|Unit History Project|
39th Regiment, New York volunteer Infantry
The Thirty-ninth regiment, infantry N. Y. S. V., or " Garibaldi Guard," organized in May, 1861, was the first three years' regiment from the State, and the first of fourteen regiments which the President and his cabinet authorized the Union Defense Committee to raise or select on account of the city of New York. The call for seventy-five thousand two-years' men had been filled, and it was with much difficulty that acceptance for additional regiments from the several States could be obtained.
The " Garibaldi Guard " represented several European continental nationalities; being composed of three Hungarian companies, three German, one Swiss, one Italian, one French, and one Spanish and Portuguese. These companies, many of whose members had seen severe service, were recruited in April and May, 1861, in New York city, principally as follows:
FIELD OFFICERS AND COMMISSIONED STAFF, AT ORGANIZATION.
A bugle corps of about forty instruments, in place of a regular regimental band, was attached to the regiment. Several vivandieres joined the companies — all wives of members, although one is reported to have married a soldier never seen by her before, in order to go.
The Union Defense Committee furnished uniforms of dark blue pants and coat, shoes with black leather leggins, and Garibaldi hats of black felt, round top, wide band ornamented with a medallion American eagle, a tri-color badge and black plume. The Committee defrayed the entire cost of the regiment and disbursed, on its account, for arms, ammunition, tents, wagons, &c, $4,486.50: rations and medical stores, $7,527.63; clothing outfit and equipments, $40,126.61 —total, $52,140.74.
On the 23d of May, the Guard was presented, in presence of a throng of
admiring and enthusiastic spectators, with a beautiful stand of colors.
is thus described:
The next flag presented was a rich Hungarian standard—green, red and white stripes. On one side was the motto, within a wreath, " Vincere aut Morire ;" and on the opposite side, in English, the same motto, " Conquer or Die." The regimental name appeared on each side, over and underneath the wreaths, in English. This elegant present was from Miss Grinnell. It had four beautiful silk pendents of colors and inscriptions, the latter embroidered as follows : white, " Sylvia Grinnell;" red, " presented to the Garibaldi Guard;" blue, "New York, 23d May, 1861;" red, white and blue, " Brethren before, brethren again."
The next flag attracted much attention from the fact that it was surrounded by revolutionary and sanguinary memories. This was the tri-color standard which the patriot Garibaldi bore in triumph through the campaign of 1848 and 1849, and with his own hand planted on the battlements of one of the castles of the Eternal City— a triumphant emblem of liberty and power. The flag was composed of the Italian colors—green, red, and white—and was inscribed in Italian in the center, " Dio e Popoli "—God and the People.
In presenting this flag to the regiment, Lieut.-Colonel Repetti came
to the front, leading by the hand a very beautiful young lady, the daughter
Avezzana, and addressed the regiment in the Italian language. He in substance,
Under special orders, No. 234, May 27, 1861, the Garibaldi Guard, about 950 strong, officers and men, was mustered into the United States service, on the 28th of May.
On the same day, under escort of the Germania, Teutonia and Maennechor societies, amid the wildest cheerings and greetings of thousands of spectators, with gayest strains of music and the thrilling singing of the Marseillaise Hymn, the Star Spangled Banner and other national war songs, it took its departure for "Washington. Arriving, it was reviewed and highly praised by the President. It then crossed the Potomac to Alexandria, and near that place went into camp—"Camp Grinnell."
The Regiment was first brigaded with the Eighth and Twenty-ninth N. Y. S. V., and Twenty-seventh P. V., in the First Brigade, Colonel Blenker, Fifth Division, Colonel Miles. March 14, 1862, the Brigade, Stahl's Division, under Blenker, was assigned to Major-General Sumner's Corps.
April, 1862, Blenker's Division assigned to the Mountain Department, General Fremont.
June, 1862. The Guard assigned to First Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps, General Banks.
January, 1863, to Third Brigade, Hays; Casey's Division, Third Corps, General Heintzelman.
