|Unit History Project|
HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE 147TH REGIMENT
Source: New York (State). Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Final report on the battlefield of Gettysburg. Albany, J.B. Lyon Company, Printers, 1900, pgs. 997-1010.
The One hundred and forty-seventh Regiment New York Volunteers, Andrew S. Warner, Colonel, was raised wholly in Oswego county in August and September 1862, and mustered into the United States service at Oswego, N. Y., September 22d and 23d. It left Oswego, September 27, with 837 enlisted men for the front, and received its arms at Elmira, N. Y., on the 28th, while en route to Washington, where it arrived September 29th. Next day it marched over Long Bridge and encamped near Bailey’s Cross Roads, Va. It soon moved to the northern defenses of Washington at Tenallytown, where they were engaged in building defensive works and roads until November 28th.
The memory of the period to its old members is a most gloomy one. The camp was pleasant in appearance, but proved most destructive to health. The whole country round about had been occupied for eighteen months by soldiers, raw recruits who had no knowledge of the sanitary regulations necessary to keep their camps free from the soldier’s most deadly enemy, malarial fever and dysentery. Here scores of its men were prostrated with disease, and the dead march was as familiar as reveille. Its colonel was inexperienced in military affairs, but was a most thorough-going and energetic worker himself. Not appreciating the importance of drill and discipline, neglected the most wholly, and the regiment was kept for the first few weeks of its service entirely upon fatigue duty, until it came to feel that it was a gang of laborers rather than soldiers. Dissatisfaction and homesickness was a natural result.
On Sunday, November 28th, they received orders to be ready to march in two hours. This their first real march, viewed from the light of their later field experience, was always very amusing. In anticipation of wintering in the defenses of Washington and being a “good provider,” the colonel had drawn tents, camp and garrison equipage and ordnance stores enough for a large brigade. On receipt of marching orders, the Quartermaster went to Quartermaster-General Rucker and borrowed all the transportation he could, and they set out from Tennallytown with thirty-three-six-mule-teams heavily loaded with baggage and property, both personal and public, and still were obliged to leave ten large loads of property in camp. The writer was left in charge with orders to guard and turn in the abandoned property. Applying to General Rucker for teams to haul the property to Washington, he was answered in language more forcible than polite: “D---- the One hundred and forty-seventh New York, they have already got all the reserve transportation of this Department and gone off with it, God only knows where.” Later on it was thought to be good luck if a regiment and sometimes a brigade secured one wagon for baggage when on the march.
The regiment for a time did guard duty on the Aqua Creek Railroad, and at Falmouth Station after the battle of Fredericksburg. Their luxurious tastes and extravagant mode of living acquired at Tennallytown, together with their habits of acquisition and accumulation, impaired their usefulness as guards, and they were relieved from provost duty January 1st, 1863 and assigned to Paul’s Brigade, Wadsworth’s Division, 1st Corps, then wintering at Belle Plain landing.
They had not fairly settled in their new quarters when, on January 20th, the Burnside mud march was begun. Whatever the object may have been which General Burnside hoped to accomplish by this dead-of-winter movement, the result was disaster and demoralization to the Army of the Potomac, and a waste of men and material never fully realized by the country. The One hundred and forty-seventh received its full share of damage and demoralization from this unfortunate movement. Scores of its men were exhausted and broken down by the four days of exposure to chilling rains and the strain of poaching through the endless slough of deep sticky mud, and on their returning to camp were prostrated with typhoid fever, pneumonia, dysentery and other complaints from which many never recovered. As a direct result of this terrible four days’ march, forty-four men died in camp at Belle Plain within the next two months. Demoralization was evinced by the resignation of the colonel, four captains, and three lieutenants between January 25th and February 4th.
