Union Blue and Militia Gray:
The Role of the New York State Militia
in the Civil War -
Raising the Volunteers
The outbreak of the Civil War shook the state militia and its command and control
headquarters out of its lethargy. Years of the absence of an external threat
and fiscal shortcomings had imposed a certain complacency on all concerned.
Deficiencies existed in the supply of weapons, equipment, uniforms and facilities.
Leaders soon discovered that the Federal government lacked the resources
and organization to raise the mass armies that would be needed to suppress
the rebellion. The state governments would successfully shoulder that burden
throughout the entire war, and especially in the first two years. Although
the pre-war militia had largely been self-sustaining, the new volunteer forces
would have to be raised from scratch. The task of raising these forces therefore
constituted the second major mission of the militia establishment.
Fortunately, considerable numbers of recruits came forward. Between 29 April
and 12 July the first thirty-eight volunteer regiments were recruited, equipped,
and dispatched to the theaters of operations. The provision of the Law of
16 April 1861 governed the organization of these units. In July, four additional
regiments (39th, 40th, 41st and 42nd), organized by the Union Defense Committee
of New York City, left for Virginia.
Following the Bull Run defeat, four state militia regiments (2nd, 9th, 14th
and 20th), which had volunteered for three-years service, converted to volunteer
status and received designations as the 82nd, 83rd, 84th and 80th New York
Volunteers respectively.  These four units, all of which were assigned
to the Army of the Potomac, compiled combat records unrivaled by any units
side in the Civil War. Their unit pride remained very strong, and throughout
their Federal service, they preferred to identify themselves by their old
militia designations. Soon after, the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) attained the
status, but retained its old state regimental number.
This conversion did bring about some trouble. On 14 August the 79th mutinied
in its camp outside Washington. Not all of its members accepted three years
service willingly, and the remainder became angry because Colonel Isaac Stevens
of the regular army had been appointed the regimental commander after the
death of James Cameron. It will be remembered that militia units were in the
of electing their own officers. Regular infantry and artillery troops were
wheeled up into position surrounding the 79th with orders to open fire if
they refused to submit. After a short confrontation, the mutineers surrendered,
and thirty-five ringleaders were promptly arrested, court-martialed and imprisoned
at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas until 16 February 1862 when they were
discharged. Major General George McClellan, commanding the Army of the Potomac,
also stripped the unit of its colors until such time as they could redeem
in action. Their colors were not returned until after a minor action at Lewinsville,
Virginia in September. 
Between 30 July 1861 and 1 January 1862 New York State raised an additional
forty-eight volunteer infantry regiments and ten regiments of cavalry. 
In the next four years, a series of calls on New York for volunteers and militia
resulted in the furnishings of over a half million men to the Union army.
The volunteer organizations, which contained the greater part of the force,
27 regiments and 8 separate companies of cavalry
15 regiments and 34 separate batteries of artillery
182 regiments and 8 separate companies of infantry
3 regiments of engineers 
Considerable numbers of former militia members volunteered for active service.
The brigade inspector "returns," contained in the adjutant general
reports for the war years, make constant observations concerning the low strength
of many organized militia regiments caused by the absence of many members on
The Board of State, headed by the governor, made the first attempts to clothe
and equip the new volunteers. Within ten days of its creation on 16 April,
the board proceeded to make contracts for uniforms and supplies and dispatched
agents to Europe to purchase weapons. The first estimates were too low, and
many uniforms were nearly worthless since they were manufactured from "shoddy" material.
 Brooks Brothers Company in New York City received an initial contract at
cost of $26 per uniform. When found to be substandard, restitution was demanded
and 2,350 new suits of uniform were furnished by the contractor.  This incident
provoked the first of many scandals involving the procurement of clothing and
equipment during the war. The board also contracted for infantry accoutrements
(belts, scabbards, slings, cap pouches, haversacks and knapsacks) which totaled
$156,825 for the first thirty-eight volunteer regiments.  It should be borne
in mind that the funds to support these appropriations were exclusively state-generated.