June, 1863, to Third Brigade, Third Division, Hays; Second Corps, General Hancock.
March, 1864, to Third Brigade, Owen; First Division, Barlow; Second Corps, General Hancock.
During the first two months of service great dissatisfaction prevailed in the Regiment, on various accounts; the failure of the soldiers to secure the pay due and the rifles promised; the failure of their families to receive aid from relief committees and individuals ; the failure of the officers (the Regiment having been accepted directly by the Government) to receive their commissions from the State authorities. On the eighth day of July, fifty members of Company " G " mutinied, under Captain Tabatz, and crossed the Long Bridge to Washington, where, at midnight, they were surrounded by three companies of United States infantry and one of cavalry, disarmed and marched to confinement in the Treasury building. Subsequently, however, with the removal of causes of grievance, the whole Guard was again heartily ready for duty.
Joining the advance of the army in July, the Regiment moved to Centerville,
where, with its Brigade, it was engaged as reported by Colonel Blenker:
On the 26th of July the Guard crossed the Potomac and marched to Roach's Mills, where it encamped. It was engaged in drill, and on the various fortifications —"Fort Blenker and others—till November, when it went into winter quarters near Hunter's Chapel.
At the opening of the Spring Campaign of 1862, the Thirty-ninth, in
Stahl's brigade, Blenker's division, Sumner's corps, on March 28th,
a reconnoisance to "Warrenton Junction, driving the enemy across the Rappahannock. On
April 1st, Blenker's division was detached from Sumner's corps and assigned
to the Mountain Department, General Fremont commanding. On the 6th the Garibaldi
Guard marched with its brigade to "Warrenton ; on the 11th picketed
on the Blue Ridge mountains, near Paris, in the Ashby Gap; on the 17th crossed
the Shenandoah at Snicker's Ferry and marched to Perryville. In May it
moved southerly and on the 11th, joined General Fremont's army at Petersburg,
in Hardy County, and with it advanced to Franklin. On the 25th it returned
to Petersburg and thence moved by way of Moorefield to Strasburg, where on
June 1st, it met Stonewall Jackson's forces. These retreating, it followed,
through "Woodstock and New Market, reaching Harrisonburgh on the
7th, well-nigh exhausted and disabled by the continuous and heavy marches
through the mountains, mud and rain. It participated on the 8th in
battle of Cross
Keys. In this engagement the Guard temporarily detached from its brigade,
served with Col. Cluseret's Ohio brigade, as reported below:
On the next day, 9th instant, with the brigade in advance, on the left wing, it pursued the enemy toward Port Republic. General Fremont's report to the Secretary of War of this date, states that " Gen. Stahl's brigade was in the hottest part of the field, which was the left wing. From the beginning of the fight the brigade lost in officers, five killed, and seventeen wounded; and one of his regiments alone, the Eighth New York, has buried sixty-five. The Garibaldi Guard, next after, suffered most severely, and following this regiment, the Forty-fifth New York, the Bucktail Rifles, of General Bayard's brigade, and Gen. Milroy's brigade." The guard now returned through Harrisonburg, Mt. Jackson, Woodstock, and Strasburg, to Middletown. Here, near the end of June, through the erroneous statements to General Stahl, of Col. D'Utassy, as was charged by the officers of the regiment, and to the great regret of nearly all its members, "the regiment was separated from the German regiments, with whom the members of the Garibaldi Guard, as faithful brothers, always had shared dangers and mis-comfort."
At the consolidation, on the 26th instant, of the union forces of Fremont, Banks, and McDowell, as the Army of Virginia, under the command of Major-General Pope, the Thirty-ninth became part of the First Brigade, Third Division, Second Corps, General Banks.
It spent the month of July in needed rest at Middletown, whence it was, on the 12th, temporarily driven out by a strong body of rebel cavalry. Early in August, the army withdrew across the Blue Ridge to "Warrenton, and began its southerly advance against Jackson's forces.
