|Unit History Project|
New York Infantry Regiment, 2nd
SECOND REGIMENT INFANTRY, N. Y. S. V.
As soon as fully organized, inspected and accepted, the companies went into camp near Troy. They occupied the buildings of the Rensselaer County Agricultural Society just north of the city, and at once commenced to drill, both in the school of the soldier and company, without arms.
The camp was under the personal Supervision of George I. Willard, 1st Lieut 9th Inf., U. S. A., and Joseph B. Carr, Colonel 24th regiment N. Y. S. M.
Although the men had neither camp equipage nor army clothing, they were rendered comfortable by the citizens of Troy and vicinity, who kindly supplied them with blankets, straw ticks, and other articles.
On the 24th,of April eight companies having been organized, and the regimental organization being considered sufficiently complete, an election for field officers was held, which resulted in the election of George L. Willard as Colonel, Joseph B. Carr as Lieut. Colonel, and Wells Kenyon as Major. The officers thus elected at once entered upon the discharge of their duties ; staff officers were appointed, regular drills instituted and the theoretic instruction of officers;and non-commissioned officers commenced.
On the 9th of May the regiment was formally accepted and numbered by the State Military Board. The United States authorities—much to the regret of both officers and men—refused Lieut.; Willard leave of absence for the purpose of commanding the regiment, and a new election, was consequently held May 10th, Gen. Rathbone presiding, at which Lieut. Col. Carr was chosen Colonel, Major Kenyon Lieut. Colonel, and Richard B. Bloss Major, each of whom accepted, and were subsequently commissioned by the Governor.
The several companies having recruited to the maximum standard, the regiment numbering thirty-seven commissioned officers and seven hundred and forty-two enlisted men, was mustered into the United States service May 14th at their camp (then known as "Camp Willard"), by L. Sitgreaves; Capt. T. Eng., U. S. A., for the term of two years.
Arms and uniforms were received, and the men supplied therewith on the 17th; the arms being of the national armory pattern, percussion, bright, and the uniforms of grey cloth, which looked well at first, but proved to be of unserviceable quality. These uniforms were afterwards accounted for on the muster rolls of the several companies, at full, prices, as determined on by the State authorities, and required by orders from the War Department.
The next A. M., the 18th, at 8 o'clock; the regiment left Camp Willard, and, escorted by the 24th regiment N. Y. S. M., the fire department of the city, and Doring's band, marched through crowds of citizens, who seemed to have turned out en masse to the court house, where it was presented with a regimental flag— the stars and stripes—by the Hon. George .Gould, on behalf of a few young ladies of Troy. These ceremonies ended, the procession, after marching through several of the principal streets, halted near the steamboat landing and the regiment went on board two barges which had been provided by the State for its transportation. At 12 o'clock the barges left the dock in tow for Albany. On its arrival there it was placed on one barge, which, with another barge, was made fast (one being placed on each side) to the steamboat "Alida," on board of which was the 3d N.Y. Vols., Col. Townsend, and at about 5 o'clock P. M. started for New York. About four miles below Albany the lines were cut by order of Col. Carr, and the barge with the 2d regiment was towed back to Albany by the "Corning." At Albany the regimen with its baggage, was transferred to the steamboat "New World," and about 9 o'clock P. M. again started for New York, where it arrived at 9 o'clock the next morning, marched up Broadway to Devlin's building, on Canal street and there quartered during its stay in that city.
On the21st the regiment was provided with knapsacks, can-teens and camp equipage, and on the afternoon of the 22d embarked on the steamer "James Adger," which immediately left the dock and anchored off the Battery. At about 1 o'clock the next morning the steamer sailed, and at 4 o'clock on the morning of the 24th-arrived at Fortress Monroe. During the forenoon the regiment disembarked, and at about noon marched across the bridge over "Mill Creek" to the mainland, where pickets were thrown out and tents pitched. This was the first encampment in Virginia, outside of Fortress Monroe, of volunteer troops in the United States service after the commencement of the rebellion. During this day the pickets captured Col. Sewell, Maj. Gary, and another officer of the rebel army, all of whom were taken to Fortress Monroe and delivered to Gen. Butler, who was then commanding the post.
