ALTHOUGH Cortland county is one of the smallest in the State, she has every reason to be proud of her military record. Many of the early residents, or their immediate relatives, took part in the war of 1812, and it is stated that sixteen soldiers of the Revolution drew lots and located in this county. The sad story told by many hundreds of graves, marked and unmarked, reveals what a host went out from here to fight for the preservation of the Union in the last terrible conflict.
The first military organization directly affecting the territory embraced within the county, dates back to 1796. In March, 1794, after the erection of Onondaga county from Herkimer, various appointments were made for the new county, particularly for the battalions of Major John L. Hardenburgh, Moses Dewitt and Asa Danforth, the latter of Onondaga county. In 1796 his battalion was made a regiment, its material to come from the townships of Hannibal, Lysander, Cicero, Manlius, Pompey, Fabius, Solon, Cincinnatus, Tully, Virgil, Camillus, Sempronius, Locke, Dryden, and the Onondaga Reservation. Mr. Danforth was made Lieutenant-Colonel commandant.
In those days the military spirit was more active than at the present time. The war of
the Revolution had terminated but a few years before, and the Federal constitution had recently gone into effect. The new government was looked upon as to a certain extent experimental, doubts being felt of its permanency. Foreign complications were threatening the peace, while the borders were still menaced by the Indians. Therefore the wisdom of kee(p)ing up efficient military organizations in every county was generally acknowledged. Military honors and office implied much more distinction than in later years, and were sought with corresponding avidity. Seekers after political preferment were prompt to join the military ranks as a step thereto, while the wearing of a uniform and the pleasure and excitement of "training days" attracted the masses of those liable to military duty. Wherever they were held, thousands flocked to the scene, filling the adjacent highways, perching on the fences and climbing trees. The farmers came in with barrels of new cider in their wagons, which fluid was supplemented by the popular golden ginger bread, and general hilarity ensued on all such occasions.
The old militia organization continued in this State until the year 1862, when it gave way to the "National Guard of the State of New York," and this was, in turn, swallowed up by the organization of the vast northern armies for the suppression of rebellion. Going back to the year 1818 (and probably even earlier), we find indications of an active martial spirit in Cortland county. At that time it appears that the Thirty-sixth Brigade embraced the county, of which Martin Keep was brigadier-general, Enos Stimson, brigade-major and inspector, and Augustus Donnelly, aid-de-camp. The latter officer was appointed on the 1st of June of that year, under brigade order, dated at headquarters in Homer. The same order appointed Lieut. S. G. Hathaway, Capt. Samuel Bull, Capt. John J. Adams, Capt. ____ Hemenway and Lieut. Chauncey Keep, a court martial. Another brigade order of that year commanded all non-commissioned officers and musicians to meet September 1st at 9 o'clock, at the public square, homer, for military exercise. "Col. Elijah Wheeler will issue similar orders to his regiment of artillery and riflemen." The 58th Regiment, under command of Col. Martin Phelps, was ordered to parade on the 15th of September, on the public square at Homer; and the 4th Regiment, Col. Wheeler, on the 16th of September, in Solon.
A brigade order of August, 1819, was signed by Martin Phelps as brigadier-general, and appointed Andrew Dickson, president, Capts. Washington Parker, Wm. H. Warner, and Solomon Baker, jr., and Adjutant Azariel Blanchard, a court martial. In that year the regiments of Cols. Dickson, Hathaway and Reynolds were ordered to parade. In 1820 S. G. Hathaway became commander of the 36th Brigade. In 1833 we find notice published by Col. Judah Pierce, jr., commanding the 67th Regiment, of a court martial to be held in Truxton in May of that year. In 1853 this county was embraced in the 52d Regiment, commanded by Col. O. M. Welch, which, with the 51st Regiment of Onondaga county, formed the 24th Brigade. A four days encampment of the brigade was held in Syracuse, in August of that year.
But we need not follow through the many succeeding years the almost innumerable changes and promotions that occurred in the officers of the old militia organization of the county; suffice it to say that the military spirit of those days, coupled, as it often was, with political distinction, developed many officers who would undoubtedly have proven their heroism and bravery on a hard fought field, if such had been their destiny; but, happily, they lived through an era of peace, closely following upon the bloody heels of war. The annual reviews of the several regiments of the county were for many years held either in Homer, Virgil, Cincinnatus or Solon; in later years some of the "trainings" were held in Cortland village, in the fields then vacant south of Tompkins and west of South Main street. In the Reminiscences published a few years since by Hon. Horatio Ballard, he gave the following account of military affairs hereabouts in early times, which will recall vivid recollections of their martial experience in the minds of the few who are left of the elder organizations:---
"The regiment embracing the undivided town of Homer, Preble and Scott was a noble one. It was composed of a company of cavalry, grenadiers, artillery, rifle and infantry. Military pride was then cultivated and upheld throughout the ranks of society. I hope there are some yet living who will remember the splendid 'troop of cavalry' as it paraded on the 'green' in Homer, commanded by Joshua Ballard, and officered by the cherished names of David Coye, Isaac Rindge, Stephen Knapp, Henry De Voe, and others, with Roswell Lee as trumpeter, and 'Hi.' Herrick as color-bearer; or the brilliant company of grenadiers, dressed in beautiful uniforms and commanded by Hezekiah Roberts, with Jeremiah Day on the fife, and Jerry Selkreg on the drum, as his chief musicians; or the heavy artillery, with its brass ordnance, marching with stately tread through the streets of Homer, and commanded by Benajah Tubbs; or the rifle company, in uniform of green tunics and feathers in caps, moving on the double-quick, and commanded by John Etz.
