THE IRON HEARTED REGIMENT
LARGE LOSS OF LIFE.
At early dawn on the morning of July 31st, the regiment was roused up from a
deep sleep and ordered to proceed to City Point without delay. The men felt
tired and worn, for the hot work of the previous day told on the most powerful
The roads were black with troops as far as the eye could reach, and dense clouds
of dust swept over the country like a tornado. The day was the warmest of the
season, being at the height of the great drouth; the wells and streams of water
were nearly all dried up, and but few of the vast number of sufferers could
procure drink to cool their parched tongues. City Point was nearly reached,
when orders came to turn back and proceed to Bermuda Hundreds. All along the
route of march many were overcome with heat, until the sides of the road were
covered with soldiers suffering with sun-stroke. Some dropped down dead in the
ranks, while others fell out and died by the road side. Every ambulance and
baggage-waggon was piled full of the suffering men, and they rolled off to the
hospital at Point of Rocks, groaning under the weight of human freight.
The Appomattox river was reached in the afternoon, and although the water was
the color of mud, and as hot as though heated on a stove, yet the soldiers made
for it as though struggling for dear life, and hundreds drank down the sickening
The troops crossed the river on a pontoon bridge which swayed to and fro. The
motion of it made the men dizzy, and large numbers who were only partially affected
by the sun, were completely prostrated, and as many as half a dozen laid at
the end dead.
The regiment reached Bermuda Hundreds before dark, but with thinned ranks, and
we found that in some companies nearly every man was sun-struck. The division
lost more men that day, killed by the sun, the want of water, and by hard marching,
than it did in the terrible battle of the day before.
ON PICKET AT BERMUDA HUNDREDS.
The Union and rebel pickets made an agreement that they would not fire into
each other unless a forward movement was made; so for several days the most
perfect harmony prevailed between blue and grey.
Yankees and Johnnies washed together in the same brook, procured water to drink
from the same spring, drank coffee from the same tin cup, and curious to relate,
read the news from the same papers.
Squads of soldiers from both armies were observed seated together on the ground,
earnestly discussing the great questions of the day, each obstinately maintaining
his own side of the question. One of our soldiers took from his pocket a copy
of the New York Herald and read the Union account of one of the great battles
to an attentive crowd of rebel soldiers, and when he had done, one of the chivalry
brought to view a dingy copy of the Richmond Examiner and proceeded to read
his side of the story.
During all that time, as the rebels would say, the pickets traded "right
smart," and drove a heavy business in coffee, hard-tack, and tobacco. The
rebels always inquired for pocket-books, jackknives, and canteens the first
thing, those articles evidently being very scarce in the Confederacy.
One day a rebel regiment sent over on a card, which read thus:
"Third Va. Infantry, friends on picket, but enemies in battle."
The boys replied that if ever they fought the 115th, they would find a "dusty" lot of boys, which they afterward found to their sorrow was true.
BATTLE OF DEEP BOTTOM.
On the 15th day of August the 115th prepared three days of cooked rations, at
dark struck tents, and by 10 o'clock were on the march. They crossed the James
river on pontoons to Deep Bottom at midnight, and on the morning of the 16th
were ready for action.
The 10th and 2nd Corps fought the bloody battle of Deep Bottom on the 16th,
while considerable fighting took place on the 17th and 18th also.
The rebel works which the 115th helped storm, were defended by the best troops
of Lee's army; but they were unable to stand against the bravery of our men,
who drove them from their strong lines of works, following them as far as Malvern
The Union army was having splendid success, when the rebels received reinforcements,
and the 115th maintaining the ground, found themselves flanked by a superior
force, and were raked by a most deadly cross fire which told fearfully in their
ranks. The colors were shot down as fast as the brave men could pick them up
but still were kept floating in the breeze. Col. Osborn, commanding the brigade,
was wounded early in the fight, and Lieut.; Col. Johnson and Major Walworth
of 115th took command in succession and were each wounded in turn.
The regiment entered the battle field with one hundred and seventy-five muskets,
and after the three days fighting was over but eighty men were left uninjured.
The corps captured and brought away four heavy guns and three battle flags as
the trophies of their valor. The Union loss was about 3,000 and the rebel loss
about 4,000 men.
On the 18th, the rebels in heavy force charged down on the picket line, and
captured the most of company A.
Shortly afterward, the regiment recrossed the James, and again pitched camp
at the fortifications of Bermuda Hundreds.
BATTLE OF FORT GILMER.
After the battle of Deep Bottom the regiment performed important service at
Bermuda Hundreds and in front of Petersburg until the 29th of September, when
with the old army of the James, they again crossed the James, and gallantly
aided in carrying the enemy's powerful line of works, with double lines of abattis
at Spring Hill, near New Market.
They fought with their usual heroism, and drove the rebels in their front, at
least two miles.
The success of this battle placed the Union army in possession of a vital point.
So great was the success that two later General lee massed "the flower" of his army on the right flank of the army of the James, and the most determined
assaults were made to retake the works. The enemy was disastrously repulsed,
with a loss of seven battle flags, and the destruction of General Clingman's
Many brave men of the 115th fell, and there was a fearful loss of limbs among
the wounded. Lieut. Col. Johnson picked up the flag after it had repeatedly
been shot down, and led the regiment. Sergeant Fellows fell while carrying the
flag up to the enemy's works. Peter butler took the flag from the wounded sergeant,
and he too soon received a wound.
