of the 121st
Taken from Final Report on
the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg) by the New York
Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Albany,
NY: J.B. Lyon Company, 1902.
The One hundred and twenty-first Regiment New York Volunteers
was recruited mostly in Otsego and Herkimer Counties, in July and August, 1862.
By special order of the Governor, dated July 19, 1862, Hon. Richard Franchot,
then member of Congress from the Otsego district, was appointed colonel of a
regiment of volunteers, and authorized to establish his headquarters at Richfield
Springs, Otsego County, and directed to proceed without delay to organize a
regiment of infantry. Colonel Franchot began the work at once, assisted by his
capable adjutant, Alonzo Ferguson, and great credit is due them for the prompt
and efficient manner in which they placed the regiment in the field. They had
the entire regiment recruited, assembled at their rendezvous at Camp Schuyler,
in Herkimer County, and mustered into the United States service August 23, 1862.
The command at that time consisted of 39 officers and 946 enlisted men. It left
its rendezvous August 30th, and proceeded to Washington, arriving there on the
morning of September 3d,. and was assigned provisionally to a brigade under
Colonel Gibson, with headquarters at Fort Lincoln.
On the march of the army to South Mountain and Antietam battlefields. the regiment
was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Sixth Corps, and remained
with the command during its entire term of service. The brigade was then commanded
by Gen. J. J. Bartlett, the division by Gen. Henry W. Slocum, and the corps
by Gen. Wm. B. Franklin. It bore its part in the battles of Crampton's Pass,
September 14th, and, later, Antietam; but as it was a raw regiment it was assigned
to duties that did not require any sacrifice of its men.
Colonel Franchot resigned September 25, 1862, to resume his seat in Congress,
but before bidding his regiment adieu he performed a service which ever after
received the grateful remembrance of the officers and men, in selecting as his
successor Col. Emory Upton, at that time a first lieutenant in the Regular army,
under whose command the regiment made a record second to none in the Army of
the Potomac. From the start, casualties of various kinds began to thin the ranks
of officers and men.
Our efficient surgeon, Dr. Wm. T. Basset, was personally
known to many of us as a skillful and humane physician, and all felt that in
his hands they would have the very best medical and surgical treatment; but
camp exposure; soon threatened his health and he was obliged to return home.
Thereafter, Asst. Surg. Dr. Daniel M. Holt proved himself the most active, humane,
and capable medical officer we had, until in June, 1863, when Dr. J. O. Slocum,
then assistant surgeon of the One hundred and twenty-second New York, was commissioned
as surgeon of the One hundred and twenty-first, and under his skillful and sympathetic
treatment the health and efficiency of the men were kept at a high standard.
Our first chaplain, Rev. J. R. Sage, resigned in June, 1863,
and for the next year the chaplain of the Fifth Maine, Rev. Dr. John R. Adams,
voluntarily officiated on all necessary occasions as loyally as if assigned
to the regiment. There was always a warm attachment between the officers and
men of these two regiments, and for Dr. Adams all entertained a degree of profound
respect, friendship and love.
In July, 1864, the term of service of the Fifth Maine having
expired, the officers and men of the One hundred and twenty-first petitioned
the Governor of New York to commission Dr. Adams as chaplain of the regiment,
which he did, and the doctor remained with it, to the close of the war.
He was just the kind of man to look after the moral and spiritual
welfare of a fighting regiment like the Fifth Maine or One hundred and twenty-first
New York. Often against the protest of the men, he was seen on the battle line
coolly encouraging the men or assisting the wounded, sharing the soldiers' danger
until the commanding officer felt obliged to order him to the rear to prevent
him from being needlessly shot.
He was widely known in the army, and respected and loved by all. He was a man
of profound thought, commanding presence, and possessed of superior mental attainments.
As a loyal American, a warm-hearted and genial friend of the soldiers, and a
devout, faithful and successful chaplain, we can; truly testify that Dr. John
R. Adams had few equals and no superiors in the army; and while life lasts,
his sweet memory will never fade from us.