"It was a marked era in the history of the old brigade when Roswell Randall became its commandant. He was a model military officer, possessed of faultless taste in the matters of military dress, and was fond of the splendors of military parades. The brigade staff was composed of Enos Stimson, brigade inspector; J. De Puy Freer, judge advocate; John D. Matthews, surgeon; Henry S. Randall, aid; Hiram C. McKay, quartermaster, and George Barber, paymaster. On the resignation of Major Stimson, the writer of this number was appointed by the governor as brigade inspector.
"In the uniform of the general and staff, and the trappings of the horses, the military regulations were fully carried out. Nothing was wanting. The county was laid under contribution for the best horses for annual parades. These were palmy days in the military annals of the county.
"General Randall possessed manly beauty and a graceful horsemanship, combined with a thorough knowledge of military evolutions. He was ambitious to sustain the organization of the militia, and to have the reviews command not only the respect but the admiration of the people. His words and his example were felt throughout the military ranks of the county, and were effectual in improving discipline and exciting admiration for the parades and maneuvers of the regiments.
"This was the period when Eleazer May was the colonel of the regiment which met at Homer; William Squires, colonel of the regiment which met at Virgil; Eli C. Dickinison, colonel of the regiment which met at Cincinnatus; and Judah Pierce, colonel of the battalion which met at Truxton.
"The general and staff were accustomed to ride in carriages until a short distance of the hotel quarters, and then to mount the led horses and ride into town under the animating blasts of the bugle, and with quickened pace, forming in platoon before the hotel, when every rider would deliver at command a pistol shot. This was a sort of prelude for the awakening scenes of the day. After the review was a stately march of the regiment from the parade ground along the streets of the town, escorting the general and staff, with banners flying, and the multitude electrified with scores of 'ear-piercing fifes,' and scores of 'spirit-stirring drums,' emphasized with the roar of cannon. Then came the halt and the official dismissal, and thus 'general training day' was closed.
"The only surviving regimental commandant of that period is Colonel William Squires, now (1878) a resident of Marathon. In the vigor of his years he had a passion for the military. He soon rose to the command of a regiment, and then it was that he began to display that remarkable magnetic power over a corps of men in the field which gave him renown. He would maneuver a regiment so that they would go through successive evolutions with the regularity of the pieces in a game of chess. It was a noble military spectacle, and gave delight to the encircling field of beholders. But the general and most of his staff, and the field officers of the several regiments, have been dismissed from duty in life's campaign."
When the startling news of the defeat of the northern army at Bull Run in 1861 came flashing from the telegraph, the people from among whom had marched that army---a host great in numbers and believed to be invincible against the boasting enemies of the government---could scarcely believe the appalling intelligence. The great army beaten by a lot of rioters! Flying in defeat to the defenses of Washington! It could not be true. The sequel is well known history. The North, for a moment paralyzed, quickly recovered, and united in one grand military effort to put down the unholy attempt to sever the Union and perpetuate an institution founded and fostered in human oppression and wrong. One of the minor features, yet one which was momentous in its consequences, of this great effort, was the meeting of a few earnest men in a law office in Cortland village, to consider what could be done here towards aiding the government in its wrestle with the rebels. At this meeting there was much diversity of opinion. One full company, that of Captain Clark, had already left the county in the 23d Regiment N. Y. V., many had gone in the old 12th Regiment and other organizations, and it was feared by some that another company could not be organized in the county, and if it could that it would not be wise to thus drain the community of its young and able-bodied men. Others held different views. In attendance at the meeting was Nelson W. Green, a man of sanguine, nervous temperament, who had been partially educated at West Point, whence he was discharged on account of a wound. It was Mr. Green who advanced and supported the suggestion that an entire regiment could be easily raised in Cortland county. After proper consideration it was decided to make the attempt, and Colonel Green was accordingly authorized by the State to proceed with the work. A circular was prepared setting forth the object in view, and giving instructions to recruits as to what course to pursue, and signed by about thirty of the leading citizens of Cortland village; these were distributed throughout the county. Meetings were held in every town, and enlistments went forward so rapidly that an order was soon obtained for the formation of a military camp at Cortland. The grounds of the County Agricultural Society were leased for this purpose, and on the 26th of September, 1861, the enlisted men were assembled in camp. Recruiting continued in every school district, and the organization of the regiment under the inspiring number, Seventy-Six, seemed to be near at hand, when, on the 6th of December, an event occurred which caused intense excitement, and threatened to end the harmony and peace of the regiment. Among the captains of the organization was Andrew J. McNett, of Alleghany county, who had joined the regiment in October with about seventy men. To these were added fifteen or twenty brought from Yates county by H. W. Pierce, who was made a lieutenant in Company A. In the latter part of November Captain McNett procured a leave of absence to go to Syracuse to purchase his uniform, and to Alleghany county to procure more men. We will give the details of the event in the impartial language of the historian of the regiment, Hon. A. P. Smith:---
"On the return of Captain McNett, Colonel Green charged him with having used his leave of absence to go to Albany to stir up strife in violation of the understanding when he received it, and ordered him to give up the paper as fraudulently obtained. This Captain McNett refused to do. Colonel Green then ordered it taken from Captain McNett by Captain Grover. McNett made a formal resistance, but unbuttoned his coat and Captain Grover took the document from his pocket. Colonel Green then ordered Captain McNett in close arrest in the officers' quarters, with orders that he be permitted to communicate with no one, except by permission from the commandant of the post. This created some feeling in Captain McNett's company and gave rise to much angry discussion in camp.
