Organization of the Regiment---The Cortland County Companies---Their Officers---In Camp at Syracuse---Ordered to the Front---Assignment to the First Brigade, Fifth Corps---A Spy Captured---A Winter Camp---Demonstration on the Weldon Railroad---Winter Quarters Again---Marching Orders---Hatcher's Run---Under a Terrific Fire---Capture of Major Bush and His Detail---Colonel Jenney's Situation and Resignation---At Fort Steedman---At Quaker Farm---Colonel Sniper's Bravery---Heavy Losses---The Fate of the Colors---Five Forks---The End Approaching---At Appomattox---Other Organizations---Summary.

The 185th Regiment was organized in Onondaga and Cortland counties, and was mustered into service on the 22d of September, 1864. Companies E, F and G were from Cortland county, their officers being as follows: Company E---Captain, Robert P. Bush; First Lieutenant, Herbert C. Rorapaugh; Second Lieutenant, Pembroke Pierce. Company F---Captain, John W. Strowbridge; First Lieutenant, Andrew J. Lyman; Second Lieutenant, Harrison Givens. Company G---Captain, Albern H. Barber; First Lieutenant, Hiram Clark; Second Lieutenant, Daniel Minier.

    Although this regiment was in the field less than a year, it performed effective and honorable service, its ranks being decimated in several bloody engagements. Previous to its departure it was encamped for a few days in Syracuse, and left for City Point, via Fortress Monroe, on the 23d of September, arriving on the 30th. The regiment was immediately ordered into the front line breastworks before Petersburg, near Warren Station on the City Point railroad.

    On the 4th of October the 185th was assigned to the First Brigade, First Division of the Fifth Corps, then under command of General Warren. The division was commanded by General Charles Griffin and the brigade (which included the 198th Pennsylvania) by Colonel Sickel. The regiment was in camp near Poplar Grove Church until the 16th of October. While in camp here a rebel spy was captured on the picket line of the 185th. He proved to be a prisoner of importance, an engineer, and bearing on his person a map of the Union lines and defenses from City Point to the extreme left. Offers of money for his release were of course refused, and he was afterwards tried, found guilty and shot.

    On the 16th the division was moved up to the Squirrel Level Road, where a winter camp was established. On the 27th a movement was made against the Southside Railroad, in which an engagement occurred, the 185th bearing honorable part; three of its men were wounded. The same camp was afterwards again occupied and nothing disturbed the routine of camp life in the regiment, until the 3d day of December, when a demonstration was made against the Weldon Railroad, which was an important line of communication over which supplies were transported for Lee's army. The expedition consisted of Warren's (the 5th) Corps, Mott's Division of the Second Corps and Gregg's Mounted Division. The railroad was destroyed, the rails being heated in fires made by the ties, and bent so as to prevent their further use. About twenty miles of the road was thus rendered useless, and a vast amount of rebel supplies captured. In this expedition the 185th bore a conspicuous part.

    The regiment returned and went into camp near Parke Station, where comfortable winter quarters were soon built from the pine forest wherein the camp was located. A commodious log church was built and roofed with tent cloth furnished by the benevolent Christian Commission. Here the regiment remained until the 5th of February, 1865.

    On the 4th of February orders were received to be in readiness to march at a moment's notice, and the next morning, a Sabbath, before daylight, the division was ordered to march towards Hatcher's Run. In the afternoon of that day occurred what is called the second battle of Hatcher's Run, in which the 185th did noble service and suffered considerably. During the early part of the engagement the 185th was held in reserve; but about the middle of the afternoon the brigade was ordered forward to relieve the Second Division of the Fifth Corps. This division occupied a position in front of a piece of woods. Beyond it was an open field upon the opposite side of which some buildings and a sudden declivity, which was occupied by the enemy, serving as an intrenchment. Gen. Ayres's Division had here suffered terribly.