The major share of the burden of raising the volunteer units was shouldered
by the state quartermaster general's department. For the first three months
of the war, this department coordinated for the transportation, subsistence,
quartering and clothing of over 30,000 volunteer troops raised pursuant to
Chapter 277 of the Laws of 1861.  State and Federal authorities worked
closely to ensure that these men received clothing and shelter before leaving
state for active service. Later, Federal authorities turned over for distribution
by the states' quartermaster general all supplies needed by the troops. On
31 March 1864 the United States War Department issued General Order No. 131,
which effectively revoked the state's right to equip and provision volunteer
troops prior to their muster into United States service. As a result, the
general's department received relief from a duty which previously occupied
the bulk of its time and efforts.
The quartermaster general's main warehouse opened at 51 Walker Street in
New York City in May 1861. Military stores were received there and issued to
in the vicinity or shipped to other sites. This was the center of vast activities.
In July and August 1861, for example, the state fitted out sixty thousand
recruits there. 
Attempts were made to bring the state department more in line with the duties
and responsibilities of its counterpart in the regular army.  It soon
became plain that considerable construction of barracks would be required for
the troops. During May and June 1861 the state constructed barracks in New
York City at City Hall Park, Riker's Island and at three locations in Staten
Island (Camp Washington, New Dorp and at the old Quarantine Camp). Between
July and December 1862 the state spent $27,564 for barracks construction
across the state. At Troy, authorities constructed a mess hall, four barracks
a quartermaster's office and a guard house. Additional tents were needed
to house the 125th and 169th New York Volunteers.  The quartermaster general
also planned to set up regimental camps in each senatorial district with
at Elmira and New York City for the issue of camp equipage to volunteer regiments
en route to the Eastern Theatre of operations.
The state quartermaster general instituted a standardized transportation
system on a "pass" basis. This system allocated transport to unit quartermasters
at a cost of two cents per mile per soldier, and saved the state over $43,000
in 1862 alone. 
With the authorization of the thirty-eight new regiments in April 1861, the
real clothing problems of the state began in earnest. Having discovered on
17 April that the Federal government would attempt to equip, but could not
uniform her regiments, New York authorities moved rapidly through a specially
appointed Military Board to procure the needed clothing. The board established
a New York State fatigue uniform on a proposal approved on 22 April. It should
be remembered that until this moment the state itself had never moved to
procure clothing of any type for its troops. What became known as the Model
Uniform incorporated the regular army's blue forage cap and sky blue trousers,
with a dark bluejacket cut to fall about four inches below the waist belt.
It closed with eight buttons from throat to the waist which remained the
state militia pattern. The low standing collar, shoulder straps and belt-loop
piped in the branch color. 
The New York State quartermaster general continued to purchase and issue
uniforms throughout 1861 and until April 1862 when, by order of the governor,
stocks reverted to the U.S. Army Assistant Quartermaster in New York City.
By then, he had uniformed all infantry regiments through the 105th that had
not been clothed through some special arrangement; the artillery through
the 4th Regiment and several regiments of cavalry. From mid-1862 until 31 March
1864, when the war department revoked the right of states to equip their
prior to mustering into Federal service, New York furnished its new units
with their initial outfit, and these usually constituted the state pattern
made New Yorkers easily identifiable in the field by their uniforms and insignia
alone. New York also undertook to equip, at her own expense, those militia
corps that elected to accept a state uniform under the Militia Law of 1862.