"On the 6th of December Colonel Green had been to Captain McNett's company to adjust some difficulty, and on his return, when riding past the officers' quarters, saw Captain McNett standing in the doorway. Colonel Green claims that the captain was outside the door shaking hands with his men, in violation of orders. Captain McNett claims he was inside the door, though near it, where he had resorted to get fresh air. We give both versions. As Captain McNett was thus standing in or near the door, Col. Green rode up and the following dialogue in substance took place:---
"Col. Green --- The prisoner should not leave his quarters. Retire to your quarters.
"Capt. McNett --- I shall not, sir.
"Col. Green --- Do you refuse to obey my orders, sir?
"Capt. McNett --- I do, such orders.
"Col. Green (dismounting and drawing a small Smith & Wesson pistol) --- Will you retire to your quarters?
"Capt. McNett --- I will not, sir.
"Col. Green, at this point, fired over the head of the captain, the ball lodging in the roof of the quarters.
"Col. Green --- Retire to your quarters, sir.
"Capt. McNett (straightening up) --- I will not, sir; shoot me if you dare.
"The colonel then lowered the pistol and fired, the ball taking effect in the captain's chin and lodging in his neck. McNett immediately turned around and sat down in a chair. The surgeon of the post, Dr. J. C. Nelson, was called and the wound dressed.
"This very naturally created great excitement in camp and vicinity. Colonel Green had, by his patriotic course, endeared himself to many of the loyal people. Captain McNett was not without friends, who gathered around him, and, in the discussion that followed this affair, excitement ran high. The governor was informed of the affair, and sent Gen. James Wood to Cortland to ascertain the facts, and in the mean time to take command of the regiment. Gen. Wood arrived December 9th, and on the evening of that day met the officers of the regiment, when a full interchange of opinion was had. The officers were nearly or quite unanimous in the approval of the course taken by Colonel Green, and so expressed themselves. The next day the general visited the camp and possessed himself of all the material facts connected with the history of the regiment. On the 13th of December General Wood again met the officers at the house of Colonel Green, when the matter was again fully canvassed. The next day Colonel Green was arrested, on a criminal warrant for the shooting, and gave bail before the county judge for his appearance at the Oyer and Terminer to be held in January following, to answer an indictment to be found against him for assault with intent to kill." 2
Orders were received on the 16th of December to proceed to Albany and on the 18th the regiment left home and friends for the dangers and hardships of the battlefield. They arrived at Albany on the evening of the same day and were placed in barracks, where many suffered severely from the cold.
A court of inquiry had been ordered in Colonel Green's case and, after an investigation of three days, he was placed in command of the regiment by the governor, on the 28th.
While the 76th had been recruiting in Cortland county, similar work had been in progress in Otsego county, resulting, early in January, in the departure for Albany from Cherry Valley of six companies (consolidated into five) of the 39th regiment of National Guard, under command of Col. John D. Shaul, who had tendered the services of his regiment to the government. These five companies were captained by A. L. Swan, J. E. Cook, J. W. Young, E. N. Hanson and N. Bowdish. The Cortland branch of the 76th numbered about 800 men; the governor wisely concluding that it would not be politic to send Col. Green and Capt. McNett to the front in the same regiment, transferred the latter and his company to the 93d New York, then stationed at Albany. At the same time, Capt. J. V. White, who had joined the 76th with about forty-five men, was transferred by his request to the 3d New York Artillery. The remaining companies of the 76th were consolidated into seven --- A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Three companies were then transferred from the Otsego regiment to the 76th, Captain Swan's company becoming Co. H; Captain Cook's Co. I, and Captain Young's Co. K. Each of these companies, so far as possible, retained its own officers. The field and staff officers were appointed as follows:---
Colonel---N. W. Green, of Cortland.
Lieutenant-Colonel---John D. Shaul, of Springfield.
Major---Charles E. Livingston, of New York city.
Surgeon---J. C. Nelson, of Truxton.
Assistant-Surgeon---Geo. W. Metcalfe, of Otsego county.
Chaplain---H. Stone Richardson, of New York Mills.
Adjutant---Heman F. Robinson, of Cortland.
Quartermaster---A. P. Smith, of Cortland.
Quartermaster-Sergeant---Albert J. Jarvis, of Cortland.
Commissary-Sergeant---William Storrs, of Allegany.
The line officers of the regiment were as follows:---
Company A---Captain, Andrew J. Grover; First Lieutenant, Charles H. George; Second Lieutenant, H. W. Pierce.
Company B---Captain, Oscar C. Fox; First Lieutenant, C. D. Crandall; Second Lieutenant, W. Stuart Walcott.
Company C---Captain, Gilman J. Crittenden; First Lieutenant, E. R. Weaver; Second Lieutenant, M. P. Marsh.
Company D---Captain, Charles L. Watrous; First Lieutenant, E. D. Van Slyck; Second Lieutenant, ------ -------.
Company E---Captain, Wm. H. Powell; First Lieutenant, John H. Ballard; Second Lieutenant, S. M. Powell.
Company F---Captain, John F. Barnard; First Lieutenant, E. A. Mead; Second Lieutenant, Wm. W. Green.