    As the first brigade marched for nearly half a mile along the road through the woods, it was met by the wounded, fresh from the bloody carnage, some with wounds hastily bandaged, and others yet untouched by the surgeon, or in the jaws of death. This experience was a trying one to the men of the regiment---more so, perhaps, than the shock of battle itself; but the brave men, many of them with blanched cheek and tight-closed lips, pressed forward. The regiment had scarcely formed a line when a terrific fire was opened by the enemy. Colonel Sickel was one of the first wounded and turned the command over to Colonel Jenney. He, realizing the hazard of attempting to hold his exposed position against the enemy in his covered attitude, ordered the brigade forward. The order was obeyed in excellent form, through a galling fire. The field was won, though at considerable sacrifice. Among the wounded was Captain John Listman, whose leg was afterwards amputated at the hip. Adjutant Mudge was also wounded here, and never returned to the field.

    The advanced position was held until darkness when the brigade retired to the main line. After the engagement Colonel Jenney sent Major Bush to establish a line of pickets on the right flank. While performing this duty, and when scarcely out of speaking distance of his regiment, the major and a squad of men were captured. Major Bush was sent to Libby Prison, and the regiment lost his valuable services. The brigade was warmly commended by General Griffin for its gallant service; and the praise was fairly earned.

    The regiment again went into camp, and the second day after the battle Colonel Jenney left the organization, on account of the following circumstances: When he was commissioned as colonel of the 185th he was major of the Third New York Artillery and acting as provost-judge of North Carolina, stationed at Newbern; after receiving notice of his promotion, he had been taken prisoner by the enemy and paroled; with this status he was mustered as colonel and took the 185th to the front, expecting to obtain an immediate exchange. But while he regarded himself as bound by his parole, the War Department held the opinion that the officer who captured him had no authority to parole him, and that Colonel Jenney was therefore to be regarded as an "escaped," and not a "paroled" prisoner. In this situation he remained during his period of service with the regiment. After endeavoring in vain to induce the secretary of war to relieve him from the responsibility of his unfortunate position by an order declaring that he was not properly paroled and sending him on duty, he was forced to seek relief by resignation. This resignation, sent in about the middle of January, had been accepted and an order honorably discharging him had been received by General Griffin just previous to the Hatcher's Run engagement; but at Colonel Jenney's request it was retained by the general until after the advance was made, when it was turned over to him. Lieut.-Col. Gustavus Sniper was at once promoted and bravely commanded the regiment during the remainder of its term of service.

    On the 25th of March the division was ordered out before daylight to oppose an attack of the rebels on Fort Steedman, then occupied by the 14th New York Artillery, and forming a portion of the lines encircling Petersburg. The enemy made a determined assault, with the intention of severing the lines at that point; but the attempt failed totally and the rebels were driven back with heavy losses in killed, wounded and about 2,000 prisoners. About three o'clock in the afternoon an attack was made on the extreme left, involving the 185th, in which the Union arms were victorious.

    The regiment returned to camp at Hatcher's Run and remained until the 29th, at which date Grant had determined upon an advance of the left wing of his army. Orders to march were received on the 28th, the movement to begin at three o'clock the next morning. The Fifth and Second Corps moved out southward until they crossed the run, then turned northward towards the enemy's right. The Second Corps crossed the run at the Vaughn Road, while Warren crossed four miles below, where the stream by its junction with Gravelly run became Rowanty creek, and then moved up towards the Boydtown Plank Road. At two o'clock Warren's Corps, including the 185th, reached Quaker Farm, where they met the enemy, and an engagement followed. The Union forces were retreating in disorder, especially the Second Division, when General Chamberlain, commanding the First Division, rode up to Colonel Sniper, exclaiming: "For God's sake, colonel, can you save the day with your regiment?" The colonel replied: "General, I will try." The 185th was immediately formed in line of battle, standing alone, as the 198th Pennsylvania had shared in the retreat, and was ordered to charge the enemy. Forward they went over a rise of ground, beyond which they were met by the advancing lines of the rebels in hot pursuit of the retreating division. Against the oncoming forces the gallant regiment threw itself, hurled back the enemy and turned the tide of the day; but it was at fearful cost. The killed and wounded in the regiment numbered one hundred and eighty. In some of the companies all of the officers were either killed or wounded. This heroic charge was the work of but less than half an hour, but it has been characterized as one of the most desperate, as well as important in its results of any in the war.