It also did not take long for the governor to realize that the supply of
weapons on hand, or issued by the Federal government, would be insufficient
the new units. In all, during 1861, the Federal government supplied almost
46,000 rifles and muskets of varying quality. As early as 24 April, an agent
rushed to England to purchase 19,000 British PI853 Enfield rifle-muskets
at a cost of $335,000. New York agents busied themselves until 30 November
when, at the request of the secretary of war, they withdrew from the purchase
of arms. In the same period, the state obtained through the Federal government
purchasing officers, a quantity of over 15,000 British, Austrian, Prussian
and French weapons.  These transactions took place in an atmosphere of
acrimony against the Federal government. Major General Daniel Sickles later
that Virginian John B. Floyd had, with sinister motive while secretary of
war in the Buchanan administration, sent many thousands of muskets from the
Arsenal, north of Albany, to southern points just prior to the outbreak of
the war. 
Beginning in 1863, militia commands regularly received arms and accoutrements.
In that year the state received 12,000 rifle-muskets of which over 8,000
were the Model 1855 and 1861 Springfield. Also by 1865, although the state
adoption of some type of breechloader for its militia forces, 12,000 additional
Model 1863 Springfields were issued by the Federal government. Experts considered
these weapons to be the most effective muzzle-loading military small arm
in use. 
Chester A. Arthur, future president of the United States, held the post of
state quartermaster general for the first two years of the war, and made
a huge contribution to the raising of the volunteer forces. A staunch Republican
attorney, and pre-war member of the militia, Arthur initially received appointment
as engineer-in-chief on 1 January 1861. Through the influence of friends,
had become a member of the governor's staff, an unpaid social corps that
attended the governor on all state occasions. With the rank of brigadier general,
was assigned the task of representing the quartermaster general's office
in New York City. With the outbreak of war there were no precedents to rely
in the organizing and equipping of thousands of enlisted men. He threw himself
into the task and soon became an expert in all classes of supply. Under his
supervision, temporary barracks sprang up around the city. Governor Morgan
held Arthur in high esteem, and promotion came rapidly. On 10 February 1862,
the governor appointed him inspector general, and on 10 July Arthur was commissioned
state quartermaster general. 
Arthur traveled to Washington with Morgan on several occasions, and he contributed
to the preparation of the new state Militia Law of 1862 which he advocated
before legislative committees in Albany. He also traveled in the South in
the Spring of 1862 to inspect New York troops. Arthur transferred his department's
headquarters to New York City. He later took credit for improving the enlistment
procedure and treatment of recruits by establishing senatorial district camps.
All new recruits immediately received uniforms and were introduced to discipline.
Quartermasters were assigned to all regiments, and were required to come
New York City to receive instruction in the technicalities of their position.
In 1871 Governor Morgan would recall:
During the first two years of the Rebellion he was my chief reliance in the
duties of equipping and transporting of troops and munitions of war. In the
position of Quartermaster General he displayed not only executive ability
and unbending integrity, but great knowledge of Army regulations. He can
(which is important) without giving offense. 
In the last four months of 1862 Arthur and his department completely clothed,
and equipped, over seventy regimental-sized units. With the end of the governor's
second term, however, his tenure came to a close on 1 January 1863, and Brigadier
General S.V. Talcott succeeded him.
Edwin D. Morgan, Arthur's political patron, occupied a unique position among
the governors of the various Northern states. As a merchant, financier, philanthropist
and statesman, he became the first chairman of the Republican National Committee
in 1855. In 1858, under the patronage of Thurlow Weed, the voters elected
him governor and re-elected him in 1860. Toward the expiration of his second
as governor, the legislature elected him to the United States Senate, where
he took his seat on 4 March 1863. What set him apart from the other war-time
governors was his commission as a major general of volunteers by President
Lincoln on 26 September 1861. On 26 October, under General Order No. 92,
the war department created the Military Department of New York and appointed
as commander. Silas Burt, an assistant inspector general, later reported
that Morgan accepted this position and commission with the greatest reluctance,
and only yielded to the urgency of the situation and the prodding of the
and the secretaries of state and war. 
With the start of the Civil War, the inspector general's office received
extra duties. Special Order No. 317 required the inspector general to supervise
control the expenditure of money at the military depots and as a result this
department became an "office of accounts, audit and control, reference
and instruction." The department also established rules and regulations
governing regimental camps. An additional duty required the inspector general
to initiate and put into effect measures to provide for the "relief and
comfort" of the soldiers. 