Had the privilege been extended to enlisted men, the list would have been larger. This circumstance was an episode in the history of the regiment which caused considerable comment and criticism. These officers were, however, good citizens, brave men and as patriotic as those who remained; in fact had been selected and commissioned at the request of local war committees on account of their high moral and social standing at home, but were mostly too old and wholly unfitted for military life and the trying ordeals of actual war. Having found this out under the depressing strain of the mud march and its horrible results, they left the service, and their places were at once filled by younger and better men by promotion and from the ranks.
Paul’s Brigade was a sort of provisional brigade, and while assigned to it, it was the fate of the One hundred forty-seventh Regiment to be, as before, constantly upon fatigue duty on the docks; and it seemed that we were continue to be hewers of wood and drawers of water. On April 3d, the regiment was transferred to the 2d Brigade of Wadsworth’s Division under General Cutler, a veteran brigade consisting of the Seventy-sixth and Ninety-fifth New York, Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventh Indiana, all first class well seasoned veteran regiments with good records and first class commanders. Drill and discipline now began in earnest. The command devolved upon Colonel J. G. Butler, who was from the old Third New York, who was ably assisted by Lieutenant Colonel F. C. Miller, Major George Harney and Captain N. A. Wright --- all experienced officers who had seen service. Thirty days transformed the regiment from its indifference and demoralization into one of the best organizations in the Army, and within six months its reputation, military experience and esprit de corps was excelled by few regiments in the Army. From that on, its career was an eventful and honorable one.
April 28th, with the balance of the Corps, the regiment broke camp for the Fredericksburg-Chancellorsville campaign. The 1st and 6th Corps were to cross and make a feint or real attack, if warranted by circumstances, on the enemy’s right on Fredericksburg Heights. Reynold’s orders were that the pontoons were to be unloaded back from the river and carried to and put in the water quietly in the night so as to be ready to row a brigade across before daylight. Reaching the Rappahannock at Fitzhugh crossing at daybreak, it was found that through a misunderstanding of or non-compliance with orders, the pontoons, except about twenty, were not yet down to the river, and the enemy in rifle pits on the south bank were making it hot for the engineers. Our batteries were unable to dislodge the infantry of the enemy entrenched on the opposite bank. Wadsworth’s division was at or near the river’s edge in the sunken road, ready to cross, but no bridges laid and but few boats at the river bank to row them over. The situation was decidedly embarrassing, but General Wadsworth was not to be balked; and here occurred an incident which showed his character and courage and endeared him to every man in the Corps.
Riding down to the river’s edge, under a hot fire, he comprehended the impossibility of either laying the bridge or waiting to launch sufficient boats to carry over a brigade without great loss of life and also great loss of time, which would enable the enemy to reinforce the works opposite. Ordering more pontoons hurried into the water, he got into one himself, leading his horse in by its side and pushed off the south side, followed by a part of the Twenty-fourth Michigan and Sixth Wisconsin, while a heavy fire was opened to hold down the rebels in the pits opposite. It was a spectacle never to be forgotten; --- that white headed old hero standing like a statue in the rocking pontoon with the bridle of his swimming horse in his left hand, apparently more anxious for the horse than himself, occasionally turning his face towards the smoking breastworks on the high banks opposite. Ten thousand anxious men are eagerly watching and silently praying for the safety of their lion-hearted commander as he is rowed through the hissing shower of lead which bespatters the river and throws water in his face and over his clothing. Men drop at long clumsy oars, but the boats, drifting a little down the stream, sweep rapidly across and mounting his dripping horse cheers on the valiant men who have followed him. Up the bank they go, over the pits! Up go the white handkerchiefs all along the Rebel breastworks, while cheers for Wadsworth from thousands of men of the First Corps, who had eagerly watched his brave act, drowned the roar of the batteries which covered the banks. Other troops were quickly rowed over to reinforce those who first crossed.
The bridges were quickly laid, and headed by the One Hundred and forty-seventh New York, the balance of the division safely crossed to the south bank. The engagement here, called “Pollock’s Mill Creek,” was simply a three days artillery fight of a very desultory character.
