|Unit History Project|
33rd Regiment, New York volunteer Infantry
THIRTY-THIRD REGIMENT INFANTRY N. Y. S. V.
The officers of eight companies met at Elmira, on the 17th of May, in informal
organization. On the 21st the organization was rendered complete by the election
of Robert F. Taylor as colonel; Calvin Walker as lieutenant colonel; and
Robert J. Mann as major. On the 22d of May the State Military Board passed
Special Orders 217, of the same date, recited this action and ordered Colonel Taylor to report for duty to General Van Valkenburgh, and to hold his regiment in readiness, to be mustered into the service of the United States, which muster was made by Capt. L. Sitgreaves. U. S. A., on the 6th of July, for two years from May 22d.
The regiment was armed with United States percussion muskets, pattern of 1842, calibre 69; supplied with uniforms, camp equipage and tents. While at Elmira it was presented with a regimental banner by the ladies bf Canandaigua, through Mrs. Cheeebro, which was received with appropriate ceremonies. To assist in the organization of the companies the citizens of the localities in which they were raised made liberal contributions. The expenditure on the part of the State, on account of the regiment, up to August 15, 1861, was $42,112.06, exclusive of subsistence and quarters.
The regiment left Elmira for Washington on the 8th of July, via Williamsport, Harrisburg and Baltimore, and arrived on the 9th; was assigned to temporary quarters, and on the 10th marched out on Seventh street about two and-one-half miles and established," camp Granger." It remained here for about one month. Toward evening on the 21st of July, during the battle of Bull Run, it received marching orders and moved in the direction of Long Bridge. On reaching the Treasury building, however, the order was countermanded and it returned to camp.
On the 8th of August the regiment broke camp and proceeding through Georgetown, along the river road, took up a new position near the reservoir, about half a mile from Chain Bridge, and camped on the ground known as "Camp Lyon." It was here brigaded with the Third Vermont and Sixth Maine, under Colonel (since General) W. F. Smith. The Second Vermont was subsequently added to the brigade. The time was principally employed in drilling, constructing rifle-pits and a redoubt mounting three guns.
On the 3d of September a detachment of fifty-two men from companies C and D, crossed the river and proceeded as far as Langley. In the evening the entire brigade crossed over the Long Bridge. Other troops crossed the same evening, and eighteen hundred axes were immediately at work felling trees and clearing sites for Forts Marcy and Ethan Allen. In three days time heavy siege guns were mounted. During the construction of the forts, the camp was known as " camp Advance." The regiment moved from this camp to " camp Ethan Allen," where a re-organization of brigades occurred, under which the Thirty-third was brigaded (Third brigade) with the Forty-ninth and Seventy-ninth New York, and Forty-seventh Pennsylvania, under Colonel Stevens, as a part of the division under General W. F. Smith.
On the 29th of September Smith's division moved up the Lewinsville turnpike to Makell's Hill, where it formed in line of battle, with Mott's battery in front supported by the Thirty-third. A few shots were fired from this batter, dispersing a body of the enemy's cavalry. Soon after, the enemy opened a warm artillery fire along the whole line, which was responded to by our batteries. Many of the enemy's missiles struck among the Thirty-third, but no one of the regiment was injured.
On the 10th of October the division again moved to Makell's Hill and, formed in line of battle, skirmishers being thrown out in front. On the 11th, advanced half a mile, where the regiment established "Camp Griffin," and remained during the winter. While here it was employed in reconnoissances (with two skirmishes with the enemy's cavalry), slashing timber, reviews, picket-duty, &c. Several changes occurred in the brigade during October. Colonel Stevens was detached with the Seventy-ninth New York, and Colonel Taylor took charge of the brigade until relieved by General Brennan. General Brennan was soon after detached with the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania. General Brooks now commanded the brigade for a few days, and the Eighty-sixth New York supplied the place of the Forty-seventh Pennsylvania. General Davidson succeeded General Brooks. The Eighty-sixth New York was returned to General Carey's division, and the Seventy-seventh New York assigned to the vacancy in the Third brigade.
On the 10th of March, 1862, at 3 1/2 A. M., the regiment moved in the advance towards Manassas—Smith's division being the second in General Keyes' Fourth corps, and the Third brigade, under General Davidson, being composed of the Thirty-third, Seventy-seventh and Forty-ninth New York, and the Seventh Maine. The Third brigade encamped for the night at Flint Hilly and remained there four days. Meanwhile it was ascertained that the enemy had abandoned Manassas, and that a change in the direction of the advance on Richmond had been determined upon. On the 15th, Smith's division resumed the line of march, passed through Fairfax and encamped at Cloud's Mills, near Alexandria. On the 23d the regiment marched to Alexandria' and embarked on steamers for Fortress Monroe, reached Old Point Comfort on the 25th, disembarked and marched through the village of Hampton to the James River and encamped.