In 1862 the state was divided into four districts and four assistant inspectors
general were appointed to inspect camps within each district. Regiments en
route to the theater of war underwent inspections at Elmira and New York
City, since it had been found that large numbers of recruits had been sent
camps before proper preparations could be made for their reception. In January
1863 this system was extended to include the inspection of all arms and property,
and even the books and accounts of all regiments. 
On 23 April 1862, Silas Burt received appointment as assistant inspector
general with the rank of colonel. In his memoirs he described his assignment
camps at Yonkers and Ossining, where he served as a mustering officer. He also
paid enlistment bounties, and advanced wages to volunteer troops there and
at Albany. Burt kept a critical eye toward motives and noted after December
1862 that there was no longer any "pure" volunteering since money
alone became the prime incentive toward recruiting.
On 3 June 1862 general orders directed the enrollment, under the recent militia
law, of all persons in the state liable for military duty. National Guard officers
(as the militia had now become known) would supervise the enrollment, planned
to be completed by 1 July in order that the state might be prepared to meet
further requisitions for troops by a draft "from the great mass of the
enrolled militia." Great differences of opinion existed among the general
staff as to the expediency of abandoning voluntary enlistment and resorting
to a draft, but this measure did provide incentives to recruiting. 
The state attempted to maintain links with its troops in the field, and for
that reason an inspector general (Lieutenant Colonel Marsena R. Patrick in
1861) received appointment to Major General McClellan's staff in the Army
of the Potomac as an aide-de-camp and inspector of New York troops. 
The direct payment of state bounties to recruits and re-enlisting volunteers
normally fell under the supervision of the paymaster general. In a proclamation
dated July 1862, Governor Morgan authorized the first state bounty. Additional
bounties were approved in 1863 and 1865. From 17 July 1862 through 1 January
1866, this department disbursed over thirty-five million dollars to entitled
men, and this figure does not include local bounties authorized by county,
city and village governments. The paymaster general maintained responsibility
for paying National Guard troops during the war. 
Special Order No. 151 established the New York State Soldier's Home on 31
March 1863. This order appointed the quartermaster general, adjutant general,
general and surgeon general to a board authorized to adopt rules and regulations
necessary for the administration of this institution. The facility was intended
to be a place of rest and relief for the sick, wounded, furloughed and discharged
soldiers who were in transit to or from their homes. The home maintained
a hospital as well as a library. Staff members also aided disabled soldiers
their discharges, back pay or bounties, and provided new clothing to men
whose uniforms had worn out. By April 1863 the state opened two locations at
Howard Street and 16 Mercer Street in New York City. Both were converted
five-story warehouses that provided lodging, meals and other conveniences,
to eligible soldiers. The homes finally closed on 31 March 1866. 
Regarding wounded soldiers, the surgeon general and his assistants frequently
visited hospitals near the battlefields to inspect their conditions, and
to assist and comfort injured soldiers from New York. A considerable amount
time was also expended in helping soldiers obtain furloughs, arranging transfers
of sick and wounded men to hospitals nearer their homes, and in responding
to inquiries from relatives concerning the location and health of loved ones.
The department also established and supervised a temporary home in Albany
for indigent, sick and disabled veterans. 
Chapter 421 of the Law of 1862 created an auditing agency designated the
Board of Commissioners, "authorized to ascertain and determine the sums due
to regiments or members of the militia of the state" for clothing and
equipment lost or destroyed while on Federal service since 16 April 1861. The
enabling legislation appropriated $50,000 for this purpose, and the quartermaster
general received responsibility for disbursement of funds. This board continued
its work until December 1868. Concurrently, an Auditing Board, composed of
the inspector general, judge advocate general and quartermaster general was
created to examine and audit claims against the state for expenses incurred
in raising the volunteers. 