Company G---Captain, Wm. Lansing; First Lieutenant, Aaron Sager; Second Lieutenant, James L. Goddard.
Company H---Captain, Amos L. Swan; First Lieutenant, M. B. Cleveland; Second Lieutenant, Robert Story.
Company I---Captain, John E. Cook; First Lieutenant, H. A. Blodgett; Second Lieutenant, Richard Williams.
Company K---Captain, John W. Young; First Lieutenant, C. A. Watkins; Second Lieutenant, C. M. Gaylord.
On the 16th day of January the 76th received orders to march to New York on the following day. On the 17th they marched to the capitol, where a beautiful stand of colors was presented to the regiment by S. R. Campbell, esq., in behalf of his mother, Mrs. Samuel Campbell, of New York Mills. Mr. Samuel Campbell had been a sort of a godfather to the regiment, as he had presented the colonel and chaplain each with a fine black steed, fully equipped, and in many other ways had shown his devotion and liberality. The beautiful banner was accepted by Colonel Green in an appropriate speech.
After these ceremonies the regiment embarked for New York where they arrived the following day at noon. They went into quarters at the City Hall Park Barracks, where they remained until January 21st, when the regiment was transferred to Riker's Island, about ten miles up East river. Leaving New York, the regiment reached Philadelphia on the 30th, and on the afternoon of the 31st was in Baltimore. At midnight the following night they reached Washington, going into camp at Meridian Hill. Here occurred the first death in the regiment, that of William B. Potter, a private in Company A. He died on the 19th of February, 1862. His body was sent home to his friends in the town of Taylor.
On the 24th day of February the 76th, which was not yet assigned to a brigade, was moved from Meridian Hill to occupy Forts De Russey, Massachusetts, Totten and Slemmer. About this time it was decided by the authorities that the regiment was not in fit condition to take the field, on account of internal dissensions which had arisen. Most of the officers had united in preferring charges against Col. Green, which charges were then in course of investigation in Washington. This placed Lieut.-Colonel Shaul in command of the regiment. Colonel Green was finally sent home and dismissed the service. This unfortunate controversy for a time almost destroyed the prospective usefulness of the regiment and it was generally agreed that nothing would thoroughly harmonize the existing differences but an active campaign.
On the 21st of May the regiment was ordered to Fredericksburg, producing a gratifying change in the feelings of men and officers, and on the following morning, after marching five miles to Washington, took a steamer down the Potomac to Aquia creek, where they disembarked about midnight and bivouacked. In the afternoon of the next day the march was continued towards Fredericksburg, eighteen miles distant. At 10 o'clock in the night of the following day, weary and saturated with the falling rain, the 76th came in sight of Fredericksburg. It had been assigned to Brigadier-General Abner Doubleday's Brigade, and remained in camp near Fredericksburg, with little to vary the monotony and routine of camp life, until August 9th. Foraging expeditions, in which the 76th was notoriously successful, were often organized,3 and served to relieve the monotony of both diet and camp life.
After remaining on the north bank of the Rappahannock about a week, the regiment was sent across the river to guard the city, depot, bridge, etc. Major Livingston of the 76th was made Military Governor, a position which he filled with the most thorough efficiency.
On the 2d of July, Colonel William P. Wainwright having been assigned to the command of the regiment, he assumed the position and at once instituted regular and persistent drill, which had thus far been much neglected. This constant drill, though soon looked upon with some disfavor by the rank and file, was afterward estimated at its true value; for it was but a short time before the regiment was engaged in one of the severest battles of the war.
That the reader may more clearly understand the part which the 76th took in this battle it may be well to state the different organizations composing King's Division, the First Division of the First Corps. The First Brigade of this division was under command of General Hatch, and comprised the 2d regiment of U. S. Sharpshooters and four regiments of New York troops. The Second Brigade was under command of General Doubleday, and comprised the 76th and the 95th New York Regiments and the 56th Pennsylvania, to which was afterwards added the 7th Indiana. The Third Brigade was under General Gibbon and comprised one Indiana and three Wisconsin regiments.
On the 9th of August orders were received for this division to leave Fredericksburg and join the First Corps at Culpepper. At ten o'clock of the 10th the 76th reached Chancellorsville, where information was received that General Banks was then engaged with Stonewall Jackson, and the troops must be hurried up to reinforce him. The march was kept up through that and the following days, and the next morning intelligence was received that a bloody battle had been fought at Cedar Mountain on the 9th, and Jackson had withdrawn his forces. The brigade of General Doubleday camped between Culpepper Court House and Cedar Mountain, and on the 16th marching orders were received; from that date until the 21st the brigade was in motion most of the time, but to little purpose. In the mean time the army had withdrawn to the north bank of the Rappahannock, while Jackson, heavily reinforced from Richmond, confronted us on the opposite bank. On the 21st artillery firing was begun by both armies, and the 76th was marched about a mile to take a position in rear of a battery, passing in plain view of a rebel battery, by which it was shelled. This was the first time the regiment was under fire. The next morning vigorous cannonading was reopened and kept up for three days, during which several men in the 76th were wounded, but none killed. On the 24th the regiment was marched to Warrenton, and on the 26th to Sulphur Springs, where an artillery engagement was in progress. Remaining here through one night they joined with the remainder of General Pope's army, which had waited in vain since the 22d for reinforcements, and turned in retreat towards Washington.