    The fate of the colors of the 185th during this charge was most thrilling. B. B. Wilson was color-bearer at that time; he soon fell wounded. A private then seized the flag, and was immediately killed. Another private of Company D then grasped the banner and instantly fell wounded. Private Herman Rice, of Company B, next seized the colors, but his arm was pierced by a bullet, and they again fell. At this juncture Colonel Sniper, who was dismounted and in the thickest of the fight, seized the fallen flag, waved it on high and shouted, "Men of the 185th---forward!" A wild cheer went up, the regiment rushed forward and the field was won. For his personal bravery Colonel Sniper was warmly complimented by the general officers, while the brave regiment was also showered with congratulations.

    During the 30th and 31st important events transpired, resulting in severe fighting for the possession of the White Oak Road, during which the enemy was repulsed, losing heavily in prisoners, and Sheridan's forward movement to Five Forks, after much hard fighting. The battle of Five Forks, one of the most prominent of the engagements that were instrumental in terminating the rebellion, was fought on Saturday, April 1st, beginning in the afternoon and continuing until daylight the next morning. In this engagement the Fifth Corps was on the right and in the hottest of the contest. Several officers and many privates of the 185th were killed or wounded, and the regiment added to its already exalted reputation for bravery and heroism. The victory won in this battle was a most decisive one, and told clearly that the rebellion, as far as it was represented by Lee's army, was substantially crushed.

    As darkness approached, on the 1st, the batteries along the entire line in front of Petersburg opened a bombardment that filled the heavens with its thunder, and lighted up the night with its glare. The rebel works were vigorously assaulted on Sunday morning, the 2d, and the outer lines carried, while the Sixth Corps, with two divisions of Ord's, drove everything before them up the Boydtown road at dawn; then wheeled to the left and swept down in rear of the rebel works, capturing guns and thousands of prisoners. Other equally important successes were achieved at other points along the lines that were rapidly drawing in towards Petersburg and Richmond, and admonishing General Lee that his doom was at hand. So evident had this fact become to him that he telegraphed Jefferson Davis in Richmond, at 10 o'clock a. m. of Sunday:---

    "My lines are broken in three places. Richmond must be evacuated this evening."

    Richmond was evacuated that night. Before noon of the next day the fall of the capital of the Confederacy, that had cost so many lives, was flashed to all parts of the world.

    The concluding operations of the campaign, ending at Appomattox on the 9th of April, need not be detailed here. Griffin and Ord, with the Fifth, Twenty-fourth and one division of the Twenty-fifth Corps, by extraordinary marching, reached Appomattox about daylight on the morning of the 8th. Since the evacuation of Richmond and Petersburg the 185th had performed some of the severest marching of the war, interspersed with skirmishing and fighting, often without food and with very little rest.

    A correspondence had begun between Generals Grant and Lee on the 7th, and the capitulation was completed at Appomattox on the 9th. The position of the two confronting armies on the morning of surrender is thus graphically described in Greeley's history of the rebellion:---

    "Sheridan was with his cavalry near the Court-House, when the Army of Virginia made its last charge. By his order his troopers, who were in line of battle, dismounted, giving ground gradually, while showing a steady front, so as to allow our weary infantry time to form and take position. This effected, the horsemen moved swiftly to the right and mounted, revealing lines of solid infantry in battle array, before whose wall of gleaming bayonets the astonished enemy recoiled in blank despair, as Sheridan and his troopers, passing briskly round the rebel left, prepared to charge the confused, reeling mass. A white flag was now waved by the enemy, before General Custer, who held our cavalry advance, with the information that they had concluded to surrender. Riding over to Appomattox Court-House, General Sheridan was met by General Gordon, who requested a suspension of hostilities, with the assurance that negotiations were then pending between Generals Grant and Lee for a capitulation."

