment, and promoted to the rank of color-sergeant. Harrison Clark received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic deed on July 2.
General Barksdale riding in front of his brigade was desperately trying to hold and rally his men, who were beginning to break. Scores of Confederates had been wounded or killed as Willard’s Brigade swept forward, pouring volley after volley into them forcing many to fall to the rear and many to surrender. Barksdale in the thick of this melee, rode amongst his men trying to inspire them, recklessly exposed himself. General Barksdale was trying to make his fleeing men stand, swearing and cheering them, directly in front of the right of the 125th near the left of the 126th as they emerged from the swale and bushes. The conspicuous southern general was an obvious target. Immediately several men from both regiments fired at him and he fell from his horse, hit by several bullet. His troops were forced to leave him for dead on the field, and he died the next day in a Union field hospital.
The Harpers Ferry Coward’s had been whipped into a frenzied excitement by their “Remember Harper’s Ferry“ battle cry which had electrified them to wash away that old stain upon their honor.
The line continued forward, in spite of the leaded onslaught ripping through their ranks. The brigade change direction
“oblique to the right a little and advanced” to almost four hundred yards beyond the Plum Run swale where it started to receive a concentric musketry fire on their right flank from the Brigades of Lang and Wilcox and artillery fire from Peach Orchard up on the hill to their left. At this point Willard realized how untenable the situation had become. The brigade had taken considerable casualties and had advanced far beyond any support on their flanks and rear. Orders were passed and the regiments halted and started a withdrawal down across the open ground and the swale. As the men entered the low ground along Plum Run the situation was one of increasing confusion caused by poor visibility due to the thick smoke and deepening darkness. Willard riding at the head of his brigade, continued to lead his men, steadying them riding along the lines during their retreat. The regiments crossed over Plum Run and were just emerging from the swale when Willard was struck by a shell. Ezra Simons wrote “that the shell carried away part of his face and head…..and the colonel fell from his horse instantly killed.” Willard body was quickly “carried from the field, to avoid demoralizing the troops. The loss of such a promising leader was keenly felt. Hancock later stated that Willard was “one of the best officers of his rank and age.”
Seemingly on the verge of rapid promotion, he would be hard to replace. Col. George Lamb Willard
just thirty-five had been tragically cut down during his greatest triumph.
The attack made by Willard’s Brigade had a significant impact on the fighting of July 2. The timely arrival of the brigade and its counterattack checked and then threw back Barksdale’s Mississippians, who had presented a threat to the left-center of the Union battle line. The support given to McGilvery’s artillery line, on the left by the 39th New York and the recapturing of Watson’s 5th US battery help give Hancock the time he needed to bring up further reinforcements. The oblique movement to the to the right by the Third Brigade just before the retreat caused Anderson’s Brigades of Lang, Wilcox and Wright to break off the attack toward the dangerous gap in the Union line, believing that Willard’s Brigade was about to surround their right flank and gain their rear. Though unplanned by Willard and misread by General Lang of Anderson’s Division, these effects delayed confused and eventually helped reverse the Confederate drive.
More important to Willard’s men, the action allowed them to prove their bravery, courage, and fighting ability, all of which had for so long been question and doubted. Harpers Ferry had been avenged. For Willard personally, the conflict had provided him an opportunity to demonstrate his military ability and leadership. In his first battle as a brigade commander,
Willard had skillfully “directed the whole movement” prior to the attack, then, personally and successfully, had led the assault against Barksdale’s Brigade, His accomplishments are made even more impressive considering the brigade made its attack unsupported,
and it consisted of many men who were facing their first test in battle.
The prediction of Alexander Hays had come true. The history of the 125th New York Volunteers and the men of The Harper's Ferry Brigade was written in Blood.
The following day July Third found the 125th and the Third Brigade back in their original position on Cemetery Ridge where they would again stand firm in the face of a Confederate attack that history would label Pickett’s Charge
and “The High Water Mark of the Confederacy”
“The act of traitors at Harper’s Ferry had not tainted their patriotism” wrote General Hay in his report five days after the battle “the loss of this brigade amounts to one-half the casualties in Hay’s Third Division.
The price was high; Brigade losses at Gettysburg, out of the 1508 men in the brigade, 11 officers and 128 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, 26 officers and 516 enlisted men wounded, and 33 captured in the two day of fighting at Gettysburg.
Total 714 or 47.3 percent of those engaged.
Loses for the 125th were of the 392 engaged,
Killed 26 Wounded 104 Missing 9
Total 139 or 35.5 percent of those engaged
In all the 125th New York fought in 24 major engagements
Harpers Ferry * Gettysburg * Auburn Ford * Bristol Station * Robertson's Tavern
Mine Run * Morton's Ford * Wilderness * Spottsylvania,
May 12 Spottsylvania, May 18 * North Anna * Totopotomoy * Cold Harbor
Front of Petersburg * Jerusalem Plank Road * Deep Bottom * Strawberry Plains
Ream's Station * Petersburg * Boydton Plank Road * Sutherland Station
Farmville * Appomattox
The 125th New York mustered out of United States service on June 5, 1865, near Alexandria, Virginia..... Troy gratefully received those sons who were fortunate enough to come home on June 8th,... nearly three years after the regiment’s departure for the south.... of the 1255 Officers and men who served in the 125th.... less than 300 hundred returned and only three of the original officers.
Based on their loses the 125th New York Volunteers was included in Fox’s Regimental Loses in the American Civil War and listed as one of the Fighting Three Hundred Regiments for where the musketry was the hottest, the dead lay thickest; and there is no better way to find the fighting regiments than to follow up the bloody trail which marked their brave advance.
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Col. George L. Willard Camp #154 Albany,NY SUVCW
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