The 28th of August, 1862, will long be remembered by survivors and friends of the 76th as the day on which the regiment was first brought into actual battle. The event is thus described by the historian before quoted:---
"As the brigade again took up its line of march, evidences were multiplied that things were coming to a crisis. Constant cannonading was heard in different directions; squads of cavalry rode furiously through the cross-roads and fields, while the smoke of battle could be seen rising in ominous clouds in the distance. After passing Gainesville a mile or two, as the brigade, and more particularly that portion of it formed by the 76th, was moving over a level tract of half a mile in extent, with a wood in their front and a hill at their left, they were nearly paralyzed for a moment by a terrible discharge of artillery from the hill, and so near that the flash from the guns dazzled their eyes….. Some dropped down; others rushed forward upon those in advance, while others still were inclined to turn back. Never was the example of a cool and courageous man more opportunely set than by Colonel Wainwright at this critical juncture. Riding at the head of his regiment, he instantly turned his horse, and coolly riding back toward the rear of the column, between it and the rebel battery, as well by his easy and unconcerned manner as by his words, allayed the excitement and brought every man to his place.
"'O, my boys, don't run, don't run. Think a moment how it would sound to say, "the 76th ran."'
"No pen can describe the magic effect of those words, and that collected self-possession. Quietly turning his horse he allowed him to almost walk toward the head of the column; and, although the shells came thicker and faster, and with a more dangerous and destructive aim, the men kept steadily on until the wood was reached. But a few moments elapsed after entering the wood before sharp and continuous musketry firing was heard very near and up the hill hidden by the woods. A strange officer came riding down through the wood shouting:---
"'Come on! Come on, quick!'
"The 76th was immediately in motion, over fences, through bushes, around the trees, over logs, the bullets and shells tearing through the woods like a hail storm. Several of the men were killed and wounded before leaving the wood. After going about twenty rods the regiment emerged into an open field. Here was battle in real earnest. Just in front and a little to the left were the gallant boys of the 'Iron Brigade' (three Wisconsin and one Michigan regiments), fighting and falling in a manner terrible to behold. Just at this juncture, as the rebels were preparing in great numbers, in the woods beyond, for a charge upon our lines, the 76th and the 56th Pennsylvania were ordered into line to fill a gap between the 6th and 7th Wisconsin Regiments. By this timely movement the noble 'Iron Brigade' was saved from total annihilation.
"On coming near the enemy Colonel Wainwright thought it prudent to deploy a few files as skirmishers. He called up Captain Grover, Company A, and told him what he wanted. How well and nobly it was performed was evidenced by several wounds received on that occasion.
"During a lull in the action a body of men was seen moving on the extreme left flank. As they came forward they shouted:
"'Don't shoot your own men.'
"At that distance it seemed doubtful whether they were friends or enemies, and it was not without hesitation that the Colonel gave the order, 'By the left oblique. Aim! Fire!' No rebel of that column who escaped death, will forget that volley. It seemed like one gun…. When the smoke cleared away a little, the few left of that mass of human beings, who had so rapidly left the woods a few moments before, had disappeared, but the ground was literally covered with their dead and wounded. The 76th went into this fight with 224 men, of which, in the hour's struggle, ten were killed, seventy-two wounded, and eighteen missing. Five officers, four of whom were captured, were wounded, and many of the wounded were unable ever to take the field.
"Among the many examples of rare heroism performed in this engagement it will be just to mention the following: William H. Miller was early wounded in the foot, but refused to be carried from the field, and remained on the ground loading and firing. John L. Wood continued firing after his thumb was shot off, until he received a mortal wound. Daniel McGregor received a wound in his thigh from which he afterwards died, yet he rested on his other knee and continued firing until too weak from loss of blood. Sergeant Lawrence Banker, dying on the field, sent his brother form his side with the words: 'Leave me and rush to the front!' Albert Olin, wounded in the arm, continued firing until disabled by another shot in the shoulder. James J. Card, although covered with blood from a wound in the head, continued firing until he was shot in the arm. Captain Fox received a ball in his lungs, and Captain Sager, while bravely leading his men, was terribly wounded, a bullet passing entirely through his body. All the officers displayed great bravery and coolness, calling out in Colonel Wainwright's report the expression: 'I cannot too much praise the men who supplied want of previous military preparation by their own nerve and resolution.'"
Similar conduct characterized this noble organization all through its terrible and destructive campaign, and the above examples of special acts of bravery are not intended to reflect in any way upon other members of the regiment, many of whom afterwards displayed equal heroism; but which cannot manifestly all be noted in detail.
On the 29th of August the 76th sustained an honorable part in the second battle of Bull Run, losing in the three days of fighting, skirmishing and marching, nine officers and eighty-eight men killed and wounded, and one officer and forty-eight men missing. The general retreat was continued until the night of September 1st, when the 76th reached Upton Hill, ending the short but severe campaign. Following is a summary of the report of Colonel Wainwright:---
"Beginning with the retreat from Cedar Mountain and, in the case of the 76th, with the march from Fredericksburg, it is seldom that an army is required to undergo more than our men performed. With scarcely a day's intermission, the Third Corps to which this regiment belonged was either making forced marches, often in the night, and through the hottest days of August, frequently without proper water, much of the time without food, or engaged in battles as severe and destructive as had taken place during this war. The regiment had already been under fire at five different battles. It had left New York with nearly one thousand men. The exposures of camp and those diseases incident to acclimation, had so reduced it that when it left Fredericksburg it contained about four hundred and fifty officers and men, and now, after the struggles of this campaign, though several had rejoined it from Fredericksburg and elsewhere, it only numbered about two hundred and twenty-five. Of the thirty line officers, only six remained---a fearful reduction in both officers and men."