During the investment in September, by Jackson and Hill, of Harper's
Ferry, the Guard, under Major Hildebrandt, did good service. Its brigade
this time composed of the Thirty-ninth, One Hundred and Eleventh, and
and Fifteenth New York regiments, with the Fifteenth Indiana Battery,
under Acting Brigadier-General D'Utassy. Captain Phillip's Battery,
65th Illinois supporting, was with the brigade for a time. The brigade
extreme right, in rear of the ridge on Bolivar Heights. On the twelfth
instant, the Thirty-ninth, with the One Hundred and Twenty-sixth, was
ordered to reenforce
Colonel Ford on Maryland Heights. Here on the next day, (the guard
on the extreme left,) after two assaults of the enemy, the whole force
as was reported, of orders, fell back from their line, and, ordered
up again, it was unable to retake the breastworks. During the night,
Ford, it evacuated the heights. This abandonment of the key to the
whole position, was deeply felt and loudly condemned. On the fourteenth,
volunteered with his brigade to recapture and to hold the heights,
and being refused by Col. Miles in chief command, he, on his own responsibility,
ordered two companies to return and bring off the guns and ammunition.
Two companies of the Thirty-ninth, under Adjutant Buck, and two companies
of the Sixty-fifth Illinois, all commanded by Major Wood of the latter
returned to the heights, which they found unoccupied, and brought off
four Napoleon six-pounders, (two imperfectly spiked,) and a wagon-load
During the day, the regiment acted as skirmishers. When at night, the
cavalry made their escape from Harper's Ferry, Colonel D'Utassy asked
to be allowed
to cut his way out with his brigade, but this was refused by Colonel
Miles. Of the twelve thousand brave men surrendered on the fifteenth,
Guard numbered five hundred and thirty, with seven wounded. Its colors,
concealed around the body of a sergeant, were saved.
In November, being duly exchanged, it returned to Washington, arriving on the 27th. The next day it encamped at Camp Chase, on Arlington Heights, and on the 2d of December, marched to Alexandria, and thence by cars proceeded to Centerville, and went into winter quarters and picket duty on the Bull Run.
The casualties for 1862 are reported by Lieutenant-Colonel Schwarz, from memory (the regimental books having been lost at Harper's Ferry), thus : Strength of regiment, January 1st, 1862, 744, recruited during the year, 121; killed in battle, officers, 2, enlisted men, 21; died from disease, wounds, &c, (suicide, 1) 16.
January, 1863, finds the Garibaldi Guard in the Third corps, General Heintzelman, (reserves for the defense of Washington,) Casey's division, Third brigade, Brigadier-General Hays,) vice Colonel D'Utassy, removed for cause.)
In June the regiment was again assigned to the Second corps, Major-General Hancock; Third division, Brigadier General Hays; Third brigade, Colonel Willard (of the 125th New York) acting Brigadier-General. The brigade now consisted of the 39th, 111th, 125th and 126th N. Y. S. V.
Breaking camp near Centerville, on the 25th inst., by forced marches it joined the corps near Gettysburgh, on the morning of the second of July, and of the second day of the great battle. The corps took position on Cemetery hill, on the left center between Howard's (eleventh) corps, which held the center, and Sickles' (third) corps.
In the afternoon, having for several hours stood under the fire of shot and shell, the brigade was ordered to the left to check the advance of a body of the enemy whose artillery was already within a thousand yards of the line. Between six and seven o'clock it was ordered to charge, on the double quick, the rebel batteries. " This was new for us," writes a participant, " but we went into it with such a yell and scream that it made my blood chill in my veins. I can't tell you how the shot and shell flew. Oh! what a sight! to see the men fall one after another. But the groans were drowned by our shouts. On we go, and our left, I mean the left of the 126th, takes the battery, and drives them flying from the field. The Garibaldi Guards drag the cannon off. We took a great number of prisoners, and strewed the ground with dead rebels. As we returned, cheer after cheer went up for the brigade by the old troops, who said they never saw such a splendid charge." By this brilliant charge, made under a terrific fire in front and on flank, the brigade drove the enemy back five or six hundred yards through the woods, to his original position. But the brave commander, Colonel Willard, and many a brave soldier slain, returned not to hear the plaudits of victory.