On the 27th of March, Smith's division marched to Watts' Creek, a small hamlet near Big Bethel, dispersed a company of the enemy's cavalry, and returned on the 28th and encrmped about two miles north of Newport News. Two other expeditions were sent out to Watts' Creek, the first composed of two companies of the Thirty-third, and the second of the Third brigade. On the 4th of April the army commenced moving in the direction of Yorktown. During the afternoon of that day, the regiment reached Young's Mills, where it occupied the huts which the enemy had left in the morning. On the 5th it reached Lee's Mills, where skirmishing and artillery firing immediately commenced and continued for several days. The position occupied by the division was found to be unnecessarily exposed, and it was ordered to fall back a short distance. The Thirty-third was the last to leave the front where it had maintained its position under the hottest of the enemy's fire for fifty-four hours, and lost in wounded one officer and several privates. On the 11th of April, the brigade moved one mile and a half nearer Yorktown, and encamped directly in front of the enemy's fortifications, where it built corduroy roads, slashed timber, etc., until General Smith made the unsuccessful attempt to cross the Warwick River with the Vermont brigade, when it moved a mile and a half to the right, where it remained until the evacuation of Yorktown. Here the regiment was engaged in reconnoissances, constructing rifle-pits and earthworks.
On the 4th of May, Smith's division crossed Warwick Creek and pushed forward
in pursuit of the retreating enemy. The regiment, however, was delayed through
mistake, and did not march until 5 P. M. It bivouacked for the night seven
miles east of Williamsburg, and did not reach its division until after the
Williamsburg had opened. About 11 o'clock, General Hancock, temporarily commanding
the Third brigade with his own, was ordered to the right of the division to
turn the enemy's position. In executing this order the Thirty-third marched
two miles to the right, crossed King's creek on a high dam, and soon after
halted near, an abandoned redoubt. Here it was ac-tively engaged in skirmish
evening, when the enemy moved in force on General Hancock's position. Three
companies of the regiment were then occupying the abandoned redoubt. The advance
enemy appeared irresistible. The right and left of General Hancock's line wavered
and the members of several regiments retreated across the dam. At this juncture
Lieutenant Colonel Corning suggested to Colonel Taylor that a " charge" was
the only, thing that could cheek the enemy. The charge was ordered, and Lieutenant
Colonel Corning, with his three companies, sprang forward on the double-quick.
Incited by this, gallant example of three companies charging a whole division,
other regiments followed. Fearing
that they had underrated our force;
the enemy broke and fled in confusion. It was a most daring exploit, and
decided, the fortunes of the day on the left. On the evening of the 7th General
McClellan rode into camp and addressed the regiment as follows:
A delay of three or four days occurred at Williamsburg. The Thirty-third broke camp, on the 9th, for the Chickahominy, and camped at "Burnt Ordinary;" passed New Kent Court-House on the 11th, and was nearly two weeks in reaching the Chickahominy. On reaching White House, a reorganization of the corps was made—the divisions of General Franklin and General Smith being united under General Franklin as the Sixth corps. The position of Smith's division had hitherto been in the left wing of the army, but by the change in the corps organizations, it was brought to the extreme right, in which position it continued in the advance on Richmond.
On the 25th of May occurred the battle of Mechanicsville. General Stoneman had pushed forward to this place on the 23d; supported by Gen. Davidson's brigade, and encountered " Howell Cobb's brigade." A part of the Thirty-third was on picket until the 24th, when the infantry pushed on to Mechanicsville. Three companies of the Thirty-third were deployed as skirmishers, and discovered the enemy drawn up in the principal street, and in a neighboring grove. The whole brigade now moved up; and the skirmishers of the Thirty-third were, for a time, exposed to our own; as well as to the fire of the enemy. A heavy artillery fire was soon concentrated on the buildings in which the enemy had taken shelter, and compelled an exodus on their part. General Davidson ordered a charge, and the Thirty-third and Seventy-seventh rushed forward and drove the enemy out of the village. Detachments from the Thirty-third and other regiments held the village during the night, and on the following day rejoined the brigade at Beaver Dam.