In honor of the home of the regiment the camp was christened by Col. Carr [??] "Camp Troy," but the name was afterwards changed by order of Gen. Peirce to "Camp Hamilton."
The theoretic instruction of officers and non-commissioned officers and company drills were at once, resumed, and drills in the manual of arms and by regiment commenced. On the 27th two bronze six pdr. field pieces were received from the fortress by Col. Carr, who at once placed them in charge of company F, Capt. Park.
The following named regiments arrived and encamped near the 2d N. Y. as follows, viz : the 1st Vermont volunteers and the 5th N. Y. vols. (Duryeas Zouaves), May 25th ; the 1st N. Y. the 29th the 3d June 6th, and the 10th on the 8th. The Vermont regiment remained but one day then moved to Newport News.
The troops encamped here were occasionally drilled as a brigade, the first drill of this kind being on June 1st, with Col. Duryea in command, the brigade consisting of the 1st, 2d and 5th regiments New York volunteers. The camp at about this time was under command of Ebenezer W. Peirce, Brig. Gen. Mass. volunteers, although he was never in command of the troops at any of the brigade drills.
During the earlier period of encampment here, alarms were of almost nightly occurrence, at all of which the regiment turned out and formed line. Reconnoitering parties were frequently sent out, generally in the direction of "Back River."
On the 7th of June, Maj. Bloss was detailed with companies "E" and "G" to proceed to Hampton by land on a reconnoitering expedition. In the execution of this order, the detachment, reinforced by volunteers from other companies of the regiment, scouted to and beyond Hampton, and seeing nothing of the enemy, returned to that place and remained over night. On the 8th Maj. Bloss (having injured his ankle), ordered the senior captain, George "W. Willson, to take command of the detachment and continue the reconnoisance towards Big Bethel. Soon after breakfast the detachment started. After crossing New Market Bridge and proceeding some mile or two beyond, six or eight men (supposed to be a scouting or picket party of the enemy), were seen at a house near a cross road, and but a short distance ahead. Rushing out they hastily mounted their horses, and were off before a shot was fired. They soon re-appeared some half mile distant off the road in front, whereupon Capt. Willson order-ed details of ten men, each under a commissioned officer, to move, one to the right and one to the left of the road, the main force to move, as soon as the details were well started, directly on the road with the intention of capturing the enemy. The movement of the flankers was in course of execution, when Capt. Willson moved the main body to the rear, at the same time sending notice thereof to the flanking parties, with orders to then to rejoin the command. This movement to the rear was continued until New Market Bridge was recrossed, where a guard of ten men was left, while the main force proceeded, on about two hundred yards down the road towards Hampton to a house, where it halted, awaiting the return of the flanking parties. About an hour and a half thereafter, while the men were preparing dinner, firing was heard at the bridge. Capt. Tibbits, of " Co. G," immediately returned then and took command of the little party who were busily engaged with a considerable and constantly augmenting force of the enemy, who made their appearance on the rise of ground beyond the stream. This force of the enemy was a portion of the Hampton Mounted Legion, then serving with the rebel army on the Peninsula under Gen. Magruder, with headquarters at Yorktown. Capt. Tibbits being unwilling to leave the flanking parties, or the bridge, remained there with his party, in the meantime removing the planking so as to make it impassable for cavalry, until the enemy brought a small field piece into position in the road, about two hundred and fifty yards in front, when he slowly retired with his men to the house where the main force had halted. Capt. Willson in the meantime had fallen back with his force towards Hampton, and forming in line of battle awaited reinforcements from camp. In this position he was rejoined by Capt. Tibbits with all the guard left at the bridge, except one private, George Mason of company " G," taken prisoner. On learning the state of affairs, Capt. Willson returned with the detachment to near New Market Bridge, and was soon joined by the remaining companies of the regiment, with the two field pieces hauled by company "F," who had, on the alarm being given, formed line and marched to their assistance, also to their great gratification, by the flanking parties sent out in the morning, one of these parties had met a small force of the enemy uniformed nearly the same as our men, and doubt being, entertained whether they were the enemy or scouts from our camp at Newport News; one of our men, Daniel Mooney, of company "E," advanced, to ascertain, and was made a prisoner, when skirmishing at once commenced, and the party fell back without further loss. No enemy being visible, the regiment soon moved back to Hampton, and leaving the artillery at the bridge then in charge of a squad of company "F," returned to camp. It is believed that this day's skirmishing was the first which occurred between Union volunteers and the enemy, and that the officers and men of the Second, N. Y., can safely claim the honor of being the first volunteers who met and engaged the enemy, and that, on his own ground. In the hundreds of engagements which have since occurred, some of these same officers and men, who at New Market Bridge first learned to trust themselves and each other, have heroically borne their part, remaining on duty with honor until the close of the rebellion released them from a service they deemed it a pleasure and a duty to perform.
