|Unit History Project|
New York Infantry Regiment, 1st
FIRST REGIMENT INFANTRY, N. Y. S. V.
The regiment received from the State, exclusive of subsistence and quarters, the sum of $41,240.72; from the Union Defense Committee, $4,500; from the Chamber of Commerce, $1,500, and other sums from private parties. It was furnished with U. S. percussion muskets, pattern of 1842, calibre 69, by Brigadier-General Benjamin Welch, jr., Commissary-General of the State, May 23d, 1861. On the 29th August, 1861, these muskets were changed by the State authorities to Remington rifles, with angular bayonets. On the 24th May, the State issued to the regiment eighty-three common and eighteen wall tents.
The regiment left its quarters on Staten Island, on the 26th of May, 1861, and embarked on board the, steamer State of Georgia for the seat of war, with 37 officers and 800 men. It was disembarked at Fortress Monroe on the 31st, and went into camp about one mile inland. At 10 P. M. of June 9th, the long roll was beaten, the regiment turned out and formed and was, marched rapidly to Hampton Creek Bridge, about three miles, with the intention to proceed to Big Bethel, where our forces were reported to be engaged. At Hampton Creek the bridge was found to be destroyed, and the regiment returned to camp. At 10.A.M. of the 10th, orders were received to advance the regiment to the support of our troops at the front. The creek at. Hampton was crossed in batteaux, and a forced march of nine miles brought the regiment to the scene of action about noon, where it was deployed directly in front and within a short distance of the enemy's batteries, and ordered to He down and await the proper moment to assault the works. This position was occupied, under a severe fire of bull and canister, for four hours. The attack being at length discontinued, the regiment was withdrawn. This action proved it to be composed of excellent material.
On the 3d of July the regiment was ordered to Newport News, Va., about seven miles up the James River, where it remained until the, spring of 1862. During the fall and winter it received some 370 recruits.
On the 8th of March, 1862, the regiment was exposed to an attack by the, iron-clad Merrimac, and was under, fire for several hours.
On the 3d of June the regiment was sent to reinforce the army of the Potomac, and joined that army just subsequent to the battle of Fair Oaks (May 31st and June 1st). It was embarked from Newport News on board of transports, and landed at White House, on the Pamunky, on the 4th, and from thence transported to Savage's Station by the York River railroad. Here it was assigned to general Berry's brigade, of General Kearney's division, of the Third Corps, Gen. Heintzelman.
Oh the 11th of June the brigade moved to the front, and commenced the construction of a line of defenses, consisting of redoubts, rifle-pits, etc. The picket lines of the contending forces were very close to each other, and maintained a constant fire.
On the 25th an effort to advance our lines slightly, produced the engagement known as the battle of Peach Orchard. The right wing of the regiment was particularly engaged, and suffered very considerable loss. At one time our line was thrown in confusion and driven back, when this wing steadily and obstinately maintained its ground, and afforded time and opportunity for the other regiments to rally and return to the attack.
On the 29th of June, when the army began its movement toward the James River, the regiment was left on picket, with instructions to maintain the line as long as possible, and then to fall back skirmishing and rejoin the army. This order was fully obeyed, and the regiment was engaged with the enemy until it rejoined its brigade at about 10 A. M., near Glendale.
On the morning of the 30th of June, while the regiment was formed for monthly muster, the corps was attacked by the enemy, and the regiment was moved by double-quick to the scene of action. Passing through a dense growth of woods and brush, it was placed in ambush, for the, purpose of flanking the enemy should they succeed in debouching from the Charles City cross road through the forest of pines, The enemy, however, were unable to emerge here, and turning the attack into a feint suddenly moved upon us from another direction, and the sanguinary battle of Glen-dale was begun. After much manoeuvring, the brigade went into the fight at 3 P.M., and as evidence of the intensity of the fire sustained by the regiment, it may be mentioned that of the four sergeants carrying the four colors, and eleven corporals comprising the color guard, only one escaped, the remainder being killed or wounded less than ten minutes time. A Pennsylvania brigade on the right giving way, the regiment was assailed in front, flank and rear, and obliged to change its position. At this juncture the Irish brigade, of the second corps, appeared, drove the enemy before them, and regained the ground that had been lost.
By the order of General Kearney, the regiment was placed on picket until about 3 A. M, OF July 1ST, when it was very silently and cautiously withdrawn. A position on the heights, towards the James River, was reached in the afternoon, and here the important and decisive battle of Malvern Hill was fought. In this action the regiment was first place in the second line and then sent to the support of Thompson's battery. While in this latter position it assisted in repulsing several determined assaults of the enemy to capture the battery.
About 2 P. M. of July 2d, the regiment again took up the line of march. About 6 P. M. rain commenced falling and the roads soon became almost impassable in consequence of the mud. The army passed over fields and through woods, covering a wide lateral space, and arrived at Harrison's Bar about 9 P. M. Here the whole army was indiscriminately together, regiments alone retaining their organization.
Early the next morning a force of the enemy occupied a long low range of hills in rear of the camp; and commenced throwing shot and shell. They were soon driven off, however, by the gun-boats, and measures were taken to defend our position. The brigade was now moved a mile or two back from the river, stacked arms, and was obliged to bivouac without tents, knapsacks or rations. On the morning of the 4th the regiment began the erection of earth-works, rifle-pits, etc., and until the 15th of August was engaged almost constantly constructing defenses and on picket duty, and suffered severely from the heat and from typhoid fever and dysentery.On the 15th of August the army evacuated Harrison's Bar, and on the 19th the division to which the regiment was attached reached Yorktown and embarked the next day on transports for Alexandria. On the 22d the regiment reached Alexandria and took the cars on the Orange and Alexandria railroad for Warren-ton Junction, which place was reached at 2 A. M. of the 23d. At daylight an advance of two miles was made and the construction of rifle-pits began. On the 24th the regiment and brigade marched five miles further to the west to Licking Creek and there bivouacked.