The brigade moved from Beaver Dam on the 26th of May, and encamped on the Gaines' Farm, where it remained until the 5th of June, when the division was ordered to cross the Chickahominy and encamp on Golden's Farm. The brigade took the advance and crossed the river at " Dispatch Station," being compelled to march fifteen miles to reach a point only three miles opposite its old encampment. When the Thirty-third arrived at Golden's Farm, a brisk skirmish had already commenced with the enemy. Our artillery immediately opened lire and the enemy retreated. The division went into camp and remained until the 28th of June. While here, the regiment built Fort Davidson, and constructed numerous rifle-pits.
During the battle at Gaines' Mill, on the 27th, a portion of Franklin's corps
was seat to the support of Gen. Porter. Smith's division, however, remained
on Golden's Farm. On the 28th Colonel Taylor moved, with a portion of his command,
to relieve and support the picket line. He had barely reached the picket however,
before the enemy opened a heavy artillery fire from twenty pieces upon the
The camp-guard, sick, etc., immediately sought refuge behind the earthworks,
and remained during the pitiless shower of shot and shell. After an hour the
enemy advanced and drove in the picket line, which retreated in good order to
the breastworks. The enemy, flushed with success, moved steadily forward until
within a few yards of the breastwork, when they were met with sheets of
fire from well-directed guns, and broke and fled in great disorder. The enemy
reformed and again moved to the attack, and were again repulsed. Under the third
attempt, Col. Lamar, of the Eighth Georgia, who led the enemy, was killed, while
Mott's battery, which had come up, opened an enfilading fire, and sent the enemy
flying in all directions. Gen, Davidson, in his report of the affair, said:
The right wing of the Thirty-third was again detailed on picket on the night of the 28th. During the night Captain McNair, under Gen. Davidson's orders, destroyed the camp equipage of the entire brigade. Companies A and F relieved C, D and I at 1 o'clock, A.M. Meanwhile the retreat had commenced, and regiment after regiment disappeared in the distance, and the picket was left alone in front of the enemy. It maintained its position, however, until after day-dawn, almost feeling the breath of the advancing enemy, and retired on signal.
The division marched two miles on Sunday morning, keeping on the high lands which skirt the Chickahominy, in order to protect the right. It halted about one mile to the right of Savage's Station, and after remaining in line of battle a few moments, fell back to the station. The pioneers of the Thirty-third were here detailed to assist in destroying stored, and soon lighted the heavens with costly fires. After remaining two hours in the woods around the station, the brigade marched two miles to the rear, where the men helped themselves to/new clothing from a quantity of quarter-masters stores that had been left for want of transportation. It then returned to the station to support General Brooks, who had become engaged with the enemy. The battle lasted until an hour after sunset, when a brilliant cavalry charge totally routed and put to flight the rebels. At 10 o'clock in the evening the brigade again moved to the rear, towards White Oak swamp.
General Davidson fell under sun-stroke on the 29th, and Colonel Taylor succeeded to the command of the brigade. The march during the night was one of great fatigue and confusion. Regiments and brigades were broken up and mingled together, and at White Oak swamp bridge each regiment pushed ahead pell-mell, in order to get over first. Colonel Taylor's brigade got together about 6 A. M., and started on the road to Harrison's Landing. After proceeding a short distance it halted and stacked arms. Suddenly, as the men were receiving rations, the roar of cannon broke the stillness and shot and shell fell in a shower. Under cover of the forest on the opposite, side of the swamp, the enemy had planted his batteries in close proximity, and obtained a perfect range of our forces. A momentary panic ensued, but the men were speedily put in line and repulsed, every attempt of the enemy to cross the swamp.
About half past eight P. M., the enemy's fire slackened, and the division withdrew, leaving only, a picket line in the enemy's front. The division reached Malvern Hill an hour after daylight on the 1st of July. Here every alternate man was selected as skirmishers, and the others permitted to sleep. The battle of Malvern Hill was in the meantime being fought, continuing from 8 A. M. to 3 P. M. , The regiment was ordered in from picket and permitted a few hours rest, and then sent to the front to support Ayers' battery. It had hardly taken position behind the guns, however, before it was ordered to move on. Reaching a large wheat field, a portion of the army was found drawn up in a hol-low square, expecting an attack, but no enemy appeared. The regiment, here joined its brigade under Colonel Taylor, and proceeded on towards Harrison's Landing, where it arrived about 2 P. M.