May 2d the First Corps was hastily moved to the right at Chancellorsville. They arrived on that field at daybreak on the 3d and in time to strengthen Hooker’s shattered lines and help prevent further disaster.
Returning from Chancellorsville, it camped in the pine woods below Falmouth until June 12th, when, with seven days rations. It began the Gettysburg march, which was initiated and governed by the movements of the enemy. On account of the extreme heat and irregular speed, which included several forced marches in the broiling sun and drenching rain, many men were prostrated. After crossing into Maryland and as we approached Pennsylvania, the improved condition of the country and moderating weather was very inspiring to the men.
On this march occurred another little incident which raised General Wadsworth still higher, not only in the estimation of his own men, but those of the whole army. On the 28th of June the Corps reached Frederick, Md. The day’s march over the Cotochton Mountains had been very tiresome and ended in a wet evening. Wadsworth’s Division had been halted for the night in a clover meadow of ten or fifteen acres, surrounded by a pine rail fence. Existing general orders were strict that the troops should not forage or burn the fences of citizens. It looked like having to lie down all night in the wet clover in damp clothing and without coffee. General Wadsworth could not and would not stand that. Sending for the old farmer, he asked how much was the value of the rails around the field. The farmer said he did not want to sell them at any price and plead the general orders for protection. General Wadsworth’s reply was: “I am a farmer myself; your fence wont’ be needed to protect the clover which is already flat and ruined; my men are tired, wet and hungry and must have coffee; your rails will be burned by either Union or rebel soldiers in the next ten days; they’re worth about $250; here it is; take it or take your chances.” The farmer took the money which the general paid out of his own pocket, and orders were given to use the rails for fire. In less than three minutes a thousand fires were blazing and giving warmth and comfort to 8,000 or 10,000 wet and weary men, whose prolonged cheers for General Wadsworth fairly rent the heavens. The example was irresistible in other corps, and in a very short time the heavens for miles were illuminated by fires fed with the prohibited Union rails. From that time on the order was a dead letter and General Wadsworth’s rule of “first protect your men” prevailed instead.
July 1st the regiment, together with the balance of Wadsworth’s Division, was hurriedly moved from Marsh Creek, by way of the Emmettsburg Road, to Gettysburg, and went into line west of the town about 9:30 a.m., relieving Buford’s Cavalry, which was contesting the advance of Hill’s Corps on the Chambersburg Pike. It reached the line of battle by crossing the fields from the Cordori buildings to the Seminary; thence westerly down the slope to the garden fence just east of the McPherson buildings, where it was halted for a very short time, and thence moved by the flank across the Chambersburg Pike, through the hollow in rear of the position taken by Hall’s Second Maine Battery, northerly, crossing the old unfinished railroad in the hollow at or near grade, faced by the left flank and moved to the west between the railroad cut and the rail fence on the north of said cut, advancing until met by the heavy fire of the enemy who were coming up the opposite side of the ridge.
The position of the regiment when it first became engaged was about six or eight rods in rear of the line of Hall’s Battery and on the opposite or north side of the railroad cut, which at that point was deep. On its right and somewhat to its rear was the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York, but not connecting with it on the right. The fighting was at very short range and very destructive. After about fifteen minutes’ engagement the Seventy-Sixth and Fifty-sixth were withdrawn. The enemy, viz., the Forty-Second Mississippi were in the western end of the cut and covered its front, while the Second Mississippi and Fifty-fifth North Carolina were soon bearing down from the north on its right, where one company had been thrown back along the rail fence to meet them.
General Wadsworth, coming up the line from the left and observing our position, ordered Capt. T. E. Ellsworth, his Adjutant General, to ride up to us, and if no condition existed which, in his judgment, required our continuance in that perilous position, to withdraw the regiment at once, as he supposed had already been done at the time of the withdrawal of the Fifty-Sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York. Captain Ellsworth reached the line just as Major Harney was consulting his senior captains as to whether it was best to remain and take the almost certain chances of being cut off and captured or to retreat without orders. The order was given: “In retreat, double-quick, run.” In getting off the field, no order was observed. Some kept to the north side of the old railroad over the second ridge, now known as Reynolds Avenue, but the galling fire of the Second Mississippi and Fifty-fifth North Carolina, who were advancing from the north, drove most of them across the cut towards the Chambersburg Pike.
