|Unit History Project|
1st Artillery Regiment (Light)
Not long after this picture was taken, the names of most of these men were mentioned in despatches [sic]. Against Major D. H. Van Valkenburgh, the gallant soldier leaning on his saber, his arm thrust into his coat, was written, "killed in action at Fair Oaks." He helped to make the name of the First New York Light Artillery a proud one; and next to him stands Major Luther Kieffer. Perhaps the youngest, who is standing next, is Adjutant Rumsey, who by firing his guns so continuously helped save the wing of the Second Army Corps. He was wounded but recovered. Next to him, looking straight at the camera, is Lieut.-Colonel Henry E. Turner; and standing nearest to the tent is Major C. S. Wainright, who won his spurs at Williamsburg, and again proved the metal he was made of at Fair Oaks. Seated in the camp chair is Colonel Guilford T. Bailey, who later died beside his guns. It rained during the days that preceded Fair Oaks. It was the treacherous River Chickahominy that helped to baffle the well-laid plans of the Federal commander. Well did the Confederate leaders know that with the downpour then falling the stream would rise. Not immediately, but within the next few hours it would gain strength until at last it became a sweeping torrent. All this proved true; only a part of McClellan's army had crossed the river when the Confederates moved to attack, May 31st. Let the Prince de Joinville, who was a spectator, describe the guns that helped to save the day. "They are not those rifled cannon, the objects of extravagant admiration of late, good for cool firing and long range; these are the true guns for a fight—12-pound howitzers (Napoleons), the old pattern, throwing round projectiles or heavy charges of grape and canister. The simple and rapid discharging of these pieces makes terrible havoc in the opposing ranks. In vain Johnston sends against this battery his best troops—those of South Carolina, the Hampton legion among others, in vain he rushes on it himself; nothing can shake the line!"
Taken from Photographic History of the Civil War Volume I The Opening Battles, Francis Trevelyan Miller, editor-in-chief. New York: the Trow Press, 1911, page 295.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military