Colonel Wainwright's report was accompanied by a request that the regiment be recruited, supplied with officers and a little rest be given to put it in condition to take the field. The only answer to this request was an order to march, half-equipped, to South Mountain, Antietam and elsewhere.
On the 6th of September the division was ordered to march through Washington, across the Potomac and into Maryland. On the 14th they passed through Frederick City, Md., and the next day played a conspicuous and honorable part in the terrible battle of South Mountain. Up the side of that steep and rugged eminence, in the calm quiet of a beautiful Sabbath afternoon, the troops toiled toward the scene of approaching carnage. As the brigade neared the summit, firing in front became more distinct and they soon entered the last line of forest skirting the crown of the mountain. Here a halt was made and bayonets fixed. The brigade occupied the left of the division, and the 76th the extreme left of the brigade; so that the left flank of the regiment was uncovered. On the right of the 76th was the 56th Pennsylvania. Through the woods came the rebel bullets, tearing the trees and shrieking overhead, while just ahead came the cheers and yells of the opposing troops. Hatch's Brigade had preceded Doubleday's Brigade and was now heavily engaged. While thus bravely holding the ground, Doubleday's Brigade rushed with a shout to their relief. Hatch's Brigade retired, while the 76th and other regiments poured the deadly hail upon the enemy. Charge after charge was made by the rebels to break our lines, but each was repulsed, and thus for half an hour this brigade stood its ground against vastly superior numbers. 4
Through the remainder of this destructive battle the 76th bore itself with the most heroic bravery, suffering several direct attacks from the enemy, about twenty men of the little band, including Colonel Wainwright, falling killed or wounded from the effects of one single volley. It was, perhaps, the severest fighting the regiment took part in during the war.
The next morning the fragment of a brigade was given opportunity to light fires, after the decisive victory, but their coffee and hard tack was scarcely disposed of before they were to march towards Boonesborough. The wounded were sent back to Fredericksburg, while the troops went forward after a retreating enemy. The 76th took part in the battle of Antietam, in which several were wounded, but its action was chiefly in support of artillery.
The 28th of October found the 76th again across the Potomac and ten miles into the State of Virginia, where they remained two days. On the 1st of November the brigade was sent to Snicker's Gap to prevent an attack from that direction, in support of a cavalry force under Gen. Pleasanton. The brigade was at this time under command of Lieut.-Colonel Hoffman, of the 56th Pennsylvania. During the succeeding three days the 76th was under fire most of the time. On the 6th of November, after hard marching, they reached Warrenton and camped four days within two miles of the town. Here Col. Wainwright rejoined the regiment. Ten days later the regiment went into camp at Brooks's Station, on the railroad from Aquia Creek to Fredericksburg, where it halted just six months before, after its first day's march in Virginia. On the 12th of December the regiment crossed the Rappahannock near Fredericksburg and assumed guard of the lower pontoon bridge at that point. In the battle which opened the next day Doubleday's division formed the extreme left of the army and the brigade in which was the 76th was on the right of that division. The battle raged from nine in the morning until eight in the evening, and our men suffered terribly. The principal feature of the battle, as far as Doubleday's Division was concerned, was its brilliant charge over a broad plain, facing a destructive fire of shot and shell, while from the right swept down the death-dealing missiles from rebel batteries. In this charge the 76th participated with its accustomed gallantry. The regiment went into the battle with 112 privates; of this handful, eleven were killed and wounded.
While stationed near Fredericksburg the division was compelled to lose its brave commander. General Doubleday was transferred to another division of the same corps, and was succeeded by General Wadsworth. General Doubleday was the man who fired the first gun in Fort Sumter; he was a soldier from principle, a man of great bravery and the officers and men of the 76th parted with him with the most sincere regret.
January 20th, 1863, Gen. Burnside issued an order announcing to the Army of the Potomac that they were soon to move, as he had decided upon a winter campaign. Everything was put in readiness and the grand army advanced. Three days of marching through swollen streams, caused by heavy rains, while the mud was of that depth that rendered progress nearly impossible, and the 76th found themselves again in their old winter quarters, Burnside having abandoned the proposed campaign.
On the 28th of April the regiment broke camp and marched to the Rappahannock, which they reached four miles below Fredericksburg, where they aided in laying a pontoon bridge, and the following night made preparations for the expected battle of the next day. Captain Swan, of Co. H, was wounded by a piece of shell during that night. The following day was occupied by vigorous artillery firing and the next morning, in a dense fog, the 76th was ordered on picket duty part way across the open plain in front. The position was reached, but when the fog lifted, the regiment found itself within a few rods of the rebel army. A fearful volley was fired by the latter, but the 76th fell flat on their faces and the bullets passed over their heads. All that day the regiment lay there close to the enemy, not daring to lift a hand. At length under the cover of darkness a hasty retreat was made from the undesirable situation. Several were wounded during the day.