About the time that the enemy, who were pursuing us in a disorganized and yelling mob from the west and northwest, had reached the second ridge and were halted to see where they were and where they should go, they discovered a line of battle at the Chambersburg Pike which immediately attacked them and advanced, causing several hundred of the Forty-second Mississippi, Second Mississippi and Fifty-fifth North Carolina to jump into the deep cut at the second ridge, where our monument now stands, for cover and defence where they were captured by the Fourteenth Brooklyn and Ninety-fifth New York, who had been hastily moved from the front of the buildings and formed by Colonel Fowler to meet the enemy which he saw bearing down from the north. Fowler’s force was also joined on the right by the Sixth Wisconsin.
After this first engagement, about seventy-five men and officers were rallied in rear of Seminary Ridge, and again moved with the brigade to the west to take up the first line, but finding it untenable on account of heavy artillery fire from the north and west and withdrew and advanced northerly along Oak Ridge to a rail fence where they soon became engaged with the troops of Ewell’s Corps, assisting in the capture of Iverson’s Brigade. During the last of the first day’s fighting they were supporting a battery near the Seminary. In the retreat through the town, the regiment was badly broken and jumbled up, but was again rallied and assigned position in the reformed line on East Cemetery Hill, which it held until the morning of the 2d, when it was moved to Culp’s Hill just east of Steven’s Battery, where it lay in on the second line until 5:30 or 6 p.m.
When Ewell’s evening attack was made on Culp’s Hill, the One hundred and forty-seventh New York and Fourteenth Brooklyn were hurried to the right and down the hill to reinforce Greene’s Brigade, Gary’s Division, Twelfth Corps, where they were engaged until 9 or 10 p.m. They remained in Greene’s Brigade all next day and located on the immediate left of the big rock on which is now situate the monument of the One hundred and forty-ninth New York, and assisted successfully repulsing the numerous desperate attacks made on that line by Johnson’s heavy columns. Before 10 a.m. of the 3d, every man and officer present had fired 200 rounds, and the numerous dead in their front showed with what effect.
The service of the One hundred and forty-seventh on this line has never been officially recognized in the reports of the officers of that Corps, and as the commanding officer of the One hundred and forty-seventh failed to make an official report, that important event in its career has never been mentioned by historians and writers of the battle, except in General Slocum’s speech at the reunion of Greene’s Brigade, on Culp’s Hill, on July 2, 1893. The prompt reinforcement of Greene’s weak and attenuated lines by the One hundred and forty-seventh New York and Fourteenth Brooklyn, and their vigorous unflinching attack of the advancing enemy, whose strengths and movements in the dark woods were only revealed by the tongues of flame which leaped from the muzzles of their guns, undoubtedly saved that part of the line and frustrated Lee’s plan of breaking through from Rock Creek to the Baltimore Pike. This night fighting in the dense darkness of the rocky forest was a feature of battle most terrific and appalling. In advancing, no alignment could be maintained and men stumbled and fell over the rocks and over dead and wounded men, and as the opposing forces became closed in and intermixed, friends and foes could only be distinguished by the dancing flames from their muskets.
The battle of Gettysburg was to the One hundred and forty-seventh its most notable one, not only on account of its remarkable experience at the railroad cut, but it was the field of its greatest loss. It carried to the first line of battle 380 men of which it lost in killed and mortally wounded 76, wounded 144, most of whom fell during the first half hour. Of the 60 or 70 who were captured in falling back through the town, most returned within five or six days. No New York regiment lost a greater percentage of its men in this battle. The large and unusual proportion of killed to be the wounded was caused by the nearness of the lines of battle, which distance did not exceed six or ten rods during the first half hour’s fighting, as well as the fact that for sometime, while on McPherson Ridge, it was subject to a fire from three ways.