After Colonel Upton assumed command of the brigade, the regiment was commanded
at various periods by Lieutenant Colonel Olcott, Majors Mather and Galpin, Captains
Kidder, Douw, Jackson, and Major Cronkite.
Very few regiments in the army sustained so great a loss of officers and men.
The list of casualties is over 62 percent, of the enlistment. It lost 16 officers
killed, and 4 who died of disease as follows:
KILLED IN ACTION:
Capt. Nelson O. Wendell, Salem Church, May 3, 1863.
First Lieut. U. F. Doubleday, Salem Church, May 3, 1863.
Second Lieut. Frederick E. Ford, Salem Church, May 3, 1863.
Capt. Charles A. Butts, Spotsylvania, May 10, 1864.
Capt. John D. Fish, Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864.
First Lieut. Silas E. Pierce, Spotsylvania, May 12, 1864.
First Lieut. Edward P. Johnson, (not mustered,) Spotsylvania, May 10, 1864.,
First Lieut. William H. Tucker, Cedar Creek, October 19, 1864.
Second Lieut. Charles F. Pettengill, (not mustered,) Spotsylvania, May 10, 1864.
First Lieut. Horatio N. Duro, Fort Fisher, Va., March 25, 1865.
Capt. Ten Eyck C. Howland, Sailor's Creek, Va., April 6, 1865.
First Lieut. John T. Morton, Sailor's Creek, Va., April 6, 1865.
DIED OF WOUNDS:
Capt. Thomas S. Arnold, died May 18, 1863, of wounds received at Salem-Church,
May 3, 1863.
Capt. Jonathan Burrell, died October 26, 1864, of wounds received at Cedar Creek,
October 19, 1864.
Capt. John D. P. Douw, died November 11, 1864, of wounds received at Cedar Creek.
DIED OF DISEASE.
Second Lieut. George W. Davis, October 20, 1862.
First Lieut. Angus Cameron, November 9, 1862.
First Lieut. A. Clark Rice, September 20, 1863.
Second Lieut. Samuel B. Kelley, Annapolis, March, 1865.
During the battle of Antietam the regiment, together with, a battery of artillery,
guarded Crampton's Gap in the South Mountain range, and after the battle assisted
in burying the dead on that field.
The loss of men from typhoid and camp fevers for the first three months was
very large, the men being without tents for six weeks. The regiment followed
the varying fortunes of the Army of the Potomac from that time until the surrender
of Lee, excepting the period from July 10th, to December, 1864, when it served
with the Sixth Corps under Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley campaign. It sustained
many losses in skirmishes and minor contests, which were never called battles;
but the War Department officially records twenty-five battles in which the regiment
was engaged, and credits it with the capture of seven battle flags. It had several
color bearers shot, but its own standard never fell into the hands of the enemy.
Some of its engagements were hand-to-hand, notably Upton's charge, May 10, 1864,
at Spotsylvania, where many were killed in close combat, and several men received
bayonet wounds. At Salem Church, May 3, 1863, its loss in killed and wounded
was 62 per cent, of the men engaged, and the contest did not last more than
fifteen or twenty minutes. At Rappahannock Station, November 7, 1863, it captured
nearly 700 prisoners and 4 battle flags. At Winchester, Va., September 19, 1864,
it, with Upton's Brigade, was credited by General Sheridan with saving the day
when the enemy broke the left of the Nineteenth Corps. At Cedar Creek, October
19, 1864, the men saved from falling into the enemy's hands one of our batteries
by hauling the guns back by hand.
After Lee was driven from Richmond and Petersburg, April 2d and 3d, the colors
of the One hundred and twenty-first were the first to enter the latter city.
At Sailor's Creek, April 6th, in the last desperate effort of Lee to save his
army, the regiment, in close combat with a brigade of marines, suffered severely,
but captured several hundred prisoners and two stand of colors. After Lee's
surrender, the regiment remained in Virginia until the Sixth Corps was ordered
to march to Washington to join in the grand review of the Army of the Potomac,
in which it participated preparatory to disbandment. It was mustered out of
the United States service June 25, 1865, at Washington, and was ordered to Albany,
N. Y., for final payment and discharge. By special request, the War Department
gave the regiment permission to carry their captured battle flags to New York
with them, and they marched down Broadway with their own colors, tattered and
torn by shot and shell, and triumphantly carrying their seven captured battle
flags. Proceeding to Albany, the regiment encamped on the Troy Road for about
a week, there awaiting the order for final payment and muster-out.