On the 2d of May the whole First Corps crossed to the north side of the Rappahannock and were hurried on towards United States Ford, twenty miles up the river, where they bivouacked for the night. At daylight next morning the stream was crossed and at six o'clock the 76th reached the battle-field, where the fight soon opened with great fury. During the first day's fighting the regiment supported a battery of thirty-six guns, which repeatedly repulsed charges by Stonewall Jackson's forces, and on the 3d retreated with the army across the rive, arriving in the afternoon at Falmouth, tired and discouraged with repeated failures to accomplish anything decisive.
On the 13th the first addition of men was made to the 76th, about fifty being assigned to it from the 24th New York, and two hundred more, with five officers, were added on the 24th from the 30th New York. The succeeding month was spent in camp in Falmouth.
It having become apparent towards the last of May that General Lee's army was contemplating some general movement, General Hooker submitted to President Lincoln a suggestion that all the troops whose operations could have any influence on Lee's army should be placed under one command. This was not done; but certain other orders relating to prospective operations were transmitted instead; and for two weeks the army of the Potomac was in that state of unrest which usually preceded some momentous movement.
After a campaign of marching, some of which was the most severe the regiment was ever compelled to undergo, the 76th left the soil of Virginia on the 25th of June, and, crossing the Potomac at Edward's Ferry, marched past Sugar-Loaf Mountain on the 26th and went into camp at Jefferson, Maryland. The next day their camp was not far from the battle-field of South Mountain; the following day they marched to Frederick City, and on the 29th, while acting as wagon-guard, they marched a distance of thirty miles to Emmettsburg, where they went into camp. Here the regiment was mustered for pay by Major Grover, then in command; but, it being late in the day, a portion of the regiment went on picket duty, and the certificates of muster could not be signed by the Major that night; indeed, they were never signed by him, for before another day had passed, Major Grover and nearly one third of the brave men who answered to that muster, were called into that grand army from the roll-call of which none will be absent.
The first gun in the bloody battle of Gettysburg was fired by the 76th; and all through that period of carnage, too terrible almost for narration, the noble regiment was in the thickest of the fight. In General Cutler's report of this battle he says: "Major Grover, commanding the 76th N. Y. Volunteers, a brave and efficient officer, was killed early in the action, and the command devolved upon Captain John E. Cook, and most ably and faithfully did he perform his duty."
The summing up of that field of death, as it relates to the 76th, is thus given by the historian of the regiment, as follows:---
"The regiment went into the fight with three hundred and forty-eight men and twenty-seven officers, and in half an hour it lost two officers killed and sixteen wounded; twenty-seven men killed and one hundred and twenty-four wounded; making a total of killed and wounded, in the half hour, of eighteen officers and one hundred and fifty-one men, or over half the officers and nearly half the men expended in that brief period."
The first of August found the 76th under orders to march to Beverly Ford on the Rappahannock, near the place where it was first under fire in 1862, with Captain Byram in command.
On the 12th of September about two hundred and fifty conscripts were added to the thinned ranks of the regiment, and before daylight of the 16th they were on their way to Culpepper, where they were paid off. Here the time until October 12th was spent in drilling recruits, which had swelled the ranks of the regiment to about one thousand. From this time until near the last of the year the 76th was undergoing hard service, in long marches during inclement weather, on picket duty, in support of batteries, and in skirmishes, principally in the vicinity of the Rappahannock, where Meade's army was then operating.
On the 18th of December an event occurred in the regiment which it would be a pleasure to overlook; this was the execution of Winslow N. Allen, a private in Company H, for desertion. Others who had received the death sentence for desertion had been pardoned, and almost to the hour of execution, the unfortunate man entertained the hope that the death penalty would be revoked. As the hour for the execution drew near Captain Swan visited the unfortunate soldier and assured him that he must no longer indulge in hope, as it was all in vain, and he should prepare for his awful doom. As the ominous sound of the drum was heard, which was the signal to march to the place of execution, he said: "Captain, you have been kind to me, which I can only return by my prayers for your welfare." Handing the captain his pocket book he said" "Take this; it is all I have, and when I am gone, please lay this (a fervent prayer for one in his situation printed on a card) on my breast."
As the solemn procession moved to the place of execution, Allen marched with a steady tread, but the sight of the open coffin and the yawning grave quite unmanned him. As the officer closed the reading of the charges, specifications, findings and order for his execution, the captain whispered: "Winslow, I can go no further with you; the rest of your dark journey is alone. Have you any last words for your wife and child?" "No; only tell them I love them all." These were his last words. The captain stepped back; the officer gave the signal; the report as of a single gun rang out and Winslow N. Allen fell lifeless upon his coffin.
On the 2d of February the 76th was presented with a new stand of colors by the ladies of Cherry Valley. The old flag was now torn with the shots of at least eleven battles, in the front ranks of which it had been carried, and it was sent to Albany. Fourteen bullets, one shell and three fragments of shell had passed through the honorable banner.
On the 4th of May, 1864, the Second Brigade broke camp at Culpepper and moved on the Rapidan river. This brigade was composed of the 76th, under command of Lieut.-Col. Cook; the 14th Brooklyn, Col. Fowler; the 147th N. Y., Col. Miller; the 95th N. Y., Col. Pye, and the 56th Pa., Col. Hoffman. The brigade was under command of General J. C. Rice. It crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford and encamped near the Wilderness Tavern. On the skirmish line, the first day of battle of the Wilderness, the following officers of the 76th were captured: Capt. J. D. Clyde, First Lieut. Wm. Cahill, and Second Lieut. James Casler, of Company B. First Lieut. Wm. Buchanan, and Second Lieut. Wm. H. Myers, of Company F. Capt. E. J. Swan, First Lieut. Homer D. Call, and Second Lieut. Job K. Norwood, of Company K. Major Young was also captured the same day, and spent a year in rebel prisons.