This reconnoissance was followed on the 10th by the attack on Big Bethel, in which the regiment participated.
In accordance with orders, Lieutenant Cross, in command of Company F, with two field pieces, left camp at 9 oclock P. M., June 9th, and proceeded to Hampton, where he left his two six-pounders and a portion of his men, and, at 1 o'clock the next morning, with the remainder—twenty-seven men—of his company, and two light twelve-pounder howitzers, left Hampton, and, accompanying the Third New York Volunteers, moved towards Big Bethel. At about 3 1/2 o'clock, when near Little Bethel, they were met, and—being taken for the enemy—fired on, by the Seventh New York Volunteers, Colonel Bendix, which, with other forces, and, two six-pounder field pieces, had left Newport News to unite with the regiments from Camp Hamilton, in the advance. The fire was returned, but, soon recognizing each other, the forces united, and, with Brigadier General E. T, Peirce,in command, proceeded towards Big Bethel. Arriving near the place, they were fired on by the enemy, from artillery, placed behind earth-works and partially masked by trees. Our artillery—all under direction of Lieutenant Greble, U. S. A.—at once took position, in echelon, in a.road running to the left of the enemy's position, and returned the fire. Lieutenants Cross and Harrison, of company F, had, each, the immediate charge of one howitzer, regulars from the fort, pointed them and prepared ammunition, while the remaining duties were performed by the men of company F. The engagement commenced at about 9 o'clock A. M., and con-tinued, with more or less severity, until near 2 o'clock P. M.
The remaining companies of the Second Regiment left camp at about 9 o'clock A. M., June 10th, and, with the First New York Volunteers, moved towards the front.
At Hampton, they were joined by Sergeant Dodge and eight men—all of company F—with one six-pounder field piece, which was hauled by them most of the way to the scene of engagement, where they arrived at about 1 o'clock P. M. The regiment at once formed line near the position of the artillery, where they remained until the retreat of our forces, awaiting orders from Gen. Peirce. The six-pounder brought up with the regiment was at once placed in position by Lieutenant. Greble, and three shots fired from it, when he gave orders to cease firing, and moved a short distance from the piece to take observations, where he was struck by a solid shot and instantly killed. Sergeant Dodge soon resumed filing, which was continued until the attack was ordered discontinued, and the order to retreat had been given and repeated, when the gun squads fell back, the regiment, with all our forces, moving at about the same time. The retreat was conducted in an orderly manner through much indignation was felt and expressed at the mismanagement of our forces and the consequent result of the engagement. The regiment reached camp at about 6 o'clock P. M., the casualties therein being one man slightly wounded.
On the 15th of June the regiment received its first pay, it being from the State, for services commencing with the organization of the several companies, and the regiment, respectively, and ending with the muster into the United States service.
By order of Brigadier General Peirce, the two six-pounder field pieces in charge of company F, with the squads detailed to manage them, served under the direction of Colonel Max Webber, Twentieth New York Volunteers, from June 19th to July 1st, when the guns were delivered over to the "N. Y. Vo. Coast Guard," Major H. D. Whittemore, commanding, and the men returned to their company.