On the 16th of August, Smith's division took up the line of march for Newport News. General Davidson having been transferred to the west and Colonel Taylor being absent on recruiting service, the command of the brigade fell upon Lieutenant-Colonel Corning, of the Thirty-third, and subsequently upon Colonel Von Vegesack of the Twentieth New York. The brigade reached Hampton on the 21st of August, and embarked on the 22d on board the steamers Vanderbilt and Empire city ; anchored at Aquia creek the same day, but did not land ; proceeded to Alexandria on the 24th, and went into camp at Fort Ellsworth. On the 29th, the Sixth corps moved to Annandale; on the 30th, to Fairfax Court House, and from thence to Cub Run. Here the countermarch was ordered to Centreville. The Thirty-third left the front about 7 P. M., on Monday, and halted one mile west of Fairfax Court House. After sleeping two hours, moved back with its division to the front, and constituted the rear guard of the retreating forces. About 10 A. M., it was withdrawn, and reached its old camping ground at Alexandria at 10 P. M.
The Sixth corps moved on the evening of the 6th of September, and marched until 2 A. M. of the 7th when it halted at Tenallytown, resumed the march at 5 P. M., and continued for six miles; marched through Rockville on the 8th, and bivouacked four miles east of Darnestown; moved to Seneca creek on the 9th; to Barnsville and Sugar Loaf Mountain on the 11th, and to Monocacy Bridge on the 12th. On the 13th, the Thirty-third and Twentieth, New York, were ordered forward to drive the enemy out of Jefferson's Pass: The enemy fell back and were followed a mile beyond the village of Jefferson. The remainder of the division came up and bivouacked for the night. The brigade was now under command of Col. Irwin, of the Forty-ninth Pennsylvania.
In the battles of the 14th of September, the Sixth corps, under Gen. Franklin, was assigned to the duty of taking Crampton Gap. How thoroughly this duty was performed, is too well understood to require repetition here. During the engagement, the Thirty-third and other regiments of the Third brigade, supported Gen. Brooks, dashed up the woody summit, charged the battery at the left of the pass, and captured two guns, together with numerous prisoners. It then moved down the west side of the mountain and bivouacked at the foot in Pleasant Valley. The next day the corps stood to arms at sunrise, to march to the relief of Harper's Ferry, but the surrender of that post by Col. Miles was soon announced, and the corps was directed to other duties.
The Sixth corps left Pleasant Valley at daylight on the 17th, and marched
rapidly to the battle-field of Antietam. It arrived just as our lines were
The Third brigade and two others pressed forward, put the enemy to flight,
and established the lines far in advance of where they had been at the opening
the fight. But this success cost dear. Fifty-three were killed and wounded
in the Thirty-third alone. This position was held during the remainder of the
At night a guard of three officers, nine sergeants and thirty men, from the
Thirty-third, were posted in front of the regiment, and after dark moved forward
a hundred yards of the enemy. Towards morn-ing, the officer of the guard informed
Lieutenant-Colonel Corning that the enemy were moving artillery back by hand.
The fact was immediately reported to Gen. Smith. An hour later, the retreat
of the enemy could be seen from Burnside's position. About noon the Third brigade
was relieved. The following are extracts from the report made by the commander
of the Third brigade, immediately succeeding the battle, viz:
On the 19th, the regiment moved with the corps to Williamsport On the 23d, it encamped near Bakersville, where it remained three weeks. On the 6th of October, two hundred recruits arrived for the regiment, and were apportioned among the several companies, a part being formed into a new company, D, that company having been disbanded. On the 11th, it moved to Hagerstown 18th, passed through Hagerstown and arrived at Clear Spring the following morning. Hero the Thirty-third was stationed on the Potomac to guard Nolan's Ferry, Dam No. 5, the "Fiddle String," and other points on the river and canal. On the 2d of November, it crossed the Potomac at Berlin, passed through Lov-ettsville and encamped, and from thence to White Plains.
On the 7th of November, Gen. Burnside took command of the army, and soon after organized it in three grand divisions—the First and Sixth corps being placed under command of Gen. Franklin on the left; Gen. Smith succeeded Gen. Franklin in command of the Sixth corps; Gen. Howe succeeded Gen. Smith in the command of the division, and the brigade was placed under Gen, Vinton. The march was resumed on the 15th of November, and was continued (by the 6th corps) to Stafford Court House. On the 3d of December, it started for Belle Plain, where it bivouacked, on the 6th, about six miles from Fredericksburg, The Third brigade (2d division, 6th corps) was now composed of the Thirty-third, Twenieth, Forty-ninth and Seventy-seventh New York, and Seventh Maine.