The brigade now retired to its first position on the left center and stood on its arms for the night. During several hours of the next and last day, the brigade still in the very front of the left center, bore the continuous fire of shot and shell, and repulsed four several mighty assaults of a vastly out-numbering foe.
Against Hays' division was hurled the last charge, decisive of the fate of battle.
This desperate final charge came at four. The rebels seemed to have gathered up all their strength and determination for one fierce, convulsive effort, that should sweep over and wash out our obstinate resistance. They swept up as before, the flower of their army to the front, victory staked upon the issue. In some places they literally lifted up and pushed back our lines, but that terrible " position " of ours!—wherever they entered it, enfilading fires from half a score of crests swept away their column like merest chaff. Broken and hurled back, they easily fell into our hands, and on the center and left the last half hour brought more prisoners than all the rest.
So it was along the whole line; but it was on the second corps that the shock of the rebel army was concentrated; it was there that the heaviest force beat upon and shook, and even sometimes crumbled our line.
We had some shallow rifle-pits with barricades of rails from the fences — the rebel line stretching away miles to the left, in magnificent array, but strongest here. Pickett's splendid division of Longstreet's corps in front — the best of A. P. Hill's veterans in support — came steadily and as it seemed resistlessly sweeping up. Our skirmishers retired slowly from the Emmetsburgh road, holding their ground tenaciously to the last. The rebels reserved their fire till they reached this same Emmetsburgh road, then opened with a terrific crash. From a hundred iron throats, meantime, their artillery had been thundering on our barricades.
Hancock was wounded; Gibbons succeeded to the command — approved soldier, and ready for the crisis. As the tempest of fire approached its height, he walked along the line, and renewed his orders to the men to reserve their fire. The rebels—three lines deep—came steadily up. They were in point blank range. At last the order came! From thrice six thousand guns there came a sheet of smoky flame, a crash, a rush of leaden death. The line literally melted away; but there came the second, resistless still. It had been our supreme effort—at the instant we were not equal to another. Up to the rifle-pits, across them, over the barricades — the momentum of their charge, the mere machine strength of their combined action, swept them on. Our thin line could fight, but it had not weight enough to oppose this momentum. It was pushed behind the guns. Eight on came the rebels. They were upon the guns, were bayoneting the gunners, were waving their flags above our pieces.
But they had penetrated to the fatal point. A storm of grape and canister tore its way from man to man and marked its track with corpses straight down their line! They had exposed themselves to the enfilading fire of the guns on the western slope of Cemetery Hill: that exposure sealed their fate. The line reeled back — disjointed already—instantaneously in fragments. Our men were just behind the guns. They leaped forward upon the disordered mass; but there was little need for fighting now.
How nobly the Third Brigade did its duty during these forever memorable days is illustrated by the fact that it was commanded by no less than six field officers, all of them were killed or wounded: Colonel Willard, 125th New York, killed; Colonel Sherrill, 126th New York, killed; Colonel McDougall, 111th New York, wounded; Major Hildebrandt, 39th New York, wounded; Lieutenant-Colonel Boyd, 125th New York, killed; and Lieutenant-Colonel Collins, killed.
The Garibaldi Guard captured during the engagement of the 2d, three stands of colors, and re-captured a Massachusetts battery of six guns, four of which it turned upon the enemy. It lost one officer, and fourteen men killed, three officers and seventy-seven men wounded.
The regiment now joined with its brigade and corps, in the pursuit of Lee's army, moving by the way of Frederick City and Campton Gap to Williamsport. Here it lay in line of battle for two days, then, after the escape of Lee, moved by way of Sharpsburg to Harper's Ferry, thence after two days' halt, down the Loudon Valley by Ashby's Gap, Bloomfield, Springfield, White Plains, Warrenton, Warrenton Junction, and, at length, about the first of August, went into camp on the Elk Run.