The fact that no medical examination of the regiment had ever been made, having been brought to the knowledge of General Butler, by his order, a board, consisting of Surgeon Rufus H. Gilbert, 5th N. Y. Vols.; Surgeon --- Faxton, of the Massachusetts volunteers, and the regimental surgeon, Read B. Bontecou, convened at the regimental hospital on the 18th of June, and at times thereafter and made a medical examination of the enlisted men therein. The business of the board performed, some of the men were given the choice to go or stay, and the wishes of company officers about retaining or rejecting them, were taken into consideration.
Memorandum lists of the "rejected" were handed to their respective company commanders, with verbal orders from Colonel Carr (which were understood to come through him from General Butler) for their discharge. On such orders, 118 men were reported on the 6th of July as discharged, and were soon after sent home. Most of the men, thus discharged, re-enlisted. Those who re-enlisted in the 2d regiment proved, physically, fully equal to the ordinary class of recruits.
Brigadier General Peirce, having left for, home with the Massachusetts volunteers, about the middle of July, Colonel Duryea, 5th N. Y. Vols., being senior officer, assumed command of the camp.
At 10 o'clock, A. M., July 25th, the regiment, in obedience, to orders, struck tents and fell into line—with one day's rations— prepared to move, but awaiting further orders. The next morn-ing line was again formed, and an order was read for the 2d, 3d and 5th regiments, N. Y. Vols., to get ready at once to move to Washington, The camp equipage was there taken to the wharf at Fort Monroe to be placed on transports, but it was soon ordered back, and the order for the 2d regiment to move was countermanded; the " California regiment," Colonel Baker, commanding, being substituted in its stead. The next day the, regiment again encamped on its old grounds.
Colonel Duryea having left, with the 5th N. Y. Vols., Colonel Max Webber, 20th N. Y. Vols., being the senior colonel, assumed command of Camp Hamilton.
On the 5th of August the regiment broke camp, went on board two steamboats, and—with its camp equipage, &c.—was taken to Camp Butler, Newport News, where it arrived at 8 o'clock P. M., went on shore and bivouacked for the night. The next day the camp equipage, &c., was removed from the boats, and the regiment encamped outside of and adjoining the earth-works, on their southeast side.
Camp Butler, at this time,was under command of J. W. Phelps, then colonel of the 1st, Vermont volunteers, subsequently brigadier general United States volunteers.
Lieutenant Colonel Kenyon and Major Bloss, having resigned soon after the battle of Big Bethel, Captain William A. Olmsted company B, was appointed lieutenant colonel, and Captain George H. Otis, of company C, major; their appointments being announced to the regiment on August 7th.
As the term of three months, from the muster of the regiment into United Stales service neared its expiration, the men seemed to become possessed with the idea that as other regiments had left for home at the expiration of that term, they were to do the same; and the fact of their having received no pay from the United States up to this time, so added to the discontent, that notwithstanding the explanations and earnest advice of some of the officers, the morning of August 15th found the arms of the regiment stacked in the company streets, and the men refusing to do duty. About twenty men who had, or 'were supposed to have, acted as leaders in this refusal, were at once arrested and sent by boat to the "Rip Raps" as prisoners, and of the men detailed for guard duty that morning, eighty-five who utterly refused to do duty, followed them in the afternoon. At the brigade drill the same afternoon, about sixty men of the regiment performed duty. After the close of the drill, Gen. Phelps addressed the men, explaining to them their duty, and the rights of the government, and allowed them until the next morning to make up their minds what they would do. At the morning drill on the 16th, about, one hundred and twenty-five men were on duty including all of company "F," Capt. Park ; but in the afternoon two hundred and ten, who still refused, to do duty, were sent as prisoners to the "Rip Raps." After having time fully to consider their situation, most of these men signed a request to be allowed to return to their regiment and do duty, and Gen. John E. Wool, then commanding at Fort Monroe, generously granted their request and on the 23d all but ten or fifteen of the party, who were retained for trial, again joined the regiment.