In December 1862 the governor established a Bureau of Military Statistics
in the office of the adjutant general. New Yorkers recognized the enormity
the struggle and this bureau was commissioned to "collect and preserve
in permanent form, an authentic sketch of every person from this state who
has entered the service of the general government since 15 April 1861; a record
of the services of the several regiments, including an account of their organization
and subsequent history; and an account of the aid afforded by the several towns,
cities and counties of the state." 
The state military forces made a significant contribution to the leadership
of the volunteer forces. Many officers received their initial military training
and experience in the pre-war militia. The record of the 7th Regiment is outstanding,
and is largely indicative of the number of militia officers who converted to
volunteer service. Their mustering-out on 3 June 1861 signaled a wholesale
transfer of members to the Federal forces. In that respect, the 7th became
a virtual "clearing-house" for officers. Three rose to the rank of
major general, nineteen served as brigadier generals, twenty-nine as colonels,
sixty-eight as lieutenant colonels, and fifty-eight as majors. A total of four
hundred others served as company grade officers, surgeons and paymasters.
Foremost among former militia officers was Daniel Sickles, the flamboyant
attorney, member of Congress, and future ambassador to Spain. Sickles campaigned
election to the state legislature in 1857, and about the same time was commissioned
a major in the 12th Regiment N.Y.S.M. While serving as secretary to the legation
in London, he loved to wear his uniform at various parties and social affairs.
Upon the outbreak of hostilities, he resigned his seat in Congress, and prepared
to go to war as a member of the 71st Regiment when it was suggested to him
that he should raise volunteer troops. Governor Morgan commissioned him to
raise eight companies, quickly expanded to forty, and later organized into
a brigade of five regiments. For a time, Sickles footed the bills, at a cost
of several thousand dollars a day, until his "Excelsior Brigade" formally
mustered-in. Sickles was commissioned a brigadier general of volunteers on
3 September 1861, followed by his promotion to major general on 29 November
1862. He fought during the Peninsula campaign, and at Antietam in the Army
of the Potomac; commanded a division at Fredericksburg and the III Corps at
Chancellorsville. At Gettysburg his corps was virtually destroyed in the second
day's fighting, and he received a serious wound, resulting in the amputation
of his right leg. Always controversial, he continued in various functions in
the army throughout the rest of the war, and in the Reconstruction period.
Daniel Butterfield, probably the most prominent New York militia officer
to serve in the volunteer forces, mustered into Federal service as colonel
the 12th Regiment on 2 May 1861. He served with Patterson at Harper's Ferry
and Martinsburg,, Virginia. Appointed brigadier general of volunteers to
rank from 7 September 1861, he commanded a brigade in the V Corps of the Army
the Potomac. He later won the Medal of Honor at Games' Mill during the Peninsula
campaign where he was wounded. He rose to divisional command, and then received
appointment as major general and commander of the V Corps at Fredericksburg.
Upon Joseph Hooker's accession to command the Army of the Potomac, Butterfield
became his chief-of-staff, and served in that position under Major General
George Meade at Gettysburg, where he was wounded. For the remainder of the
war he served in the western theater. 
Francis Barlow of Brooklyn, only in his late twenties, had been a lawyer
before the war, having graduated first in his class at Harvard. He went to
as a private in the 12th Regiment in 1861, and thereafter rose steadily through
the ranks to become a general within a year and a half. Wounded at Antietam
in 1862, and then again at Gettysburg, he commanded a division in the XI
Corps at that battle. His later service brought him to the II Corps for the
Campaign, and the siege of Petersburg. After the war, Barlow served as the
New York Attorney General during the years 1872-73. 