September 12th broke camp, crossed the Rappahannock and marched to Robinson Creek, and thence by Brandy Station, Culpepper, to Cedar Mountain. The Second Corps covering the retrograde movement from the Rapidan; in October it moved by way of Culpepper toward Centerville. On the 14th it participated in the engagements of Auburn Ford and Bristoe Station, losing eleven wounded and Surgeon Wolfe and one private missing ; its brigade losing one hundred and twenty-four killed and wounded. On the 20th it again reached Warrenton.
November 7th, the corps on the left wing, — the Division under Hays, the Brigade under Owen, the Regiment under Funk, — advanced to the Rappahannock, and crossing at Kelly's Ford, to Brandy Station, and went into camp at Mitton's Mills.
On the 26th, moved in the Mine Run Campaign, crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford, to Robertson's Tavern, and held the Fredericksburg turnpike, forming with the First Corps the center, drove the enemy back from their advanced position to their works. These proving too formidable, the corps re-crossed the river and on the 12th of December, went into winter quarters at Stevensburg.
The Thirty-ninth next moved in the heavy reconnoissance made to the Apian in February 1864. On the 6th its brigade under Brigadier-General Owen, with General Hays at its head, in advance of the division and of the corps at Morton's Ford, forded the river, waist-deep, under a heavy fire of musketry and artillery, carried the enemy's rifle-pits and drove him back to his second line. With the 126th, the regiment under a sharp fire of small-arms, and at intervals of guns, held the picket line throughout the day, and with the division at evening repulsed a strong assault, and drove the enemy, now outnumbering them three to one. At midnight the brigade withdrew across the river, with a loss of two officers wounded, three men killed, and thirty-three wounded, General Owen's report states that " the Thirty-ninth New York State Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Hughes, and the other regiments, 111th, 125th, 126th, New York Volunteers, of the brigade, were handled by their commanders with skill and judgment, and behaved splendidly." The Garibaldi had about twenty wounded.
Under War Department General Orders No. 115, March 23, 1864, the First and Third Corps were consolidated with the Second, Fifth and Sixth. The First and Second Divisions of the Third were consolidated with the Second Corps, General Hancock, and the Third Brigade, Brigadier-General Owen, and the Garibaldi Guard, Colonel Funk, now became part of the First Division, Brigadier-General Barlow. During the Wilderness campaign, from the breaking of camp, May 3d; at the Wilderness, 6th; Todd's Tavern, 9th ; Po River, 10th and 11th; Spottsylvania, 12th and 18th; North Anna, 23d and 24th; Tolopotomy Creek, 30th; to Coal Harbor, June 1st and 4th; the regiment shared the dangers, hardships, losses, achievements and honors, of Hancock's grand Corps and Barlow's heroic Division.
The original Garibaldi Guard, its term of service having expired, now returned home, 150 strong, under the command of Captain Rasmussen. It arrived in New York on June 10th, and the next day, under escort of the Twelfth Regiment, New York State National Guard, and the Veteran Association of the Twenty-ninth New York State Volunteers, moved to the City Hall, where it was received by a Committee of the Common Council and addressed by Alderman Hardy. It was soon after mustered out.
The re-enlisted and recruited men, remaining on the field were consolidated into seven Companies, and as the Thirty-ninth Battalion, Colonel Funk, assigned to the consolidated brigade, First Division. The Battalion served with the Second Corps, before Petersburg, June 16th and 19th; at Deep Bottom, July 24th and August 14th; Beam's Station, August 25th; before Petersburg through the winter of 1864-5, and through the final campaign of 1865, and finally on the 1st of July, 1865, was mustered out of service.
The casualties in the Regiment from January 1, 1864, to July 1, 1865, are reported by the Adjutant-General of the State as follows:
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History