On the 28th of August, Lieut. Col. Olmsted with on noncommissioned officer, left camp for Troy N. Y., having been that day detailed on recruiting service, with orders to proceed immediately to that place and recruit the regiment to the maximum, 1,046. On the 22d of September, Capt. Arts and one enlisted man were sent on to Troy to assist Lieut. Col. Olmsted in his recruiting duties, rejoining the regiment November 21st, having been on duty most of the time in Albany. Lieut. Col. Olmsted and the rest of the recruiting party rejoined it December 13th. During its tour of duty this recruiting party enlisted and forwarded to the regiment, at different-times, one hundred and eighty-one men, in addition to "Doring's band," of Troy, consisting of sixteen musicians. This band, one of the best in service, joined the regiment October 20th.
The ranks of the regiment were still further increased by the transfer thereto of one hundred and thirty men, who had originally enlisted in volunteer regiments as follows, viz: in the 2d Maine, sixty-six ; 13th New York, one ; 19th New York twenty-three ; and twenty-first New York, forty.
At the expiration of three months from their respective musters into United States service, these men had refused to do duty, and had been ordered, without trial, to be sent to the Dry Tortugas, "for mutiny," but while temporarily stopping at the "Rip Raps" they were induced by Gen. Wool to sign an agreement to return to duty and serve out the balance of their time, and they were then, by his orders, transferred to the 2d New York Vols. Those from the 2d Maine, and 13th and 21st New York, were transferred October 3d, and those from the 19th New York November 21st.
On the 11th of November the cutting of timber for barracks and officers' quarters commenced. The barracks—one for each company—were completed and occupied in December, 1861, and the officers' quarters in the latter part of January, 1862. General Phelps having been assigned to duty with the "Butler expedition," General J. K. F. Mansfield was assigned to and assumed command of the forces at Camp Butler, November 24th, 1861. On the 1st of January, 1862 (the regiment at this time numbering nine-hundred and eighteen enlisted men), Captain Wm. McConihe, Lieutenant James A. Cross and four enlisted men were detailed on recruiting service and ordered to report to Major J. T. Sprague, superintendent volunteer recruiting, at Albany, N. Y., for orders. Of this party Lieutenant Cross rejoined the regiment April 14th, and the remainder May 23d, having enlisted and forwarded thereto, during its time of service, seventeen men. On the 17th of January, 1862, Colonel Carr, in command of seven companies—about five hundred men—of the regiment, made reconnaissance about six miles up the James river, on the north east bank, arrested and brought into camp one man wearing the uniform of the enemy, drove in his pickets and gained much valuable information relative to the topography of the country. During this reconnaissance two of the men, who were deployed on the flank, coming to a swamp, took the side-cut, which led to the lines of the enemy by whom they were taken prisoners.
The arms in use by the regiment not being deemed serviceable for sharpshooting, those in possession of the flank companies, E and F, were, during the winter, exchanged tor Remington rifles, as they could be obtained.
The troops at camp Butler, being brigaded together, were, on the 7th of March, designated by the General commanding as the "1st Brigade, 1st Division, Department of Virginia."
At about 1 o'clock P. M., March 8th, the rebel iron-clad steamer Merrimac, followed by two small vessels, rounded Craney Island on her first appearance from Norfolk, and moved direct for Newport News. Passing the frigate Congress, she attacked the Cumberland which lay about one eighth of a mile off shore, at the mouth of the James river. After ramming into the Cumberland, and firing shot and shell through her hull, she backed off, smashed into her again, continued firing, and then, leaving her in a sinking condition, moved slowly up the James river about a mile. The Congress had fired on the the Merrimac as she passed, the Cumberland had been nobly fought, and the battery on shore had poured a continuous plunging fire of eight; inch shot and shell into her, but all had not made the slightest perceptible impression. The Merrimac, accompanied by the Jamestown and Patrick Henry, from Richmond, soon returned and attacked the Congress, which had slipped her cables and started towards Fort Monroe. After a short encounter the Congress surrendered.
A small steamboat was soon sent alongside the Congress (which had now ran aground) by the enemy, to remove the officers and crew, but the sharp-shooters who lined the shore, acting under General Mansfield's orders, opened upon it with such a severe fire that it was soon driven away. Then the Merrimac again opened on the Congress with shot and shell, setting her on fire, after which she moved slowly away, Most of the officers and crew of the Congress, including the wounded, were brought on shore soon after, but about fifty having been taken off as prisoners.
