Union Blue and Militia Gray:
The Role of the New York State Militia
in the Civil War -
Even today the "War between the States" is the term used for the
American Civil War throughout much of the South. While it was a war fought
between two national governments, many men on both sides felt that they were
serving their states as much, if not more, than their central governments.
Many of the states agreed, since the state governments raised their own units,
commissioned their officers and supplied the enlisted men. 
New York State possessed the largest of these state armies which consisted
of pre-war militia, and war-time volunteers. Unlike most other northern states,
New York continued to maintain strong militia forces throughout the conflict
for home defense, civil control and reinforcement of the Federal armies on
active service. In fact, at the beginning of the war, New York's organized
militia was larger than the United States regular army.
The New York State Militia (later renamed the National Guard), despite critical
shortages and deficiencies in armament and training, made a significant
contribution to the successful suppression of the rebellion. Some of the more
of the militia's contribution, such as their journey to Washington in 1861,
may be familiar to history buffs. Unfortunately, the whole story of those
efforts has gone largely unrecorded.
Research into this area revealed that material is spread over a wide area
of primary and secondary sources. This study is an attempt to present
in a comprehensive narrative, and analysis of New York's militia forces
during the War of the Rebellion when events at home and abroad demanded
self-sacrifice and dedication from its citizen soldiers. I have purposely
concentrated on the state militia and National Guard units. Histories of the
war-time volunteer forces can be found in numerous other publications, and
I have refrained from discussing the volunteers except where their participation
was directly related to or affected by the state militia. Additionally, the
human factor has not been neglected since the soldiers' patriotism and aspirations
directly affected events and their own performance.
In a military career spanning more than twenty-eight years, I spent thirteen
years in various command and staff positions in the 1st Battalion, 107th
U.S. Infantry, New York Army National Guard (the old 7th Regiment, New
York State Militia). During that time I quickly learned how valuable
the contributions of the reserve components have been to our state and
nation. The term, "twice a citizen," became a watchword for
the patriotism and dedication displayed by my fellow officers and soldiers.
In that same vein, this study was motivated by the high regard and respect
which have been fostered in me towards the militia and National Guard
forces. This study is therefore dedicated to my comrades in the Army
My heartfelt thanks are extended to Diana Van Dorn who graciously typed
the manuscript, and cheerfully put up with many changes and alterations.
The text was updated and corrected on 17 March 2005.
1. Phillip Katcher, American Civil War Armies, State Forces (London: Osprey
Books, 1989), IV: 3.
Back to the Unit History Project - Civil War Units
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
April 6, 2006