|Unit History Project|
New York City
The Union Defense Committee.
By the action of the people of the city of New York in mass meeting assembled in Union Square, on Saturday, the 20th of April, 1861, a committee was appointed, consisting of twenty-six citizens, to whose numbers six others were subsequently added. The objects sought to be accomplished by this committee, were "to represent the citizens in the collection of funds, and the transaction of such other business in aid of the movements of the Government as the public interest may require."
" The duties of the Union Defense Committee were commenced at a time when all regular communications with the national capi-tal had ceased of necessity—rail tracks and telegraph lines ceased to perform their functions, and for many days dispatches between the departments at Washington and the officers of the Government on this station, were borne by private dispatch agents of this committee."
" In this critical condition of public affairs, the committee did not hesitate to adopt, and to carry into active operation, measures that seemed to be called for by the exigencies of the country, and their first steps, were to facilitate the equipment and outfit of regiments of volunteer militia and their dispatch to Washington for the protection of the capital.
The militia regiments, comprising an effective force of over 8,000 men, well equipped and fully armed were thrown into the field within twelve days from the date of the appeal made to the patriotism of the country for the defense of the Union. The active aid of the committee was given towards forwarding these troops.
The Quaker City, a superior sea-going steamer, was chartered by the committee
on the 25th of April. A sufficient armament was placed on board, and provisions
made for all the requisite supplies for a cruise on the Atlantic coast,
and for the support of the public works held by the Union forces on the Chesapeake
Bay. The following list comprises the captures made by the Quaker City while
engaged under charter:
" The net proceeds as prize money of the ' Amy Warwick,' was about $130,000, and the Quaker City was subsequently purchased by the Government and is now a national vessel of war. Flag Officer Stringham, an efficient and able naval officer, has borne witness to the importance of the effort thus made to give efficiency to the blockade of southern ports.
" In the latter part of April, the steamer Kill-von-Kull was chartered and supplied with provisions and other means to aid in the essential duty of repairing the railroads and bridges destroyed by the rebels in Maryland at the time of the Baltimore insurrection. On the 9th of May railroad communication north of Baltimore was resumed, and shortly after, by the expert aid of volunteer soldiers, the line was re-opened to the capital."
The committee having been informed, on the 25th of April, that a deficiency of provisions and ammunition had been reported from Fort Monroe, and that urgent necessity existed for a supply of both, immediate measure were adopted to charter therein steamer Keedar for the purpose of supplying that fortress and the neighboring army stations. The Keedar was loaded, armed, and left for Hampton Roads on the 27th carrying, in addition to the greatly needed supplies, the Fifth regiment of New York volunteer militia, commanded by Colonel Schwarzwelder. In forty-eight hours the, fortress was supplied with provisions and ammunition, and reinforced with troops, and its capture thus prevented. The quota of New York, under the President's first call of the 15th of April, was seventeen regiments of 780 men each, and by the 7th of May eleven regiments had proceeded to Washington, of which eight had been materially aided by this committee. The rebellion assuming more fearful proportions, the President was authorized to accept the services of five hundred thousand volunteers,, and by the end of July the quota of New York had reached the number of forty-six regiments, to twenty-six of which the committee had extended aid from the means placed at its disposal. At the close of the year 1861, the Empire State had increased her quota, including the three months' volunteers, to the aggregate of ninety-nine regiments of infancy, ten of cavalry, two of artillery, one of engineers, one battalion of cavalry, two of artillery, one rocket battalion, and nine batteries of artillery—making a total of 125 separate, organizations, embracing 120,316 volunteer soldiers. Of this force, the Union Defense Committee assisted to place in, the field 66 regiments.
The corporation of the city of New York, on the 25th of April, 1861, enacted an ordinance creating a fund of $1,000,000, to be placed under the control of the Union Defense Committee, to be applied to two objects, namely: the outfit and equipment of volunteers, and for the aid or support of the families of the soldiers in the field. This ordinance contained a clause pledging the reimbursement for advances from the fund, to the redemption of the bonds issued to create it. Enlistments were greatly stimulated by the knowledge that a fund had been provided to supply the wants of families deprived temporarily of their natural protectors. The means derived as above were applied strictly to the objects indicated in the ordinance, and on the 25th of October, 1861, were exhausted.
Upon the appointment of Mr. Dix, the first chairman of the committee, to the office of Major General of New York State Volunteers, Mr. Hamilton Fish was elected to succeed him, but General Dix consented to retain his membership on the committee. Upon the expiration of Mr. Fish's term of office, he was succeeded by Mr. Simeon Draper. Mr. Theodore Dehon, the first treasurer of the committee, relinquished his office at the close of April, 1861—the devotion with which he discharged his arduduous duties, making serious inroads upon his health—and died in London, on the 24th of June following. The vacancy occasioned by his resignation, was supplied by the election of Mr. A. A. Low. Prosper M. Wetmore succeeded William M. Evarts in the office of Secretary, early in the history of the committee, and continued to discharge the severe labors that devolved upon it, with perseverance and energy to the close.
On the 30th of April, 1862, the committee decided to suspend its labors, and practically ceased to exist, after a useful and patriotic life of one year. Called together by the momentous crisis of the Republic, the committee toiled unremittingly, and gave un-sparingly of time and treasure to the cause—contributing to preserve to us the Capital and Fort Monroe.
The following are the names of the gentlemen who composed the committee : John A. Dix, Simeon Draper, William M. Evarts, Theodore Dehon, Moses Taylor, Richard M. Blatchford, Edwards Pierrepont, Alexander T. Stewart, Samuel Sloan, John Jacob Astor, jr., John J. Cisco, James S. Wadsworth, Isaac Bell, James Boorman, Charles H. Marshall. Robert H. McCurdy, Moses H. Grinnell, Royal Phelps, William E. Dodge, Greene C. Bronson, Hamilton Fish, William F. Havemeyer, Charles H. Russell, James T. Brady, Rudolph A. Witthaus, Abiel A. Low, Prosper M. Wetmore, A. C. Richards, The Mayor of the city of New York, The Comptroller of the city of New York, The President of the Board of Aldermen, The President of the Board of Councilmen.
The following tables are taken from Fourth Annual Report of the Bureau
of Military Statistics of the State of New York, Albany: Week, Parsons
& Co., 1867.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military