She continued burning until 11 o'clock, P. M., when her magazine exploded. The Cumberland had been gallantly fought to the last, refusing to surrender but going down with all her killed and wounded, and with her colors flying at her mast-head. About one-half of her officers and crew escaped by swimming to the shore.
At about half past one o'clock P. M., of this day, on the Merrimac arriving off Newport News, the long roll was beaten and the regiment formed line on its parade ground, where it remained until evening, no one being injured, though many shot and shell from the enemy's guns passed through and over the camp. Acting under standing orders, Lieutenant George Gould, of Co. B, and a detachment of about twenty-five men of the regiment, who were detailed and had served as artillerists, were engaged during this action in serving a light field piece, and the large guns at the water battery. The Merrimac and the other vessels of the enemy lay off Sewall's Point the next morning, and at 9 o'clock the engagement with the Ericsson Monitor, which had arrived the night before, commenced, and continued until about noon, when the Merrimac and her consorts returned towards Norfolk. A land force of the enemy advanced to, and remained this day, within about one and a half miles of our picket lines, but made no attack.
Owing to the strong probability of active service at this post, on the 12th of March Gen. Mansfield ordered all officers whose wives were with them, to "send them off to their homes or a place of safety;" and on the 18th, by direction of the War Department, all persons not necessary to the command were ordered to leave without delay, and all officers and soldiers having valuable baggage or other articles with them, were ordered to send it out of the way, or to a place of safety.
During the latter part of March the muskets and Remington rifles in possession of the several companies were all turned in, and "rifled muskets, model 1822 brown bands," issued to all the companies of the regiment. These arms, the homeliest in the service, were retained during the balance of the term of service of the regiment.
On the afternoon of the 6th of April nine companies of the regiment (company F being left behind as camp guard) started for Young's Mills. After proceeding about eight miles they bivouacked for the night, and the next morning moved on to the Mills, which were found to be about thirteen miles above Newport News, and near Warwick Court House. At this place was found an evacuated Confederate camp, which, by order of Col. Carr was designated as " Camp Mansfield." Here the regiment was posted to prevent the enemy, who occupied Mulberry Island, from landing to attack Gen. McClellan's forces in the rear, they, at this, time occupying the lower portion of the peninsula, the works at Yorktown not having been taken possession of. The regiment remained at this point, doing picket duty, until the 17th, when, being relieved by a regiment from Casey's division, it returned to Camp Butler.
The 24th of April—the anniversary of the organization of the regiment—was celebrated by a full dress parade and review by Gen. Mansfield, an address by Quartermaster McArthur, and speeches by Gen. Mansfield, Col. Carr, and others.
From the time the regiment arrived at Newport News the officers and men therein were drilled (there being usually two drills each day) at the bayonet exercise, as skirmishers, and at company, regimental and brigade drills. Details from the regiment were also drilled in both light and heavy artillery.
Immediately after the, occupation of Yorktown by the forces under Gen. McClellan, in accordance with orders received preparations to move were made by the forces at Newport News, and on the 10th of May, by order of Gen. Wool, the 2d New York and 29th Massachusetts volunteers broke camp and marched to Camp Hamilton. Here the 2d New York was quartered in the hay lofts over the stables of the 11th Pennsylvania cavalry. The 29th; Massachusetts, with other forces, all under the command of Gen. Wool, moved on toward Norfolk, which was taken possession of by them the same afternoon.
At about 5 o'clock next morning, May 11th, the notorious "Merrimac," which had often made her appearance since her engagement in March, and had created considerable consternation at times, was abandoned and blown up by the enemy while lying near the Craney Island batteries.
On the 13th the regiment went into camp, occupying the quarters but recently vacated by the 16th Massachusetts volunteers.
This narrative ends with the first year's service of the regiments.
Taken from New York (State). Bureau of Military Statistics. 3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Military Statistics. Albany: The Bureau, 1866, 49-61.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History