6th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

From The 3rd Annual Report Of The Bureau Of Military Statistics

The Sixth regiment infantry, N. Y. S. V., or "Wilson's Zouaves," was recruited in the city of New York (commencing April 14th, 1861), by Col. William Wilson. Immediately upon the issue of the President's proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers, Col. Wilson received authority from the State to recruit a regiment of infantry. In five days after opening his rolls, twenty-five hundred men gave in their names. When the Sixth Massachusetts were attacked while passing through Baltimore April, 19th, Col. Wilson asked to be immediately sent to the field, and in compliance with this request Special Orders No. 61, April 20th, was issued, by Gov. Morgan.

" Col. Wilson Wilson, of New York city, is hereby appointed temporarily colonel of the regiment he has raised, his appointment to date on the 10th of April, 1861. He will report himself and his command forthwith to the President of the United States at Washington city. If practicable, before leaving New York, the regiment will be mustered into the service of the State, Major Robert Hubbell will preside at the election of company officers, and Brig. Gen. Yates will preside at the election of field officers. If not practicable, the organization will be completed on the passage and reported to this office. Col. Wilson will make requisition on the Commissary General for the necessary arms and ammunition. Gen. Sandford will provide the requisite steam transportation and supplies for the regiment for one month."

A delay occurred however, in the issue of uniforms, arms, &c., and rendered compliance with this order impracticable, and the regiment went into barracks in the old Quarantine buildings on Staten Island, and large number of its original recruits found their way to the field as members of other organizations. On the 30th of April, companies A, B, C, D and E were mustered into the service of the United States, at Tompkinsville by Capt. T. Seymour, U. S. A. Special Orders No. 214, May 22d, numbered the regiment and accepted it into the State service, and confirmed the election of the following officers, viz: William Wilson, colonel; John Creighton, lieutenant colonel, and William Newby, major. Col. Wilson was ordered to report for duty to Gen. Yates, and to hold his regiment in readiness to be mustered into the service of the United States." Special orders No. 216, May 22d, directed the regiment to be "immediately mustered into the service of the United States." This order was complied with on the 25th of May at Tompkinsville, by Lieut. M. Cogswell, 5th U. S. Infantry. Uniforms were issued to the regiment on the 8th of May; knapsacks haversacks and canteens, June 4th and 12th; arms (Spring-field muskets, pattern of 1842), June 8th, and tents, June 12th. On the 13th of June, the regiment left "Camp Washington" for New York city, and from thence on the 15th of June, on the steamer, Vanderbilt under sealed orders. Its destination was soon ascertained to be Santa Rosa Island, Florida, where it arrived on the 23d and landed on the 24th.

To assist in the organization of this regiment the following among other contributions were made, viz: W. D. Lord, $500; Thurlow Weed, $250; Mulberry street church, $100; Hugh Smith, $50, and $50 from other persons; Union Defense Committee, 700 pairs of pants and shirts, 700 pairs of stockings, 700 shoes and a number of blankets, and also an expenditure of $180.88 The total payments by the State for the same purpose, up to August 15th, 1861, was $24,484.94, exclusive of subsistence and quarters.

The regiment encamped on Santa Rosa island, one mile from Fort Pickens. Trees and bushes were cut down and abbatis formed to guard against a sudden attack by the enemy, and outposts were placed about 1,000 yards in front. By order of Col. Brown, then in command, however, the outposts were drawn in, and the removal of trees and bushes suspended. Companies A, B and C were detailed to Key West and Tortugas, and companies G and I were detached for Service at batteries Lincoln and Cameron. This disposition threw upon companies C, D, F, H and K all the picket and guard duty, and also the fatigue and extra duty. The hospital of the regiment was established on the gulf side of the Island, with outposts some 800 yards in advance. These outposts were also ordered by Col. Brown, and the regiment confined to a picket guard, stationed about four hundred yards from camp. The comparatively defenseless position of the command was greatly aggravated by the unserviceable character of the muskets with which it was armed.

Early on the morning of the 9th of October the camp was alarmed by the firing of the picket guard, and the regiment had barely time to form before an attack was made by the enemy in strong force in three columns. The regiment (about two hundred men) held its line for fifteen or twenty minutes, and then fell back about fifty yards. The enemy advanced and took possession of the camp and set the tents etc., on fire. The Regiment then fell back to battery Totten, and at daylight, with reinforcements from the fort, moved forward and found that the enemy had retreated. The vigor with which the regiment resisted the attack undoubtedly saved Fort Pickens from surprise and capture, both of which the enemy expected to accomplish.