For nearly three years the officers and men of this command had, according
to their oath, implicitly and cheerfully obeyed every order of the War Department
and their superior officers, but here for the first time, and just on the eve
of their discharge, the officer in command of the Albany district gave •the
regimental officers justification to rebel against his authority by the unwise
exercise of overzealous and arbitrary power, and thereby for a brief period
incipient mutiny seemed imminent.
It occurred in this way: Colonel Olcott being quartered at a hotel in the
city, Lieutenant Colonel Kidder was in command of the camp, and while necessary
camp discipline was observed, the usual rigor of field service was relaxed and
drills and dress parades omitted.
The officer in command at Albany, presumably not knowing the war was over,
ordered a resumption of daily drills and dress parades. Colonel Olcott directed
Lieutenant Colonel Kidder to ignore the order, which he gladly did. "Then
the same officer directed the regimental commander to report every officer and
man absent without leave. Colonel Kidder reported promptly:" There are
no officers or men in this regiment absent without leave."
Next an officer from headquarters came to the regiment's camp and demanded
that the seven Rebel battle flags must be given to him to be turned over to
the adjutant general of the State. Colonel Kidder, with emphasis, gave the officer
to understand "that he would not obey the order, or recognize his authority,
with all due respect for the adjutant general of the State; that the flags were
the war trophies of his regiment; they were the property of the United States,
and had been lent to the regiment by the Secretary of War in person, and they
must be returned to that department; and that he declined to deliver them to
anyone except on the order of the President, Secretary of War, or General Grant." The officer left in a huff, saying that he would return with troops and take
them by force. He carried out his threat in so far as returning at the head
of a company of soldiers, and again demanded the Rebel flags.
Colonel Kidder had anticipated him and instantly ordered a part of his regiment
under arms, and replying again to the officer's demand said: "There are
the Rebel flags, and here are the soldiers who captured them. If you must have
them you can give your men the command to take them away from their captors,
and if they cannot defend them I will call out the entire regiment." It
is needless to say the officer, considerably crestfallen, reversed his men,
and marched away to be seen no more by the One hundred and twenty-first New
Learning the regiment could not be disbanded until after July 4th, citizens
of Little Falls, N. Y., invited it to a banquet at their Fourth of July celebration,
there to receive the thanks of the people of Herkimer County, and make their
final parade in view of their numerous and admiring friends.
Once more they came in conflict with the Albany authorities. The Albany citizens
wished the regiment to parade in that city July 4th, and obtained an order to
that effect from the military commander. Colonel Olcott immediately telegraphed
the situation to the Secretary of War, who informed the Albany authorities that
the One hundred and twenty-first New York as a body was furloughed for forty-eight
hours, and thus the Albany order was nullified, and the regiment proceeded to
Little Falls by an early train, July 4th, where they received a royal welcome;
and as a military organization made their final parade under their own shot-and-shell-riddled
banner, triumphantly bearing their captured battle flags amidst the cheers and
plaudits of the patriotic citizens.
Next morning early they boarded a special train for Albany, and on arriving
there, found orders from the War Department to march the men to North Pearl
Street for final payment and discharge.
With feelings of mingled sorrow and pleasure the men assembled under their
war colors for the last time, and after saluting their old flag with cheer after
cheer, it was turned in to the Adjutant General of the State for safekeeping,
by the adjutant of the regiment, Capt. Frank E. Low, who at the same time returned
by express the Rebel battle-flags to the Secretary of War.
After final payment and discharge papers were received, the military organization
of the One hundred and twenty-first New York Volunteers vanished from the field
of military activity, each member thereof again to assume the individual citizen,
but with patriotism quickened by experience, and a riper knowledge of the duties
which American citizenship imposes.
Back to 121st
Regiment During the Civil War
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
March 19, 2006