Although in the nature of repetition, I desire to recall still more definitely
a matter over which there has been much discussion and dispute, viz.,
The ridges in question run together and are merged near the Mummasburg Road. Cutler’s line, north of Hall’s Battery, was in echelon, the One hundred and forty-seventh New York being on the right, and six or eight rods in rear of the battery, the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania next and 250 or 300 yards in the rear of the One hundred and forty-seventh, with the Seventy-sixth New York in line on its right extending to said road.
In coming on the field the One hundred and forty-seventh did not follow the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York across the pike in the hollow in rear of the second ridge; it went diagonally across the fields, after passing the Seminary, and was halted at the garden or yard fence just east of the McPherson barn, the Ninety-fifth and Fourteenth Brooklyn going to the front and left of the buildings. The One hundred and forty-seventh halted by this garden fence from three to five minute; then moved hurriedly along the depression or valley in rear of Hall’s Battery, which was then engaged, until the left of the regiment was across the old railroad bed; then faced to the front and without waiting for alignment moved up the slope between the cut on its left and the rail fence on its right until it met and engaged the enemy who were coming up in the field of grain on the opposite side of the ridge.
Hall’s Battery was on the left of the One Hundred and forty-seventh, on the south side of the cut, and six or eight rods more or less to its front.
The enemy occupied the west end of the cut, and a heavy force of their skirmishers were working up out of the cut on the western side of the slope on Hall’s right flank, which was quite a distance from the One hundred and forty-seventh on the opposite side of the cut.
The left companies of the One hundred and forty-seventh at first were able to give Hall some protection; but to meet the heavy pressure from the Second Mississippi and Fifty-fifth North Carolina, which came down from the northwest after the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and the Seventy-sixth New York were withdrawn, as well as the hot fire of the Forty-second Mississippi on its front and left, the regiment was soon compelled to give its entire attention to taking care of itself.
The One hundred and forty-seventh did not get Wadsworth’s first order to withdraw with the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York, on account of the wounding of its colonel, but held on to its position after withdrawal of those regiments, until almost surrounded. Then, upon orders which were brought by Capt. T. E. Ellsworth, it ran, pursued pell-mell by the enemy, most of the men crossing to the south side of the old railroad grading in the hollow between the second and third ridges, a very few only keeping on the north side of the grading and along in the railroad cutting through the second ridge, back towards Seminary Ridge.
The enemy, consisting of the Forty-second Mississippi on the west, and the Second Mississippi and Fifty-fifth North Carolina, who had come down from the northwest after the withdrawal of the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania and Seventy-sixth New York, closely followed them, also falling into great disorder, until they reached the deep cut of the second ridge, where is now located the Fourteenth Brooklyn monument at the iron bridge, when, receiving the fire of Colonel Fowler’s force at the pike, they took to the cut for shelter and several hundred of them, under Major Blair of the Second Mississippi, were captured.
A thorough investigation has established these facts, not only by the recollection of men and officers of the One hundred and forty-seventh Regiment, but by the evidence of numerous officers of other commands, both Union and Confederate, which was secured and submitted to Colonel Bachelder, by the writer, before his death. This evidence, as may be seen by his letters herewith published, convinced him of his error.
I take liberty to subjoin statements received from the Hon. Timothy E. Ellsworth, Wadsworth’s adjutant general, who withdrew the regiment from the third ridge; Col. J. A. Blair of the Second Mississippi, the ranking officer to command the Confederate detachment captured in the second cut, which had pursued the One hundred and forty-seventh off the field, until met by Colonel Fowler at that cut; Capt. J. A. Hall, who commanded the battery, the right of which the regiment was supporting; and Col. J. B. Batchelder, Government Historian of Gettysburg, who was finally convinced, by this and a large mass of other positive proof furnished, of his error regarding the first position of this regiment.