The part taken in the battles of the Wilderness by the Second Brigade (including the 76th) is indicated by the fact that when it was reformed by Gen. Rice, at 4 o'clock of the last day's fighting, it comprised detachments of eight regiments, the whole embracing but four hundred and eight men---less than half of one regiment.
On the 9th of May, and the two or three days following, the regiment was engaged in the battle of Spottsylvania. Here the brave General Rice was mortally wounded, and after his leg had been amputated he told the surgeon, when asked which way he would be turned to rest the most comfortably, to "turn my face to the enemy." General Rice was the third general who had been killed in less than a year while leading the 76th and its companion regiments.
On the 23d came the battle of North Anna, in which the 76th was honorably engaged. In his report of this action Col. Hoffman said: "In this action the officers and men behaved splendidly. I think to tem is due the credit of saving the artillery from being cut off, and in all probability saving the army from a terrible disaster." The 76th was then under command of Capt. S. M. Byram.
On the 13th of June the regiment crossed the Chickahominy, and on the 16th the James river was crossed and the march towards Petersburg begun. On the 17th the brigade was moved up to the front, where breastworks were thrown up before the strongly posted enemy, who were attacked on the morning of the 18th. In the fighting that followed, Capt. Byram, in command of the regiment, fell severely wounded and never returned to the field. The brigade suffered severely, its casualties being eighty-four officers and fifteen hundred and fourteen men killed and wounded. Col. Hoffman's report said: "During the campaign the officers and men of the brigade have evinced great bravery, patriotism and fortitude. From May 3d to July 31st, a period of nearly ninety days, not more than five days passed that they were not under fire of the enemy."
In the operations in front of Petersburg; the destruction of the Weldon railroad; the sharp engagements at Hatcher's Run in the latter part of October; on the Hicksford raid, etc., the 76th bore honorable part.
Under date of December 7th, 1864, we find the following statement in the history of the regiment from which we have so liberally drawn in preparing this sketch:---
"The original term of enlistment of all the members of the 76th Regiment expired before this date, and had there been no re-enlistments, this history had terminated at this point. But so many had re-enlisted the preceding winter and spring, that two companies yet remained. These were under command of W. Earle Evans, now lieutenant, originally a private in Company F. The patriotism of these men will continue this narrative to the end of the war, and the triumph of the Union arms." 5
In the expedition resulting in the destruction of the Southside railroad, in February, 1865, the 76th was engaged and lost from the handful of men who formerly belonged to the regiment, one killed and two wounded. The only officers of the old regiment engaged were Lieuts. Martin Edgcomb and Geo. B. Hill. And so through that wonderful race after Lee's army, which evacuated Richmond under the pressure of Grant's tireless army, until, baffled, disheartened and conquered, the rebel general offered capitulations at Appomattox on the 9th of April, the little remnant of the magnificent organization that left Cortland to aid the government in its terrible struggle with treason, pressed on to the front, as it had always done, adding to its long list of heroic deeds.
After the grand review in Washington, "most of the volunteer forces," says the historian of the regiment, "were mustered out, the veteran regiments being retained until the last. As the organizations reached their homes they met with such receptions as returning heroes deserve --- processions, banquets, speeches and all the outward tokens of welcome. Alas! No such reception awaited the 76th. Its time having expired in 1864, but few of the men remained in the service, and they had been absorbed in another organization. It had lost its identity, and its few remaining members came home singly and alone. But each member will ever point with just pride to those four words which sum up its glorious history:---
The following is a chronological list of the battles participated in by the Seventy-Sixth Regiment: Rappahannock Station, Va., August 21st, 1862; Warrenton, Sulphur Springs, Va., August 26th; Gainesville, Va., August 28th; Second Bull Run, Va., August 29th, 30th; South Mountain, Md., September 14th; Antietam, Md., September 17th; Snicker's Gap, Va., November 1-3d; Fredericksburg, Va., December 12th, 13th; Chancellorsville, Va., May 1-5th, 1863; Gettysburg, Pa., July 1-4th; Mine Run, Va., November 27th; Wilderness, Va., May 5th, 6th, 1864; Laurel Hill, Va., May 8th; Spottsylvania, Va., May 12th; North Anna, Va., May 24th; Tolopotomy Creek, Va., June 1st; Coal Harbor, Va., June 3-5th; Petersburg, Va., June 18th; Weldon Railroad, Va., August 18-21st; Poplar Grove Church, Va., September 30th; First Hatcher's Run, Va., October 28th; Hicksford Raid, Va., December 6-12th; Second Hatcher's Run, Va., February 6th, 1865; Five Forks, Va., April 1st; Lee's Surrender at Appomattox, Va., April 9th.
"The undersigned freely acknowledges to have received, on the 1st day of July, 1862, from ------- Wallace, of King George county, Va., for the use and service of the U. S. of America, one pony, eight mules, six fat cattle, ten good sheep, one wagon load of potatoes, one wagon load of vegetables, which I have valued at one thousand dollars. This voucher will be payable at the conclusion of the war, upon sufficient testimony being presented that the said Wallace has been a loyal citizen of the U. S. from the date hereof.
"Charles H. Watkins, A. Q. M., U. S. A. "By order of Brig.-Gen. Abner Doubleday."
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