When last mentioned, Colonel Michael Corcoran languished at Libby Prison
in Richmond following his capture at Bull Run. Corcoran had enlisted as a private
in the 69th Regiment soon after its organization. On 26 August 1859, he was
elected colonel and later took his regiment on active service. On 15 August
1862 he was exchanged and released from custody. After being promoted to
general of volunteers, he received authorization to raise volunteer troops
under the auspices of the Union Defense Committee. He organized the Corcoran
Legion, consisting of the 155th, 164th, 170th and 182nd New York Volunteer
Regiments. Unfortunately, this highly skilled and promising officer died
after a fall from his horse while on active service on 22 December 1863.35
such as Sickles, Butterfield and Corcoran were among thousands of other prewar
militia members who rose to lead the new mass armies as 1862 dawned and the
war entered a new phase.
New York State militia leaders successfully completed their mission of raising
the volunteer forces and they did it largely without Federal assistance.
In a relatively short time, they organized these units within the existing
The staff organization required extensive expansion to meet these demands,
and the role of the quartermaster general's department cannot be underestimated
or left unrecognized. The prosecution of the war would certainly have taken
a far different course without the almost Herculean efforts of state militia
authorities in New York and other states.
Chapter Three Footnotes
1. New York State, Annual Report of the Adjutant General (Albany,
29. Hereinafter cited as: AG.
2. William Todd, The 79th Highlanders, New York Volunteers 1861-65 (Albany,
NY: Press of Brandow,
Bartow & Co., 1886), 60; Russel H. Beatie, Army of the Potomac, McClellan
Takes Command, September
1861-February 1862 (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2004), 7-10.
3. AG, 1862,25.
4. Frederick Todd, Military Equipage 1851-1872 (Providence, RI: Company of
Military Historians, 1977),
5. New York State, Report of the Board of Officers (Defense Committee) (Albany,
NY: n.p. 1861), 5. This
report contains information on the board's first six months of service in the
procurement of supplies and
6. Ibid., 14.
7. Ibid., 21.
8. Dan Lorello, ed., "Unpublished Inventory of Civil War Records in
New York State Archives," (Albany,
NY: n.p., 1989), 16.
9. Silas Burt, My Memoirs of the Military History of the State of New
York during the War for the Union (Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon & Co., State Printers, 1902), 175. Colonel Burt's
monograph contains useful
information concerning the operations of the state general staff during the
10. New York State, Quartermaster General's Report (Albany, NY: n.p., 1862-64),
11. Ibid., 169-175.
12. Ibid., 12.
13. F. Todd, Military Equipage, 1016.
14. Ibid., 1020.
15. Ibid., 1029.
16. Daniel Sickles, "Military Affairs in New York 1861-65," The
Union Army (Madison, WI: n.p., 1908),
21. Sickles' extensive article includes undiminished praise for the "three-month" militia.
17. AG, 1866, 14.
18. Thomas C. Reeves, Gentleman Boss, The Life of Chester Alan Arthur (New
York: Alfred A. Knopf,
19. Ibid., 30.
20. Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Blue (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University
Press, 1864), 333;
Burt, Military Memoirs, 64.
21. "State Archives," 11.
22. New York State, Inspector General's Report (Albany, NY: C Wendell, Legislative
4. Hereinafter cited as: IG.
23. Burt, Military Memoirs, 106, 133.
24. Ibid., 98.
25. IG, 1861, 8.
26. "State Archive," 23.
27. Ibid., 17; Burt, Military Memoirs, 156.
28. AG, 1863, 23.
29. "State Archives," 52; Burt, Military Memoirs, 143.
30. Sickles, "Military Affairs," 31.
31. William J. Roehrenbeck, The Regiment that Saved the Capital (New York:
Thomas Yoseloff, 1961), 189; Jim Dan Hill, The Minute Man in Peace and
PA: The Telegraph Press, 1964), 77.
32. Sickles, "Military Affairs," 17; Edgcumb Pinchon, Dan Sickles(Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran&Co. Inc., 1945), 155-158; Warner, Generals
in Blue, 447.
33. Ibid., 62.
34. Burt, Military Memoirs, 179.
35. William Root, 69th Regiment in Peace and War (New York: Blanchard Press,
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April 6, 2006