“Lockport, N. Y. Sept. 3, 1888
“My Dear Sir: --- Your favors of the 10th and 24th of July ought to
have had my attention sooner. Now as to your question:
“ ‘A. The One Hundred and forty-seventh and the two other regiments of that brigade were on the same ridge as Hall’s Battery, and to the right of the cut as shown on your rough sketch; this was the third ridge, the One hundred and forty-seventh being near to the unfinished railroad and the other two regiments to its right along the crest of that ridge.
“ ‘Q. Do you remember whether you rode clear up to Major Harney to get him to retreat; if so, did you keep on the north side of the old railroad, and did you find us on the low ridge at the second cut, or on the ridge at third cut, counting the Seminary Ridge as the first cut?
“ ‘A. I rode substantially up to your regiment and inquired of the major what you were doing there; was told you had had no orders to fall back. I then gave them, and got out myself as rapidly as I conveniently could. In going up I crossed the north side of the old railroad and rode directly up the hill to about the centre of your line; your were on the ridge to the right of the third cut at that time, and the only regiment then there. Afterwards, I learned from General Cutler’s aide that he had given the order to your commanding officer, but it was found that he was wounded before communicating it. About the time that the First Brigade --- in the woods --- had its success there, and not long afterwards, the fight there having lulled, riding back towards the rear with General Wadsworth, the position of your regiment was observed by him, apparently the only command remaining on that third ridge, and seemingly under heavy fire. He asked me what that regiment was doing up there; said he had given orders some time ago for those troops to be withdrawn, and directed me to go and withdraw them unless there was some special occasion, which was not apparent to him, for their remaining. I rode along the second valley to pretty nearly opposite your centre and then directly up the hill.’
“I shall be glad some day to go over the ground with you if you still have
trouble regarding your location, and regret not having been there in July,
“H. H. Lyman, Esq.:
‘With my kindest regards and best wishes, I am,
“Comrade H. H. Lyman, Oswego, N. Y.
“DEAR SIR --- Your valued favor of the 12th just at hand and has been carefully noted. It is the same old story of wrong location of commands on the Gettysburg field. Bachelder for a long time, on his map, left Hall’s Battery off entirely, and then put it back on the second ridge, and not until we met on the field in 1869 could I get him to change it. I know there was a line of infantry on my immediate right. The first thing a battery commander would desire to know would be, how his flanks were protected; and of course, I saw the infantry over there. As to their exact position, whether a prolongation of my line or a little retired, I cannot state definitely; but, certainly, not 300 yards in rear. General Reynolds, who put me in position, spoke to General Wadsworth at the moment, directing him to put a strong support on my right, which of itself would have caused me to keep an eye over there, and I there saw the line. Now, may not all this have resulted from Bachelder’s having at first believed the front line was on the second ridge, where he at first placed Hall’s Battery? Having found the error in case of the battery, he still left the infantry back there, out of place.
“Let reason guide you. What was the infantry place there for? To protect Hall’s Battery. That infantry line was all that there was to the right of said battery at that time, and was the extreme right of our line, with the enemy pressing the front and flank closely. Would any sane man, any corporal, have put the infantry support, in that critical period and situation, 300 yards in rear of the artillery it was to defend from a flank attack?
“You know how difficult it is even the next day after a battle to tell just how things were.
“Very truly yours,
“Hyde Park, Mass., December 21, 1888.
“H. H. Lyman, Late Adjt. 147th N. Y. Vols.:
“My Dear Sir. --- Your esteemed favor of late date is received. I don’t know who marked the position for your monument on the field. I did not (unless marking it on the map is so considered), Of course, I am as well pleased with it in one position as another, and the fact that you were out on the third ridge would be one reason why your regiment did not back with the others.