On the 27th the regiment marched eighteen miles up the rail road to Gainsville ; on the 28th marched from near Gainsville to Centreville, passing through Manassas Junction engaging in some skirmishing with the enemy near Bull Run, and remaining as a picket guard until sunset; reached Centreville at 9 o'clock P. M. At sunrise on the 29th the regiment was on the march towards Bull Run, and participated in that battle. During the night the regiment was in the reserve, to cover the retreat of the army to Centreville, and also on the 30th.
On the 1st of September the battle of Chantilly was fought. This action commenced three miles from Fairfax Court House, about 3 P. M., and although well contested, the Federal forces were forced to full back with the loss of the brave and lamented Gen. Kearney. A march of eighteen miles brought the regiment on the 3d of September, to within a mile of Fort Lyon, where it encamped.
The regiment remained in the vicinity of the defenses of Washington, principally engaged in picket duty, until the 11th of October, when it broke camp and marched to Poolsville, Md., and encamped near Edwards Ferry on the 14th. On the 28th it forded, in heavy marching order, the Potomac river at White's ford, and bivouacked about three miles from the Virginia side of the ford. On the 31st marched eight miles to Mountain Farm, near Leesburgh, and remained until the 2d of November. Then marched eight miles to Mount Gilead ; and on the 3d ten miles3 to Middleburgh, Va. On the 4th remained in camp ; 5th, marched seventeen miles to near Salem; 6th, marched to Crane's Farm, near Waterloo; 8th, went on picket and remained until the 10th, when it crossed the Rappahannock at Waterloo, and bivouacked with the division two miles north of the river, for the purpose of supporting a heavy cavalry reconnaissance which had been made in that direction. On the 12th returned to the camp before occupied by the division. On the 16th proceeded to Warrenton, Va,; on the 17th to Liberty; 18th to Morrisville; 19th to Locust Hill, eleven miles from Fredericksburgh, and remained until the 22d, and then marched twelve miles to near Falmouth, Va. Here the regiment remained, exercising in drill and participating in the preparations that culminated in the march across the river and the battle of Fredericksburgh.
On the 11th of December the regiment moved to Falmouth, and bivouacked in a wood near the river and railroad until 5 P.M. of the 12th, when the march was resumed and a point reached in a wood two miles below Fredericksburgh. Early in the morning of the 13th the regiment moved and crossed the Rappahannock about noon on pontoons. Most of the army had already passed over, and the battle was raging along a line full five miles in extent. The regiment and division moved rapidly to the left, to the support of General Franklin, and in doing so was exposed to a serious flank fire. It arrived upon the field just in time to meet the victorious charges of Jackson's men, drive them back upon their lines, and give General Franklin's command opportunity to rally and reform. In this engagement the regiment and brigade formed the second line until 2 P. M., when it relieved the first, and there remained until 10 P. M., when it was in turn relieved. In line of battle, or two hundred yards to the front on picket, the regiment remained until the l5th, when, at 10 P.M., it was silently withdrawn, and at midnight, with the entire army, recrossed the Rappahannock. On the 16th it returned to its old camp.
On the 20th of January, 1863, the army of the Potomac, under General Burnside, made its second attempt to cross the Rappahannock river and dislodge the enemy. The regiment participated in this movement and shared in the privations and fatigues of a march that was rendered abortive by a sudden change in the weather.
On the 2d of April the regiment and corps moved camp to a point four miles nearer the Potomac Creek bridge, where they established "Camp Sickles." The term of the regiment was now rapidly drawing to a close. A question had been already raised in regard to the period for which two years' regiments would be actually held, and this question was to be determined in the case of the First New York, not only for itself, but for all two years' men. The period of service was claimed to expire on the 22d of April; and considerable effort was made on the part of other regiments to induce the men to refuse to serve for a longer period. On the 21st a communication was received from the War Department, stating that the regiment " would be held in the service until the 7th of May," the date on which its last company was mustered into the service of the United States in 1861. This order was communicated to the regiment on the 22d, and the men enjoined to yield to it a hearty and full compliance. Notwithstanding the appeal of the officers on the 23d the whole regiment laid down their arms and refused to do duty. A day or two spent in consideration, however, led them to an admission of their folly, and to a cheerful return to duty.
On the 28th of April the regiment left camp; crossed United States Ford May 1st, and during the day was held in reserve, with the corps, on the plank road near Chancellorsville. On the 2d, at noon, it was seriously engaged, and, at 11 P. M., with the 1st and 3d brigades of the division, made an assault with fixed bayonets through a dense piece of woods, with a view to drive the enemy back from the road recently occupied by our forces. The enemy were driven from two lines of rifle pits and breast-works, and pressed back to the road. Here a hot fire from front and both flanks obliged our forces to fall back to the rifle-pits, which were held during the night. On the 3d the rifle-pits were abandoned, and the regiment assigned to the support of the Fourth United States Battery, where, for two hours, it laid under a tremendous artillery fire. It then participated in a splendid bayonet charge to drive the enemy from our front. At 2 P. M. a new position was assigned to the battery, in which the regiment again sustained, a heavy fire from artillery and sharp-shooters. On the 6th the army recrossed the river, and the regiment returned to its old camp.
The regiment embarked at Aquia Creek, on the 8th of May, and proceeded to New York via Washington, D. C. It arrived in New York on the 10th, and on the 11th was honored with a grand military reception and dinner. On the 25th of May it was mustered out of service.
Taken from New York (State). Bureau of Military Statistics. 3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Military Statistics. Albany: The Bureau, 1866, 40-46.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History