On the 22d of November the guns of the fort and batteries opened on Pensacola, and were promptly replied to by the enemy. This engagement continued until the 24th. Companies D, G, H and I participated in the work, and were continually under fire. On the 1st of January another artillery duel occurred, in which a portion of the regiment took part. The details from the regiment for scouting, guard duty, etc., during this period, were very heavy. Outposts were established, the island thoroughly patrolled, the regiment moved within the line of the defenses, and every precaution taken to prevent the landing of the enemy, which was frequently attempted.

On the 9th of May the enemy evacuated Pensacola, and on the 10th the forts and harbor defenses were occupied by Gen. Arnold with eight companies of regulars and the 6th and 75th regiments New York volunteers, companies G and I of the 6th being detailed to occupy Fort, Barrancas. Here the regiment was engaged in picket duty and on scouting excursions. Lieut. Col. Cassidy, in command of four companies, captured the town of Milton after a sharp fight of two hours, and took a number of prisoners, horses and other property. Capt. Latham, in command of thirteen men, had an encounter with a superior force, of guerillas, and returned to Camp with two of his men wounded. Nearly all of the companies were similarly engaged at different times.

In November, the regiment was sent to New Orleans, where it was made a part of General Sherman's division. In December it was sent to Baton Rouge as a part of General Grover's division, In March following it led the advance as skirmishers on a reconnoissance. On the 1st of April it left Donaldsville, La,, as a portion of the 4th (Grover's) division, 19th corps, and, after a march of three days, arrived at Thibodeaux. Left Thibodeaux, April 3d, and proceeded by railroad to Bayou Boeuf, where it remained, until the 7th on guard and picket duty. It then moved to Brashear City where it camped until the 12th, when it embarked on the gunboats "Estella" and "Clifton" for Indian Bend. Here a sharp engagement ensued. The 1st Louisiana was attacked from the , shore by riflemen and a section of artillery. The 6th was landed and skirmished through the woods, driving the enemy at every point back to the banks of the Teche Bayou, with the loss of one killed. The pursuit was continued until nighty and resumed the next morning. The enemy were overtaken at Irish Bend, where a severe engagement ensued, in which the enemy lost heavily in killed, wounded and prisoners. The overland advance of the 3d division was met here. From Irish Bend the regiment marched to New Iberia, or Newtown, and was sent on an expedition to destroy the salt-works, which it accomplished. The enemy were next encountered at Vermillion Bayou. The 6th, being in the advance, captured a wagon train, and for this service was permitted to place its knapsacks on the conveyances. It then advanced double quick, for two miles, and met the enemy at the Bayou strongly posted. The position was secured,however, with the loss of one man killed and two wounded. The regiment remained at Vermillion Bayou two days, and then moved with its brigade to Washington, La., and from thence up the Alexandria road to the Little Bayou Boeuf, capturing a large number of horses, cattle, &c. From thence it returned to Washington. Its next march was to Alexandria, about 100 miles, where it remained on guard duty for a few days, and then moved sixty miles to Simsport, from whence it took steamer for New Orleans on its way to New York, its term of service, having expired. It arrived in New York on the 10th of June, 1863, with 590 men out of the 770 comprising its original force, and brought with it, and in its charge, the Confederate officers of the department of the Gulf.

On leaving the field the following order was issued, viz:
ALEXANDRIA, LA., May 14th, 1863.
[Special Orders, No 43.]
Lieutenant Colonel Cassidy, the Officers, non-commissioned Officers and Privates of the 6th Regiment, New York Volunteers : The commanding general of the 1st brigade cannot allow the 6th regiment to leave the department of the Gulf and the service of the United States without conveying to them his high appreciation of their conduct as men and their valor as soldiers during the present movement.

Since the landing of this command at Irish Bend, La., on the 13th of April; until the arrival at Alexandria on the 8th of May, 1863, an interval in which the regiment endured the hardships of severe marching under an almost tropical sun, and during which they encountered the enemy three times, sustaining well their reputation for endurance and bravery.

The members of the 6th regiment, officers and men, carry with them the earnest desire of the commanding general of the 1st brigade for their future welfare and happiness, mingled with a regret that the Government should have lost the services of this regiment, though the time has arrived for its members to enjoy their well merited repose.

By command of WILLIAM. DW1GHT, Brig. Gen'l.
Commanding First Brigade

Taken from New York (State). Bureau of Military Statistics. 3rd Annual Report of the Bureau of Military Statistics. Albany: The Bureau, 1866, 84-88.