“Although I have written up that portion of the battle which describes the part taken by the One hundred and forty-seventh, I can and will change it, for I consider the positive statement of Captain Pierce and yourself of great value and entitled to recognition. You must not consider this an exceptional case, or that I have required extraordinary proof to establish your position. Such is not the case; every one must pass the same ordeal. Were I to take every suggestion about positions, confusion would prevail.
“Very truly yours,
Note. --- The “extraordinary proof required,” which Colonel Bachelder alludes to, consisted of letters and affidavits of over a score of officers and men of Hall’s Battery, the One hundred and forty-seventh New York, and some of the Confederates, all of whom took part in the action at the particular point in question.
“Hyde Park, Mass., March 5, 1889
“H. H. Lyman, Esq. late Adjt. 147th N.Y. Vols., Oswego, N. Y.
“My Dear Sir. ---- On returning from Washington, Gettysburg and Harrisburg, I have found your letter awaiting me. I have changed the “copy” of the first day’s fight in my history, and added your version, and desire to extend my thanks to yourself and Pierce for establishing the truth. And I now ask of you’re the favor of writing me a letter in the fullest detail, describing your regiment’s part in the battle from the beginning to end. You may present items which ought not be lost, as your late investigations have probably given you new data.
From Gettysburg, the movements of the regiment for the balance of the season were those of the First Corps, and included many long and forced marches and some skirmishing, but no hard fighting. At Haymarket, October 19, 1863, it lost a number of men captured on the picket line. It took part in the Mine Run campaign from November 26th to December 2d, losing a few, but suffering severely from cold and want of rations for the last two days.
From January 1, to May 4, 1864, it was in camp near Culpepper Court House, Va. This was the most comfortable and healthful camp ever occupied by the regiment for any length of time, and for the first and only time, its hospital had no occupants.
The First Corps having been merged and consolidated with the Fifth, we moved,
May 4th, across the Rapidan and participated in the opening battles of
the Wilderness, May 5th, 6th, and 7th sustaining a severe loss in killed and
wounded, and would as well as prisoners. Colonel Miller fell severely wounded,
have been cremated, except that he was recognized and carried off the field
by officers of the Seventh Indiana who, as prisoners, were being taken
the burning ground, where he lay unconscious.
Through the whole month of May the regiment was under fire nearly every day, taking an active part in the battles of Piney Branch Church, Laurel Hill, Bloody Angle, Spotsylvania, North Anna, and Bethesda Church. The work of the month of May, 1864, was the severest ever endured by the regiment, as it was almost constantly in the immediate presence of the enemy, and half the time under skirmish, artillery, or infantry fire.
Many incidents of special interest occurred which space will not permit me to mention.
General Rice, commanding the brigade, was severely wounded May 11th, in front of his command, and died from loss of blood after undergoing an amputation. Knowing that he was dying, he calmly said to the attendant: “Turn my face to the enemy,” which was done as he expired, proudly conscious to the last that his back was never turned to his country’s foes.
With the battle of Cold Harbor, June 3d, and the skirmish at Bottom’s Bridge, June 7th, the regiment concluded its operations north of the Chickshominy. On June 16th, it crossed the James River, and joined in the long and tedious siege of Petersburg, in which it was almost constantly under fire, daily losing men wounded or killed. August 18th, with the balance of the Fifth Corps, it moved to the left and fought at the battle of Weldon Round, near the Yellow House, August 19th – 21st. The regiment had a most peculiar and trying experience during this so-called Weldon Railroad raid. After the capture of the railroad, the line was surprised and the centre broken. Hofmann’s Brigade, which included the One hundred and forty-seventh, was on the left of he gap and apparently cut off. Seeing its peril, Colonel Hofmann sent an aide to withdraw his command. He had to go a long distance under hot fire and only delivered his order to the right regiment, with the imprudent injunction to “Pass it down the line.” This was not done; consequently but one regiment retired. General Warren from a distance, mistaking our three regiments for the enemy, opened a battery on them. They were successfully resisting the enemy in front and flank, but the shelling from friends was killing more men than the bullets of the enemy. For a few moments, until the battery was apprised of its error, our men were jumping first to one side and then the other of the breastworks. However, the failure of the staff officer to deliver his orders resulted in holding possession of the road, which was the main object of the expedition and battle. This was the second experience of the kind for the One hundred and forty-seventh, and recalled Gettysburg, where the failure to receive orders to retire from McPherson’s Ridge had compelled them, at great sacrifice, to remain and continue an uneven and desperate fight, which resulted in disaster to the enemy in the loss of a large portion of Davis’ Brigade, delayed and broke up Lee’s advance division, gaining valuable time, and secured to General Meade, the advantageous field of Gettysburg upon which to fight the great battle of the war.