    Lieutenant Hiram Clark, of Company G, in the 185th, was the last man killed in the Army of Virginia. 1    He was in command of the skirmish line at Appomattox, and while the flag of truce was being shown, was struck by a rebel shell, which nearly cut him in twain. He was buried under a tree near the Court-House.

    After the surrender the 185th was detailed, with some other regiments, to take charge of the rebel prisoners, and look after the captured arms and munitions; this duty occupied several days. The arms and ammunition were sent to Burkesville.

    The 185th remained three days in camp, and were then ordered to Wilson's Station, on the Southside railroad, where they remained until May 1st, marching thence to Manchester, across the James river from Richmond. On the 5th of May orders were received to march to Alexandria; starting on the morning of the 6th, the crossed the Pamunkey river on pontoons, marched through Bowling Green, crossing the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg, and arrived at Arlington Heights on the 13th, after marching all night. After partaking in the grand review of the army by the president, in Washington, on the 23d of May, the regiment returned to camp, and was mustered out of service on the 30th. On the following day, at 3 o'clock p. m., they left Arlington for home, arriving in Syracuse on the 3d day of June, where they received a generous welcome. The regiment was paid off at Camp White on the 10th of June, by Major Littlefield.


    Besides the large bodies of volunteers, whose movements have been described, many of the young men of this county enlisted in other organizations, either in bodies or singly. A company was raised early in the year 1861, which joined the 23d Regiment, and was mustered in at Elmira on the 16th of May. Its officers were Martin C. Clark, captain; Alvah D. Waters, lieutenant; B. B. Andrews, ensign; Stephen V. Larabee, first sergeant; Cornelius Lansing, Leonard Hathaway and Alvin F. Bailey, sergeants. The regiment served two years, and was commanded at the time of its muster by Colonel H. C. Hoffman.

    A company was raised, principally in Homer, which joined the "Old Twelfth" Regiment, from Onondaga county, which was mustered at Elmira on the 23d of April, 1861, for three months. A large majority of its members re-enlisted at the expiration of that term of service. The officers of this company were George W. Stone, captain; Lucius C. Storrs, lieutenant; George Snyder, ensign.


    In the war of the rebellion, Cortland county, according to the census of 1865, lost by death in the field, two hundred and thirty-three volunteers, belonging to the following regiments: 10th New York Infantry, y; 12th, 7; 15th, 1; 23d, 3; 32d, 1; 44th, 3; 50th, 6; 51st, 1; 57th, 1; 64th, 1; 76th, 51; 81st, 1; 105th, 1; 109th, 4; 111th, 1; 114th, 5; 117th, 1; 121st, 1; 122d, 1; 129th, 1; 137th, 2; 138th, 1; 146th, 1; 147th, 1; 149th, 1; 157th, 55; 161st, 1; 168th, 1; 185th, 18. 10th New York Cavalry, 8; 12th, 1; 19th, 2. 1st Battery, 2. 2d New York Regular Artillery, 2; 3d, 1; 5th, 3; 9th, 10; 16th, 4; other States, 8; United States Regulars, 2; unknown, 11. Total, 233.

    1 - It has been often stated and printed that Lieutenant Clark was the last man killed in the war of the rebellion. This cannot, of course, be true, as fighting in the southwest was continued for some time after Lee's surrender. The killing of the last man in the war occurred in Texas.
Transcribed by Tim Stowell - May, 2006.

You are visitor since 27 Aug 2011.

There were 1060 visitors to our previous host from 19 May 2006 to 27 Aug 2011.

  If you have any suggestions, please e-mail   Tim Stowell

LAST UPDATED: 27 Aug 2011

Thanks for Stopping By!

1885 History of Cortland County
Cortland County AHGP
Cortland County NYGenWeb