The 115th suffered a loss of 32 men, being about one half of the whole number
BATTLE OF DARBY TOWN ROAD.
For nearly a month after the battle of Fort Gilmer, the 115th were under almost
constant fire, and were frequently engaged with the enemy.
On the 27th of October a forward movement was again made in the direction of
Richmond which brought on a heavy battle. Portions of the 10th Corps advanced
far enough to see the church spires of the rebel capital.
While the 115th were skirmishing with the enemy, very close to Richmond, a very
unfortunate affair occurred which caused many hearts to bleed. The 9th Maine
regiment contained a large number of recruits who had never before been in a
battle, and becoming excited at the smell of gunpowder, for some reason fired
a volley into the 115th, killing and wounding a considerable number of men.
That was far worse than being killed or maimed by the enemy.
During the battle the Union army formed line on one side of a house, and the
rebel army took position on the other side.
That house contained a family of a man, his wife, and three small children.
The Union officers informed them that a battle would probably take place, and
begged them to leave the house. The father and mother said they would not leave
their home, and were determined to remain.
The work of carnage soon begun, and when at last it ended for that day it was
found that the mother and one of her children were numbered among the victims
of cruel war.
After the battle the regiment went into camp about six miles from Richmond,
where it remained until the famous expedition under Gen. Butler sailed for the
coast of North Carolina.
THE TWO ATTACKS ON FORT FISHER.
Early in the month of December,1864, Gen. Butler's great expedition left Fortress
Monroe for the coast of North Carolina, and the 115th accompanied it. The expedition
was fitted out on a grand scale, being composed of nearly seventy vessels of
war, and divided into five grand divisions, besides a vast number of transports,
supply vessels tenders, &c. The land force numbered several thousand men
from the army of the James. After a rough voyage the fleet finally arrived off
the coast of North Carolina, when a great storm suddenly arose scattering the
fleet in all directions.
Some vessels reached Newbern and some Moorehead city, while the Hays, conveying
the 115th, put to sea and rode out the storm. At last the navy and the land
forces appeared at Fort Fisher. The powder boat was blown up with but little
effect. The navy poured a terrific fire into the fort, and a portion of the
troops were landed. Some heavy skirmishing had taken place, when General Butler
decided that the fort could not be carried by assault; so the troops returned
The 115th had been on one of the smallest transports for over twenty days, in
the roughest weather, with but little clothing, and suffered much from the cold.
They had hardly formed camp before they were under marching orders again.
General Butler had been released from command, and General Alfred h. Terry,
of the 10th Corps, was placed in charge of the expedition, and ordered to capture
On the night of January 3rd, 1865, the 115th marched through a driving snow
storm to Bermuda Hundreds, and on the 4th embarked on the second expedition
against Fort Fisher.
It is only necessary to state that the regiment reached the point of attack,
and with the gallant old 10th Corps Division, assaulted and carried Fort Fisher,
the strongest fortification in America, on Sunday, January 15th 1865, after
fighting desperately for over six hours.
The capture of this stronghold sealed the port of Wilmington, and did more towards
ending the war than any other event.
The following official dispatch will serve to show the magnitude of the work
Headquarters U.S. Forces,
On Federal Point, N.C., Jan. 15,
via Fortress Monroe, Jan. 17, 1865
Brig. Gen. J. A. Rawlins:
General: I have the honor to report that Fort Fisher was carried by assault
this afternoon and evening, by Gen. Ames's Division and the Second Brigade of
the First Division of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps, gallantly aided by a battalion
of marines and seamen from the Navy.
The assault was preceded by a heavy bombardment from the Union fleet, and was
made at 3.30 P.M., when the First Brigade (Curtis's) of Ames's division effected
a lodgement on the parapet, but full possession of the work was not obtained
until 10 P.M.
The behavior of both officers and men was most admirable. All the works south
of Fort fisher are now occupied by our troops. We have not less than 1,200 prisoners,
including Gen. Whiting and Col. Lamb, the commandant of the fort.
I regret to say that our loss is severe, especially in officers. I am not yet
able to form any estimate of the number of casualties.
ALFRED H. TERRY, Brevet Maj. Gen.,
About 8 o'clock on the morning of January 16th, 1665, while the survivors of
the Third Brigade were lying in fancied security in Fort Fisher with arms stacked,
the main magazine of the fort exploded with a terrible noise, burying a large
portion of the 115th and the other regiments of the brigade in the ruins.
A large number were killed, and nearly all were wounded or bruised, and some
were buried alive. Some of the regiment were covered to the depth of twenty
feet beneath the mass of falling shells, earth and timber, while others were
smashed to atoms.