September 30th, the One hundred and forty-seventh participated in the battle of Peeble’s Farm, and assisted in the capture of two newly-built forts. The regiment having been used as a decoy for the enemy, lost quite a number of prisoners, but no lives.
At Hatcher’s Run, October 27th and 28th, it lost none in killed, but a few in prisoners, who were captured in endeavoring to find and make connections with advancing lines. This number included Col. George Harney, a loss severely felt by the regiment. After the Hicksford or second Weldon Railroad raid, December 6th – 11th, which was remarkable for the cold and suffering endured, the regiment returned and went into camp near Petersburg, where for some time nothing of importance occurred.
February 5, 1865, it again advanced by way of Dinwiddie Court House to Hatcher’s Run where, on the 6th, 7th, and 8th, the corps fought a most desperate battle, consisting of several engagements, the regiment sustaining severe loss. In this battle the One hundred and forty-seventh fought near Dabney’s Mill, where the regiment rendered notably good service, for which its officers and men received flattering commendation from general officers. Eight of its noncommissioned officers and men volunteered to follow Lieutenant Esmond with the brigade colors to the front of the line, where General Morrow was making superhuman efforts to advance his shattered command, which was short of ammunition, upon the enemy’s reinforced lines, under a galling and destructive fire. Captain McKinley, of Company I, had the colors. Captain Coey, commanding the regiment, seized them and began to advance, when Captain McKinley, taking them from him, carried them to General Morrow, who was also in front of the line, assuring him that the regiment would follow them to Hades, if he so ordered. The general bowed and pointed towards the enemy. The effect was electrical, and the whole brigade went forward with a rush. Captain Coey was shot through the head, but regaining consciousness kept the field until the battle was won. For his part in this battle Captain Coey was awarded a Medal of Honor by Congress. Captain Joseph Dempsey, who had the right of the line and pushed his company (K) to the front and considerably in advance of the line, was severely wounded; and Lieutenant Bristol, of the same company was killed. Captain Dempsey was commissioned Brevet Major, U.S. A., for gallant and meritorious service in this battle.
March 25th the regiment was on the road before daylight to go to the relief of Fort Stedman, which had been surprised and captured in the night, but was recaptured early in the morning. In the afternoon the division was reviewed by President Lincoln, and marched directly from the field of review towards the enemy, who had opened fire on our lines during the progress of the review.
On the 29th of March began the closing campaign, and about sunset of that day the regiment, with the Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania, made a gallant attack and captured White Oak Ridge with little loss. On the 31st, it suffered most severely in the tangled woods and swamp while attempting to take the White Oak Road. It took part in the famous battle of Five Forks, and from that time on was constantly on the move in pursuit of the enemy, and was on the skirmish line when the white flag went down the lines at Appomattox. After a good rest, they marched leisurely overland to Washington, participated in the Grand Review, and were mustered out of the United States service at Bailey’s Cross Roads, June 7th, and out of the State’s service at Syracuse, N. Y., July 7, 1865, reaching Oswego, N.Y., with 147 of the original 837 enlisted men who had left there three years prior.
The regiment had received recruits so that its total enrollment was 2,102.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History