The advance on Fredericksburg commenced on to 11th of December. During the night four pontoon bridges were commenced, but were not completed until the nest day. The Sixth corps crossed on the morning of the 13th— the Thirty-third regiment crossing at 11 o'clock. An hour and a half later, the corps was drawn up in line of battle—the Thirty-third in the center— and moved forward. Skirmishers were thrown out, and the enemy encountered near Bowling Green road where the Thirty-third lost the first man wounded in the corps. Franklin's division reached its position, on a plain, bounded on the north by Hazel Creek, east by the Rappahannock, west by a chain of hills, and south by the Massaponax, and there lay upon its arms during the night. On the 13th, the Thirty-third was posted in the first of the three lines of battle, to support a battery. At an early hour in the day, Gen. Vinton was wounded, and Col Taylor took command of the brigade until the arrival of Gen. Neill. About 9 o'clock the fire became general along the line. The guns supported by the Thirty-third were repeatedly hit by the enemy, while two shots from the enemy's 64 pounder struck in the center of the lines occupied by the regiment. Towards night the regiment was relieved by the Forty-third New York, and fell Back to the second line of battle. The corps occupied its position until the evening of the 15th, when the army fell back across the river, The Thirty-third crossed at 9 P. M., and bivouacked in a wood near by, where it remained two days. It then returned to its old camp near White Oak Church.
In the movement of the 20th of January the regiment marched with the left grand division to banks' ford. A terrible storm set in, the roads were soon made impassable, and the entire army was, for the time being, stalled in the mud. A further advance was of course impossible, and the army slowly worked its way back to quarters, and the Thirty-third took up, for the third time, its camp at White Oak Church.
General Hooker took command of the army on the 26th of January. He immediately
changed the organisation from grand divisions to the old status of corps, and
effected other changes, among which was the organization of a Light brigade
in General Howe's (Second) division. On the 28th of April the Sixth corps,
command of General Sedgwick, moved to woods back of the point where Franklin's
division had crossed the Rappahan-nock in December. During the night the "Light
brigade " assisted in getting the pontoons to the river, and at early dawn
Russell's brigade was sent over in boats. Two bridges were soon completed.
The subsequent operations of the regiment are stated in the report of General
Neill, commanding the brigade, as follows:
" On the morning of the 4th of May the enemy attempted to turn our rear, when I led four regiments of my brigade back towards Fredericksburg and checked them. I must not omit to mention, on the morning of the 4th a brigade of rebels advanced to take an earthwork near the plank road, which was then occupied by our troops, when two companies of the Forty-ninth New York and one company of the Seventh Maine, supported by the Forty-ninth New York, in conjunction with two pieces of Lieutenant Martin's battery, entirely routted the whole brigade, and the three companies of infantry aforementioned captured 200 prisoners and the colors of the Fifty-eighth Virginia.
" On the evening of the 4th of May, about 5 o'clock, the whole of Longstreet's corps came up the Richmond road as reinforcements, attacking my right and front, massing large numbers of his infantry in the ravines which were held by their troops. After losing about one thousand men I was obliged to retire, my regiments being unable to cope with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy, and fearful lest in the position I then held they would be captured by the enemy piercing our lines in rear, between us and Banks' ford. * * * The stubborn resistance of my brigade at that time, I believe, enabled the Sixth corps to recross the Rappahannock at Banks' ford in the night." * * *
The engagements thus generally stated by General McNeill, were first the storming of Marye's Heights, in which the Thirty-third had the honor to lead the brigade. Marye's Heights were the center of the enemy's position, and as soon as this was secured the Thirty-third led the attack on the batteries on the left, where it captured a redoubt and one of the guns mentioned in General McNeill's report. Its subsequent engagements were at Salem Heights and in the retreat towards Banks' ford.
From the Chancellorsville campaign the regiment returned to White Oak Church,
where it remained until the 12th, when Col. Taylor received orders to return
to Elmira for muster out. This order was accompanied by addresses from the
corps, division and brigade Generals. The following extract from General Sedgwick's
address exhibits the general tone of these addresses, viz:
The regiment left the field on the 15th of May and arrived at Elmira on the 17th. From this place it visited Geneva and Canandaigua, where it received ovations, and on the 2d of June was mustered out of service.
From JUDD'S "Campaign of the Thirty-third" the following table has been compiled:
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History