The New York Tribune correspondent, in writing in relation to the explosion
"This morning about 8 o'clock, as I had just entered and was walking leisurely
through Fort Fisher, studying the record of horror before me, torn traverse
by traverse, dismounted gun by; gun, ghastly corpse by corpse, death and destruction
all around,--I may say breakfasting upon horrors, that I might know of what
I might speak, I was suddenly startled by a terrific explosion and the sight
of an immense column of debris going high into the air. Following the instincts
of nature and the example of those around me, and vividly remembering City Point,
as they say of Fort Pillow, and having acquired something of a habit of dodging
the day before, I put myself under the best cover within reach, which I confess
was very unsatisfactory under the circumstances, and waited a shower to come
down, thinking of City Point, all the while. We happened to be in the outer
edge of the shower, and very little injury, comparatively, was sustained in
The secret of the catastrophe was the explosion of the magazine of the fort.
This magazine consisted principally of an immense mound of earth, situated immediately
back of the centre of the main or sea-wall of the fort.
Some of our boys had been rummaging around in the bomb-proofs, including the
magazine, striking lights and behaving in a careless manner generally, and it
is supposed that in this way the accident occurred. In fact, it is said that
an officer remonstrated with a soldier for having a lighted candle in the magazine,
but receiving an insolent reply left him to his fate, and that soon after the
magazine went up.
The explosion, instead of the mound, left a crater, as in the case before Petersburg,
burying everything and everybody near the place from one to ten feet in the
debris. The 4th New Hampshire and the 115th and 169th New York Regiments (all
but one regiment of Col. Alden's brigade) had been detailed to occupy the fort,
and at the time of the explosion were bivouacking with their arms stacked, on
a level space near the magazine.
Almost the whole three regiments were buried alive to a greater or less depth,
by the falling debris of earth, shot, shell, timbers, &c., &c.
It is estimated that the 115th New York lost 110 in killed and wounded; the
169th new York 30 killed and 75 wounded; and the 4th New Hampshire 50 killed
and wounded; in all, about 265 for the three regiments, besides many not belonging
to these regiments.
The survivors of the three regiments and a large number of other volunteer workmen
have been engaged a large part of the day in digging up bodies, with a prospect
of not getting thoroughly through before night.
There were a great many persons in the fort at the time of the explosion,
besides the three regiments on duty, drawn there by curiosity, and every foot
of the debris on all sides of the crater will have to be dug over before the
work can be properly relinquished.
THE CLOSING CAMPAIGN OF THE WAR.
On the 10th of February the great movement began in the direction of the city
of Wilmington, and of course the 115th moved also. Fort Anderson was captured
on the 19th, and on the 22d of February the 115th had the honor of taking part
in the capture of Wilmington itself. From the 26th of March to the 9th of April
they were guarding the Wilmington & Weldon R.R., starting on the long march
to Raleigh on the 9th, and arriving there on the evening of the 14th. They at
first camped a mile and half outside of the city, moving camp nearly every day
until the 20th of April, when the corps was reviewed at the State house by General
Sherman. The Brigade then began to garrison the city, full one half of the men
acting as safety guards for the citizens.
The 115th made numerous long marches, performed much hard work not mentioned
here, and were under orders to move against Johnson, when that officer surrendered
his army to General Sherman.
Just before the regiment left for home General Allen issued the following stirring
Headquarter, 3rd Brigade,
2nd Div., 10th Army Corps,
Raleigh, N.C., June 18th, 1865.
General Order, No. 15.
Officers and Men of the 115th Regiment, N.Y. Volunteers: As you are about to
return to your own state, thence to your respective homes, the general commanding
feels called upon, not only in his own behalf, but also in behalf of our common
country, to thank you for your gallant service in this war of the rebellion,
and with pride may you refer to the numerous battles in which you have acquitted
yourselves with honor, such as Olustee, Coal Harbor, Petersburg, Fort Fisher,
and many others. Many of your gallant comrades have gloriously fallen in the
storm of battle while bravely doing their duty to their country and to their
God, and their memory will ever be cherished by a grateful country.
The homes which you have honored by your service to your country, and periled
your lives to protect from the shame and the disgrace which success of traitors
would have involved upon them, are waiting to welcome you, and the record of
your military career warrants the belief that in civil life you will all discharge
your duties in a manner that will reflect credit upon yourselves as citizens.
Brev. Brig. Gen'l Comd'g 3d Brig.
On the 17th day of June, 1865, the 115th were mustered out of he U.S. service
at Raleigh, N.C. The officers and recruits whose time did not expire prior to
Oct. 1st were transferred to the 47th New York, and many of them wept as they
parted with the old regiment.
On the 21st day of June, the 115th accompanied by the splendid brigade band
left Raleigh, and all the regiments and bands in the city turned out to escort
them to the cars. No regiment ever received greater honors from their comrades
They went by rail to within fifteen miles of Petersburg, Va., marched to that
city, took cars to City Point and there embarked on a transport, sailing direct
to New York city.
The 115th reached Albany early on the morning of June 26th, and marched up Broadway
in splendid style, while the cannon at the Capitol thundered a welcome.
After being well cared for, the veterans marched to the barracks on the Albany
and Troy road, remaining there until July 3d, when they received final payment
and discharge. They then separated to their various homes, and the 115th Regiment
ceased to exist, except in the memory of a grateful people.
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New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military
March 19, 2006